Monday, November 26, 2012

Stereotypes of the Middle East

"You share the same religion with men who cherry picked the bible to justify slavery. Those assumptions you made, those quick generalizations; what about the vengeance and the blood shed in the old testament, the Crusades, the Inquisition… are these events guided by a religion of peace? No, they are guided by self-important men who think they know more then the God they claim to worship. This was not the work of religion; it was arrogance, it was hypocrisy, it was hate. Those horrible men who hijacked those planes hijacked my religion that day too. They insulted my God. So, no, this isn’t “too difficult”. It’s a privilege to be able to serve this victim to show him that care and love that was so absent that day." - Arastoo Vaziri 

    Once again, I turned to television this week when I began to think about Middle Eastern stereotypes. The quote above is from the television series "Bones," during a recent episode about 9/11. It is stated by a Muslim character, who is asked if a case on a 9/11 victim is too difficult to handle. I feel that this quote speaks loudly and clearly to the topic of Middle Eastern stereotypes. For the most part, media does not cater to this view on Muslims and people of the Middle East. Like in Disney's Aladdin, the image of a violent and bloodthirsty people is usually portrayed.  Until I saw this episode and read about it for class, I never realized the strength and history of this stereotype.  It had not occurred to me that before 9/11 I had been feeding on bits of stereotypes against a whole people. When the news and war on terrorism sprouted I always thought that was the reason for all the bad vibes and feelings around the Middle East, I did not realize how far back the stereotype extended.

      I must admit that I have held these ideas too, without even realizing it.  There is a Muslim family in my neighborhood at home.  I remember that even before 9/11 I was afraid of them.  Their foreign appearances and head garbs were so different looking and I did not trust them.  After 9/11, I felt uneasy every time I saw a Middle Eastern man in the airport.  This is not something I am proud of.  Every time I felt these things I would tell myself that these ideas and worries are unfounded and unfair.  But even though I knew my judgment was wrong, it did not stop me from feeling the way I did.  That feeling is one of the sad evolutions of a stereotype, to the point where a person can induce unwarranted discomfort simply by looking a certain way. I hope that with this class and even more knowledge under my belt I can fight the way this stereotype has been established in my brain.  Some may say ignorance is bliss but I think that is wrong, especially in this case.  I hope that by being better informed about this, I can take a step away from this ignorance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stereotypes in Glee

     This week's reading goes into depth on how everyone has stereotypes in the media. I decided to watch Glee after reading about all these stereotypes that people don't even notice anymore. I felt very aware of the stereotypes presented in the show.  Although I love the show, Glee gives me mixed feelings because the whole concept plays off the idea of stereotypes.  It is considered a progressive in trying to point out these problems and present more accepting and forward thinking ideals.  However, as helpful as the show may be in pointing out some issues in today's society, I don't feel as though the show has actually done anything in the realm of stereotypes.  For the average american watching the show, I feel as though the characters are viewed as entertainment personalities and not cultural statements. 

   I found a blog post that complains about the stereotypes in Glee as being too extreme.  Many of the commenters argued that this is the whole purpose of Glee, to point out these extremities in a funny way.  Although I agree that Glee is not out to offend anyone, I know I laugh at the stereotypes because they are relevant and familiar.  Glee simply does not make me want to change my thinking or views.  I can not help but wonder if the younger Glee audience is made more accepting and socially liberal than their peers.  I question if it is possible that, for the younger audience, Glee may actually create the pervasion of many widespread ideas about certain groups.  While some may grow up believing in gay marriage, they may also grow up convinced that all homosexual males are effeminate and fashion conscious, which is simply not true.  Although I still plan to continue watching Glee I feel as though the show may cancel itself out.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Gangsta Rap?"

     The reading about "gangsta rap" was incredibly entertaining and interesting to me.  Although I recognize the morals and values expressed in rap music are often far from respectable, the scholarly prose of the article made it difficult for me to take seriously. I do not wish to discredit the author of the article, and I agree with many of the points made within the piece.  However, I am slightly embarrassed to say, the language used made me laugh despite the serious topic.  When reading the formal sounding text of this article, I couldn't help but think of rap songs I own and feel as though the author went about the topic in a too-serious fashion.  His words almost made me discredited him despite the good points he made.  The view of the power structure between White men and African American rappers in this piece also seemed more harmful than good to race and class stereotypes.  I was surprised that the article almost seemed to degrade African Americans when commentating on the dominance structures of rappers to white men.  Saying they can not challenge the white power that gives them money seemed like a step backwards, which went unnecessarily beyond the argument against degrading women.

