“Me Too” … Now What?

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I would be surprised to meet a woman who could not participate in the #metoo discourse. But the question becomes what are we to do now that we have established how commonplace harassment and sexual assault actually are?

The truth is that I don’t know what that next step might be, and my concern is that they are so ubiquitous that they are (unfortunately) our culture’s normal.

Our country’s President was even caught on tape using language that supports sexual assault.

But I am gladdened that despite their ubiquity, as a whole we haven’t given up hope that things can change. The following are just of a few of the (many) articles that have ideas for what comes next:

What Comes Of ‘Me Too’?

Why I thought twice before saying #MeToo

#MeToo, But What Should I Say? 3 Tips To Decide

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New Course: Introduction to Communication Research

I am so excited to be teaching a new course this semester, an introductory class on communication research methods. I hope that this is a class that is not just an introduction to the field and research methods for undergraduates, but also one that makes them excited about their futures as communication studies students.

One of the ways I hope to achieve that is by inviting some of my colleagues discuss their research with the class on a regular basis, researchers whose work represents the diversity in the communication field. This includes work on television, news, politics, relationships, athletics, and more.

When I teach I often remember that there was a time I didn’t know communication is field that allows you to pursue whatever interests you, whatever you are passionate about. My hope is that these students will learn that no matter their interests, there is a place for them in communication.

To see the course syllabus, click here.

“Unite the Right” Resources

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“Organised by Jason Kessler, a former journalist and member of the Proud Boys, an ultra-nationalist group, Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally was slated to be one of the largest white supremacist events in recent US history.” [READ MORE]

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“Hundreds of protesters descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday for a “Unite the Right” rally: a belated coming-out party for an emboldened white nationalist movement in the United States. The rally was dispersed by police minutes after its scheduled start at noon, after clashes between rallygoers and counter-protesters, and after a torchlit pre-rally march Friday night descended into violence. But activity is ongoing, with some rallygoers engaging in a march instead.” [READ MORE]

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“Yes, you can blame the Nazis.
The race-fueled chaos that wracked Charlottesville, Virginia, finally came to rest on Sunday night. And the hundreds of people who spent the weekend fighting in streets — and the millions who watched them — began what has become a new American ritual: arguing about what really happened, and what a spasm of localized political violence means.” [READ MORE]

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““We were just marching around, spreading love — and then the accident happened,” a friend, Marissa Blair, said. “In a split second you see a car, and you see bodies flying.”’ [READ MORE]

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“An unidentified group of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., attacked and beat a black man with poles in a parking garage.” [READ MORE]

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“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.” [READ MORE]

The Real Housewives of Potomac, Redface, and Cultural Appropriation

I’m an avid watcher of most things Bravo. Sue me. Even as a media studies professional, I don’t buy into distinctions between high-quality and low-quality TV and media. The legitimacy of those debates was put to rest a long time ago.

I remember when the first Real Housewives franchise premiered in 2006. Now there are 8 spin-off series featuring casts from across the United States: the original Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, D.C., Beverly Hills, Miami, and Potomac. The Real Housewives phenomenon has even gone international.

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During this, Potomac’s second season, newcomer Monique Samuels joined the group. I enjoyed seeing how her presence affected the direction of the show up until last week’s season finale, when I found myself dismayed and disappointed by her actions.

At a twentieth anniversary party held by fellow Housewife Karen Huger, for which attendees were instructed to dress “exotically” (Indian or African), Monique dressed as (what she called) an “American” Indian:

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Image of Monique, in costume, from Monsters and Critics.

Like any reality program the stars of the Real Housewives franchises make mistakes that are interpreted as racist, sexistclassist, homophobic, or otherwise problematic. Often they are called out and held accountable for their behavior, either by fellow cast members or the general public (through social media). Thus, in the wake of the season finale, Monique took to Twitter to respond to allegations that her costume had been racist:

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Yet Monique’s earlier Tweets from the same night suggest that, despite her apology, she still may not understand the difference between appropriating and appreciating other cultures:

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To Monique’s first point, that the other cast members and guests at the party dressed in traditional Indian attire without themselves being Indian, I am unable to pass judgment. I do not know if they, the hosts, or other party attendees have any understanding of Indian culture, traditions, or garb.

Perhaps it would have been useful for them to refer to this checklist from BGD when deciding how to dress:

  • Why do I want to do this? Is it to be cool? Because it looks pretty? (Heads up: if it’s just to be cool or look pretty, it’s probably problematic)
  • Is this a symbol of a political statement? If so, do I align with the politics not in just dress and appearance, but in actual struggle and resistance?
  • Do I know the history of this symbol or where it comes from?
  • Have I been invited by a member of this community to participate in this this culture, word, or symbol?
  • What role has this symbol played in my own life?
  • Why do I feel entitled to this symbol?

