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A Man’s Woman: The Portrayal of Women in Television

A Man’s Woman: The Portrayal of Women in Television

A Man’s Woman

Nancy L. ’17 & Alexa M. ’18

The average American adult watches over five hours of television everyday. (Kobley, 2016) hours of tv. We are constantly exposed to the entertainment industry’s interpretation of modern society. Media’s portrayal of women, particularly women of color, is often skewed and even discriminatory. Audiences are brainwashed by these unrealistic depictions, and form biases that impact day to day life. Female characters are rarely interesting. Their personas tend to lack complex qualities and emotional or intellectual depth. Traditionally feminine appearances, personalities, and circumstances are encouraged.

Actresses who fit the industry’s criteria for beauty tend to fill the roles that make it onto our screens. The video “Women in Television” clearly portrays the stereotypical image of the attractive woman, according to society’s standards. Out of the twenty one women who are being aggressively objectified in these clips, nine are blonde, and seventeen are white. Not one is overweight and the majority appear to be comfortable being scrutinized in this manner. A select body type and overall look has been normalized, and as a result, women who differ from media’s expectations often feel self conscious and ashamed of themselves. The immense pressure to adhere to these standards can even cause some to practice unhealthy or deadly behaviors such as extreme dieting or exercise. This body policing is an overarching theme in American television, but when one further examines media’s portrayal of women, trends in the depiction of women of color become apparent.

Additional tropes and standards regarding class and race are also prevalent in media. Black women in pop culture are characterized by a stereotypical sense of strength and assertiveness. Motherly Mammy-type figures are one common depiction of Black women. Black women also tend to be represented is in an oversexualized manner, particulary in music videos.  Although we see more and more black female entertainers with each year, most of the women are light skinned. The lack of dark skinned actresses contributes to colorism, a prevalent cultural issue. Hispanic women are typically depicted as fiery and hypersexualized. Most of these characters are maids, criminals, or immigrants. In real life, hispanic women exist in all aspects of society. Then there’s always the the tiger-moms, the nerds, and other over achieving Asian characters. These offensive images fail to show the wonderful range of women that make up our society. As audiences watch these types of female characters resurface again and again, a dangerous prejudice forms.

One way in which the negative effects of this bias can be seen is in the professional world. We have all heard the statistic that women make 72 cents to a man’s dollar. However, women of color make even less. Black women earn 64% of the white male salary, and Hispanic women make 54% (Leber, 2015). Some of this disparity is due to biases in hiring employees. Discrimination against women of color is fueled by the deep rooted prejudice perpetuated by pop culture.

Although some progress is being made in Hollywood, there is still much work to be done. Part of the reason that female characters are so widely oversimplified is because most of the characters were written by men. According to the Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, 45% of TV pilots in 2015 had no female creators or producers associated with them, and 78% had no minority creators or producers associated with them (Bunche Center for African-American Studies at UCLA, 2016). It is no wonder that the portrayal of women in the many popular television shows is lackluster and biased.

Combatting these stereotypes may be difficult, but through continued effort, we can continue to improve women’s standing. By becoming a critical viewer, one who questions the content they are subject to, we can increase awareness about poor representation and form a better perspective on other women and ourselves.

 

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Black History, Black Words, Black Lives

Black History, Black Words, Black Lives

February is Black History Month, which seems like a good time to highlight some of the new materials we have by and about African-Americans and their lived experiences. Eva S. ’18 writes about some of the stuff we’ve gotten recently.

Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, edited by Philip Cushway and Michael Warr

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, editor Philip Cushway and poet Michael Warr created a collection of poems from African-American writers.  This is not just a collection of poetry; beautiful pictures of the poets, photographed by Victoria Smith, as well as carefully chosen images from the Black Panther Party until today provide a glimpse into the African-American experience in a tangible, multifaceted way over time.  Thomas Sayers Ellis’ poem “The Identity Repairman” highlights the changing language surrounding people of color that symbolizes African-American advancement in society.  His poem begins with “AFRICAN: I am rooted./Ask the land./ I am lyric./ Ask the sea.” and ends hauntingly with “AFRICAN-AMERICAN: “Before I was born,/ I absorbed struggle./ Just looking/ at history hurts.”

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images  The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward

Inspired by James Baldwin’s speech The Fire Next Time, Jesmyn Ward has compiled a powerful collection of essays and poems called The Fire This Time, which takes a contemporary look at the racial tensions that have underscored our country’s history for centuries.  In her introduction, Ward asserts that “We cannot talk about black lives mattering or police brutality without reckoning with the very foundation of this country.”  It is with this simple and honest, yet incredibly complex statement that the stories of current black writers unfold to reveal the reality of people of color in a society still dealing with the aftermath of slavery.  However, Ward’s book also gives hope to the reader and to the authors.  She says, “I believe that there is power in words, power in asserting our existence, our experience, our lives, through words.  That sharing our stories confirms our humanity.”

