"Jersey Shore" t-shirts for sale in Seaside Heights, New Jersey
Here at the Jersey Shore, we’re none too fond of the way MTV’s reality show “Jersey Shore” portrays our generally bucolic region as a mecca for teenage and young adult hedonism. Now, along comes the Parents Television Council (PTC) with a report that says its portrayals of females, along with those on the network’s other youth-oriented reality shows, are overwhelmingly negative.
PTC found that “only 21.4 percent of language about or directed at females was positive” and only “24 percent of what females said about themselves was positive across all shows” (“Jersey Shore,” “16 and Pregnant,” “Teen Mom 2,” “The Real World“). Additionally, conversations about sex on these shows rarely included talk of virginity (0.2%), contraceptives (1.4%) and STDs (2%).
On one level, this news is unsurprising. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the network and from this genre of television. But two of the shows, “Teen Mom 2” and “ and “16 and Pregnant” have been conditionally lauded by feminists like Slate editor Jessica Grose.
In a 2010 blog post, Grose said, “There is actually data to support the notion that a dramatic, narrative show like ‘16 and Pregnant’ could make adolescent girls more likely to use contraception,” and in a June 2011 post, she quoted data that said watching these shows makes people more likely to support legal abortion.
“For all the pro-choicers out there who are still complaining that the fecund high schoolers of ‘16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Teen Mom’ glamorize teen pregnancy—you should stop complaining. The elevation of the stars of these shows might help abortion remain legal for future generations,” Grose concluded, in what sounded to me like a slap in the face to both teen moms and their children.
The Jersey Shore "As Seen on MTV"
The popularity of reality television among young viewers has “generated greater interest among researchers and critics” with both groups “working to comprehend viewer motivations for watching as well as the impact of a genre rooted in stereotypical representations of gender and class, simplistic portrayals of social problems, and a disproportionate appeal to young audiences,” PTC’s report said.
Karen Dill, Director of the Media Psychology Doctoral Program at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California, is quoted as saying the stories media tells “make up much of our shared cultural ideals and therefore shape how boys and girls [feel] about themselves and their peers.”
In her 2010 post, Grose wisely noted the mixed message MTV communicates with its reality TV lineup.
“While MTV aims to send a good message with earnest shows about teen motherhood, the message gets muddled when it is in the context of the network’s other reality programming. Commercials for the current season of ’16’s’ sister show, ‘Teen Mom,’ ran around the same time as the reality juggernaut ‘Jersey Shore,’ which depicted consequence-free carousing. Why, a teenager may wonder, is [’16 and Pregnant’] Jenelle’s beach-bunny act so terrible when it looks like Snooki has so much fun behaving in a similar manner?”
Why indeed? And why, I wonder, do some feminists offer even conditional support for shows that portray young women and young mothers in such a negative light?
What do you think?
Is there anything redemptive to be found amidst MTV’s mixed messages or is its reality TV line-up pure trash?
LIVING PROOF: Radiance Foundation co-founder and pro-life activist Ryan Bomberger.
Ryan Scott Bomberger is co-founder of The Radiance Foundation, an organization whose mission is to illuminate, educate, and motivate others about the intrinsic value of human life. He is also the creative force behind a controversial billboard campaign that described black babies as an “endangered species.” What didn’t make the headlines is the fact that Bomberger was conceived during a rape. He is both an adoptee and an adoptive parent. UrbanFaith talked to him about his work and what motivates it. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
UrbanFaith: What does the Radiance Foundation do?
Ryan Bomberger:The Radiance Foundation is comprised of three main components: media campaigns, one-on-one community outreach where we live and in other areas, working in conjunction with other organizations, and our educational component. We create all the content, whether video, print, web, or otherwise to illuminate the truth that we are all born with this beautiful intrinsic value. We want people to understand it and embrace it and to effect positive change in their own life and in the lives of those around them.
How did you become passionate about the pro-life cause?
I’m passionate about the pro-life cause mainly because I had two parents who defied the myth of the unwanted child and believed that they could simply love a child and help unleash that child’s purpose in life. They had three biological children and then adopted ten. That’s what inspired me throughout my life to reach out to the broken, to reach out to those in need.
My wife Bethany and I started the Radiance Foundation in 2009. For our first public campaign, we decided to tackle the subject of abortion. Like a breast cancer awareness campaign, we wanted to address where abortion’s impact is the greatest so we addressed the black community’s crisis of abortion. That is what led us to launch TooManyAborted.com and the billboard campaign that has been in numerous states across the country.
