Equality is a huge issue in all fields of study from science to art and problems with inequality can especially be seen in the media. Women and people of color are often disregarded over white men. What is worse is that to meet a “diversity quota” people often add either a woman or a person of color in order to feel like they are being fair and providing an accurate, positive representation of the world but do not feel the need to include both. In reality, they are not being fair. They are simply being lazy and keeping the power contained to the status quo, which gives white men representation and credit. White men become trusted sources as new anchors, directors, and leading characters because they are the only sources available. If women and people of color were better represented then they would have just as much air time as white men and be placed not only in subservient positions but featured. Women and people of color are just as deserving as white men to have their stories heard and it is only by working together instead of cutting people in the same situation down that both minorities can succeed in the media world. The advancement of women’s rights and civil rights should not be a race against each other.
“You Don’t Need an MA in Gender Studies to Know That Race Matters to Feminism” was written by Chitra Nagarajan and Lola Okolosie in the October of 2012 for the guardian.co.uk. The article begins by mentioning Lena Dunham, writer of the show Girls, which follows four white girls on their adventures around New York City. She was accused of being racist for her disregard of other cultures, both on and off her show.For background information and support I also used the article “A Girl’s Writer’s Ironic Racism And Other ‘White People Problems’” by Max Read for Gawker.com to find some examples of Dunham’s actions.
The Guardian article mentions, “The most sustained critique of feminism has always been that it is a white, middle-class movement.” The question arises, why are issues only being discussed by white women? One answer is that people of color were not allowed access to media outlets to be able to discuss them. Their opinions were simply not considered. People involved in the media did not break down stereotypes but would consider the opinions of the people who fit within their already accepted intellectual social values. They also have their audience to think about. They did not believe they would be successful if the people they are trying to appeal to and sell things to did not like or relate to the characters in their media. To this, I would say, consider Tyler Perry, who benefits off of the African American community supporting his productions when he noticed a lack of shows directed at them.
An issue that arises is whether or not every single show or movie should be challenging the norms. Some people believe that producers, writers, and directors are not trying and do not care when they do not include women or people of color in their media. The support for including people of color is that it would be completely realistic for modern media. There are people of color in every field of work. Dunham’s show,Girls, which has characters struggling in a popular city, has become relatable for a lot of young adults but only has white characters.A Gawker writer, Cord Jefferson writes,
“The thing that sucks aboutGirls and Seinfeld and Sex and the City and every other TV show like them isn’t that they don’t include strong characters focusing on the problems facing blacks and Latinos in America today. The thing that sucks about those shows is that millions of black people look at them and can relate on so many levels to Hannah Horvath and Charlotte York and George Costanza, and yet those characters never look like us. The guys begging for money look like us. The mad black chicks telling white ladies to stay away from their families look like us. Always a gangster, never a rich kid whose parents are both college professors. After a while, the disparity between our affinity for these shows and their lack of affinity towards us puts reality into stark relief: When we look at Lena Dunham and Jerry Seinfeld, we see people with whom we have a lot in common. When they look at us, they see strangers.”
I believe the last line especially is the main contributing issue. Dunham said she did not think she could write a character played by a person of color going through her problems.Dunham justifies her lack of diversity by saying that she wanted characters that she could relate to. What she came up with are four white girls as her main characters. This is extremely dangerous from a racial acceptance standpoint because it is perpetuating the idea that people of color and white people are different and cannot relate to each other, which is ridiculous. If a white girl can live in New York City of all places so can a black girl. She can get a job at a magazine just like a white girl. Dunham not believing that a black girl could go through the same situation as her is offensive and ridiculous because Dunham believes she is going through “white girl problems” instead of “universal girl problems.”
(a promotional photo from Dunham’s show, Girls)
The term “white people problems” and “first world problems” have become buzz phrases that have a racist connotation because it implies that the problems, which are usually simple and not inconvenient, do not relate to people of color, which is yet another break between different races, but this time a social and self-constructed one that is completely unnecessary. The purpose it serves is for those privileged people to revel in their actions and feel their worth. They feel like they deserve to have such problems talked about but acknowledge that there are worse things in the world so they seem like they are but the problem is they are so caught up in their petty problems that they aren’t spending their time worrying about the bigger picture issues. It is a balance between time consuming and not serious. The problems are not a big deal but people stop and pay attention to them, making them feel like they deserve to spend time on the self-proclaimed problem.
