Miss Representation and Representation of the Miss

Please watch:



Wow, I feel so empowered as a woman…

While I could spend months breaking down each of these offensive moments, it is obvious that the representation of women in the media is not pushing a positive message. We can also see that it isn’t just men who are forwarding on these images, but women as well (Miley Cyrus, Carl’s JR participants etc.).

While much of the commentary about women was…. well… embarrassing to the human race, there was plenty of backlash. Rush Limbaugh and Ford motors were only two prominent examples of repeat offenders who issues extensive apologies and retractions.

But is that enough?

The damage is done the instant the context is seen, read or heard. The impression on the audience has been made. So by offering a quick fix with a low-publicity retraction, a lame apology or political punishment by exile is, (to quote Jo-Jo) too little too late. The PR in these situations is interesting because whether it be political or a product, PR reps know you need to watch what you say, especially when it concerns the female half of the global population (click here to read “2013’s Biggest PR #fails”).

This video was compiled by an organization called The Representation Project:

The Representation Project is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness towards change. Interactive campaigns, strategic partnerships and education initiatives inspire individuals and communities to challenge the status quo and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation or circumstance can fulfill their potential.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, take a look: (click here to purchase full version):

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I find this organization… exhilarating, freeing, justifying and powerful. The Representation Project is producing fascinating media every day, striking up debates, raising awareness and making a difference. In 2011, the documentary Miss Representation was released, focusing on how women are commoditized in everyday media. This documentary not only swept film festival awards across the world, but it swept the minds of media critics and birthed the organization.

Writer Katie Walsh at the IndieWire wrote:

At the core of “Miss Representation” is the expression of the need for enhanced media literacy in our culture, especially now, when we are constantly bombarded with screens and images and advertising wherever we go. Understanding that media is a construct (sometimes a mirror of society and sometimes what those in power want us to see), motivated by the economic endeavors of large media conglomerates, is a concept that needs to be taught in schools along with reading, writing and arithmetic. It is scary, but necessary in our brave new world, which needs soldiers to keep fighting the good fight against the passive consumption of media. “Miss Representation” offers us one point of entry into this bubbling stew of an issue, but really any minority group could take up this argument with their own representations on screen, and it’s high time we all took a closer look.

Instilling respect at a young age is a fundamental requirement if we want to balance gender perception. The Representation Project presents important values for women in the west and across the world. But where do we start?


The western perception of Middle Eastern women

Interesting enough, America or “the west” has always fostered a strong interest in the suppression of women in the East. Headlines are splashed with violence against women and point fingers at “the patriarch” to stop sexism. Well, the west isn’t exactly the leader in healthy female media role models. Modernization tactics have targeted the Middle East to adopt the ideal of a “free” woman. After seeing the video above, it’s not so shocking that people in the Second and Third Worlds don’t want to adapt to our hyper-sexualized and degrading female “role model”. It would be going against the grain of many country’s cultures, religions and deeply rooted values. While third wave feminism is a powerful, and in many cases, positive influence, I’m sorry but my daughter will not be watching reruns of Miley Cyrus’ concerts until she’s old enough to vote. There are many representations we want to hide or ignore, a majority originating from the west.

With the media label of “the national war on women”, India is definitely leading headlines of female persecution. According to author and activist Rita Banerjee, within the span of three generations India has systematically targeted and annihilated more than 50 million women from its population. Multiple forms of violence including burnings, acid attacks, beatings and rape threaten women. This has seriously affected the national sex ratio stating 940 women to every 1000 men. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, registered rape cases in India have increased by 900 percent over the past 40 years.


Memorial honoring women who have been victims of rape

A native Indian author, Sunny Hundal, explored India’s brand of religiosity and the perception of the “honor” of women. These views make it particularly difficult to secure the change in attitudes required to address violence against women. Traditional Hindu beliefs require young women to be raised as docile daughters and later obedient wives. Domesticity is a prized characteristic in women and highly sought after in social circles. However, any sort of deviation from these social norms brings shame to the girl and her family, resulting in often-violent public humiliation.

