What Hollaback’s Viral Video, George Zimmerman’s Trial & Twilight Have in Common* (Participation. Deadline:11/11)

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Read the following article and in your comment use intersections of race,class,sex, and gender to tell us the key argument of the article. Do you agree that using 
inter- sectional analysis is much more helpful to expose forms of injustice?

What Hollaback’s Viral Video, George Zimmerman’s Trial, and Twilight Have in Common
by Kimberly B. George | @kimberlybgeorge | special to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

By now you, like 27 million people, have probably seen the video: a woman walking around for 10 hours in New York. It’s a deeply painful video to watch—painful for several reasons.

At one level, the video has provided a media space for women to have mirrored back to us how violent is the world of patriarchy we walk around in everyday. We know this truth in our guts and our bodies and minds, but staring at the evidence like this awakens critically important conversations, processes of grief and anger, and demands for this reality to change.

That said, there is another layer of violence in this video, and it’s racial and classed violence. White men were edited out of the video, and thus the harassment toward “women” (read white woman, not the diverse category that actually is women) is portrayed as violence perpetuated by black and brown men.

The harassment in this video is part of a system of violence toward women. But the racism and classism in this video is part of a system of racialized and classed violence. There is a lot to grieve here, for the video follows a logic of white supremacist hetero-patriarchy that saturates much of our dominant cultural narratives about race and gender.

Here are a few examples we might read alongside this video, to help us unpack the danger of these representations and how they operate:

Consider that when George Zimmerman was on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin, the jury was made of all women—5 white women and one woman of color.

In the course of Zimmerman’s trial, which really became a trial for Trayvon Martin, the defense put a young, white, blonde-haired woman on the stand to testify that black men had been breaking into houses in her neighborhood. The implication, being, that Trayvon Martin could have been one of these scary black men, and that white women like her needed “protection.” Enter Zimmerman: the patriarchal protector of white womanhood.

It is important to note that Zimmerman himself is actually a light skinned Hispanic man—he’s Peruvian and he also has white privilege. Amidst the complexities of his race and ethnicity, what is clear is that the logics of white supremacy were operating and being manipulated through and through this trial. Blackness was still being made criminal and abject; and I would argue that Zimmerman was implicitly whitened.

The racist logic thus unfolds this way: that Zimmerman read Martin’s black body as a danger was perfectly reasonable. This wasn’t murder, then—this was a well-intended man protecting property and white womanhood!

It is not inconsequential that this logic was sold to a jury of almost all white women.

White women in the U.S. are taught to fear black and brown men. They are taught that men with dark skin are the danger, the ones who will harass them and rape them and the ones who will commit “terror.” How are white women taught this white supremacist ideology? Through news stories. Through the ways in which the crimes of white men are let off the hook or rendered invisible. Through the most commonplace stories circulating in hearts, minds, and unconscious lives.

White women like me are socialized into these images from an early age.

For instance, consider the widely popular and bestselling book (and movie) Twilight. The racial politics unfold this way. The heroic vampire and lead character, Edward, is sparkling white, even “celestial.” So is Bella, his romantic partner. We are frequently reminded of her “paleness” in the text. And, as we might predict by now, the men who almost rape the very pale-skinned Bella (until the white hero rushes in to save her) are described only as “dark” men. And furthermore, Edward’s romantic rival, of course, is the Indigenous Jacob from the “rez”, who is part werewolf.

Not only is Jacob exoticized, but he’s made part-animal. That’s clear colonial fantasy imagery. This love story, which aroused millions of female readers, is saturated through and through with racism, white-settler colonialism, and with the images of white womanhood needing “protection.”

Whether or not white women consciously hold these fears and storylines is not, perhaps, even the most important issue. The issue is that white womanhood in the U.S. context is built upon this intersection of race and gender, which is also classed and written into heteronormative scripts. These scripts are foundational to dominant unconscious processes, material injustice, and widespread systemic violence.

So, return again to the Hollaback video. We do need to talk about street harassment. I am a feminist and I care deeply about this kind of verbal and psychic assault directed daily at women. I do not wish to minimize at all how awful street harassment is or what this woman experienced. But, I do not want to replicate a feminism that does violence to others. And disproportionately representing black and brown men as perpetrators is violence. That white men were edited out of the video is violence.

