Category Archives: Mainsteam media

“You:” The Flip Side of the Rom-Com

By: Maria Ordoñez

Warning: The following article contains multiple spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is a charming bookstore manager who reads to kids, saves old books, and keeps his young neighbor out of trouble. He’s practically the perfect guy, except he’s still recovering from his latest heartbreak. Just when he’s about to give up on love for good, a beautiful, young poet named Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) walks into his life. From the moment she picks out his favorite Paula Fox novel, he knows it’s meant to be. And so, embarking on a series of crazy antics, Joe will stop at nothing to get the girl of his dreams. 

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

See, what sounds like a synopsis for the perfect rom-com, is in fact the plot of Lifetime’s latest psychological-thriller series,“You.” The series, which was recently renewed for a second season, has seen a dramatic increase in popularity since being picked up by Netflix in December. With over 15,000 total posts in the last month, one thing is clear – viewers everywhere are hooked on this addictive new drama, and more importantly, they’re hooked on Joe.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, I did say he’s “practically” the perfect guy. Except for the part where I forgot to mention that he’s an obsessive stalker, and that his “crazy antics” include everything from breaking and entering to the occasional murder. And yet, the template of this story feels oddly familiar…

That’s because “You” is everything we’ve seen in every rom-com ever. The only difference is that it depicts what would happen if instead of on a movie screen, these scenarios were playing out in real life. It’s what would happen if the barista from Starbucks actually showed up at your house in the middle of the night to profess his love for you based on a handful of conversations about the weather. “You” portrays this flip side of rom-coms that we need to start talking about.

In its subversive exposé on the dark side of these movies, “You” has multiple moments of self-awareness where the characters reflect on rom-coms as they make morally questionable decisions. And by characters, I’m referring to Joe.

Take, for example, Episode 1 where he spends his first day “with” Beck. After following her everywhere from yoga class to work, he ends up breaking into her apartment, where he hacks into her computer and steals a few personal items. Then, when Beck comes home earlier than expected, Joe finds himself hiding in her shower, thinking to himself:

Picture1

This is problematic, mostly because it’s true. I mean, we’ve all seen movies like There’s Something About Mary. The plot of that story involves, not 1, but 6 different guys stalking the same girl. The worst part is that they actually succeed in winning her over. The normalization of this type of behavior onscreen unintentionally sets an example for day-to-day relationships. It makes guys like Joe think, “Well, if it worked for Ben Stiller, then it can work for me.”

That brings us to the scene in Episode 6, where Joe, having followed Beck up to Peach Salinger’s (Shay Mitchell) estate, finds himself in a similar predicament. This time, though, he isn’t trapped in a shower, but rather under a bed, bearing witness to Peach’s latest sexual encounter. Here, he makes a reference to the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, saying:

Picture2

Although Harry never does this per se, some would argue that he and Joe have some similar issues with boundaries. I’m not saying that Harry is a murderer, but he doesshow up to Sally’s party uninvited, he doesn’tleave when she asks him to, and he doesn’ttake her “I hate you” as the explicit rejection that it is. It’s like Joe is taking pages straight out of Harry’s playbook, and just taking them one step further.

To top it all off, in the surprising season finale, there’s no doubt that Joe is all about going big or going home. I mean, when Beck finds out what a creep he really is, he literally keeps her prisoner in a glass cage. As if this wasn’t concerning enough, Joe goes on to justify his behavior as an act of true love. He claims:

Picture1

You got me again, Joe. It ithe stuff of a million love songs. The Police told us “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you;” Lady Gaga sang “I’ll follow you until you love me;” and even The Beatles said “I’d rather see you dead, than to be with another man.” Everywhere we look, the media is telling us that if love isn’t obsessive, then it isn’t true love.

Of course, most love songs and rom-coms are meant to be entertaining, not to be taken literally. However, the reality is that all media, whether fictional or not, can have an influence on the way people behave in the real world. I’ve met my fair share of “nice” guys who lurk outside the workplace, show up to places uninvited, and think “no” simply means try harder.  

