Naim Semester Project


The media is a vehicle used to inform as well as entertain the public. The media is a carrier of information, ideas, thoughts and opinions. It is a powerful force in influencing peoples perceptions on a variety of issues. The media can be both positive as well as negative in terms of the position and views of women as well as a powerful mechanism for education and socialisation. Although the media has played an important role in highlighting women’s issues, it has also had negative impact, in terms of perpetrating violence against women through pornography and images of women as a female body that can be bought and sold. Overall, the media treatment of women is narrow and continually reinforces stereotyped gender roles and assumptions that women’s functions are that of a wife, mother and servant of men.” Arpita Sharma

Women are portrayed inhumanly in western media today. Edited images of women are posted on huge billboards in the busiest cities. Younger women see those “perfect” images — according to the advertisers — of what a woman should look like. This creates internal conflict inside these young women and reduces their self-esteem which in turn leads to depression and blind following of what they are presented with.

My final project is an analysis of the portrayal of women in western media landscape today. I focus on three major media components: advertising media, news media, and print media. I go in depth with each component explaining how women are portrayed and I share some media that help bring the point home. I also bring in Islamic views on the matter. I explain how Islam sees a woman and how Islam protects the woman from the evil that is around. I hope that this project brings useful insight to the reader and I hope that the reader is able to take away something of value for the future.


Blog Post 5 : Amma Assante


Amma Assante is a British film director who is getting a lot of attention for her upcoming feature film “Belle.” “Belle” is a movie about a small black girl, who gets adopted into a British aristocracy during a time in which such a thing was unheard of. From what I gathered from the trailer, the movie takes the audience through the usual pitfalls that come with being a young black woman in a pre-dominantly white culture. Add in the fact that Belle is a stepchild, and wants to marry “a man with no name” in this world, and the recipe for a tearjerker is complete.

What is most intriguing about this production is the fact that a large part of its production team is comprised of minorities, who usually don’t get the chance to be heard or seen on screen. “[Belle] was penned by black British writer Misan Sagay (“Their Eyes Were Watching God”), scored by Rachel Portman (“Chocolat”), the costumes were conceived by a woman and it was edited by women,” and not to mention the fact that the lead actress in this movie is a woman of color.

I was originally going to write this post about another phenomenal creative force in the world. However, as if by fate, I happened to stumble upon Belle.  What intrigued me about this story was the fact that it spoke about one of the common themes we have discussed in the class—that if more minorities had the opportunity to make films, the voice would be different. In an interview, Assante directly addressed this issue stating, “we need a variety of lenses in which to tell these stories, being in a strong position where you can make the decisions … I have a responsibility to open up those opportunities.”

This particular quote brought me back to Film Fatales when Catherine Saalfield states, “film making is the most efficient, creative and satisfying form of activism,” (Saalfield, 66). I feel as though the two quotes echo each other. Both women are owners of their art and they understand the importance of voicing a minority perspective.

In “Can ‘Belle’ End Hollywood’s Obsession with the White Savior?” the author argues that this is the first film in which a woman of color takes responsibility f or herself and saves herself, instead of waiting for a white man, in shining armor, to come and rescue him or her. In the essay,  Keli Goff states, “When it comes to race-relations dramas—and slavery narratives, in particular—the white savior has become one of Hollywood’s most reliably offensive clichés,” This brings me back again to the point I made previously about minority voices making film. The perspective from which the film is made is often underrated. While on Arsenio Jessie Williams spoke out about the fact that the critically acclaimed Django was not “for [African Americans] and it was not made by [an African American.” The movie played into the “white savior” concept tha Goff speaks of in her essay. Yet, when it was marketed as though it was a groundbreaking film that showed a different side to slavery. (I will not point out the fact that the gracious white men sacrificed his precious life in order for the negro to survive in the movie).


Redding, Judith M., and Victoria A. Brownworth. “Catherine Saalfield: Art and Activism.” Film fatales: independent women directors. Seattle: Seal Press, 1997. . Print.

Naim Post 5

Marleen Gorris was the first woman director to win an oscar. In Author/Auteur: Feminist Literary Theory and Feminist Film, Maggie Humm states that “…Gorris’s films have distinctively gendered preoccupation and styles, her first two films – A Question of Silence and Broken Mirrors – being elaborately women-centered films” (Humm, 92). Gorris is not the type of woman who likes to speak about her films to the public. She is a cerebral director who does not openly discuss her work, “As she pointed out in 1984 ‘I find it extremely difficult to talk about my own films, I don’t like to explain things that I have already explored in the film’ (Screen International 1984, p. 156)” (Humm, 94). “Gorris has so far been remarkably silent autobiographically in interviews. There are none of the customary detailed embellishments of physical appearance, family history, of the typical Bildungsroman of unknown writer to famous directory” (Humm, 94).

