Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why I think Caitlyn Jenner was a poor choice for the 2015 Arthur Ashe award

The transformation from Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner has been a very public story in the media and online. If you haven't seen the Vogue cover check it out here. In a previous blog post I talked about how the issue of transgender was becoming more prominent in mainstream news and the potential drawbacks of media coverage. In a previous blog post I talked about how transgender news stories were becoming more prominent in mainstream media and the potential drawbacks of this media coverage. Well Caitlyn Jenner's Vogue cover upped the ante. More conversations are happening and more people are talking. Recently, I've been following the backlash to ESPN for nominating Caitlyn Jenner for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.

Do I think what Caitlyn Jenner did is courageous? Yes. Do I think it's significant for pop and American culture? Yes. Are people who would have never uttered the word "transgender" now forced to talk about it? Yes, but does Caitlyn Jenner deserve the ESPN's Arthur Ashe Courage Award for this celebratory revelation? I say, "No!" and I'm not alone. I find myself in the company of people like Bristol Palin and Conner Cruise (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's son) to name a few. I didn't think there would be an issue I would see eye to eye with Bristol Palin on. Go figure.

Here's ESPN's defense since the backlash:

“Bruce has received many accolades over the years for being one of the greatest Olympians of our time but the ESPYS are honored to celebrate Bruce becoming Caitlyn. She has shown the courage to embrace a truth that had been hidden for years, and to embark on a journey that may not only give comfort to those facing similar circumstances, but can also help to educate people on the challenges that the transgender community faces.”

My biggest issue with this award is that ESPN appears to have made the conscious choice to cash in and exploit the media's curiosity of "transgender"  much like Caitlyn Jenner. Although this is her life and she's sharing it with the world, I can't help but feel it's a publicity tactic from the Kardashian playbook to maximize a controversial issue. Let's not forget how Kim Kardashian became a household name. It was her private sex tape with Ray Jay (songstress Brandy's younger less talented brother) that was secretly leaked. Did we ever find out who leaked it? Word is it was an inside job.

Bob Costas has been one of the most vocal critics to ESPN's choice online. Here's what he had to say in Cindy Boren's Washington post article:

“It strikes me that awarding the Arthur Ashe Award to Caitlyn Jenner is just a crass exploitation play — it’s a tabloid play,” the NBC anchor said Monday on “The Dan Patrick Show.” “In the broad world of sports, I’m pretty sure they could’ve found someone — and this is not anything against Caitlyn Jenner — who was much closer, actively involved in sports, who would’ve been deserving of what that award represents.”

This morning I listened to some insightful commentary from NPR's Frank Deford about this topic (it's not yet up on their site otherwise I would have included the hyperlink). He shared a poignant story that illustrated how many awards and award shows aren't about the most deserving recipient, instead they are ways for organizations and institutions to be opportunistic and promote themselves and go with a big name that will get publicity. Hmmm.

This year, I've read a few stories about gay, lesbian and transgendered athletes. While groups of us are more excepting to this lifestyle, many still don't believe these individuals have a place in the sports world or in the world period. As a result, these individuals suffer in silence. They are still in the midst of the struggle and marginalized in our society. They aren't on the cover of Vogue. I believe these athletes are champions in there own right. However, when Caitlyn Jenner walks the red carpet and accepts her award, how many of us will be thinking about other transgendered athletes? 

Do you agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Consuming/Culture: My post conference takeaways

A week ago today I was catching one of Oxford's many buses to Oxford Brookes University to attend the Consuming/Culture: Women and girls in pixels and print conference. When I wasn't at the conference or in my room I spent a good chunk of time taking the bus.
Many of the buses that circle Oxford come every 20 minutes and include free Wi-Fi. I loved that. Buses in the UK have come along way compared to what we have in the United States. While I saw plenty of cars on the road in England, people really embrace public transit and happily use it every day. A noticeable difference from here in the states.

So how was the conference? It was a wonderful experience. Although the trip was "short and sweet," I found it very worthwhile. The two days filled with stories, discussions, and speeches that looked at a wealth of women's issues through an academic and research lens. I was pleased to see I was among a good number of Americans in attendance. I took my fair share of notes. 

One of my favorite presentations was "Filipino women and the idealization of white beauty in films, magazines, and online." Kristin Baybayan Renault research examined and analyzed Filipino's idealization of fair skin and European features. While this topic wasn't new to me, it was amazing to see how the Filipino culture has struggled with this cultural problem since they were first colonized by the Spanish and then the United States. Since being conquered they have adapted the beauty standards of the dominant white culture and use advertising to sell women and girls products that will help them look less "ethic" and more white. Folks, this is a billion dollar industry and Filipinos are just one of many ethic groups that get these messages and are told their ethic look isn't ideal. Have you ever heard of the paper bag test in the black community? It was the first thing that popped into my head as I was listening to Kristin.

A nice spot to relax and read on the Brooke's campus.

I have a few more stories like that I could share, but I won't. Another favorite conference moment was having dinner with Angela McRobbie (See my last blog post for her bio, much of my research was based of her research). The topic of Girls came up and we discussed more in-depth why she isn't a Lena Dunham fan. Her keynote briefly hit on her displeasure of the outspoken show creator. I explained my thesis paper was looking at gender bias and she asked to read it. Yeah, now I need to send it to her asap. 

What's next? Something, just not sure what at the moment. This conference introduced me to new topics and ideas related to women and girls.I'm going to continue to look at gender bias in television and film and how it influences women in society. I'm going to move forward with another study, but am not sure what my topic is yet. Eventually I'll figure it out.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ready, Set, Go: Consuming Culture: Women in Print and Pixels Conference

Greetings from Oxford, England. Yes I'm back in the UK and a lot sooner than I thought. I have a conference to thank for that, but I'll get to that shortly. I love the uptick I feel when I travel. This morning my cousin Kamille and auntie Joan picked me up at Heathrow and I had a nice lunch with them. The last time I saw them was at Kam's wedding last August. Today's visit was short but sweet. That's my theme for this trip.

This trip also has a few firsts for me. I love new firsts because it means I'm experiencing new things and keeping it fresh. It's my first time in Oxford and to get here I flew Virgin Atlantic for the first time. I now truly get why people have such lovely things to say about the airline. The food actually tastes like food. You're offered a menu with three options to select from. They have excellent customer service and a sleek and modern design that makes you feel like your in a hipster lounge. They had me at hello.

I'm in town for my first academic conference post graduate school. I'm attending and presenting my thesis paper at Consuming/Culture: women and girls in print and pixels.

I believe in the power of a women's voice and recognize that in many parts of the world it's devalued. I see it in the United States.Women have struggled throughout history and continue to struggle. It's why I have an interest in gender bias and decided to explore it's impact in television and it's influence on women in American culture as part of my thesis. This academic conference is unique in that it is focused on women issues and only women issues. It's what drew me in. I'm proud to be a part of it and can't wait to learn and be a part of the many discussions over the next two days.

I'm also ready to be motivated by Angela McRobbie and Feona Atwood keynote speeches. They are feminist icons and advocates on women and gender related topics. I have an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand my network with other women that advocate for equality, justice and aren't afraid to call themselves feminists. Can't wait. Just a few hours away.

The jet lag is starting to settle in, but I still have so much positive energy and it's helping me to chug along. Whoot! Whoot!