In the era of the #MeToo movement, “You” shows up at the right time to shed some light on the issues of boundaries and the abuse of power. Most of all, though, it leaves us with a lesson for all people of all genders:

Forget what the rom-coms have taught you, you don’t want to end up like Joe.

8 Feminist Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

By: Naomi Gewirtzman

Recently, I decided to reassess the way I use social media. I found that, like all of my peers, I was wasting countless hours a day mindlessly scrolling through feeds that largely consisted of fashion and fitness “influencers,” and it was getting exhausting. Studies show that social media is detrimental to mental health, especially in girls, largely due to the tendency for women to compare themselves to what they see on social media. This toxic Instagram culture advertizes unattainable lifestyles and promotes unrealistic and unrepresentative beauty standards; and the pressure of comparison promotes unhealthy competition between women. I decided to make a change. I wanted to be more mindful and intentional with the media I was consuming, so I went through every account I was following, and considered whether it was benefiting me and reflective of my values. If it wasn’t, I unfollowed and replaced it with accounts belonging to an array of diverse women with positive messages. Now, my time spent on social media is informative, intersectional, and empowering. Here are some of my favorite feminist Instagram accounts.

 

  1. @liberaljane

 Caitlin Blunnie is a feminist activist who makes gorgeous pieces related to feminism. Her feed is filled with drawings of diverse women, and she educates her followers about feminist issues through her art.

  1. @ocasio2018

Alexandria Ocasio Cortes is not only killing it in our House of Representatives, but she’s also killing it on Instagram. Known for her livestreams in which she interacts with her followers and explains current events and the duties of congress members, this New York representative is the perfect example of a politically engaged, empowered woman.

  1. @bopo_blossom

Jillian Leigh is a Columbia student on a mission to tear down diet culture. Through her posts, she educates her followers about body positivity, building a healthy relationship with food, and how every woman of every shape, size, and color is beautiful.

  1. @nowthisher

NowThis Her is a media company that posts videos highlighting stories relevant to women from all over the world. Following this account is a great way to stay up to date on global women’s issues that are underrepresented in other news sources.

  1. @the_tinder_queen

The Tinder Queen posts submissions of some of women’s worst experiences on Tinder. She educates men on the app about feminism and consent, and teaches her followers how to use dating apps safely and respectfully.

  1. @sheratesdogs

SheRateDogs is “like WeRateDogs but the dogs are your exes.” She exposes toxic ex boyfriends through followers’ submissions, and encourages women to leave unhealthy relationships and to acknowledge their worth.

 

  1. @catcallsofnyc

 CatCallsOfNYC takes submissions of her followers’ experiences with street harassment and in New York City. She then goes to the place where the harassment occurred and writes the quote in chalk to bring attention to the issue of catcalling. 

  1. @florencegiven

Florence is another artist who empowers women through her pieces. I love the use of color and sass in her artwork while she brings important feminist issues to attention.

“The Hunting Ground”: A Horror Pseudo-Documentary on a Serious Issue

By Sabrina Schnurr

Summary

CNN’s The Hunting Ground focuses on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in America and the way colleges neglect to address it. The documentary seeks to highlight the roles that money and reputation play in college administrations’ choices while chronicling the journey of Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two former students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who filed a Title IX complaint and sparked a movement against sexual assault on college campuses. The film criticizes schools’ actions while also examining the culture of fraternities and college athletes. The Hunting Ground includes testimony from many student victims of sexual assault, as well as interviews with psychologists, authors, professors, administrators, police officers, and parents. Lady Gaga recorded a Grammy-nominated original song, “Till It Happens to You,” for the film.

