WOMEN OF COLOR AND THE RACIALIZED HUMAN BODY

tumblr_npft68zx4d1s1lyreo5_500As the “Southern Belle of Hip-Hop,” Beyoncé redefines the ideal beauty for women of color through her image and sexuality, as well as her strong politics of Black feminism. Her beauty, curves, and sexuality visible in her many of her music videos, have impacted today’s hip-hop and contemporary pop culture. Since the 1990’s, the hip-hop dream world has undeniably objectified women as promiscuous, creating a very hypermasculinity and sex crazed music video culture (Durham 2012). The emerging hip-hop and rap videos in today’s music industries desire and objectify women with a “big booty” as a “classless ho” and nothing but “bootylicious,” presenting a damaging belief of hypersexuality of black women due to their voluptuous and “deviant” body type (Durham 2012). This sexually saturated performances and interpretations of Black women and their bodies are ironically desired because of their race and exotic features of a big butt. Beyoncé is a prime example of a real Black woman with “a thin waist and big booty” (Durham 2012), who uses her power and body to represent class, femininity and sexuality. She has driven herself to change the framing of women in many current hip-hop videos. She has effortlessly used her power and fame to reconstruct a better representation of women of color and their “big booty.”

Earlier this year, Beyoncé released “Formation” which depicts an empowering image of the brutality of police towards Blacks. The song contributes to the hash tag movement #BlackLivesMatter (Kerr-Dineen) as well as her own pride and self-love of being an African-American woman. In her video, she uses her body to represent the power and pride she has for being a Black woman with a multicultural background singing, “You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.” Beyoncé chorographically dances with her Black female dancers who appear quite as confident and powerful rather than engaging in the stereotypical “ghettoness” of a “video ho” (Durham 2012). Beyoncé created a respectable yet nevertheless sexuality driven, platform to demonstrate a “classy” hip-hop video filled with her political views and outlook of current cultural issues. In “Check On It: Beyoncé, Southern Booty, and Black Femininities in Music Video,” Aisha Durham analyzes Beyoncé’s performance in her “Check On It” music video. Her engagement with her body, especially her curves and butt, empowers her to expose a level of pride and control of “male sexual gratification” (Durham 2012). Her lyrics, chorography, and style demonstrate her commitment of inspiring women to be powerful, admirable and sexually modest, rather than a “hot female that’s been around the block” (Dunham 2012). Her identity of a Southern Black belle empowers her to use her heritage in her music videos as well as embracing the middle class with cornrows in both the “Formation” and “Check On It” videos. As a respectable and iconic Black feminist, Beyoncé continues to run the world and slay by contributing to current political and cultural movements with her music and legacy.

 

 

Durham, Aisha. “Check On It: Beyoncé, Southern Booty, and Black Femininities in Music Video” in Feminist Media Studies, March 2012.

Kerr-Dineen, Luke. “Fox News Slams Beyoncé’s ‘outrageous’ Super Bowl Performance.” For The Win. USA Today, 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.

 

 

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REPRESENTATIONS OF TRANS/GENDER AND SEXUALITY

Discrimination, terror, rejection and even confusion are present everyday within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community (LGBT). It was not long ago that homosexuality was considered a disease by doctors and crime by the government (Benstoff 2009). Since the passing of same-sex marriage on June 26, 2015, the nation has slowly been accepting the true meaning of happiness and love for all. Films like Broke Back Mountain, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and even shows such as Glee and Will & Grace have significantly emerged into progression and the acceptance of gay lives in mainstream media (Benshoff 2009). Yet the perpetuating the idea that homosexual people are considered “deviant” and not “normal” in society is still immensely apparent (Benshoff 2009).