What inspired media frenzy around those billboards?
It was the billboard that stated “Black children are an endangered species.” We were the first organization to ever do a public ad campaign about abortion’s disproportionate impact on the black community. That campaign exploded in the media. Each subsequent campaign that continued to highlight the disproportionate impact while promoting adoption as a life affirming alternative has continued and it’s raised the ire of Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups. They’ve tried desperately to remove our billboards. Three hundred billboards later, they’ve never removed a single one. I think part of that is our diligence in doing the research. When these billboard companies look on our website and they see the message we’re conveying and they see how documented all of the information is, they feel satisfied and comfortable that the billboards that they’re placing up there, although they may be controversial, they are rooted in fact.
SHOCK TREATMENT: This billboard set off a storm of controversy when it was posted at dozens of locations last year in Atlanta.
What about the billboard that was removed in New York City?
Those are from a different company. Their billboards have been brought down. Ours, thankfully, haven’t.
In the New York case, the parent of the child that was used in the billboard objected. How do you deal with challenges like that?
That’s not been an issue. We use some original photography and in some of our work we use stock photography, but that’s part of the agreement. When that particular parent signed away the rights, there was no caveat as to who could use it. That’s the thing with the pro-abortion or pro-choice side. They’re always trying to find the distraction, and they succeeded instead of talking about the numbers. In New York City, 60 percent of black pregnancies end in abortion. It is epidemic in that city, the home of Planned Parenthood. They successfully were able to divert the conversation, which I think is tragic for all of us.
Are you able to speak on this issue more easily because you are an African American man rather than a white activist?
I don’t believe in hyphenations, I’m just American. I happen to be as black as Obama, which means I’m mixed, biracial. There are times when I feel like I have to use the label, but the thing I like to focus on is that because I’m biracial I’m able to be a bridge on a number of different issues. However, I may say I’m biracial, but the next person wouldn’t have a clue. Throughout my life, I’ve been treated unfortunately in quite racist ways, so it does allow me to address this. I am a black, biracial child who was adopted and so it does give me an authority in a sense to speak from that perspective. It’s also hard to argue with my story of being born of rape.
What has the response been?
We were completely overwhelmed and inundated with email responses, phone responses, media interviews. But what it showed was this issue that many believe is a settled issue isn’t settled. The unexpected portion of the response was the venomously racist emails and phone calls we would get. I can’t tell you how many emails and phone calls I’ve received that have said, “More niggers need to die” or “Abortions don’t kill enough niggers.” But thankfully, the majority of the responses have been incredibly positive, particularly from African American women, from post-abortive men and women. And so, we know that there’s been a positive impact.
I would say the other response that we weren’t expecting was a direct response from Planned Parenthood. Our billboards have caused them to hold two separate conferences. One was a phone conference and other was a bloggers/journalists conference. So in the last year-and-a-half, two major conferences from the nation’s largest abortion chain to try to figure out how to combat specifically our TooManyAborted.com campaign.
What tactics have they employed?
Their response has been relatively simple. They love using buzz words, so they have resorted to calling us racists or mysogynists or anti-woman. That would pretty much encompass their strategy. Every billboard we’ve placed, there would be this response and it comes from a Planned Parenthood funded group called Sister Song that is a radically pro-abortion minority collective. Their whole tactic is laughable considering that the team of leaders nationwide that have endorsed and championed this campaign are all black, and many of them are black post-abortive women like Catherine Davis, like Dr. Alveda King. What they can’t do is refute the numbers. Even in their phone conference, which I managed to attend, they couldn’t refute any of the actual numbers, mainly because they’re from federal sources and from Guttmacher.
Were you shocked to be called a racist?
Having grown up in a multi-racial family with Native American, Black, Vietnamese, White, White and Black, to be called a racist is just laughable. The ultimate consequence of racism is death and we’ve seen it in American history. We’ve seen it in the horrific acts of lynching. That’s the ultimate end of racism and here you have individuals across the nation who are passionately pro-life being called racist. We are simply trying to save life. That’s what abortion does, though, it’s a complete inversion of things: an inversion of justice, an inversion of racism, an inversion of reality. So, yes, it was shocking and ludicrous.
At toomanyaborted.com, I read an article that connects feminism to abortion. Is there a way to separate the positive aspects of the feminist movement from the negative aspects?
