Girls Make their own Media
Girls created their own media with feminist Zines, (homemade magazines) and independent punk rock music albums in the 80s and early 90s. The Bikini Kill band was influential, led by lead singer Kathleen Hanna, with its Riot Grrrl Manifesto published in 1991.[i] It included goals such as “creating non-hierarchal ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.” The Manifesto stated that they hate capitalism and are “angry at a society that tells us Girl = Dumb, Girl =Bad, Girl = Weak.” Today girls write Internet blogs and make videos about their issues. “Global Girl Media” was set up by women broadcasters and journalists to assist girls in “under-served communities” to become journalists, to correct the problem that “young women pass silently under the radar” of mainstream reporting.[ii] Their webpage includes videos by girls. The Women’s Rights Campaign put together an “Info-Activism Toolkit” for how to create a successful campaign by telling a story, inspiring action, and grabbing attention.[iii]
A European website called “grassroots feminism.net” corrects the view of vapid consumers: “The preconception of youth, and in particular of girls and young women, as culturally unproductive and as passive consumers of mass culture and media is still very much ingrained today. However, girls and young women are capable cultural producers who create a wide variety of their own films, music, media, and festivals.” The website features those feminist creations and activities, mainly European. Other sites discuss the role of girls and women in media.[iv]
“Culture jamming” exposes advertising tactics to sell products. The term was coined in 1984 by a band called Negativland. Examples of tactics are pasting stickers such as “This insults women” to counteract the message on billboards (called “stickering”[v]), changing company logos, performance art, graffiti, and hactivism. Adbusters magazine satirizes ads and was the first to call for Occupy Wall Street in 2011. The Guerrilla Girls, created by New York City feminist artists in 1985, wore gorilla masks in their demonstrations against exclusion of women in art and film, as shown on their website.[vi]
Bitch Magazine was founded by Third Wave feminists to comment on popular culture.[vii] The three founders, two young women and a man, were recent college graduates in 1996 who were “pop culture obsessives.” They wanted to do fun feminist analysis of sexism in the media. A compilation of their favorite articles is called Bitchiest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine (2006). Their website is called “Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture.” In response to the Supreme Court decision in 2014 permitting some corporations, like Hobby Lobby, to eliminate some kinds of birth control from their medical coverage the site suggested fun ways to protest such as chalk slogans on the street in front of Hobby Lobby stores, produce a zine with the addresses of other craft stores, or put images of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg on nail polish.[viii] She wrote the dissent in the case. Other publications for girls and women, including blogs, are listed by Women in Media & News.[ix]
Stolen Life about Chinese rural migrants to the city. It shows the class system where city people look down on rural peasants. A freshman university student is corrupted by a scheming boyfriend. (China, 2005)
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. During the Cultural Revolution, two intellectual city boys are sent to the countryside. The shows the impact of the country on them, and visa versa, especially the young seamstress who falls in love with reading. (2002)
The Road Home. An 18-year-old girl in a mountain village falls in love with the new 20-year-old schoolteacher. There’s no kissing in this love story, lots of eye contact and cooking food for him. (1999)
Mao’s Last Dancer: An Australian film about a peasant boy—the sixth son in his family—who was raised during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, trained in Beijing to be a ballet dancer. The film is based on his autobiography, with flash backs from his rural boyhood to dancing in Texas. (2009)
Born in Brothels. It follows the stories of several children growing up in the red-light district of Calcutta, and the impact made on them when they are given cameras to record their daily lives. (India, 2004)
Slumdog Millionaire. A slum boy ends up on a quiz show and his friends as they grow up in poverty. (India, 2008)
City of God shows crime life in a favela/slum in Rio, Brazil. (2002)
City of Men. About two 18-year-old boys who grew up in RIo slums. (2007)
Bus 174: A documentary about a former street kid who hijacks a city bus in Rio. (Brazil, 2003)
Only When I Dance. 18-year-old Irlan succeeds as a ballet dancer, stating, “My greatest desire is to give my parents a better life.” Isabela, 17, struggles less successfully to leave slum life behind. Her dark skin keeps her from being accepted in a Brazilian dance company. (Brazil, 2009)
The Zone. A walled compound of wealthy families in Mexico City is broken into by three teen boys who try to steal from one of the homes. One of slum boys, Miguel, hides out and is befriended by another teen who lives in the compound, Alejandro. The film shows the gap between rich and poor, how the police can be bribed and the rich take justice into their own hands. It’s violent. (2007)
