Cheerios Controversy

Recently a Cheerios commercial was released featuring an interracial family with a white mother, a black father, and a mixed race daughter. The young girl, after finding out Cheerios are heart healthy, places Cheerios on her father’s chest while he is napping. The commercial had the same adorable and heartwarming qualities that Cheerios commercials are known for. The commercial can be viewed here.

This ad in itself is an oppositional text that challenges the hegemonic idea of American families as all being within the same racial group. Cheerios inserted this opposition as a well to challenge these common ideas by showing an alternative idea of families.

Many people interpreted this text in a way to return it to the hegemonic systems saying the interracial family was disgusting. Many people aimed to reinstate the hegemony by refereeing to common stereotypes of marginalized groups by saying it was surprising a black father would stick with his family. So many racist comments were posted on the youtube video of the commercial that Cheerios had to disable the comment feature.

A way to perform a negotiated reading of the text would to be examine the fact that, while interracial, the family is still constructed of hegemonic family roles such as two, opposite sex, heterosexual families. Many American families have a single parent, same sex parents, other guardians, no children at all, etc.

Cheerios maintains that they created the ad to reflect the typical American families, and lots of American families are now comprised of multiple races. However, many people are reading this text in a very different ways.

Many people had an oppositional and negotiated decoding of this text. Oppositional decoding is when the viewer understands the intended message of the text but interprets it in a completely contrary way. Negotiated reading is when you understand the intended message but apply it to other situations.

While the intended message of Cheerios and what many people saw was a simple representation of an American family. But some people interpreted the commercial as an attempt to get attention and make a political statement.

Many people, however, took the message exactly as Cheerios claims it intended it. A particularly adorable example is these children.

These children see nothing wrong with the representation. Of an interracial family in advertising. These values are becoming more common in younger generations and more widely held in the US. Perhaps one day, representation of interracial families will not be found so offensive.

If They Gunned Me Down

Pretty much everyone is aware of the recent controversially in Ferguson Missouri where Michael Brown, a young black man, was shot multiple times by a police officer. The incident sparked outrage throughout the nation about the way young black men are treated by law enforcement and immediately seen as a threat therefore prompting a heightened response and leading to unnecessary violence. But further outrage ensued over the way that Michael Brown was represented in the media.

This was a young man who had been killed in a tragic incident, and yet any sense of respect seemed to go out the window. Irrelevant incidents like shoplifting were immediately brought to light by the media, and it seemed like everything was being done to make him look like a criminal and a thug. But the thing many people found most insulting was the pictures that were being shown of him. This prompted a response from many members of the black community that took form on Twitter.

Young black people began tweeting mashups of two pictures of themselves, one that showed them as an upstanding member of society and one that made them look like a thug with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. The point of this was to show that when young black people are killed in these sort of incidents, they are represented in the most negative light possible. These people were saying if they died in the same way Michael Brown did, they knew exactly what picture would be shown.

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Some of these pictures broke my heart because I knew the extreme truth they carried. But something that even further upset me was seeing these tweets from young white men. This completely defeats the purpose behind this movement. It’s all about representation of young black men. These kinds of twitter trends hold extreme significance to member of marginalized communities, and it’s important to understand the significance before simply jumping on a band wagon.

Street Harassment from Both Sides

Lately, a certain video has been getting a lot of attention on the internet. The video features a young girl walking through the streets of Manhattan for ten hours who experiences over 100 instances of verbal harassment, or as some call it “cat calling.”

A lot of people watched this video with a lot of sympathy and realization of what happens to women every day. But just like with any growing controversy, plenty of people had complaints. One criticism of the video that is being thrown around a lot is that no one cares when these kind of incidents happen to men. I found this particular response video that really upset me.

Now the part of this video that really got to me was the way that the men producing it kept putting air quotes around the word harassment obviously implying that it’s not real. Now, I watched the video, I saw the multiple women and men that approached him, but here is my question…why does the fact that it happens to both women and men mean it’s not harassment?

I think this video is a perfect representation of how a patriarchal society negatively affects not only women, but men as well. The macho expectations of men in society don’t allow them to feel harassed because harassment is something that only happens to weak people, like women. Now I watched this response video and thought that the ways in which the man walking the streets was being approached were incredibly disrespectful. But the men who made this video don’t seem to see it that way.

They simply see it as being approached, and the fact that it happens to them means it’s not harassment. Then they force that lack of sympathy towards men with regards to harassment back onto female victims, inadvertently reinforcing the idea that street harassment is something that women should just get over and ultimately that they’re bodies are meant for male attention.

