Media Literacy, African American Women and HAES
July 7, 2012 by Angela Mensah
Filed under Activism, Body Image, Empowerment, Fat Acceptance, Featured, Finding Your Voice, HAES, Loving Your Body, Media Literacy, Obesity, Role Models, Self Esteem, Self-Acceptance, Self-Care, Self-Compassion, Weight Stigma
Greetings and Salutations,
My name is Dr. Angela Prater-Mensah and my PhD is in Communication Studies with a focus on Media. I was invited to join We Are the Real Deal Blog after speaking at BEDA’s National Binge eating conference. My educational background, life path and struggle with body image and disordered eating will inform blog as a person of size. I would like to point out that while I do not fully embrace the HAES philosophy of health at every size, I do believe that we should have respect at every size and the discrimination toward people of size in the country is simply outrageous and learning how to critically engage is essential for children and adults.
First I would like to point out what media literacy is not and that is common sense. Media literacy is not common sense because it a complicated process by which we actively, systematically and pragmatically engage with mediated messages that mass audiences what to think about. Media literacy also includes an investigation of media conglomerates that own, produce and distribute such messages. Media Literacy will also juxtapose these messages with the socio-cultural, historical and political messages that inform the creation or re-creation for modern day consumption.
I suggest that it takes just as long to read understand and interpret the practice of looking as it does the process of reading at a college level, possibly longer. In fact, many scholars commit their lives to like Stuart Hall that teaches us that “race is a floating signifier” and bell hooks that media representation is the re-imagined, re-invented imitation of life and Jean Kilbourne whose work influenced my study of body image after being introduced to Killing Us Softly and now the Media Education Foundation (MED) produces wonderful documentaries with the leading scholars challenging social issues and highlight the ways in which media informs and is informed by culture. If you are ever interested in other resources please let me know, there are many authors including Douglas Kellner that I also relied on to inform my understanding of media. I would be happy to create a reading list if anyone is interested.
I am fortunate to have earned a BS in television production because it has informed the ways in which my semiotic analysis of films with Queen Latifah as iconic figure for large African American women was shaped. I was able to apply my understanding of the significance that pre-production, production and post production process including camera angles, pans, lighting, editing and graphics for example while critically analyzing the content through a feminist lens.
Interestingly enough, utilizing feminist theory and studies of race, class and gender were limited I argued that weight is a construct that should be included in these studies as an intersectional point of analysis as well, particularly as it relates to media and sexuality as well because the depiction of Queen Latifah at the time was that of a female buck. A lot has happened since then and Queen Latifah’s images became more progressive but her struggle with weight complicated.
However, Queen Latifah was not my focus but she seemed to be what my questions focused on after presenting my master’s thesis at conferences. Therefore, I wanted to understand the ways in which the portrayals of large African American women affected every day women. Not the ones in the media because media and blockbuster mentality makes portrayals and thus the analysis, limited. So, I interviewed African American women of size for my dissertation and realize how mediated messages constrained their agency and constituted an identity for them.
Media Literacy will be my broad topic of conversation in this blog, however, I thought I would start off with the background of myself and the perspective from which I will write. In my bio you can see a short piece the television production program I graduated from if your interested in knowing more about me.
In my next blog I will give an overview of the basic media literacy and will go from there. Please feel free to request topics that you would like me to discuss as it relates to media literacy so this can be an interactive teaching tool.