Who gets to tell the story? Whose voice gets to be heard?
In the Huffington Post, Angela J. Hattery, a professor of gender studies at George Mason University, writes about the columns by George Will and Brad Wilcox about women, sex, and rape in the Washington Post:
I’m going to take a different approach and interrogate the simple fact that both columns illustrate yet another way in which privilege works; the privilege to have one’s voice heard and the privilege, indeed the right, to tell the story.
At its most basic level, as a scholar who has studied violence against women for 20 years, I’m struck that neither I nor any of my colleagues who have devoted decades to producing the best research on these issues has ever had the opportunity to tell the story in this way in such a prestigious outlet as The Washington Post. Instead we are relegated to the back pages of online outlets like The Huffington Post and Slate.com. Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful that my voice can be heard in these outlets, but I’m also painfully aware that millions more people, and especially people (men) with privilege, read The Washington Post than The Huffington Post blog pages…
Why, because a key element of privilege is the power to write the narrative and to write it in a way that reinforces the privileges of those who already have it, in this case white, upper middle class, professional men.
I write a blog about gender and children’s media. I started my blog because as soon as I had one daughter, and then two more, I was shocked and disgusted by how gendered their world was. Every day, being a mother, I continue to be amazed that this kind of gender segregation and stereotyping exists in a world created for children. I continue to be amazed that progressive and educated parents, in San Francisco no less, seem to be almost oblivious to the sexism focused on their children.
Today, I was at a house with a game room for kids. In the room were several arcade games from the 80s. I snapped some photos of all of the females I found on the games:
More Simpsons pinball:
What is the story that is getting told here? Again and again and again?
Children learn through images, text, experience, and repetition. Brains get wired up when we’re little and those paths get harder and harder to change. Just one example: the other day my husband told my children that America’s diversity is a consequence of so many people settling here. My children freaked out that he said “consequence” because, to my children, “consequence” is a negative word, it’s basically used like “punishment.” My husband and I talked about my kids’ reaction and decided that they were right, “consequence” is a negative word. “Outcome” is a more neutral word. But the point is that our language is charged, images are charged, and narratives are charged. The very best hope we can offer kids is diversity of stories, not repeating these same images and words over and over and over. It limits us, and it limits a new generation.
When and how are we going to untangle our reality from those who have been telling the story for so many thousands of years?
George Will has no authority to write about rape in the Washington Post. That he does, that this is “normal” and accepted in 2014 speaks to how terribly backwards we are in America when it comes to women and equality.