Naomi Gordon-Loebl, a writer who lives in Brooklyn, shares her several encounters of people questioning and even asking if she is a boy or girl. In her article “Even Lumberjacks Deserve Lotion: Gender in the Locker Room,” she shares her fear and struggle of keeping a low profile to avoid being kicked out of the women’s locker room. She states, “There are people, real people, many of them, who think we are freaks…” and these are the people who make the lives of LBGT miserable and taunting. Unfortunately studies have even shown that LGBT people have higher suicide rates than those who are heterosexual people. She ends her article with an aspiration to have joy and pride, without being embarrassed or ashamed for whom she is. Although Gordon-Loebl is not the only person who has been terrorized by her own community, Caitlyn Jenner was ridiculed and judged by the entire world. As an Olympic winner back in the 1970’s, Jenner was easily considered a national hero for his heterosexual masculinity and strength. Caitlyn Jenner shocked and confused many audiences when she came out as transgender, yet sparked awareness and much more support for the LBGT community. But before Jenner came out to the world, she hid her identity behind closed doors and continued to dress as man for many years. This supports the notion of many LGBT people who are “scared straight” (Benshoff 2009) in order to be accepted and avoid panic and fear from others. While most are proud and very outspoken human beings, there are hundreds of lives within the LGBT community who are trapped in the conception of fear and scrutiny. Rejection from their family, friends, and society have created a harsh world for these lives who only want to fulfill happiness and find their identity.

 

Benshoff, Harry. “(Broke)back to the Mainstream: Queer Theory and Queer Cinemas Today” in Film theory and contemporary Hollywood movies. Ed. Warren Buckland. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Gordon-Loebl, Naomi. “Even Lumberjacks Deserve Lotion: Gender in the Locker Room” The Toast: LGT. 7 March 2016.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION

At the 2013 MTV Movie Awards, Selena Gomez’s performance of her newly released single “Come & Get It” was criticized for culturally appropriating Indian culture and misusing the religious bindi embellishment. Not only did she adopt the Indian culture as a trend for her performance, the song itself is quite appropriated as well. The melody of the song reflects the culture due to its heavy percussion beats and a man’s singing in Punjabi. Her style appropriation and content appropriation of the culture was profoundly offensive and misrepresented. According to James Young and Conrad Brunk’s introduction in The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, the concept of respect and offensiveness is closely related (Young and Brunk 2012). Gomez might have not realized that cultural appropriation is an extremely disrespectful act while recording her music, yet it all comes down to the common values and sensitivity audiences may intake from watching her performance or listening to her music (Young and Brunk 2012). The understanding of ethical issues from cultural appropriation is aesthetically important for cultures itself, in order to gain respect and diminish the attacks of their identities (Young and Brunk 2012).

Another example in popular media of the “unjustifiable harm” cultural appropriation has created (Young 2010) is associated with No Doubt’s lead singer, Gwen Stefani. When she released her first solo album in 2004, Love. Angel. Music. Baby., Gwen Stefani incorporated Japanese culture all around her image, music, and career during the promotion of her album. Not only did Gwen Stefani appropriate the Japanese culture to identify her and her image during these years, but she also used her Japanese back up dancers, Love, Angel, Music, Baby, as her props! She created an entourage of what she called “Harajuki Girls” who were indeed Japanese pinup girls. She was seen everywhere from award shows to appearances with these girls, which was utterly offensive and disrespectful. As stated in Young’s “What is Cultural Appropriation,” he poses that “artists represent their own experience in their works… when artists represent their experience of other cultures, the insiders are left with their experiences” (Young 2010). This is exactly what Gwen Stefani delivered for her intended audiences and fans around the world. She provided an insight of how she believes the Japanese culture should be portrayed; specifically in her own Gwen Stefani rock star way.

In cultural appropriation the appropriator is praised for the adoption of one’s culture while the creators of that culture are criticized for representing their unique culture (Young 2010). This is especially true within African-American culture. When someone adopts the culture by wearing dreadlocks, cornrows, or by having big booty and baby hairs (Brown 2014), they are automatically praised. Yet, when a black woman or man lives everyday life with these culturally related circumstances, they are bashed and ridiculed. There is a thin line between appreciation and appropriation of a culture. However not many people are aware of how to respectfully exemplify a culture. Whether or not the representation of a culture is appropriate, it often fails to be nothing but offensive when it is appears in media platforms.

Brown, Kara. “The Problem With Baby Hairs, ‘Urban’ and the Fashion Industry” Jezebel. 17 September 2014.

Young, James. “What is Cultural Appropriation” in Cultural Appropriation and the Arts. Wiley Blackwell, 2010.