Gorris was born in the Limburg region in Roermond in 1948. She was born to Protestant working-class parents in the very Catholic southern part of the Netherlands. Gorris studied drama at home and abroad. She studied Drama at the University of Amsterdam and has an MA in Drama from the University of Birmingham, England. She has a brother, Henk Gorris, who teaches History. She began working as a filmmaker with almost no previous experience in the cinema and made an auspicious writing and directorial debut in 1982 with A Question of Silence. The Dutch government gave her the funding to finance the project. (

One of Gorris’s most famous films was undoubtedly A Question of Silence. A Question of Silence is Gorris’ controversial debut film which became an instant feminist classic on its release. It won the Golden Calf at the Netherlands Film Festival and the Grand Prix at the Créteil International Women’s Film Festival, Paris (both 1982). The film deals with a group of women who have never met before but who together spontaneously murder a male shopkeeper. We follow a criminal psychiatrist’s interviews with the women to try to ascertain their sanity, and the ensuing court case, with surprising results. The film examines women’s shared oppression under patriarchy and the effects of this. (

As the auteur, “Gorris’s imprint is much more subtly autobiographical and marks framing and camera movements” (Humm, 94). According to Humm, Gorris’s attention to such minute details helped make this one of her best films. Her experiences and her will to create a cohesive piece about the experiences of these women has led her “…authorial energies surface” (Humm, 94).

Gorris achieved a good example of gynocriticism in the film. She “…achieved this by working with the same small handful of actresses who share her background in theater rather than film, and with the same producer, cameraman and editor on both A Question of Silence and Broken Mirrors” (Humm, 95).

In conclusion, Humm put it best when she said: “For Marleen Gorris…the theater and the thriller have both  been important sources of ideas” . Humm states that “Gorris uses mise-en-scéne in A Question of Silence…to make a coherent artistic statement about women’s subordination” (99). Gorris’s films are an expression of her emotions and beliefs. She uses the camera to convey images of truth and reality, and earns the respect of her fellow peers.

Works Cited

“FEMINIST CLASSIC: A Question of Silence.” London Feminist Film Festival. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2014.

Humm, Maggie. “Chapter 4.” Feminism and Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1997. N. pag. Print.

“Marleen Gorris.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 May 2014.

The Mommy Myth

Susan Douglas’ The Mommy Myth brought up many great examples of the misrepresentations of minorities.First and foremost, Douglas talked about the way welfare mothers are often stereotyped. Hardly ever in mainstream media do we see Caucasian families portrayed as poor in the plays, commercials, and television shows etc. Most of the women on welfare presented in the media are minorities–African American or Hispanic–with a history of teen pregnancies, as well as welfare dependency.

As I was reading the article, which talked about characters such as Carmen, who are often portrayed as lazy, promiscuous and irresponsible, I could not help but think of Mama June, who is the matriarch of the hit show Here comes Honey BooBoo. The connection is very interesting because even though the entire family is Caucasian, they are still considered to be minorities within the social system. They are not the “Christi Brinkley[s]” or “Annette Bening[s]” of the nation (Douglas,178). They are marginalized because though they may not be on welfare, they are still atypical Americans–portrayed as uncouth country bumpkins, who are overweight and do not take care of their bodies. Indeed, Mama June is a Carmen character because she is neither “too rich…[nor]…too thin.” She is actually confident in the way she looks and conducts her life, often labeling herself as “smexy.”

While I am on the topic of self-confidence and sexuality, I also want to discuss the implied ties between welfare and sexual promiscuity. Mama June once again would fit this profile because she has four children and in one episode she was even wondering if she was pregnant again. As I was looking up footage for this post, I found myself attracted to the clip titled ‘Is Mama June Pregnant Again?’ Going out on a limb here, I am going to assume that Mama June did not personally title the YouTube clip. Instead, it is the executives involved with that network who know that portraying this woman as a sexually irresponsible woman will garner more views. Most people at this point know about Honey Boo Boo and her family, so when producers want to get more viewers, they will automatically go with the stereotypes.

The description of the Carmen character as a “welfare cheat” and an overweight African American woman reminded me of Mo’nique’s character in the award-winning film, Precious. The film received a lot of back lash from members of the African American community because it displayed, in a very raw, unabashed manner. The Carmen character. Mary, played by Mo’nique was this stereotypical, lazy, abusive and very angry woman, who keeps her kid around only because she would be able to swindle a welfare check. The character of Precious, naturally, would be illiterate, become a teen mother, giving birth to two children (one with disabilities) before she graduated high school.

