Friday, November 1, 2013

Changing How We See Images: An Argument for Alternative Media

"Changing how we see images is clearly one way to change the world," bell hooks tells us in "Making Movie Magic" (6).
Representations of Women in Media
Let's think about that.
How do we see images? Specifically, images of womanhood? How is woman portrayed? Is she portrayed at all? Is she part of the discourse, of our shared starting point?
When talking about her students, bell hooks realizes that they learned more about "race, sex, and class from movies than from all the theoretical literature" she was urging them to read, and furthermore, that movies also provided "a shared experience, a common starting point" to talk about such charged issues (2). While she is referring to movies in that quote, the same can be said for any mainstream media.
More and more, we are realizing that the portrayals of women we see in the media isn't accurate in the least and that this is shaping our culture, our starting point and our identities. This isn't new information. For the most part, it is widely understood that women have been underrepresented and misrepresented across media. Mainstream media has worked hard to keep the status quo of women as subservient homemakers or otherwise, submissive sexual objects and perpetuate the ideals that women are somehow inherently less than men. Here's a new idea: it might help to have women tell women's stories (in the correct proportions, not just 17%!). Megan Kamerick discusses this a bit in her Ted Talk:
This is precisely why alternative media is so important. As artists and creators, we need to stop fearing that "thinking politically about...(a) work will interfere with some 'pure' vision" and realize instead that "thinking in a constructive way about accountability...strengthens and enhances (the work)" (hooks, 8-9). We need to realize that while it may be very hard to make the deservedly big dent in mainstream media, we can still make our voices heard through "multi-media technologies, including the Internet, and the growth of new cable channels" (Zimmerman, 265).

Still, it may be argued that even women can misrepresent other women. This is quite true. It was seen with the first wave of the women's movement which distinguished between the women's suffrage movement and the civil rights movement as two separate things, thus alienating black women. (Note: this still goes on today, see
Another example of this is expressed in Maggie Humm's article, "Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film." Humm describes a troubling authorial signature in Marleen Gorris' (pictured above left) representation of racial difference in A Question of Silence. According to Humm, Gorris others Surinamese prostitute, Tessa, by making her "stereotypically exaggerated" and framing her "in medium shot sitting passively at the far end of the brothel bar, an isolated silent figure" (Humm, 105).

And more to the point, THIS is why we need alternative media sources such as ColorLines Magazine. Founded in 1998, initially as a bimonthly print publication, ColorLines covers topics on race, gender and politics (and everything in between) in society. In 2010, the publication became an online magazine, and still, it has provided prize-winning articles that promote social justice and positive social change while giving us in-depth analyses of topics ranging anywhere from white privilege to immigration reform, rape culture, and twerking and how these relate to women of all classes, races, sexualities etc. Early feminist movements focused solely on sex and disregarded all the other ways in which women were oppressed. ColorLines Magazine does the exact opposite. This publication seeks to bring up those topics instead and put them in plain view, no sugar-coating or beating around the bush. That is what is so compelling and necessary about this source of alternative media. With this source of alternative media, we get relevant topics that affect women on a deep level. The following article deals with women and immigration reform, a topic that has special significance lately with the DREAM Act and all the immigration reform that has been going through and been fought to go through. Still, this article touches specifically on how this issue affects women: This next article deals with women in the construction job arena. How often do we hear of this? I'd say not often at all, but it is something that is happening and that affects women in real life. It is significant that we have a source that tells us these stories: So many of the articles featured on this website have so much social significance to women. Recently, we read about women directors and women in film. Out of four women nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, Sofia Coppola was one of them. Her movie The Bling Ring is discussed in the following article. Another instance of white-washing in movies, once again, why can't we as women present all women exactly as they are (even if in a bad light) but at least give minority women the opportunity to play themselves in a role. If our female directors that have made big names for themselves keep treating the films they make with that anxiety that Maggie Humm described Gorris having in Broken Mirrors, how can we expect any better from our male counterparts? We are definitely still part of the problem if we are white-washing roles on our films : Let's not forget rape culture, or what our patriarchal definition of gender (in this case manhood) has done to our men. This kind of mentality and the reinforcing it, has deep and impactful consequences on how women get treated. This piece about Chris Brown saying he lost his virginity when he was 8 is clearly significant, especially given his history of violence and though a story seemingly about men only, treating rape in this way has lasting effects on women:

Works Cited:

hooks, bell. "Making Movie Magic"
Humm, Maggie. "

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