 

The Black Panthers: Portraits from an Unfinished Revolution, edited by Bryan Shih and Yohuru Williams

Despite the efforts of the FBI to silence and demonize the Black Panther Party during their height in the 1960’s, this collection allows the stories of everyday, working-class members of the Party to share their stories of bravery.  Bryan Shih, a photojournalist, illuminates the voices of these members with thoughtful portraits, full of grace.  Yohuru Williams, a historian, enriches the experience with the social context of the time.  Flipping through the collection, the weathered faces of the former members stand out with their clear, strong gazes and unfazed expressions.  Their stories are equally strong and sometimes unbelievably horrifying and difficult.  Throughout the book, however, the sense of justice that these men and women carry with them brings a greater purpose to the book than only their stories.  As Melvin Dickson, a crucial member of the Party and co-founder of the Commemoration Committee for the Black Panther Party, said, “That’s what makes the legacy of the Black Panther Party matter- that we loved beyond ourselves.”

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African American Cinema in the Early 20th Century

African American Cinema in the Early 20th Century

In the period after World War I, up till the 1940s, the genre of “race films” emerged. These were films that starred African American actors, and were funded, written, produced, edited, distributed, and watched by African Americans. This separate industry provided positive, complex roles for black actors instead of the heavily stereotyped roles provided by Hollywood. Additionally, as Jacqueline Stewart, a film professor at the Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.33.17 PMUniversity of Chicago, explains, these films addressed key issues within the black community such as “the politics of skin color within the black community, gender differences, class differences, regional differences especially during this period of the Great Migration.” This fascinating genre built a distinct style of narration, and influenced the tradition of black cinema for decades.

Check out “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” from the library, a restored collection of films from this time period. It includes work from important figures such as Oscar Micheaux and Zora Neale Hurston (author of Their Eyes Were Watching God).

Sources:
From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film at Duke University
Restored ‘Race Films’ Find New Audiences on Code Switch from NPR
Race Film, Wikipedia Article

by Arushi G. ’18

 

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Author Stephanie Kuehn Visited For Banned Books Week

Author Stephanie Kuehn Visited For Banned Books Week

Stephanie Kuehn, author of Charm and Strange, Complicit and other books beloved by Casti students, visited last week during Banned Books Week. Elle G. and Supriya L. wrote a recap of her visit.

Stephanie Kuehn is a young adult author who visited Castilleja on September 26, 2016 for Banned Books Week. Some of her books have been challenged, and she talked to the eighth graders about her views on censorship. Ms. Kuehn believes that many young adult authors’ intentions are misunderstood, often being blamed by adults and parents as being “too dark” when these authors are just being honest. She thinks that YA authors should be able to express their ideas about dark subjects without feeling the need to sugarcoat, and therefore shield shield the message from readers.

She talked about the ways that YA authors give stories the positive overlay that some adults feel that they need. One of the main ways that they do this is by incorporating hope. She said that stories with hope either have a character finding their voice or their identity, the character’s life has meaning, or it shows that the characters can be themselves (or learn to be themselves). However, the main point that she stresses about these themes is, is it true? Do we really live in this idealistic world? Of course not! So why should we tell our YA readers that we do? After all, aren’t most of them going to be looking after themselves in the real world soon enough? Now this begs the question, why should we hide this from them? Well, Ms. Kuehn said that it sometimes has to do with control. She said that if you’re a parent and are used to regulating what your children read, it may be hard to let them read about dark ideas, such as suicide, and violence, unless there is a way “back up” from the dark place. Nonetheless, readers should be able to understand their own development, and choose books which correspond to this development.

In conclusion, Ms. Kuehn’s visit enlightened us about Banned Books Week, and told us a lot about herself as well. She grew up in the Bay Area, and went to boarding school in the East Coast, which partly inspired the setting of her first book, Charm and Strange. In addition, she started writing at a young age, particularly being influenced by her father, who was a writer, journalist, as well as editor. We are so glad that Ms. Kuehn came here to talk about censorship during Banned Books Week, and be sure to check out all of her books, especially her new book, The Smaller Evil, in celebration of Banned Books Week!

Written by Elle G. ‘21, and Supriya L. ’21

 

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Ebooks for Summer

Ebooks for Summer

Looking for something good in our digital library for the summer? Here’s some books to get you started!

