Clearly society likes to objectify African American women while simultaneously shaming them for their sexuality. Basically, black women’s bodies only acceptable when other people are controlling them. Growing up surrounded by these messages causes a lot of confusion and anger—I can vouch for that. I live in a world that tells me how to act, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of “acceptable” behavior. Every day I see women who look like me face consequences no matter how they act. From a young age, I learned that I was in a perpetual lose-lose situation.
In the most comprehensive study of children’s literature during a period of 100 years, researchers recently found that:
- 57% of children’s books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female.
- In popular children’s books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters.
- The average number of books featuring male characters in the title of the book is 36.5% versus 17.5% for female characters.
It’s not just the quantity, but the quality as well. Female characters, as in movies, are often marginalized, stereotyped, or one-dimensional. For example, in Peter Pan, Wendy is a stick-in-the-mud mother figure, and Tiger Lily is a jealous exotic. The animated books featuring animals are particularly subtle. Think about Winnie the Pooh—Kanga is the only female character, and she’s definitely not one of the gang.
The researchers concluded, “The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children’s media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games, and even coloring books.”
But, it goes beyond gender and is true of racial and ethnic diversity as well. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education has conducted a survey of all kids and young adult books published each year since 1985. Of an estimated 5,000 children’s and YA books released in 2012, only 3.3% featured African-Americans; 2.1% featured Asian-Americans or Pacific Islanders; 1.5% featured Latinos; and only 0.6% featured Native Americans.
Given the conversation around Princess Sofia and what it means to “look” Latin@, it seemed like now would be a good time to bring back this absolutely amazing video about being black & Latin@ in the US, and especially in the media.
A Girl Like Me: Color is more than skin deep for young African-American women struggling to define themselves.
In the August issues of Teen Vogue and Seventeen, thin white women dominate. While one issue of a magazine does not reflect a year’s worth of content, The Daily Beast conducted an informal study to get a general sense of the images. On the editorial pages of Teen Vogue in August, we counted 95 images that include white women and 19 images that include ethnically diverse women. On the editorial pages of Seventeen in August, we counted 154 images that include white women and 72 images that include ethnically diverse women. The cover of Seventeen features a Filipino-Spanish-Irish actress named Shay Mitchell. On the cover of Teen Vogue are Spider Man stars Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.
“Teens hate hypocrisy,” says Steiner-Adair of the imbalanced images. “If you’re really trying to sell beauty and body acceptance, walk the walk.”
An actress on Twitter writes: ”I didn’t make #PowerRangers said I was great but they already casted a black guy so they can’t cast a black girl too WHY is race an issue”
Power Rangers has had a lot of diverse casting, but since it was bought by Nickelodeon it seems to have regressed to “old school” diversity. For example, in 2010 they only allowed white actors to audition for the lead role and Racebending.com had to write a letter requesting they open up the casting call.
"I used to draw myself as a white girl in my first grade journal, until I realized that I didn’t look like that and it was OK—it was more than OK."
When Seventeen Magazine’s editor in chief Ann Shoket told Julia Bluhm that Seventeen “celebrates girls for being their authentic selves,” and that “there is no other magazine that highlights such a diversity of size, shape, skin tone and ethnicity,” a few eyebrows went up. Here, teen girls from Sisters Action Media respond to that statement while going through the latest issue of Seventeen.
"They do have a few girls of other races and a few girls of other body types, but when I think about "diversity" I think about an even amount, and they definitely don’t have an even amount at all. There’s definitely more white skinny girls in this magazine than anything else." [Turns out there are only 14 girls of color in the whole mag—and only one of them had a darker skintone.]
What do you think? Join the conversation on #TalkBack17.
Clara como el Agua is a short fiction film about the tales and half-truths that surround the origins of Clara, a light-skinned black girl with kinky, blond hair and gray eyes, who is incessantly teased by her dark-skinned peers; until she ventures into the magical waters of the bioluminescent bay to change her skin color and possibly herself.
Public Statement: “We Are the 44%” Coalition Challenges Sexual Violence Against Black and Latina Teens
TW for sexual assault
Last week popular hip-hop magazine XXL posted a video on its website (XXL.com) from Too $hort, a 45-year old rapper who came to prominence in the late 80’s for his raunchy lyrics and videos. In what was called his “fatherly advice” video, the rapper instructed 12, 13, and 14-year-old boys on how to “turn out” their female classmates. In a transcript from the video, he said: “A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls; we’re going way past that. I’m taking you to the hole. …You push her up against the wall. You take your finger and put a little spit on it and you stick your finger in her underwear and you rub it on there and watch what happens.”
As a response, a coalition of outraged Black and Latina activists, artists, and writers – all of whom have a long history in social justice activism – have come together to ensure that this does not happen again and have named themselves the We Are the 44% coalition. The coalition’s name aims to give voice to the many teen survivors of sexual assault. Too $hort’s video specifically targeted adolescent students. This group is consistent with the appalling statistic that 44% of sexual assault survivors are under 18 years old (visit the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network website: www.rainn.org/statistics). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reports that 1 out 5 women in the United States have been raped in their lifetime (www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/sexualviolence/index.html). Because Too $hort’s video blatantly promoted sexual violence against girls, and because boys are also being advised to develop irresponsible, abusive and ultimately criminal behavior compelled, the all-women coalition decided to take pointed actions (see demands listed below).
The coalition recognizes this video—and the fact that XXL gave it a platform — as part of the larger issue of sexual assault against our women and children, particularly Black and Latina girls. The coalition also recognizes that the aforementioned statistics do not reflect the countless abuses that go unreported, including that of teenage boys who are often the unrecognized survivors of sexual assault. And most importantly, the coalition recognizes the urgent need to create heightened awareness and broad, uncategorized support for the eradication of sexual violence against children.