Trigger Warning: This post discusses multiple survivors’ sexual assault experiences and may be triggering for others who have also experienced sexual assault.
If you have been keeping up with the University of Idaho news lately, you will notice the attention a 2013 sexual assault case is getting. The Idaho Statesman recently discovered a survivor’s testimony on a blog site, and ran a story that covered the investigation. (Read here). Long story short, the survivors did not receive the help from the athletic department they needed. Both people involved were athletes at UI, but the athletic department only protected the assaulter. The survivors then went to the Women’s Center, and the staff there took the case to the Dean of Students for an investigation. The assaulter was no longer allowed to play football at UI. However, he is now playing for a team in New York (which I do not agree with, but that is a conversation for another day).
Throughout all of this buzz, I have heard some comments questioning why the survivor did not go directly to the Dean of Students. Some of these comments were in poor taste. Others were genuinely curious. Even though the two women who were sexually assaulted at UI chose to report their assault to the police and the athletic department, it is common for survivors to never report. But why?
In America’s fashion industry, the “plus-size” identity has always been a prominent component. This “size” range is considered sizes 8 and above, and isn’t carried in every store. From my perspective, I never noticed any sort of shaming or disrespect towards women that don’t weigh 100 pounds in the media, but of course how could I? I was only a young teen in the grocery stores looking at the covers, I couldn’t possibly notice all the praise of major weight losses that are just subtle conditioning set in our societies to convince us losing weight is a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong, adjusting your life in order to be a healthy you is a great thing. Me being an exercise freak, I think it feels amazing to set a body goal and achieve it but I’ve never been told I had to change like a lot of women have in the fashion world. There are all types of trends today in the beauty and health industry that I’m sure the older generations might not legitimately believe are popular because advancements in makeup, skinny teas and dieting techniques, and online weight loss plans have become so accessible.
“I don’t watch the news, it’s all negative.” Comments like these are said every day to justify society’s apathetic attitude towards the press. But if everything on the news is negative, shouldn’t that spark our passion for combating these horrifying issues? Why would we choose to neglect the social injustice we see in media? We cannot afford to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world.
According to Sasa Vucinic’s TedTalk, 83-percent of the population on this planet lives in societies without independent press. This means 83-percent of the world doesn’t truly know what’s going on in their countries. These people are deprived of knowing their own reality. In the United States, the press and media give us the power to tell the truth. Continue reading “Truth is Power”→
Disclaimer! I am not a scientist, I am not a biology major. What I report in this post is what I have found on my own. I am learning about this along with you, so if you see something wrong let me know. Thank you.
Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I am going to continue with the breast cancer theme. According to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer, one in eight women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It also states that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women; in 2017 it was estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be in the breast. Another fact on their website states that in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African- American women than white women, while in Asian, Hispanic, and Native women the risk of developing and dying of breast cancer is lower than African American women.
There is not much of a focus on the women that breast cancer effects in the media, the media that comes out in October is pink ribbons emblazed on everything. There are two main examples that I want to talk about. The first one is The Bold Type, specifically the episode titled “The Breast Issue” and a book I found called A Breast Cancer Alphabet.
The Bold Type is a tv show on Freeform in its first season. There are currently only six episodes, but the one that I want to discuss in more detail is the episode titled, “The Breast Issue.” The main characters are friends named Jane, Kat, and Sutton who work at Scarlet magazine, which is much like Cosmo in our world. Jane is the journalist one of the group who aspires to be the finest feminist writer. Kat is the social media coordinator and is a very big feminist. And finally, there is Sutton. She works in fashion but her story in this episode is not relevant to my post so I will be excluding it. We start with the girls going to what I think is a #freethenipple rally.
Jane, the journalist of the three friends, faces her past in this episode when the editor of the magazine wants her to write about the BRCA test and why women in their 20’s should or should not get the test. This may seem like a run of the mill article to write considering this is a women’s magazine, but for Jane, this is personal because her mother died of breast cancer. Jane does not believe that women in their 20’s should get this test.