Young, James and Conrad G. Brunk. “Introduction” and “‘Nothing Comes from Nowhere’: Reflections on Cultural Appropriation as the Representation of Other Cultures” in The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation. Wiley Blackwell, 2012.  

ARAB AND MUSLIM REPRESENTATIONS

After the horrifying attacks on September 11th, 2001, Americans have treated Arabs and Muslims with such anger and terror in the news and media. They are viewed as a constant global threat and nothing but a deceiving group of terrorists. Arabs and Muslims have been greatly discriminated against, mistreated and stereotypically portrayed due to the actions of specific Muslim terrorist groups (Alsultany 2012). The power the media has on the Arab and Muslim culture has significantly created negative, terrorizing imageries for American audiences and “in the eyes of Americans, they have become collectively known as dangerous outsiders” (Bayoumi 2009). The American press and news play a major part in influencing the existing idea that Arabs and the Islamic religion are evidently a threat to the U.S. economy, as well as the U.S. national security (Alsultany 2012).

In the 2006 drama, Babel, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, there are multiple misconceptions of the Arab and Muslim world. The movie consists of four different storylines, which are all linked with a symbolic object, a rifle. The background setting of the film takes place in Morocco where many could assume to be paradise. In one of the storylines, Americans Richard and Susan visit the Arab country of Morocco and Susan is shot. This scene inflicts a negative image of the behavior of Muslims, inferring that they are cruel and do nothing but terrorize Americans (Alsultany 2012). This representation of Moroccans and Muslims inherit fear and horror to tourists and outsiders, thus targeting the United States. In a different scene one of the two Moroccan brothers accidentally shoots Susan and is later shot by Moroccan police officers. His brother then picks up his father’s gun and begins shooting as defense. This also reinforces the stereotype of violence and terror, and how apathetic Muslims (Alsultany 2012) seem to be. Muslims go as far as committing suicide for their religion, Islam. Yet this scene also shows a different point of view, in which the brothers share their interpersonal relationship and portray the “good Muslim” instead. There is an indefinite of love between these two boys, despite their race or religion.

According to Evelyn Alsultany’s Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representations after 9/11, she states, “‘Bad’ Arabs or Muslims are the terrorists, and their ‘good’ counterparts are those who help the U.S. government fight terrorism.” Americans definitely view all Muslims as an entire group of “bad” Muslims. In today’s society when a shooting/attack occurs, it is automatically categorized as a terrorist attack if the assaulter was Muslim or Arab. The media covers news about bombings in Paris and Belgium, but when it comes to the tragedies in Palestine, Syria or the Middle East, the media is blinded by these atrocities. The 9/11 bombing and those specific terrorist groups do not represent the entire Muslim and Arab population and culture. These negative and repulsive stereotypes presented in the media only continue to support the existing beliefs that do nothing but turn Americans against the Muslim and Arab world.

 

Alsultany, Evelyn. Selections from in Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. NYU Press, 2012.

Moustafa Bayoumi, “Preface,” in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. Penguin, 2009.

RACE/GENDER

 

“When the content of the media plays on negative racial images, even if these themes are ridiculed, prejudiced persons interpret the message as supporting their bigoted attitudes rather than rejecting or changing them.” (Wilson et al., 48)

Prejudice and racism will always be depicted in the news and media no matter how much society has progressed. When the news offers coverage on minorities instead of the White majority, the term “non-whites” take place as “problem-people” conveying the false reality that every problem in society is due to “non-whites” (Wilson et al., 136). Throughout news history, any threatening issue against White-America is broadcasted and delivered to audiences who already have absorbed the idea that non-whites, such as Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are a threat. Attitudes amongst these racial groups are unfairly insensitive and very racially depicted on the news.

