How we listen determines who gets heard

By Rachel Luna

Despite living only about 15 miles from my office, I usually spend about 90 minutes in the car each day thanks to SF Bay Area traffic.  Radio stations with the same few songs do not hold my interest very long, so I’ve turned to podcasts and audiobooks for education and entertainment during my commute.  Some of my favorites include This American Life (and its breakout hit Serial), The Moth, Radiolab, and TED Talks (audio version).

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my consumption of these media.  From where I sit –  listening to public radio on my smartphone as I drive to my full time job – I represent many privileges, such as education level and socioeconomic class.  Add on lenses from the hosts and reporters I choose to download, and even more aspects of power and privilege influence my media.  All this leads me to ask: What stories am I choosing to listen to?  Who is telling these stories?  How and why are they being told?  What am I doing with the knowledge and insights gained by listening to these stories?  What role am I playing in perpetuating media and power dynamics?

Amidst the popularity of Serial, there was quite a backlash and back-and-forth response about the show’s treatment of racial and cultural dynamics.  Last week Chenjerai Kumanyika published this piece about race and voice in public radio.  Subsequent conversations from NPR’s Code Switch with the #PubRadioVoice hashtag further explored the intersections of race, culture, and media content.  One commenter on the #PubRadioVoice hashtag said that people of color are seen as “interesting subject matter” as opposed to potential audience members.  When the same types of people control the storytelling, certain stories might be left out, told inaccurately, or have harmful impacts.  Homogeneity in the media is problematic for both process and content.

So how can this be changed?  Part of the solution is in empowering diverse voices and promoting multiple platforms for storytelling to create more multicultural content.   But new content is not itself sufficient for change.  As a listener, I need to check myself and look beyond popularity on iTunes to find these multiple perspectives.  I have to intentionally seek out voices that represent perspectives outside of the mainstream.  So far I’ve had more luck finding diverse content in the audiobook arena than with podcasts.  Most recently, I’ve listened to a few texts written and read by the authors, including Maya Angelou narrating I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Khaled Hosseini narrating The Kite Runner.  The synergy of the authors’ words combined with their own voices results in an authentic listening experience like no other.

A popular quote about stories says, “Those who tell the stories rule the world” (attributed to either Hopi Native American proverbs or Plato, depending on the source).  I believe a more complete perspective includes, “Those who listen to the stories choose the rulers.”

For those interested in the tech aspects, I use iTunes and BeyondPod to manage my podcasts, depending on the device.  For audiobooks, I turn to local libraries in the cities where I live and work.  Although I sometimes borrow the actual CDs, I am lucky that both of my local systems have OverDrive, an app that lets me download audiobooks directly to my mobile devices, so most often I don’t even have to leave my car to check out new titles.

How do you hear stories from people of a variety identities and cultures?  What audiobooks or podcasts do you recommend?  Comment below or tweet with me @RachelHLuna.

Advertisements
How we listen determines who gets heard

Tone Policing in Student Affairs: A Case Study on #Ferguson Discussions

by Niki Messmore

In the hours and days following the decision of “no indictment” from the grand jury convened to hear the case of State of Missouri v Darren Wilson, folks in student affairs have struggled to find meaning alongside the rest of the world. Many folks within student affairs have utilized Twitter hashtags and Facebook groups related to the field to begin discussions, ask questions, and engage with one another.

Sometimes these discussions get tricky and result in less than positive feelings.

The Beginnings of a Case Study
The facebook group ‘Student Affairs Professional’ with over 13,000 members had an interesting batch of posts that led me to wonder what are the rules of engagement in regards to social justice discussions within the field.

Perhaps two hours after the “no indictment” decision from Ferguson on 11/24, one professional (the ‘original poster’ aka OP) posted a question (that I am summarizing) asked folks what they were expecting on their campuses and if they were afraid of riots and violence happening. This post we will call the ‘Original Thread’ aka OT.

Now…that question made me highly uncomfortable. I personally feel that the grand jury decision was in error and that Darren Wilson needs to go through a full criminal trial. To ask such a question so soon, when justice for a young black men was lost? It didn’t feel appropriate. Further, the question seemed awash in white fear because automatically connecting Ferguson to riots on our college campus? I feel that line of thought stems from systemic racism.

