This morning, I had my coffee with my parents as we watched the morning news. When you watch the news with a critical eye, race, sex, and sexual orientation have a tendency to pop out. Racism, sexism, and heterosexism touched almost every news story, either within the content itself or by a comment the reporter makes. I could do a detailed analysis of just one story, but I think the sheer volume of things that I noticed within one hour of televised news warrants discussion. Note that all of these occurrences are subtle and not noticeable if you’re not looking for them. Some might argue that one or more of these occurrences doesn’t have anything to do with oppression. I watched all of this on Good Morning America, ABC’s daily morning news program.
- The fetishization of Lupita Nyong’o. I can’t take credit for this idea, it comes from a blog post here that I found through someone’s facebook post. Basically, the blog post points out the media and social media’s obsession with Lupita Nyong’o, who appeared in Twelve Years a Slave. The author points out the enormous attention that has been paid to Nyong’o’s looks, and attributes this to her being exocitized and fetishized. During the morning news, Lupita’s lip balm brand was being discussed, and a male news reporter concluded the segment by saying “She is beautiful,” a comment that seemed unwarranted and that no personalities got during the morning news.
- LGBT Hate Crimes. One partner in a couple was attacked on a train platform in New York City. (If I find a link to a story I’ll post it here).
- The SATs are being changed: the essay is now optional, the vocabulary on the exam is more likely to be used in the real world, and all students will be offered free test preparation. George Stephanopoulos commented that the free test preparation would “level the playing field” for all students. He was affirming that “leveling the playing field” is something that is A) easy and B) desirable to achieve justice. Of course in class we’ve learned that simply leveling the playing field is not enough; in order to make change, we need to analyze specific needs in specific areas.
- A Massachusetts court ruled that it is legal to take pictures up a woman’s skirt without her permission. According to state law, it is only illegal to take pictures of a woman without her permission if she is partially clothed or nude.
- This Cadillac commercial. The newscasters discussed how controversial the commercial has become (while at the same time giving it air time, which I’m sure made Cadillac very happy!) The commercial demonstrates the White Male Individualistic American Dream really well…. “You work hard, you create your own luck and just gotta believe that anything is possible.”
- A top general is being tried for sexual assault. The case is really crazy with lots of twists and turns, and the conflation of having an affair and sexual assault by military law.
- Press coverage around a 20 year White woman, Holly Bobo who went missing three years ago. Many of the missing persons cases involving adults that make the national morning news are cases involving White women (Apparently this is a documented phenomenon. See this wiki entry for an intro). The man who is being charged with the murder has a prior history of assault and domestic violence.
- In what was basically an advertisement for an upcoming news program, a White man who runs an upscale Manhattan dry cleaners store told us all about how terrible a job other dry cleaners do. One of the movie clips demonstrating “bad” dry cleaners features people who are Asian.
I think all of these points illustrate the ubiquitous nature of race, class, sex, and sexuality as important facets of American life. These portrayals and stereotypes can color how we see the world. Imagine being a young person who watches this every day with their family. What are they learning about the world, what themes and associations are being repeatedly played out for them, in the media?