Speakers Deliver Compelling Talk on Race and Gender and their Relationship to Animal Advocacy

Vegan Speakers on Race and Gender at Calvin Animal Rights Event

Friday and Saturday, Calvin College held their third annual Wake Up Weekend! event hosted by the College’s Philosophy Department and a variety of student groups. The weekend featured a number of speakers addressing animal advocacy issues, including oft-neglected issues of race and gender and how those topics relate to animal rights. While the vegan brunch and chili cook-off was great, this talk was the highlight of the weekend for me!

Thinking and Eating at the Same Time: Reflections of a Sista Vegan

Michelle Lloyd-Page, Dean for Multicultural Affairs at Calvin College, shared stories of what it means to “eat like a vegan” as an African-American woman, and the stumbling blocks and victories she has faced in her own community and family.

Living in Muskegon Heights, a predominately Black community, Lloyd-Page spoke of not only the availability of vegan food and organic produce, but also what it means to make the choice of rejecting meat and dairy products. She explained that for many low income African-American families, like those in her neighborhood, being able to work enough to afford such a luxury as chicken, is a large step. When many families see this as a luxury, telling them what they can and can’t have is an action directly tied to race, privilege, and education.

She went on to explain that people of color often make the assumption that becoming vegan is just as simple as cutting something out of your diet and then replacing it with vegetables and other healthier plant-based alternatives. The problem with this approach, she has learned through experience, is that you are taking away their perceived “staples” and long-standing traditions associated with them such as various Soul Food dishes. This is problematic for white people to not only think it’s only a matter of simplicity associated with a vegan lifestyle, but also to deny the strong cultural and identity ties to meat eating, as well as saying “I’m telling you what you can and can not eat”, when African-Americans have been told that by white people for generations.

Beyond cultural associations to meat, Lloyd-Page also talked about what it means for her and how it feels to be a Black woman and be vegan. For example, popular conceptions of veganism almost always exclude people of color. She explained that if this movement wants to reach out to other people, we have to have these conversations about race and even gender, otherwise it will stay white. In turn, she spoke about her own experiences in her community of being accused of trying to be white, be better than everyone else, be perfect, and leaving her own traditions and roots – something that most white vegans may have not even considered before.

While race is often ignored by the animal rights movement, Lloyd-Page spoke with insistency that our approaches in engaging in conversations about veganism have to be careful but can be done successfully. She explained that we have a problem when “white college kids will save a chicken, but not a starving child.”

For example, telling someone they should eat something outlandish that they have never heard of and can’t find in their neighborhood, might not be as good of an approach as making traditional recipes vegan and talking about the many health benefits of becoming vegan.

Lloyd-Page concluded her portion of the panel by explaining that all oppressions are linked together and that we cannot just fight animal cruelty alone, we have to fight them all or else we are not acknowledging their connections, thus allowing them to continue.

“Speciesism, Sexism, and Racism: The Intertwining Oppressions”

The second panelist, Nekeisha Alexis-Baker, recent graduate of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and co-founder of Jesus Radicals, was segued nicely by Lloyd-Page’s closing remarks on the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of the oppression of people and animals.

Alexis-Baker began her presentation by showing a projected picture of herself smiling and holding a baby raccoon, Edward, she had rescued and became friends with. She told of her own experience with Edward as teaching her how we treat non-human animals and what that implies of our society in general. She discussed the ideologies of racism, sexism, and speciesism, and how they all use a process of “othering” which not only allows for the mistreatment of animals and humans, but makes this classification socially acceptable.

During this discussion–through the lens of slavery–Alexis-Baker went on to incorporate the mistreatment of women as well. Through images she explained the level of desensitization our culture has adopted when it comes to cruelty, the many forms it takes and ways it is carried out, the legacy of the past, and how that has allowed us to glorify this mistreatment.

An example that was discussed was the comparison of African-American slaves to cattle. She explained the acceptability of shackling, branding, whipping, and breeding slaves was due to the fact that they were seen as the equivalent of cattle–solely raised for consumption by white people, particularly white males. This is especially true in the case of lactating Black women who continued to be wet due to nursing their own children and being forced to feed their “master’s” children as well. Alexis-Baker strongly stated that here there was no difference in the status of a Black woman, nor the status of a cow, because clearly they were both being bred and used to be subservient to their “master”.

In addition to this cattle/slave relationship, she also highlighted the fact that this “situation”, if it could even be simplified as such, of people of color who have been dominated by white men, could not even be considered oppression at the time, because only humans can be oppressed, and the status of a slave was below that–it was one of a non-human animal.