Over the weekend, many people were either devastated or ecstatic over the Bronco’s win of the 50th Super Bowl, as well as keeping this year’s half-time performance on the tip of their tongues. There is never a time Beyoncé is afraid to dominant and shine on stage. She took stage during half-time to perform alongside Coldplay and Bruno Mars, but it was her performance alone that created such uproar for right-wing conservative media outlets, such as Fox News. Beyoncé’s newly released single “Formation,” which depicts an empowering image of the brutality of police towards Blacks. The song contributes to the hashtag movement #BlackLivesMatter (Kerr-Dineen) as well as her own pride and self-love of being an African-American woman. Despite the fact that February is Black History month (or the fact that Beyonce has a great PR team), Fox News deliberately bashed her feministic and empowering performance stating that it promoted oppression towards police (Kerr-Dineen) whom only protect lives and ensure safety. In America’s history, Blacks were the definite objects of fear and threat despite how brutally harsh they were treated for the ways in which they attempted to fight for full civil rights. They insist that the performance was offensive and politically afflicted with the Black Panthers Party and its strong militia due to the way Beyonce and her back-up dancers were dressed. Fox News reporter states that “Beyonce dressed up in a tribute to the Black Panthers, went to a Malcolm X formation. And the song, the lyrics, which I couldn’t make out a syllable, were basically telling cops to stop shooting blacks!” (Kerr-Dineen). Not only that but Fox News, notorious for being racially biased, contributed to their existing platform stating that Beyonce’s performance was a “rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement” (Kerr-Dineen). Fox News inaccurately portrayed Beyonce, a strong, proud Black woman, as misusing her fame to send a message about the ongoing issue of racism in the news media during a weekend where it should have been about football, and only football.

Kerr-Dineen, Luke. “Fox News Slams Beyoncé’s ‘outrageous’ Super Bowl Performance.” For The Win. USA Today, 09 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.

Wilson, Clint C., Félix Gutiérrez, and Lena M. Chao. Racism, Sexism, and the Media: Multicultural Issues into the New Communications Age. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2013. Print.

LATINO/A REPRESENTATIONS

Latina/o representation in today’s society has become a major controversial issue. Latino culture continues to be poorly portrayed throughout multiple media platforms. Due to vulgar interpretations and overdramatized stereotypes, most Americans have classified and judged Latinos within these existing assumptions. The most common stereotypes of Latina/o culture include: the greaser, the lazy Mexican, the sexy/feisty Latina, the maid/babysitter, drug addicts and gang bangers (Angharad 2010). These portrayals of Latinidad are far from valid, yet they repeatedly appear on big screens with greater dramatization of Latino stereotypes.

In the 2006 comedy Nacho Libre, actor Jack Black plays a Mexican man named Ignacio who financially struggles to achieve his dream of becoming a “Luchador,” in order to support his Catholic monastery. Jack Black, a non-Latino, plays a poor Mexican man who goes on a journey to become Nacho Libre with his friend, Esqueleto. The film undeniably depicts Latino stereotypes, which may be offensive to those without a sense of humor, or any knowledge of Mexican culture. According to the introduction in Latinas/os in the Media, Valdivia Angharad states, “Puerto Ricans and South Americans are most likely to say they are proficient in English; Mexicans are the least likely to say so…” (Angharad 2010). Language is significant in connecting with one’s heritage and culture; however not speaking English in society creates a catalyst for discrimination and judgment. In Nacho Libre, Jack Black contributed to the stereotype of a Mexican man who cannot speak proper English, by speaking with an accent throughout the film. Jack Black also exaggerates on the pronunciation of certain words to support the false assumption of how Latinos “speak” English (Angharad 2010). The mainstream media creates perceptions of Latina/os as not being proficient in English, are of working class and are not as intelligent. Jack Black’s character, Ignacio, also portrays a level of deviant behavior and social rebellion in order to succeed as a famous and rich Luchador. Although Nacho Libre is not a crime movie as Carlito’s Way, the example given in Ana Liberato’s “Latinidad and masculinidad in Hollywood Scripts,” Ignacio’s masculinity in trying to reach his dreams of success, brings out the “Latino sense of bravado and fearlessness” (Liberato 2009). Ignacio’s involvement with Luchador wrestling and strong desire of wealth and superiority (Liberato 2009) went against his own beliefs and the Catholic Church. His internal conflict supports the negative assumptions of the “Catholic religion” and Latino culture stereotype (Liberato 2009). As stated by Liberato, Jack Black’s character “views dignity as a function of toughness and material exhibitionism.” During a scene, Ignacio chooses to buy a pair of brand new boots and clothes instead of food for the orphanage, which boosts his self-worth and reassurance of success. In the film, Mexican actress Ana de la Reguera, who accurately depicts the stereotypical “sexy Latina,” portrays Ignacio’s love interest. Ironically, she plays a nun who is not feisty, nor promiscuous, yet calm and very passionate about the orphanage and her religion. Ana de la Reguera also contributed to the stereotype of not speaking English very well throughout the film.