•••

The film opens like a blockbuster thriller: a montage of high schoolers and their families happily opening college acceptances immediately sets the scene for the emotional rollercoaster to come. Even the title itself establishes fears in viewers. Dramatic images of a doorknob and bathroom tile resemble that of a crime scene remake on a television drama, and voice-overs telling terrifying stories contrast with their corresponding montages of beautiful campus scenery. All in all, the film is hard to watch. Images of fraternity signs reading “sexual assault expected” and “thank you for your daughters” land a giant knot in viewers’ stomachs, and specifically, one father’s account of his daughter’s suicide is heart-wrenching and almost impossible to listen to. In this regard, the film does what it was made to do: draw an emotional reaction from audiences.

However, this emotional reaction is then irresponsibly paired with a quick hero-ending and a weak focus on the facts. Almost instantaneously, two students at UNC transition from broken victims to national heroes taking on Title IX to solve college rape; the ending segment presents a suddenly uplifting montage of women standing up. A quick cut between the national map of reported campus sexual assaults and the nearly identical homemade map hanging in the students’ apartment serves as comforting, but irresponsible closure. While these young women may have started a movement, this ending segment credits them — and solely them — with “solving” college sexual assault.

After this quick transition, women are suddenly shown strongly standing up and taking action, and administrators (formerly pessimistic about the future of the issue) suddenly see an optimistic solution. Footage of President Obama giving an address on the issue and a montage of new federal investigations into colleges make it seem as though these national achievements were a direct result of only these two students’ mission. Visually, this creates a false cause-and-effect relationship, in which the middle step is never shown. Where is the mention of Emma Sulkowicz, the student who started a movement in 2014 after carrying her mattress around campus after being assaulted? What about all the administrators, politicians, families, reporters, and students that played a role in this movement (a movement which started long before these young women even started college)?

The journey of the two students at UNC did not happen in a vacuum, but they are portrayed as if they did. Gillian Greensite, director of rape prevention education at UC Santa Cruz, notes that the first peak of activism in the rape-crisis movement occurred after the Civil War. Considering how these incidents are analyzed in isolation, the film lacks a rational evaluation of the then-current state of discussion about sexual assault and consequently, does these victims a giant disservice. Its happy ending also does not leave room for future discussion of this issue. Sexual assault is a dynamic problem in the United States; recently Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the administration was formally withdrawing Obama-era campus sexual assault direction.

In addition, it has been argued that many of the statistics used in the film are outdated or merely inaccurate. Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who also writes for the Atlantic, spoke to Alyssa Keehan, director of research at United Educators — a higher education insurance group that recently released a study of 305 sexual assault claims they received from 104 schools over three years. Keehan noted that the “most common narrative you hear” — institutions not caring about sexual assault — might not be true. Their data found that when a formal complaint is brought against a student, he is found guilty 45 percent of the time, and when that happens, the attacker is given the “most severe penalty available” (expulsion or suspension) over 80 percent of the time. Nonetheless, while the choice of statistics used in the film can be arguably biased or inaccurate, it can hardly be debated that some are outdated. Specifically, in a portion of the film discussing student athletes as the prime attackers who get away with assault, two statistics are held onscreen; these statistics date back to 1993, over twenty years before the film was released. In using this data, the filmmakers ignore how college culture has changed tremendously in the past twenty years and continue to deny the viewer of a fully-informed, unbiased discussion on college sexual assault.

Any documentary has a responsibility to be fact-based, and in conveniently excluding major pieces of the investigations noted, the film loses its legitimacy and sabotages its powerful message. For example, a large piece of the film focuses on the rape allegation against Jameis Winston, a former Florida State University quarterback who was found not responsible after a criminal investigation. His accuser, Erica Kinsman, went public saying that after drinking a shot at an off-campus bar she started feeling strange and was “fairly certain there was something in that drink.” However, the filmmakers fail to note that two toxicology reports found that she had no drugs in her system nor do they reveal that at the December hearing, Kinsman did not insist that she was drugged or unconscious. Granted, these young women are beyond brave for speaking out about their experiences; sexual assault on college campuses is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Yet while testimony from real victims has raw, emotional power, it isn’t enough. If the students are looking to inform the public about this very serious issue, an ethical stance of fairness does not leave room for picking and choosing what critical pieces get included.