The link between slavery and the mistreatment of non-white humans today, to the mistreatment of animals was explained wonderfully and described in the most “easy to understand” terms when Alexis-Baker said, “They are desired, dismembered, and devoured, both figuratively and literally” they are both “…valuable in satisfying the male” as well as being “interchangeable bodies between non-human animals and women, both being objects.”

Sexism and Speciesism

She explained how this touches almost everything in our culture, even to the point of being incorporated in to the well intentioned animal rights movement at times. An example of this was a projected picture of a scantily, if not naked, clad woman in a suggestive pose with cuts of meat drawn all over her body.

The image, put out by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), was intended to invoke shock to the viewer by comparing the consumption and dismembering of animals and its acceptability, to the unacceptability of a person being treated in the same manner. While the intentions may have been good, in the end PETA chose to portray a young, thin, white woman to seduce the viewer into understanding their message.

Alexis-Baker emphasized the problems behind not noticing the intertwining of oppressions. In this situation women were being oppressed, while animals were trying to be freed. Her conclusion, along with Lloyd-Page’s, was that no one is free when others are oppressed. For Alexis-Baker, this means realizing that being vegan is one way to deal with these oppressions, and that as a Black woman, she has no choice but to strive for a liberation that involves everyone.

How Disney Shapes Attitudes on Race and Masculinity

Like many children in the United States, we grew up watching Disney films. At the time, it seemed fine–but what were these films teaching us about masculinity and race?

While browsing Feministing.com today, we came across a powerful video that looks at how Disney shapes attitudes about masculinity. We urge folks to watch it and consider it as one example of how the media influences ideas about gender, masculinity, and patriarchy:

In addition to shaping attitudes about masculinity, Disney also influences how people see race. Here is another short video that explores that topic:

Interview with Robert Jensen

This interview with Robert Jensen is based upon his new book Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity. Media Mouse asks Professor Jensen a wide range of questions dealing with the impact that pornography has on men, how to analyze pornography through a media literacy lens, and what is the relationship between the anti-pornography movement and other social justice movements.

Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity by Robert Jensen is one of those books that are difficult to describe, you simply have to read it. But since that would be much too easy as a review comment, I will attempt to articulate how I understand the book’s message.

As a White, heterosexual man living in the US I could relate to much of what Jensen had to say, both about his own personal struggles with pornography and the fact that pornography as an industry has moved from the margins of society and become quite mainstream. Another aspect of Jensen’s book that is very important is his insistence on not just critiquing pornography, but male consumption of pornography and how that influences men and our ability, or inability, to have healthy relationships with women.

The author begins the book by discussing how he understands both masculinity and a working definition of pornography. With masculinity Jensen tries to look at how men are socialized to embrace behaviors and attitudes of domination and control. Men are taught from and very early age that to be masculine means to be in control and always assume that what we do is more important than what women do. This notion of superiority is not only taught, it is nurtured and rewarded by other men, social institutions, and in cultural entities like entertainment media.

Jensen then tried to present a much more comprehensive explanation of what pornography is. Many people in debating pornography want to discuss it as a free speech issue or as just another form of eroticism. Jensen looks at pornography through a feminist lens and presents it as a form of men’s cruelty towards women and how men often derive pleasure from this cruelty. To support this argument Jensen critiques the current and most popular videos and websites that men consume. His critique of these videos and websites has three areas of research: textual analysis – what is the ideology conveyed by the product; the political economy – the production, financing and profiting of pornography: and reception studies – how do people use the product and what effect does it have on their lives?

At some level Jensen should be saluted for engaging in the difficult task of having to look at all this pornography and provide some analysis, so that the rest of us don’t have to do it. One important aspect of what the author points out is that the evolution of pornography and how it is produced and consumed will ultimately lead to more violent and degrading forms. This is one of the consequences of living in the digital age. With the Internet, both images and streamed video provide the pornography industry the capacity to provide consumers of pornography and endless stream of images of women being degraded by men. Media researchers have argued for years that the constant exposure to images and messages of violence has serious consequences, such as the normalizing of violence, which means that seeing people murdered, brutalized, even decapitated is no big deal. This normalizing of increasingly graphic violence has meant that consumers of media violence are willing to look at even more graphic depictions of murder and rape. The evolution of pornography is doing the same thing according to Jensen, with more stark representation of sexualized violence. This is an important aspect of the research that Jensen conducted because he did not select “movies from the sadomasochism or bondage categories, or from fringe sub-genres such as urination or defecation movies.” He chose material that is seen as “mainstream” in the pornography world.

