The Course of Gender from the Media Education Foundation and created by Andrew Kilroy and Jeremy Earp in 2009 touches on the stereotypes formed for each gender. One example of this is having “man hands” which is a term used excessively. The overuse of femininity and masculinity occurs everywhere and we are oblivious to it. Masculinity is associated with strength and power, while femininity is associated with weakness and vulnerability. I believe the main theme of this documentary is that gender has no identity; society does. Advertising is the main issue in stereotyping genders since it is such a powerful resource in our modern world. Female sexuality, for example, can be found on billboards and in pornography. Although the roles can be reversed, it is rare as women are often seen as inferior to men in advertisements. To specify, angles,such as the lifting of a females neck, are used to express submissiveness to a male hinting that she has embraced helplessness. Clothing is something that uses advertisements to sell their brand. Abercombie and Fitch for example, is the epitome of how codes in gender for masculinity jump to conclusions of how a man should look and act. Womanhood is now seen in young girls and young girls are becoming sexualized. Modeling in magazines and runways, for example, portrays young women to look older with their heels and makeup. Both are normalized in the fashion industry. This short film also touches on the idea of expectation vs. reality as we often have this false idea of what to expect from men and women. Professor Sut Jhally from the University of Massachusetts makes a powerful opening statement stating that “We as human beings often feel the need to know someones gender as it affects the way we interact with them. Without it we avoid talking to certain people” (Kilroy and Earp 2009). Why must we do this? To have a better understanding of this, we must analyze the past and the mood that was created to help the future of gender limitations. This was the ending key point made.
I was most eager to watch Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom as it focuses on the false portrayal of females. Created in 2011 with the cover photo of Rosie the Riveter, it challenges the idea of women empowerment and how women feel “lesser” than a man in positions. As a result, some women go on a downward spiral with the pressure placed on women. I was pleasantly surprised to see Katie Couric interviewed because she is someone I look up to since I watched her as a news anchor on The Today Show growing up. She expresses concern for her daughters in a society where anorexia is often viewed as normal. Media industries go on a never ending pursuit for models with the “idealized body” since that is what tends to sell. It is no secret that women will go the extra mile to save for expensive beauty products. Spending an average of $12,000-$15,000 a year on beauty products alone, U.S women are encouraging brands to continue with their marketing strategies. Jennifer Pozner, author of Reality Bites Back, states we as women fall for this trap and become convinced that beauty is all that a man sees. Having the mindset of “pick me, pick me,” we compete against women unconsciously by spending hours getting ready to impress a man (who most likely cannot even tell we are wearing makeup) (Newsom 2011). This feeling is all too relatable. By women conforming to what sells in the industry and conforming to portraying a false sense of what we look like to men, it disempowers us. I believe that in order for us to release our body dysmorphia, we must let go of what sells. To specify, we must stand for change by refusing to buy from industries that focus on women being overly skinny and express our concerns by talking to managers of stores. Adding to this, we can choose to focus on natural beauty by applying much less makeup and giving off a confident attitude to men even in less makeup. After all, a small sense of compassion can truly start a chain reaction.
I am Not Your Negro filmed by Raoul Peck in 2016 in association with Global Studies and Languages follows James Baldwin's story and the injustices that occur for people of color. Baldwin claims that “The American people are unable to accept that he is flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone, created by them” (Peck 2016). One of the key points that I took away from this documentary was Baldwin's emphasis on white privilege and how lucky we are to be able to live the “American Dream” that many people of color desperately strived for. We took the idea of marriage, children, and housing for granted. Although times have changed and laws have improved tremendously, I believe that racial equality is still partially lacking. Mockery, for example, continues to be relevant in media. People feel compelled to make racist jokes and still have racist emotions. One example chosen was The Maury Show. Casey, a closed minded mother, shows anger towards her two daughters dating black men (Peck 2016). Believing that her children will bee looked down upon, she sadly embodies racism. Towards the end of the documentary, Baldwin honors the passing of Martin Luther King Jr. and describes how his day went. Explaining how he does not remember much (as he was most likely in a state of shock), we see flashbacks of the march through Birmingham, Alabama. Hoping to honor King and end racism, Baldwin was fearful. He reminds us that the history of Negro's is the history of America and that it is not a pretty story. I hope that history never repeats itself and that our modern day times continue to grow in acceptance. I believe the overall theme is that all people are still not created equal and that racism still occurs.