Ultimately, The Hunting Ground does its viewers a disservice by focusing on passion over information. In a world where the media rules our daily lives, documentary-makers have an ethical responsibility to provide fact-based films. However, some could argue that the pushback from schools on the accuracy of things mentioned in the film perhaps proves the film’s point: colleges do not want to put their reputations on the line by addressing this very real issue. Yet, in terms of the film itself, it poses serious questions about bias and our consumption of media. Can a documentary still be a good documentary if it only presents one side of the story? Additionally, Emily Yoffe brought up an interesting point in an NPR interview: what does this mean for CNN? This news network is attempting to present the film as a “fair exploration of an important subject,” but it very easily might not be “fair” at all.

 

Featured image by Christopher Serra, courtesy of the LA Times.

Curls

Originally published in our Spring 2018 Reader, Dev Blair’s poem “Curls” is one of two prose poems that “tell a part of the story of a young femme wrestling with the ways in which they meet the world and the ways in which the world meets them.”

In their abstract, Blair explains that:

“In Curls, I draw parallels between my hair’s relationship to relaxers and my relationship to men, using the comparison to analyze the ways that I’ve been mistreated by the men in my life. While the terms “queer” and “non-binary” don’t feature in the poem itself, the experiences I describe within are inextricably tied to those parts of my identity, by virtue of how these things influence which men I interact with and how I am seen by them.”

If you are interested in buying a physical copy of the reader, email hoochie@bu.edu ! We are selling them for $5.


[ Content warning: for mentions of depression ]

Curls

by Dev Blair

For a long time, I didn’t quite understand the term “natural.”

See, I knew that curls grew from my scalp naturally and I also understood that I could see my curls intertwine and loc beautifully—if I ever stop tryna cop Britney’s ’‘07 hairdo every time I have a breakdown.

But what I didn’t get was how we could name our curls—something so deeply personal and meaningful—”natural,” as if to make them sound normal, mundane, or palatable.

See, I don’t want my curls to be something you can stomach, another vaguely ethnic dish for white eyes to consume.

My curls are something your combs cannot tame, your brushes cannot beat back, your razors cannot cut down.

My curls are twisted and kinky and they like to play rough.

Relaxers hide their faces in shame when they see my curls, gettin’ clowned on in their workplaces for lack of game, their own failure to play aces, ultimately to blame for their inability to run bases and tame my militant curls.

Like men disappoint me, so too do relaxers disappoint my curls. Inviting them in with promises of beauty and a future, they leave them desolate and lifeless after extracting every ounce of magic and joy from their being. Slinking down the drain, they take my curls’ hopes and dreams and parts of themselves with them.

Capitalizing on my curls’ labor and my curls’ abuse, relaxers are like men to me, suitors that preach and preen over how faithful they’ll be, only to treat our “unruliness” as a liability.

White cream slathered on black curls, like white men slobbering over black girls, suffocating them with their emotional unavailability, then leaving them a little more broken than they were found, even though it’s been years since they were chained and bound to Eurocentricity’s straight and narrow Middle Passage.

Postcolonial as in post relaxer as in post heart break post break up postmodernism, this is a poem posted like a notice on every door and Facebook wall saying that I’m better off without them. And so are my curls.

My beauty is achieved, not defaulted. My strength is earned, but not exalted unless it can be used to turn a profit.

My pretty smells of hard work and healthy routines learned from unhealthy habits and a history of hurt. My curls shine with a radiance not natural nor innate but learned from every trial that turned out to be a mistake. She must learn to love themself, because others don’t care to take the time to learn how to love me.

My curls have got it on loc because when I unlocked my heart for you, instead of with it you ran away with the key and so now only rage spills out, with no kiss to fix it or stop it up.

