Benefiting the Greater Good

Guest Post by Melanie Lawder, Student Journalist

Do we have a constitutional right to privacy? Technically we don’t and it may surprise many Americans to know this. Though we insinuate a right to privacy through the protections afforded in the Bill of Rights and Supreme Court decisions such as Roe v. Wade, any constitutionalist will attest that no such absolute right legally exists in the eyes of our government.

Therefore, because privacy exists in the gray area of the law, it is hard to distinguish as citizens how much secrecy and reclusiveness we can enjoy. With the documenting our lives on social media sites such as Facebook increasingly becoming the norm, it seems now more than ever that Americans are enjoying less privacy. Nothing’s a mystery – a quick Google search can reveal tons of information about any individual. But just because all this information is out there doesn’t mean that privacy is an obsolete notion. There are still lines that shouldn’t be crossed and content that shouldn’t be published.

The media has a particularly tough time discerning where these lines should be drawn. Time and time again the media has published a story, a picture or a video considered to have encroached too far into somebody’s life or exposed a person’s secrets. In some instances, there will be a backlash and critics will scold media professionals for not displaying sensitivity for the average citizen.

But other times, an act of intrusion on behalf of the media can be justified. If it draws issue to a greater social cause, the invasion of someone’s private life does have its merits.

Garbutt

Source: justseeds.org

Take the example of Derek Williams – a 22-year-old Milwaukee native who died of a sickle cell crisis in police custody in July 2011. Williams, who was arrested on the suspicion of robbery, was handcuffed in the back of a Milwaukee Police Department car and began to experience breathing difficulties. After ten minutes of pleading for medical help – which the police ignored – Williams collapsed and died in the backseat. His death was caught on video by the camera installed in the police’s car. A year later it was obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and released on its website.

Though Williams’ family consented to the release of the video, the morbid nature of the video’s content has sparked controversy about whether it invades a dead man’s privacy. Because it details the last horrific minutes of man’s death, there is a valid argument against its publication on news sites. After all, if Williams was your father, would you want to see him die on video? Would you want thousands others to watch it?

But as compelling and gracious as this argument is, Williams’ death calls attention to much larger societal problems – specifically, race relations within the Milwaukee community and MPD’s consistently spotty track record. Probably best known for releasing a victim back in to the hands of serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer in the 1990s, MPD does not have the most sparkling reputation. According to TMJ4, Williams’ death was the third in police custody over the past 30 years. And more recently, a MPD officer pleaded no contest to charges of illegal body cavity and strip searches.

There’s no doubt that police conduct in Milwaukee is suspicious and needs close monitoring. Had the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decided to just write a story without the accompanying video, Williams’ death would not have gotten the same attention. In this case, a video – though it infringed on a private moment – exposed a corruption that has been plaguing Milwaukee for decades now. Its release is an excellent example of how, in some cases, privacy should be sacrificed to exposed greater injustices.

So is privacy important? Of course it is, but just because a video is labeled as a private moment doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to social injustices that are uncomfortable to watch.

Advertisements

Looking in from Beyond: Gender Stereotyping in Egyptian Advertising

Part Three of a Three Part Series by: Naa Amponsah Dodoo, Graduate Student

As cliché as it sounds, if the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Egypt is mummies, deserts and beautiful pyramids, I can assure you that you are probably not the only one. However, Egypt is without doubt more than that. It is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East, being home to a little over 85 million people. Egypt’s capital city is Cairo. It is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, and by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the east. While located for the most part in Northeastern Africa, an interesting fact about Egypt is that it owns a land bridge between Africa and Asia, thus earning the label of a transcontinental nation. Egyptian society is multicultural with the majority living in urban areas beyond the Sahara desert. Egypt’s long history makes it a very interesting place to experience a diversity of cultures.

The advertising industry in Egypt suffered from the revolution that took place in 2011. Before the revolution, Egypt could claim the status as the Middle East’s leading advertising market.  However, the ray of hope in the gloomy economic aftermath of the 2011 revolution is ad spending in Egypt has increased, with surges in consumer products making a modest recovery. Egypt, like many other countries, uses traditional media to deliver its advertisements. Additionally, a profusion of satellite channels in Egypt has made television the ideal marketing medium especially with a drop in outdoor advertising spending.  For this blog, I count Egypt as an African country. Yet, it is widely known that most Egyptians consider themselves Arab and not African. Officially, Egypt is the Arab Republic of Egypt.

