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Can You See Me?
The Lack of Representation of Visible Minorities on Campus.

Article by: Alydia Smith
Artwork by: Michelle Zeller
April 2001

Western has two newspapers: The Gazette, a daily student paper and the Western News, a weekly campus paper. Both of these papers are expected to represent the Western Community. Although these papers may have good intentions, what do they actually illustrate? Media Watch, a campus committee designed to promote diversity and fair representation in the media, surveyed photographs in The Gazette and The Western News for the months of October and November. The outcomes showed that the newspapers do not represent the Western Community. The lack of people belonging to visible minorities, females, and people with visible disabilities creates the image of a society dominated by white males. The context in which the limited pictures of visible minorities, females and visibly disabled, are seen affirm stereotypes, and create the image of a heterosexual society. The results of the Media Watch survey show that both papers, through their misrepresentation of Western, have added to the falsehood that females and people belonging to minority groups are inferior deviations to the white, heterosexual male, student body.

The diversity of Western is stressed throughout literature about the University. The 2000 Course Selection Calendar states that, "with 3,000 faculty and staff, our [Western] students enjoy a diversified academic and social life on campus". This diversity is hardly seen in our two Western Newspapers. Western News had visible minorities in less then ten percent of their pictures in the months of October and November, of that percentile, two thirds of the pictures were men. The Gazette, which has more publications and pictures per issue, depicts visible minorities in less then 15%, and had females of visible minority groups in only 2 percent of pictures. Females are represented in 37% of the pictures in The Gazette and in the Western News. In both papers, there was no visible representation of Aboriginal people, or people with physical disabilities. Again, the majority of the photos seen in both papers were of white males

Representation of People in the Western News:

 

Total

White

Visible Minority

Aboriginal

Disabled

Male

(63%):

95.5%

4.5%

0%

0%

Female

(37%):

88%

12%

0%

0%

 

Representation of People in the The Gazette:

 

Total

White

Visible Minority

Aboriginal

Disabled

Male

(61%):

81%

19%

0%

0%

Female

(39%):

93%

7%

0%

0%

Of the pictures of people belonging to visible minority groups seen in The Gazette, 25% were movie promotions, 28% were album covers, and 43% were discretionary photos, (random pictures of campus life with no story attached). Over half of the visible minorities represented in The Gazette are movie stars or artists, not Western students, or part of the Western community and 80% of these are males. This is a huge number, and sad that when we do see visible minorities, they are stereotypically presented as entertainers. Even when minority groups are represented, in movie ads and album covers, the majority of these photographs are still dominated by white entertainers (in The Gazette, 82% are of white individuals). White students are represented consistently in all categories, while minority groups are seen mainly in the entertainment section, implying that minorities show strengths in certain areas.

If pictures of movie stars, musicians and artists were not included in the survey the results for The Gazette would read as follows:

 

Total

White

Visible Minority

Aboriginal

Disabled

Male

(56%):

89%

11%

0%

0%

Female

(44%):

91%

9%

0%

0%

The number of males belonging to a visible minority group represented in The Gazette has dropped to almost half.

The diversity of Western also includes gender. The dominance of white males in student papers has an effect on the treatment women. Even though there are slightly more undergraduate women then men at Western, in The Gazette women were in 37% of the pictures seen, women belonging to minority groups were in less then 2%. Many of these pictures had sexual and domesticated innuendoes directed toward heterosexual males (women were seen in a sexual way in about 30% of the photos). Some of the pictures with a male and a female together have captions underneath suggesting sexual interest that is not evident in the photo. Other pictures included a woman sitting at a sewing machine, a women being sexualized by emphasizing and comparing her breast and thighs to that of a turkey's, and movie stars and music artists with sexualized faces and minimal clothing. The result of the under representation and sexualization of women in the Western Media is an implied role of women as inferior sexual objects. It also suggests that women are not a part of the academic community at Western; they are part of the social community.

The Western News has even less representation of women than The Gazette. Although Western News might not be as blatant as The Gazette in their negative portrayal of women, the resulting isolation of females from the academic community is still present.

The context and amount of photographs that a paper uses to represent their audience are a very powerful and suggestive tool. The Western News shows some improvement in the representation of diversity on campus. The November 9th issue had a photograph of two visible minorities playing cricket. Usually in media coverage people belonging to minority groups are not in the foreground of the picture and are represented as a minority in the picture as well, none of this is seen in the November 9th picture. By properly representing people belonging to minority groups in this way, Western News has started to take steps in creating a paper that reflects the diversity of the Western community. Another positive step that could be taken is the inclusion of aboriginal people and people with disabilities. Both The Gazette and the Western News have completely isolated these groups by showing no representation in a two month period. With predominantly white heterosexual male images, The Gazette and The Western News have assumed their audience, the Western Community, to be white males. The representation of women and people belonging to minority groups are stereotypical, (more so in The Gazette). The depiction of visible minorities as outside entertainers, and of the domestication and sexualized female, help to perpetuate stereotypical roles that have been present in society for centuries. The campus media have a responsibility to be conscious of their choices which effect all of the Western Community.

 

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