With each beat of my thoroughly disappointed heart, the rage rushes to my ears, breaking every part of myself I curated like fine art. As I crumble into sadness, the blood pounds with the barking madness of hell hounds bounding after their-query for you: “did it feel good to waste my time?” Before the answer can be found, my innocence dies like the Virgin Hairy, killed by sounds in my head of “you’re undesirable,” and “you’ll never marry,” and I am left limp and wet and barely recognizable.

Solange wrote a catchy song about it, so y’all get it already, right?

But see, you don’t. Because my curls are not just the feelings I wear, but the product of the pain I bear and the parts of myself I refuse to share and the things that I talk about in prayer.

I am not natural. Neither are my curls. We are more than you could ever hope to call natural—after all, what is natural about a body ravaged by the politics of desirability?

See, love is a battlefield and my body is the site of war. Y’all come into my life, fuck shit up, then call me whore so now I can’t sleep. I can’t rest or lay down and neither can my curls, and girls, that’s how we all got our razor-sharp edges-from pain so intense, we can’t even weep. That’s why I shave my head like I’m shearing a goddamn sheep, so if you want my curls, know that the price is steep. Don’t hurt me so deep that I can’t keep myself together. If you can avoid that and ease my bleeding heart, help me heal from the times I fell apart, then and only then do you deserve to look at my curls.

A look at consent in film

By Avery Serven

Introduction:

I think we can all agree that no means no, right? Rape is never okay, and you would never support a movie that promotes that kind of behavior…right? Whether you are aware of it or not, hundreds of films- ranging from 70s sports flicks to movies released as recently as this past summer- depict scenes in which the female protagonist is pressured into kissing, sex, or even a casual dinner date, despite this character having said that she was not interested (usually multiple times). For the purposes of this assignment, I will be looking at heterosexual, cisgender, predominantly white couples in films, as these types of characters happen to appear more frequently in popular films. Although numerous victims of rape are men and/or members of the LGBTQ community, I will focus on female victims shown in American cinema for my argument (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998).

There appears to be a strong correlation between media consumption and the behavior of the viewers, especially with young people. This correlation shows that exposure to problematic behavior in movies can normalize that behavior for viewers. Some say that society looks to and mirrors the media, while others say that the opposite is true. Either way, toxic masculine behavior has become the norm both on and offscreen in our culture, which perpetuates a cycle of sexual violence and misconduct. This is all evidence as to why filmmakers need to do a better job of depicting consent and relationships in movies. The rampant problem of sexual assault and harassment in our society can only begin to be fixed when the media starts depicting healthy relationships, which it needs to start doing.

Films:

SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984):

sixteen candles

In a scene from this John Hughes cult classic, high school students Jake and Ted discuss Jake’s girlfriend, who is passed out at a party (Filucci, 2018). Throughout the conversation, they use degrading language, referring to girls as “bitches” and “pieces of ass.” Jake says: “Shit, I got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” Jake then offers up Caroline to Ted, telling him he can take her home (YouTube, 2008). At first Ted says he is not personally interested in taking the unconscious Caroline home, but it later becomes clear that they do end up having sex (neither of them remembers it). At the end of the film, they kiss. In this situation it is clear that Caroline is not consenting to anything with either of the boys, regardless of whether or not one of them is her boyfriend, as she is incapacitated and unable to give consent. Jake, however, seems to think that he can auction his girlfriend off to Ted, telling him that he can take her as long as he makes sure he doesn’t “leave her in some parking lot somewhere” (Filucci, 2018). This is obviously problematic for a lot of reasons, but most importantly, Caroline falls for Ted at the end. This is sending the message that his sexual assault was not only okay, but also made her fall for him. What the hell, John Hughes?

