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Finally, I have never uploaded a Movie Maker file to YouTube before, had a few challenges. Here it is.
Have a great holiday and remainder of the summer.
During the course of this class I have had to take a step or two back and reflect upon issues which have stretched me as a graduate student in educational administration. I have recently begun to explore gender issues and the ramifications of discrimination and marginalization in my own life. Race is a more difficult label for me to explore personally. I have had diverse friends over the course of my life. However, during my teaching career I have worked with primarily white women and men, narrowing my experience with people of color.
Just as we discussed that news rooms need to reflect the communities they serve, schools need to do the same.
To dismantle stereotypes requires constant attention and work to make connections with people, share experiences, and find common ground. When we isolate ourselves or others based on race, gender, or some other criterion we narrow our experience and create dualities rather than discovering our harmony. The walls go up quickly when we ignore them or forget to keep chipping away at them. During the last year and a half I have been out of the classroom and the public school environment working at the University. I have not had the daily interactions with diverse students and parents which reduce these walls to rubble. Today I work in an office environment having limited periodic contact with students. My coworkers look like me: white women pursuing a graduate education after several years teaching or leading in Oklahoma public schools. Most of us own our homes, had educated parents, and are supporting our children to get a college education. We have no color at the table and I am concerned. What will I do next? I know that I need to address this with someone. But how? Who? What steps shall I take? It is difficult to look at your own organization and say: “We are too white, middle classed, educated, and female to really meet the needs of those we serve.” I know I must. Maybe I could begin with a staff survey and provide a conversation starter. A few weeks ago we blogged about the need for a “race, gender, and the media” course. I think we still need the course and we need to scale up, requiring the inclusion of a similar course in all content areas and programs to make a real difference.
Additionally, in my current program, I am not asked to explore relationships beyond the purview of education. I have only had a couple of communications courses in my life and have felt a bit out of my element during discussions dealing directly with journalism and mass communications. However, I have taken several classes in multicultural education, and gender studies. But when it comes to conversations regarding race I am aware that I still have some walls up. We construct race and gender and other categories which allow for a particular group to be othered, discriminated against, and dominated. By looking to media to determine how gender and racial stereotypes are propagated I have added several new pieces to my personal educational puzzle which will inform my path in educational administration.
The advertisements I have chosen to address come from Sports Illustrated. Because I am not a frequent reader of this magazine and I was under the impression that it targets a largely male audience, I consulted a couple of male and female coworkers regarding the messages they associate with the advertisements’ images.
The advertisement which stood out the most to the three males and females I talked to features the website for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and divides the top of the page into 9 boxes with images of white females body parts undergoing various spa treatment options from leg wax and eyebrow tweezing to pedicure and facial. In large bold print in the center of each box are time periods required for each of the procedures featured. Below these pictures are a couple of lines of
text: “ That’s a lot of time to watch a game.” “Spas for her.” “Sports for you.” “Only Vegas.” Responses from my coworkers when asked if there is a problem with this advertisement shared that the images and text reinforce stereotypes that women go to spas and men play sports. Two of the men, who are also married, shared that the ad implies that the spa will keep your wife occupied and happy; meanwhile you can steal some time to watch a game without her nagging or keeping tabs on you. One man shared that the ad implies that women have no interest in sports, and men are looking for ways to get away from their wives/girlfriends. The women who viewed the ad pointed out its reinforcement of an expectation that women must spend time and money and endure pain in order to be beautiful. Both men and women suggested that a Las Vegas vacation could be sold differently by featuring a variety of different activities that men and women could enjoy together and inclusion of diverse people engaged in these activities.
The second advertisement discussed with my coworkers features a white woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes wearing a tiny bikini, posing on a beach with water and sky in the background. To the left of her head, from her head to elbow, is an iPhone with a Sports Illustrated App displayed. The text at the top reads: “World’s Sexiest App, SI SWIMSUIT 2010”, in smaller text at the bottom of the page are bullets about the application and the label “Available on the AppStore” is positioned at the model’s crotch. All three men and women shared the same criticism of the advertisement saying that it celebrates a false image of a woman which has been digitally enhanced and is meant to sell sex to men and unattainable beauty to women. The iPhone technology appears to be the product to be sold given that the SI Swimsuit App is a free download, and yet everyone agreed that sex is for sell in this advertisement.
