When you’re part of a dominant class you don’t realize how differently you see the world. Sure, I’m ethnically Hispanic and have suffered humiliation and financial consequences over one overt racist incident. But by and large the world is my oyster. I’m a man and racially I’m white. In fact I’ve had coworkers come to me and disparage Hispanics (all-to-often a codeword for Mexicans – especially Illegal Mexicans – in the USA) and then say, “they’re not like us white guys.” So for the most part I never saw anything awry with pop culture. In fact, one of the few times I realized consciously that I wasn’t actually represented on TV was when I did see myself represented on TV in the form of reruns of the TV show ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.?. The show was exactly about me – it was about kids (although I think they were high school age or older) who were born in the USA to Cuban immigrants and whose grandparents only spoke Spanish. It was odd and fascinating and I couldn’t get enough of it. But other than that one year or so when I saw those reruns, I was able to identify with virtually any TV show. I could see myself as Chandler, Ross, or Joey in Friends. (Or as a character on Full House or Home Improvement) Now, I loved showed with African Americans like Hangin’ with Mr Cooper, Family Matters, The Cosby Show, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air so it’s not as though I needed to see myself in TV. But until I started poking around on the Internet as an adult I never realized that for people like African Americans, those four shows were almost the only opportunity they had to see themselves on TV (especially in a positive sense). And forget it if you’re Asian! (including Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis) I came to realize that I had been as naive about the entertainment landscape as those white couples from the 1920s who use to take trips to Harlem on the weekend to experience the Jazz and other aspects of African American culture. At the end of the trip they could retreat to their comfortable lives while the African Americans were stuck there.
And then, last year, I had a girl. I made a few missteps in my senior year of high school, but over all I’ve always been deeply respectful to women. I never referred to them as bitches or treated them like sex objects or property. I never leered at breasts or butts or had to be told to look at a woman’s face. What I suddenly realized, after having a girl, is that the entertainment world is not nearly as respectful to women. Sometimes it’s extremely innocuous such as when females in pop culture aren’t given anything useful to do. I read an essay a few years ago about a woman who loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when she was a kid. When she went back and re-read it she was disgusted that none of the women had any agency and Fenchurch was magically killed because Douglas Adams was having a bad day. Sometimes the pop culture disrespect comes from an attempt to appeal to men. Compare super hero costumes for men and women:
The ridiculous nature really comes to light when you see people try putting men in the same costumes they give women:
and then there are the weird poses which the Hawkeye Initiative help point out:
And that doesn’t even get into the concept of video girls in music videos whose only purpose is to titillate. And that doesn’t even get to the whole women in fridges thing.
But what really got started on this post was Childish Gambino. I love listening to Childish Gambino because he has such great lines like:
Freakin’ awesome, right? OK, so maybe you don’t like word-play as much as I do (I love me some puns), and I’d like to share this verbal gynmastics with Scarlett, but then there are lyrics like:
“E.E. cummin’ on her face, now that’s poetry in motion”
“Dirty girls love my dick, they’re cock-roaches
Jewish girls eat my meat, it’s not kosher”
and so on. Most music is made from the point of view of men and with stuff like this it’s not all that great to sing along to with my daughter near me. And, I haven’t even gotten into how women are treated in TV shows and movies. Most of this is old hat to women, but I didn’t really realize it was so bad and now I wonder how we actually end up with girls making it to womanhood and not being all messed up from all the messages they’re constantly getting from the media. It’s going to be an interesting 18 years…..