The entertainment industry and popular media both continue to portray Latina/os inaccurately in every suitable way. They continue to attach overdramatized stereotypes and false assumptions in which society has played a great part of. It is unfortunate for any culture, especially Latina/os, who are the biggest minority group in America, to be misrepresented in so many ways without any accuracy or resepect.

Short clip of scenes from Nacho Libre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5k8sx7C5gg

Angharad, Valdivia. “Introduction.” Latinas/os in the Media. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010.

Liberato, Ana, et al. “Latinidad and masculinidad in Hollywood Scripts.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32:6.(2009), pp. 948-966.

 

Native American Representations

nuit-au-musee-2006-194-g-1020x757Since the birth of our nation, Native Americans have always been mistreated and misrepresented in society due to their assumed inability of assimilating to the American way of life. Native Americans, much like any other racial/ethnic group, have their own culture and beliefs as well as the freedom to pass on their traditions and legacy to future generations. Often they are stereotyped as “savages”, “drunks” and even accused of “stealing” the government’s money (Bird, 9). The lack of knowledge and familiarity of Native American culture results ignorance, false representations and stereotypes. In his article Myths and Stereotypes about Native Americans, Walter C. Fleming states, “Stereotyping is a poor substitute for getting to know individuals at a more intimate, meaningful level…” (Flemming 2006). When one imagines what a Native American looks like, typically it is a dark-skinned man or woman with a feather headdress, and some sort of bow and arrow. This is the stereotypical image the media has forced into the minds of Americans as the ideal Native American.

It is not surprising that Native American culture is more likely to be articulated through a white perspective, which poorly represents the authenticity and fairness of Native American culture. This diminishes the real “cultural identity” of a Native American and their ideal of who they really are (Bird, 7). Any other race but Native American often plays the role of Native Americans in media and mass culture, especially in movies and television (Bird, 7). In the video attached, actress Mizuo Peck, a Japanese and Cherokee descendant, portrays the infamous Sacajawea in the movie Night at the Museum and its sequels. The fact that Peck is actually Cherokee Native American depicts the attempt to find actors and actresses who are culturally appropriate to play the role (without being offensive).

In the story entitled “Lady Thunderhawks Leading the Way” on the Native-run site theways.org, the captain of Oneida Nation High’s Lady Thunderhawks basketball team –Jessica House– is a very proud and respectful member of the Oneida Nation tribe. Jessica House is ambitious as well as successful in impacting the community with her fellow Lady Thunderhawk teammates. The Lady Thunderhawks have thrived as the regional champions at Oneida Nation High School. Her basketball team focuses on respect, loyalty and gratitude parallel to her tribe’s beliefs and attitudes. The Oneida Nation School System teaches an insight of traditional Oneida culture, alongside the standard academic school programs. As stated, her school mission is to “empower students by giving them the opportunity to explore and develop pride in their unique cultural identity” (theways.org). There is a definite influence Native American culture has upon everyday life even in communities today. Unfortunately popular culture has become the ultimate defining tool of Native Americans (Bird). The lack of knowledge has molded stereotypes, and offensive imageries of Native Americans. Just as any ethnic group, Native Americans deserve the right to have authentic and nondiscriminatory representations of their culture in the mass media.

Bird, S. Elizabeth. “Introduction” in Dressing in Feathers: The Construction of the Indian in American Popular Culture (Pages 1-12). Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.

