We Ruined Disney (RGM JOUR 4250)

By Sarah Copeland

Before I begin I want to make it clear that I am a huge Disney fan. I love everything Disney and I hate to highlight its flaws, but I must agree with the rest of my classmates.

Just to give some brief background information, last class some of my peers presented their first project to the class. Our first project was to analyze some form of media and write a content analysis based on outstanding themes we observed such as sexism, racism, etc.

To be fair, we ruined plenty of other things during the project presentations along with Disney. I chose to reveal the overwhelming amount of sexism present in the 1940s by analyzing the movie “A League of Their Own.” Other students used movies like “Bridesmaids” or cartoons like “Steven Universe” to highlight negative and degrading portions of products that we previously enjoyed. This includes Disney.

If you didn’t already know, Disney can rather easily influence children, especially little girls that just want to be like a Disney princess. This is an important factor when observing Disney movies and determining what disturbing themes are common. The student who focused on Disney movies as the topic of her project opened the discussion on the movie “The Little Mermaid” during our previous class.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative themes in “The Little Mermaid” like during the scene where Ursula sings the “Poor Unfortunate Souls” song. One thing that the student did not point out during her presentation that I want to discuss is how Ursula says the phrase: “You have your looks, your pretty face, and don’t underestimate the power of body language.”

This song is packed full of negative instructions to girls. Throughout the song, Disney creators, through the villain voice of Ursula, basically state that girls don’t need their voices to get the guy. Based on this song, a girl’s body is the only truly important mechanism to make a boy interested in them. On top of that horrible implication, the song continues to say that men don’t like girls that talk too much and that girls should just keep their mouth shut anyway because they will be happier that way. Basically, according to Disney, a girl shouldn’t care about how smart or conversational she is but should be concerned about the way she looks because that’s how she will win her man. Not to mention that, to Disney, a happily ever after with Prince Charming is the only thing desirable for a girl.

There are several other negative things I could point out about Disney. These include things like the impossible standards of body image it sets forth when designing princesses. Every princess is a Barbie doll with impossibly tiny waists and flawless hair. I think the most important negative theme I can point out, though, is how Disney creates weak female characters whose only care in the world is her getting her man. Of course, there are exceptions, like Mulan, but most of the old princess movies follow the same exhausted story line.

I still love Disney, and I still think that the old princess movies are great stories. I honestly hope my future children will grow up watching these same movies. However, knowing that Disney has such a high influence, I think it is important for parents to ensure their children aren’t taking everything the Disney movies present to heart.Sorry to say, but Disney isn’t perfect.

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School’s Sexist Dress Codes (RGM JOUR 4250)

By Sarah Copeland

Unfair dress codes are singling girls out as the reason that boys in school do not pay attention. School districts are implying that it is the girls’ fault that boys can’t pay attention, yet we don’t shame the boys for ogling girls’ bodies. The reasons behind strict dress codes in schools are blatantly sexist and need to be addressed (no pun intended).

I have always felt strongly about this topic ever since I was in high school. I thought it was insane how many rules there were to restrict girls’ clothing when the boys had little to no stress over the matter. I did not know how huge this issue was until I began research on the topic to help me write this blog. Several articles share my distaste for how sexist schools have become concerning the matter of dress codes. Even some powerful movements like “I am more than a distraction” have erupted on the east coast (Zhou 2015).

i-am-more-than-a-distraction

I have read some articles that use the argument that dress codes are to help prepare students for the “next level” past high school (Halkidis 2014). That excuse is beyond ridiculous. The “next level” for students (at least optimistically speaking) is college. College has no dress code and is refreshingly freeing for students when it comes to personal day-to-day decisions. The only need to dress nicely is for special events or important first impressions such as interviews.

First impressions are important, yes, but it is important to realize when those impressions will be made. It is improbable to expect that every day, for 180 days, a student will wear “interview appropriate” clothing in order to “prepare” them for their future. That puts an extreme amount of stress on a teenager. Instead of micro-analyzing every outfit a student (and let’s be honest, it really is only the girl students) are wearing and stating it’s to “help them understand” what would be appropriate for a job interview, why not just hold a school lecture to prepare all students (Halkidis 2014)?

Overall, it’s truly the girls losing out on their education through the distractions that dress codes bring forward. When they are called out and sent out of class for their outfit, it disrupts their learning. I fail to see how this is NOT a sexist act. The school districts with oppressive, unfair dress codes are basically saying, “We don’t want to distract the boys so please leave and change your clothes.” I feel like that is rather obvious sexism.

