media-representation-of-women

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"How the Media Failed Women in 2013," courtesy of Miss Representation. This is mind-boggling and you must watch it right now.

Nice job Prez! Kathleen Hanna must be proud - girls to the front

Also: cue sound of a million MRA heads exploding.

Obama Just Made History by Ignoring Men for an Entire Press Conference

As the president took questions from reporters before setting off for vacation in Hawaii, he electrified the Twittersphere by doing something entirely unexpected and unprecedented: He only took questions from women. 

After a brief comment on the economy, Obama fielded queries on the Sony cyber attacks, Cuba and more from eight women — and no men:

The deliberate decision to call on only female reporters was a subtle gesture but a big deal. While there is no shortage of talented women in political journalism, like in many other sectors they’re often crowded out of highly ranked and conspicuous positions due to individual and institutional prejudice. 

"The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day in and day out do the hard work of covering the president of the United States," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said after Obama’s press conference. “As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the president’s closely watched, end-of-the-year news conference.” 

Read the full story here

Update / Note: after posting this, I realized how this is a more nuanced topic than usual so I wanted to add a note.

If you are one of the readers seeing this news and thinking - “well that isn’t fair / two wrongs don’t make a right / reverse sexism” - let me help you process this situation.

First: admit to yourself that historically and currently, in every state in the U.S. - I can’t speak for other countries - there are boards / councils / departments / etc. that are 100% men. If you find yourself upset by today’s event, ask yourself why you haven’t been bothered by the ongoing injustice in favor of men. Are you REALLY bothered by abstract injustice, or just bothered that men didn’t get their say this one time?

Second: recognize that the world will live if once in a while we listen to women, and women who aren’t being interrupted or corrected by men. Let’s give them a listen. Hear what they have to say. The world won’t explode. Civilization won’t end. You can deal with it. Grow up.

And there you have it! Bottom line - it’s OK to listen to women, and if you’re really freaking out about this, look in the mirror to see what’s really bothering you.  

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[Context: Gail Dines discussing the racist representation of black women of color in the media].

Dr. Gail Dines addressing porn culture and rape culture’s intersecting roles in patriarchy

All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: That women will watch stories about men, but men won’t watch stories about women. It is a horrible indictment of our society of we assume that one half of our population is just not interested in the other half.
— 

Geena Davis

Quote taken from Miss Representation, a terrific documentary ‘exploring the under-representation of women in positions of influence and taking aim at the media’s portrayal of a powerful woman’.

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Black Excellence▶◀  ↪ Anika Noni Rose

"I think that one of the most detrimental issues with regard to the vision of black women in in the media is not having well-rounded images.You see one thing where you see the other, very much the virgin whore complex it is somebody is really really fabulously great like so great you like really I’ve never met that person or they’re so foul and nasty that once again you never met that person.”

You are in everything. 99 percent of Hollywood movies feature your faces. 99 percent of magazine covers are covered in you. The Emmy Awards and Oscars are almost entirely you. If you Google “beautiful people” the screen is covered in white faces. Black girls (and boys) are taught from birth that there is one version of beauty, and it is you. Many black girls go their entire lives thinking they are ugly, thinking they need to be lighter, straighter, whiter in order to have value. Everything that you see every day that reaffirms your whiteness; every commercial that has a nice white lady embodying the perfect “mom;” every magazine that has blue eyes and bone-straight hair; every Hollywood blockbuster that has a leading lady with skin never darker than Halle Berry… all of these things are reinforcements of your identity that you take for granted.

You may be fat. You may have hair that curls up at the ends. You may even have acne. But your face is everywhere. Your people are everywhere. What in your heart recoils when you see Black Girls Rock? What bone in your body sees empowerment for black girls and thinks “that’s not fair”? Where is your bitterness rooted? What do you think has been taken from you when women of color are uplifted?

All of the things you take for granted are what you’re protecting when you shout down Black Girls Rock: your whiteness, the system that upholds your face as the supreme standard of beauty, your place in the center of a culture that demands people of color remain hidden in the margins, present but only barely and never overshadowing the white hero/heroine. Your discomfort with black girls who rock tells me that you prefer the status quo: you prefer for black faces to remain hidden, you prefer for America’s heroes to have white faces, you prefer for black actresses to wear aprons and chains.

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Bitch Magazine Series: Girls of Color in Dystopian YA Fantasy Literature

This current guest series by Victoria Law includes book reviews, analysis of race and tends in YA literature, questions about race and gender in Dystopic narratives, interviews with authors and more.

