Category Archives: representations

Controlling Portions, Controlling Pregnancies: Race And Class Panic In New York City Public Health Campaigns

Poster for New York City’s “Real Cost of Teen Pregnancy” campaign. Via NYC.gov

By Guest Contributor Sayantani DasGupta

This month, New York City launched a new campaign called “The True Cost of Teen Pregnancy.” The 4,000 bus and subway posters, which reportedly took two years of planning and cost the city $400,000, feature wailing toddlers and babies (mostly of color) next to captions such as Honestly, Mom, chances are he won’t stay with you… and I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.

Yes, teen pregnancy is experienced disproportionately by girls of color and girls living in poverty. Yet data shows that national teen pregnancy rates across ethnicities are dropping not rising, including in New York City. So why this public health campaign? And why now?

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Quoted: Jamin Warren on Race in Gaming

An oldie but a goodie. From the January 2013 article, “Touching Obama’s Hair and My Hope for the Future of Games” on Kill Screen:

Last month, I did an interview with KALW in San Francisco alongside game designer Anna Anthropy. She made a point to a caller that she couldn’t relate to games like Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid because the main characters didn’t reflect her own experience as transgendered. 

I found this position extreme (if I’m not transgendered, couldn’t I levy the same critique of her games?), but Anna did point out something that should be glaringly obvious. If games are to claim their mantle as the most important medium of this century, then their subjects need to reflect the breadth of human experiences that exist across a range of identities.

If you are mixed race like I am, you no doubt had moments of confusion about your place in the world. Why does grandpa send tamales each month to your mother? Why do I need to wear lotion? Why does dad take so long at the barbershop? These are resolved in later life and I was fortunate enough to have parents who walked me through those answers.

But I also grew up on the cusp of the Internet age and before a time when 99% of all teens play games. When the time comes for a child to ask “Who am I?,” games, like all great art forms, should have an answer. The worry is that the response, more often than not, is nothing at all.

Managing Stigma: Doing Race, Class, And Gender

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

I featured the two-page ad below in one of the first posts I ever wrote for SocImages (it was October of 2007 and we’d written less than 100 posts; today we’re approaching 5,000, but I digress…).  It’s still one of my very favorite images.

I use it in Sociology 101 when I argue that race, class, and gender are, among other things, performances. Activities, items, and behaviors carry class, race, and gender meanings. In order to tell stories about ourselves, we strategically combine these things with the meanings we carry on our bodies (a gendered shape, skin color, and hair texture etc., and signs of economic wealth or deprivation).

The ad for PhatFarm deftly balances Blackness (the body), upper-class Whiteness (the sailboat), and femininity (the pink sweater).  In strategically using culturally resonant signifiers, he challenges popular representations of the Black body.

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This happens in real life, too.  Journalist Brent Staples powerfully discusses how he adds a signifier of upper-class Whiteness to his large Black body in order to avoid the discomfort of frightening people on the streets of New York.

…I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension-reducing measure: I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers. Even steely New Yorkers hunching toward nighttime destinations seem to relax and occasionally they even join in the tune. Virtually everybody seems to sense that a mugger wouldn’t be warbling bright, sunny selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

“It is my equivalent to the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country,” Staples adds, referring to the fact that being perceived as dangerous can itself be dangerous, as we know from the example of Trayvon Martin and Rodrigo Diaz, who was shot in the head in January when he accidentally pulled into the wrong driveway thinking it belonged to a friend.

Thinking of class, race, and gender as performances gives us credit for being agents.  We don’t have control over what the signifiers are, nor how people read our bodies, but we can actively try to manage those meanings.  Of course, some people have to do more “damage control” than others.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Are “Latina” Muslim Women The New Face Of Islam?

By Guest Contributor Eren; originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

What do you think when you hear the word Latin? Or Latina, to be more exact? Spicy? Or perhaps “loud,” “flamboyant” and “sexy”? Maybe the word just inspires images of women like Salma Hayek and J-Lo. Many of us are, sadly, very familiar with the image of what “Latinas” are supposed to look like. Just think of bombshell Gloria from Modern Family, hyper-sexual Gabrielle Solis from Desperate Housewives, or Michelle Rodríguez, the sexy tomboy, from Fast and Furious.

Sofia Vergara vs Eva Longoria – via Flickr.com

As a Latin American woman, these stereotypes have always bothered me, especially because, in some cases, the stereotypes surrounding “Latinas” are often perpetrated by some high-profile Latin Americans themselves who tend to abide by the sexualized stereotypes even outside their TV or movie characters.