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980): 

the empire strikes back

In one of the most famous scenes from the ever popular Star Wars franchise, Princess Leia and Han Solo kiss on their spaceship. Prior to the kiss, Leia is trying to fix a control panel, while Han continues to try to help her even though she has stated that she does not want help. He tells her she could “be a little nicer” and claims that sometimes she must  “think [he] is alright.” He then starts massaging her hand, to which she asks him to stop repeatedly. He says that she likes him because he is a scoundrel. When she replies to tell him that she likes nice men, which he is not, he interrupts her and kisses her while she is backed up against a wall (YouTube, 2015). Han does all of this despite the fact that Leia has told him multiple times up until then that she is not interested. During this exchange, Leia looks nervous and on edge. After this whole ordeal, she falls for him and they stay together (Wong, 2016). This interaction begs viewers to take a closer look at the characters in this franchise as a whole. Han Solo is a role model, the hero that young boys look up to. Princess Leia is supposed to be a feminist symbol of a strong female character, but a quick google search of ‘Han Leia rape’ results in countless fanfictions depicting Leia as a sex slave to be used at Han’s disposal. The fact that one of the most world-renowned film franchises condones this kind of aggression and “playing hard to get” ideology is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

THE NOTEBOOK (2004):

the notebook

In a scene from the hit romance film The Notebook, Noah, played by Ryan Gosling, asks Allie, played by Rachel McAdams, out in a pretty unconventional way. She is on a date with someone else when he jumps onto her cart, only to be met with her screaming at him to “get off [her].” He does not listen, and instead tells Allie he would like to take her out. He gets out and hangs from a spindle and asks if she will go out with him, to which she replies no. Noah asks her why and she says “I don’t know, because I don’t want to.” He tells her she leaves him no other choice and drops an arm. He asks her again, saying he won’t get down until she agrees. She hurriedly agrees, and he says “don’t do me any favors.” Noah proceeds to make her say, multiple times, that she truly wants to go out with him. He then responds by saying “alright, alright, we’ll go out” (YouTube, 2008). This kind of coercion and persistence, disguised by a popular romance movie as “charming and desirable,” is an issue that many women have to deal with daily. Even other media outlets normalize this kind of behavior, like a Seventeen article that claims that Noah “wooed Allie on the ferris wheel” (Devoe, 2016). No one should ever feel forced to go on a date with someone they don’t want to, even if that person is Ryan Gosling!

ROCKY (1976):

 rocky

Rocky, a film about an underdog boxer who trains to take on the world heavyweight champion, has a very problematic kiss scene between the two main characters, Adrian and Rocky. Adrian is at Rocky’s house and she tells him she wants to contact her brother because he might be worried. Rocky does not let her, and instead yells to her brother out the window. After that, Adrian repeatedly says she does not belong here (meaning Rocky’s home), and he tells her it’s okay. She then goes on to explain that she does not know him well enough, and that she has never been alone in a man’s apartment. She repeats that she is uncomfortable and tries to leave, but Rocky blocks the door and corners her. He then takes off her glasses and hat even though she has been silent since he cornered her. He says that he wants to kiss her, but that she does not have to kiss him back if she doesn’t want to. He starts kissing her on the neck and even though she is clearly uncomfortable, she eventually kisses him back (YouTube, 2017). This attitude of “knowing what she wants better than she does” is portrayed quite often in movies, as well as everyday life. Even though Adrian never explicitly says that she does not want to kiss or have sex with him, she does say that she shouldn’t be there, that she is uncomfortable, and that she wants to leave. Additionally, the nonverbal cues in this scene are pretty clear from the start. Awesome message for a Best Picture winner, right?

Studies:

As previously seen, many popular films have clear examples of sexual harassment, coercion, assault, and violence. Whether it be a comedic, romance, or sports film, the message is clear- keep trying until you get her to agree, regardless of how she feels about it. That’s what women see as romantic. Many viewers can probably look at this and say “Ok, but I see these messages in movies and am able to take them with a grain of salt.” However, research on our absorption of the media shows differently.