       Rap music is well integrated into today's culture and pop music.  I have grown to enjoy the rap/R&B genre which tends to be more soft than the music described in this piece, though this is not always the case.  I own several songs by artists like Ludicrous, which carry degrading lyrics towards women. I don't take much offense to rap lyrics although I have heard a song or two that has put me on edge.  Despite my apathy towards some rap music however, I do realize the serious implications pointed out in this piece.  The misogynistic behavior of rappers, as described in this article, is unacceptable.  I know men, who love heavy "gangsta" rap music, who would never consider actually physically hurting a woman.  However, I do see how these raps can make the listener less sensitive to abuse and disrespect towards women.  Encouraging such behavior is wrong and the resulting attitudes are unacceptable.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Indian Princess

      The article and reading for this week hit a wrong note with me. I grew up going to national parks and always wanting to surround myself with nature. On a trip to Arizona I found myself surrounded by "Native American" culture and was inspired by their relationship with nature and careful use of resources. Despite this positive opinion, I think I have always had a fictional idea of true Native American life.  Although there may have been more truth in my previously held conceptions about Native Americans than the "sidekick" or "warrior" stereotype, I still have been affected by the media's portrayals.  My favorite movie as a child, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, featured a Native American and a horse as the main protagonists. This character still had many of the featured stereotypes of Native American culture in the media.  As the reading pointed out, between all the tribes that previously existed in North America, only some wore feathers and lived in teepees. However, this image has been mine, and many others, long ingrained perception.  Even now in more recent culture the "Indian Princess" has become a popular image in halloween costumes and fashion.  These costumes and clothes mostly reflect the media stereotype, not the actual reality.

      I was surprised too by the classes reaction to the article about Disney and the Lone Ranger. Everyone seemed to feel so strongly one way or the other about it.  I personally am on the fence about the ordeal.  I feel as though the stereotype that will most likely be featured in this film is more ignorant than damaging.  It will not give Native Americans a bad name but it will continue misled ideas into the next generation.  However, many were arguing that Disney would not want to do anything politically incorrect since it would cause outrage.  However, I believe stereotypes do not always push negative qualities, they just maintain an unrealistic generalization.  So while Disney may not be directly "offensive" and crude, chances are the image they create of "Tonto" will still be a false image of what Native Americans were truly like. Even if the movie does create a more positive and heroic role for the character, it will be stereotyped.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sex, Beauty, and Advertising

     I was particularly interested in the topic of "Sex Advertising" by guest speaker Jacqueline Lambiase this week. Advertising surrounds us all the time, but I had not really considered the way sexual appeal is used in advertising.  Although I have identified certain commercials as being sexual before, I never realized how it could affect brand recall or even how people view sex itself. The statement "sex sells" is so true, and taboo or not, it is part of our nature. From an advertising standpoint the use of sexual images and innuendo seems almost to cancel itself out.  If an image captures someone’s attention but does not make them remember the product, then the advertisement has only done half its job. As a student who hopes to have a career in the arts and entertainment, I feel these concepts run concurrent with my future.  My close study of the conception of beauty as a result of advertisement is also closely related to this idea. 

    Because products, television, billboards, and commercials surround us all the time they have such a commonly unacknowledged potential to affect people's perceptions.  Advertisements set the standard for beauty, love, creativity, social standing, and of course, sex.  I feel that people don't realize the power images and products have over the way society is shaped since the constant flux makes it seem as though it is a numb process. However, without our realization, these pictures are affecting us with things as simple and primal as sex. Although I try and be aware of the things that I am surrounded by and how they affect me, this class and presentation have made me realize there are still many ways the media affects me that I still have not realized. Because sex can be more taboo in comparison to beauty and gender I feel that these issues in advertising are not as well discussed.  Although we may find ourselves surrounded by sexual images I am more likely to comment on a commercial I find to be sexist and offensive than something I find to have lots of sexual innuendo. This lack of discussion and communication is yet another problem in a world full of media.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Women in the Election?

           While watching the debate this week, with TCU alumni Bob Schieffer moderating, I began to wonder how the debate is affecting women specifically. I easily found an article by the Huffington Post discussing how the different candidates approach, and are perceived, by women.  With debate over contraceptives and diversifying the work space, women are definitely an important part of the race.  The article discusses how women can affect the outcome of "swing" states, especially with the gap between the candidates being so narrow. Most of the topics discussed about women are social and economic issues. As a woman I feel that what these candidates think about women's rights and abortion directly affects me. This article was pleasantly fact based and I felt that although it focused on women, it did not use gender specific terminology in its details.  