Another issue comes from learning where would girls even find appropriate clothes! I used to work in retail at a tween girls’ store. The hardest things for parents to find was always clothing that would be school appropriate. I apologize, but shorts that are long enough to be considered “dress code appropriate” are ugly. They are unflattering and, usually, don’t even exist. The majority of clothing stores that girls can shop at don’t offer longer length shorts, skirts or dresses.

On top of all that, it is not the school’s job to tell students what they can wear. It is the school’s job to teach and educate students. Of course, there is always a limit. Neither girl nor boy students should show up to school in bathing suits. However, it is the parent’s responsibility to enforce proper dress codes upon their children.

Enough of this “boys will be boys” crap that allows school districts get away with showing sexism to girls. It’s unfair, it’s demeaning and it’s infuriating.

References:

Bates, L. (2015, May 22). How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://time.com/3892965/everydaysexism-school-dress-codes-rape-culture/
Halkidis, A. (2014, December 1). Students Say Dress Codes More for Girls Than Boys. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://womensenews.org/2014/12/students-say-dress-codes-more-for-girls-than-boys/
Menza, K. (2015, January 19). Debate: Are School Dress Codes Sexist? Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://choices.scholastic.com/story/debate-are-school-dress-codes-sexist
Zhou, L. (2015, October 20). The Sexism of School Dress Codes. Retrieved October 13, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/10/school-dress-codes-are-problematic/410962/

Pulitzer Prize Winners (RGM JOUR 4250)

By Sarah Copeland

I recently attended an event held at my university to recognize Pulitzer prize winners who are alumnae of the university. There were ten participants who came to sit on panels during the event and answer questions about their experiences. The event was divided into two segments. The first half featured the first panel of five Pulitzer finalists. The second half featured five alumni Pulitzer prize winners: Leana Allen, Kerry Gunnels, Dan Malone, Gayle Reaves and David Klement.

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Pulitzer Winners Dan Malone, David Klement, Gayle Reaves, Kerry Gunnels and Leona Allen (from left to right)

All ten of these journalists had incredible experiences to share. They dealt with stories that center around the main issues within our culture as well as cultures around the world. One of the alumni described their role as an “act of bearing witness.” This description really resonated with me personally. The role of a journalist is indeed to witness and retell to the public, and these specific journalists have had the job of retelling very difficult stories. Some of the main topics centered around the Black Lives Matter movement, sex trafficking in Thailand and other racist or sexist topics.

“Everyone is different and has a different story,” Finalist Melissa Boughton said. “Never go into a story with a preconceived notion.” This piece of advice means so much more coming from this journalist. She, like several other alumni present at the event, have worked on stories centered on the current racial issues occurring in America. Her job is to get both sides of the story and report the truth told by her source.

Why do these journalists take up such difficult beats? Why do they follow such controversial, emotional topics? Because they have a responsibility to public service. They report the truth and tell these stories in order to get the response the stories deserve. These journalists hope to get responses like, “That’s just wrong!” or, “That’s not right.” If they induce those types of responses then they have done their job well.

These journalists won the Pulitzer prize because they publicized issues that need attention. They didn’t shy away from difficult subjects but fully embraced them in order to retell the difficult stories to others. These journalists call attention to the bad things going on in the world, not to highlight negativity, but to encourage change. Because of these journalists, wrongs that occur in society don’t go unnoticed.

 

 

Domestic Violence and Perceptions (JOUR RGM 4250)

By Sarah Copeland

My last blog for my Race, Gender and the Media course discussed women’s misrepresentation in the media. Many women, including myself, can start heated arguments concerning the topic of gender equality and I won’t say that writing the previous blog wasn’t extremely easy. I have a lot to say, and many examples to bring up, when discussing sexism. However, for this blog, I’m on the other side. This time, I’ll be writing about domestic violence.

Did you know that the number of women convicted of perpetrating domestic abuse has more than quadrupled in the past ten years from 806 (2004/05) to 4,866 (2014/15)? And male victims are over twice as likely than women to keep their domestic suffering a secret? This is based on a March 2016 Mankind Initiative key facts document.

Here’s another wow-factor: There are only 18 organisations that offer refuge/safe house provision for male victims (in the UK) while there are nearly 400 specialist domestic violence organisations for women. (Stats provided by Male Initiative based in the UK). Why is this not more equal?  According to more statistics, for every three victims of partner abuse, two will be women and one will be male. With that data, to be helpful to their customer population, there should be nearly 200 organisations equipt to help male victims. And they only have 18 available.

I stumbled across this video (linked/posted below) a while ago and still find it relevant. It was published in 2014, so the data may be slightly off. This video shows how people are more likely to believe that women are in an abusive relationship than they can believe a man is in an abusive relationship. Actors, plus hidden cameras, show that people will come to the woman’s defense if they see a man is abusive. However, people think it’s funny when the situation is reversed. You can see people on the sidelines smiling while the female actor beats up on the male actor.