The final advertisement is one that I have chosen. Only a couple of my coworkers offered input about the images in this ad for Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires. The picture features a white Michelin man throwing black tires at a gas pump. The pump has its hose out but in a vulnerable position, the display screen on the pump features a worried expression and I am reminded of the movie “Transformers” as the pump looms larger than life. The Michelin man stands as confident hero, certain that his tires will deliver a deadly blow. The background includes high-rise buildings and shadowy, large phallus jutting up to the sky. Traction, longevity, and fuel efficiency information are displayed at the bottom left of the ad. The use of phallic symbols in the ad is overpowering and off-putting for me personally, but the other problem is one of who and what the Michelin man is? I have always thought he was made of tires, however, he is white. In the ad he even has a white tire around his waist. I have never seen white tires on cars in real life and maybe only once in a movie. As I look at this ad, I wonder why haven’t I questioned this before. I understand that this ad is meant to target males, but does this really work? I would like to know more about how the tires are different from the other models Michelin and its competitors makes rather than swept away in the hype of a “white-tire superhero”.
The Little Mermaid came out in 1990 and quickly became one of my favorites by Disney. I have always loved the music fr om this movie which may have distracted me from investigating the messages it presents more closely. Messages which I grasped when it first aired included: the dissatisfaction of “staying in your place”; the mantra there is no sacrifice too big for love; and evil will try to foil your plan. Ariel, protagonist mermaid, pined for life as a human and even though all of her friends warned that humans were bad she was determined to become one. Dissatisfied living “under the sea” and enthralled with the mysterious lives of humans Ariel collects the artifacts of men and dreams of a day when she can walk and dance with a human man. She longed to be a “part of their world” and made sacrifices in order to be near her prince. Ariel had one special gift, her voice, which was appreciated by all and envied by an evil sea witch. This witch made a bargain with the mermaid to exchange her voice for 3 days as a human with the promise that if the prince kisses her, she will remain human. When Ariel argues that she must have her voice in order to win the heart of her man, the witch reminds her that men don’t want to hear her talk; rather her looks, smile, and body language will suffice. When the sea witch sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” her incantations take on results similar to those promised today through cosmetic surgery.
Life as a human is not the romantic picture Arial imagines. Humans, in particular men are hard to figure out and a little dense if the prince is a typical specimen. When Ariel fails to seal the deal with a kiss, she realizes that she will never be human. It is when she finally gives up on her dream to be with her prince that fate brings her the opportunity to save his life and be loved and accepted by him. In the end, Ariel regains her voice and marries the handsome human prince with the consent of her father, family, and friends. This is a fairy tale, a fairly tale about mermaids but also a lesson to young women about the traits which men will value in them.
The Hip-Hop culture and Rap music are more difficult for me to identify, the graphic sexual and violent nature of it is difficult for me to listen to. The sexualization and objectification of women is readily apparent in this media and exampled by Ludicris, and Lil Wayne. Because the messages are not packaged with talking ocean life and catchy tunes the devaluing of womens underscores the lyrics. Songs by these Rap artists feature the objectification of women through violence, sex, and an openly confrontational frustration with society. Lyrics continually reinforce the need to prove virility, control of or domination of a woman. and the ability to make a lot of money while rebelling against the system. As a female, the images and expectations presented by Disney and rap artists are contradictory at a surface level. On closer examination both forms of entertainment media send girls and women clear messages of conformity, silence, subservience and sexuality.
Today Bob Cesca in his Huffington Post blog, Americans Simply Don’t Do Sacrifice Anymore, pointed out that the request President Obama made last night for Americans to pray as we suffer the environmental disaster caused by BP’s oil spill in the Gulf is really all we can expect from American society today. As Cesca points out we have not been asked and have not sacrificed for the good of our country since World War II. He implicates our failure to act as a side effect of our cheeseburger eating, over-air-conditioned, apathy. We are obviously unwilling to change our behaviors when we are in a crisis. How did we become such isolated, self-interested people rather than communities with a sense of nationalism willing to work together to address our problems in creative and effective ways?
Cesca suggests that if we are upset by the current crisis we should stop eating meat and organize a carpool, but how can we reconnect with nature and understand our true impact on the natural world by changing our diet and travelling with friends or co-workers? In America we have worked hard to create an expectation that successful people use a disproportionately larger share of the world’s natural resources. And as Americans we must compete with each other to use more, exploit more, and waste more. From my perspective Bob Cesca has only started hacking away at the tip of the iceberg.