- Hermano. Two teen soccer players live in a Caracas slum, one of them is in a gang. (Venezuela, 2012)
- Yesterday. An illiterate Zulu farmwoman, whose husband works in the mines in Johannesburg, learns she had AIDS. She is determined to stay alive until her daughter starts school. Shows village life. (South Africa, 2004)
Beat the Drum is about orphans who live on the streets of Johannesburg. (South Africa, 2002)
A Separation. A middle-class couple in Tehran separates because the mother wants to leave Iran. The father brings in a lower-class caregiver for his father who has Alzheimer’s disease. She brings her young daughter with her. Their 11-year-old daughter Termeh is caught in the middle of her parents’ disagreements. She lies to prevent her father from going to jail after an incident where he pushes the caregiver out of his door and she has a miscarriage. Masoud Ferasati, an Iranian writer close to government said: “The image of our society that A Separation depicts is the dirty picture Westerners are wishing for.” It’s similar to the film Divorce Iranian Style. (Iran, 2011)
Bliss tells the story of an ex-commando who is ordered by his family to kill his 17-year-old cousin, an “honor killing,” because she was raped and “tainted.” It contrasts the differences between rural and urban lifestyles and shows the girl’s increasing strength to stand up for herself. (Turkey, 2007)
Nairobi Half Life. A young aspiring actor, Mwas migrates from a village in rural Kenya to Nairobi and is exposed to slum life and gang crime. (2012)
- Machuca. The film takes place in 1973, when the first socialist president democratically elected in a Latin-American country, President Salvador Allende is murdered. The story is about an upper-class boy who meets a lower-class boy when their Catholic school is integrated. Their friendship is torn apart by the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. (Argentina, 2004)
To Be and to Have. A documentary about a dedicated teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in a rural French village. 2003
Owl and the Sparrow. A 10-year-old orphan girl lives on the streets of Saigon. (2006)
The Story of the Weeping Camel. A family of nomadic shepherds raises a white camel calf. (Mongolia, 2004)
In America: an Irish immigrant family comes to live in a tenement in New York City, told from the point of view of the little girls. (US, 2003)
Beasts of the Southern Wild. A six-year-old black girl lives on an island in the Louisiana bayou with her alcoholic and sick father in poverty without electricity, both of them first-time actors. Her father refers to her as “man,” and teaches her to be a tough and survivor. (US, 2012)
Films about discrimination against indigenous young people:
Map of the Human Heart. About an Eskimo boy Avik, nicknamed Holy Boy, by a New Zealand filmmaker. It shows his corruption by western culture. (Eskimo, 1993)
Walkabout tells the story of an aboriginal boy who befriends two lost children. (Australia, 1971)
Rabbit-Proof Fence. True story about three indigenous girls (ages 8-14) who are kidnapped and taken to a missionary school in the 1930s because they are half white, and escape to travel hundreds of miles on foot with no food or water or map to get back home. The girls had no previous experience as actors. (Australia, 2002)
Kite Runner: Takes place in Afghanistan in the 1970s, about a Pashtun boy and underclass Hazara boy. (Afghanistan, 2007)
Syria is the longest and most violent of the revolutions. Assad’s troops killed over 5,000 generally Sunni Syrians by the end of 2011, despite protests and observers sent by the Arab League and economic sanctions by the US and European nations. By early 2014 the number killed doubled and 100,000 were displaced from their homes. Three million Syrian children were displaced form their homes, a “lost generation” many of whom don’t go to school and must labor to help their families survive in exile. Civil war ensued, with Alawite Muslims and some Christians backing the Alawite dictator, fearful of being persecuted by a Sunni takeover. Whereas Quadafi in Liberia said he was killing rats, Assad said his killings of his people were like a surgeon who has to shed blood to save the patient—over 100,000 by 2013. Comedian Bill Marr pointed out Assad looks like a car salesman in his crisp suits but he’s a butcher.
The UN reported that an average of 5,000 Syrians were killed each month of the uprising and eight million refugees left the country or their homes, nearly half of the Syrian—including more than one million children, over half without schools creating a “lost generation.” Frontline produced a video about five of those children growing up with death all around them.[i] See a short documentary about the struggle.[ii] Many of those who have schools nearby drop out because their families need them to work or they’re too traumatized. A 12-year-old girl quoted by Oxfam, Reema wrote, “I had so many dreams. None of them will come true. All I want is to live in my country in freedom. Syria, my beloved country, I love you.” Over 11,000 children younger than 17 were killed by the end of 2013, according to UNICEF. Children were tortured, sexually abused, used as soldiers, and killed, at first mostly by government forces and then by rebel groups as well. The opposition was taken over by foreign jihadists. Over 150,000 Syrians were killed, about half were refugees, they suffer from starvation in blocaded areas, polio returned, and the government dropped barrel bombs and chemical warfare on civilians.