Many journalists in India are beginning to speak out against this violent reaction and preach teaching sons at a young age to respect and cherish a woman’s safety. While this is a small step to a patriarchal and religious battle that is deeply engrained in men and women, awareness of these attitude are important to stimulate change.

File photo of woman walking past riot police outside a gathering in Kabul's stadiumIn lieu of these reports, the west’s perception of India has changed rapidly in a short period of time. In 2010, India was deemed an emerging economic power alongside China, Russia and Brazil (BRIC). This global optimism was derailed in 2011 after a poll issued by Thomson Reuters displayed India as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women (after Afghanistan, The Congo, and Pakistan). The west has reacted by humiliating India in the media, highlighting the violent gang rapes, acid attacks and public honor punishments. With no way to reclaim a status of economic success, India is now dealing with their “women problem”.

I think the problems in India and this project have a great deal in common, because it reveals that America’s view of gender equality is outdated and confused. We devalue women in the media, in social settings and in daily slang (slut, bi***, p****, etc.), yet we hold developing countries to elitist standards that even developed countries has no hope of meeting. It has taken global exposure, mortification and native journalists to force India to deal with its disparagement of women. In order to become a global economic power, India needs to use its cultural context to abdicate laws allowing violence against women.

If as a reader you actually care about furthering this message and changing these misrepresentations of women, then you have to actually do something. It starts at home, and I’m cleaning house:

Due to the personal impact of Miss Representation on my life, I vow:

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1) To no longer use derogatory words that objectify women or are rooted in female stereotypes.

2) To stop this language from happening around me.

3) To not consume medias or products that unfairly sexualize or demean women.

4) To spread The Representation Project’s message to 1 new person every week.

Your turn?


Discriminating Discrimination: #NBCFail

#NBCFail became a popular hashtag used during the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, twitter users criticizing everything from poor editing to lack of sports coverage. Among these criticisms pouring over Twitter, was one particular that wasn’t as hilarious as the others.Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 7.53.57 PM

Twitter users went in an uproar when the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, gave a brief address in the opening Olympics. The uproar was not over the content of Bach’s speech, but instead the key content NBC chose to omit for viewers at home.

“It is possible—even as competitors—to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason,” read one portion of the speech that NBC edited out of the ceremony.

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 8.01.10 PMWith anti gay laws, violent protests and an impending war with the Ukraine, this is not the time to edit out peace talk during the world’s union of athletic achievement. While NBC claims the edits were made strictly for time and had no intention of targeting the anti-gay issues in Russia, it is an interesting decision in the height of speculation. When it all comes down to it, these cuts are made for the purpose of squeezing in more advertising, aka profit, profit, profit. Bach’s words of equality and acceptance all disappeared behind promos of limited time Olympic sized furniture sales.

While sponsors and commercials are necessary, in times of great political and social distress, it seems a little shallow to cover them up with Mcdonald’s promos.

However this is not the first time NBC has chosen a particularly sensitive moment to edit out. During the opening ceremonies at the 2012 London Olympics, the tribute to the victims of the 2007 terrorist attacks in that city were cut. Instead, an interview with American swimmer Michael Phelps was played. In comparison, the swimmer most likely could have waited. In explanation, NBC stated “our programming is tailored for the U.S. audience.” Because non of the 52 victims were American, I guess there wasn’t any point in airing the tribute.


Well who can argue with reasons like that? Western media has never been the most reliable with adequate portrayal of international news or conflict, unless it is in direct association with the U.S. Instead of capitalizing on this opportunity to preach equality and tolerance, it seemed the easier model to promote fast food eating. NBC entertainment doesn’t pride itself on political activism, so I guess we shouldn’t expect it to be it’s highest priority.

