By Bethany Hardie
Educating About Stereotypes in the Media
In my professional practice, as a teacher in Māori medium education, I am interested in how Māori are misrepresented in the media in New Zealand society. Even with Māori television providing a more accurate view, the New Zealand public are still getting bombarded with negative stereotypes about Māori on other networks (Nairn, Barnes, Borell, Rankine, Gregory & McCreeanor, 2012). This blog is for any teacher wanting to help students recognise misrepresentation and underrepresentation of Māori in the media. I have included links to resources that may help with ideas for students to voice an alternative media portrayal to stereotypes about Māori.
Media education helps students recognise stereotypes in the media by teaching critical media literacy. According Kellner and Share (2007), critical media literacy “helps people to discriminate and evaluate media content, to critically dissect media forms, to investigate media effects and uses, to use media intelligently, and to construct alternative media” (p.4). Forms of media have now become so diverse that you may want to now know what constitutes as mass media. Have a look at this website for a brief overview:
Why teach Media Education?
As students in primary schools engage more and more with media in their social time and to embark on inquiry learning research projects for school, it is becoming more important to start teaching critical media literacy earlier. Phillips (1997) states, “Regardless of what is actually happening, it is the media’s interpretation of that event that shapes our attitudes, values and perceptions about the world and about our culture” (p.20). As teachers, we need to help primary school students reflect on the stereotypes they may be encountering and empower them to creatively shape a better message through media production.
Media education not only challenges students’ way of thinking but it is enjoyable to learn. Redmond (2012) coined the term ‘critical enjoyment’ to describe “students’ feelings of satisfaction when deconstructing media” (p.115). She claims, “By including both critical analysis and enjoyment through humour, active learning, social learning, and the integration of popular, student-selected media, critical enjoyment supports both cognitive and affective domains in the learning process” (Redmond, 2012, p.115). If you are passionate about ‘student-centred learning’ and ‘social constructivist learning’ this may ring a bell with you.
The New Zealand Curriculum includes media education under ‘media studies’ and defines its importance as, “Media studies engages students in actively exploring, understanding, creating and enjoying the media and media products…media studies empowers students to become active citizens who are critical and creative thinkers…active decision makers in how they use and produce media” (Ministry of Education, 2017, Teaching and Learning, para.2).
For more on the media studies curriculum:
Primary Schools: http://media-studies.tki.org.nz/
Secondary Schools: http://seniorsecondary.tki.org.nz/Social-sciences/Media-studies
Media studies itself is an approved subject for university entrance and you can read more about NCEA achievement standards here: http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/qualifications-standards/qualifications/ncea/subjects/media-studies/levels/
Stereotyping in Media Representation
The problem with media is that it can only represent reality in a very limited way. McQueen (1998), defines all media representation as being, “a) selective, (b) limited or framed, (c) univocal (ie. from only one position), and (d) the result of mechanical processing or mediation” (p.140). He explains how stereotypes are just a type of ‘code’ to represent people and can be useful, not always wrong, sometimes flattering, can hold complexities, move with the times, can be about privileged and dominant groups of people, and the audience is not always gullible to them (McQueen, 1998). In this way stereotyping is a tool for media.
Stereotypes may have their uses but living with circulating negative stereotypes maintains power relationships in society that we should teach our students to challenge (Kellner & Share, 2007). In the transcript of a recorded lecture for the Open University, Stuart Hall gives a thorough explanation of the damage that stereotypes can cause to people’s way of thinking (Jhally, 1997). He explains that we can actually forget that someone constructed these representations. Hall states, “They [media] want, as it were, a relationship between the image and a powerful definition of it to become naturalised so that that is the only meaning it can possibly carry” (Jhally, 1997, p.19). This would explain why stereotypes about Māori become ‘truths’ for some people about what all Māori are going to be like.
