Media Diversified: An Appreciation Post

So I think it’s time for a little shoutout. I started this blog a few months now, but, during that time, I’ve come across a handful of blogs that prove to be precious little gems in a sea of thoughts.

One of these gems is Media Diversified. It’s a blog dedicated to diversifying the media landscape. The non-profit organization blog features dozens of writers and academics from all walks of life, from all parts of the world. It’s refreshing that they don’t shy away from any and all topics that interest them – from oppressions of people of color in films to the exploration of Afrofuturism.

I will say that I’m slightly disappointed that they are based in the UK. A blog like this would NO DOUBT have such a positive reception among the ranks of activists and feminists across the US, especially in light of the numerous police brutality videos that have been flooding social media with the help of the American people. With a blog similar to this, the US could definitely see more organized protests and leaders emerge from the depths.

Once you browse through their blog, you’ll definitely want to reblog and share A LOT of the articles you come across. However, they do have reposting guidelines that you’ll want to look over before reposting any of their work.

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Whitewashing in the American Education System: Why Shakespeare Isn’t Enough

It is no secret that I grew up having more books than friends. I’d spend hours losing myself in the fictional narrative, devouring page upon page of mythical story lines. I fell in love with these alternative universes that seemed so much more magical than my own. But it wasn’t until years later that I realized how problematic my perceptions of these characters really were. I never questioned why all of the characters I’d created in my mind fell neatly within the frames of Eurocentrism. The only times that didn’t happen were when book covers or descriptions of the characters’ physical features were included.

thingsfallapart

The first time I explicitly remember reading a novel from someone who wasn’t white and cisgender was in my 11th grade AP English class. My teacher, Mrs. Seward, had us read Things Fall Apart written by African novelist Chinua Achebe. It told the African narrative that was so clearly missing in required reading. What made this book even more valuable was the reason it was written: as a response to The Heart of Darkness, the problematic, racist sentiments from the viewpoint of European colonialists.   If I hadn’t read this novel, I would NOT have seen the genuinely beautiful side of Africa that is rarely, if ever, portrayed by visitors from the outside.

Throughout my educational career, I’ve been subjected (yes, subjected) to reading novels written by white men from centuries ago. While some of the novels were worth a read, I could never get rid of the feeling that something was missing from the experience.

It’s no secret that novels written in the 18th century were riddled with Middle English that today’s modern English speakers find difficult to comprehend. And yet we still read them, encouraged by teachers, professors, the elite to “try and understand…really dig down deep.” Yet classmates would comment on not wanting to read a certain book because phrases or sections were written in a language other than English.

Fast forward to my senior year of college. Last semester, I decided to take an honors Intro to Humanities class. Throughout the semester, I started feeling increasingly more upset and couldn’t figure out why, until it hit me: here I am, in college, experiencing the same lack of diversity in required reading that I did in high school.

The lack of diversity in the humanities is not an issue that needs to be looked over. The humanities are the core of society, the study of human culture. By limiting required college curriculum to novels and plays written by people of European descent, educational institutions are explicitly saying that no other voices, cultures and traditions matter. With the overabundance of required literature centered solely on the European POV, the invisibility of other narratives prevails, a reoccurring wound caused by ignorant neglect.

More so than not, many students don’t read books unless required to do so by the public education system. So when they don’t see themselves or their experiences represented, what does that leave them with? I should not have to minor in African American studies in order to learn more about my people’s history. Nor should any other group of color, especially those whose influences have heavily affected European culture and have gone uncredited throughout history.

Hold the Applause for Patricia Arquette’s Oscars Speech

rs_634x1024-150222210103-634-patricia-arquette-oscar-winnerLast night, the Oscars took a turn into the political realm. From Neil Patrick Harris’ jab at the lack of diversity to John Legend & Common’s acceptance speech, celebs were making bold statements. However, there was one actor whose speech stood out among the rest.

When Patricia Arquette highlighted the unequal pay and rights among women, supporters such as Meryl Streep & Jennifer Lopez visibly showed their solidarity. Women nationwide could have applauded her efforts of bringing income inequality to the forefront of public conversation. The only problem?

Arquette marginalized gay, trans and women of color. 

During a press room interview, she made it clear that “it’s time for… all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

Whether she intended to or not, her thoughts opened up a can of worms that depicts two larger issues within mainstream feminist theory: the notion that all women share the same experiences AND the undertones of “I Am Savior.” Not only are these lines of thought dangerous to the validity of feminism, but they invalidate the varying experiences of women who are not  white, middle-class women.

Gay, trans and women of color earn far less than their white counterparts. For every dollar that a white man makes, white women make 78 cents to the dollar,  followed by black women with 64 cents, Native American women with 59 cents and Latinx women at 54 cents. While income equality is a very real problem in the US, Arquette’s net worth sits somewhere between 24 and 25 million dollars, far more than $49,398, the average yearly earnings of American women. Mentioning the need for a living wage would also been a step in the right direction.

As well-intended as Arquette’s answers aimed to be, the “I Am Savior” sentiment reared its ugly head. Throughout history, women of color, gay and trans women didn’t have the luxury of focusing strictly on women’s issues. To say that mainstream feminists have fought for the rights of marginalized women is woefully inaccurate. If that were the case, there would only be ONE feminist theory, not multiple highlighting the need for inclusivity. The “we helped you through your issues, so you should return the favor” undertone only serves to pin marginalized groups against mainstream feminism. Nothing about the way Arquette worded that line shows solidarity within the community of women.

Until we can include the voices of all women, I will respectfully hold my applause.

So First Thing’s First…What is Intersectionality?

Intersectionality

Artwork by Miriam Dobson

 

Note: Click image for full illustration.

If you’re a self-proclaimed feminist (or just an awesomely informed person), then chances are you’ve heard of the term ‘intersectionality’ at some point in time. But for those of you who are coming across this word for the first time, well, this post is for you.

So…let’s get to it.

To grasp the concept of intersectionality, let me first explain the term ‘feminism.’

In the broadest sense, feminism is the belief that women should have the same rights, merit and opportunities as our male counterparts and that being a woman should not be viewed as a disadvantage.

Intersectionality, on the other hand, goes far beyond the fight for equality among the sexes.         The term was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 work. It not only recognizes the system of oppression between the sexes, but also acknowledges the interconnectedness of multiple oppressive systems. These systems can include gender, class, ability, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other forms of identity.

The goal of mainstream feminism is for women to effectively integrate into the present system. While this is needed, it just simply isn’t enough. The system itself is the problem. Being “welcomed” into a broken system isn’t the solution.  We must condemn the system that has unapologetically been built by groups that are now marginalized by that same system.

This is why my feminism HAS to be intersectional. Because I’m not just a woman. Because I’m not just black. Because I shouldn’t have to pick and choose which oppressed group I identity with that day.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the theory of intersectionality has been fully understood, accepted and embraced by “mainstream” feminists. Despite that, I’m hopeful that the feminists of my generation will continue to embrace the many faces of feminism, including my own.