Some more funny #NBCfail Tweets:Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 8.01.26 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-02 at 7.53.45 PM

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Sochi Sponsors can’t “Think Positively” and definitely aren’t “Lovin’ it”


LGBT Protest outside the Olympic Winter Games 2014

Everyone dreads that PR Nightmare. The moment that every crisis management tool you’ve ever learned flies out the window and you’re left to be eaten alive by the public. Well Sochi Olympic sponsors are definitely being eaten alive  in the controversial platform that is Russia. Sponsors were warned about the volatile environment under Putin, regarding aggressive laws against homosexual behavior and LGBT activists. With stringent laws banning “gay propaganda” and violent public arrests of gay-rights protesters, the world has taken notice of everything but the games. Definitely not what big time sponsors McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola had in mind.

Having sponsored the Olympics for decades, these companies are experiencing serious backlash from their silence regarding various human rights outcries. As written in each company’s mission statement, the UN’s Ten Guiding Principles are of utmost importance. Well…according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, implementing respect for human rights in a corporate context has three primary components:Britain Russia Soschi Protest

  1. A policy commitment to meet the responsibility to respect human rights;
  2. A due diligence process to identify, prevent, mitigate and be accountable for human rights abuses; and
  3. Processes to enable the remediation of any adverse human rights impacts the company causes or to which it contributes.
Sochi, we have a problem.
Corporations definitely skipped over this part. After having twitter campaigns hijacked (#CheerstoSochi), Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have had to make defensive statements regarding the world’s uproar, stating they support the “spirit of the games”, not the politics. So why should they get involved? Well, other corporations have spoken out to stop LGBT injustice…awkward.

Here is a list of corporations actively supporting LGBT this Olympics:


A Time for Pride & Equality

American Apparel:

American Apparel's P6 clothing line in support of gay rights at the Sochi Olympics.

American Apparel created the P6 clothing line is in support of LGBT at Olympics






















This all brings up a very interesting realization: while many people are slamming silent corporations online and planning global boycotts, they aren’t the ones who chose the location of the Olympics. Shouldn’t the International Olympics Committee (IOC) be the one on trial? Why pick Russia in the first place? In an interesting interview with Mindy Worden of Human Rights Watch (HRW), she explains that Putin’s “gay propaganda” law has been tracked since inception (anyone remember the band Pussy Riot?). Worden states that “they [IOC] had ample time to put the pressure on Russia…If they had leaned on [Russia] before the law was signed, it would not have been signed.”

So why didn’t they? While the IOC cannot outrightly comment on the political decisions of Russia, it can definitely decide on a less volatile and oppressive location. Among the human rights infringements, other issues arose with the decision of Sochi:
  1. The safety of Olympic athletes (not that it should matter but in this case LGBT athletes).

    Enough said. If the safety of any athlete is in question, shouldn’t it be a no brainer?

  2. Sochi’s history of genocide.
Sochi-ProtestThe little known fact among westerners is that Sochi has a bloody history for the indigenous people of Northwest Caucasus. The place of  “Europe’s first modern genocide” occurred in 1859 in the land that is now called Sochi. Russia drove hundreds of thousands of Circassian people from their land where they were then massacred and excommunicated to the Ottoman Empire. This long standing ethnic conflict has fueled jihad extremists and frequent act of terrorism.
Let’s put that into perspective; on a larger scale, this is similar to Germany proposing to build an Olympic arena on top of concentration camps. A place of great sorrow and ethnic cleansing is NOT a place for the celebration of the “spirit of the games”.
Apparently, American multinational corporations did not realize the extent people would go to “throw down”. It will be difficult for these companies to recover from this perceived hypocrisy and even harder for them to appear genuine about their future LGBT relation efforts. It is predicted that this backlash is just the beginning and will last long after Sochi.
 The Drum, conducted a contest for “How Sochi sponsors could support the LGBT cause”, and they came up with some pretty amazing suggestions:
omb12 omb6 omb5 #see_low
click here to see more.