These racialized representations are interconnected to histories of the lynching of African American men, of current stop and frisk policies and mass incarceration, of the murders of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown.

Furthermore, that white men in positions of power are so often able to hide their violence, sexual harassment, rape, and sexual coercion because of their status as white, wealthy men is a founding economic story of this country.

Consider that for much of U.S. history it was legal for white, classed men to rape—they could rape Indigenous women and men, African American slaves, and their own wives, without such crimes being considered crimes. (Note: it wasn’t until the 1990s that marital rape became a crime in all 50 states.) And upper class men historically have gotten away with violence toward their employees and domestic servants (many of whom are immigrants), given the power differentials of their classed position.

So not only is representing black and brown men as the criminals to fear part of a system of white supremacist violence, the image also dangerously represses the complexity of the deeper, systemic patriarchal violence in this country. The Hollaback video participates in that repression.

But as women-of-color feminisms have already led the way in helping us analyze—from the brilliant work of Kimberle Crenshaw to Hortense Spillers to Andrea Smith—the task of social justice is to press toward a fuller analysis of patriarchy so we might have a fuller, collective transformation.

***

* Kimberly B. George is a creative and academic writer, a writing coach, and an innovator of online learning. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia.

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33 thoughts on “What Hollaback’s Viral Video, George Zimmerman’s Trial & Twilight Have in Common* (Participation. Deadline:11/11)

  1. Yes, using “inter-sectional analysis is much more helpful to expose forms of injustice.” I agree that white women are taught that “darker” men of lower classes are a danger since they are very young, and that society conditions them to believe this throughout their lives. As a young white woman, I noticed this long before taking CES and worked very hard, and at times STILL work hard, not to subconsciously stereotype somebody “on-the-spot” as a danger based on their class, sex, and ethnicity. This mostly happens when I’m walking alone or at night in areas I’m not familiar with (in TV men are mostly perpetrated for assaulting women, predominantly white women, in these environments) and I find myself much more fearful during these times.

    Society criminalizes minorities in television and teaches white women (predominantly blonde-haired, blue-eyed women) that they are more likely to be kidnapped, attacked and raped than ethnic women. Think of all the times white women are attacked/kidnapped in movies (both live-action and cartoons), and the hero has to come and save her in the nick of time.

    Awareness about the media’s influence on society must be raised for all women and all men. Women must be conditioned that they are strong and do not need “protectors,” and they deserve every right to be opinionated and assertive for their well-being. Men must be conditioned that it’s good to express your emotions healthily and that they are not criminals preying on women for the sake of domination. The victimization of all women and criminalization of all men, regardless of class and race, must be reconditioned by conducting a rigorous media overhaul to reedit and reestablish proper social norms, and equality of people, in society.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are 100%b true and we really need to recondition how society depicts races because we all need each other like it or not and being who we are and to a sense that we could be a better nation if we just come together without media influencing how we see each other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with the idea of coming together with out the influence of social media. The way society develops expectations, and ideologies is extremely bias and everything is simply based off of other perspectives, but because of social media, we have very little control of what the population gets exposed to.

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    2. I agree with Rebecca. I do not believe as a women that women should only be afraid of black men. TV does make women feel that they should be afraid when walking alone or when a black man comes near her. Media today puts most women on edge about males and what may happen when walking alone. No man or women should have fears about being independent.

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  2. I found it profoundly interesting that the author linked Twilight with racial profiling. Now think back there are even more racial stereotypes appeared in the book, but not just strict between “dark” and white, for example Angela’s Asian boyfriend is shorter than her (“Asian boys are short”). I must say the author had proposed a very good example of “how social medias perpetrate into our subconscious” and it is true that I didn’t even give a thought on these minor problems until I read this article. I think for real life, just likewise. There are things we see every day without noticing the abnormality—because there IS NONE for us; they’re already rooted in our mind. The task is, to make the invisible visible again, and first we must (at least try to) jump out of our own selves to perceive the world in other ways.