Fleming (2006) “Myths and Stereotypes about Native Americans” Phi Delta Kappan. 2006. 88: 213.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qql1_U8JJIU 

Week 13

Women of Color in the Media – Jennifer Lopez

For woman of color, there are many stereotypes that have been ascribed to the body. A big butt is now considered to be an ethnic character trait. How is gender represented? How much of it is objectification to the agency of women? Is it more so their racial identity that sexualizes them or just their bodies? These questions become harder and harder to answer when beauty, sexuality, and bodies are associated to race. The reality is, people recognize these features by categorizing race. Africans, Asians, and Latina/os can generally be distinguished through looks because the features differ from each other. Notably, one feature people often use to differentiate is skin color, but this has actually become more difficult due to the abundant increase of ethnically ambiguous people. People of color who find careers in the media industry are more easily casted when their skin color could be portrayed as any race. Now, the concept of a racialized body has been used to identify the background of an individual, and more specifically, women.

In the movie, Selena (1997), Jennifer Lopez, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, was casted to play the Mexican-American icon. This casting choice caused major backlash and controversy, but Lopez defended herself by claiming that she shared an ethnic identity beyond “national” origins with Selena as they were both Latinas that had the shared experience of growing up Latina in this country. Yet, their common upbringing wasn’t what convinced audiences to accept her role, rather, it was their similar curves. Lopez herself felt comfortable identifying with Selena because, “…she was, well, curvy” (p. 232). This isn’t the problem, embracing one’s body shape is wonderful; no one should have a say or problem with how a women’s body looks. However, when it is “…precisely the body, in particularly the curves, that proved to be the most compelling way Lopez and others found to speak about how Latinas are constituted as radicalized subjects…” (Negron, p. 235), it racially marks a Latina body. It encourages a capitalistic view on body that exploits culture because the media or audience isn’t accepting the curves in itself, they’re accepting it because it is associated with her Latina background. Although, I can see the significance in this acceptance because it is a way for Latinas to reclaim their beauty, “big butts” in general should be accepted and there should definitely be representation of all body assets (Negron, p. 236). When society encourages media to focus so much on the bodies of women of color, while it encourages acceptance, it also causes women to be vulnerable. For example Negron writes “…her racialized body became the most effective way to bring her down and stand judgment” (Negron p. 244). Race is a social concept, and racializing a woman’s body relates to the ideology formed by social and historical concepts when trying to define how a race is supposed to look like. More specifically, the media highlights a woman’s curves and relate it to their ethnicity, thus setting standards for all women of the same culture.

Moreover, the visibility of the Latina body in the media and popular culture has Jennifer Lopez and Selena’s body to be sexualized, and racialized within the media. At the end of the article, “Jennifer’s Butt: Valorizing the Puerto Rican Racialized Female Body,” she declares that her show of culture and her ethnic background is about “being real” (Negron, p. 246). She was referring to the sexualization of her body and the association it has with her racial background. Furthermore, she takes pride as the “next big bottom in Puerto Rican culture” (Negron, p. 246). Although, in Dangerous Curves: Latina, the chapter “Disciplining J.Lo: Booty Politics in Tabloid News,” contradicts her actions by stating that “Lopez consciously negotiates the ways in which she is racialized by shaping how she is coded in the media through transforming signifiers such as clothing, hair door, hair style, skin color, body weight, music and of course, her paramours” (Molina-Guzmán, p. 59). These transformative practices allow her to be susceptible to ambiguity. This asserts the idea that Lopez is actually racially flexible and can transform her look. This is common because styles change, women are allowed to change their style all the time, especially those in the entertainment industry but it creates conflict with the themes of beauty and acceptance for women of color because people start to see her style change as a racial change. As the ideal boric beauty, she had the option to be ethically ambiguous but because the standards of American beauty have been skewed to accept a body shape that differs from Jennifer Lopez’s shape, the hype of her derrière emphasized her “exotic body.” She became one of the most sought out Latina actress in Hollywood and accepted her role as a Latina woman in Hollywood. She is a “consumable Latin ‘chiquita’ legend” (Molina-Guzmán, p. 63), she proudly proclaims her Latina ancestry and she’s even created music in her ethnic language but then issues arise when she tries the hip-hop genre and starts dating black entertainer Sean Combs, now society claims she’s moving “in” to Blackness (Molina-Guzmán, p. 62-65) or dating Ben Affleck and this constitutes dangerous flirtations with whiteness (Molina-Guzmán, p. 66)? This is why race and the body being correlated with one another is a problem. She should still be a great iconic Puerto Rican that has nothing to do with her body or who she dates, why is there an expectation on her style for her to prove she is Puerto Rican? Representations and narratives in the media is why I believe there was so much focus on her body.