All Adventurous Women Do: HBO’s GIRLS

Love it or hate it but it’s back!



tumblr_mkfts4kIIK1rcxyqko1_500Everyone has their own opinion about the HBO hit series Girls. In fact, everyone has an opinion about everything in this new show. While 25-year-old creator Lena Dunham has received copious amounts of praise, she has also been under fire for her “excessive” nudity, all white cast and entitled characters. Whether or not you subscribe to a side, Girls speaks a lot of truth about modern day women, even if many of us don’t admit it. Beyond this, the simple fact that Dunham write, directs, and stars in her own material, gives her serious feminist authority in Hollywood. But how do feminism and seriously flawed characters mix?


When a woman first sees Girls, there is a mixture of reactions that are to follow. Burst of exuberant laughter, jaw slacked shock and a lot of cringing… just to name a few that I’ve experienced. But by far the most justifying result is actually identifying with the complex and self-deprecating female characteristics. Girls female orientation allows the show to actually focus on women, and women are crazy. This means body image, abortion, hating your friends, grappling with emotional insanity, and every sexual awkwardness you can imagine, all crammed into a daily glimpse of these four women’s lives. Each character has a refreshing amount of “looking like absolute sh**” days intermingled with fresh faced normality. Not only do these women bear all in the bedroom, they have no problem bearing breakouts, belly folds, and unflattering angles. And it’s amazing.


“These scenes shouldn’t shock, but they do, if only because in a culture soaked in Photoshop and Botox, few powerful women open themselves up so aggressively to the judgment of voyeurs.” –New York Magazine Blog

Dunham doesn’t make any apologies for shots of her cellulite or for the show’s “disastrous celebration of entitlement and helplessness.” What about the mixed opinions of her female dominated audience? The show glorifies damaged, conceited women in search of “self-worth” in a series of seemingly insignificant moments. Lena gives insight on her choice depictions:

“I feel so lucky that we are not called to any standard of sort of sweet female decency,” Dunham said. “We get to depict these girls in all their kind of flawed glory.” – Lena Dunham

Purposely making women look “bad”, shouldn’t Lena Dunham be a disappointment to feminism? Now it gets interesting.

Depending on which wave of feminism you subscribe to, if any, this show falls under the Third-wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid definitions of femininity, which often assumed a universal female role and over-emphasized the experiences of upper-middle-class white women. In addition, third-wave feminists believe there needs to be further changes in the stereotypes of women and in the media portrayals of women as well as in the language that has been used to define women. In other words, women can challenge stereotype by dressing and portraying themselves exactly how they are.


You wouldn’t think that would be too different from baseline feminism, however think about the last time you saw that one girl downtown with a low-cut top in a short skirt and heels.


What words came to your mind?

Yeah, no thanks. If you are like a majority of judgmental women or men, some pretty derogatory words came upfront and center. That doesn’t float in this wave. That one girl is a woman, therefore, she can wear and portray herself anyway she wants. Who are you to label her as a “slut” because that’s what society says a “slut” looks like? And doesn’t using the word “slut” against other women, give men the impression that it’s ok to treat us as thus?

Unapologetically realistic, these strongly flawed and frustrating characters portray this exact type of feminist view. They do what they want, feel what they want and they do it all exactly how they want to.

This concept is interesting because it shows us that many popular female media icons were falsely “perfectified”. A majority of women on TV play identical roles: the hot-naggy housewife of the idiot husband, the hot-dumb neighbor, the hot-nerdy girl, the hot…you get it. All of these women and their bodies have been sanitized for your home viewing experience.  Jen Spyra of Tablet tackles the revelation of real women on TV:

girls i dont care

“With Girls, we’re treated to characters who have the bodies of normal women and talk about relatable, realistic issues in language that truly reflects the way that girls talk now. Compare this to what we usually get: an endless volley of only-on-TV quips spouted by only-on-TV faces attached to only-on-TV bods.”