If you would like to watch the recording, he discusses these points here (this is just part four but you will find all four parts of his talk on you tube if you have time to watch it all):
Māori are underrepresented in news and what is presented “prioritises violence and criminality” (Nairn et. al, 2012, p.38). In a study on how Māori are represented in the news, Narin et. al (2012) found that in 13 of the randomly sampled days, Māori-language bulletins included 127 more stories about Māori that weren’t presented by the English-language bulletins. They explain how misrepresentation and underrepresentation in English-language bulletins “erases Māori as responsible citizens, amounting to an assault on Māori health and wellbeing” (p.46).
You can read their article here:
Other useful resources about how Māori are represented in the media can be found here:
- A prezi by Kimberly Paisley (2015) to explain to your students how Māori are represented in the media:
- A booklet by the Treaty Resource Centre for challenging students to think about the ways Māori are misrepresented in the media: http://www.trc.org.nz/sites/trc.org.nz/files/AlternativesA4-booklet.pdf
A good resource for questions to ask students about representations is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Handbook for Teachers, module 4: Representations, pp.27 – 28:
How to Make a Stereotype Homeless
It is Hall’s solution to open up these representations that captured my attention. Hall explains “you can engage in a way which begins to open the stereotypes up in such a way that they become uninhabitable for very long” (Jhally, 1997, p.21). The problem with inquiry learning is that students are going to confront how the media portray Māori and the last thing we want our tamariki to do is to believe these stories about themselves! Teaching students to think critically about what they are encountering in the media empowers them to open up stereotypes about Māori and other negatively represented minority groups. Therefore, once we have exposed the stereotypes of media representations how do we make them uninhabitable?
Hall explains that we make them uninhabitable by keeping representations open with “new kinds of knowledges to be produced in the world, new kinds of subjectivities to be explored, and new dimensions of meaning which have not been foreclosed by the systems of power which are in operation” (Jhally, 1997, p.22). In other words, we make media that is more diverse.
I think that is why I enjoyed Kellner and Share’s (2007) approach to media education so much, because they advocate for teaching students to take “action against oppression” (p.16) by making their own media. In 2017, students have a number of platforms on which to do this and to try to gain some traction for the representation they would rather have made about them. There is YouTube, blogs, memes, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few.
Māori television has been a magnificent platform for opening up stereotypes by providing more diverse media (Smith & Abel, 2008). In an article recounting the struggle to start Māori television, Smith and Abel (2008) describe its content today, “one could say that the channel asks its audience to think from the viewpoint of difference in ways that might change the orthodox frameworks we use for talking about national identity and social being” (p.11). Just by comparing Māori television news to other networks Nairn et al. (2012) found they could decipher how stereotypes about Māori are maintained in the media and your students could try this too.
How Students Can Make a Stereotype Homeless
Here are some examples of activities you could do with your students:
1. Identity perspective videos: Get your students to make video about how they see themselves, where are they from? what do they want to when they leave school? what do they think about stereotyping? Here are some examples of students describing their identity.
Ko wai au? Ko wai tātou? Ko wai rātou? by The Wireless NZ. Click on a picture to play:
2.Blogs: Start a blog page that where they can document what they are learning about stereotypes, post samples of their work, write reflections. This is a great way to incorporate socially constructed learning as they can give feedback to each other and share ideas about media representation
3. Watch or video their own version of TEDx Talks: Students could watch these TED talks and then try to make their own TED talks speech and present it to the class, or record and post to their blog.
- ‘Mana: The power in knowing who you are.’ Tame Iti. TEDxAuckland:
2.‘Brown Brother.’ Joshua Iosefo at TEDxEQChCh
4. Manu Kōrero: Students could enter a speech for Manu Kōrero about media representation of Māori. Here is an example:
5. Watch and Analyse Television sitcoms: Students could watch, ‘Find Me a Māori Bride’ which has a humorous take on stereotypes about Māori and talk about the characters and how they fix or break those stereotypes.
