Media Action Média invited to speak at Asian Heritage Month event

On May 22, 2012, Media Action Média President Amanda Parriag spoke at an event in Ottawa celebrating Asian Heritage Month.

Sponsored by the Vietnamese Canadian Federation and the Vietnamese Canadian Centre, the discussion, entitled “Off the Beaten Track: Asian Canadians in the Creative Fields,” presented several Asian artists talking about their struggles and successes in the Canadian cultural industries. Asian Canadians are underrepresented in the arts, despite comprising 11% of the total population of Canada.

Amanda presented findings from MAM’s recent research study, “Representations of Diversity in Canadian Television Entertainment Programming” .  Amanda specifically highlighted the role the mass media play in defining how social issues are framed. Canadian television has historically been an important source of information for Canadian citizens to gain knowledge about themselves and their nation.

Earlier research has found that in the 1980s and 1990s, the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in Canadian mass media was thought to be at least partly traceable to the cultural makeup of media workers and those in the cultural industries. Media Action Média’s current study describes how there is still a dearth of cultural diversity in Canadian entertainment television shows, despite Canadian media policies that specifically mandate this diversity.

Certainly, there have been recent attempts to focus on South Asians and East Indians in shows like Little Mosque on the Prairie, where most characters are Indian and Muslim. The Report revealed, however, that despite this progress, Canadian entertainment television still has a long way to go in accurately representing Canada’s diverse and multicultural population, still often relying on stereotypes.

Noting that the 2001 Census showed there were 131,000 artists in Canada, and that visible minority artists are growing at a rate more than twice that of all artists, Amanda joined her fellow panelists in encouraging artists to pursue their creative endeavors. She acknowledged the difficulties, both structurally and culturally, for Asian Canadians and other visible minorities to enter the cultural industries, but stressed that more visible minorities are needed in entertainment television.

If visible minorities write the scripts and produce and direct the television shows, then it is very possible to have an authentic visible minority perspective represented. Amanda urged those in attendance to use any and all opportunities to increase the visibility of Asian Canadians by using their creative powers to produce such images and representations themselves.


“Don’t Be That Guy” Campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness

Don't Be That Guy

Did you know that it’s National Victims of Crime Awareness Week?

Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton has launched a new campaign on sexual assault awareness. Unlike many sexual assault campaigns that give women advice on how to avoid assault, the “Don’t be that guy” campaign aims its message at potential offenders.

Don't Be That Guy
This campaign shifts responsibility for sexual assault off of the victims by “addressing alcohol-facilitated sexual assault without victim-blaming.”

You can check out the campaign and download all 3 campaign posters at Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton‘s website.


Ashley Judd Fights Back

Ashley Judd before and after

Tired of rumours and speculation about her slightly “puffy” face, Ashley Judd has fought back with a scathing essay on the “incessant objectification” of women in the media and how women themselves are active participants in what amounts to constant abuse.

You can read her essay here.

Jezebel’s post about the essay has led to some intense discussion in the comments about whether posting comparison pictures like this one below incite the very problem it’s trying to point out:

Ashley Judd before and after

Here are some excerpts from the conversation:


The difference is subtle, but to me, all I saw was, “Oh, Ashley Judd is getting older. Still looks good. Moving on.”
Diziet Sma
I think this thread proves my point – look at all these comments discussing whether people think she’s puffy or not, whether they thought it was because she was ill or just older, whether they think she still “looks beautiful”. The point is – WHY are we even talking about her face? At all.
Look, I agree that those are more worthy topic, but the conversation about her face has already started, she’s even gotten in on it now, too, so why not talk about it?  I mean, it makes no sense to pretend we don’t talk about people’s faces, so why on earth not just admit we do, and talk about why we do, instead of acting as if it should be some taboo subject?
It’s hard to deny that media play a huge role in how we choose to value women. For example, here’s a recent 2-page spread from the most recent Tribute Magazine – a free movie magazine available in theaters. While the men are mainly noted for their careers, the women are mainly recognized for what they’re wearing with less emphasis on their accomplishments.
Tribute Magazine Oscar Spread Page 6
  Tribute Magazine Oscars Spread Page 7

Download the magazine as a PDF from the Tribute archives here.

Is it just human nature to judge people by their appearances? Should celebrities expect to be judged on their looks? Or are we so in the habit of judging women by their appearance that we can’t turn it off even if we want to?

Women in Advertising: Then and Now

US advertising agency The Ludlow Group posted a great comparison of sexist vintage advertising to current ads that still have a long way to go.



This Miller Lite ad acknowledges how ridiculously sexist it is by including female characters who are visibly disgusted by the whole scenario. As Feminist Frequency points out, this ironic approach to sexism is popular among advertisers: “It’s really the normalization of sexism through the use of irony. It’s the ‘they know that I know that they know, that they’re being sexist.’”

Does acknowledging that you’re being sexist make it more okay? Or is it just a cop-out to continue using women’s bodies to sell products?