Also weighing in on the realistic portrayal of women’s bodies, New York Magazine commented:

“There is no shortage of nudity on cable television, of course, where strip-downs are your prize for watching an “adult” series—porn with purchase, like a trip to the Champagne Room. But the sex on Girls isn’t a reward, it’s a revelation…It’s a show about life lived as a rough draft—something well intentioned, possibly promising, but definitely begging for cruel critiques.”

Even though it feels like the media may have beat this statement into the curb, I have to say for myself, the amount of attention Lena Dunham receives for her particular nudity is a clear sign that people are all talk. You’d think men and women would be so excited about real bodies in the media as opposed to the constant photoshop controversies and uplifting “natural” model selections. Well, what people are really saying is if the model is 5 pounds over weight, it’s a pretty “daring” move and really going to take the world “by storm”.

Please. Maybe a drop of rain.

Lena Dunham has made a truly feminist statement with her genius portrayal of real life women in HBO’s Girls in all their annoying, self-serving and completely realistic character flaws. To leave you with my favorite quote:


Yoga Man: Lululemon’s Leadership Shift

lululemonIt’s time for a change. Like actually, change your pants. Lululemon is also trying to change your mind about their pants. After the “I see London, I see France” incident, I actually appreciated the response of “we sin”sheerly” apologize” and “we want to be transparent with you”. It’s rare that a company not only owns their mistakes, but then points fun at itself for making them. Next came the messy comments of co-founder Chris Wilson that truly offended Lululemon customers and women in general to the point of boycott and the pressure to put a new face on Lulu was on.

While this piece isn’t focused on a cultural representation, it’s looking at how a company can use a CEO to channel certain reactions and emotions from consumers. For example, Steve Jobs was and still is tied directly to Apple products and that creates a more humanizing affect on the items we purchase at the Mac Store. In Lululemon’s case, they needed all the humanizing they could get.  With a co-founder like Wilson who tried to determine what “types” of women could wear his product, Lulu was now the elitist Abercrombie & Fitch of the fitness world.

Analyst Sterne Agee singled out Chip Wilson in a note he wrote to clients regarding Lululemon. He said the company risked losing current and future customers because of recent controversy of Wilson’s insensitive comments.

“We believe that the core Lululemon customer has been alienated and will begin to look for yoga and active-wear pants from the likes of Nike, Under Armour, Athleta and numerous other brands,” analyst Sam Poser wrote, before downgrading the company’s stock.nts regarding women’s bodies.


Laurent Potdevin, LuluLemon’s new CEO has definitely been put on the hot seat. With a few dents in Lululemon’s pastimage, Potdevin had to make a quick impression on shareholder’s and the public. What better way to do that than incorporating some impromptu conference calls, a silent indie film and of course, some yoga poses.

Lululemon is known for its unusual “behind the scenes” bonding tools and motivations, but throwing your new CEO into the spotlight of the film world is a new level.

“We wanted to acknowledge that audience, say hello to it and introduce Laurent, and also provide him with the space he needs to really focus internally,’ Hayes explains. ‘The first 60-90 days for the new CEO have to be internally focused, so that he gets a good sense of the business. It’s after that that he would be meeting with people on the investor side,’” (Therese Hayes, vice president of communications at Lululemon).

With this “exposing” approach, board members want to integrate Podevin fully into the company’s community to regain the consumer’s loyalty. And everyone is excited about it.

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Lululemon wanted to show a male role model who lived the life an ideal Lululemon’s costumer would want to live. Potdevin’s resume entails companies like Burton and TOM’s, perfectly dialing him into the persona of a Lulu customer which are dominantly upper class white women who have time for yoga. 

This video was a genius way to connect the new boss to the consumer.  By showcasing his hobbies and interests to the shareholders and the public, consumers are able to identify with him on a more intimate level.  The silent film gives the piece a touch of class by not drowning the audience in empty promises and yoga mantras. You experience Potdevin’s day alongside him.

Many companies put the main focus on their product and their endorsements. Having had so much unwanted attention cast on the company following Wilson and the see-through-pants issue, Lululemon made a smart decision to deliberately introduce their new leading man to the world.  If companies continue to create this bridge between leadership and consumer, it will be interesting to see how these relationships will effect further representations among core customers.

