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Educating for Change

September 17th, 2013


By Dr. Juli Parker

I have always been interested in representation.  And if you follow my blog, The Feminist Critic, you will see I spend a great deal of time writing and thinking about how oppressed people are represented in today’s media.   I edited an anthology about the representation of murderous women in literature, theatre, film and television.  However, it wasn’t until a screening of Miss Representation for Women’s History Month two years ago, which my office planned, that I became obsessed.

After the screening, I stood up to ask who in the room considered themselves a feminist.  One 13-year-old girl raised her hand and yelled, “I do now!”  This was one of those goose-bumpy experiences that keeps someone like me, who has spent over twenty years as a professional feminist, in the game.

I decided there and then that I had to get this documentary to as many 13 year olds as possible, both boys and girls.  I wrote a proposal to train college students to go into high schools and middle schools to teach media literacy, using Miss Representation as a tool.  And I won it.  What follows is how I have been spending $100,000.

Misstomass

We spent the last year screening the documentary at four University of Massachusetts locations, recruiting students who want to participate in our program From Miss Representation to Mass Representation.  And we trained a group of students from UMass Dartmouth and piloted the media literacy program in five schools in our area.

The Educating for Change Media Literacy Conference, coming September 28th and 29th on the UMass Dartmouth campus (http://www.umassd.edu/medialiteracy) is our attempt to train students in social justice media literacy.  In two weeks, feminist media expertslike Jamia Wilson (TED), Amy Richards (Soapbox/Makers), Jennifer Baumgardner (Soapbox/The Feminist Press), Jennifer Pozner (Women in Media & News), Cristina Finch (Amnesty International USA), Dana Edell (SPARK), Debbie Hines (Huffington Post/Legal Speaks), Janet Freedman (Brandeis University Women’s Studies Research Center), Candace Clement & Misty Perez Truedson (Free Press), Cara Lisa Berg-Powers (Press Pass TV), Kristal Brent Zook (Hofstra University), and Lovette Luvvie Ajayi (Absolutely Luvvie), among others, will come to campus to facilitate workshops and panels for college students, educators and the general public about social justice media literacy.  UMass attendees will go into local middle and high schools all around Massachusetts to educate students in media literacy and give them the tools to combat media bias.

The keynote speaker, Caroline Heldman, who is featured in the documentary Miss Representation, is chair of the Politics Department at Occidental College. She is also a political commentator for MSNBC, Fox Business News, RT America, and Al Jazeera English. Dr. Heldman’s work has been featured in the top journals in her field, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, and Political Communications. She co-edited the popular book, Rethinking Madame President: Is the US Ready for a Woman in the White House? (2007). Dr. Heldman’s work has also been featured in popular publications, including the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Ms. Magazine, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Beast.

Keynote Speaker, Caroline Heldman
Keynote Speaker, Caroline Heldman

The conference will also feature a panel of representatives from the Women’s Media Center, SPARK, Free Press, FAAN Mail, & Women in Media and News and a panel of Massachusetts female politicians. 

Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards, founders of Soapbox Inc.: Speakers Who Speak Out will be offering a workshop at The Educating for Change Conference called “Feminist Media and Reproductive Justice,” examining how reproductive decisions in the mainstream media follow a narrow narrative.  Jen and Amy will define and discuss current trends in reproductive justice activism and theory–as well as suggest how a feminist media might offer a more accurate picture of reproductive decision-making and justice.

Media reform and feminist change moves much slower than I like.  My hope is that for the 100 – 200 students who come to this event, the pace of change will pick up speed.

For more information or to register go to www.umassd.edu/medialiteracy