What I Learned About Global Youth after A Decade of Research
One ah ha moment was that realization that ageism is at play in academic circles. After most of the academics who read drafts of the book said many books were written about youth activism and cited books that didn’t focus on youth at all, I realized that a blind spot or bias was at play. This phenomenon is the same as sexism that kept scholars of both sexes from focusing on women’s contributions, until feminists pointed it out in the second wave of the woman’s movement. I wrote my dissertation on the religious ideas of the 19th century novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her novels clearly focus on the saving grace of virtuous women but no one had discussed due to the sexist blind spot. Even books describing the bias against young people don’t include their actual voices, just like history books included few women’s or people of color’s voices.
Some developmentalists disagree with generational scholars who think there are distinctive differences shaped by different historical events. It’s true that all adolescents face the task of shaping their adult identity and values, but young people shaped by access to ICT are different than previous generations. For example, Baby Boomers said don’t trust people over 30, while Gen Y and Gen Z value their parents because they are cynical about other authorities, political and religious. They have access to news about scandals concerning politicians and religious leaders, transferring respect for elders to ones they know. Youth are also more egalitarian than previous generations, raised on media coverage of successful women and people of color. Marshall Mckuan is correct that the characteristics of the media we imbibe influence us as well as the information it conveys. Not only does the speed of communication make them impatient with old ways of doing things, but it connects them to each other in a global youth support group for change.
A surprise for me was how similar media-connected educated are globally. We could construct a profile of a young person in any urban area wearing jeans and T-shirt, listening to hip-hop on headphones, texting on smart phone, disgusted with local authorities, informed about global problems. They’re created “glocal” or hybrid cultures, such as hip-hop songs in local languages and youth slang combining various languages and abbreviations. In contrast, young people in rural areas in developing countries where over 80% of youth live are raised more traditionally, often poorly educated and not aware of global issues. I’m thinking of children I interviewed in rural Indonesia and Pakistan who don’t know about climate change. If Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg succeeds in his goal to provide Internet access to everyone, rural areas will have access to global information sources that provide the foundation for changemakers.
Regional differences do occur, of course. Thinking of repeated phrases used by activists specific to regions:
MENA and other Islamic countries: Allahu Akbar (God is Great), and Insha’ Allah (God willing), indicating the region with the most focus on religion.
North America: “We’re the 99%,” indicating the focus on economic inequality.
Europe: “it’s the system,” an attack on neoliberal capitalism.
Latin America: Horizontallsm and we’re creating a new human in a new society.
Russia: Putin is a tiger. (A positive for some, a negative for activists.)
China: Human rights
Africa: African solutions for African problems.
We all know that our main problem is our planet is in jeopardy because of “climate weirdness” and the increasing carbon and methane emissions. A UN survey reported that young people didn’t make the connection that their lifestyle has to change in order to save the planet. This means not using fossil fuels and not eating meat that’s responsible for 70% of agricultural emissions and over a third of methane gases. We’ve seen that educated SpeakOut youth are altruistic and informed. Will they be able to transform the revolution of rising expectations to consuming less and acting locally? Please email email@example.com to share your observations about how Gen Y and Z will shape our future.
A surprise for me researching my book on global youth was how similar media-connected educated are globally. We could construct a profile of a young person in any urban area wearing jeans and T-shirt, listening to hip-hop on headphones, texting on smart phone, disgusted with local authorities. Agree or disagree? What would you add?
Open Doors Literacy Project
Please receive a tax-deduction for supporting literacy. Only one-third of Pakistani young people are in primary school, so extremist Muslim Madrassas provide an affordable alternative for some boys, but not girls of course. Pakistan in second- to-last place in worldwide rankings of gender equality, according the to Global Gender Gap Report 2012. ODLP has no administrative costs. All funding goes to supplies and teacher Hassan’s expenses. He’s a university student in Peshawar who teaches in rural villages.
Please see the ODLP website for photos of our students. http://opendoorsliteracyproject.weebly.com.
Please make out check to Annie B’s, ODLP or donate online www.nvcf.org. Mail checks to North Valley Community Foundation, 3120 Cohasset Rd, Suite 8. Chico, CA 95973.