In her famous speech at the UN, Emma Watson said “we don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.” The system of gender inequality and the expectations we place on gender roles hurt men just as much as women. They are not allowed to feel “harassed.” And that expectation ultimately belittles the issue of street harassment for men and women alike. If we can change the ways that we view and enforce these gender roles, perhaps we can make strides to end things like street harassment for both women and men.

When Multicultural Marketing Goes Wrong

With all the different cultural groups in the United States and the abundance of products available, companies are finding more and more of a need to engage in multicultural marketing strategies. In certain cases, the need for this marketing is obvious like with hair products designed for a particular ethnic group. In other cases, companies are just trying to expand their customer base to included more diverse cultural groups.

There are four ways in which companies can create a more specialized marketing plan aimed at a particular group. Advertisers and alter their use of language in order to build a connection with a particular group. They can play on different aspects of cultural awareness. They can utilize different media vehicles that are more likely to reach their intended audience. Finally, they can alter the time and places where their advertisements run in order to better reach certain demographics.

Now, while this kind of marketing is necessary, it is also something that needs to be done carefully. One market where companies are finding the need to market to particular cultural group is in the beer and alcoholic beverage industry with regards to American Hispanic populations. This due to both the increasing purchasing power of this group in the United States and the growing popularity of Mexican beers like Corona, Dos Equis, and Modelo. With a growing demand for marketing and advertisement of beer to Hispanic populations, a few mistakes of been made.

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In 2013, MillerCoors learned a difficult lesson about multicultural marketing when they distributed their attempt at an ethnic beer at the NYC Puerto Rican Day Parade. The beer can had the Puerto Rican flag on it and read “cerveza oficial” meaning the official beer. All different Hispanic groups in the United States were outraged that MillerCoors would imply that their product was the official choice of all Puerto Ricans and use one of the countries national symbols to hawk their product. To add insult to injury, the theme of the parade was “Salud-Celebrating Your Health”, and studies bu the National Institute of Health show that alcohol abuse is a major health threat among Hispanic populations. The cherry on top of all this was that the ad campaign was called “Emboricuate” a made-up word that plays on the Spanish word “emborrachate”, which means “get yourself drunk,” and “Boricua”, a Puerto Rican term of endearment. The campaign was shut down due to extreme public outrage and criticism.

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To say MillerCoors had a lack of cultural awareness is an understatement. They attempted to alter their language use I. Order to better connect with their target group, but they did not understand the terms they were using and the significance they held. And the lack of understanding about the cultural group created further disconnect from the words being used.

Juan Tornoe of Cultural Strategies, a marketing and communication firm specifically geared towards marketing to diverse cultural groups in the United States, has several useful tips about the best messages and a channels to use when marketing to Hispanic populations. But one of the most important things he said was to do extensive research and be extremely sensitive with any Spanish terms you use in your campaign. MillerCoors should have I vested more time and energy into this.

Confessions of a Girls who’s “Into Black Guys”

I have been in a relationship with a black man for almost five months, and it’s made me realize a lot about racism and stereotypes that still exist in our society. I’ve experienced things as commonly thought of as my friends asking me if he’s more well endowed than white men I’ve dated to things as extreme as people telling me to enjoy standing in food stamp lines the rest of my life if I planned on marrying him. Now I feel I could write an entire blog site on being in an interracial couple, but for this post I would like to touch on one specific thing.

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Recently I made a comment about how frustrating I found it that when my boyfriend and I first began dating, so many of my friends told me they did not realize I was “into black guys” because I felt it suggested that interracial relationships were somehow abnormal, and there had to be something particular about me to want to be in one. Someone replied to me saying that psychologically speaking, they were abnormal because people are usually attracted to people within their own race. Now, I vaguely remembered some section of my Psych 100 class talking about attraction, but knowing very little about the subject, I didn’t want to give any response that I couldn’t back up. So I decided to do some research.

First I looked at the statistics. According to a study by the Pew research center, interracial marriages are on the rise. 2008-2010 Census data showed that new marriages involving a spouse of a different race or ethnicity have more than doubled between the years of 1980 and 2010. I know that the aim of psychology is not to explain the thoughts and desires of every individual and rather to examine overall trends, but since I have to assume that these people getting married must be at least somewhat attracted to each other, I wanted to see the psychology that said that was abnormal.

