Historically mapping contemporary intersectional feminist media studies

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Abstract

On March 6, 2012 the Guardian reported on the withdrawal of “Growing Together,” a viral high-budget online video promoting EU unity by targeting young adults (Watt 2012). The video featured a white woman of indeterminate ethnicity wearing a tight-fitting suit reminiscent of the one Uma Thurman wore in Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003). She stares in fright as a Chinese-looking man, an Indian-looking man, and a black man wearing dreadlocks-all of them practicing a martial art-surround her. In response to the threat, the woman multiplies herself, transforming into the stars in the EU flag, surrounding the men, who then give up their pursuit and are erased by the EU emblem and the slogan “the more we are, the stronger we are.” Responding to the ensuing controversy, the European Commission issued an apology stating the video was innocently meant to appeal to younger voters. The video might appear to be simply about youth or female empowerment. But an intersectional media analysis discredits this facile explanation of the Commission’s “innocent” intentions. The ad represents the “threats” to European unity as aggressive, racialized, hyper-masculine figures in culturally conspicuous non-European costumes. Since the EU is represented through the body of a young white woman, the “threat” is not only that of physical violence but also that of sexual violence. Drawing on historical narratives that construct white women’s desirable bodies as perpetually in need of protection from the colonized other, this particular juxtaposition of race, gender, and nation also brings to mind other phobias. If the EU were represented by a woman of color or a white man, this advertisement would not evoke the same degree of racialized peril and backlash. Against the global backdrop of increases in anti-immigration laws, hate crimes against Muslim citizens, and state violence against women and undocumented im/migrants, the racialized and gendered threat of sexual and cultural miscegenation to racial and Euro-homogeneity, intersectionality continues to be a significant theoretical tool for analyzing the media. This chapter reviews literature on women of color feminism and queer of color critique to develop a usable and working definition of intersectionality. Next, we showcase some contemporary interdisciplinary scholarship by queer and feminist scholars in media studies and related fields that utilizes intersectionality effectively. We conclude with a discussion of the continued importance of intersectional feminist media scholarship to social justice in an increasingly diverse, global, and digitally networked environment.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge companion to media and gender
EditorsCynthia Carter, Linda Steiner, Lisa McLaughlin
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter6
Pages71-80
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780415527699
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameRoutledge Media and Cultural Studies Companions

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Keywords

  • Mass media and culture
  • SOCIAL SCIENCE
  • Sex role in mass media

Cite this

Molina, I., & Cacho, L. M. (2014). Historically mapping contemporary intersectional feminist media studies. In C. Carter, L. Steiner, & L. McLaughlin (Eds.), The Routledge companion to media and gender (pp. 71-80). (Routledge Media and Cultural Studies Companions). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203066911.ch6