     The article featured a quote about how women tend to be more moderate and fluid in their voting, softly supporting a candidate.  Although this seems like a bit of a generalization I definitely feel as though I fit into this category.  I consider myself a moderate and have switched between the candidates I support in the upcoming election a couple of times.  Although I am fairly certain about my vote now, my support remains supple and able to change. I believe this is actually a strength of some female voters because it allows people to move across party lines for a personal decision as opposed to supporting one party no matter the candidate. Watching the debates I felt personal connections to Romney and Obama when they discussed their relationships with women in the family and their wives.  I believe that they are just as able to make unrealized sexist comments about women as the media is, and when they speak honestly and personally it shows character.  I am looking forwards to future female candidates with the hopes that the way the media talks about women in the election and women voting changes to become more balance.

Link to the article:

Monday, October 15, 2012

"The New Normal"?

     This week's reading about LGBT issues interested me greatly.  I grew up in California, where one of my mom's best friends is a lesbian with a long term partner.  For as long as I was old enough to understand the relationship, I never found it odd or gave it much thought. However, as I grew older I was made aware of the negative social views about people who consider themselves part of the LGBT community.  I participated in events at my high school like Day of Silence which allowed people, gay and straight, to come together for an hour of silence that represented the silence endured by many people who are afraid to say they are LGBT. Through this time though, it never really occurred to me how the LGBT community was affected by the media beyond new coverage of "gay rights" and marriage equality. Reading about all the changes in 1997 about LGBT images in the media made me realize just how recent these changes have been. The fact that this has all happened within my lifetime makes it seem even more surprising because I am used to reading about changes that happened before I was born, which is a lot harder to relate to.  

     Having read about this I began to think about Modern Family (2009) and The New Normal (2012), which are television shows that feature a gay couple as lead roles or main characters.  The title of the show "The New Normal" really says a lot about the media's relations with the LGBT community.  It took till this year to make a show that focuses completely on the life of a gay couple and the title of the show even identifies this idea as something "new." The show itself really plays off stereotypes about the gay community and society in a comical way.  However, as we have learned, the media affects society and society affects the media.  More shows and movies featuring LGBT characters means that in the past years LGBT relationships have become more accepted in the public sphere. However, the stereotyping still means that there is a lot to be changed for equal LGBT representation in the media. I have yet to see a positive and non-comedic role of a transgender in the media, with the exception of some murder mystery shows.  Although changes are being made for equal and fair representation, I do think that it will still be some time before we see more changes of LGBT representation in the media. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Just Another Asian Woman in a White Male Society

   I am the product of an Asian man and a White woman but in my exterior features I much more strongly present Japanese characteristics.  I have often been put into the category "that asian chick" which has always put me off because the media has honestly shaped me to believe that white is the standard, which is the culture that I most often relate to. I remember just a year ago I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's for the first time and was completely thrown off by the intense asian stereotype combined with the fact that the actor was not even of asian decent. This made me realize just how rare Asian people are in the media.  Because of this I chose to include photos of the only Asian actors I could think of off the top of my head.

(George Takei, one of the most recognized Asians in television)

     Because of all this, this week's reading struck a personal note for me.  It is hard to empathize with another group when you have never really walked in their shoes.  However, when I read about Japanese in the media, I immediately feel a connection despite my distance from the Japanese culture.  I was interested in the article about Japan because it struck a familiar note with me.  Although it has been a long time since I have traveled to Japan I recognize the stoic stereotype that comes with the culture.  I have actually felt before that this idea has caused people to quickly forget about the tragedies that have damaged the country in the past. Although I agree that this stereotype is more positive than the stereotypes assigned to many other cultures, I can see where this can still be damaging. Japan is the victim, like many other minorities, of many stereotypes in the media, especially those assigned to Asians in general.  This generality is also a fault of its own because the different countries of Asia all have distinctive cultures. I think that because Asian stereotypes tend to be more positive they become better established and less argued even though they are not OK.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

To Cover or Not to Cover: Race

     This week and last week's reading have raised many questions within my mind.  I find that the way the book covers both gender and race in the media to be confusing.  First, in the chapters about sexism, the book expresses how women in the media are often covered only in certain topics.  It goes on to explain that women are rarely pictured as professionals in their field, especially politics and economics, which poses problems to how people view women.  However, the book then includes a quote on page 46 that says electing a woman means getting a "leader who will be paying more attention to education, to quality of life."  I was a bit frustrated and confused by this quote because while it supports powerful women it continues to follow the trend that women are best suited and strongest at supporting only certain topics.  Health and education can be seen as "women's" topics and I found that this quote distracted me from the good points made in the chapter about the lack of women professionals in the media.