Playing Unfair: The Media Image of a Female Athlete, created by Kelly Garner, Kenyon King, Loretta Alper and Sut Jhally in 2002 tells the story of female athleticism and its failure to recognize women for their ability to play but instead emphasizes their sexual appeal. Like many other females, femininity continues to be an issue in sports because sexualization occurs here as well. Pat Griffin, author of Strong Women, Deep Closets, makes the surprising statement of how some women do not see the sexualization of their bodies as compromising but instead as expression of themselves. Griffin tries to remind these women that it is not just about individual choice and that if you look at how you portray yourself, it is not the way you would want young women to look up to you. Based off of this, all types sexuality appear to be a topic of discussion in media coverage, including a woman's choice of being heterosexual or homosexual. Griffin explains that heterosexual women often feel threatened to be considered homosexual in the athletic community along with lesbians being fearful of discrimination. One interesting statement made was how Griffin is surprised that the WNBA does not have one publicly out basketball players as there are not only many lesbians in basketball, but in every sport. Why must some players WNBA be afraid to expose who they desire to be with? The last example of how the media chooses a woman body over sports occurred on St. Patricks day in 1999. As women bungee jumped her way off of the ledge, the media failed to cover many other women's sports that day such as golf. While this was a comical event deserving of recognition, women golfers lacked the fame they deserved that day.
Boy Am I: Exploring Female-to-Male Transgender Experiences created by Julie Hollar and Sam Feder in 2006 steps out of society's comfort zone and created a documentary about promoting transgender issues. This was one of the shorter documentaries I watched, yet it did an excellent job at creating content in a condensed amount of time. Carmen Vasquez explains our lack of understanding of gender and gender expression. I agree with this statement as we are taught to conform to one gender. Whether it be blue for boy and pink for girl, Vasquez believes that no one is exclusively set to one gender. Being interested in ways our bodies are viewed by society, I was fascinated by this documentary. In fact, one of the people interviewed who previously identified as female explained how his breasts make him uncomfortable and that there is an excess amount of something unwanted (Hollar and Feder 2006). Before this class, I disagreed with this statement. However, after learning more about this topic and how gender is simply a social construction (and that gender identity can differ from gender display), I agree that multiple genders can exist. The disidentification of transgender people saddened me as I learned that transgender people in the mid 90's were told to refer to themselves as “not butch” people instead of referring to themselves as transgender. In conclusion, society must learn that not all people fit into one “box” and that identity is different for everyone. However, it gives me hope for change because many people are becoming more accepting of the transgender community.
Blacking Up: Hip Hop's Remix of Race and Identity by Robert Clift in 2010, highlights how rap culture has expanded to a younger community. The documentary shined a light on Elvis Presley and his ability to successfully perform to the rhythm and blues. He made this genre when people of color were unable to receive musical recognition. There are many issues that occur in still to this day that this documentary talked about. One modern day example that I found interesting was the all white Pom Pom squad from a high school in Southern Indiana. They explained that the term “wigger” is someone with baggy clothes and cornrows and is said behind people's backs. Vanilla Ice was popular in the early 2000's and states that people should choose to focus not on the people but the music itself. Amiri Baraka agrees by concluding that it is not an issue of race but more of an issue with class. Getting caught up in the fake gold jewelry and large diamond earrings, rappers associated being “flashy” with being a good rapper. John Leland concludes that people are looking for a license to be masculine. With aspirations of feeling “macho”, rappers use swear to create a sense of dominance. It is unfortunate that swearing comes with the hip hop culture. The most concerning part of the documentary was the oblivion that white people had to the mockery of rap culture. Cultural appropriation is a large issue everywhere, and I too was oblivious to the appropriation that occurs in rap culture. As I listen to music, I will now see it from an entirely new perspective.
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