In addition to the author’s critique of the most popular, mainstream pornography, he cites firsthand sources, both producers and those who “perform” in the films. He quotes porn director Jules Jordan as saying:

“One of the things about today’s porn and the extreme market, so many fans want to see so much more extreme stuff that I’m always trying to figure out ways to do something differently. But it seems everybody wants to see a girl doing double penetration now or a gang-bang. For certain girls, that’s great, and I like to see that for certain people, but a lot of fans are becoming a lot more demanding about wanting to see the more extreme stuff. It’s definitely brought porn somewhere, but I don’t know where it’s headed from there.”

Even those in the industry acknowledge the extreme nature of the production and reflect some sense of confusion about where it all leads.

There are plenty of examples from the pornography Jensen looked at in his study that he references in the book, but his emphasis is primarily on trying to understand the men who consume pornography. The author argues that since men who consume pornography have no frame of reference, no contextual understanding of the production of pornography, they assume that what is happening to women in pornography is what they want. Consumers of pornography are likely to believe that women want violent sex, want multiple partners at the same time, and want to be dominated and degraded. This unfortunately is how more and more men view “sex” and the role of women in their lives. When women challenge or won’t conform to the role that pornography presents them, they are seen as cold or as “bitches.”

So how do men overcome these dynamics and how do we all come to terms with the power of pornography in our lives. Jensen says that some people, particularly those who take a moralist approach to pornography advocate that it is not “manly to consume pornography.” We see this notion coming from the Christian community and groups like the Promise Keepers. What Jensen argues is significantly different. Jensen believes that the task of men is to try to be more human. “Our goal should not be to redefine masculinity, but to abolish it. Attempts to identify and valorize alternative masculine traits add to, rather than detract from, men’s capacity to move away from a position of domination.” This is a similar position taken by John Stoltenberg in his book Refusing to Be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice. While some men may not agree with Jensen’s conclusion about masculinity, they will have a difficult time defending the production and consumption of pornography if they dare to pick this book up and read it.

Robert Jensen, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, (South End Press, 2007).

GVSU Alters Scholarship to Comply with Proposal 2

According to an article published Thursday in the Grand Rapids Press, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is altering one of its largest scholarships to comply with the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 that passed last month. The scholarship, known as the Bert Price scholarship, will no longer be able make race “a key consideration” in determining who receives the scholarship. Instead, the university is considering new rules including financial need and whether or not an applicant is a first-generation college student. GVSU–who funds the Bert Price scholarship–awarded $5.7 million from the scholarship fund to 825 students of color this year. Other donor and federal-funded scholarships will not be affected because they do not come out of the university budget. However, changes in the Bert Price scholarship may affect diversity on the campus where only twelve percent of the student body are students of color.

The article also mentions that a review of thirty race and gender-based scholarships at Grand Rapids Community College are unlikely to be affected since they are donor-funded.

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, is a book that examines a new phenomenon in popular culture that Levy has identified—the “female chauvinist pig.” According to Levy, the female chauvinist pig is a post-feminist woman who has decided that physical sexuality is the best way towards liberation and thus these women chose to ignore the reality that women remain in positions subservient to men whether it is with the lack of women producing popular entertainment or controlling large corporations. Instead, the female chauvinist pig asks “why throw away your boyfriend’s Playboy in a freedom trash can when you could be partying at the Mansion? Why worry about disgusting or degrading when you could be giving—or getting—a lap dance yourself? Why try to beat them when you can join them?” The female chauvinist pig that has essentially decided that rather than adopt a form of collective struggle against patriarchal society, they will instead embrace some of the most crass male desires and attempt to manipulate these for their individual gain. Of course, there remain differences between men and women, but Levy describes how female chauvinist pigs deal with their femaleness by acting like cartoon men who drool over strippers or by acting like cartoon women with big breasts and wearing little outfits while being able to explore their sexuality only by “dancing around a pole.”

Levy’s explanation of how female chauvinist pigs deal with their femaleness may sound harsh, but it is a statement proven again and again throughout her book. Indeed, the forte of Levy’s book is the wealth of examples that she gives of the new raunch culture. Levy shows a broad awareness of popular culture and easily shifts her discussion from the increased prevalence of breast implants to the contents of a variety of television shows. Levy provides numerous examples of the ways in which television shows such as G-String Divas, the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion shows, and reality television shows all aggressively promote the new raunch culture. The trend has permeated the publishing industry, with several x-rated titles being published by mainstream publishing houses and promoted by the publishing industry. Levy also describes the increased frequency at which women are believed to be attending strip clubs, the omnipresent scenes of women dancing with each other in sexually suggestive manners at popular dance clubs, and the new trend of “striptease” aerobic workout classes. Levy examines popular culture figures such as Paris Hilton, who in many ways epitomize the new raunch culture as her sex tapes and repeated flashing of the paparazzi demonstrate.

