Friday, April 8, 2011

Alternative Media, Carpe Diem....

William Bernbach, an American advertising executive, once said, "All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgerize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level." In a society shrouded by a biased, gender-specific media conglomerate, Bernbach's argument becomes clear. The images and ads society displayed before individuals represent the process of conformity for not only women, but also for minorities to the media's portrayals. According to Rebecca Bullen, "girls, specifically young girls, are bombarded with images of women as powerless, passive victims noted primarily for their bodies and sex rather than their minds and capabilities." We even see that many immigrants endure hostility from the America society (generally speaking) due to the negative, stereotypical images with them. Grace Smith states in her article, "Take that stupid rag off your head, you terrorist," or "Go back to your country" are some of the hostile responses towards the Arabian-immigrant community. However, who is to say that we HAVE to conform and subject to the tyranny of bullshit? As people, we do have a say how we live, breathe, and interact with our society, but that say comes with a price and that price is rebellious creativity. We CAN ultimately CHOOSE to reject and repulse these manipulating forces through the use of alternative media.

Alternative forms of media are usually expressed through the similar outliers as the mainstream media (video, music, magazines, and ads) but unlike their mainstream counterparts, alternative media seeks to bring awareness to and educate those who have been seduced by mass society into taking on the role of the perfect woman, the stereotypical minority. This leads me to introduce the non-profit organization that I currently volunteer/intern for, Latin Women in Action. While we may be a local community organization, that is not to say the least that we do not represent a strong alternative medium. Founded and incorporated in 1990, LWA is committed to leadership, self-sufficiency, good citizenship, organizing, advocacy and development and empowerment of (generally) Latina women and their families. Moreover, it does not discriminate on the basis of the individual's race, language, sexual orientation, and physical impediments. The organization promotes awareness to young females on the issues of health, domestic violence, education, housing, employment, etc. What makes this organization a significant representation of alternative media is via how we address the community and NYC as a whole. Through the use of fliers, pamphlets, education courses, teen talks, and (most importantly) one-on-one consultations, our organization gradually plays a significant part in demoralizing the sanctions of the mainstream media. By being a part of this (solely female) organization, I have allowed myself the satisfaction of understanding the Hispanic community much more in-depth, giving back to the community, and proving that the pregnant Latina teenagers or the poorly educated Latin minorities (I fucking hate hearing the latter terminology) that have supposedly "taken all of the jobs" are completely absurd in the mainstream media.

In the article, "The Power and Impact of Gender-Specific Media Literacy," Bullen states, "Every day we are bombarded with thousands of advertisements. But what exactly are the advertisers trying to sell us? Are they simply trying to sell a product or is the product inconsequential and the real objective is to sell us a mindset that would make us, the public, more eager consumers?" If it's one thing that I can advocate for, it would be that the LWA organization succeeds where some local organizations fail because we sell back to women and immigrants their lives, we sell the opportunity to live justly in an unjust society, we sell the courage to oppose what's seen on television and in magazines, and we sell them the tools necessary to see the aforementioned through with no strings attached and without the fine print.

Another intriguing form of alternative media that has fought in the backlash towards biased mainstream media is Alternative Radio, "weekly one-hour public affairs programs offered free to all public radio stations in the U.S. Established in 1986, AR is dedicated to the founding principles of public broadcasting, which urge that programming serve as "a forum for controversy and debate," be diverse and "provide a voice for groups that may otherwise be unheard." This alt. news organizations is successful because roughly two years ago, Alt. Radio featured a program that assessed the civil rights and harsh violence towards of Pakistani women after the assassination of prominent figure Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who advocated for a female justice system and civil rights. According to the program, the ill-fated demise of Bhutto subsequently resulted in many Pakistani women becoming subjected to similar fates, which, in turn, resulted in the deaths of these innocent victims and the punishment of their victimizers to go unaccounted for. Personally, it really disgusts me as to how the subjugation and ethic cleansing of women in developing nations can go without punishment to certain extremes, while our American nation insists on promoting that image as the ideal template for social norms in the current American media industry, especially if the target audience are women.

It's only a matter of time before the Internet "kills the video star" and becomes the prevalent problem of the 22nd century. Scholars, sociologists, political scientists, students, and you can all help in bringing the fight right to the front door of mainstream media via independent, alternative substreams and NOW! It's never too late to have a voice in society rather than for that same society to provide one for you.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good PEOPLE to do nothing.”

~ Edmund Burke

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