Why I'm an Activist for Better Media

How did I develop my worldview? What prompted me to become an activist for social change? How can I apply my own story to my work to protect the open Internet and support media makers? What can I do to create a more feminist media? These are a few of the questions I contemplated during a workshop this month at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit called “Testimonios: Storytelling as Organizing.”

Presented by Amalia Deloney from the Center for Media Justice and Edyael Casaperalta from the Center for Rural Strategies, the session was designed to get us thinking about personal stories and narratives as valuable tools in social justice organizing. Stories and narratives are important to organizing for their power to connect and unite people behind a common cause.

As I thought about my own path, I was transported to my aunt’s kitchen table, where as an eight-year-old I sat listening to my aunts and mother share their life struggles over coffee.

Sitting at that table, I learned what it means to be a woman, a mother, a survivor, a sister, and a human being filled with compassion and love. I also learned about the emotional, economic and political struggles of being a single mother and a woman in our community and society. These strong women taught me the importance of family (defined in the most untraditional sense), community building, advocacy and compassion.

I also spent a good portion of my formative years watching television. The way women were – and still are – portrayed in the media rarely reflected the women in my life. I learned from the media that women should be submissive, white, young, thin, heterosexual sex objects with straight hair – as portrayed through fragmented shots of perfect body parts.

I felt disjointed, and struggled to reconcile what I learned during my mom’s coffee talks with the images I saw through commercial television.

In college, I finally realized that my core values, beliefs and knowledge about women’s lives came from my kitchen table – and that these directly conflicted with the media images of women that I tried to emulate. It was this conflict, coupled with a solid feminist mentor whose stories inspired me to be the person that I am today, that grounded me and led me to be an activist in search of media that reflect people’s realities, that are accessible to media makers, and that are not controlled by corporate, patriarchal and oppressive interests.

So what do we do in the face of mainstream media that consistently fail us, that damage young women, and that disempower communities through misrepresentation and stereotypes? How do we get the media to account for the interconnectedness of economic, social, political, gender- and race-based oppression in our lives? We make our own.

I want a media system that supports media makers so they can do what they do best: create media that reflect real people – so I can finally see images of strong, diverse, curly-haired, independent, educated, activist women.

My organizing work focuses specifically on Internet issues, and on the Internet’s unique ability to allow people both to consume and to produce media that are essential to media makers and to our ability to tell our own stories. With the Internet, media makers can produce, distribute and pass on stories and information that is missing from mainstream media narratives.

When media makers and organizers unite around common stories, we can become a formidable force working toward positive social change. And makers and consumers have a role to play in shaping the future of the Internet, in protecting Net Neutrality and closing the digital divide, and in demanding media that reflect the reality of our lives and ourselves.

Add your voice to the local, regional and national conversation about the future of the Internet by connecting with media makers and organizers. Stay engaged by visiting www.SavetheInternet.com, and sign up for our e-mail action list to learn more.