Donald Symons, a professor of anthropology at UCSB and author of “The Evolution of Human Sexuality,” helped shed a little light on the subject for me. He mentions that since during the vast majority of human history, our ancestors were unable to to travel very far from the place they were born and rarely encountered individuals who looked any different than them, it is unlikely that we developed any physiological adaptations, sexual or otherwise, having to do with race. But where does that leave us today? Obviously we are exposed to plenty of people that look different than us in the United States and obviously we have a greater ability to travel and experience people of other races and ethnicities.

I tried to do some digging into the research surrounding this subject, but I had a very hard time finding a lot. I think an important thing to remember is that much of the research may have been done during times when being with someone of another race could result in public humiliation at the very least. And this kind of threat could very easily have affected the answers people provided. Now, I’m not saying there are no grounds to support the theory that people are attracted to people of the same race, but these grounds are based on very simple psychological concepts. For example, the age old theory that people seek out partners that remind them of their parents, who are often the same race as us. It’s not because of a psychological prejudice to those of another race.

Now I’d like to examine what the surprise people express towards my “interest in black men” really is. It is called a micro agression, which simply explained is a relatively common interaction that either intentionally or unintentionally communicates a hostile or derogatory message regarding a marginalized group. By people telling me that they did not realize I was attracted to black men, people are communicating that there has to be a specific reason for me to find a person of that race a worthy partner because they would not normally be.

So coming from someone who is sick and tired of hearing both the intentional and very intentional aggression regarding my relationship, I ask everyone to please consider the hidden meaning behind what they say to those involved in interracial relationships. And make sure you understand all the complex dimensions of a claim you use to invalidate that relationship.

Tom Haverford

I have a slight obsession with the show Parks and Rec, and one of my favorite characters is Tom Haverford, played by Aziz Ansari. To give you some background, Parks and Rec follows a government office and it’s employees. Tom is an administrative assistant in the office who was born in the United States but whose heritage is Indian.

When examining the way that marginalized groups are represented on television, Toms character would follow the pattern of rejection. Tom never mentions anything about his Indian hertitage. He also tries to assimilate into multiple aspects of American culture. Tom is a part club owner, is completely wrapped up in American consumerism, loves hip hop, always thinking of “get rich quick” schemes, etc.

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Toms character also does not fit any stereotypes traditionally associated with Indian Americans. Most characters of this ethnicity are represented as intelligent, driven, and are often IT personnel. Tom, on the other hand, has a dead end government job, is incredibly lazy, and seems to be fairly unintelligent.

I would not say this show is respectful of the Indian culture because it is barely mentioned, and when it is, it is made to be a joke. The only time Tom mentions his heritage is in phrases like “I was just a dorky Indian kid” in regards to his childhood.

Class Difference in New Girl

One of my favorite shows on television is New Girl. For those of you not i. The cult following with me, I will give you a little background. The show features a spunky school teacher named Jess who moves into a loft with three male roommates. There are plenty of discussions to be had about the shows representation of gender, race, etc. but I would like to focus on what it says about class difference by focusing on two characters: Nick and Schmidt.

These two characters have been friends since college, and while they may live in the same place, there is very clearly a vast difference in the amount of money they make. Schmidt has a high paying corporate job while Nick is a bartender. There are plenty of jokes made about their differences in wealth, but the important thing is the reasons that are illustrated for their different situations, and what they suggest about class difference as a whole.

Right off the bat, we know that they both attended the same college, so it is made clear that neither one of them had opportunities that the other didn’t. Nick went on to law school after graduation but wound up dropping out during his final year. This is all information we gain on the first few episodes, and it automatically puts the idea in our heads that Nick is in a lower paying job because he is lazy. He had the chance to be a lawyer but he gave up at the last minute. Schmidt ,on the other hand, has had a position with his company for years, and throughout the show, we watch him make many advancements and achievements in his work. We are also made to have no sympathy for Nick in his situation because he clearly had the means to attend both college and law school, so he has no excuse for not being in a better position.

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You also find out, if you watch even one episode, that Nick is incredibly ill tempered. He is constantly irrationally angry, aggressive, and blows up on somebody in almost every episode. Schmidt is much better at keeping his cool, especially in a work environment. Nick is also completely inept at anything that adults do everyday like cooking, managing money, and even maintaining his personal hygiene. He is always in a dirty shirt and jeans and often doesn’t even have clean underwear. Schmidt however, eats healthy, has a great deal of wealth, and has a closet full of suits organized not only by color, but photographed in a binder to pick out the best one for each business meeting. Schmidt paints the picture of an ideal employee while Nick has almost no desirable qualifications. Once again, we are shown that Nick’s lack of success is due to his own shortcomings.