Within that comment thread, I posted a very balanced statement, gentle challenge, and added that I’m more worried about riots from sporting events than Ferguson on college campuses. Around 2-3 others posted a comment as well, most in the form of a pretty gentle challenge.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

The post got deleted – which is perfectly understandable because the OP likely realized they made a mistake and probably did not want to be anyone’s after-school special as other group members used her post as a learning tool.

Then there were posts created calling out questions for why the OT was deleted. I posted my assumption from above. Then there were some folks engaging in what I would call ‘tone policing’.

What’s Tone Policing, Preciousss?*
Tone Policing: The act of shaming someone for responding in a manner that does not fit into proper polite society, particularly when it is a member of a marginalized population responding to a member of a privilege population. Tone policing occurs when a person is called out for a seemingly ‘harsh’ response.

Tone policing is harmful because (via: TooYoungfortheLivingDead.tumblr.com)
1. “Marginalized people often do not have the luxury of emotionally distancing themselves from discussions on their rights and experiences.”
2. “Tone policing is the ultimate derailing tactic. When you tone police, you automatically shift the focus of the conversation away from what you or someone else did that was wrong, and onto the other person and their reaction.”
3. “Tone policing assumes that the oppressive act is not an act of aggression, when it very much is. The person who was oppressed by the action, suddenly is no longer a victim, but is “victimizing” the other person by calling them out.”

 Back to our Regularly Scheduled Program: The Case Study
Now, within this second thread in Student Affairs Professionals on 11/25, there were some professionals tone policing. Some comments (without citations because while the comments are public I am not trying to bring attention to them – we are trying to understand symptoms of a systemic issue, not point fingers) include:

  1. “We are all educators and another educator asked a seemingly harmless question only to be criticized to the point of feeling like they had to remove a post?”
  2. “And what if the OP was a grad or a new pro asking advice looking for guidance and instead was given criticism to the point that they felt the need to stop the discourse and remove the post.”
  3. “We boast about being an open, friendly, and educational profession; yet we are quick to put another professional on the stake for something we see as alarming or uneducated. Were’s their teachable moment?”
  4. “Are there better ways the original question could have been asked? Sure. Could people have pointed that out differently? Absolutely.”
  5. “We need to allow questions to be asked or statements be made, and not shame people to not asking them or sharing their opinions, probably especially those that make us most uncomfortable, whether we find them right, wrong, or otherwise.”
  6. “But again – we are shaming the original poster into redacting her question. Why is it not okay for her to feel supported…and challenged- in a civil way? If we need to think about the broader subject, great. I get it. I agree. But nobody should feel bad enough about a question (which was certainly asked without malice and minus a lack of concern) to delete it rather than learn from those who should be peers.”

This was all extremely disheartening to read, especially when I had participated in the OT and read all the comments except the last one before it was deleted. The gentle challenges of the commenters to the OP were very civil. In no way at all did the commenters need to rephrase how they were made. In fact, due to the perceived racial identity of the OT and most of the commenters, I read the tone policing comments as something that contributed to oppression (unintentional or not). When people respond to your questions or comments in a way that you read as hostile, it is best to remember these tips for dealing.

Why are we so quick to rally around those with privilege?
Truly, I understand that it can be difficult for people with privilege to seek understanding of systems of oppression (hello, I have a ton of privileges). It’s not easy to be vulnerable and ask questions. It is equally not easy to be from a marginalized group when your privileged questions create harmful impacts.

We grow best in discomfort. Gaining an understanding in social justice is not easy. It can be painful to peel back the layers of our ignorance as we work past feelings of guilt, shame, and denial. But we need to hold people accountable for their questions when needed because that will help them learn. As writer Ngọc Loan Trần proposed, let’s call in people from our community to a higher level of understanding.

At the end of the day, don’t expect conversations on social issues to be just rainbows and puppies. It’s going to be messy – and that’s a good thing.

