First of all, you can’t choose to give up privilege – privilege is by definition an unearned advantage and you cannot choose to not have it. Guilt and shame are not, however, productive ways to deal with this.
In this lesson students are introduced to the concept of “avatars” and share their experiences creating and playing avatars in video games and virtual worlds. They then create avatars using a program that is intentionally limited in terms of available body types and gender markers, first creating an avatar of their own gender and then of the opposite gender, and then discuss the program and relate it to representations of gender and body image in games and virtual worlds and in other media. Students then create avatars using a much more flexible version of the program and compare that experience to the more limited version. Finally, students use the more versatile program to create avatars that represent how they see themselves and how they would like others to see them online and reflect on the choices that went into creating them.
Persons with disabilities might best be described, in the media at least, as an invisible minority: though a large segment of the population has a physical or mental disability they have been almost entirely absent from the mass media until recent years. Moreover, when persons with disabilities appear they almost always do so in stereotyped roles.
Much in the same way that visible minorities are under- or misrepresented in news media, visible minorities are not accurately portrayed in entertainment media, which tends to reinforce themes that are conveyed in the news. In Canada, these inaccurate representations are often the result of economic factors that affect which forms of media are broadcast and the types of portrayals they include. Although positive change is occurring, it is important that Canadian media content more accurately and fairly reflect the reality of Canadian multiculturalism.
Part of stereotyping is the attitude that all members of a particular group are the same, or else fall into a very small number of types. This is particularly true in the few cases where persons with a disability appear in media
Teachers who include media literacy in their classrooms often face issues that don’t arise in other subjects. Nothing illustrates this better than the issue of diversity in media. It’s not unreasonable for teachers to see the topic as a can of worms and be concerned about offending students and their parents – not to mention worrying about what the students themselves might say. At the same time, it’s a topic that is simply too important to be ignored: what we see in media hugely influences how we see others, ourselves and the world. As a result, an ability to analyze media depictions of diversity is not only a key element of being media literate, it’s essential to understanding many of the social issues and concerns that we face as citizens. That’s why Media Awareness Network has developed That’s Not Me – a new online tutorial for professional development to help educators and community leaders approach this issue through key concepts of media literacy.
Canada is a diverse and multicultural nation, but a major criticism that can be leveled at Canadian media’s treatment of religion is that it does not reflect this diversity. Lack of representation is, for some religions, as considerable an issue as misrepresentation is for others. Media recognition of Canada’s ‘religious mosaic’ and increased coverage of underrepresented religions is the first step towards accurate media portrayal.