Saving the World through Media: A Feminist’s Back-Up Plan

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The ever-churning stew of outrage surrounding many feminists issues is, frankly, quite exhausting. For me at least. It’s hard to listen to the same arguments over and over, applied to only slightly changed situations. Will it ever end? No, at least not for a while. Neither reformists nor revolutionaries have made much progress in the past decade, mostly due to the loss of a clear definition of what exactly feminism is. The internet, post-modernism, and continued in-fighting from the last century have made determining even what can and can’t be considered a victory impossible. It’s hard to fight towards a goal when nobody can agree what the goal is.

Regardless of the specific goal, I personally wouldn’t mind a complete overhaul of the system, but it’s hard to imagine non-violently achieving that without reforming the system first. Our cultural and societal structures as they are can’t withstand such rapid change, but perhaps in a world with equal-pay, measures against discrimination, etc… we could. Yet, when I look at raging hurricane of clashing opinions that is the internet, I lost faith that even small cultural changes can be achieved.

My faith aside, change is inevitable. As a society we’ve never been prone to moving backwards. Over the last three centuries, no group has less rights than they did even the decade previous. That’s just how progress works. As generations live and die their ideologies shift, changing from iteration to iteration to match the changing tides of thought. So it’s safe to assume that the next generation, overall, will be less racist, sexist, or classist than the previous one. If this isn’t the work of the parents, who, for the sake of argument, maintain their beliefs, then what? Well… culture. What you pick up from school, your friends, your church, your mailman, that strange uncle: these are the people and institutions whose opinions influence your own thoughts.

There’s one specific cultural educator I left out: media. That’s because media’s power has quickly grown in the past few decades to be one of, if not the most, influential factor for a developing mind. Despite the potential dangers, I’m somewhat comforted by this, because even if we feminists achieve no political or social victories in the next few decades, we can and will influence media. It seems clear, to me at least, that the growing representation of homosexuality in television and film (as little of it as there is) vastly affected, even subconsciously, the attitude of our culture towards gay marriage and contributed to its legalization. I remember seeing Modern Family when it aired, which would have been late middle school/early high-school for me, and it eased a lot of the discomfort I had with homosexuality, simply because I had no experience with it beforehand.

So this is a call to all media-makers out there: it’s up to you to change our culture for the better; to teach children, or even adults, how to be more accepting of those around them and to familiarize them with said groups so that any fear they have can’t possibly be of the unknown. Call it a back-up plan, that even if we don’t achieve any progress through actual social efforts, we can ensure a better future through “cultural bombardment,” as I like to call it. We need more shows like Steven Universe, and lots of them, because they do make a difference. Maybe not immediately, but in the coming decades as the kids who watched them grow up to be, hopefully, better people for it.

I’m not saying this is easy, in fact it’s extremely hard, but it can be done. If enough artists create enough equality-driven TV shows and movies, or just simply introduce characters LGBT/colored/any minority into whatever project they’re doing, this stuff will slip through. The industry may be run by old white dudes, but they can’t possibly police everything. This may be naive and idealistic of me to propose, but that’s okay. We don’t need this to be an all-out cultural movement or a trending hashtag. We just need creators to be aware of the impacts of their actions and the possibility, the inevitability, that through their art they can change the world one person at a time.

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