In October 2015, mechanical engineering student Jared Mauldin sent a letter to the editor of his university’s student newspaper, addressed to the women in his engineering classes. Starting by saying that while he seeks to treat the women in his classes as peers, they are not in fact equal, not because of their ability or skills, but because of the systemic and institutionalized obstacles they face as women in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. The letter is written from first person perspective, and illuminates the discrimination women face by describing it in terms of the often-unacknowledged privileges that men have in these same areas. For example, he explains the inequities by saying, “I did not, for example, grow up in a world that discouraged me from focusing on hard science. Nor did I live in a society that told me not to get dirty, or said I was bossy for exhibiting leadership skills…I was not bombarded by images and slogans telling me that my true worth was in how I look, and that I should abstain from certain activities because I might be thought too masculine….I have had no difficulty whatsoever with a boys club mentality, and I will not face added scrutiny or remarks of my being the ‘diversity hire.’ When I experience success the assumption of others will be that I earned it.” He closes by stating, “So, you and I cannot be equal. You have already conquered far more to be in this field than I will ever face.”
Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh’s Tree Change Dolls are recycled and repaired dolls that are given a makeunder and more down-to-earth style. Singh removes the dolls’ original factory painted features, and repaints the faces so that the dolls look more natural, younger, and down-to-earth, as opposed to the typical style of highly made-up and glamorous dolls like Bratz dolls. Singh’s mother also creates and knits new outfits for the dolls. In January 2015, what started as a home project transformed into an Internet sensation once she posted before and after photos of her dolls online, garnering attention from media and people around the world who supported her efforts to recycle and makeunder the dolls, and wanted to know where and how they could purchase them.
This clip is an interview with Tyra Banks conducted by ABC News’ Cynthia McFadden. The lead-in to the interview describes Banks’ rise from a one-bedroom apartment in South Central Los Angeles to her current status as a wealthy “supermogul.” Banks’ two personas are introduced: a supportive “self-esteem queen” on her daytime talk show, and a harsh “princess of pretty” on America’s Next Top Model. Banks’ tells of overcoming racism to break into the modeling industry, and proclaims that her mission in life is to expand the definition of beauty. The video shows her dramatically criticizing journalists who made disparaging marks about her weight and deriding a woman for bleaching her own and her children’s skin. Yet at the same time, Banks admits that she always wears a hair weave or wig, and that she has likely been successful in modeling due to her light-skin and “anglo” features.
As part of her role as an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) ambassador, Saturday Night Live (SNL) cast member Sasheer Zamata stars in this satirical video that features her and a White male friend walking around a city, talking about gender, racial, and class privilege. The White male friend talks about how far the country has come in terms of prejudice and discrimination and fails to notice as they pass examples of everyday structural and systemic White privilege, such as a billboard featuring another television show about a group of four White men. In their conversation, he continues to make arguments about progress, equality, individualism, and the merits of simply working hard, as Sasheer offers counterpoints to his arguments, pointing out structural and systemic privileges that mask institutionalized discrimination. She is also stopped and frisked by a police officer, racially profiled, and repeatedly cat-called, told to smile, and called a prude for covering up. In the end, he is congratulated for stating that he considers himself a feminist, whereas she is ignored and dismissed when she also says she is a feminist. He suddenly realizes the privileges that Sasheer has been talking about throughout their walk, and states that he gets it and that things are unfair and will not get better if they go ignored and unacknowledged. The video ends with the text, “Women’s equality starts with the person next to you. Be a friend,” and then the ACLU encourages sharing of the video.
At the 67th Emmy Awards in 2015, actress Viola Davis became the first woman of color to ever win the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal of a lawyer in the television show,How To Get Away With Murder. The actress started her acceptance speech with a quote from American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, acknowledged and paid tribute to the struggles and achievements of past and current women and men of color in the entertainment industry, and talked about the systemic exclusion of people of color from Hollywood and the U.S. entertainment industry. She said, “Let me tell you something. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”