I consider myself a feminist. I think the distinction is from an ideological or poltical standpoint where that falls on the spectrum. There’s liberal feminism, which I think in large part has been very destructive because of its emphasis on areas of “equality” that have nothing to do with empowering a woman. We emphasize those aspects of feminism which are healthy and we talk about liberal feminism that advocates abortion for any reason at any cost, and often to the exclusion of men. We also talk about many of these pro-abortion groups, which are radically feminist and their destructive approach to gender relationships and even gender itself. How did Roe V. Wade empower a woman? Our conclusion is that it’s empowered men far more than it’s empowered any woman.
You’re an adoptive parent of four children. Are they all adopted?
Two are adopted, my oldest and my youngest. My wife recently went public with how she was a single parent at one point and was faced with the same decisions. She understood, but she never considered abortion. Our daughter Hailee Radiance transformed her life. She transformed my life. That’s the beauty of possibility. Our youngest, Justice Nathaniel, is such a gift. His biological mom, we love, honor, and cherish her, and we’re trying to help her get back on her feet. She’s made some bad decisions, but there’s always redemption.
What do you have coming up next?
Our fatherhood campaign is now focusing on one of the biggest missing components in childrens’ lives. Forty-one percent of children in our nation are born in homes without fathers, and that statistic is even more drastic in the black community because it’s almost 73 percent in the black community, whereas it’s 35.7 percent in the white community. Our Fatherhood Begins in the Womb campaign is our way of calling men to responsibility and calling out the culture of abortion that has encouraged abandonment. The problem is widely ignored, but we see the results: higher incarceration rates, higher drop out rates, higher poverty.
LOSING MOMENTUM: Can GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann continue to win over doubters with her ambitious presidential bid?
The rise of Republican congresswoman and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann as a serious presidential candidate has provided one of the more curious storylines for political observers this summer. As a female political scientist intrigued by Bachmann’s ascent, I initially wondered if she might best Mitt Romney in the primaries — a feat that Hillary Rodham Clinton failed to accomplish on the Democratic side in her bid against the eventual presidential victor, Barack Obama.
Now I’m wondering if my curiosity was misplaced. You see, a few weeks back Bachmann’s momentum seemed inevitable. Polls showed her hanging neck-in-neck with Mitt Romney.
Lately, however, she’s been singing the blahs.
Not the blues, the blahs. The same old blah, blah, blah songs that failed to inspire Independents and youth voters to vote for Republicans in the last election. Bachmann is singing from the same hymnbook that the Christian Right has been floating around since the 1980s—the same old song that lost Republicans the 2008 election. So what is the evangelical contender getting the most pre-primary buzz — Michele Bachmann — to do?
To be successful in the 2012 race, Bachmann must drop the national anthem of evangelical politics — God, guns, and gays. This song of “the 3 G’s” has played itself out. That Michele Bachmann supports the 3 G’s is intuitively obvious. So why keep singing the same tired tune?
We know from Bachmann’s biography that Jesus is her homeboy. We know based on her ‘A’ rating from the National Rifle Association that even if she’s not personally packing an Uzi, she supports your right to do so. We know from the horse’s mouth that she signed a controversial pledge supporting a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman — a controversial pledge because it also stated that African American children were better off during slavery than they are in 2011 under the administration of a black President.
Sounds like the same old refrain that lost the GOP the election in 2008. Is there anything new in the 2012 Republican knapsack or is Bachmann simply the same old Sarah Palin wine in new wineskins? To be a serious contender, Bachmann must refashion her image, bucking the widely held assumption that she is Palin’s Midwestern clone — even if secretly, she is. But how?
Time for a new tune on the evangelical political iPod. Push the evangelical envelope by singing the 3 P’s — pluralism, peace, and Priuses. This new hymn is in the style and key of a core constituency — youth voters. Tout religious pluralism in the campaign, including interfaith efforts to combat issues like sex trafficking. Embrace the increasing numbers of young Christian pacifists who oppose the current wars and the notion that any war can be classified as a just one. Emphasize environmental concerns in a convincing manner given that global warming is an undisputed fact according to a majority of young evangelicals, many of whom probably think Jesus would probably drive a Prius.