I must admit that I had preconceived notions of what I would find when I chose Egypt as one of the countries to examine. Did I think that there would be subtleties in the gender stereotype in advertising? Yes. Did I think that because of the culture and Islam being the main religion of Egypt would that play a huge role in gender stereotypes in advertising? Yes. Were my preconceptions validated? Not really. The advertising industry in Egypt is not a widely researched area. I venture into a mostly unknown sea in an attempt to talk about gender stereotyping in advertising in Egypt.

Coke EgyptA study done looking on the cultural content of Egyptian television advertising showed that 61% of ads used males as compared with 35% that used women. The conclusion was that advertising expressed the high status and credibility of males, which suggested discrimination despite the gains in social right, within Egyptian society over the last decades. To look at a different side of gender stereotype, I draw on another study, which looked at how magazine ads reinforced or changed gender roles in Egypt. Men and women were constructed in relation to the western consumer culture. In other words, the women were portrayed as sexy or innocent and dressed in western clothes while the men were portrayed as determined or sexy and linked with work or relaxation. They magazine ads did not depict the Egyptian woman’s increasing role in the labor market. We must not forget that Egypt is predominantly an Islamic country. Islamic principles do not encourage stereotyping of women in advertising through the use of suggestive behavior or language, women as sex objects. I believe that such Islamic principles are seen in practical every day actions and therefore would reflect in advertising practices. That’s one reason why blatant sexualized stereotyping of women might not be prevalent in Egyptian advertising. Some may argue that Islam, however, has traditionally defined roles for men and women and thus this may be depicted in advertisements.

There are many ways to look at advertising. You may choose to see it as an interpretive visualization of the world, a production of a particular lifestyle or reality. Advertising challenges the “real” reality when certain cultural agendas are disseminated.  Regardless of how women are portrayed in Egyptian ads, the fact is that advertising often mirrors the reality that exists in a society. Or perhaps the culturally accepted reality in society, what is portrayed in Egyptian advertising, are completely different from the current culture in Egypt. Considering who created these ads, the Redbook database in Egypt notes that all the creatives were men. I have asked this question and will ask it again. Does it make any difference that males dominate advertising creative?

I may not have come away writing this blog with a definitive construct of gender stereotype in Egypt, but I do hope that it has given you some insight about gender construction in Egyptian advertising. Will anyone reading this be more informed about gender construction in Egypt? I hope so!

Naa

Looking in from Beyond: Gender Stereotyping in South African Advertising

Part Two of a Three Part Series by: Naa Amponsah Dodoo, Graduate Student

South Africa is one of the countries on my lifetime travel list. When I think of South Africa, I think of beautiful landscapes and scenery. All what I’ve seen of South Africa is through advertisements, which call out to me every single time. Suffice to say, I look forward to matching my visualizations with the reality that is South Africa.

South Africa is probably the most developed African nation and is certainly a very popular tourist destination. South Africa occupies the southernmost part of the African continent and is the 25th largest country in the world by area and the 24th most populous country with over 51 million people. It’s the one place in Africa that you’ll find the biggest European, Asian and racially mixed ancestry in Africa.

South Africa CarSimilar to Ghana, the advertising industry in South Africa is dynamic with vast growth in the past few years. As such, there is often international recognition of local advertising brilliance. However, gender representations in South African advertising is unfortunately not breaking the mold of gender stereotyping. Women are usually depicted in manners that buttress barefaced and subtler gender stereotypes. In the 11th March 2011 issue of Sowetan, a South African newspaper,  a car advert uses a woman – as a mermaid – to sell a car. That is one blatant use of a woman as a sex object. On the research side, a study conducted by Holtzhausen, Jordaan and North examined the current role portrayals of women in advertising in South Africa. They analyzed 245 advertisements and found that women were most typically depicted as product users (household and personal items) and least often as sex objects. Even though half of the work force in South Africa is women, women in work related roles were not prevalent in the study. These authors suggest that women were not stereotyped in South African advertising because traditional stereotypes (domesticated or overly sexualized) were not prevalent. If that is the reality in South Africa, then they deserve a Bravo! Is it possible that they are paving a path that other countries could tread in advertising. Yet, no prevalence does not mean stereotyping is nonexistent.

