This 2015 video from Aisha Harris at online news, politics, and culture magazine Slate.com uses scenes from popular U.S. television shows to illustrate how people of color continue to be represented stereotypically and as peripheral minor characters in television shows because the roles and characters written for them are created by predominantly White writers. The video points out a range of stereotypical tropes such as the token minor or first to get killed off Black characters (such as T-Dog in The Walking Dead), or one-dimensional token Black, Latino, or Asian sidekicks (such as Winston in New Girl, or George from Law & Order: SVU), or servants (such as Rosario in Will & Grace, or Sum in Sex and the City) in contrast with complexly portrayed White characters in the same shows. There are also the exotic, sexy Latinas with a foreign accent (such as Gloria in Modern Family), or emasculated Asian male foreigners (such as Raj in The Big Bang Theory or Han in Two Broke Girls) who serve as the comedic relief because of their foreignness, which in turn makes the White characters look better and reinforces that they are what is “normal.” The video also connects these limited and damaging representations with how they affect viewers’ perceptions and behaviors in everyday life. At the end, the video creators argue that while some shows are now getting better at depicting people of color in leading roles (such as Grey’s Anatomy), it is because the writers and producers behind the show reflect diversity and include people who actually know what it’s like to live as a multi-dimensional person of color.
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.”
This video segment is from Amazon Studios produced television seriesTransparent, a show about a family’s experiences when the middle-aged family patriarch reveals that he is transgender. The scene is from season one (2014) and shows the difficulties and discrimination that transgender people face when going to gender segregated public bathrooms. The scene starts at a shopping mall with daughters Sarah and Ali and transgender character Maura pausing in front of the bathroom entrances before heading inside. Maura is a bit hesitant, but Sarah encourages him to go inside while Ali follows warily behind them. While waiting in line, Sarah refers to their father as “dad,” and Ali goes ahead to use the restroom. As Sarah and Maura wait, two teenage girls and their mother see and relate to Maura as a man and are angered and offended that a man is in the woman’s restroom. She starts asking Maura to leave, saying, “Sir, can you hear me? Because this is a ladies’ restroom and clearly that is a man.” Sarah steps to her dad’s defense, and says, “This is my father, and he’s a woman. He has every right to be in this bathroom,” and the woman argues back, saying, “No, he does not. You know what? I’m calling security. There are young women in here that you are traumatizing.” The argument escalates and the woman says, “your father is a pervert!” Ali is shown listening from the bathroom stall, and eventually comes out, asking, “Dad, don’t you need to go pee?,” and Sarah and Maura both say no, wanting to just leave. The scene ends with the three of them in the parking lot, with the daughters asking their father, “are you ok?” and she responds, “I will be,” as she walks to her car to leave. The daughters are then standing there talking to each other, and Ali says, “God, why is he doing this now?” and Sarah responds, “Why, why did he wait so long?””
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.
This video features American YouTube video-blogger, sex educator, and feminist activist Laci Green exploring wearing makeup as a feminist issue. She addresses common debates, such as whether wearing makeup is feminist, empowering, or sexist, and ultimately dismisses all of these limiting frames. The video begins with Laci talking about how people interacting with her on social media will sometimes ask her why she does not shave but does wear makeup. She talks about the lucrative makeup industry, the many YouTube makeup tutorial videos and communities, and briefly traces a few historical examples of how makeup was used in different contexts, such as by ancient Egyptians, male theater performers, and companies selling Hollywood looks, and how these norms and conventions change with social and historical context. She then highlights five common issues that people have around makeup: 1) “professional obligation,” 2) social pressure, 3) unnecessary gendering, 4) judgment and unsolicited opinions, and arguing that 5) femininity is not inferior, relating different kinds of comments and social situations to systemic sexism and discrimination. Laci Green also explores the topic of whether wearing makeup can be feminist, ending with the sentiment that women should be free to do what they want with their bodies because one way of continuing to repress and discriminate against women is by critiquing and policing their appearance as they try to navigate their relationship to changing social norms.