See The Ludlow Blog for more examples from the past and present Sexism In Ads: Then And Now.

A New Wave of Media Activism

The campaign to challenge harmful depictions of women in the media is picking up steam. CNN reports:


Amid the noise, modern-day watchdogs are emerging online and behind the camera to create their own brand of fast-tracked social activism. Documentaries like Miss Representation and the America the Beautiful series start discussions on the big screen and drive audiences to social media to keep it going.

“We’re part of a larger movement that’s been ebbing and flowing over time. But what I think is propelling us is the fact that people are fed up,” Siebel-Newsom said. “They know media is everywhere, and it’s communicating hyper-sexualized, pornified images at an unprecedented rate, and they’re fed up with the status quo.”


Read the full story on Sex, Lies and Media: New wave of activists challenge notions of beauty.

Miss Representation Screening Shows Women are Still Being Left out of the Debate

Women are still being left out of the debate!

This was obvious at the February 29, 2012, screening of MissRepresentation, presented by Media Action and the Carleton and National Chapters of Equal Voice at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

Joining us were several Members of Parliament, including Michelle Rempel, Mylène Freeman, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Judy Foote, Judy Sgro, and Elizabeth May. Ottawa Councillor Diane Deans also attended, and all spoke movingly after the film.

Such a large audience suggested not that the battle hasn’t been won, but simply that the campaign for equality continues. Indeed, the movie’s message was clear: “In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader.”

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics shook the audience and armed them with a new perspective. Following the screening, Media Action officially launched its Rant contest, asking women to offer up a rant on camera, in two minutes or less, about whatever media message, trend, program, or commercial bugs them!

Our job at Media Action is to keep up the pressure on broadcasters, regulators and advertisers to eliminate gender stereotypes. It is to work with media across Canada to ensure that the voices, images and concerns of all Canadian women and girls are accurately and fairly reflected. It is, above all, to educate Canadians on issues surrounding media sexism.

Speaking of “the debate”, we hope you’ll participate in our Video Rant Contest across Canada! We’re giving away great prizes! The winner will receive an iPad2, and two finalists will receive either a Smart Phone or an iPod! See this page for more details.


VOGUE Criticized for Photoshopped Adele Cover

Photo via The Examiner.

A new VOGUE cover with an obviously altered photo of singer Adele has outraged her fans. Adele, whose recent Grammy wins have shot her into the spotlight, has been outspoken about self-acceptance, encouraging women to have a positive body image even if they don’t look like a typical cover girl:

“I’ve never wanted to look like models on the cover of magazines. I represent the majority of women and I’m very proud of that.”

Readers have left angry comments on VOGUE’s website, angry that the magazine turned Adele into “Barbie.” Experts are also speaking out:
Anne Becker, an expert in the media and body image at Harvard Medical School, told CBS News that photoshopping isn’t victimless crime.

“What is concerning about images that are altered is that it sets unrealistic expectations for girls and young women. If they are not yet sophisticated media consumers, there may be some dissonance between what they feel they can live up to, and what they can actually attain or what’s actually healthy to attain,” said Becker, who is a Professor of Health and Global Medicine.

See these articles for the full story:

Vogue magazine turned Adele into a ‘Barbie’, say angry fans (Digital Journal)

Vogue trims away at Adele: What photoshopping means for body image (The Examiner)


Media Images and Real Violence

Alison Saunders, head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, has warned that the mainstream media’s poor treatment of women actually impacts the outcomes of rape cases. Photo via The Guardian.

A brilliant article published today by Holly Dustin illustrates the connection between images of women in the media and the way sexual violence is excused, normalized and dismissed in real life – even within the justice system.

From the Guardian article:

Every part of our society seems to be infected by prejudicial attitudes to rape; from the justice secretary’s comments about rape last year, to Facebook pages that promote sexual violence, to the casual use of rape jokes by top comedians and the outpouring of misogyny on male university students’ websites. Hardly surprising then that surveys consistently show that around a third of people in the UK believe that if a woman is raped then she should be held at least partially responsible if she did not behave like a “perfect” victim, either because of what she was wearing or if she had been drinking.

Dustin calls for radical reform – a “revolution in the way we understand and deal with sexual violence” – including the way we represent women in the media:

We need to tackle the messages we receive through the media – whether it is our daily newspapers inaccurately and over-reporting false allegations of rape, whether it is sexualised music videos and games where women are portrayed as sexual objects there purely for men’s pleasure, or the threats of sexual violence that women writers and bloggers receive to shut down debate.

You can read the full article here:
Time for a revolution in the way we deal with rape


Glamour Magazine Agrees to Reduce Photoshopping

Glamour Magazine

Glamour MagazinePhoto via The

Glamour Magazine has pledged to rely less on Photoshopping, after asking for input from its readers. While they haven’t agreed to scrap the practice of retouching photographs altogether, they have decided to stop giving models “digital diets” by reducing or manipulating their body size.

This is great news. Let’s hope this sets a trend in the fashion magazine industry.

You can read the announcement on or check out this response on