    This somehow reminded me of a video I saw on Facebook, it’s called “Do u have a racial preference”. According to the video, white women are 2 times more likely to respond to white men over other races (and very intriguing that white men like to respond to other races over white women). So deep inside, other races are still very likely to be excluded from the intimate possibility for white women. Maybe it’s the “concern of safety” or just “personal preference”. It’s just too hard to change a solid idea that one holds for her lifelong time. Don’t know what can I say about that.

    Plus I have a question, hoping someone can give me a little help: according to a statistic of 1998 (too old maybe), there’re 17.7% white women has reported rape,18.8% from black women, 6.8% from Asian women, 34.1 from Native American/ Alaskan women and 24.4 from mixed race women. So actually white women are not the most vulnerable group of all women. So why would we have this idea that white women are most likely to be attacked? (Especially maybe “bl

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    1. Huizi Li,

      I agree with your comment, especially when you stated:

      “There are things we see every day without noticing the abnormality—because there IS NONE for us; they’re already rooted in our mind. The task is, to make the invisible visible again, and first we must (at least try to) jump out of our own selves to perceive the world in other ways.”

      Perspective is everything. Without it, we value nothing, not each other nor ourselves. Empathy is key to humanity, and without it, all is lost. Our job is to prepare the coming generations by seizing back the power in the establishments and structures our ancestors constructed. We must rebuild and fortify a new power system for the good of future generations to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe that Zimmerman was guilty because I thought that the evidence was so far against him there was no way he was getting out of it. as for the twilight part I believe that that is just a movie that this author is trying to blow out of proportion. Just because the director chose someone for a specific part doesn’t mean that it makes them racist. It means that they wanted to have that person for the part. plus the werewolf guys skin is not that dark. he’s lighter then most of the people that go to the tanning places.

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  4. Yes, there was a quote using that “inter-sectional analysis is much more helpful to expose forms of injustice.” I see that white women or people are being taught that black men of the darker skin and men of lower classes are a threat for them being younger, and its like a tradition going through their lives.. As a black teen, I noticed that some white woman wont associate or maybe date a black guy because what customs are in their household. This mostly happens like ill sit down in a lecture and maybe a colored woman of other ethnicity will sit by me but if its the common white woman unless this no room will sit by me but most of the time they’ll sit 2 to 3 seats away if im not worthy to be associated with.

    Society makes minorities the bad guy in television and shows white women that they are more likely to be physically assaulted black women. But society doesn’t like black people anyway so if they can get them to be the bad person in the scene then everything is okay…but its not.

    Knowing about the media’s influence on society must be raised for all women and any race of woman to be exact and all men. Women should be respected and know that they are strong too and that they can be their own providers. Men should know or be taught that its okay to show feelings and emotions and care for one another but also realize that media is a lie and dominance and brutality is not the way to treat woman. The stereotypes of men and woman and race in general needs to be changed or society wont prosper to where we can all cooperate as a nation, not being uncomfortable with a race or skin color but enjoying all races.

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    1. Isaiah Davis,

      I agree with your above comment, especially your ending sentence:

      “The stereotypes of men and woman and race in general needs to be changed or society wont prosper to where we can all cooperate as a nation, not being uncomfortable with a race or skin color but enjoying all races.”

      If people regain power over the media and reset society’s norms, the sky’s the limit on the great things we could all accomplish.

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  5. The media has a big influence on how we view different races and genders. I have also noticed that in many movies/shows the bad guy is usually of color. This is not right people shouldn’t base their decision in real life on something they have seen on television. When the author of this article brought up Twilight and described the bad guys having dark skin, I never would have thought the author of Twilight would have tried to put racism in the storyline. I personally never paid attention to that aspect of the novel/movie. The media’s influence over people is ridiculous, We shouldn’t automatically assume if you have dark skin you are a bad person or are going to cause harm.

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  6. I found this article very interesting, especially her relation of Twilight to racism. I’ve seen this movie many times and have never really thought that in depth about the way they portray certain people. Bella and Edward, along with their families are white and they are the main stars, then you have Edward who is darker in color and is this beast they created, along with the vampires who are trying to kill Bella, the leader of that group is black. They are portraying this idea that darker color are the people who cause harm and white people are only doing good. The media has a very large influence on the world, and we are so oblivious to these ideas they are making.

