Representing the ‘Other’

If you think about the last time you watched a movie with an African American character, it is more likely than not that that character was a racial stereotype and not a main role. Typically they are cast as the servant, the thug, the comedic best friend, the ‘independent’ woman. Film maker Spike Lee comments that “In order for the characterisations of African Americans on television and film to change, blacks need to achieve positions of power in those industries, where they can have some control over the images that are produced.”

TV shows and movies are no longer just a source of entertainment, but education. Portrayals of other cultures must be ‘correct’ in every sense of the word. If children grow up watching misrepresentations of cultures, they will naturally think that the way they are behaving and being treated is acceptable.

It wasn’t until 2009 that Disney released a children’s movie with a main character being from African American descent.  The Princess and the Frog features the main princess Tiana as a hardworking waitress who dreams of opening her own resturaunt – a significantly different persona to the typical Disney princesses who quite often have no ambitions of their own besides marrying the prince.

Famous Youtuber ‘GloZell’ visits Disneyland and gets emotional when she meets the princess Tiana

Many people in our culture are so used to racial stereotypes that they aren’t even aware that what they are saying is racist. A stereotype that come to mind include Asians being smart but being bad drivers. According to Asian American writer Jessica Walton, “The problem with stereotypes is that they are so ingrained and so commonplace that they have become invisible. They can be perceived as harmless and as comfortable and normal as your living room chair – except of course if you are on the receiving end.”

Racism and misrepresentation in the media of other cultures includes both physical and emotional harm, including anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem and high blood pressure.

So what can we do about it?

There is a current idea that being “colour-blind” – will stop racism. However being colour-blind is to basically pretend that race is not an issue in society and that people don’t notice race. There are differences between cultures and pretending to ignore these differences is not going to aid the social injustice.

There is therefore a great need for other cultures to have a fair (and accurate representation.) If a certain cultural group is represented in a similar way again and again, that image being portrayed becomes the norm.


Gender and the State of the Newsroom (Glass Ceiling; Mind Your Head)

It’s 2015.

Women are more empowered than ever.

‘Feminism’ no longer a word only said in private in fear of persecution.

There have been substantial improvements regarding the rights of women.

But why is it that in our newsrooms, females are still not being recognised as just as capable as their male counterparts?

In Australia we statistically have more female news reporters than men. However this isn’t actually as great as it may appear. Women in newsrooms are typically covering the more ‘soft’ news stories – the weather, lifestyle and celebrity gossip. These women are scrutinised daily by viewers for everything other than their journalistic capabilities. And interestingly, there are very few women in journalism in a leadership position.

Their clothes, their makeup, their hair seem to all be more important than how they do their jobs. This became really clear when Karl Stefanovic wore the same suit for an entire year on The Today Show. His year-long protest-prank was to make a comment against the double standards his female colleagues face.

When Googling, “Australian News Readers” I was prompted by these options

Screen Shot 2015-05-15 at 4.11.12 pm

So even though there is finally an equal number of females working in media, there is still a considerable difference between the types of news that the different sexes cover. Louise North attributes this inequality to the fact that women have long been denied from key editorial leadership roles in news organisations around the world. North states that a common obstacle to career progress (and therefore attaining leadership positions) reported by women journalists is the problem of male attitudes.
Similarly, Naomi Milgrom, (Owner of Sussan Retail Group) was quoted saying, “Women in leadership roles never come about spontaneously. It requires a culture that supports women. It only happens when leaders of companies create policies and initiatives to stimulate such a culture.”

So to rid the glass ceiling in journalism, there needs to be a conscious effort to promote women and to focus on their skills rather than their appearance.

It is very evident that there needs to be a massive change in newsrooms to put an end to the gender inequality present, and that this change is only going to come about with a conscious effort. Female journalists need to be seen and represented as more than their appearances, and the clothes that they wear.