Dunham’s writing staff is no better unfortunately than Dunham in my opinion. One of her writers, Lesley Arfin, tweeted, “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” I sincerely hope that Arfin was kidding around because that tweet is a joke. Arfin is saying that a movie about a black women’s needed to include some form of upper class white woman in order for her to enjoy in. What she is saying is that black women do not deserve to be the focus of her time and her thoughts and her compassion for two hours when there could be something that focuses on her exact position instead of the position of someone else. Arfin is not even attempting to be compassionate and instead comes off as arrogant, self-centered, and rude.
When people of color are included in modern media they are not introduced as equals. The people of color who are onGirls are nannies, homeless, and blue color workers because that is what some people think of. They also don’t last for more than one episode. These positions are degrading and useless because their personalities are not allowed to be fleshed out so people can relate to them. The same happens for women too as they play secretaries, assistants, and shop keepings but not the doctors, lawyers, or business owners.
Some people believe that Dunham is being attacked because she is “a tattooed, tits-out 25-year-old woman in a very cool position of cultural power” so people are trying to tear him down, as Vice writer, Kate Carraway, commented. Carraway continued, “If she were anyone else, making any other show—any other show!—we wouldn’t be inside of a misogynistic—secretly jeally girl-on-girl misogyny; rage-jeally guy-on-girl misogyny—and overcritical maelstrom intent on punishing Lena, if not Lena the person then Lena the Idea (that’s her rap name) (racist!).” Carraway believes that both women and people of color are attempting to be shot down here.I do not support the idea the Dunham should not be called out on her show because in order to succeed women and people of color need to work together as minorities in the media but what they support has to be great. There is a lot of content written by white men and some of it is terrible and some of it is great. White men are allowed to make mistakes because they have such a large portion of representatives in the media participating in creating content. If one thing a white man produces is bad, there will be a good thing to counter it. Women and people are not afforded the same breathing room because there are so few of them taking part in the media. Carraway is also the same author who wrote, ““Calling Girls racist is a problem for everybody because Girls is racist insofar as everything on TV is racist, and insofar as everyone is racist” which I find insipid and preposterous. If something is racist then it should be called out. If everything is racist then everything should be called out. That is the only way that social norms change. Something is not okay just because it is like everything else.
Then there are the critics who are justifying the anger of white men by pointing out that white men have been in power for so long that when new generations of white men want the same expansive, minority blocking power and those pesky women and people of color stand in their way they get mad. An essay published in The New York Times comments,
“For women, things are looking up. The same can be said for minorities. However, because resources are limited, gains for women and minorities necessarily equal losses for white males. From the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s and onward, young men- and white young men in particular- have increasingly been asked to yield what they’d believed was securely theirs. Can you image being in the shoes of one who feels his power slipping away? Who feels himself becoming unnecessary?”
This essay was written after the Sandy Hook shooting, attempting to discuss the motivation for the toxic situation which led a white man to kill elementary school children. I find this position to be outrageous and unreasonable. The author, Christy Wampole, who is an assistant professor of French at Princeton University, is forgetting that that is how women and people of color feel every day being repressed and not represented.
The media world is important because it sets and reflects a social norm upon society. This can be seen in patterns of social awareness such as the gay rights movement. For example, as the United States population begins to approve of gay marriage, more and more gay people are seen in the media world: on talk shows, on popular week night features, in movies. The gay rights movement is not the only one where a minority is struggling for equality. Women and people of color have also been fighting for air time and accurate representation. In a media world where seventeen percent of game characters are women but nineteen are nonhuman, women and people of color need to work together and not against each other to fight for every spot. The only people who are benefitting from the strife are white men who are not affected either way and continue to dominate the media world. Women and people of color should not fall into the same habits the white men have of stereotyping minorities and not including them. Women and people of color should be understanding to a fellow cause and work together to both succeed.
For more information consider reading the sources:
Carraway, Kate. “Girls Is Racist; Everything Is Racist; Everything Is the Worst; Girls Is Still the Best.” VICE. Vice, 09 May 2012. Web. 07 May 2013.
Jefferson, Cord. “Hipster Racism Runoff And The Search for The Black Costanza.”GAWKER. Gawker, 27 Apr. 2012. Web. 07 May 2013.
Nagarajan, Chitra, and Lola Okolosie. “You Don’t Need an MA in Gender Studies to Know That
Race Matters to Feminism.”The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 May 2013.
Read, Max. “A Girls Writer’s Ironic Racism And Other ‘White People Problems'”GAWKER. Gawker, 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 07 May 2013.
Wampole, Christy. “Guns and the Decline of the Young Man.”NYT. The New York Times, 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 07 May 2013.