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Women in Africa and the Diaspora: “Why Brown Girls Need Brown Dolls”

There have long been debates regarding Disney’s lack of diversity and further, the lack of diversity in dolls for children of color. While reading an article on this subject matter, I came across a comment that made me raise a brow.  A reader commented: “The color of these characters is not a big deal. Kids watching won’t see any difference if no difference is highlighted. They will grow up thinking anyone can fit into these roles.”

I’ve seen the sentiment expressed in this comment numerous times in an effort to brush off a call for diversity as “overreacting.” There’s this prevalent myth that kids do not see color. That they grow up colorblind not understanding race relations, but personal experience and social research has proven otherwise.

Let me start with experience:

During thanksgiving break, my 6 year old sister convinced me to play dolls with her. While brushing her doll’s hair, my sister said “Her hair is not like mine. She has white people’s hair.” Caught off guard by her statement, I asked “What do you mean white people hair Kelly?” At first she hesitated to respond but after a few minutes, she replied “Her hair is straight, not like mine.”  My 4 year old brother quickly followed “Yeah, and she’s not brown like you either.”

My sister’s comment proved that even at this young age, she noticed the differences in her doll baby and in herself. She noticed that her doll’s hair is straighter, that it has a small sharp nose, a skinny body. She noticed that her doll is white and that she is brown. Most importantly, she noticed that those characteristics listed all belonged to white women.

continue reading

While this discussion about “the lack of ~well-written/feminist female characters in media justifying fandom’s lack of interest in them” is going on, I think I’ll use the opportunity to talk about the potential of fannish activity/interaction and the way fandom’s very nature blows that half-baked red herring out of the water.

Yes, the prevalence of misogyny and sexism in the media is a real problem. Yes, many female characters are done a disservice by their creators, who sexualize, objectify, fridge, marginalize, and otherwise fail to develop them with the same consideration they invest in their male counterparts. Critiquing these issues is vital in raising awareness among fans that these are problems that must be addressed and rectified, but do not think stopping there is all you can do. If you want woman-positive media (or queer-positive, diverse, inclusive, respectful media in general), it behooves you to seek out, consume, and promote those works where they already exist. Works by women/non-male creators, or works that are written by men but are woman-positive and anti-sexist. Raising consciousness about these works can have a profound effect on future media that will get funded, produced, created, and so on, and will otherwise help support creators that are writing the kind of media we want to see so they can continue creating more media like it.

Does this mean that you absolutely cannot like or appreciate problematic works, or works with male-dominated casts? Absolutely not—and here’s where the very nature of fandom comes into play.

At its core, fandom involves reappropriating entire source materials, settings, themes, characters, and relationships to create art, fiction, meta, and foster discourse and interaction between fans. And that’s reflected everywhere you look on this website: the prevalence of m/m and other queer ships in art and fic, the way long meta analyzing a single glance or instance of body language in a five second scene receives hundreds if not thousands of notes—

…so when the majority of fannish content concerns itself with male characters and their relationships with other men and a good amount of it is created and/or appreciated by the same fans who use a female character’s ~lack of complexity to justify their lack of interest, you can begin to discern how that claim is hypocritical. Taking canon into your own hands and doing whatever you want with it is the very foundation of fandom…so why can’t we put the same effort we invest in analyzing the way male character A’s two-second, background glance at male character B reveals his agonizing feelings for him in our consideration of female characters and their relationships?

If you complain about “poorly written female characters who lack complexity,” then try to read complexity into them. Look harder. Give them the same consideration you give your favorite male characters. Think about why you don’t care for them, and how your feelings would change if they were a male character. It’s not enough to criticize female characters for not being “complex enough,” whatever that means, and put the onus and blame for your lack of interest on their creators while you continue to celebrate, appreciate, and produce content about the same creators’ male characters. It’s certainly not enough to reblog a few of those gifsets of female characters who fit the “woman-positive” quote of the month; that’s literally appreciation-through-template. If the kind of female character you want to read about does not exist in the canon, focus your fannish efforts into fostering rich, woman-positive fanon. Discard your reductive checklists of “what makes a ~good, ~~strong female character.” Look at the character how she is, and build from there. By all means, keep critiquing creators who fall short or don’t make an effort. Call out their mistreatment of their female characters, but separate their failures from the female characters themselves. Take those female characters, and show them the consideration they deserve through your fic, art, meta, RP-ing, or however it is you participate in fandom: look for woman-positive fanworks and comment on them, reblog them, recommend them to your friends, etc. There is always something you can do, no matter what kind of fan you are.