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Lazy, aggressive, unintelligent, under qualified, poor work ethic.These are all qualities often associated with the working class to explain their financial situations, all of which place all the blame solely on their shoulders rather than anything g class. None of these qualities are necessarily true about the members of the working class, but these stereotypes are incredibly common. In this show, the characters Nick and Schmidt are beat friends and even live in the exact same apartment. But these stereotypes are still clear as day and make it known that people are in certain economic positions in life have only themselves to blame.

Framing An Issue

Lately there has been a lot of buzz about a woman in Ohio who is suing a sperm bank for inseminating her with a different donor sperm than the one she had requested. While these are the facts of the story, there are several ways in which this story is being framed, and it is important to understand the ways in which it’s being done.

One important thing to know about this controversy is that the way the woman and her partner were able to tell the sperm was not from the donor they requested was because their requested donor was a white male, and their daughter is clearly biracial. Understandably, race has become a huge focus point in this story, but it may also be creating a frame for the story that might not be the only way to look at it.

In one article, the headline reads “White Lesbian Upset after Being Inseminated With Sperm from Black Man.” Right off the bat the story is framed as a white woman being upset she was inseminated with a black man’s sperm. But what if the title read “Negligent Sperm Bank Inseminates Woman with the Wrong Sperm.” Both of these articles would most likely contain the same information and facts, but through simple differences in things like word choice, they would tell a completely different story.

Framing is all about taking certain facts from a story and focusing on them more as a way to tell it and change the way it’s perceived in the public eye. Let’s take a look at one of the first sentences in this article and see what kind of buzzwords are helping to frame this issue.

“Jennifer Cramblett, who happens to be a lesbian, claims that she is happy with her half-black child, Payton, who is now 2 years old, but specifically ordered sperm from a white donor so that the child would not have to put up with racial discrimination when it got older.”

First of all, take note of the fact it is explicitly mentioned that the woman is a lesbian. Even if it is not one of the focus points in the rest of the story, it immediately triggers a stigma in certain people about same sex parenting. And for people who have certain beliefs about this, it can shape how they will view the woman through the rest of the story. Next, look at the use of the word “claims.” “Jennifer Cramblett….claims that she is happy with her half-black child.” The writers don’t say that Cramblett “said” she was happy with her child, she “claimed” it as if it were not actually true. And why would it only be a claim? Because the child is “half-black.”

The story is even framed with the choice of quotes included. I’m willing to bet Cramblett and her partner said plenty of things about how much they love their daughter or how negligent it was of the sperm bank to mix up their paperwork, but all the quotes that are included are about their fears that their daughter will be discriminated against because of her skin color, or how the white mothers don’t know how to properly do their biracial daughters hair, and many other things that make the entire issue about race.

I’m not saying race doesn’t play a role in all of this, but it’s important to recognize the picture that is being painted for us as news consumers. We are only made to see a racist lesbian parent instead of a dissatisfied sperm bank customer. Frames placed on an issue can affect what we perceive as the issue, so it is important to be able to break down those frames and see the facts of a case and put our own frame on it.

White Privilege and Walt Disney

Demonstration and representations of race within Disney movies is a topic with plenty of subject matter. Movies that immediately jump to mind in regards to this subject include Aladdin, Mulan, and of course, Princess and the Frog.

When this movie came out in 2009, it was considered incredibly revolutionary in the world of children’s movies. A black princess was something that had never before been seen in these fairytale films. While I LOVE this movie, I also think it’s also a good representation of white privilege in the United States. Before we go any further, we must first define what white privilege is. The term “privileged” is often lumped together with the term “racist”, but they’re not the same thing.

One of the best explanations I’ve ever seen of this concept is in a blog titled “What My Bike Taught Me About White Privilege” In which the author  expertly alludes privilege and transportation. She talks about being a bicyclist on a road built for cars. While there are drivers who harass bicyclists, they’re not the main problem because even if they all disappeared, it doesn’t change the fact that the road were still built for cars, and the drivers of these cars don’t have the same worries and fears as the bicyclists.

If you have time, I would definitely recommend reading this article here: http://alittlemoresauce.com/2014/08/20/what-my-bike-has-taught-me-about-white-privilege/

To put it simply, being privileged means you are in a group that the system was defined to benefit, and in this country, that means white people. From the time of the founding fathers, our country was designed to cater to and benefit white males.