The Hidden Costs of Media Use

In China in 2013 there were 257,000 premature deaths across the country due to air pollution known as PM2.5. That’s an average of 90 in every 100,000 deaths.This is due to the corporate business models used by many of the large companies operating in China at the expense of their workers. Although there are a multitude of companies operating their factories in China, there is one company who can afford to be more environmentally friendly. Apple. As one of the most profitable and influential companies, I feel they definitely have a greater responsibility for ethical leadership.

iphone real price true cost

After the suicide cases, Apple workers now have to sign an anti-suicide contract pledging that they will not attempt to commit suicide. Anti-suicide nets were installed on the outside of all the dorm windows so that the workers would be caught and brought back to work.

The workers are also made to work in inhumane working conditions, as well as having to work up to 98 hours of overtime in a month – three times more than what the Chinese law states.  Additionally, workers are only allowed to take one day off every two weeks.   A considerable amount of Apples profit can be attributed to the cheap labour costs they employ in their factories. This includes hiring under age workers. The normal wages for an employee are around $17-$22 a day.

The workers are forced to live in communal dorms with around 24 people living in each room. The workers can be woken at any time to start work. Days before the original iPhone was released, the workers were awoken at 3am when Steve Jobs made the decision to change the screens from plastic to glass.

Companies are continually sourcing rare minerals to fulfil the high production demand for new forms of technology. These minerals are dangerously extracted in order to improve the functionality of devices, with no concern for the environment or the workers employed in these dangerous environments to extract these minerals.

iphone real price true cost

Another great concern is the build up of toxic E-waste. It is having massive impacts for not only society as a whole, but for the developing countries who usually fall victim to being developed countries dumping grounds.

In a statement, Apple said: “Apple is committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility throughout our supply base. Apple requires suppliers to commit to our comprehensive supplier code of conduct as a condition of their contracts with us. We drive compliance with the code through a rigorous monitoring programme, including factory audits, corrective action plans and verification measures.”

It is obvious that Apple are not displaying social responsibility and are putting profits over the health and safety of their workers. There needs to be a massive shift in the laws and regulations in China to improve the working conditions of every factory. The current regulations are obviously not even sufficient enough to provide their workers with basic human rights.

Black(and blue)fish – Stop Orcas in Captivity

I’ve never had pets of my own. To go to someone’s house for a sleepover and find out they owned a cat or dog was the most devastating news I could hear, and ultimately it meant I would have to go home.

But I’m not heartless. I’m just allergic.

The topic for this week was “A Bloody Business: Communicating animal suffering” and boy did that live up to its title. Sitting in my tutorial and watching clips of animals subjected to cruelty for the pleasure of humans was a really eye-opening topic for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve never actually been able to be around animals, but I’ve simply never thought about cruelty towards animals before.

Like most other kids, I went to the aquarium as a special treat. I thought it was amazing, seeing all these wild creatures that we wouldn’t be able to see under normal circumstances. But what you don’t think about is how those animals came to be living in an aquarium, what they’re missing out on, and the family that they got taken from.

Watching Blackfish changed all these thoughts. I watched in horror as baby Orcas were trapped and kidnapped, leaving behind an inconsolable mother crying out in long-range vocals for her baby.

It reminded me very much of the Stolen Generations – with hindsight it is obvious to us how unforgivable these acts were. With all of this knowledge, why are we repeating history and inflicting this pain on to our wild Orcas – a species that has been proven to have a phenomenally developed emotional capacity.

In this aerial view of SeaWorld, you can see how little room the orcas have. Inside the circle is Tilikum, whose nose and tail appear to be able to touch both sides of the tank at the same time.

Lori Marino, a neuroscientist prominently featured in ‘Blackfish’ states

“If you look at, say, the brain of an orca [and] the brain of a human, it would be difficult to say that the human brain was capable of more emotional depth than the orca brain, because what you see in the orca brain is an elaboration on the limbic area that the human brain doesn’t have.”

It is evident that the Orcas in captivity are suffering. The average lifespan of an Orca in captivity is only 9, but in the wild orcas live lifespans similar to that of humans, and can live up to 70-80 years. In the wild, there has never been a report of an orca harming a human being. But in captivity it is a very different figure; there have been three known deaths of orca trainers since 1991 and many others have been injured.

To me it is really clear that we as a society need to have a discussion about the treatment of orcas in captivity, and figure out if we are prepared to continue this detrimental cycle for human enjoyment.