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Hello

My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Love,
Jam x

The Effects Representation Has On Our Mental Health

Research shows that representation isn’t just a matter of affirmation–it can have concrete impacts on our biases, aspirations and mental health.

Growing up just a few miles from the Hollywood studios, I never saw myself on screen. As a young immigrant, the obscurity I felt whenever I turned on the TV made me feel like a guest in my own country. As I now know, on-screen images can shape how we view reality. This doesn’t bode well for people of color and women when Hollywood has a history of excluding, stereotyping and segregating us. Throughout my 20 year career as a sociologist beginning at UCLA, my research on Hollywood has focused on what racism looks like in the film and television industry, and how this can have psychological and societal ramifications. Here is what I’ve found:  

Self-esteem is one of the major points of vulnerability when it comes to media invisibility and stereotypes. One study demonstrates how television exposure predicts a decrease in self-esteem among white and Black girls and Black boys, but leads to an increase among white boys. Native American adolescents and young adults, who display the highest suicide rates in the United States, pay a cost in lower self-esteem and mood when exposed to media images of Native American mascots. The most recent Super Bowl revealed how Kansas City Chiefs fans continue to perpetuate stereotyped  imagery of Native Americans with “Tomahawk Chop” chants and face paint/costumes, despite widespread protest from tribal communities. These problematic representations correlate with the racial and gender biases in Hollywood, which casts only white men as heroes, while erasing or subordinating other groups as villains, sidekicks and sexual objects. Especially vulnerable are children of color—Black, Hispanic, and Asian 8- to 18-year-olds—who consume an average of four and a half more hours of media a day than white youth do.

When groups are invisible or underrepresented in the media, members of those groups can struggle to figure out their place in the world. This can limit their professional and personal aspirations when they lack on-screen role models. One study of research on Native American students found that media exposure led Native American high school and college students to have decreased self-esteem, decreased community worth and diminished achievement possibilities. The researchers conclude that, to “reduce the negative impact of these constraining American Indian mascot representations is to either eliminate them or to create, distribute, and institutionalize a broader array of social representations of American Indians.” As a society, we cannot dismiss the media’s biased and exclusionary portrayals as mere entertainment if we are to take seriously their impact on our youth. 

 

Studies show that racial bias can be transmitted via television. One study showed that seeing Black characters receiving negative non-verbal gestures (facial expressions and body language) on popular TV shows increased viewers’ race biases. Another study demonstrated how Latino stereotypes in the media can lead audiences to negatively associate immigration with increased unemployment and crime. Some examples of stereotypes include “illegal” becoming a “primary marker of Mexicans in the United States” along with the notion that Latinos are unassimilable because they do not share “American values.” This can increase animosity towards Latinx immigrants and asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America, with real life impact. Popular media can also exacerbate pre-existing racism. One study shows that people who perceive that they live in a neighborhood with a high percentage of Black people are more likely to fear crime after watching scripted crime dramas than those who do not hold that perception. Racism, when packaged as entertainment, can skew the way viewers understand and categorize people on screen and off.  

Given all of these troubling findings, it’s clear that we need more complex portrayals of people of color and women, including positive images. And research shows that change is possible. One study found that Japanese international students were more likely to hold positive views of Black people when exposed to positive Black images on television. Viewers can also guard themselves against negative media effects. Besides choosing content that elevates rather than diminishes people of color and women in general, viewers can also learn more about their own histories and find role models in real life. One study found that greater awareness of Black identity and history among Black youth diminished the negative effects of stereotyped images compared to Black youth who lacked the same knowledge. 

In recent years, Hollywood has grown more inclusive–with more women and people of color playing film leads and television regulars. With the box office success and accolades of films like Black Panther, Coco, and Crazy Rich Asians, people of color are poised to express the full diversity and humanity through storytelling. But this is just the beginning. Many groups still lag behind their actual U.S. population numbers–particularly women of color–and some continue to face stereotypes and segregation. There remains work to be done, given the lack of actors of color nominated for acting Oscars in 2020 despite talented performances from Awkwafina, Jennifer Lopez, Eddie Murphy, Lupita Nyong’o, Alfre Woodard, and Shuzhen Zhao, among others. Cynthia Erivo, nominated for Best Actress for her performance in Harriet, is the only nominee of color out of a total of 20 acting nominations. Hollywood needs to open its doors wider so that we have positive portrayals of, and role models for people of color, women and all those in the margins. 

Contributors:

  • Nancy Wang Yuen is a sociologist and pop culture expert. She is the author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism and co-author of Tokens on the Small Screen: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Prime Time and Streaming Television. She has appeared on Dr. Phil, BBC World TV, Teen Vogue, New York Times, and Washington Post among others. She is a guest writer at Newsweek, Elle, HuffPost, and Remezcla.

    Photo Credit: Jime Sechinbaatar

  • Natalie Bui is a first generation Vietnamese American. She chooses to use digital illustrations to center the narratives, identities, and political issues of communities of color. She’s collaborated with Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, National Women’s Law Center, APIs for Civic Empowerment, and was also featured in Forbes – Civic Engagement.  She previously worked in policy and advocacy at ACLU of San Diego, Planned Parenthood, and Advancing Justice – LA. She is also the co-founder of SHIFT, a consulting business that develops culturally competent diversity, inclusion, and equity workshops and trainings to higher education, corporations, media, and nonprofit spaces. You can see more of her work at nataliebui.com

    Photo Credit: Michael Ho