But what exactly is this test?
The BRCA gene test uses a blood sample to look for harmful changes to a person’s DNA (that’s the stuff that makes you, you). It can be used for both breast and ovarian cancer. It looks for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes are the breast cancer susceptible These proteins help repair damaged DNA, but if there is something wrong (aka a mutation) then the protein cannot do their job right, and cells can develop more alterations as a result. The harmful versions of these genes can be inherited by a person by either their mother or father. For specifics on your risk of getting breast cancer, please see a professional.
This test is recommended to anyone who is likely to have an inherited mutation, and is based on your family history or a specific kind of breast cancer. Even if a person receives a positive result, that does not mean that they will develop breast cancer. Your doctor can help you understand your risk.
The free the nipple hashtag is the story arc for Kat, the social media coordinator. She is a forward thinking, go-getting feminist who decides that since she can’t post women’s nipples on Scarlet’s Instagram, she will go around taking photos of men’s nipples and post them instead to challenge the Instagram rule that men can show their nipples but women cannot. She does this because she is getting ready for Scarlet’s breast health issue. Although she doesn’t use the free the nipple hashtag, I think it is important to talk about this because women’s breast are sexualized in today’s society and then women get breast cancer and their breast which women are taught are a private part of body, are everyone’s business. Society tells women that they need to cover their breast, that the breast is a sexual organ, not secondary sex characteristic. This is exemplified in the debate over women breast feeding in public. People say that women’s breasts are for male pleasure and therefore cannot be shown in public. Shame is placed upon women who dare to breast feed in public or show more of their breast than society has deemed appropriate. So basically anything above the areola (the circle around your nipple) or below it is A-Okay. Just don’t show your nipple. But once there is a cancer diagnosis, your breast become public property. People ask you questions, doctors take photos, nurses examine. They invade the privacy that society used to force on you.
A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka talks a little bit about what it felt like to have her breast go from a private part of her body to something that everyone discusses when she dedicates a chapter to breasts (B is for Breast). After a cancer diagnosis, a woman’s personal space is invaded in the name of her health. Sikka talks about reconstruction, and how that affected her. I thought it was a nice reprieve to read this book because Sikka did not give me facts and figures. I saw next to no numbers and that is what I wanted. Sikka said her reasoning behind this book was because she wanted something that was easy to read and wasn’t too scientific or self-indulgent and I feel that that is what she wrote. Reading this book is like reading a letter from my mother, comforting and not too shallow. A Breast Cancer Alphabet covers topics that might not be found in the literature, like what it feels like to shave your head and lose your hair, what it feels like to have a mastectomy and how cancer can affect your sex life. Sikka even has a tumblr where anyone can submit a sentence or photo to create your own breast cancer alphabet.
I was recently sitting in one of my Journalism and Mass Media courses “interviewing” one of the female faculty here on campus who is a professor in the JAMM major, and something struck me as she spoke. During the “interview,” she spoke about the fact that female journalists find it hard to get ahead in the industry not only because of sexism within it, but also because being successful as a journalist while also having a family is extremely difficult. She said that because it’s incredibly difficult to be a journalist and report on breaking news if you have children that need to be taken care of and can’t travel freely. Now, since I want to be a successful journalist while also having a family, this concerned me. It made me think that there is the possibility that I will have to give up one for the other. Continue reading “Love or Livelihood: Women’s Choice?”→
Censorship and gender bias in student media is a persistent problem in today’s society. Articles about women’s issues are often censored, despite writers’ efforts to make their language appealing to all audiences, and having professional and administrative staff supervise their work. In the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, two female high school students choose to write about teen pregnancy and divorce, citing anonymous sources. Both girls made every effort to write an objective and unbiased article, which was then duly censored. The girls were not allowed to express their full first amendment rights due to their principal’s inflexibility and unwillingness to allow them to address current social issues, ostensibly due to privacy concerns for those interviewed in the article. Since this case, freedom of speech and expression has not really been possible for high school students. The Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case ruled that school newspapers are part of the academic curriculum and are not a public forum, since the school pays for printing and supervises the content. Allowing censorship of articles dealing with rape culture, contraception, racism and others women’s right issues does not benefit the schools’ image academically, and merely reinforces patriarchal norms. The Hazelwood case changed high school journalism and allowed censorship of women’s issues, reinforcing patriarchal norms, religious conservatism, and moralistic attitudes which deemed the content of these articles “obscene” for the community and younger audiences.