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Image from http://rhetoricculturalappropriation.tumblr.com/

There are so very many examples of non-Native persons appropriating Native American culture: Jonny Depp as Tonto in the remake of The Lone Ranger; model Karlie Kloss’s appearance in the 2012 Victoria’s Secret show (and, more recently, her participation in a Geisha-themed photo shoot); the name of the NFL team based in Washington (the “Redskins”)… The list goes on and on.

Appropriating from Native culture is called Redface. Like Blackface, Redface asserts that harm (including violence) is done to Native American persons and history when we engage in cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation itself is when members of a historically dominant group take elements of a marginalized culture or people and use or re-package it in ways that solidify their dominance.

Often this means “borrowing” fashion or artistic styles without accrediting their origins and attempting to silence the people or voices from whom material was taken. This is done for their own economic, or social, benefit.

We can show appreciation for other cultures, on the other hand, by engaging in what The Odyssey’s Brianna Fragoso describes:

“Cultural appreciation is when elements of a culture are used while honoring the source they came from. It is important to note that appreciation involves respect and value. It’s okay to find things beautiful. It’s better to appreciate it and learn more about it. Especially before you put an article of clothing on.”

Typically when we discuss appropriation, it is White people taking from the cultures of historically oppressed persons. Yet Monique is a woman of color. Can she, as part of a historically marginalized group in our culture, have engaged in cultural appropriation?

The answer is yes.

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Image of Pharrell from Indian Country Today.

People of color can simultaneously engage in cultural appropriation while also often themselves victims of cultural appropriation. When Pharrell (who identifies as Black) wore a Native American headpiece for the cover of Elle UK, for example, his actions were initially defended by a

“detail buried in an article on the O, the Oprah Magazine New Zealand site: “The young man whose name is derivative of his father’s (Pharaoh) and who says he has Native American and Egyptian heritages…” Bloggers, Facebook pundits and even journalists are speculating that this claim may dull the outrage over the image—but does it work that way? Does some American Indian DNA in Pharrell’s double helix make the headdress fashion choice OK?”

Pharrell later apologized for wearing the headdress, but his case is one where, like Monique, we see that even members of historically oppressed groups are not immune from the normalization of appropriation.

Please Note: Before writing this piece I searched for commentary on Monique’s costume, hoping that a critique by a Native American viewer or critic had already been written. Unfortunately I could not find such a piece. I did not – and still do not – want to speak on behalf of any historically marginalized group, particularly because of my identity as a White woman, and so if I should find such a piece, I will link to it here. This is not to say that I believe my critique is invalid, simply that members of oppressed groups have a right to have their voices heard before mine on matters of oppression when I am a member of the group that has facilitated said oppression.

 

 

Sexting Panic Interview is Up!

Happy May Day! It is cold and rainy here in the Twin Cities, but despite that, this is a happy day nonetheless: an interview I conducted over a year ago with Dr. Amy Adele Hasinoff about her awesome book Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent, is now available for you to listen to on the FEMBOT Collective’s website (here).

It is one thing to read a book that alters your thinking, but another to actually get to discuss that book with the author. I had a wonderful time talking to Dr. Hasinoff, and if you are unfamiliar with her work, she maintains a great blog where you can learn a lot about her and the work that she does.

Enjoy the podcast!

The 2017 Doctoral Research Showcase

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 10.41.48 PMI was so excited to participate in this year’s Doctoral Research Showcase at the University of Minnesota. A number of other Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellows as well as Disciplinary Doctoral Fellows presented their work in poster format, and the task of translating a dissertation worth of research onto a poster proved to be quite challenging!

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My poster definitely was not the most beautiful at the showcase, and only touched on a few elements of the work I am doing, but I really enjoyed engaging with visitors who asked questions about the work and my goals.

I always enjoy connecting with people from other disciplines, and seeing how particular ideas do (or do not) translate. Also having the opportunity to talk about my work with people who are unfamiliar with communication and media studies, bioethics, or the critical theory I bring to the project is a fun – albeit challenging – way to practice making work “legible” to multiple audiences. Many of us can get caught up in using the rhetoric or lingo of our specific area of research, and my experiences today highlighted the importance of generating findings (and writing in such a way) that multiple audiences can enjoy and engage with.