Go Washington… “Are you kidding me it’s 2014’s!

“Scalp ‘um, Swamp ‘um!”chief-wahoo

Ah yes, the good ol’ days where racism was just public opinion and political correctness didn’t exist. Where painting your skin the color of another ethnicity was funny and racial slurs were a part of everyday conversations. Oh yes, how I miss the good times of 2014. Oh wait…what?

The topic of race is not as easy to discuss as many may believe it to be. It is personal, it is subjective and it is political. People accused of racism are publicly scorned, exiled and punishable by law. However, if your race is small enough (due to the racial genocide of over 50 million native people by the end of the 20th century), corporate America makes the rules.

cartoon-lalo-honoring-you-001The Washington R*dskins have not been open to change. They are notoriously known to be the last pro team to integrate non-white players in 1962. So maybe it should be a surprise that the team’s owner Dan Snyder, is quoted saying, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.” The word R*dskins, a highly offensive and derogatory term used to identify Native Americans or Indians, has been defended in “honor” of Native Americans. I don’t recall the N-word being received “honorably” when an enraged Riley Cooper, a white wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, yelled it at a country music concert…interesting. While this issue, is one I feel intensely passionate about I am going to make sure this blog post focuses purely on Dan Snyder’s recent #winning attempt at positive PR.


Can you imagine? Nope.

In Snyder’s recent letter, he claims a multitude of justifying motives to keep the team’s name. Well, turns out journalists like to check their facts. Unfortunately for Dan, none of his were true. Not only did he lie about the inaugural coach’s native background, he did not have the support from local tribes. It was in fact the opposite as the Oneida Indian Nation has made multiple attempts to sit down and discuss a name change. That’s definitely a few penalty flags. Snyder continues to illustrate an emotional memory of his first R*dskin’s game he attended with his late father and how the name had no racist connotation at that time. Well, Dan Snyder is now 49 years old. At the time he attended the game with his father he was about 9 (I assume as he still had a childlike desire to hold a parent’s hand in public), therefore we are looking at the mid 1970s. And because racism wasn’t a big deal in the 70s, (which it was) and you didn’t notice it then (because people were racist), that makes it ok now (it doesn’t). Seems logical Dan.

But who cares? Uh oh wait, a lot of people. FightingWhites

In 2002, students at the University of Northern Colorado formed the intramural basketball team “The Fighting Whites” in response to the local and national Native American mascot controversy. The team consisted of students with Latino, White and Native American ethnicity and used a stereotypical 1950s white male as their mascot.

76 news outlets and journalists have banned the r-word (because it is universally recognized as a racial slur) and refuse to publish it. This includes 35 newspapers, 18 TV outlets, and 13 online organizations.

In 2013, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray raised the issue, stating that the team should lose its trademark protection because the name is disparaging.

In May 2013, 10 members of Congress wrote Dan Snyder begging him to change the name.

There have been multiple blogs, stories and articles posted about the Dan Snyder’s R*dskins. My favorite is an open letter addressed to Dan Snyder, written by Dave Zirin of Grantland. He uses these quotes to illustrate his obvious opinion:

“We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.”

George Preston Marshall; founder of the Washington Redskins, 1961

So why hasn’t it changed? How does Dan Snyder, the owner of a means of entertainment, have more control of this decision than the President of the United States, members of Congress, the Mayor of D.C. and the affected race of Native Americans. Scary thought, huh?

While I’m sure there are 100 reasons people can come up with to keep the name (none of which Dan Snyder thought of), there is one reason to change it: It’s racist. If only that were the bottom line in every case.

“There’s gonna come a time – I don’t know when it is, 20 years, 40 years, whenever – there’s gonna come a time when people are gonna look back and say can you believe those idiots thought Redskins was appropriate?” he said. “That day is coming, because the Redskins will be so far removed from the NFL you’re gonna need a microscope to find it. It’s here for now, but it won’t be for long.” – Gregg Doyel, CBS Sports columnist.


