What’s new in stereotyping?

Seems like an odd question to ask, but actually a report just came out called “Stereotyping Update.” Check it out – it’s not just about gender, it also includes race and ethnicity. Scroll down to the video section and look at the YouTube video made by African men who don’t like their stereotype of being violence-loving, non-smiling men who only speak in short sentences. It’s great to be able to get a point across while being humble and funny. There’s a blog on Stereotype Updates you can subscribe to, as well. I did.

Stereotyping Update

 video

J Crew ad sparks controversy over pink nail polish on a boy

Hmm, following up on the post that women naturally like dominant men….(which got me thinking today – actually, Justin Beiber is said to be so attractive to girls because he’s so non-threatening…just a thought). Anyway, J Crew has an ad of a mother with her young son. He’s got pink-painted nail polish on his toes.

Pink nail polish for boys, J Crew ad sparks controversy

The Today Show discussed this and I thought they did a great job. A psychologist said parents should accept their child as they are – I wholeheartedly agree for several reasons:

1) If gender roles are ‘natural’, then why do we need to force children to behave like boys or girls? I was on a bus in Hong Kong, sitting across from a couple with a young – maybe 5 year old – girl wearing  a dress. The parents kept smacking her when she fidgeted on the seat – she was squirming around – and, I suppose, might have looked immodest in her dress. That was my only guess. Why do parents have to force these roles on a child?

2) If parents are not tolerant of their children’s personality, they are teaching intolerance. I can see it leading to bullying – if they see their parents are intolerant of behavior/dress/etc., then they are sure to copy.

3) I used to think it odd that some languages, like Spanish or French, give objects a gender. It seems just as odd – not referring to foreign languages –  to give objects, colors, behavior, etc. a gender though, doesn’t it?

4) It seems limiting to say boys/men must do this/say that/etc. and girls/women must do something else/say something else – especially when you consider how large this world is. Why should this planet have just 2 roles a person should fall into?

Media bias and what to do about it

Just a reminder of how important media is in shaping policies and norms in our culture. Read Jennifer Pozner’s article to learn how to advocate on behalf of gender and social justice. I’ve included a few excerpts below:

Why fixing the media should be on the feminist agenda

Without accurate, non-biased, diverse news coverage and challenging, creative cultural expression it is virtually impossible to significantly impact public opinion of women’s and human rights issues or to create lasting social change. Indeed, corporate media are key to why our fast-moving culture is so slow to change, stereotypes are so stubborn and the power structure is so entrenched. Pop culture images help us determine what to buy, what to wear, whom to date, how we feel about our bodies, how we see ourselves and how we relate to racial, sexual, socio-economic and religious “others.”

Journalism directly links and affects every individual issue on the socio-political continuum in a national debate over the pressing matters of the day, from rape to racism, hate crimes to war crimes, corporate welfare to workplace gender discrimination. By determining who has a voice in this debate and who is silenced, which issues are discussed and how they’re framed, media have the power to maintain the status quo or challenge the dominant order.

And-

As feminists, we need to prioritize media among our top political concerns. Is sexual assault your most urgent issue? Media still imply that women “ask for it,” as when a Wall Street Journal column blamed rape and murder on “moronic” women who don’t have enough “common sense” to keep themselves safe. Think anti-abortion violence is a threat to women’s safety and to our reproductive freedom? An American anti-abortion fanatic attempted to blow up a women’s health clinic in Iowa on September 11, 2006, yet only one newspaper in the entire Nexis news database deigned to report this terrorist attack. Against the war? When three pretty, blond country singers are called “Dixie Sluts” by major magazines and TV news reports, banned from airplay by ClearChannel, Cox and Cumulus Radio and censored with radio-funded CD-stomping spectacles simply for expressing anti-war sentiment, it’s a safe bet that corporate media won’t be giving much press to Iraqi women who complain that their safety and autonomy are now curtailed by new Sharia laws imposed by the U.S.-approved Iraqi Constitution.

And-

Sexist, racist media content is fruit from a poisoned tree. The demonization of women and the near invisibility of progressive feminist perspectives in American media are the result of institutional factors, including the financial and political agendas of mega-merged media monopolies; the pandering of news networks and entertainment studios to advertisers’ profit motives without regard for the public’s interest; the limited access of women, people of color, low income people, LGBTQ people, Native people, immigrants and other marginalized constituencies to the means of media production, distribution and technology; decades of right-wing investment in media messaging, production and advocacy; and, funding restrictions of independent media alternatives.

Media bias in the global south

Gender and media misrepresentation in the global south

FRIDAY FILE: In the struggle for gender equality, the media should a powerful ally. Unfortunately it strongly reinforces the status quo, particularly in the Global South.

By Kathambi Kinoti

Fifteen years after the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) was adopted, women’s voices are still largely absent from the mainstream media. Recognising the powerful role of the media in shaping perspectives, the BPfA makes comprehensive recommendations to improve the visibility and voice of women and promote balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women. Some of the recommendations are:

  • To change the continued projection of negative and degrading images of women in programming.
  • To enhance women’s skills, knowledge and access to information technology in order to improve their ability to combat negative portrayals of women.
  • To mainstream gender in media programming and policy.

Slow progress

A media monitoring study carried out in twelve southern African countries found that stereotypes abound and are actively promoted by the media. The report’s authors write: “Potentially having a huge role to play in this ‘liberation of the mind,’ the media has more often than not been part of the problem rather than of the solution.” Women are typically portrayed by the press as sex objects, temptresses, mothers or wives. When newspapers, radio or television stations need an expert on a subject, they are less likely to call upon a woman. The study found that women politicians, who on average formed 18 percent of the region’s parliaments, were rarely news sources, being quoted only 8 percent of the time.