Based on research from the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, the mass media consumes a very high proportion of our free time. In 2014, they found that people spend, on average, 25 hours per week consuming media. This includes watching TV and movies, as well as reading magazines and newspapers (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

According to more research done for the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, young people are the most impressionable with the media (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). This is interesting when compared to statistics about the main perpetrators of sexual violence from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Stats from 2015 state that 25% of perpetrators are ages 21-29, while 9% are 18-20, and 15% are 17 or younger. Almost half of the total number of perpetrators are 29 or under (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 2013). I personally do not think this correlation is coincidental, as young people are more prone to the media’s messages, as well as sexual violence.

The International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention also found that “induced fear and phobias” can result from media consumption. Additionally, the media (video games in particular) can create a blurred line between reality and fantasy, as well as confusion between positive and negative role models (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). After all, how are we supposed to feel after the male hero that we have been rooting for the whole time rapes the love interest?

They also looked at exposure to media and violence. The conclusion was that “visiting hate and satanic sites are associated with significantly elevated odds of violent behavior perpetration” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Additionally, they found that “exposure to media violence does not affect all children in the same way” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). However, there was enough evidence to conclude that violent media viewing correlated with the numbing of “emotional response” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). In a shocking discovery, fMRI studies showed that “exposure to TV violence activates brain regions that regulate emotion, arousal and…episodic memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Also, extensive viewing was found to lead to viewers storing a “large number of aggressive scripts…that end up influencing behavior” in “long-term memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Over time, there is a “lower emotional impact” due to media violence exposure (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

One official conclusion of the study was the following: “We…found that media is playing both constructive as well as destructive roles; on one hand it has lots of advantages, but on the other hand it has lots of disadvantages and at the end it’s up to the individual and society to decide which ones to use” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

Sexual Assault Statistics:

On Campus-

On college campuses rape and assault are extremely heightened issues; many women on college campuses regularly feel unsafe. According to RAINN, “among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation” (Association of American Universities (AAU), 2015).

rainn 1

rainn 2

In the United States-

The fact that college campuses are a hotbed for sexual assault does not mean that it doesn’t occur everywhere in our country. According to RAINN, “on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States” (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015). Additionally, “94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during the two weeks following the rape” (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992, p. 455-475). As seen in the graphic below, many victims are under the age of 30 (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders, 1997).

rainn 3

Conclusion:

Through a look at violence against women and the supposed ‘blurred lines’ of consent in film, we can conclude that there are countless examples of movies normalizing this kind of behavior. The attitude of not giving up until a woman gives in, which is prevalent in many films, endorses coercion and even assault. Movies promote the idea that women are “asking for it” and don’t want men to wait for consent, because that’s attractive. This idea is often perpetuated by male filmmakers, having men who view the films thinking that’s what women want. The promotion of this attitude about consent in the mass media has a direct impact on viewers, who consume harmful messages and act based on the norms that these films perpetuate.

From these statistics and studies, we can conclude that the general public, especially young people, consume a large amount of media on a regular basis and are easily influenced by it. Violent media can also numb emotional response in viewers. Young men and boys view violent or aggressive sexual behavior in film and the behavior becomes normalized, which would explain the prevalence of this behavior in our everyday lives, especially among young people. Most of the perpetrators of sexual violence are young (under 30), while the victims are often also young people; this makes sense considering these are the people most susceptible to the media.

 Hope for the Future:

Luckily, the media landscape does appear to be changing. In the classic film Thelma and Louise, there is a scene in which JD wants to have sex with Thelma but she does not want to. He stops and respects her wishes. In another popular movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat is very drunk in one scene and tries to kiss Patrick, but he does not let her as he does not want to take advantage of her in her state (Vallabhjee, 2016). Although we have a long way to go, some films do treat consent the right way and show a positive depiction of sexual behavior. Additionally, with the #MeToo movement and all of the attention on sexual assault and harassment, it should become easier for viewers to recognize this kind of behavior in films. I personally believe the landscape is changing drastically, and I have hope for the future of the media.
For More Information on the Topic:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): rainn.org, 800-656-HOPE
  • Common Sense Media: commonsensemedia.org
  • Teach Consent: teachconsent.org
  • The Anti-Violence Project: antiviolenceproject.org

I’m angry. You should be too.