Dystopias

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi: A girl with a killer touch rebels against the society that uses her as a weapon.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau: The last bastion of humanity is failing. Is there a way out?

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau: To rebuild the world, this group of teens must first survive the Testing.

Arclight by Josin L. McQuein: The alien Fade can’t get across the lights protecting the last of humanity. But when one does, only one girl can save the city.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver: In a world where love is a disease we must be saved from, a rebellion begins.

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke: With the land all but dead, a group of genetically altered children must begin creating a new future under the sea.

Stray by Elissa Sussman: Girls must not stray from the Path. But what if the Path is wrong?

 

Space Themed

The Martian by Andy Weir: Alone on Mars, an astronaut struggles to survive.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis: When cryogenically frozen Amy wakes on a spaceship 50 years before she’s supposed to, she must solve the mystery of who woke her and why.

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass: Three narratives weave together as thousands gather to watch a solar eclipse.

Boom! By Mark Haddon: Charlie and Jimbo are certain there’s something weird about their teacher…

Across a Star Swept Sea by Diane Peterfreund: This gender swapped, science fiction take on The Scarlet Pimpernel is sure to delight fans of spies, romance, or futuristic technology.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Arthur Dent is lying in the mud protesting his house being bulldozed to make way for a freeway when aliens show up to destroy the earth to make way for an interstellar hyperloop. Try this bonkers classic of science fiction to finally understand the importance of towels.

 

Historical Fiction

The Uninvited by Cat Winters: Ivy’s world is falling apart as World War I rages in Europe and the flu epidemic rages in the United States, but most troubling for her, she is seeing more and more ghosts.

Soulless by Gail Carriger: Alexia Tarabotti–half-Italian spinster, possessed of an extremely annoying family, and not possessed of a soul–has just been attacked by a vampire. How rude.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig: On her father’s ship, Nix can go anywhere in time as long as they have a map–except the one place her father is intent on getting to.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: Sick of her family’s cruelty, Joan runs away to make a new life for herself and gets hired as the shabbas goy for a Jewish family.

Jackaby by William Ritter: Cross Sherlock Holmes with Supernatural and a smidge of Doctor Who, and you’ll get paranormal private investigator Jackaby. Whatever you do, don’t look at the frog.

Something catch your fancy? Check it out from our ebooks here!

 

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Summer Adventures

Summer Adventures

TA Elyse has kindly put together some recommendations for books featuring summer adventures!

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

If you love fantasy novels or enjoyed reading The Odyssey, Summer of the Mariposas is a good book for you! This novel is about five sisters who find a dead body and go on an adventurous journey to Mexico to return him to his family. After they had returned the body, they meet a ghost, La Llorona, who guides them while returning home to Texas. Along the way, they meet other supernatural beings such as a witch, a warlock, a half-human barn owl, and a vicious chupacabras.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Towards the beginning of the First World War in Europe, Mrs. Ramsay, her peculiar husband, and their children come to the Hebrides, a few islands near the west of Scotland, for their summer holiday. After having postponed a visit to a lighthouse, their trip begins to open complex tensions and conflicts between the men and women of this family. War breaks out in Europe and their joy comes to a close as they face tragedy, jealousy, and grief.

This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

Rose and her parents spend every summer in a house by Awago Beach. They often bring Rose’s friend Windy, and the two have a very close, almost sisterly relationship. One summer, however, Rose’s parents face conflict and fight often, so the two girls spend their time away to distract themselves from it. Unfortunately they get caught up in an issue revolving some of the local teenagers, who have done something horrible and life threatening. This summer turns out to be a time of growing up, keeping secrets, and staying close to true friends.

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

A group of college-aged friends meet up at a party and accidentally kill a boy. After such an incident, Barry, Helen, Ray, and Julie all swear to keep it to themselves, until a year later they receive a note that says: “I know what you did last summer.” The four friends must team up together to outsmart this anonymous killer, or else they will be the next to die.

Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

Two sisters wake to find out their parents have disappeared in the middle of the night. When Summer and Bird go on a quest to find them, they find their way to a gate in the woods. Soon they are lead to a different, fantastical world, inhabited by talking animals and a Puppeteer queen. The two sisters are separated and have to find their parents and defeat the evil queen on their own.

That Summer by Sarah Dessen

Haven grows overwhelmed due to all of the change in her life: her sister gets engaged her old boyfriend, her father gets remarried, her best friend changes a lot, and she does not know where she fits in. She misses the previous summer when she was happy and everything seemed to be going just right. She decides to run away and as time passes, she realizes that change is perhaps a good thing.

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