It’s completely possible of course that a when asked a South African would have a totally different view, one that might not be supported by this research. Their view might suggest that gender stereotyping still exists and is widespread. In fact, findings of a 2007 study by Gender Links in Southern Africa suggest that men in advertisements are portrayed as inherently strong, leaders, politicians, independent and sports inclined among other traditionally masculine expectations; while women are shown in roles such as parent/caregiver, sex objects, model/beauty contestants or domestic workers.

To get a feel of the gender distribution of creatives in advertising agencies in South Africa, I turned to Redbooks as a source. Of approximately 97 creatives in different agencies, 27 were women. Does that mean anything when you look at the types of advertisements that are produced? Maybe and maybe not. There is no underplaying the importance of perspectives of those at the helm of producing advertisements because what is produced would be a reflection of the ideas of those in charge.

South Africa BBThe importance of the portrayal of women in positive ways is evident in transformative power of advertising with regard to gender relations. Biases that exist over time in advertising could lead to a numbing of awareness or perhaps significance of gender equality. What is even worse is that audiences become accustomed to the negative portrayal of women and to the biases that exist and therefore do nothing about empowering women. That is but one of the dangers in stereotyped advertising.

I have my fingers crossed that if true gender stereotyping in South African advertising is not prevalent, the gender balanced feet of the South African advertisements will keep walking away from gender stereotypes and nearer to gender equality.

Naa

Looking from Within: Gender Stereotyping in Advertising in Ghana

Part One of a Three Part Series by: Naa Amponsah Dodoo, Graduate Student

Blackberry GhanaWhen I decided on looking at gender construction in advertising in three different African countries, I wondered how to put into words what I’ve lived with most of my life, taking for granted the cultural expectations of me as a woman and how this is reflected in advertising in my country, Ghana.

Ghana is nestled in the west of the African continent. Achieving independence from British colonial rule in 1957, Ghana became the first state to do so in sub Saharan Africa and is home to an estimated number of 24.97 million 51%, which are female and 49% male. In addition to being one of the largest cocoa producers in the world, Ghana houses the largest artificial lake in the world, Lake Volta.

I’ve seen and heard some great ads and some not so great ads on TV, radio and on billboards throughout my life in Ghana. The quality of advertisements has improved over time especially with the growth of the advertising industry. My thoughts are based on the advertisements I’ve seen and heard.

Maggi GhanaThere is no doubt that gender–role portrayal in advertising is influential in society because they can reinforce or perpetuate stereotypes. The culture of a country is also a big influence in gender portrayals though there are multiple factors that go into understanding gender portrayals in advertising in any country. Ghana, similar to many other African countries, has a culture, which holds principally well-defined stereotypes about men and women. Ads more often than not reflect the stereotypical roles that women are traditionally expected to take.

I’ve always considered myself a rebel especially in relation to gender role expectations. In retrospect, I suppose my rebellion had the most effect in my home where I demanded the same out of my brother as I was expected to behave. Did I feel constrained by the advertisements I saw that implied certain gendered roles for women? No! I’ve never been one to think that I should do what society deems right based on my gender and I would like to think I’m still that rebel. I grew up in a family with two working parents. Yet, my home still functioned in gender stereotypical ways. More often than not, my mom would come home and be expected (me included, ironically) to have dinner ready for us all.

Royal Aroma TVC, Apex AdvertisingWomen usually play the role of domestic housewives who often work on their own in cooking, cleaning and caring for others. For instance, in an advert for a perfumed rice, as one woman laments over the preparation of the family lunch, the other woman offers help by suggesting the product which will make everyone “love” her cooking and indicating that it’s the “smart way” to cook. This is but one advert of the numerous that feature women in stereotypical gender roles, such as waiting in the background while the husband and children head off to work and school. In reality, of Ghanaian women, 74% are working-women. In writing this blog, I talked to my family and friends back home to see if I was outdated in my opinions of the gender construction in advertisements. Sadly, I wasn’t.