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    1. I agree that “They are portraying this idea that darker color are the people who cause harm and white people are only doing good” because it sets up a negative view for people of color for no reason in our society.

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  7. Isaiah Davis, your comment include this statement, “ill sit down in a lecture and maybe a colored woman of other ethnicity will sit by me but if its the common white woman unless this no room will sit by me but most of the time they’ll sit 2 to 3 seats away if im not worthy to be associated with.”
    This comment is actually really sad but I am sure very true, as a white woman i’ve never really payed attention to where I sit in classes or anywhere, but when I really think about it I can only hope that I have never done this before, because although you are anyone else is of color does not mean you are not worthy, and nobody should make you feel this way.

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  8. George Zimmerman was portrayed in the public eye as a white, watchmen protecting his neighborhood from dangers, such as a reckless black teen wearing a hood. What the media failed to show was that George Zimmerman wasn’t white, like most people assume, Although there was more than enough evidence to put him behind bars, the only thing that saved him was the white privilege he accumulated through his light skin and his heroic act of protecting his fellow white women in his neighborhood.

    The media has the tendency to display people of color as the fearful or predators through the use of news, movies or everyday life. In the novel series, Twilight, I do believe that the use of color is used as imagery rather than in a racism way just to differentiate the good and evil between the vampires and the werewolves.

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  9. Karina I agree on your statement how the media plays a significant role in portraying colored people as bad people in media. I think that shapes our views about colored people and how we tend to associate them with negative thoughts, after repeatedly watching it over and over again. I do believe you’re right on how we need to learn not to judge someone just because the color of their skin and our media influences.

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  10. I agree that using inter- sectional analysis is much more helpful to expose forms of injustice. I found it interesting and surprising how there in under the surface meanings in the Twilight movies when they portray the “innocent white family” being attacked by the leader (black) of vampires trying to get them. Also the “beast” or “wolf” has been animalised and portrayed as lesser and he is of a minority background. The media and society portrays minorities in a bad lighting and this has harmful effects on white peoples outlook on other minority groups.

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  11. The media plays a huge role in altering views and portraying things that may or may not be true. Yes, the video of the woman walking through New York is disturbing but people take it too serious. I thought it was very interesting that George Zimmerman’s trial and Twilight were compared. I never realized how much they were alike. The good person is perceived as “white” and the bad person is perceived as “dark.” It amazes me to see how media will show racial differences under so much of a story line that most people never realize it until someone says something.

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    1. I completely agree media does alter our views and it is all so that they can have the most exciting story to display, and they want these viewers so that they can rake in more revenue, so in the end everything just comes down to money, and who can make the most.

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  12. I think that media such as magazines, television, books, movies, etc have a lot of impact on race and people of different color, you can see that when something comes on TV that is bad news they usually only show the people of color that were involved and the white men are still looked at but not as much a African American person or an Asian person, I think that ‘Media” rules the race and gender inequality and discrimination aspect of the world that we live in today.

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  13. I like Isaiah’s comment about being a person of color and kind of realizing things around that wouldn’t be normal for a white person, so I think that he did a good job really putting some in-depth explanation and helping other people understand where he is coming from.

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  14. The society we all live in today has taught us all to symbolize black as bad. Since it’s known that black men are more likely to commit a crime, we the society as a whole has internalized the fact that black people are dangerous. This is just pure stereotyping! Our problem is that, once we know someone who is from a different racial group do something bad, we tend to categorize all others from that race as the person. what we as a society do not is that, one person does not speak for the rest of his or her racial group. white people on the other hand do not have to go through this phase in their life. One white person does not carry the burden of his or her race. In addition to symbolizing dark as bad, is seen in the twilight books, as the article started. This irritates me because society always has label for people.

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    1. I agree with what Rose said. It’s really sad to watch people judge others and it bothers me as well. It really is just stereotyping people by their skin color and they don’t even know the person.