At its best, fandom can uplift. Using the creator’s failures with respect to their female characters as an excuse to dismiss them is nowhere near a valid defense from a fan who wants woman-positive media when the power to create, seek out, and foster that kind of media is at your fingertips, whether on this site or from creators. Be an active consumer, have higher standards, and extend female characters the consideration you criticize their creators for failing to invest in them.

A few more considerations:

  • Criticizing creators for their failures with their female characters, then focusing all your attention on male characters yourselves through fandom creates a vicious cycle wherein we bring the problems we call out in media into fandom, creating a male-dominated, female-critical/negative space where we can create a space that celebrates women and combats misogyny and sexism with more than just criticism instead.
  • In an age where creators are more involved and in touch with fandom and social media than ever and they can see what fans love and focus their attentions on most, in many cases while they’re actively in the process of creating new content for their works…it is a very good idea to celebrate women in addition to offering critical feedback so that fan-conscious creators can 1) fix problematic writing going forward and 2) incorporate what we demonstrate we love and want to see more of into their work so that we, their fans, will be satisfied consumers.
  • There’s a valid argument out there about the different responsibilities older fans and younger fans have; rather, that younger fans must have woman-positive content handed to them early to combat and prevent misogyny from being internalized. To that I say: hand them that woman-positive content through fandom and fanon. This is especially necessary because a lot of younger fans flock to whatever is most accessible and most popular for their age group, i.e. through mainstream media or “mainstream fandom,” which are not the best sources of anti-misogynistic/anti-sexist/anti-racist/anti-homophobic/anti-transphobic content. Write positively about women in your fic, even and especially if it’s m/m fic; recommend woman-positive fic, art, and source materials; reblog meta about women, and especially meta that celebrates women. Don’t just call out problems surrounding fictional women, which is crucial, but give them alternative sources where they can find positive and diverse representation of women.
I just want a good sci-fi movie that is entirely female dominated.

No, not a movie with one great female captain, or one computer genius, one great supporting character, or one awesome pilot, or one leader on a council, or one love interest who gets to be awesome.

Not one or two female characters.

Female dominated.

I want a sci-fi movie where most of the background extras are women.

I want a sci-fi movie where, with absolutely no explanation other than the sheer force of how damn capable and badass and interesting and fantastic they all are, most of main characters are women.

Where more than 50%… Heck, 85% of the main cast is female.

Where the relationships of women drive the narrative, where women talk to each other and work with each other and fight each other and maybe even love each other, but they are affected by each other’s lives and they matter to each other and as characters in their own right.

I want women who are scientists and pilots and heads of government and mothers to daughters and sisters and doctors and soldiers and every other role you can think of, and they are given interesting motivations and backstories and agency.

I want a movie where no women are dressed in skimpy clothing unless that is their choice and they are completely comfortable with the situation, and the situation serves the narrative in some meaningful way.

I want a movie where there are only two (three, tops) male characters who are given full names.

I mean, sure, we could fit in a few more guys.
Maybe a few background extras, maybe someone who is only referred to as ‘brother’ or ‘father’ or ‘son’ or something, and gets fridged, or a character who runs in, gives a piece of exposition, and then is never heard from again.

I want the men to wind up in a difficult situation and be force to rely on the women to rescue them.

I want very little or no time to be spent developing the backstory of the male characters, except if there is a situation where they can relate better to the female characters by bravely revealing deep emotional pain from their past in order to encourage the character development of the female character

I want the ‘main’ male characters to not ever speak with each other during the duration of the film, and at least one of them be defined primarily in their role as a love interest to a female character.


I want a movie like this, because I am just so very sick to death of it being the other way around.

Not only does the data show that young people in general are going to the theater less with the largest drop (17%) occurring in the sought-after 18 to 25 demographic, but it indicates that movies that skew toward a male audience are performing worse than ever. That’s a big problem for Hollywood, considering that their male-oriented franchises seem to be garnering less female viewers than ever, too.

Could they be tired of seeing white dudes save the world? It certainly seems like it, as over time from Spider-Man 3 to Amazing Spider-Man 2, the webhead audience has gone from 54 to 61% male, and the Transformers movies have been following that trend with a now 64% male audience. In the old wisdom, that would’ve been great news, because those demographics were thought of as an endless fountain of money and numbers like those would’ve been seen as evidence that “girls don’t like sci-fi/comic book/[insert genre here] movies.”

But with both of the most recent entries in those franchises also hitting franchise-low domestic gross numbers, it’s well past time to rethink that and work on bringing back the female audience. The male audience isn’t cutting it, and women are getting tired of movies that don’t speak to them or accurately represent them.