Now let’s get back to Princess and the Frog. For those who have not seen the movie, it features a young black woman named Tiana living in New Orleans in the 1920s Who has always dreamed of owning her own restaurant. Now bear in mind, this was before the Civil Rights movement and in the midst of the women’s suffrage movement, so being a black woman was definitely not a privileged position to be in. I’m sure this movie doesn’t truly represent how blacks were treated during this time, but it does shed some light on the different opportunities that are available to black people and white people in the United States.

The movie starts out with young Tiana and her mother at Tiana’s best friend Charlotte La Bouff’s house. Charlotte is a young white, blonde girl whose family is obviously fabulously wealthy. In fact, the only reason Tiana and her mother are there is because her mother is a seamstress who constantly sews beautiful and extravagant gowns for Charolotte. Right off the bat, there is an established dynamic of the black character being the server and the white person being the served. And as soon as Tiana and her mother leave, you watch them go from a wealthy neighborhood with huge mansions to the poor area where they live with almost exclusively other black people.

The entire movie, there is this parallel between between Charolotte and Tiana’s lives. Tiana works two jobs, non stop, just trying to scrape together enough money for the down payment on a restaurant location. And in one scene, Charolotte pulls all the money Tiana needs out of her father’a wallet and hands it to her in exchange for her cooking services at a ball Charolotte is throwing. And even after Tiana brings the money to the realtors, they tell her they will be selling to another buyer and and that a woman of her background was better off staying where she’s at.

Now since its a Disney movie, and it needs a happy ending, Tiana eventually gets the money she needs and obtains her dream restaurant, but the bliss of the ending seems to pay no attention to the endless hoops she had to jump through to get there that the white characters never would have had to. I mean even the villain of the movie, who’s supposed to be the antagonist, is just a poor black man trying to compete with the wealth of the La Bouffs.

And truth be told, this sugar-coated ending is a perfect representation of the post racism and post Obama way of thinking in our country which is the idea that simply because we have a black president, there is no longer a glass ceiling for people of color in this country. So forget that Tiana grew up in a poor neighborhood, forget that she lost her father in a war and her mother most likely received no help afterword, forget that she literally had opportunities ripped away from her; She worked hard and got what she wanted because none of those obstacles supposedly had any bearing on her ability to succeed.

This is the same attitude that prompts people of privilege to criticize things like affirmative action by saying its unfair. This is based on the idea that just because they are at the same finish line competing for the same prize, that their starting lines were at the same place. And the truth of the matter is, in the system that we have, that’s just not the case. Life is not a fairy tale for everyone in this country.

Modern Family with Modern Stereotypes

There are few shows out there that can make me laugh as hard as the hit sensation “Modern Family,” and the show has been applauded for its examination and representation of modern-day families with differing ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and so much more. However, I doubt anyone would disagree that the show is chalk full of stereotypes. It’s got the dramatic and theatrical gay man, the spicy foreign firecracker, the rich grandfather with a gorgeous trophy wife, the troublemaking teenage girl, the nagging mother, the brilliant adopted Asian child, and almost anything else you can think of. However,  all of the characters are so lovable that it can be hard to see the problem with all of this. But it’s important to remember that stereotypes, even positive ones, can still have plenty of negative consequences for the groups being represented and subsequent other groups.

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Now, if I were to attempt to address all of the consequences of every stereotype in this show, this blog post would quickly turn into a novel. The character who’s cultural representation I find most interesting is Gloria, played by Sophia Vergera. Gloria is a beautiful Columbian woman who married the grandfather, Jay, and joined the family with her son, Manny. Many of the stereotypes associated with this character have to do with her Latin background.

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Some of the stereotypes are negative. For example, Gloria’s character is very quick to anger and can be incredibly unreasonable and stubborn. She is also very loud and hard to understand. Whenever she discusses her life before Jay, she talks about how poor and violent her village in Columbia was and how wild and crazy her family and friends are.

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However, while there are several negative stereotypes about Gloria, there are also very positive ones. She is portrayed as incredibly beautiful and desired by men. She always looks fabulous, dressed to the nines with her hair and make-up perfect and strutting around in high heels. She is also incredibly strong. She was able to raise Manny on her own when his wild, free spirited father was off on his adventures. She is proud, compassionate, loving, and all around fabulous.

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There is so much to love about Gloria. But it is important to examine what kind of ideas these stereotypes, both positive and negative, are forcing onto Latin and Hispanic women in this country. Is it setting ridiculous standards of beauty and appearance? Is the expectation for them to be strong not allowing them the full range of expected emotion other than anger? While this show is absolutely hilarious, these are important questions to ask ourselves as we consume media and consider its implications on our culture and society.