What is most problematic in this situation, as in many others, is the fact that these profiles are being marketed to target audiences. Douglas writes, “ articles…like this exploited the fact that their readership was largely clueless about the lives of their impoverished fellow citizens,” (175). This goes on to show that, at the end of the day, almost every piece of media is made with an agenda and it is up to the consumer to be skeptical of the things they read. In this case, The New Yorker played on the fact that it’s audience was probably Upper West Sider’s, who are familiar with poverty verbally, but don’t have the slightest idea of what it means to be an impoverished mother.


Douglas, Susan. The Mommy Myth. 174-200. Print.

Naim Post 4

Women are often objectified in the media. They are used as symbols to help sell a product or make a statement. They are also used as eye candy for the male gaze. Minorities in the media are either kept to a minimum or may not be represented at all. It’s a fact that most ads use white women to sell a product UNLESS they need to compare them to a colored woman. This is especially prevalent in skin care products ads. Some News channels objectify women by placing them in an environment where male opinion and male gaze dominate. In the following piece, I will discuss and analyze how magazines portray both women and the women minority.

The bulk of the advertising companies are male-operated. Advertisers use sex to try and sell an item. Men look at women’s magazines for pleasure, while women look at women’s magazines for ways to improve themselves. The items placed in these magazines create this cloud of lies and deception. Advertisers tend to heavily place “…shampoo, fragrance, and beauty products” (Steinem, 2) in women’s magazines because they’re dubbed as “women’s products”. These products can supposedly “turn back time”, or make one look younger, or improve one’s self-esteem. What these items basically do is create a void in people’s hearts for the reason that they just don’t work as advertised.  Skin care ads may use many different “shades” of women to convey a message about a product or to show how a product will work with different colored skin. I don’t see men used for this purpose and I don’t see this rampant objectification of men in ads ‒ albeit a few ads may do so ‒ or in any other form of media.

According to Gloria Steinem, women’s magazines are rarely taken seriously and are referred to as cash cows. Women’s magazines nowadays lie heavily on advertising for the “average” woman, that is, the woman that needs to buy things in order to feel important. The woman they use in these ads are not real. They’re a figment of the advertisers’ imaginations.

In an article by Alex Alvarez, she says that in “…so many women’s magazines, both “fashion” mags like Glamour and Vogue and “sexy” mags like Cosmo and Horse & Hound do women so much more harm than good”. Minorities in magazine are often portrayed as being sultry and seductive. They may be represented as helpless and weak mainly because they may not speak the language, which I guess make them more vulnerable?

Latinas are often depicted as having well-defined curves and a well-toned body. According to Alvarez, “They can get away with playing the “bad girl,” possibly because they are allowed – and even encouraged – to have more overtly sexual bodies, with an emphasis on curves, dark eyes and bright, plump, shiny, slick, wet lips shown in loving close-ups, usually while the face to which they’re attached is growling or purring or doing something else that’s totally fierce”. We can see this trend on television in a show like Modern Family where Sofia Vergara is the embodiment of the representations of Latinas.

Black women are often represented as “…“white-washed” in appearance”(Alvarez). “Features that are seen [as characterization] of black people, like curlier hair textures, wider noses and fuller lips, are often downplayed in American magazines, conforming to a white standard of beauty”(Alvarez).  Magazines don’t seem to know how to represent Black women. They often choose to create another shade of white, if you will. Alvarez puts it precisely when she says: “…while Latinas are allowed to be “fiery” and “seductive,” the magazine and fashion industry seem [to be] confused about how, exactly, to portray black women, choosing instead to whitewash them and choose only light-skinned women with whittled-down figures, or very dark “exotic beauties” that are treated more like sculptural objects than flesh and blood women”. As you will see in the examples below, the true skin color of a black woman is almost always altered to fit the “image” of the ad.

Eastern magazines are portraying women in a similar light. An article written by Nadia Siddiqui articulates the reasons behind this. Siddiqui states that “Gender segregation and role divisions [in China] have made women conform to traditional value systems. Submission, obedience and modesty have been the accepted qualities for women that subjected them to male power. However, these countries are now steadily gaining economic strength and expanding their presence in global markets” (32). The same was said about magazines in India, Pakistan, and Turkey. The influx of western advertisers in these countries is the main contribution to this increasing trend. Western advertisers are applying western ideologies in their pursuit to advertise to the Eastern market. Below, I’ve chosen a few magazine covers from eastern magazines. As you can see, they are similar to their western counterparts, albeit with more modesty. One can also see that the content in eastern magazines may be of more benefit to society when compared to those in the western hemisphere where content tends to be about aesthetics more than anything else.