We must become more aware of the dangers of our continued exploitation of natural resources including fossil fuels. In Anne Leonard’s The Story of Stuff she describes the “material economy” which we are required to participate in as a capitalist nation and points out that we are only being made aware of a portion of the story. Because the message of our “material economy” defines production as a “linear system” we do not automatically see the consequences of this perspective for our “finite planet”. The limits of our planet are constantly coming into conflict with the expectations that this linear system which appears to operate without consequence to the economies, environments and cultures it comes into contact with. Leonard also points out that in the world’s wealthiest nations it is now corporations rather than the government who have the most influence in this material economy. Able to weave their own tale about the availability of resources we are not made aware of the implications of exploiting our natural world. Extracting natural resources involves practices which frequently degrade the environment, as evidenced by the crisis we are now experiencing in the Gulf.
How can we make a real difference without sacrifice? We cannot. We must become accountable for our impact on the natural world and explore options which consider the relationships industry, production, and market economy have upon the world’s resources and people. Although I believe Cesca’s indictment of Americans as unwilling to sacrifice hits the mark, it is not enough to criticize our blindness to this cycle. We must change our interactions with the natural world.
After reading the Tim Wise essay regarding the privileges of driving white in America, I remembered a recent similar incident. I drive a university vehicle about 2,500 miles most months to schools throughout Oklahoma. In the spring I was driving through Tulsa on my way back to Norman, when I hit a ‘speed trap’. Earlier that day, I had noticed that my driver’s license was not in my wallet and remembered that I had removed it during a visit to the bank and then placed it in a coat pocket. I was concerned for a moment about the consequences of driving without my license but like Tim Wise, thought: “I will be careful”. When I realized that two motorcycle officers were set up along the turnpike around the point of a speed limit change and that I was travelling at least 15 mph over the posted speed, I realized I would be pulled over. The flashing lights in my rear view mirror caused mild panic as I wondered what kind of “trouble” I would get into for not have my license.
When the officer came to the window and asked for license and registration, I explained that I was driving without a license and travelling back to Norman in the university’s car. He asked if I had any picture ID. I showed him my student ID and voter’s registration card, he jotted down my address and returned to his car. During the next 5 minutes I imagined calling my husband and asking him to come to Tulsa to pick me up from the police station and calling my boss to tell her that I had to leave the university’s car on the side of the turnpike. However, when the officer returned he said he was able to look me up in his system, presented me with a warning and reminded me to drive safely.
If I had been driving in Arizona today in the same situation would I have a similar experience? I think it is likely. Because I am a white woman, I will not be targeted as a “reasonable suspect” and expected to prove that I belong in this country even though I do not have required proof in my position. Because I am a white woman I do not have to observe the traffic laws. Because I am a white woman my job was not impacted by my mistake, driving without a license. Because I am a white woman, living in Oklahoma I do not risk removal from my life when I cannot prove my membership as a citizen. Because I am a white woman, I will not need to worry if the “take back America” crusade reaches Oklahoma and we pass legislation similar to Arizona SB 1070, I will need to worry if I find myself in similar circumstances in the future (Rich, 2010).
Rich, F. (May 2, 2010) OP-ED Columnist:If Only Arizona Were the Real Problem. The New York Times. Http://nytimes.com.
Because I am a white woman, no one suspects me of transporting WMD in my Prius.
Stereotypes are reductions of the human experience and as reductions they cannot fully embody the diversity of experience brought by all individuals to our common culture. If “a pattern of stereotypes is not neutral” it must be biased or polarized and therefore favoring a particular point of view or perspective (Lippman, 1956: 96). And therefore a level playing field is nearly impossible, but does this mean we do not attempt to bring all members into participation? How do we increase chances for meaningful, engagement for all? We must value and validate the experiences, identities, and perspectives of all members of this society. We must strive to provide equity which does not mean granting equal access to the same resources if some members already have a head start through unearned privilege. In order to dismiss and dismantle “the fortress of our tradition”, we must challenge the structures and rituals embedded within our culture which justify and maintain the status quo. (Lippman, 1956; 96)
These are my feelings and hopes for our culture, however, I struggle to find the words and actions in daily life to live this ideal. Personally, I do not like labels. I do not know which identifiers are appropriate to use when describing my neighbor, the ways she might describe herself, until I ask. If I ask and listen to her speak about her hopes, experiences, and challenges I will learn that she does not fit a stereotype, there is no single label to give her. But as a society do we have the opportunity to engage each other in these conversations and transcend stereotypes? I think I am a friendly person, but I find it difficult to bring down my defenses at times. I agree with Walter Lippman, but I also know it is difficult honor the spirit of my agreement.
