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The Negative Effects of Growing Technology on Women and Minorities

While America has drastically evolved, leaving to the history books the unjust laws that forbid women and nonwhite people from most of the freedoms they now have, the advances in technology we are facing now help to create a negative shift in identity for both women and minority groups within our country. In our world today, college students look back in bewilderment at the unjust laws, practices, and systems that our parents fought to change in the realms of racial, gender, and sexual inequality. Nowadays, we take it for granted that everyone has an equal chance to succeed in life with America’s Constitution forbidding discrimination based on race, gender, or sexuality. We have a Black president and women contributing greatly in the field of politics. Young women are able to go to college, have a child out of wedlock without being banished from their hometown, and marry a man outside of their race relatively free of fear.  However, with the recent developments in technology and the increase in the number of homes with access to the Internet, negative shifts in identity for women and minority groups occur to great extremes, dependent upon the media outlet they are being portrayed in.                         

      While we like to pretend that we live in a world of equality where each individual life matters above all material possessions, a darker truth lies beneath the surface in the actual values people and groups assign to life, morality, and money. For example, women can be seen as intelligent, powerful equals to men with the right to become educated, have children, a career, or own a business. Newspapers and news stations often portray women in this light. However, music videos, websites, blogs, and even YouTube can portray women as sexual objects with no ability to stand for anything more. I argue how the increase in media outlets, the growth of the Internet, and other advances in technology have lead to a decrease in the ethics that businesses use when deciding to send out a message that negatively portrays women and minority groups. This can cause extreme beliefs about them to be more common than we may want to believe.             

The media can affect the beliefs of people and there are plenty of examples throughout history to prove this. The Moynihan Report, published by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1965 in an article named, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action influenced the entire country’s perceptions about Black families, blaming them for the poverty that so many Black families faced. In an entirely different media, the porn industry, both gender and racial stereotypes are exaggerated to the utmost degree while the producers make huge profits simultaneously reiterating negative identities for minorities and women. Lastly, any one person can communicate to masses in our world today via blogs, websites, and in videos on YouTube. With this ability and privilege to communicate so easily to masses comes great responsibility to act ethically. However, instead of challenging these beliefs, many people use these mediums to dispel harmful messages that just reiterate the stereotypes that already exist.
      With the publication of The Negro Family: The Case for National Action in 1965 by the U.S. Department of Labor, racist beliefs articulated in the publication about black families were quickly accepted as the ultimate truth by most of the public. “Although not based on sex research, the Moynihan Report was tremendously influential in shaping perceptions about Black families and Black sexuality held by the general public and researchers in the second half of the twentieth century. The author pointed to the Black family as the primary cause of chronic poverty and related challenges among the poor.” (McGruder 109). While the Black community was swift to react, arguing that the observations made by the Moynihan report such as the high level of pregnancies by unwed mothers, number of female headed households, and the high unemployment rate of Black men were, in fact, effects of the obstacles they faced rather than the cause, not many people listened or took their rebuttal into account.                                                                                                                                          
In a more recent phenomenon that provides another example of how the growth in technology has lead to the portrayal of women and minorities as inferior is the expansion of the porn industry. An example of the strategies that the porn industry uses is the dehumanization of women of color, which they argue is the only way to sell porn that involves these non-white women. After finishing, “they often make reference to her skin color, and her debased status as a woman is seamlessly melded with, and reinforced by, her supposed debased status as a person of color. In the process, her race and gender become inseparable and her body carries the status of a dual subordination” (Dines 125). The Internet has become accessible to many more people within the last ten years and one of the top reasons for surfing the web is pornography. With an estimated $13 billion revenue in the U.S. alone, there are 68 million daily pornographic search engine requests, accounting for 25% of total searches (Top Ten Reviews). It’s undeniable that this will cause a shift in the identities of those most commonly depicted and exploited in the pornography that so many people watch.                                                                                            
      Finally, it can be argued that with the increase in technology, anyone has the power to communicate to hundreds of thousands of people over the Internet through blogs, websites, and through videos on sites like YouTube. This can reiterate gender and racial beliefs in several ways. One way is that some people, particularly on YouTube, post sexualized videos of women with very little clothes on, sometimes moving or talking in a sexual manner. Sometimes it is videos women post of themselves.

While the majority of women do not participate in this type of behavior, when one searches “women dancing” and hundreds, if not thousands of sexual videos appear free for the public to watch, one could begin to believe that this is the way all women are or should be:  sexual entertainment and/or objects.

      Another way the advances in technology play a role in the shift of identity for women and minority groups is through opinionated commentary, blogs, or videos posted by hateful people. Many of the people who feel the need to express their hateful beliefs are the ones who end up getting many views due to the extremity of the message, as well as the controversy it has potential to stir.                                                                                                                                              
The importance of this is to realize that these beliefs cause certain people to be treated unfairly while others receive the privileges that come with being a part of a powerful group. Women are totally sexualized on shows (even those for teens), in music videos, in magazines, and plenty of other forms of media and while there are no longer laws or segregation within schools to prove that racism does exist, it can still be found in most, if not all forms of media just in a slightly more discreet form. While it may seem overdramatic to get upset or believe that there is cause for concern when women and people of color are portrayed through different media outlets as stereotypes that exist, the truth is that beliefs, laws, and institutions within our country have kept these groups in less powerful positions in the past and arguably today.

Derilyn Devlin graduates from Pitt in April 2012. She is excited to leave the University of Pittburgh Her Campus to Mandy Velez and Claire Peltier as the new campus correspondents. 
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