Hail to the Redskins!

Hail, victory!

Braves on the warpath!

Fight for Old D.C.!

Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘um

We will take ‘um big score

Read ‘um, Weep ‘um, touchdown

We want heap more

Fight on, fight on, till you have won

Sons of Washington

Rah! Rah! Rah!

Original lyrics (1962 to ’80s) 

Pornography of Poverty: The Pity Games

What are the first three words that come to mind when thinking about Africa? Poverty? AIDS? Genocide? Better yet, what are the first three images? Having grown up during the rise of the tear jerking, white guilting and money demanding “Sponsor a child in Africa” commercials, I had my perception of Africa drawn up for me. I was convinced at an early age that Africans were the definition of the “third world”.

Remember this guy?

Remember this guy?

But, over the years, these commercials lost their impact. I became numb and unattached, even to the most depressing Ken-Burns induced imagery. But Why?

The answer is Poverty Porn.

Angelina Jolie photo accused of poverty porn

Poverty Pornography has had critical implications on international development because it alters the western world’s perception of the third world. Poverty Porn is any media form that exploit’s impoverished people’s condition in order to gain sympathy from the viewer and increase charitable donations. This term is most associated with black, poverty-stricken Africans, and focus mainly on helpless children. This damaging pornography (what pornography isn’t damaging?), has painted the picture of a feeble, dependent and pitiful continent.

Somali pirates in Captain Phillips

Somali pirates in Captain Phillips

In addition to the stereotypes of needy villages, Africa has another media fueled image: The Angry African Man. When the western world see African men, it is mainly through the Hollywood lens. With viral videos like Kony 2012, award winning movies like Captain Phillips and white-man-savior-archetypes like the Machine Gun Preacher, African men are nothing short of bloodthirsty and war crazed villains. Many Hollywood productions exploit the western world’s lack of knowledge of Africa and instills pity and fear of the unpredictable nature of Africans. This isn’t the 17th century, so why are we propagating “fear the inferior” propaganda in our media?

Well, it is time to reimagine Africa.

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“Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential.”

 This is the mission of the California-based organization, Mama Hope.

“We started this series so you could begin to reimagine Africa. It is only when people are no longer seen through the stereotypes of poverty that we can begin to see we are not so different from each other. We wanted our supporters to see that Africa is full of progress, potential, and hope. The “Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential” video campaign is our first step towards building a global society based on hope and connection. If you agree with us, join our movement and raise awareness!” – Mama Hope’s Mission Statement

The Mama Hope series began with this viral video:

Released on the heels of the Kony 2012 video explosion, this video works to revitalize a relationship between the viewer and the organization’s goal, providing a platform for African voice and personality. Nyla Rodgers, the founder of Mama Hope, created the nonprofit in order to help develop education, health, and children’s programs in Africa. Using this positive mentality, Mama Hope is using intelligent, socially responsible and culturally aware native people to illustrate the bigger picture of Africa. And they’re funny too. When asked about Mama Hope’s lack of negative perspective, Mama unicefHope’s blog responded in saying:

“While such tragedies do affect certain populations of the large continent, they should not be used as a defining tool or marketing strategy. It’s just plain inaccurate.”- Mama Hope Blog 

Mama Hope is an organization that has changed the way many people see Africa and African’s potential. The organization doesn’t want support because you feel sorry for them, they want support because you believe in them. This refreshing marketing strategy allows Africans to take back the image of themselves

and their country. Using this campaign, hopefully Mama Hope can help to stop the western media’s negative representations of Africa and it’s people.

Another fun video from Mama Hope, highlighting an African’s view of Americans based solely on Hollywood stereotypes:


ATTENTION: Blog Series Update

I’m back, finally.