Contemporary media systems provide reinforcement and also dismantling of stereotypes. In class today we discussed contemporary television and news media which has the potential to dismantle stereotypes. Yet, breaking down stereotypes requires viewers to be critical consumers of the content presented. Do we teach critical discernment of media? Are we doing a good job? Movies like “Crash”, “Gran Torino”, and “Grand Canyon” have called stereotypes into question through the examination of the lives and relationships of those directly impacted by our miseducation. Do these messages receive the depth of consideration necessary to affect social change? Or do television shows like “South Park”, “Family Guy”, “The Simpsons”, and “King of the Hill” present satire and contradictions above our heads? In order to resolve these contradictions and appreciate the satire on our own we must recognize them. Is this possible with limited opportunities to explore our views on conflicting ideologies? Further when point-counterpoint formats are presented; agendas and perspectives do not represent multiple sources of diversity. Real Time with Bill Maher examines primarily white, male perspectives on current issues with guests from the entertainment or legislative world offering their views. Finally, local media which is most accessible and relevant to all community members tends to communicate only surface level information and seldom examine the relationships, conflicts, and needs of individuals which are featured on the nightly news or daily paper.
Due to the inclement weather today, most of the local news was dominated by reports of flooding, abandoned cars, and rescue efforts. This afternoon I did find an AP story regarding Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon impressions of immigration law at the federal level. At the 78th Annual Conference of Mayors which took place here in Oklahoma City over the weekend, Mayor Gordon received a standing ovations from other U.S. mayors for his presentation entitled: The Need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform during the Plenary session on Sunday morning. The short piece on The Oklahoman website today provides insight into the mayor’s frustrations with the immigration reform that is directly impacting Arizona communities. Gordon charges that “the lack of comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level has pushed states and municipalities to pass short-sighted legislation to deal with symptoms of the problem.”1 Mayor Gordon does not share information regarding his ethnicity in his profile, but appears to be Caucasian.
In an attempt to find something more light-hearted, I turned to entertainment news and found an update on the status of Conrad Murray’s medical licensure. According to eonline.com, Murray found out today that he will be allowed to keep his California medical license. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael E. Pastor made the decision to allow Dr. Murray to continue to practice medicine rather than suspend his license as a condition of his bail. Conrad Murray was the attending physician at the time of Michael Jackson’s death last year. Murray’s attorney pointed out that he is worthy of keeping his licensure, citing an episode that occurred last month when Murray revived a “twenty something women” during a flight.2 Dr. Conrad’s race nor the race of Michael Jackson is discussed in this article.
Finally, a story featured in The New York Times online today titled: A Dirt-Poor Nation, With a Health Plan describes the national healthinsurance of Rwanda. For the last 11 years citizens have been able to purchase coverage for $2 per year. Basics such as treatment for diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, maternity and wound care are covered through this inexpensive plan. Rwandan clinics have essential drugs and laboratories to conduct routine testing. Since the coverage has been available nationally, life expectance has increase by 4 years and deaths due to malaria and childbirth are greatly decreased. Specialist and surgeons are few and patients requiring special treatment must wait for their turn for treatment. How is this national health care system possible? Private donations from public health organizations pay the difference between individual’s premium payments and the costs of treatment. The premium is difficult for many to afford. Few have the money on hand to pay the annual fee, due to the heavy reliance upon bartering to make ends meet. And because all citizens pay the same $2 fee, the system has been criticized as overburdening its poorest members.3
1 Oklahoma City Associated Press (June 14, 2010). Phoenix mayor blames US policies for ‘short-sighted’ measures like his state’s draconian law. http://www.newsok.com
2 Serpe, G. and Miller, L (June 14, 2010). Conrad Murray Will Keep Medical License (For Now). http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/b185761_Conrad_Murray_Will_Keep_Medical_License__For_Now_.html
3 McNeil, D. G. (June 14, 2010). A Dirt-Poor Nation, With a Health Plan. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/health/policy/15rwanda.html?hp
Scenes from “the Wire” episode we viewed in class today provided images of men, women, and children existing in dangerous, desperate, and frustrating situations in Baltimore, Maryland. Scenes in which black men occupy numerous roles, police officer, criminal, informant and productive citizen all operating within a hierarchy designed to maintain the station of those in power. Women in this episode are portrayed as lesbian when they are strong, confident, and capable or over-worked, sympathetic, pencil-pushers when heterosexual. White men were portrayed as bumbling, incompetent Rookies, driven yet sympathetic detectives, or fat, sloppy bureaucrats with tied hands. If we subscribe to “societies” notions that honesty and hard work are qualities we should aspire to own, “the Wire” doesn’t see things in the same light. Negative stereotypes outnumbered positive by at least two to one; and even positive attributes were muddled with negative attitudes, denial, and feelings of helplessness.