However, while Levy deserves credit for her willingness to write a book that is extremely critical of many simplistic “feminist” analyses of sex and hyper-sexualized behavior as a form of female power, her analysis leaves out an important aspect of feminist analysis—that of race and class. Of course, such an analysis was absent from early feminist writings, but for a contemporary feminist work, it is an unforgivable omission. The “female chauvinist pig” described by Levy is an almost exclusively middle or upper class person and quite likely white. If having access to the most exclusive and hyper-sexualized clubs and having money to spend on spring break trips to Florida are examples of the female chauvinist pig’s quintessential behavior, than it will follow that the cultural group that Levy is describing will be one that is made up primarily of those of a certain class and racial make-up. Still, while the class and race analysis is entirely absent, her book does examine how the mentality of the female chauvinist pig has permeated the GBLT scene, therefore showing that the through the dominant modes of cultural production—namely popular media—many of the characteristic behaviors of the female chauvinist pig spread to segments of society where they are typically not found. But while this analysis of popular media is important, different races respond differently to various forms of media, and as such, Sex and the City, may not mean nearly as much to the African-American population as rap does. One could probably argue that the many aspects of raunch culture cut across race lines, but without examining it, it remains nothing more that a hunch—and regrettably with Levy’s book—it is a hunch that remains unexplored. Similarly, with the ways in which Levy believes that the mentality and behaviors of the female chauvinist pig are coming to dominate high school youth culture, there could have been an analysis to explain how raunch culture spreads across classes in high school where the pressure to conform with the “popular” people is difficult to avoid.

Also absent is a through consideration of exactly who is benefiting from raunch culture. In the book, Levy makes it abundantly clear that women are not benefiting and her accounts of women who remain unsatisfied by sexual conquests, trips to strip clubs, or dressing in provocative clothing as a form of sexualized “feminist” rebellion certainly attest to this fact. However, one of the most important questions remains open—if women are not benefiting from raunch culture, who is? This question is broached somewhat in her brief discussion of the impacts of pornography on some of its participants, with Levy paying particular attention to Hugh Hefner and Jenna Jameson as examples of two aspects of the pornography industry. Throughout the book, Hefner’s assertions that he is a “feminist” ring hollow and would be laughable if they were not so enraging, as it is clear that Hefner has made millions of dollars off the women who are objectified in his magazine that is sold to men. While most men will not benefit from pornography in the way that Hefner does—and indeed will suffer if they chose to adopt the idea permeated through pornography that women are simply objects that exist to fulfill the sexual (and in pornography, often violent) fantasies of men—it is clear that they benefit in the sense that it is women, not men, who are expected conform to the physical standards and sexual expectations (i.e. submissiveness) of the pornography industry. Moreover, when talking about the “Girls Gone Wild” series, Levy aptly demonstrates how all college age women are considered by the series’ producers, and consequently its primarily male consumers, as potential candidates for its brand of pornography. Levy further describes these expectations when she talks about the origins of thong underwear in strip clubs, the prevalence of breast implants, and surgical alteration of the labia. However, Levy never comes out and clearly defines who is benefiting financially from these culture changes, which is of course white males. Perhaps the clearest indicator of who is benefiting is the fact that despite the power that some feminists may feel has come from these forms of sexual empowerment, as Eric Jong points out in Levy’s book the majority of men remain in the decision-making positions in society.

Overall, Female Chauvinist Pigs provides an intriguing introduction into a puzzling aspect of popular culture, but falls short of its potential. One cannot help but feel that the book is only half complete, with a wealth of examples included but the second half—a comprehensive analysis of the origins and consequences of raunch culture—remains unwritten. Female Chauvinist Pigs explores and documents a cultural shift, but it will be up to other feminists to fully examine it.

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, (Free Press, 2005).

Speaker Criticizes MCRI, Calls it a “Misguided Mistake”

Last night, Mark Fancher of the Michigan ACLU spoke at the Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). The MCRI, a ballot initiative that will be on the Michigan ballot this fall, will ban all forms of affirmative action in the state of Michigan.

Last night, Mark Fancher of the Michigan ACLU’s Racial Justice Project spoke on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), a ballot initiative that, if it passes, will ban affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Throughout the lecture, Fancher told the crowd of about 25 people that the ballot initiative was a “misguided mistake” and that the only reason it had gained any support was due to the misperceptions of affirmative action by many and the conscious deception of the initiative’s backers.