6. Slam Poetry: Students could learn about slam poetry as a form of protest and try to write their own. Here are some examples of slam poetry about stereotypes:
Joshua Iosefo Graduation speech:
7. Make a Political Statement Video: Students could act out scenarios that send a message about identity to challenge people about what would happen if we lost our diversity. Here is an example that students from AUT made about if we lost te reo Māori:
‘Pull Te Boat – Māori in the 21st Century’ – How would Māori be in the 21st century without our reo?. A movie made by tertiary students from AUT:
8. Make memes: Students could make their own memes to challenge images that stereotype. One good website for this is: https://memegenerator.net/
These memes have had mixed reviews but they provide a good example of the author challenging historical representations of the relationship between Māori and Pakeha.
This meme contrasts movie representation with political representation for remembering Maori identity:
There are lots of great resources out there from all around the globe that challenge and open up stereotypes so hopefully this just gives you a starting point or adds to your kete. Media Education is a great way to strengthen our tamariki ki te tū māia, tū mataara, tū manawanui! [stand confident, stand alert, stand steadfast!]
Jhally S. (Prod. & Dir.) (1997) Stuart Hall: representation and the media [online transcript]. United States: Media Education Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.mediaed.org/transcripts/Stuart-Hall-Representation-and-the-Media-Transcript.pdf
Kellner, D., & Share, J. (2007). Critical media literacy, democracy, and the reconstruction of education. In D.Macedo & S. R. Steinberg (Eds.), Media literacy: A reader (pp. 3-23). New York: Peter Lang.
McQueen, D. (1998). Representation and stereotyping. In D. McQueen, Television: A media student’s guide (pp. 139-160). London: Arnold.
Ministry of Education (2010). Media studies. Retrieved from: http://seniorsecondary.tki.org.nz/layout/set/pdf/content/view/pdf/741
Nairn, R., McCreanor, T., Moewaka Barnes, A., Borell, B., Rankine, J., & Gregory, A. (2012). “Maori news is bad news”: That’s certainly so on television. MAI Journal, 1(1), 38-49.
Phillips, M. (1997). An illusory image: a report on the media coverage and portrayal of women’s sport in Australia. Canberra: Australian Sports Commission.
Smith, J. and Abel, S. (2008). Ka whawhai tonu mātou: indigenous television in Aotearoa, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Media Studies, 11(1). Retrieved from: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/seftms/about/staff/attachments/Smith__Jo_and_Sue_Abel.__Ka_Whawhai_Tonu_M_tou_Indigenous_Te.pdf
UNESCO. (2006). Media Education: A toolkit for teachers, students, parents and professionals. Paris: UNESCO.
Crowd of people picture attributed to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/613445810
Child with lunchbox picture attributed to: Bethany Hardie
Malcom X meme picture attributed to: http://i.imgur.com/cvClveN.jpg
Camera lens picture attributed to: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_050419-N-7526R-047_Lt.j.g._Genni_Williamson_looks_through_the_Big_Eyes_binoculars_on_the_bridge_wing_aboard_USS_Blue_Ridge_(LCC_19)_as_Journalist_Seaman_Apprentice_Marc_Rockwell-Pate_takes_a_photograph.jpg
Time magazine picture attributed to: http://content.time.com/time/covers/pacific/0,16641,20070716,00.html
Find me a Māori Bride picture attributed to: http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/find-me-maori-bride
Māori television logo picture attributed to: http://www.maoritelevision.com/
Captain Cook meme attributed to: Unkown. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/125463754268877/photos/a.166850556796863.37995.125463754268877/583136118501636/?type=3&theater
James a refugee meme attributed to: Unkown. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/125463754268877/photos/a.166850556796863.37995.125463754268877/572947799520468/?type=3&theater
NZ Once were warriors meme attributed to: Unknown. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/125463754268877/photos/a.166850556796863.37995.125463754268877/571912172957364/?type=3&theater