Friday, April 8, 2011

Why we need Wilson...

We will take our existence back...eventually.

That is precisely my understanding of women and minorities in the media. We can say as much as we'd like in the walls of Hunter College, but the fact is unless we truly wish to change the way women and minorities are portrayed in the media, nothing will change. I am realizing now the power that women and minorities have in media—It is a great deal of power. We may always play the sidekicks and the “token” person to fill in the story, but without us, they have nothing. Only Tom Hanks gets the award for being a singular white man in a movie, and playing the role so well that it was still entertaining. Remember though, that he still needed Wilson, and even Wilson had dreads ;).

Otherwise, to make the story, to make the movie, you need an amazing supporting cast…And just imagine how awesome it would be, to allow those characters to play the starring role. Mariah Carey started out as a back-up singer, and once she tasted stardom, never looked back

The point of the examples above is to show that our lives are in our control. Whether or not we exert that control, is up to us. One quote from Weiner’s article that really stuck with me was, Knowing the power of media to shape the public’s cultural perceptions with stories and images, I thought that media could be used to help girls’ asset development.To me, this is a brilliant assessment of the role we could play in shaping our own lives, and the lives of the young girls growing up in this “free” society, which tell them that they’ll never be anything, but someone’s sidekick or eye candy. The same assessment goes for minorities. There is always the running joke that the “black person dies first” in horror movies…and you know what? A lot of the time, it's true. S/he either dies first, or dies the most gruesome death. What can we do to change this?

I tried to find an outlet for women’s media, and I decided to use International Women’s Media Foundation ( I really respect the international coverage this organization has with respect to women. Often, women are constantly made to be seen as victims, and pigeon-holed to be in remote parts of the world. This organization shows the oppression, the strength and the hope of women all across the globe. In the Weiner article (“Highlighting Girls…”), she states, “Instead of surrendering to fit in, girls experience that this environment is about having ideas and sharing them to fit in—a perspective she carries into the other components of her life.” To me, this is a remarkable statement. If we can show girls alternative methods of expressing themselves, and alternative ways of receiving the media surrounding them, we might be able to truly transform the media in which they are represented. IWMF does just that. They provide women with the tools they need to not only have a voice period, but to have and maintain a voice in the newsrooms they will later work in. They carry their skills in a male-dominated arena, and they compete with valor, and strength. In my eyes, that is what makes this website so powerful, and so successful. They have been around over 20 years, they are doing something right.

Their mission is to “strengthen the role of women in the news media worldwide as a means to further freedom of the press.” In order to truly experience freedom, all participants must be free. IWMF demonstrates through numerous articles, conferences, awards, studies and reports the strength of women, and women of color in particular, when they are united under one common goal: Respect. They possess four unique goals in their coverage: Building a network, Cultivating leaders, pioneering change and honoring courage. Women helping women is not a new idea, but women helping women by consistently and increasingly providing support, and an opportunity to share their voices regardless of their situation, is an idea that has seldom made a permanent impact.

This organization embodies the voice that is so frequently taken away from women. In the Smith article, the quote that made the greatest impact to me is, “We cannot be silenced.” Read it. Repeat it. Imagine having your voice removed. And not the sound itself, oh no, people can hear you, but your strength, and courage, and your impact removed. Everyone hears you, but no one listens. IWMF allows women to have a voice, to create their voice, and to replace the voice once taken away from them. On the sidebar, there is even an article on Raghida Dergham, a reporter of IWMF being named one of the 100 most powerful Arab women. What an honor and what an impact she has made in the lives of the girls not yet born in the Arab nations. What an impact she has made in the lives of the young girls who know what life can be like where they live.

With more organizations such as this, we can provide women and minorities with the tools to shape the future of their world. We may not be able to change society overnight, but given the right tools, the right connections, unity and persistence we can help others change their world, one portrayal at a time.

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