The Colosseum

where we call 'em like we see 'em


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Fashion Forward or Culturally Contrary?

“How unfortunate is it that my parents had to literally force me to wear beautiful parts of my culture because I was afraid of being ostracized, but Selena Gomez can take aspects of the clothing I grew up with and make money off of them? How unfortunate is it that South Asian immigrants and South Asian Americans are Otherized every single day for the way they look, talk, and dress, but Urban Outfitters continues to commodify and make a profit off the sale of bindis – as made popular by American pop stars?[..] My bindi is not a way for you to present yourself as being friendly to South Asian culture while exotifying it. My bindi is from my mother, put in my drawer because it is another mark of my internalized Otherness, on top of my brown skin. My bindi is tainted by Western celebrities trying to be “cultural” or “bohemian” or “tribal.” My bindi is not just a piece of plastic, my bindi is not for sale, and my bindi is not for you.”

— Anisha Ahuja (Source: Selena Gomez, What Are You Doing?)

selena gomez bindi

Using cultural props as a fashion statement without acknowledging the history and pain that go along with the traditional garb is disrespectful because it is minimizing the struggle that the culture went through and using the clothing but leaving the people in the dark. For example, the Indian bindi, as discussed above. Society wants to use an Indian tradition as a fashion trend but then they refuse to acknowledge actual Indian people such as Miss American 2013 Nina Davuluri. Nina Davuluri was insulted by numerous sources as not being American or deserving on winning because of her background.

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Another popular example is traditional Native American clothing. Stores such as Forever 21. On Columbus Day, Forever 21 had a sale on what they refer to as “tribal” clothing. As PolicyMic puts it, “Forever 21 had a sale to commemorate Columbus Day, as many other stores do. However, Forever 21 thought it would be a good idea to capitalize on Columbus Day by selling “Native American” themed items. Basically, Forever 21 commemorated the genocide of Native Americans by selling cheap, stereotypical goods that appropriate.” Forever 21 doubled down on their offensive actions.

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Another shocking clothing decision was made by Urban Outfitters. The Week described the situation, “Urban Outfitters put itself in the bad graces of Jewish groups in April 2012, after selling a T-shirt with a six-pointed star badge that, to some eyes, looks eerily like the Star of David patch Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, leading up to and during the Holocaust.”

african queen

And finally, there is the practice of “black face” in magazines and on models where non-African American people are painted so they appear to be another race. The above photo is a white model in French magazine who was painted to appear black in an “African” themed spread instead of the magazine using a model who was actually black.

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(photo source)

On a personal level, I joined a sorority recently and one of the results of accepting a bid to Greek life is the ability to wear the Greek letters that represent your organization. This seems to be something that American society respects so why can’t fashion and clothing companies respect race and foreign cultures?

At the bottom of it, the question on my mind is why are people representing a culture that is not theirs to represent? This confuses me, especially when there are people available to represent their own culture. Seeing available representatives but choosing to go with the white model to portray a culture that is not theirs is saying to the representative that, while society thinks their clothing is cool, the people behind the culture are not as great as white people. Yeouch. What a message to convey to people: I’ll take the fashion but not the person.

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History versus Herstory: How Gender Contributes To Story Details

During my Diversity class last week the male students were asked which words they associated with their gender. The answer that struck me the most was “trailblazer.” It unsettled me to entertain the idea that my world had been constructed by men. If the tools I use on a daily basis; my favorite books, movies, and television shows; and my role models throughout history were all men what does that mean for my future as a woman?  Because this concept of men creating my environment struck such a wrong note within me, I was led to question the validity of that statement, if only for my own sanity. I came to realize that the reason it seems like men made most of the major contributions to society is because of a very solid public relations campaign run by a very determined media directer: society.

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Source: A Historical Analysis of Women’s Oppression

I was reminded of a quote that seems to summarize this situation fully, “History is written by the winners.” Throughout America’s history men have overshadowed women, not just in the job market but also in the media. If women are ever seem to be dominating men it is done as a joke, so the viewers know how absurd the idea of it actually happening seems to the media. Women have been brainwashed by the media throughout history to believe that, not only are they currently less useful than men, but that it has been that way throughout history. The average history textbook in public schools fails to mention many revolutionary women. There are many reasons why and the case of sexism can be seen in many ways such as pen names.  Women were forced to write under pen names because they would not be published if they revealed themselves to be women. The Bronte sisters Charlotte, Emily, and Anne wrote under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. The quality of something does not change when the gender of the person who is said to have wrote it does but they could not be published under a female name.

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Source: Texas state Senator Wendy Davis (Patrick Michels /TexasObserver.com)

But women are making history by standing up for themselves in the twenty-first century, quite literally in Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ case. She, and other women, are getting the recognition they deserve from society by breaking down barriers that American media throughout history has built up brick by brick every year. They are gaining the respect and the equal media attention that they deserve and fighting for their rights. The problem is that the media is still focusing more on the color of her shoes than the content of her speech. Once again, a woman’s appearance is getting more publicity than her thoughts.

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Source:  Peace Monger

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote in 1976 that, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” What’s true is that women in general barely graced the American history books, although not for lack of effort. So, let us stop allowing the media to be the public relations specialist for the men in society. Do not let history repeat itself ladies, because, if it does, it will just be a long line of white men lined up trying to sell us low self-esteem and make overs, and honestly, we have had enough of that to last a lifetime. In our heels and our sneakers and any which way, we can blaze new trails.


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Welcome To The Colosseum

where we call ‘em…

The Colosseum is a place where we, the writers, focus on the way the media chooses to portray their stories. Whether it is to sell a magazine or raise viewership numbers, the American media in the twenty-first century often target whatever detail will erupt into the biggest scandal possible. The European architectural Colosseum was used for public spectacles such as theatrical dramas, hunting, and executions. The Colosseum blog will focus on modern day public spectacles such as celebrity updates, political reports, and the tone literature takes on when discussing social events. Influenced by decades of feminist text, The Colosseum will be a place of learning and sharing.

like we see ‘em

Some people might like to gossip for fun and find the conversations they have about celebrities to be harmless but what is really happening underneath the chatter of trends and fashions is a reinforcement of heterosexual, white male dominated norms. Reminiscent of gladiators fighting lions in the European Colosseum, this blog will focus on battling those thrown to the gaping jaws of the wild beasts of media such as women and racial minorities. The slogan is, “we call ‘em like we see ‘em” because our goal is to call the media out when they go beyond the scope of reporting and actually demonize humans.

Future articles include:

  • The Thicke Of It – Why the vast majority of media outlets decided to focus on Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance instead of Robin Thicke’s and why this was an important distinction.
  • The Tie That Bynes – How Amanda Byne’s gender contributed to her label as “psychotic” and why she was treated differently than men have been when in her same situation.
  • Stewing On It – Why Kristen Stewart was alienated by Hollywood when it was revealed she had an affair with a married man but all the men involved were barely mentioned and still employed.
  • Chris Cross – The negative repercussions of the media and music industry allowing Chris Brown to participate.
  • Grey Matter – Why stereotypically female shows such as Grey’s Anatomy are important to breaking down stereotypes.

Next weeks post will be, “History versus Herstory: How Gender Contributes To Story Details.”