      Then continuing on to the readings about racism and racial balance in the media, I found myself still questioning some points made.  As a woman who is half Asian and half White people most often view me as Asian.  However, I primarily see myself as an American.  It does not bother me that more news stories don't focus on Asian people. This is because I tend to feel that news stories focus more on events and issues that are affecting the world and America which includes people of all cultures and races.  I do understand that the specifically African American focused stories are covering specific issues as opposed to addressing how these stories impact and reflect the African American community. However, I do not understand the counting of  how many stories directly relate to a certain race, because as I said earlier, many other stories are covering America as a whole with all its races.  Because of this I feel that covering specifically one race more can actually have a negative impact because it shows separation and inequality from the other stories. Overall I believe this book points out many unacknowledged biases, but there are still points covered that I disagree with or have yet to understand completely.

Monday, September 10, 2012

African Americans, Democrats, and Gay Marriage


    This week I read an article that covered a lot of issues this class discusses.  The article came from the Catholic News Agency, and although it was presented in a very journalistic way, I felt that the organization did not maintain a balanced and unbiased perspective.  The article covered an African American pastor who said that Democrats do not work for the black interests. He also went on to say that African Americans are still struggling in the US and that the legalization of gay marriage "would be detrimental to he African American community." This means that the post not only affects the idea of race but that it also touches on religion and sexuality. The article did not even attempt to present another side to the argument and only covered the beliefs of the pastor.

     I had a hard time accepting the jump in this article from saying that the Democratic party was not helpful, to saying that gay marriage would damage families. Although I could follow the pastor's argument it seemed to represent a very narrow view point without considering how other African Americans, either Democratic OR Republican, felt about the issues presented.  This example did however provide a counter balance to the seemingly common coverage in the media of African Americans as only being Democrats. As a general whole it seems to me that the media has yet to really find a balanced coverage of African Americans' role in this election and in those of the past.  It is very often that racial minorities are lumped into a political category which is not the case. This is yet another area that the media still shows its lack of balance and diversity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Women's Magazines: Are Models an Issue?

I read several articles about women in the news before I came across this one.  This article discusses a German magazine, "Brigitte," that is considering changing its policy on only using amateur models.  I was especially interested in this article because I am invested in learning about how the media affects women's body image. I feel that women are depicted in a non-sexist way in this article and that it relates closely to the issue of how the media, other than news, can affect women. When insanely skinny and "gorgeous" women make up such a small percentage of the population it is easy for me to see why the woman described in this article say they can not identify with the extreme looks of professional models.  The article did not, however, give examples of women who were ok with or encouraged the use of professional models in the magazine. I feel that because of this lack, there was a generalized view that all women would rather see "real women" in magazines as opposed to professional models, which is not necessarily true. 

The use of specific looking models IS a gender issue however because it can give the impression that the model look is one every woman should strive for. Another thing that really interested me about this article is that no male perspective was given on the issue.  All the people quoted and referred to were woman. This makes sense since the magazine is for women only. However, because it was a trendsetter in making the change to amateur models its change back could prevent other magazines for men and women from following its lead.  The magazine defends the potential change because amateurs are harder for photographers and stylists to work with.  To me though, this  argument points out, even more, the faults in the media's depiction of women. If models of other shapes and sizes are that much harder to work with, that only continues the stigma that women are supposed to look a certain way.

Monday, August 27, 2012

NYC Women go Topless!?!

I read several articles about August 26th, which marked the 5th annual National Go Topless Day. This day strives to take steps in the topless equality between men and women.   I was particularly interested in these articles, which I felt, though unbiased and balanced, did have sexist undertones.  Women's breasts have been sexualized and are seen as private in America.  Men in the articles seemed to support woman's rights to be topless. However, I felt that the general theme amongst the articles suggested it was for the benefit of the man's view and less the rights of the woman.  The word “topless” itself can even be seen as sexist as men not wearing shirts are rarely ever referred to as “topless.”

I have lamented the inequality of not being able to bare my top on hot days before, so in some ways I feel empathetic to the movement.  On the other hand, even if it was legal I do not think I would be comfortable baring myself anyways.  Because nudity is still taboo in American, and the woman’s body is still displayed so sexually, I feel most men in the US would not react to public female nudity appropriately.  This problem is something that is not helped by the mass media. When women's breasts are shown on TV and in the movies it is seen as an explicit scene and often in highly sexualized circumstances, which in turn further degrades women as mere sex symbols. So called “man-boobs” are ok to display but I feel women and the media have a long way to go before a woman going topless in public can be seen as normal.