I’m not at all saying that women do not get abused because I know that they do and that it is a terrible thing to endure. However, I do believe that not enough attention goes to men that experience the same violence. Bystanders could easily assume that a man is abusive based on his remarks and physical conduct with his partner. But, when the situation is reversed, bystanders have thoughts along the lines of “he probably deserves it.” But they would never say that about a woman being abused.

There is a difference between a person, male or female, standing up for themselves and a person causing mental and physical abuse. The Mankind Initiative makes a good point: violence is violence. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. No one deserves to be the subject of domestic abuse.

References:

ElRhoul, A. (2014, June 03). Domestic Violence Video Against Men Abuse advert Mankind Woman attacking man in street. Retrieved October, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzfLVyNHJgQ

Mankind Initiative. (2016, March). Male victims of domestic and partner abuse 30 key facts. Retrieved October, 2016, from http://new.mankind.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/30-Key-Facts-Male-Victims-Mar-2016.pdf

Last Semester, New Concepts (RGM JOUR 4250)

By Sarah Copeland

Hello! It’s been a while since my last blog post, but for good reason! This past summer I have been very busy at my very first internship.I had a great experience and learned so much. Now I’m back in classes and writing more blogs for a Race, Gender and the Media course I’m currently taking.

Over these past few weeks, we have discussed a series of difficult topics and addressed issues we see  in the media and throughout society. WARNING: some topics are incredibly difficult to discuss and I will only be sharing my personal opinion on these matters. I completely understand if those reading this will disagree. I’m only a student, and this is only my opinion.

This first blog will be about the representation of women.

Women have come a long way since the 1950s. Instead of being housewives, women are now front and center in the business world and politics. Roles for women have extended. And yet, there are still ways that women are held back through real life limitations as well as representations  in the media. Here are some examples of clear sexism in our society.

The Rio Olympics ended months ago, however, we can still use the games to represent the “gold ceiling” that women are subject to when it comes to athletic ability. It’s hard to find women competing at the same level as men in several sports. Tennis seems to be the big exception to that, but there is still sexism present in that sport which I will discuss shortly. A Wall Street Journal article (linked above) describes how women cannot compete in certain events because they are not men. The best example is Katie Ledecky, the gold medalist swimmer.

A Wall Street Journal article (linked above) describes how women cannot compete in certain events because they are not men. The best example is Katie Ledecky, the gold medalist swimmer. Though Ledecky is faster than other swimmers in the 1500-meter swim, she is not allowed to race in that event since women are not included in that race. The longest race for women is 800 meters while men can race the 1500 meters. Sports, including the Olympics, should not be divided by sex, it should be divided by ability.

Another swimmer, Katinka Hosszu, was also misrepresented and outshined by her husband/coach. Hosszu made monumental accomplishments during the Rio Olympics. She set world records and won several gold medals. However, each of her victories was credited to her husband/coach when reported in the media.  This Odyssey article makes strong points about how women in sports are clearly undervalued while men are simply given full credit. When compared, reporting of sports coverage for men is simply that, coverage. However, reports on women focus on their “sexuality instead of their skill.” Why does it matter what makeup a female athlete is wearing when a male athlete is only asked about his career?

Like I said above, tennis is not excluded from this sexist representation. BBC interviewer,  John Inverdale provides multiple examples of how every sport can be sexist. After Andy Murray won a gold medal for the second time in a row in men’s singles, Inverdale congratulates him. Inverdale is quoted as saying: “You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” But Murray isn’t actually the first, and Murray points out the interviewer’s flaw. Actually, the Williams sisters (*female athletes) have won four gold medals. But this interviewer didn’t care to think about the accomplishments of women.

There are endless examples of women misrepresentation, especially throughout the Olympics. I only mentioned a couple of examples, though there are plenty more. Sexism is huge in the media and not only toward women. The LGBTQ community (and even men, really) are also heavily misrepresented at times. Why is gender so important when it comes to reporting information? Coverage shouldn’t be sexist, it should be factual and informative.

References:

Helliker, K., & Futterman, M. (2016, August 05). At the Rio Olympics, Women Athletes Bump Against a Gold Ceiling. Retrieved October 03, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/at-the-rio-olympics-women-athletes-bump-against-a-gold-ceiling-1470425132

Moxley, C. (2016, August 8). Misrepresentation of Olympic Proportions. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.theodysseyonline.com/misrepresentation-olympic-proportions

WATCH: Andy Murray Reminds Interviewer That Women Win Gold, Too. (2016, August 15). Retrieved October 03, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetorch/2016/08/15/490056480/watch-andy-murray-reminds-interviewer-that-women-win-gold-too