Last year, my eyes were opened to the concept of blogging. Terrified, I fought through many awkward memoirs, media analyses and mini self realizations. In the beginning, this blog’s purpose was to understand different advertising angles and strategies. This process gave me a lot of insight that changed how I currently view ads, movies, television, and really, all media in general. With this new understanding, it is time (drum roll please…) to take it to the next level.IMG_6685

In my J452 Strategic Public Relations Communications class, we were asked to choose a topic in which we can relate to public relations. After my experience analyzing advertisements, I’m now evolving this idea and focusing on why and how certain themes are or are not represented in the media. I will be blogging about the representations of race, gender, and culture in the media. This entails understanding the content of these themes and their cultural consequences.

Seneca Cayuga's Tribal Logo

Seneca Cayuga’s Tribal Logo

I was inspired to understand more about this topic in my J412 Representation of Native Americans in the Media class. Over the last two weeks alone, I have learned more about America’s history than my 12 years of public schooling combined. I also am personally committed to this understanding because I am part Indian (Seneca Cayuga Tribe) and have multiple family members living on Indian-country reservations. It is amazing that there is so much information available to North American society but nevertheless we choose to listen to the same news outlets with the same repeated information, the same radio stations with the same top-40 with the same people everyday of our everyday lives.

And we thought we were getting “smarter”.

Nope. In reality, we are drowning in the same inflatable pool everyday under the weight of the same information.

So here’s to learning how to swim. My goal in this blog will be to learn and relay as many skills as possible to identify false, absent, and stereotypical representations in the media and becoming part of the solution to fix them.

Let’s start kicking.

#15: Coca Cola’s Peace Venture

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished


Coca Cola is by far my favorite beverage brand. The fact that they have created a brand based on “happiness” and customer satisfaction makes it that much easier to adore their efforts. When I saw this ad, I was even more touched by the company. When a company as large as Coca Cola commits themselves to actually living out their brand and expressing their identity, it strengthens and grows their consumer base and their already appreciative audience.

In this ad, Coca Cola and Leo Burnett set out to create happiness between the complicated relationship of Pakistan and India using the simple message of “happiness”.



Adweek’s Gabriel Beltrone describes his opinion of the ad in the weekly breakdown: 

"Touching" Worlds

“Touching” Worlds

“The political element raises the stakes considerably, though. Cola diplomacy runs the risk of coming across as painfully naive by oversimplifying a complex issue that’s tangled up in a long history of imperialism, religious conflict and nuclear stand-off, to name a few factors. Coke frames this powder keg of a problem as, on some level, simply one of miscommunication—because that’s small enough that the brand can then frame itself as the solution…But really, what the brand is taking minor steps toward is selling more sugar water in a way that isn’t explicitly about selling more sugar water, and has at least the veneer of a higher purpose.”



While I completely understand and partly agree with Beltrone’s analysis of Coca Cola’s effort, I think the issue at hand is much simpler.

Youth United

Youth United

If Coca Cola had decided to actually insert themselves into the thorny relationship between Pakistan and India, what would that look like? An American corporation intervening in international political affairs with no prior experience or with any right. What can Coke do? It would be completely ineffective if not unheard of and no one would ever do that. The other option is to do nothing and remain indifferent about world issues as a large corporation.

Or you take the middle path, creating a simple communicative way for the younger demographic to interact. Nothing too invasive or politically charged, just simple interactions of tracing, dancing, drawing, waving and laughing. This effort by Coca Cola established the perfect mix of social awareness with appropriate corporate effort. It brings attention to the issues surrounding the Pakistan and India conflict while staying surface level enough to keep it fun and innovative. Coca Cola’s goal of “create a simple moment of connection” was accomplished.

Small steps to solve big issues

Small steps to solve big issues

The Huffington Post’s Dominique Mosbergen posted praise over the campaign, “Admittedly, it’s hard to ignore the video’s promotional gimmicks: Coke cans are dispensed whenever someone fulfills an instruction, for example. Nevertheless, the warm smiles and frank willingness of the people in the video — people usually divided by armed barriers and political enmity — to connect with each other will touch your heart.”