An Intro to A Year of Intentional Media Consumption

This year, I am focusing my voluntary consumption of media to that created by and disseminated by people of color and women. The rationale behind this comes from an acknowledgement that the default media is created by and for white men. The news playing on my patient’s TV screens, the music playing at bars, the articles that show up on my facebook news feed are often created by, and directed towards, white men. I noticed this phenomena early last year and started making an effort to curate my media consumption, especially through facebook. I ‘unfollowed’ Buzzfeed, Gawker, and any other site prone to posting vapid lists. I started following media sources that are for and by people of color, like Colorlines, Indian Country Today Media Network, and Brown Girl Magazine. There is definitely an incredible wealth of media being created by and for people of color, and created with an intersectional analysis, but judging from the mass media, I’d never know it.

In my 25 years on the planet, I cannot think of 25 books that I have read by people of color. In high school, literally the only book we read by a black woman was Their Eyes Were Watching God. My primary source for news is The Daily Show and, while I enjoy Jon Stewart, he often doesn’t push race, class, and gender as hard as he could. The music I listen to tends to come from the radio and the movies I watch have usually been shown in theaters.

As 2015 approached, I thought about what consuming media can be. I can consume media to learn, think critically, inspire me, push my limits, and make me laugh and cry. If the majority of that media is created by and for a demographic that is not me, how am I influenced and affected by this media? What would my thought-processes, and even my imagination, look like if I went outside the default media and actively sought out voices of people of color and women?

So I committed to spending one year without actively consuming media by white men. Once I made this commitment, a couple important questions came up. Would I still watch The Daily Show? If I didn’t, what would my hilarious but informational news source be? What about media created by white cis-men who are my friends? Or links that they put up, but which are written by women or people of color? What about articles written by disabled, queer, trans*, or poor white men? Should I break up with my boyfriend because HE’S a white man???

I’ve spent these first months of the year exploring these questions and testing the waters of this project.

1. The Nightly Show and Scandal. I primarily watch TV after night shift, when I want to feel like a normal person by watching an episode or two of something before sleeping. My show used to be The Daily Show, interspersed with some junk food comedy shows. Lucky for me, Larry Wilmore has taken the slot left vacant by Stephen Colbert and is hosting The Nightly ShowIt’s similarly hilarious to the Daily Show, but emphasizes POC voices. I had never heard the words “mass incarceration and the drug war” on The Daily Show, but within the first few weeks of Larry Wilmore’s show, a panelist slipped it in. Good timing for me, right?

In January, I also became addicted to Scandal. I binge-watched three seasons of it during back-to-back sinus infections. If you thought I’d stop watching TV entirely, you were totally wrong.

2. But Some White Men Have Important Things to Say! And there are plenty of places for them to say it, with plenty of people willing to listen to them. This year isn’t about believing all white men are bad, or cutting off all media from white men. It’s about cutting off the media I voluntarily consume. So I’m still going to see what white men have to say from the trending bar on facebook, my patient’s tv screens, and the radio when it’s playing in buildings that I can’t control. White men have always, and will always, be able to say what they want to say. There are plenty of other white men in power who will promote their voices. I’m not really worried for the white cis-man.

3. What about the Queer or Trans* Disabled White Man who Just Wrote An Incredible Book? Remember, this is a project for a year, not a lifetime. Is it wrong to dedicate a full year to women? I don’t think so. This year, I’m committing to consuming media by women, including queer, trans*, disabled women. I recently read a widely circulated article by a white man about his wife developing a mental illness during their marriage. (I checked the photo and knowingly broke my resolution.) As I read it, I cried. A lot. It was beautifully written, touching, and full of love. But once I wiped away the tears, I came back to my resolution and asked myself why I had to break the resolution. Why wasn’t there an article written from the wife herself? Why don’t we uplift the voices of the mentally ill and, instead, rely on their caregivers and partners to tell their stories? And where are the voices of the women who have been, for generations, taking care of their mentally ill husbands? Would this article have been so widely circulated if it showcased the resilience of a loving woman and the struggle of a mentally ill man?

4. Unfollowing Friends. I have a lot of white cis-men in my life who are good friends. I have intentionally unfollowed most of them. There is one person in particular who I keep coming close to unfollowing. He is a white queer cis-man and he consistently posts articles and statuses that deeply critique current events. He almost never posts the dominant analysis. His posts are often news sources related to topics that I care deeply. For now, he’s still on my news feed. As the months progress, I might need to phase him out.

5. But Your Boyfriend is White! What Does He Think? Let’s go back and remember that critiquing white men doesn’t mean that I hate white men. Critiquing whiteness doesn’t mean I hate white people. I’m simply acknowledging that ‘white man’ is not a neutral perspective. The idea of an ‘objective observer’  is a falsehood. I’m in a relationship with a white man who is consistently supportive and, while our politics don’t always align, he encourages me and gives me the space I need to explore issues of race, class, and gender. We also, by and large, don’t consume the same media. He reads The Economist, I scan Colorlines. Shockingly, we don’t have to be the same person.

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