Many factors can influence what society considers appealing – the way one is dressed, their actions, the way they carry themselves, social status and wealth, and even things that are not in their control, like race, and body size and shape. These traits are attributed into the social construction of race, and results in superficial physical and cultural characteristics that are systematically associated with a racial identity in order to label people, like women. This could potentially cause much conflict for people because it has to power to place a woman’s body as an ideal or a disappointment upon body types because of a factor they have no control over, their race. When Lopez creates a sexually charged music video showing off her butt, will the audience think that she was born with a big butt and the clothing she’s wearing emphasizes that? Or is it that she’s a Latina and that Latina’s are supposedly all curvy? What happens when a Latina women does not have a big butt, does that make her unauthentic as a Latina women?

The goal is to diminish stereotypes, but this mentality that Latina bodies are all curves, hurts any progress of that. If we associate race and bodies together, it’ll be hard to define what is accepted because it causes women of color, women in general, to obsess over what they have or what they lack. In every culture and society, there is a general perspective and views about beauty and so many people are influenced by what media depicts as beautiful. Too many women change their outward appearance in order to be defined as beautiful and it doesn’t help when there are racial expectations of a woman’s body. Stereotypes are placed and racializing the body for women of color presents society with unrealistic body types.

Week 12

“Make America Great Again”

The current presidential election coverage in the media has shown a disappointing lack of progress in racism. This is primarily due to the narrative of the presidential campaigns produced by media, specifically Donald Trump, who has had directed many media narratives favoring white supremacy.

The best way to uncover how media narratives cover Trump’s campaign in relation to white privilege and white supremacy is by evaluating Trump’s main slogan, “Make America Great Again.” It is a common campaign slogan used by politicians, such as the 40th white president Ronald Reagan, and most recently, the 2016 presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Who is Trump making the promise to “Make America Great Again” to? This statement implies that America use to be great back in the day, but the truth is the past wasn’t all that great. In comparison to President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, “Change we can believe in,” Obama’s slogan implies that American did need change. So, the first serious African-American presidential candidate America has ever had believed we needed change, and now we have Donald Trump pushing to revert that change and restore America to when it was supposedly great again.

America has barely made any headway in terms of racial progress, past or present. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva in Racism without Racists explains how Americans, Whites in particular, are in denial about the reality of racial issues. He wrote, “Most whites believe that if blacks and other minorities would just stop thinking about the past, work hard, and complain less (particularly about racial discrimination), then Americans of all hues could “all get along” (Silva, 2009, p. 1). If this notion were true, shouldn’t Donald Trump be endorsing an idea of a better future rather than trying to bring back the “old” America?

In a Huffington Post article titled, “Donald Trump: When the Media Flirts With White Supremacy,” it goes into detail about the concept of the term “birther,” and the underlying context that “black Americans were not meant to inherit American citizenship by birth.” This term relates to the huge issue concerning President Obama’s citizenship and in 2011, Trump was asked whether or not he believed the president was born in America, Trump’s answer was that he can’t be sure about Obama’s citizenship, but he can definitely prove he was himself. His answer gives the impression that he’s been in America all his life; he belongs here, but why, because he’s White? This idea of “birthers” is relevant to the belief that white people are not racially seen and named because they are just simply the human race. There has been instances of him asserting superiority over another race when he become a central figure in racial controversy due to comments like, Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and criminals and his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. Trump’s many comments over the past few months suggests that America is not great due to the people of color occupying this country which is why he is trying reinforce the idea of making it great once again by returning the country back to the “humans.” Silva writes, “How is it possible to have this tremendous degree of racial inequality in a country where most whites claim that race is no longer relevant? (Silva, 2009, p. 2),” the answer is – race is relevant, just as white supremacy and white privilege is relevant.