Can these images be instructive? Are these images truly representative of Baltimore’s urban reality ? Harvard Sociologist, William Julius Wilson is utilizing “the Wire” in his black studies course and suggests that the series has provided powerful lessons regarding struggles of “urban life and the problems of urban inequality” which have not been realized by “any other media even or scholarly publications, including studies by social scientists.”(Fairbanks, 2009) Anne-Maria B. Makhulu, assistant professor of African and African-American studies and cultural anthropology at Duke University, asserts based on her own research experience, what is portrayed in the Wire parallels urban realities she has observed in Africa (Ehlers, 2010). However, Professor Griselda Pollock, director of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History at the University of Leeds, cautions we must not take what is observed on this series to be like taking a walk down the street in Baltimore. “It’s an innovative idea to show sociology students that television can give them an insight, but we must also take into account that it’s not transparent, it’s constructed”: “It’s not raw material”. (Silverman, 2010)
Professors utilizing the Wire recognize the need to provide authentic opportunities to digital native learners by incorporating technology throughout the process. Students in these courses are being asked to blog, create video projects, and other authentic communication products to further a discussion of the social issues introduced through this media (Ehlers, 2010). In Makhulu’s class students do not take traditional tests but are asked to explore a theme of the episodes more deeply for their final project (Ehlers, 2010).
I am left wondering, can these episodes also be mis-educative? To what extent are stereotypes being perpetuated by the series and others like it? In the episode we viewed in class I recognized several roles, behaviors, and attitudes typically associated with a urban life, are they truly representative of urban reality. However, while many images were expected and fit established stereotypes I am familiar with, I was also surprised by incongruities which caused me to wonder…what did I expect to see and what are these expectations based upon?
Though we fully inhabit the 21st Century, we continue to struggle in our journey to find common ground with others who we perceive as different from ourselves. Stereotypes provide some with comfort that they can have insight into the lives of others without making an investment to learn who they are as individuals and community members. Numerous examples present themselves each day indicating we are not color-blind or gender-blind, but rather we are intimately tied to identities based on socially constructed categories. Television shows, music videos, film, newspapers, magazines, and the internet provide daily images and commentary perpetuating biases and reinforcing stereotypes in order to sell stories, products, or belief systems.
As a science educator, I am shocked by the slow rate of progress to turn these stereotypes inside out. Science and math are frequently viewed as white male endeavors. Science textbooks and other media resources used in classrooms typically place white males in the center of our collective history crediting them with the major scientific and technological innovations of our past and current reality. White males continue to outnumber others as the experts in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) even though established initiatives are in place to actively encourage a diverse enrollment of students in these programs their perspectives have greater weight. A recent engineering disaster in the gulf coast has focused our attention on the biases of corporate engineers working in this industry. Media surrounding the British Petroleum oil spill in the gulf coast features online articles, video, and pictures of the effort to clean up this environmental disaster which have engaged diverse perspectives to open new dialogue as communities demand action. The current environmental disaster has drawn our attention to the dangerous nature of oil exploration and drilling and the risks we take to secure these resources. Media sources have brought the impacts of this event on the natural world and threats to man’s connection with nature into our daily lives. And while white male scientists, military leaders, and executives continue to offer explanations and ineffective plans for reducing the impact of the event and undertaking the clean-up; diverse communities across the country are stepping up to contribute resources, support, and demand a remedy.
Although the current environmental crisis is difficult to view in a positive light, we have made great progress as a national community. Can the media maintain the national connection which has developed during this crisis and continue to motivate our citizens to question corporate practice and demand action to preserve the best interests of our collective citizenry when this crisis is resolved? If so, we may be able to leave a specific course which addresses race and gender in the media behind. The true test of our growth as global, color-blind, gender-blind citizens may be to examine our actions and motivations when we no longer confront disaster on our doorstep.