Tigo GhanaMen are, in contrast, portrayed as problem solvers, professionals, strong, smart, leaders and decision makers who are solely responsible for paying household bills. In one such advert for a service from a mobile phone service provider, a man and his two friends watch television. A woman (wife or sister) meanwhile performs household duties. She questions whether he has completed certain transactions that require money including paying bills and rent. Beyond, the problem solver role, men are also portrayed as clueless when it comes to certain tasks.

It would not be fair to say that all advertising in Ghana is gender stereotyped. However, most are, sometimes overtly and other times subtly. Perhaps the continuation of such stereotypical roles is due to the individuals at the helm of the production of advertisements. I cannot speak to who creates the ads, as I have no data on this. Perhaps there’s a boy’s club culture there too, which determines what is produced. I’ve not been home in a while but I’m fairly certain that the gender stereotypical trend still exists in Ghanaian advertising today. Advertising can and should perpetuate empowering images of women. I’m hoping for a future where women are portrayed as they truly are and not relegated to roles determined by society as culturally acceptable. I’m hoping that future is sooner rather than later.

Naa

Mindfulness and the Creation of Media Content.

Guest Post: Anonymous Student

My first experience with mindfulness occurred when I was 18 and in a rehabilitation hospital for three months. Yes – rehab. Eight other patients and I sat at an arts and crafts table while the doctors passed a bottle of lotion around the room and asked us to squirt some in our hands. They required us to close our eyes and be aware of our bodies and our minds. They told us to be silent and pay attention to how the lotion felt against the curves of our fingers and hands. They asked us to just live in the present moment and be mindful.

I can recall this exercise quite clearly. I remember hearing the sound of my breadth, the ticking of the clock and the slight creak of the other patients shifting in their chairs. But I didn’t get it – how was this supposed to cure my eating disorder? How was this going to help me overcome anorexia?

Though my initial confrontation with mindfulness wasn’t particularly profound, I quickly came to realize that mindfulness could be effective for coping with the stress and anxiety of everyday life. Essentially, mindfulness is an exercise of awareness that requires a person to be acutely alert and conscious of their surroundings and actions. The act of going through through a normal humdrum, familiar routine without a thought otherwise is an example of what mindfulness is not.

So when I learned that we were going to be learning about mindfulness for a college media ethics course, I was transported back to my mindfulness sessions in rehab. Like when I was when first introduced to the concept, I was puzzled – how did mindfulness relate to media ethics?

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 5.29.06 PM

Source: RodAuthority.com

But as I dissected the idea more, it made some sense. As members of Marquette University’s College of Communication, my fellow classmates and I are taught how to create or influence the media. Being mindful of all the different events, ideas and trends happening in the world is an essential attribute of an ethical and successful media practitioner. Instead of just contributing to the media hype and the typicality of the news cycle, practitioners need to be aware of the content they distribute to the masses – especially today. It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the entertainments aspect of the media. Viral videos and trending stories are fun to tweet about or create, however they may not be the issue or story necessary for an informed electorate.

For me, mindfulness is linked to media ethics in this way. Mindfulness can be used in a variety of ways – to combat stress or as a tool to become more present in the current moment. However, it can also be used to create insightful content and investigative reports about issues and events not recognized in the mainstream news media. Mindfulness may not be directly related to media ethics, but the practice of it can be helpful when discerning what stories and ideas deserve to be promoted in the media.

As Bad As It Seems

Guest Post by Aaron Ledesma, Aspiring PR Professional

Do you ever find yourself sitting in the back of a room? Watching? Observing? Thinking? Does anyone take a second to freeze time and look around him or her? No. We don’t.

Perhaps the reason is because we are always caught up in our personal lives. We often forget to be mindful of ourselves, of others, and everything around us. I’m not innocent. I too get lost in my life and forget to take a moment and breath.

Coming into this semester I was very down. Christmas break did not bring everything I had hoped it would. A friendship was lost. Probably one of the most important friendships I have had up until this point in my life.

Coming into this class I was not prepared. I was expecting “Ethical Problems in Mass Communications.” What I got was different. What I got was a tool that can help me succeed in all walks of life. Mindfulness.