And –

The majority of workers in the media at all levels are still men whether they be reporters or decision makers. The only area in which women achieve a level of parity is as television presenters – but they have an expiry date; they are usually aged 34 or below. Women over the age of 35 become invisible in the media according to the southern Africa study and the GMMP findings. This reinforces stereotypes about young women’s desirability and older women’s lack of it, something that does not affect male presenters on the same levels.

The voice and visibility of female journalists has improved somewhat since the BPfA. However they are more likely to be assigned “soft” news reporting: the arts, entertainment and lifestyle, while “hard” news – politics, the economy, government – remains a largely male domain. The figures reported by the GMMP make a solid case for increasing the numbers and influence of women in the media. Female journalists are more likely to feature female subjects and to rely on female experts than are male journalists. They are also more likely to consider a gender dimension to stories that would otherwise be gender-blind.

Recommendations –

The GMMP report makes a number of recommendations that urge a greater leading role for civil society in promoting positive representations of women in the media. Some of these are:

  • Compile regional directories of women experts on diverse thematic issues. Women are typically portrayed as being experts only on gender equality, beauty, fashion and home-making, but in reality, they are present in all other fields of human endeavour and should be recognised as such.
  • Create gender and media curricula in journalism schools. Gender and women’s rights awareness should be infused into all aspects of journalists’ work, so that women’s empowerment is not only covered in special interest stories but is an issue that is understood thoroughly and is actively promoted.
  • Media decision-makers should receive gender-awareness training that challenges the deeply ingrained – and often unconscious – biases against women.
  • Adopt and apply policies on gender parity in the media. There needs to be an equal presence of men and women at all levels from reporters to management.
  • Support women in the media by offering them training and visibility.
  • Establish gender-sensitive media codes of practice that hold media houses accountable for their reporting. It is unethical for them to continue to peddle skewed representations of women.
  • Encourage media monitoring by civil society organisations.

What’s chance got to do with it?

Chance encounter led to artist’s slaying in Montgomery, MD, authorities say

One of the most frustrating issues to those of  us interested in gender-based violence is to read media accounts that gloss over, or worse, ignore the issue of gender and, in particular, violence directed at women and girls. Today’s article in the Washington Post (following up on this week’s missed opportunity in the HIV gel article) declares a “chance encounter” led to a women being beat and stabbed (with scissors) by a man she knew. In fairness, it says the authorities claimed this (was it their choice of words? is it the media’s responsibility to realize it was gender and not chance – just as it was skin color and not injustice that claimed the lives of African Americans?).

While it states Williams, (I hate to say this but) the “alleged” killer, didn’t know she was coming (how did they know this? did he say it? was it the truth?), he did, in fact, know her and was present in the studio. Had a man walked in would he have done the same thing? This is the key question. If this was a racially-motivated or even a homophobic-motivated crime, society would be asking the SAME QUESTION. Once we start asking ourselves if gender was an issue, we’ll be able to detect gender-based violence. Targeting women solely because of their gender is a hate crime, discrimination, and mysogynist. Only when we become aware of gender-based violence will we be able to work towards preventing it. The next question is, how many murders do we have to witness before we gain this awareness?

Here was another story this week –

Suspect in Maryland could be serial killer

Twice this guy is suspected of killing a mother and daughter. Does anyone question why he’s targeting mothers and daughters and not fathers and sons or fathers and daughters?

Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said the same suspect may be responsible for the slaying of another Maryland mother and daughter, and also is being investigated for homicides in other states.

The unnamed man, currently held on weapons and sex charges, holds two master’s degrees.

Hylton said he is well read and very familiar with law enforcement.

He predicted the man will be remembered as “one of America’s most infamous killers.”

He will be remembered. But his victims will not. Nor will many be able to understand that their gender was their risk factor, and that, ignored, it will allow more women and girls to be killed by men in senseless, tortuous deaths.

And then there was this one…

Family finds body of missing mother Jenna Lord

“Them cops didn’t find nothing — not a damn thing,” Lord’s grandfather, Vincent Caruso, told The Philadelphia Daily News.

From the beginning, the family had complained that police in Camden, Collingdale, Pa., and Collingswood, N.J., had been reluctant to search for Lord because of her rough past.

The police didn’t even want to look for her – she wasn’t quite “worth” looking for, was she? Jack the Ripper was able to terrorize London because he was, after all, killing the “dregs” of society – prostitutes – and getting away with it. To this day, serial killers often target prostitutes because they know society might even appreciate ridding it of such “evil” women (murder, in fact, is the number one cause of death for prostitutes). Having said this, society has pimps, drug dealers, gang members – and I’ve yet to see serial killers try to wipe out these guys. So again, we see the gender component at work.

Try this exercise. Fill in the blank, replacing Jenna Lord as the victim. In which scenario would society have more outrage?

Two (white men) followed  ___________, killed ____________, and set __________ on fire.

Answer choices:

 (a) the black couple          (b) the gay man          (c)  an Amish person

Any of these choice would indicate the killers were targeting people for their race, sexuality or lifestyle and the media would highlight this. But targeting random females – for no apparent reason – other than they are women – gets virtually ignored. It’s insane.

1.5 to 3 million women are killed by men each year. Often, the men are known to the women. Other times, they are not – they are just women – and that’s all it takes.