According to FirstAmendmentSchools.org, “One issue [in the Hazelwood case] was to include student-written articles about teen pregnancy and the impact of divorce on kids (First Amendment Center, First Amendment Schools: The Five Freedoms – Court Case). The principal feared the subjects in the divorce and teen pregnancy articles were identifiable, and that the topics were inappropriate for younger students due to references to birth control and sexual activity (Supreme Court, “HAZELWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT v. KUHLMEIER, 1988). The principal at Hazelwood East High School believed the articles about teen pregnancy and divorce were inappropriate for high school students, and blocked their publication. The Supreme Court ruled that the Spectrum, the high school newspaper, was produced as part of a journalism class and thus was not a public forum. Citing Kern and Alexander, the court wrote, “Hence school facilities may be deemed to be public forums only if school authorities have by policy or practice opened those facilities for indiscriminate use by the general public, or by some segment of the public, such as student organizations.” (Alexander, Kern, and M. David Alexander, American Public School Law). The Supreme Court ruled that since schools are non-public forums, they do not allow free speech and expression unless it fits with administrator or school values. Since the Hazelwood decision, the courts have deferred judgement of censorship to school administrators (Student Press Law Center, The Hazelwood Decision and Student Press | Scholastic.com). Restrictive laws regarding high school journalists’ first amendment rights due to their age, gender and location, don’t seem to me to be fair at all.
Students effectively lost their First Amendment rights when high school newspapers were declared to be part of the school curriculum. In the case of Hazelwood, Principal Reynolds’ Catholic values conflicted with the standards of journalism. The Freedom Forum (1994) said, “This article does not reflect the views of the school administration, paper, staff, or any member affiliated with either group.” The disclaimer for the banned article also states that the first two paragraphs were reprinted with permission from Planned Parenthood. Principal Reynolds said he was concerned about privacy, even though anonymous sources were used. He wanted the articles revised, but at the end of the school year, there was not enough time. The school was located in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood and thus, Principal Reynolds felt justified in blocking the article due to his beliefs, and those of the community, around sexual morality. A previous First Amendment case in 1969, Tinker v. De Moines, ruled that schools do not have the right to silence student expression simply because they do not like it. The courts ruled that schools can only use prior restraint and discipline if student expression is disruptive to the school environment, or an invasion of the rights of others.
Evidently, the main reason why these articles were blocked from publication in the Hazelwood case were due to Catholic beliefs regarding sex, sexuality, pregnancy and contraception. The principal believed these articles generated health and welfare concerns for the student body due to their language and content. The Supreme Court maintains that valid reasons to reasonably censor content include if is interfering with school requirements of discipline; student rights; academic propriety; generates health and welfare concerns; or if it is seen as obscene or vulgar. It is important to be aware of the Tinker v. De Moines and Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier cases to understand the ways in which high school journalists effectively lose their first amendment rights and are limited in expressing themselves effectively in critical analysis of current social issues. High school students with journalistic integrity now find themselves having to battle school administrators when defending their first amendment rights regarding press rights, expression rights, prior restraint, and gendered censorship.
In November of 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published a scathing expose of a campus rape University of Virginia. “Jackie,” a freshman at the time, had been brutally gang raped, by seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house during a party in September of 2012. She remembered that the member who orchestrated her assault was a lifeguard. It was later found that no social event had been hosted that night, and the fraternity had no lifeguard members.
The magazine official retracted the story in December, after finding may of the facts of the story to be false. Three Phi Kappa Psi members are now suingRolling Stone for defamation. The full recapitulation can be read here.