Have you ever experienced or witnessed tone policing? Share your thoughts in the comments or with me on Twitter @NikiMessmore.

 

PS: If you want to discuss the current events of Ferguson, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and the accompanying movements, ACPA is having a community conversation on Dec 9th at 4:30pm EST.

*even serious topics get a Lord of the Rings joke, because I’m cool like that

Tone Policing in Student Affairs: A Case Study on #Ferguson Discussions

Follow Friday

By Rachel Luna

#FollowFriday is one of my favorite social media traditions because I’m always looking for ways to learn new things.  As Abigail Adams said, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  In this spirit, I look for accounts to ensure my Twitter timeline will keep me connected with the goings-on in the world, pique my interest, and enhance my awareness around issues of social justice.  For this #FF post, I’m sharing a trio of such accounts:

 

NPR’s Code Switch, @NPRCodeSwitch

Twitter Bio:

“We tweet about race, ethnicity and culture, how these things play out in our lives, and how all of that is shifting. We did @TodayIn1963. Hang with us.”

Sample Tweets:

My Take:

Fans of intersectionality will enjoy this account, which features a series of bloggers who tackle race, ethnicity, and culture.  On any given week, posts can touch on music, research, literature, language, etc., all through the lens of race and ethnicity.  I particularly appreciate the way they engage with their followers, often posing open-ended questions, retweeting responses, and inviting suggestions for future stories. One “don’t miss” project from these folks is the innovative, robust history project @Todayin1963, which simulated live-tweet coverage of that dynamic year in US history.

 

Teaching Tolerance, @Tolerance_org

Twitter Bio:

“Founded in 1991 by the Southern Poverty Law Center [@splcenter], Teaching Tolerance provides educators with free educational materials.”

Sample Tweets:

My Take:

This account helps me remember that I am both an educator in my role as an #SAPro, and a student in my role as an engaged global citizen.  From their historical #OnThisDay tweets to suggested curricula for current events, Teaching Tolerance focuses on applied learning about diversity and inclusion. Although their materials are generally aimed at the K-12 classroom crowd, I find it a fun exercise to consider adapting and applying their resources to higher education and student affairs settings.

 

Race Forward, @RaceForward

Twitter Bio:

“We advance racial justice through research, media and practice. We publish @colorlines and present Facing Race. Formerly the Applied Research Center.”

Sample Tweets:

My Take:

This is a “challenge and support” account for me in that keeps me informed and also keeps me thinking.  In addition to providing useful news updates via their outlet @Colorlines (described as a “daily news site where race matters”), this account also hosts provocative Twitter chats like #LivesOfBlackMen and promotes social change initiatives like the “Drop the I-Word” campaign. These are also the people behind the Facing Race conference (described as “the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice”), which you can attend in person or lurk on the backchannel (#FacingRace14).

Your Turn

What accounts do you follow to stay up on current events, culture trends, and perspectives on social justice?  Share in the comments or tweet @RachelHLuna so others can follow, too!

 

Follow Friday

#StayWoke: A Ferguson-centered Follow Friday

by Niki Messmore

This #FF post is being written on Sunday, August 18th. My timeline is full of #staywoke, #HandsUpDontShoot, and #Ferguson. There are photos of men, women, and children who have been tear gassed. Reports of peaceful protests hijacked by police wearing military gear. Residents and journalists being threatened by riot police to “Get back! Or next time you’re going to be the one maced” or “Get out of here or I will shoot you.”

This is all the result of a police officer shooting an unarmed black teenager.  And really, it’s all about systemic racism.

What can I do? I feel helpless and angry as I read the young man’s autopsy report and scroll through tweets. There are some things I can do (especially as a white woman). One of them is to educate (myself and others).

The following is a list of folks who have been reporting & tweeting on the events in Ferguson (mostly thanks to Black Twitter). I know there’s a chance that by Friday that issues in Ferguson may have calmed down, but I guarantee we are still going to need to keep talking about this. As professionals in higher education we MUST acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing and that our society does not value the lives of people of color.

