Do You See Yourself?
Although praise has continued for the handful of transgender individuals on TV and the growing number of roles for black women, the fact is that the media and the TV/film industry does not equally represent the diversity of our society, and this must change! But what should be done and how can we get involved?
Media literacy, according to the Media Literacy Project, “is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media,” which they focus on while embracing “a media justice framework . . . . [that] takes into account history, culture, privilege, and power.” While critical thinking skills are hopefully developed through education in schools, evaluating messages and advocating for an increased presence of diversity are feminist goals that continue beyond the classroom.
Some feminists believe media literacy is an essential part of the feminist movement, with many websites and social media groups such as The Women’s Room, The F Word, The Everyday Sexism Project, and Everyday Feminism working to raise awareness and create positive change through this type of online feminism. The Barnard Center for Research on Women and Valenti Martin Media defines online feminism as “the largest innovation in feminism in the last 50 years that harnesses the power of online media platforms to discuss, uplift, and activate gender equality and social justice.” For more information: http://www.valentimartin.com/projects/
Some even argue that online feminism is the fourth wave, as used in the following article: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/10/fourth-wave-feminism-rebel-women
Regardless of how you feel about third or fourth wave terminology, social media and other outlets can assist the feminist movement. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, for example, has commissioned various research studies that raise awareness for gender representation disparities in TV/film. Based on the idea, “if she can see it, she can be it,” this organization works to increase visibility for women and girls while decreasing damaging stereotyping. For a powerful infographic based on recent findings, please check out the following: http://seejane.org/symposiums-on-gender-in-media/gender-bias-without-borders/
The Representation Project also builds on this task through hashtags like #NOTBUYINGIT that encourages people to call out sexism in the media, including objectification in advertising and sexist treatment toward female celebrities and politicians. Along with these connections to mainstream audiences, the organization’s films emphasize the damage of gender stereotyping and how to challenge it: Miss Representation (female/women focus) and The Mask You Live In (male/men focus). These types of educational resources and credible data (such as “Women of Color and the Top 500 Films”) are helpful both inside and outside the classroom: http://therepresentationproject.org/?attachment_id=14499
Although these initiatives may not be perfect, especially due to their emphasis on the male/female binary, providing efforts toward media literacy to mainstream viewers can create a wide-reaching online feminism that promotes diversity in TV, film, and other media. So many individuals do not see themselves in the media that surrounds us all, and that needs to change. Therefore, whether you like, tweet, or browse, I hope you consider participating in the online initiatives that call out the disparities and gaps and continue to encourage the growing representation of diversity.
by Sarah C