By Matthew Segalla

I’m angry at the state of our country. Angry at the decisions of those who hold authority. Angry for survivors who are not getting the justice they deserve. Angry that our country views minorities as “less than.” Angry that we live in a country where men are valued more than women. We are not just repeating history, we are moving backwards. A third of the men now serving on the highest court in our country have been accused of sexual assault. This is an issue that transcends party and politics, it is an issue of humanity and morality. Our country has never been perfect, nor will it ever be. In the same sense, those who run our country are not perfect and never will be, regardless of who they are or what they stand for. Nevertheless, sexual assaulters do not belong in our government, neither do those who have no respect for women. They don’t belong on our supreme court. They do not represent us or how we feel. They are sending a message to women. It’s not a good one. Women deserve so much more and so much better. This must change. We cannot stand for this. Keep fighting. Speak up. Keep fighting. Take a stand. Keep fighting. Make that change happen. Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on our supreme court, regardless of your political preference or beliefs. While I face challenges and prejudices of my own, I will never face or be able to fully understand the challenges that women are forced to overcome every single day. His victory is a loss for them. One day, we will get the justice that they deserve. Until then, all I can say is women, I am with you, I support you, I will do my best to defend you and fight for you, and without exception, I believe you. I believe all survivors. I believe women. I believe Anita Hill. And I believe Christine Blasey Ford. You should too.

Who the #MeToo Movement is Leaving Behind

by Anu Sawhney

This weekend, while watching the Golden Globes, one which left most awestruck by Oprah Winfrey’s fiery acceptance speech, it was another – some might say less glamorous – speech that left me overwhelmed by its importance and clarity. Sterling K. Brown, the star of the NBC series This is Us, made Golden Globe history in becoming the first-ever black actor to win the award in the Best Actor in a TV Drama category. In thanking the creator of the show, Dan Fogelman, he explained how Fogelman “wrote a role for a black man that can only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am, and it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me or dismiss anybody who looks like me.”

Herein, I believe, Brown was able to articulate the key to authentic representation on screen. At a time when the most powerful women in the industry wore black in solidarity with those who were silenced by their assailants, I cannot think of anything more important than ensuring that no one feels like their identity is something that can be dismissed. While we can sit here at the precipice of a what feels like a new era and view the MeToo movement as a product of important progress, intolerance, and recognition of the importance of reclaiming our bodies, I’d be one to argue that it is far too little for us to move forward as a society where no one – and I mean no one, is left behind.

As a disabled woman of color, with every “first-ever” moment I can feel my heart race at the ordeal, because somewhere in my mind this means that Hollywood – and, by extension, society – is normalizing diversity and change. And there are strides of progress that have been significant, not only for women but also for women of color. Somehow, though, almost every mainstream conversation in regard to diversity manages to leave out an important minority. 19% of Americans are people with disabilities, making us the largest minority group there is, yet somehow a latent issue outside of activist circles and sometimes, politics. On screen, disabled characters are almost always played by able-bodied actors who are awarded for portraying a disability as a costume that one can simply wear on screen or learn about through others who’ve lived with the disability for a long enough time – only to return to an able-bodied lifestyle. All of those things will remain true as long as roles aren’t given to actors in the way that, as Brown explained, doesn’t allow for the dismissal of the actor’s whole, intersectional identity.

What makes this dismissal harder to accept in the year of the MeToo movement is the findings of a recent NPR study, which shows that people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be assaulted than people without a disability. Not only is this an epidemic, the victims are described as “easy targets” and it is largely underreported, especially among women who live in group homes. We cannot seriously be having a national discussion about changing mindsets or having a cultural reckoning if we’re not giving the group who have the most to win or lose a seat at the table. This would be a disservice to the victims who have been brave enough to come out, voice their stories to all those they have paved the way for, for whom the movement is created – including the most vulnerable. The harder we are to dismiss, the more important it will be for our voices to be heard.