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  15. I think that the fact that this article said “women are taught to fear black men” really shows what kind of society we live in. We judge base off of the type of skin color we have. When everyone else is doing the same thing, it is more likely for people to follow their footsteps and continue on this habit. What good does it do in society? nothing. It only causes more drama and more hatred towards different races. Society is only going to become more segregated if people believe that race is an issue. People shouldn’t feel uncomfortable if they took a walk outside. They shouldn’t feel guilty, thinking that they did something wrong, just because they walked into a grocery store. We live in a world where racism will always exist, if people continue to make racial comments about others.

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  16. I am a blonde hair and blue eyed girl, and often times people say white young girls should never walk anywhere at night. What about the other races? There should be just as much concern for women of other races. Society tells young women today to be careful of men oftentimes black men because they may be dangerous to young women. Black men are stereotyped as that. Oftentimes when someone of a certain race does something bad people are quick to blame the race as a whole. The media today portrays white and blacks very differently. Whites are usually upper-class and blacks and committing crimes. I believe it is an unfair representation of society.

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    1. I agree, stereotypes have made it easier for people to generalize an entire race(s) and perceive them as, “dangerous”. I also like how you pointed out that all women should have a support system instead of only viewing, “white young girls” the only ones who need to be concerned of.

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    2. I agree completely with your comment. It should not be just white young girls concerned for their safety, it should be all women. But being scared of only “black men” is not okay, because we never know who someone really is and judging them by their appearance only applies and enforces racism. Why is it that the human brain works this way?

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  17. The Zimmerman case in its entirety is ridiculous and irritates me to even think about, it is simple a man shot a kid without probable cause and should be in jail for the rest of his life. I think that this is a prime example of how (even though he isn’t white) white privilege is destroying our country, and how white people feel s empowered and entitled, so much so that they can pull a gun on a kid in the street. That is a huge problem with the media in todays society, they have a way of blowing things out of proportion and making things that are not true be what sticks in your mind as you read/watch. White women are taught to fear black men, this in every sense is true, they are but should not be taught to fear “black men” or even men in general, not to be confused with me saying all men are safe but women are strong and can accomplish anything a man can do. Women should be aware and try and be safe but that should not be restricted to a race of men.

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  18. Inter sectional analysis is definitely helpful to show forms of injustice. I think what i disliked about this video of the woman walking around New York is showing mostly minorities in lower class areas harassing this woman. It viewed them as animals but yet there was low visualizations of white people harassing the woman. The video itself is disgusting because women go through this everyday but only showing people of color appears is not only discrimination but it creates unethical stereotypes about minorities. I also agree that movies portray black as evil. i was a bit amused about the twilight reference because i really didn’t think about it until the author pointed it out. I think the real issue is people being conditioned to think black is negative or anything that is not being blind by the white light. We see it in movies all of the time, villains wear dark or happen to be another race and the hero’s are glistening in shiny or white clothing to view them as holy or an angel.

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  19. I agree that using intersectional analysis is much more helpful to expose forms of injustice. I did not realize that the video of the woman walking through the streets of New York was only showing men of color harassing her until the article mentioned something about it. I mean, it is absolutely degrading how men are treating women like objects, but this video greatly supports the stereotype that men of color are potential rapists, and other nonsensical accusations. The Zimmerman case on the other hand is an instance where stereotypes have lead to great injustice, for a light-skinned man was set free from shooting a dark skinned boy for no cause. I mean I get that there have been recent break-ins involving blacks, but stereotyping all blacks outside at night as a robber does not solve anything. With both of these cases, society is teaching us that black is bad and that color defines how we are going to be. Color is just an exterior aspect of ourselves, and most certainly does not tell someone how one is going to act, think, or what their past was like. This misrepresentation of races is pulling our country apart unless we act soon.

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  20. This article was very interesting to read. Before when I watched the movie Twilight, I never thought about racism existing in the film. But now I see that they have a point! I believe women are taught to beware of men not just “black men” in general. Although I do find it true that white men, high in the socialite power, do get away with their crimes much easier than black men. This is an even scarier thought to me, thinking that white men are able to get away with their crimes and some women would never even expect it at first sight… It’s sad that this is the way women think for their safety and immediately judge a person by their look.

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