When I think of the word mindfulness I think it means to be sound mind. This is the state of being healthy in various aspect of the mind: mentally and spiritually healthy. With this in mind, I cannot say I know many people who are truly mindful. I realize we learned about mindfulness in relation to the communications arena, but it is beneficial in our every day lives.

We never take time and step out of our shoes and look around. College students are constantly doing different things. It is easy for one of us to complain about how small our room is, or how that test was hard, or how we did not get a snow day. Do we ever try to look at everything that is going on around us?

One routine I have is to walk around campus while listening to music. While this can be a tactic to be anti-social, it can also be an opportunity to observe more of my community. If others tried being more observing and mindful, they would see that there is a lot more going on than his or her petty complaints.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 4.16.43 PMHave you ever noticed the person begging for money so he or she can get a bus ride home? Have you seen that woman holding a sign that she is hungry? Have you heard that man preach about his religious beliefs? Have you noticed the sadness that many in our community have that are not from the same backgrounds as us? – I’m guessing that is a no.

I believe one aspect of being mindful is being aware, or awake to the world. I challenge our students to look around and see how great they have got it. We walk by less fortunate people every day and do not even acknowledge his or her existence.

Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about generosity, “practice sharing the fullness of your being, your best self, your enthusiasm, your vitality, your spirit, your trust, your openness, above all your presence. Share it with yourself, with your family, with the world. If one becomes mindful of the self, then they should continue the path of becoming mindful of others.

Our lives are not that bad. Nothing is as bad as it seems. This goes back to what I was saying at the beginning. I came back this semester upset about things in my life, and I have the right to be. I’m not suggesting our personal lives are not important, I’m saying we should realize others have it worse.

I lost a friendship. It is sad. But that man at the bus stop does not have anyone. No one cares who he is. When students walk by him every day no one acknowledges him because he or she is worried he will ask for money.

Our world should be more mindful in a variety of areas and topics. One important one to remember is being mindful of others, especially if our class is the future of the communications world.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 4.17.03 PMWe are not alone in the world. We have a duty in life to respect our neighbors and treat them how we would want to be treated. People should realize that we are very fortunate to be who we are and to have the lives that we have. At the end of the day we should be grateful and remember to do our part in helping those less fortunate in anyway possible.

Money is not always the answer. Sometimes, a simple smile can change a person’s day. Be mindful.

It’s Okay

Guest Post by Laura Podewils, Future Graphic Designer

I find mindfulness to be a lost art in today’s high-tech and fast moving society. Every minute of everyday people seem to be rushing to do one thing or another. It always feels like there are a million things to do and we believe that if we don’t keep moving our world will come to an end. Nowadays if someone doesn’t have a task to accomplish they feel like they are missing something or that there must be some other job that needs to be done. No one takes the time to just pause, take a breath and look at the world around them.

Jon Kabat-Zinn says “Our minds are such that we are often more asleep than awake to the unique beauty and possibilities of each present moment as it unfolds. While it is the nature of our mind to go on automatic pilot and actually lose touch with the only time we actually have to live, to grow, to feel, to love, to learn…” I think Kabat-Zinn hit the nail right on the head. It seems like growing up in today’s society we are programmed at a very early age that we need to work hard to be successful and that there is always something more you could be doing to get ahead. Society values success and power, but is this really a good way to live? If the only focus is on getting ahead and preparing for the future you forget to live in the present.

I believe this logic to be flawed. By putting so much pressure on people to come up with great ideas that will solve problems and change the world they really do not get the chance to look at the world around them. If given the time to get to know the world, to observe and to learn, people would be able to come up with new, exciting and creative ideas that could really do some good. However, people today do not have the luxury of time. Things must be done quickly and in a timely fashion and if that means sacrificing quality and the opportunity for learning and discovery. I really believe that people today need to give Kabat-Zinn’s way of life a serious look.

Podewils Picture 167It should be okay to take time to think and meditate on situations. Life is short and only focusing on getting ahead will not allow you to enjoy the precious moments in the present. I also believe that practicing mindfulness will help create better ideas that could have a favorable impact on the world. Taking time to observe and learn about the world will help in problem solving because by understanding the world you can understand what it needs. You never know what you might learn just by taking a few moments to smell the roses.