Monday, February 23, 2015

PAY Attention to Women

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about the Oscars and how Hollywood is a predominately white industry; however, the discrepancy about race was not the only discrepancy apparent during this event. Patricia Arquette won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Boyhood" used her acceptance speech to advocate for gender equality - specifically regarding equal pay.

A photo of Patricia Arquette gives her acceptance speech after being awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress on February 23, 2015. 

Arquette passionately said, "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America." This line provoked a strong response from females in the audience, especially from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez who applauded her plea.

This response was to be expected, for women are still receiving significant lower pay than men. On average, women make 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. African American women earn on average 64 cents for every dollar a white man earns. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 and said that "much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity - for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men." Since 1963, America has only made slight changes to this unequal ratio. Fifty-two years later, women only make 18 more cents for every dollar a man makes, when the ratio should be equal. Clearly, this issue needs more awareness if it takes over 50 years just for women to earn 18 extra cents.

Patricia Arquette used her freedom of speech this Sunday night, and I think it was entirely appropriate. The Oscars were seen by 34.6 million people on Sunday. By advertising her views to millions of people, Arquette spread awareness of the issue regarding inequality in pay. After winning an Oscar, she had a choice of what she could say, and she chose to highlight a huge issue America is having today that needs to be solved.

 What do you think of Patricia Arquette's Oscar acceptance speech?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Walking the White Carpet

Tonight the Oscars are on television... yet another award show that is simply overrepresented by whites. Just as Mr. O'Connor wrote about the lack of diversity in the nominees for the Golden Globes, the 2015 Oscar nominees are predominantly white and do not portray the high levels of diversity that make up the American population. This year's Oscars has the most white nominees overall since 1998 - we are taking a step backward instead of forward.

Perhaps this is a result of the lack of representation of African Americans in the academy. The members of the academy all vote and ultimately decide who wins each Oscar.  However, the demographics of the academy clearly demonstrate the same trend as the nominees. In 2012, 94 percent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was white and 77 percent were male. African Americans only composed three percent of the academy, which could possibly explain the lack of African American Oscar nominees and winners.

Out of over 2,900 winners throughout Oscar history, only 32 were African American. That is only one percent. 14.1 percent of the United States population is African American, so around 14.1 percent theoretically should be going to African Americans to represent their role in our society.

The Oscars are televised to over 200 countries. What message is America putting out to other countries if we rarely award African Americans? Giving only one percent of Oscars to African Americans conveys the idea that our country values the work done by whites more, and we are broadcasting this idea to hundreds of other countries. Is this the reputation we really want to have?


Our class has discussed numerous times the unjustifiable violence police show toward African Americans like Eric Garner and Michael Brown. As a result of all these recent events, the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, has become extremely popular to spread awareness through the media. However, #BlackLivesMatter is not alone, #MuslimLivesMatter now joins it.

On Tuesday, February 11, three Muslim family members (Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha) were shot in their home near the University of North Carolina. All of them were students at nearby universities. Their neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, was arrested and charged with the murder. The police speculate that the cause of the shooting was a dispute over parking, but the relatives of the three victims believe the shooting was simply a hate crime.

Hick's ex-wife, Karen, said at a press conference, "This incident had nothing to do with religion or victims' faith but instead had to do with the longstanding parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors." 

However, many people seem to think otherwise. To show their disapproval toward the police's theory about the crime occurring solely because of a parking dispute, the hashtag "#MuslimLivesMatter" started to trend. The hashtag also played an important role in the shooting because many people were frustrated with the lack of media coverage about this event. The power of social media was put into play by having many people furiously share their opinions about the likely possibility of this crime happening due to religious intolerance. Similar to what happened earlier in Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter, Americans are playing an important role in demonstrating their beliefs and morals through social media.

The few pieces of media coverage this event got all included the fact that the victims were Muslim. For example, the title of Huffington Post's article was "3 Members of Muslim Family Shot Dead in Chapel Hill" and Washington Post's article is entitled, "Three Muslims killed in Shooting near UNC."
If these three victims were all Christian, I do not think the headlines would be "Three Christians Killed," instead, they would most likely read, "Three Students Killed." The fact that the headlines all include information about their religion shows that this most likely is a hate crime, and #MuslimLivesMatter is extremely relevant.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Schools "Celebrate" Black History Month

Recently, I came across two very different ways to recognize February as "Black History Month". New Trier recognized the history of African Americans very differently than another high school I visited this month, Mundelein High School.

New Trier's "Black History Month" display -- photo taken by Claire Hartman.