In conclusion, portrayal of women in magazines differ slightly between western and eastern cultures. Western culture tends to standardize women to a white standard. They also tend to focus on the aesthetics of the woman more than her character. Eastern magazines tend to portray women in a similar light aesthetically, but the content may be of more benefit to the reader.

Works cited:

Steinem, Gloria. “Sex, Lies & Advertising.” MS Magazine July-Aug. 1990: 1-11. Web.

Alvarez, Alex. “MODEL MINORITY: HOW WOMEN’S MAGAZINES WHITEWASH DIFFERENT ETHNICITIES.” Web log post. Racialicious the Intersection of Race and Pop Culture. N.p., 10 Apr. 2008. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

Nadia Siddiqui (2014) Women’s magazines in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, South Asian Popular Culture, 12:1, 29-40, DOI: 10.1080/14746689.2014.879423



Naim Post 2

Berger states that “Men survey women before treating them” (46). The male gaze is man’s way of judging the woman and “surveying” her every move. The male gaze can be a dominant gaze, which can leave the woman feeling lesser than the man. The women is often the watched, while the man is often doing the watching. It is for this reason that most hollywood movies cater to this notion by “dollying” the actresses for the satisfaction of the male gaze. Women know that men like to judge them, so they go the extra mile to look good and impress. Like Berger puts it, “…men act and women appear” (47). This negative notion of the male gaze creates a void in the woman’s heart, and thus lowers her self-esteem and can lead to a total loss of confidence.
Medieval paintings treated the women as the subject, in that “…[she] is aware of being seen by a spectator” (49), which is the man. These paintings depicted women as helpless and weak. They depicted women as seductive objects waiting for the man’s actions or approval. Cinema often creates visual pleasures by placing the woman in a passive or victimized roles. Mulvey states that “The image of woman as (passive) raw material for the (active) gaze of man takes the argument a step further into the structure of representation, adding a further layer demanded by the ideology of the patriarchal order as it is worked out in its favourite cinematic form — illusionistic narrative film” (843). Mulvey is saying “…that in film women are typically the objects, rather than the possessors of gaze because the control of the camera (and thus the gaze) comes from factors such as the as the assumption of heterosexual men as the default target audience for most film genres” (
The oppositional gaze, as defined by Bell Hooks, encourages black women to not passively accept the stereotypes of them presented in the media, but to rather “stare” back and critique them. Hooks affirms that “By courageously looking, we defiantly declared: “Not only will I stare. I want my look to change reality” (116). This is a means for black women to empower themselves through confrontation and critique of the media. According to Hooks, the oppositional gaze develops from the times of slavery when “…white slaveowners…punished enslaved black people for looking” (115). These attempts to repress the gaze of the black man “…had produced in us an overwhelming longing to look, a rebellious desire, an oppositional gaze” (Hooks, 116).
The gaze, as I understand it, can be a dominant one in which one oppresses another through a stare of domination. The gaze can also be a prejudice one in which one pre-judges another.

Works Cited:
Berger, John. “3.” Ways of Seeing. London: British Broadcasting, 1973. N. pag. Print.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism : Introductory Readings. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford UP,1999: 833-44.

Tekanji. “FAQ: What Is the “male Gaze”?” Web log post. Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog. N.p., 26 Aug. 2007. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

Hooks, Bell. In Black Looks: Race and Representation (Boston: south End Press, 1992), 115-31.


Final Project Proposal

My final project is going to discuss the erasure of African American women in history. I want to mainly talk about Sojourner Truth, Ella Baker, and Shirley Chisom. I want to focus on the fact that these women made significant contributions to American history, but they are rarely ever talked about in history books. Sojourner Truth is known to be a historical figure, but not many know about her personal struggle for justice and the fact that she accomplished it. Ella Baker’s contribution as an activist is also a significant part of history that is often omitted. My biggest focus will be Shirley Chisom because I feel as though she blazed too large a trail for her to go unmentioned.

I am also hoping to make my project come full circle by mentioning today’s women such as Condoleeza Rice as well as Michelle Obama and analyzing how they will looked at many years from now. I am planning on making a blog for my final project and showing some documentary clips of these women as well.

Resources: ‘Shirley Chisom Unbought & Unbossed’

‘Ella Baker and Models of Social Change’
By Charles Payne

‘Demanding a Voice Among Pettifoggers: Sojourner Truth As Legal Actor’

By Christina Accomando

Michelle Obama: