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