Trump never exactly specifies a moment in history when America was “great,” but I can’t recall a time when this country was “great” place to live as a citizen of color compared to the progress we’ve made now. A passage in The Matter of Whiteness reads, “The media, politics, education are still in the hands of white people, still speak for whites while claiming – and sometimes sincerely aiming – to speak for humanity” (Dyer, pg. 11), the underlying notion is that being white is being human and this secures a position of power. Trump has consistently been pushing for an immigration policy or deportation policy against Latinos, imagine the impact that would have on so many lives and even the economy but Trump’s think this would be a saving grace away. This is coming from a white privileged perspective because his solution to “Make America Great Again” has been nothing but needless proposals to remove every race in America except White people, who are apparently just “humans” (Dyer, pg.11),

Donald Trump’s slogan supports this statement, “…in Western representation whites are overwhelmingly and disproportionately predominant, have the central and elaborated roles, and above all are placed as the norm, the ordinary, the standard (Dyer, pg.11),” and that’s how he wants America to continue. If elected, Trump’s attempt to restore America to its former ways would not be in the favor of people of color but rather the white privileged society, more so than it already is.

Enough

 

No one is immune from the hypercritical “gaze of puritan culture” (NegrónMuntaner, 236). Not you, your neighbor, your family members, and certainly not even celebrities. This gaze causes individuals to implode inward on themselves. From self-doubt, depression, low self-esteem, and arguably worst of all, shame.

This shame can be highly detrimental and is especially true if you’re a woman, someone of color, or both. Shame stemming from someone’s personal actions or past transgressions can be redeemed by striving to better oneself and to make more educated choices in the future, but the shame of one’s ethnicity, and ethnically marked body, is something that is extremely hard to overcome. How does someone come to terms with the fact that, at a fundamental level, their body is unwanted, demonized, or lesser? This shame and self-hatred is so profound that even the majestic Selena and the extremely successful Jennifer Lopez were aware of the problem, and both had their own personalized methods to combat the issue. Selena combated the puritan gaze by subjecting herself to liposuction surgery and J.Lo developed the self-defense technique of highlighting her ethnic body as to beat the public to the punch and by adhering to a strict diet and exercise regimen (NegrónMuntaner, 236-238).

In comparison, Gordon-Loebl’s article on being something other than the representation of WASP ideals echoes some parallels with having an ethnic body. In both cases, having an ethnically marked or a visibly queer body disturbs the societal norm. The gaze caused her to feel uncomfortable in her own skin, even though her family raised her with tender love and understanding. The gaze caused her to doubt herself and her body, just as Selena and J.Lo before her, and for what? To hopefully force all three to conform to the ideals of white society? Why should someone feel at fault in their own skin? Who decides what’s acceptable and what’s not? “You’re allowed to cross the line. Whether you can stay is another story” (NegrónMuntaner, 244) sums up this lack of understanding quite well. To all three women, as they carry themselves is as “unremarkable as eggs for breakfast” (Gordon-Loebl, 5) and should be treated as such. Just another woman in crowd who’s unafraid of expressing herself as she deems fit. It’s not about being pretty, but about being a real (NegrónMuntaner, 246) human being. Real humans have faults, imperfections, and insecurities. The image of flawless divas and supermodels displayed by the mainstream media (which they’re trying constantly to get us to accept) is a dream-world, and nothing but (Durham, 38). A fantasy gone unchecked for far too long, distorting the image of real women far too effectively hurts not only women, but a society down to its very essence. Society shouldn’t be the type of locker room where all women feel unsightly and unwelcome, but instead the type of locker room that allows women to show up, better themselves, and continue on with their days unimpeded.

Women, and especially women of color, are marginalized, sexualized, or made to feel inadequate mainly due to the fact that they don’t meet the expectations of the individuals wielding the puritan gaze. They don’t fit neatly into the generic dimensions of the metaphorical box that’s been created by the white mainstream, and that’s okay. Regardless of your sexual orientation, shape, or color, you’re enough, and sooner or later you’ll come to that conclusion all by yourself. Until then, stay strong. It’s your life, not theirs.

-Edgar Nava