Youth voters, including young evangelicals, were crucial to Obama’s victory in 2008. Obama understood that young voters are devoted to the 3 P’s, but not so much the 3 G’s. Yes, evangelical youth are more pro-life than their parents, but they are more likely to believe that Jesus was a social justice revolutionary in the manner of Shane Claiborne than the harbinger of a holy war against public schools.
Less talk about gay marriage and more talk about greening the ghetto would take the evangelical agenda, and Bachmann’s campaign, to new heights. It’s time for a new song in an increasingly outmoded evangelical hymnbook.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of UrbanFaith.com or Urban Ministries Inc.
Our culture often still doesn’t know what to do with ambitious women who strive to be successful both personally and professionally, and many women are frustrated or confused as a result. Perhaps we need to go back to women like Ruth, Esther, and Mary for some insight and guidance.
Hollywood isn’t real life, but when real life (mine and the lives of the actors) and Hollywood converge it is great fodder for thinking and conversation. My husband Peter and I can’t stop talking about one of our recent date night movies, Up in the Air, the Oscar-nominated film (now out on DVD) starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga.
IMBD’s description of the film: “With a job that has him traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham leads an empty life out of a suitcase, until his company does the unexpected: ground him.”
My oversimplified movie description: Ryan Bingham has a mid-life crisis.
But I’m not so focused on Ryan Bingham (that’s for another post). What I am still thinking about is how I was drawn to Alex Goran, played by real-life mom and wife Vera Farmiga. Alex is a strong, confident, beautiful, sexy (but not slutty, for the most part), successful, intelligent business woman whose opening exchange with Ryan had me and Peter talking about power dynamics into the wee hours of the morning. (Peter and I really are a fun couple.)
Women have a different balancing act than men, especially in the corporate world, in terms of how they communicate through their words, body language, and even the way they dress and carry their sexuality. Times are changing, but Equal Pay Day, when women finally catch up to what men earned the year before, still isn’t until April 10, 2010. We’ve come a long way, but it’s still not a level playing field, which is in part why the length of the skirt, firmness of the handshake, and awareness of the hair flipping matters. You may not agree with the rules, but there are rules. Changing them means knowing them first.
As a Christian woman who works in the tension of a management position in a Christian missions organization, my concerns and thoughts on “dressing for success” can either be dismissed as being superficial and too concerned with “the world,” or hijacked by important and related conversations about women’s roles, marriage, and parenting (and then get into the messier conversations about whether or not a mom should get a paycheck for her work, whether or not a woman can lead other men over the age of 18, whether or not women can be women without tempting men) while ignoring the obvious truths. God gave all of us, men and women, more than one sense in which we interact with the world and, therefore, people. Sight gives us literal lenses through which we make judgments and assumptions. Hearing allows us to interpret tone and volume and pace. Even smells, touch, and taste play into the ways we interact with one another and how that affects success and effectiveness. Again, understanding and awareness are not the same as agreement with said rules.
Successful women are often portrayed in both Hollywood and real life as the “byatch.” The stereotypes are easy: successful women essentially act like men but happen to have breasts or they are women who have used their breasts to gain access. Even in Scripture we have to wrestle and understand the cultural norms and stereotypes of women as we interact with Ruth and Naomi, Queen Esther, that virtuous and hardworking woman in Proverbs 31, and even Mary the mother of Jesus along with the unnamed sinful woman and the woman at the well. When Bible teachers and trainers are asked to teach on leadership, where do they turn? I turn to those women.
The reality is a balancing act of trying to embrace our leadership, our femininity, and our voice alone and alongside men. Personally I struggle and am confused when colleagues describe me as being “motherly” and describe other male colleagues as “pastoral.” I don’t want to be overly vain and concerned about my appearance, but I’m not going to pretend that my appearance doesn’t matter to others or myself.
Which is why I found Alex as a character fascinating. Alex, from what little we know, is neither a man with breasts nor a “byatch.” When the younger female character Natalie Keener, played by Anna Kendrick, is in crisis, Alex listens and speaks frankly without cattiness. Alex is a woman who has, in some sense, arrived in the corporate world and in mid-life, unlike the younger Natalie. Alex was a woman comfortable with her sexuality, success, and choices, and Natalie was still struggling to figure out what her choices would be, how she would view success, and how her gender would play into those choices.
Twenty years ago I was Natalie, and I suspect I would not have resonated with the movie or the characters in the same way, which is why I say rent Up in the Air. Hollywood gave me 109 minutes of entertainment and lots about reality — past, present, and future — to think about.
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