“Outside of the physical universe and the laws that govern it, there is nothing that impacts, informs, and transforms the human experience more than story.” – Wisconsin Clearinghouse
We usually think of literacy as relating to written works; more and more we are a culture that transmits information digitally – with a multi-media combination of words, sounds, and images.
Media literacy skills empower people to become critical media consumers, able to analyze, critically evaluate, and “un-pack” media messaging to understand the meaning behind it, and the agenda of those that create it. In addition, these skills better position people to be creators of their own media, telling the stories of their experiences outside of the box of a dominant cultural model which may be oppressing or silencing them.
What does this have to do with sexual assault?
To prevent sexual violence requires changing age-old social and cultural beliefs related to gender, sexual orientation, sex, and healthy sexuality. These beliefs are reflected in movies, TV, music, advertising, and stories that surround us every day.
A key to changing the culture of rape is getting people to question the everyday prices of rape culture, “hidden in plain sight”. Think of the way that the late author David Foster Wallace did in his commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005, where he opened with the following:
"There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?”
And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
Rape culture is so pervasive and has remained in place generation after generation because it is woven into the very fabric of the words we use and the concepts of identity that our culture, mass communication, and digital society continues to churn out. We must be willing to hold a mirror up to ourselves and our community; remind ourselves that we are swimming in rap culture and teach each other to remember, in the words of David Foster Wallace, that “this is water.”
All media is constructed. This in and of itself is not a bad thing; but one must remember that there is an agenda behind every message, every image, every bit of data of the thousands to millions that flow around us and bombard us daily. Understanding how a particular message is constructed to reinforce or promote a particular viewpoint is the first step toward being able to critically un-pack the pop-culture mythology behind sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, agism, or any other ideology that drives people to over-look sexual assault or blame the victim.
Five Core Concepts
1. All media messages are “constructed.”
2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
4. Media have embedded values and points of view.
5. Most media are organized to gain profit and/or power.
Five Key Questions
1. Who created this message?
2. What techniques are used to attract my attention?
3. How might different people understand this message differently?
4. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
5. Why was this message sent?
- AdBusters Magazine Spoof Ads
- Feminist Frequency | great series of videos by Anita Sarkeesian covering pop-culture from a feminist perspective, deconstructing everything from The Hunger Games to LEGO’s to the Oscars. Of note: Damsel in Distress: Part 1 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games – This project gained widespread attention when Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund this project. She was inundated with sexist comments and tweets. However, this only resulted in backlash against the verbally abusive posters, and though her initial ask was for $6,000 the project ended up garnering nearly $160,000! In this video, Sarkeesian offers an analysis of the trope – the “damsel in distress” plot line of so many movies and, in this case, video games, which portray women as mere objects to motivate the action of the male characters within the story.
- Admongo – site for kids (8-12) by the Federal Trade Commission
“Story is data with a Soul!” – David Hunt
Stories are powerful tools in raising awareness and expanding the scope of violence prevention work; stories can encompass the voices of survivors, as well as success stories and forward-thinking visions of a world without violence.
Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources – Inspiring people to use the power of their voices to mobilize change for healthier communities. See their Prevention Speaks resource, and their Prevention Speaks Storytelling Toolkit (available for free, download via form on linked page)
Center for Digital Storytelling – great examples of the power of storytelling; workshops and other information
Creative Narrations – multimedia for community development
Stories for Change – resources, including online tutorials for video editing software
- Center for Media Literacy
- NAMLE : National Assoc. for Medial Literacy in Education
- Berkley Media Studies Group
- FrameWorks Institute
- Creative Commons (CC) - control your content, share your content, innovate…
- NIH National Cancer Institute – “Pink Book” on Making Health Communication Programs Work (online)
- Prevention Speaks Storytelling Toolkit (available for free, download via form on linked page)
- Frameworks Institute – Framing Public Issues
- NSVRC - "Calling All Journalists"
Curricula, Modules, Lessons
- Getting inside the box – A media literacy toolkit for adult learning providers ; a resource from the UK National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE)
- True View – one-page lesson on dissecting music videos; project of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC)
- Sound Relationships – comparable to True View, but for songs, with a “nutrition” theme; also by BPHC
- I See You, You See Me: Body Image and Social Justice – Teaching Tolerance curriculum with four lesson plans; online, free
Media Education Foundation – films for sale (WCASA has many MEF products in our Resource Library); transcripts and resources
- 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People [Paperback] by Susan Weinschenk
- Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) [Paperback] by Jack Hart (Author)
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – by Chip & Dan Heath
- The Back of the Napkin – by Dan Roam (good introduction to communicating visually)
- Presentation Zen – by Garr Reynolds – more than just about presentations; how to connect with an audience, and be present with them…
- Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us – by Seth Godin
- “Strunk & White” - The Elements of Style (4th Ed.) - by William Strunk Jr., and E.B. White – the definitive guide to grammar usage and the written word…