Personally, I prefer the term Latin American to “Latina” which I see as a Western creation that conjures up these stereotypes.

Several things bother me about how Latin American women are portrayed in the media. It is not only that most of us look nothing like the women mentioned above, but also that I hate labels. I do not see myself as a bombshell, let alone as a hyper-sexual woman looking to please Western men. I do not see my self in the “Latina” image, which I see as a creation of the patriarchal Western imagination. Instead, I like to think of myself as a plain and simple Latin American woman… no one’s fantasy or stereotype.

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Meanwhile On TumblR: Whitewashing Urban Fantasy And Anti-Asian Racism In Porn And Personal-Care Products

By Andrea Plaid

Two form of entertainment with passionate defenders garnered some great critiques that drew quite a bit of Tumblr attention this week, starting with Chronicles of Harriet’s Balogun spot-on post on the white-washing of urban fantasy:

Maurice Broaddus' King's Justice. Cover art by Steven Stone.  Via yetistomper.blogspot.com

From Maurice Broaddus’ King’s Justice. Cover art by Steven Stone. Via yetistomper.blogspot.com.

Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of people of color. To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.

Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film.

It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase people of color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.

You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?

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Meanwhile, On TumblR: The Under-Ten Set Styles Cute And Schools Hard

By Andrea Plaid

Since our sister blog, Love Isn’t Enough, ceased publication, the R’s Tumblr has taken on the delightful task of celebrating kids of color, like this little one in all of her being-ness, via Tumblrer wretched of the earth:

Cutie patootie via wretchedoftheearth

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Black People Review Girls (2.1): A Letter From Joe To Kendra

By Joseph Lamour

girls2
Dear Kendra,

Did you have a good weekend? I hope you did. Mine was pretty great: friends, karaoke, laughter, moderately priced alcohol, and other 20-something stereotypes…Instagramming, there was definitely a lot Instagramming. So… Is it as foggy in New York as it is in Washington, DC right now? Because I’m feeling a little like I’m trapped in that Lana Del Rey video. Anyway…

I just wanted to break the ice before our season-long foray into talking at length about Lena Dunham’s Girls. I know, Kendra: the idea of Lena and Lena’s television program and requiring you to watch Lena and Lena’s television program for the site is a less than thrilling idea for a lot of people…and even less than less for entertainment writers like us who are attuned to TV stereotypes and diversity shortages. None of us were thrilled about the whole debacle last year. There was quite an article about it on the site, as you know—you wrote it, after all.

So, Kendra, I’ve watched the first episode of Season 2 already. I’ll let you know what I’m thinking, and I’ll wait for a reply with your own thoughts. We’ll be kind of like pen pals who are super-focused on talking about something neither is particularly fond of. Kidding, of course… sort of.

To the topic at hand!

Plot spoilers below the cut. You’ve been warned…

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The Assembly

By Guest Contributor Bushra Rehman, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire

SLAAAP!!! Poster by Chitra Ganesh. Image via The Feminist Wire.

Queens, NY, 1984.

Nothing in P.S. 19 was ever heated enough. The auditorium, the cafeteria, the large windows with their pull-down plastic vinyl drapes rattled in another winter storm.

Ms. Cooperman, our teacher, frowned as she saw us shiver. “Bring your coats,” she said. “We’re having an assembly.”

It had snowed heavily the day before, and not many students or teachers had come to school. It would be another day spent smelling each other’s winter coats and feeling trapped, watching The Red Balloon, a silent film which seemed to be the only film the school owned.

But we did as Ms. Cooperman said because we adored her. It was clear she cared for all of us, even those who spilled over, out of our seats and into the hallways. We used to ask Ms. Cooperman why she had never gotten married. She always laughed and said, “I’m not married because I don’t want to be.”

On this snowy day, the entire fifth grade piled into the auditorium. I was lucky to get a wooden seat without gum glued to the bottom. Mr. Nichols, the vice principal stood in front of the stage. He was skinny, pale, fidgety, and always dressed in a tie and jacket.

“All right, boys and girls. Today we’re going to show a movie about a very important topic. I want everyone to pay attention.” We didn’t listen to him, of course. The teachers tried to shush us as he continued, “This is a movie about AIDS.”

Everyone got quiet. We’d been hearing about this new illness in whispers. We were children living in the middle of an epidemic, but no one ever told us anything. We were only taught to be afraid. Someone turned off the lights, and I had an apprehension this would be nothing like The Red Balloon.

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