New Trier displayed their "grand" tribute towards "Black History Month" at the Northfield Campus. The location itself places emphasis on the lack of recognition New Trier gives to African American history. The Northfield campus only holds a quarter of all New Trier students, so over 3,000 students do not even see New Trier's perhaps main attempt to recognize African Americans. While there are other displays at the main campus, the majority of them did not come out until the very end of the month when the recognition toward African American history was coming to an end (note: I had to revise this blog post after seeing them... I did not even see any at first!). Also, the posters at the main campus were hand-drawn with markers on white poster board, and therefore, did not look as "put together" as this display at the Northfield Campus.

New Trier's display is entitled, "Influential Stories about Black Athletes". New Trier focuses all of African American history on athletics in this display. African Americans being successful in athletics is a common stereotype, so by creating a display only recognizing them for athletics is more stereotypical than reflective and honorary. It's also interesting how the font size is so tiny next to each picture. No student is going to take the time to read that small of a font, if they can even make out the words. It is also notable that New Trier only recognizes African Americans to this extent during February, for it is a temporary display that will only remain intact during "Black History Month".

Mundelein's African American history display -- photo taken by Claire Hartman.

Unlike New Trier, every month is "Black History Month" at Mundelein High School with their nicely painted permanent mural. When I was at this school for a gymnastics meet, I took a moment to truly appreciate the amount of recognition they give to African Americans. Unlike New Trier, which is 83.6% white, less than half of Mundelein High School students are white (48.2%); therefore, the school is incredibly more diverse. Perhaps this explains why they put so much more effort into their display. Another important aspect of this mural is that it focuses on women. Women and African Americans are seen as inferior to white men. By focusing on two minorities, it shows how much they value and respect "Black History Month". New Trier only saw blacks as "athletes", but Mundelein shows blacks are not linked to any stereotype and instead portrayed them three-dimensionally. 

To what extent do these two displays explain how America views "Black History Month"? As a New Trier student, how do you view our school's attempt to appreciate African American history in comparison to Mundelein's?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Fourteen Strikes... You're Out.

Being a regular customer at Urban Outfitters, I tend to think most of their clothes are stylish and trendy; however, this company is developing a reputation of going too far to come up with original clothes to the point where they are extremely controversial and offensive.

Numerous people were outraged today when word got out about Urban Outfitters' newest release, a grey-and-white stripped tapestry with a pink triangle on it. This item closely resembles what Nazi concentration camp prisoners were forced to wear if they were gay.

The Anti-Defamation League is an organization created "to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all". They were appalled by this product and urged Urban Outfitters to remove this product because it is "deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture" and is "eerily reminisent of the Holocaust". Urban Outfitters responded to this command by saying they will no longer continue to sell this product; however, word has still gotten out about it.

For those people who saw Ellie's blog post about Urban Outfitters selling a Kent State sweatshirt and an "Eat Less" shirt in September, this post may seem like déjà vu. Urban Outfitters has gone way too far in terms of coming up with clothes that no other store has. They have released fourteen controversial items like the ones both Ellie discussed in September and the most recent tapestry, including a shirt with the color of "Obama Black" and a shirt with a Jewish star on it which resembled the ones Jews had to wear during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.

When I see this pattern of releasing controversial items happening again and again, it makes me question whether or not I should still shop at this store... Who wants to support a store who has released fourteen offensive items?

In class, we discussed how wearing an inappropriate shirt in public (such as the cuss-word shirt Rudy has) is generally protected under the First Amendment, but how does this tapestry controversary fare in regards to the First Amendment? How is this case different... or is it even different at all?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Most Important Super Bowl Commercial

It is no surprise that millions of Americans will turn on their televisions this evening to watch the Super Bowl, but what may come as a surprise is a commercial that is expected to air during the first quarter.

Unlike the majority of Super Bowl commercials that air with the intention of being funny, this one has a different effect. For the first time ever, there will be a Super Bowl commercial addressing domestic violence and sexual assault, an issue which strongly needs to be addressed.

This brilliant video illustrates a real situation in which a woman called 911 pretending to order a pizza, so someone in her house (inferred to be a man assaulting her) would not know she was actually calling 911. The eerie and shocking video is part of the "NO MORE" movement, which is a campaign created by the NFL to "to raise public awareness and engage bystanders." 

The fact that this commercial will air during the Super Bowl is extremely appropriate given the NFL's past with domestic violence. This year, Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens assaulted his wife, and the news of this situation became very well-known and tarnished NFL's reputation. 

In October, Isabelle wrote a very relevant blog post about domestic violence in the NFL and how the NFL was choosing to highlight "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" instead of "Domestic Violence Awareness Month." Isabelle proposed that this was NFL's way of distracting from the fact that players in the NFL have been arrested for domestic violence.

By airing this commercial and promoting the "NO MORE" movement, the NFL finally is addressing the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault that occurs not only in the NFL, but in America as a whole. I am very glad that the NFL finally decided to raise awareness toward this issue, and to do so during the most watched television event of the year is sure to make a strong statement.