  • @Awkward_Duck: Black feminist activist, she has been organizing in the Ferguson community, including stopping looters
  • Mikki Kendall: Writer for hoodfeminism.com, her commentary is on it at all times, and she RTs all the key Ferguson things
  • zellie: Activist in the black community, he runs Black-Culture.com and flew to Ferguson to participate in the protests.
  • Antonio French: Alderman for St. Louis’ 21st ward, this man has been on the ground since Day 1
  • Maria Chappelle-Nadal: MO State Senator representing parts of Ferguson, she was tear gassed during a peaceful protest
  • Robert Cohen: Photojournalist for the St. Louis Dispatch, and photos like this and this make me question America
  • Jesse Williams: More than just an actor on Grey’s Anatomy, his tweets will get you reflecting on race in America
  • Christopher Hayes: MSNBC host who has been reporting a lot on site, including police run-ins
  • Wesley Lowery: Washington Post reporter who was arrested w/o cause by Ferguson police alongside Ryan O’Reilly and has been reporting on site
  • Imani: Senior Legal Analyst for @RHRealityCheck, her commentary and RTs are a must

 

Also, I put together a Twitter list of folks who are on the ground in Ferguson – both journalists and verified community leaders and activists. Get your info from the source.

At this point, there are probably new voices out there reporting on Ferguson. Who have you been following? Leave your suggestions in the comments or tweet them out to @NikiMessmore so I can follow them also.

And remember…we sometimes forget ourselves, locked in the Ivory Tower of Academia and focusing on our campuses. We need to continue our education, create discussions, and take action. But mostly? We need to wake up.

 

#StayWoke: A Ferguson-centered Follow Friday

F-word at Simmons College: Gloria Steinem’s powerful speech on feminism today (#Storify)

by Jess Faulk

In order to pull together a comprehensive picture of the amazing visit of Gloria Steinem on our campus, I did my very first Storify. This platform was ideal because it allowed me to easily pull in media from Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and Boston news media.  In a week or so, I will also be able to easily add video posted by our Simmons College marketing team.  Storify always seemed like an interesting concept to me, but until I had an event of this scale I hadn’t found a practical use for this social media story telling tool.

After completing the story, Storifty immediately helps you get the word out by sending out a tweet to everyone whose tweets you used as part of the story.  Also, folks who have storify accounts can sign up to “follow” your story and receive updates when new information is added.

Check out my storify of feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s visit to Simmons College for an example of  how you can use this technology on your campus!

Storify_Steinem1

 An example of two tweets pulled into Storify:

Storify_Steinem2

F-word at Simmons College: Gloria Steinem’s powerful speech on feminism today (#Storify)

Anonymous Commenting and Authenticity

By Anitra Cottledge

Recently, a colleague of mine was interviewed for the local news regarding a retention initiative for students of color. It was a great segment, and I told him so. A day or so after the segment aired, he emailed the link for the clip to several people, and pointed our attention to the comments.

I groaned. Lately, I dread reading the comments sections of online blogs, newspapers, and other publications, particularly when the story has to do with social justice in some way or another. I’m sure you’ve seen comments of this ilk; just see some of the commentary surrounding Naomi Schaefer Riley’s comments about eliminating black studies.

Some of this is part of being a citizen in a democratic society; we are expected – at least, in theory – to engage in healthy discussion in which we can respectfully debate and disagree with statements if we so choose. I think that social media, including blogs, can be a powerful site of rich, public discourse. For instance, whether or not you identify yourself as a feminist, I would hope that most of us can see the role and impact of blogs like Feministing or Crunk Feminist Collective in activism, conversation and thought-creation.

That being said, a lot of times, the comments on social justice-focused articles make me want to bang my head on a desk. When I read comments that I feel are trollish, bigoted, over-the-top, or just downright hateful, I just sigh. Or growl. Or throw something.

Lately, the phenomenon of anonymous commenting has brought up a few questions for me: Is anonymity a boon or a curse? Are people who use anonymous commenting as a platform to talk trash or share their racist/homophobic/sexist/classist/ableist/etc. views just acting out? In other words, is there a performative aspect to anonymous commenting that doesn’t accurately reflect a person’s views? Or is anonymous commenting a way for people to showcase the way they really feel about an issue? Does it give voice to those who would not otherwise be heard, and those who feel like they can’t express the way they feel in face-to-face dialogues about social justice topics?

And if people’s actual views are more in line with the vitriol or ignorance they spout anonymously on the intrawebz, where does that leave us when we need to have face-to-face conversations about these same topics?

I have heard some people argue that people should be forced to login with their Facebook or Twitter account to post comments to some websites, but I’m not comfortable with that, nor do I think that’s the answer. For one, people could be using pen names or fake names on FB and Twitter. Also, that’s a little too much policing of people’s privacy.

Privacy is another element of this conversation. When the cast of The Hunger Games became public, there were several racist remarks made about the casting choices. There was even a Tumblr site created to expose “Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans yet don’t know a damn thing about the books.”

Should we call out these folks who make these comments? Some would argue that if your Twitter stream, for instance, is public and attached to your name, then you don’t have a leg to stand on when your comments pop up on popular blogs the next day a lá Gwyneth Paltrow.

As usual, I don’t have definitive answers, just a backpack full of questions. What say you, Student Affairs Women Talk Tech readers?

Anonymous Commenting and Authenticity

Blog Prompt: State of Women in Movies & TV

By Anitra Cottledge

I’m not going to talk about the show Girls in this post, or all the attention it’s gotten, except to say, I’m not really interested in watching it, although it does raise interesting debate about African Americans having to choose between misrepresentation in or exclusion from film and television.

I’m only going talk briefly about The Avengers, simply because I haven’t seen it yet. But, please know that I am going to see The Avengers. I’m expecting to really enjoy it. I heart Joss Whedon, comics, and pop culture. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to enjoy it even though there are only three major female characters in The Avengers: Black Widow, Agent Maria Hill and Pepper Potts. I’m reasonably certain I’m going to like it even though it apparently still doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test because the women “never talk to each other, about a man or anything else for that matter.”

I’m imagining that the three female characters have some nuance, despite not passing the Bechdel Test. Joss’ female characters tend to have layers.

Of course, I could talk about the fact that none of the major female characters (or any of the major male superhero characters, for that matter) in the film are people of color, but that’s another, although related, story for another day.

I could also talk about how, even with some Joss Whedon layers, comic book film adaptations tend to be very gendered. Artist Kevin Bolk points this out:

All of these things are part of a conversation about women in film and TV.

My latest TV addiction, Scandal, has also generated a lot of discussion about the depiction of black women in television. Scandal, a show about a professional fixer, “just might be the first television show on a major network both created by [Shonda Rhimes] and starring a black woman [Kerry Washington]. Could Scandal be indicative of a shift towards a broader and more balanced range in depictions of African American women on TV?

I often say that the problem is one of range, of having (or not having) enough options in the type of character one is going to portray so that all the pressure doesn’t rest on one or two shows to speak to all the multitudes of personalities, ideas, beliefs and experiences within any one identity group.

When you think about it that way, this is both an individual show/film issue and a larger industry issue. In reference to Girls (which I’m still not talking about), “The Problem of Representation, as they say, is the entertainment industry’s problem, not Lena Dunham’s.”

I also think that the industry’s “Problem of Representation” is greatly supported by the virtual invisibility and underrepresentation of women in film and tv. According to the Women’s Media Center, during the 2010-2011 television season, women made up:

  • 18 percent of creators
  • 22 percent of executive producers
  • 37 percent of producers
  • 15 percent of writers
  • 11 percent of directors
  • 20 percent of editors
  • 4 percent of directors of photography.

P.S. Those numbers haven’t shifted much since the 90s.

As someone who works in a Women’s Center, I find myself often saying to people that, of course we need to celebrate and acknowledge women’s progress to date, but our job is to also remember that there is still much work to do. And that, for me, sums up the state of women in film and TV.

While there is much more to learn about women and Hollywood, I want to leave you with something to celebrate: Ten Women of Color Behind the Camera in Television Whose Careers You Should Follow. Get into it.

Blog Prompt: State of Women in Movies & TV