Whereas many have see affirmative action as benefiting only those that Fancher termed the “Oprah Cosby kids” or wealthy children of color that already have opportunities and simply want more opportunities at the expense of others, the reality is that most benefactors of affirmative action need the program. As has been the case with previous speakers on the topic at Wealthy Theatre (Frank Wu and One United Michigan), Fancher described how the benefactors of affirmative action are not only people of color, but also include women and in some cases, white males, as the MCRI would end special outreach programs designed to get men into the nursing and teaching professions. The MCRI will not just eliminate educational opportunities for people of color, but would also threaten programs such as prostate screening and breast cancer screenings (read more about the impact of the MCRI on women). Fancher also cited an interview in the Detroit Free Press where initiative backer Ward Connerly explained that the MCRI would prevent the Detroit Police Department from hiring African American police officers as part of an effort to make the police force more representative of the community and would ban educational programs offering specific assistance to young women.

Fancher attacked the paternalistic attitudes of some of the MCRI’s supporters who argue that they are helping benefactors of affirmative action become less reliant on affirmative action and are helping them overcome the “stigma” of being benefactors of affirmative action. The idea that people within institutions treat people different if they know that they are benefactors of affirmative action was challenged by Fancher who argued that once one enters an institution, all special treatment is gone and that it is only merit keeps one there. He went on to criticize Jennifer Gratz, the white female student that sued the University of Michigan when she was “wait-listed” and did not get into the school. Gratz, who was in fact not denied admission as the MCRI’s supporters claim, engaged in what Fancher described as racial profiling and decided that since she did not get “her” spot in school, that it must have been people of color that denied her spot, just as police officers assume it is people of color that commit crimes. Interestingly, some 1,400 white people with lower scores and grades got in to University of Michigan that year, but it was only people of color that were blamed. These kind of distortions have been key to getting what little support there has been for the ballot initiative with petition circulators going into communities of color and telling people that it would protect affirmative action and the misnaming of the petition to give the illusion that it protects civil rights. Recent hearings before the Michigan Civil Rights Commission have even featured testimony from circulators who were told to lie when collecting signatures.

The MCRI, whose spokesman is the African American businessman Ward Connerly, is being bankrolled by rich white male millionaires who are seeking to ban affirmative action in as many places as they can. Michigan was chosen because the state is already racially polarized and because it has a declining economy that allows the petition’s supporters to create what Fancher termed “mythical threats” encourage people to scapegoat other racial groups. Understanding that such an effort to ban affirmative action would play poorly in the public’s mind if it was led by white males, the movement’s backers hired Ward Connerly to be the spokesman for the movement and pay him nearly a million dollars a year, which Fancher joked may make Connerly the wealthiest benefactor of affirmative action. Because the MCRI originated outside of the state, it is easy to look at places where similarly worded initiatives have passed to see their impact on diversity. In California, where Connerly and his backers passed Proposition 209, there has been a 40% decrease in African American and Latino students at the University of California Berkley, a 30% drop in new women professors at University of California Davis, and one-third fewer women in construction trades.

Fancher ended his speech by encouraging people to fight against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and described how he believed fighting against the MCRI would be the current generation’s contribution to the ongoing struggle for civil rights. According to Fancher, people need to “pick up the banner for this” and “push the struggle forward,” building on the struggles for racial equality and dignity that have their history rooted in the abolitionist movement against slavery and the struggles for basic civil rights in the 1960s.

Genetically Modified Soy Beans

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Analysis:

This article is about a new breed of soybean bean developed by Monsanto, the largest supplier of agricultural supplies in the world. The local angle of this story is that Zeeland Farm Industries, a local company, has been contracted by Monsanto to process this new soybean breed. One important piece of information mentioned in the article is that this new bread of soy bean was developed from a genetically modified soy bean. The article notes this fact and then states that “While environmental groups question the safety of genetically engineered crops, Cook (Monsanto representative) said most soybeans in the United States are genetically engineered and Vistive is approved by federal regulators.” These claims by environmental groups are not elaborated in the article, nor is the rebuttal from Monsanto verified with any independent voices or information. This lack of context on genetically modified foods is unfortunate but not atypical. The issue of potential negative impacts on the environment on health and the environment has not been a story the commercial press has readily addressed. According to the media watchdog group Project Censored, this issue was on the top ten underreported news stories for 2001. Other Project Censored reports show that since 2001, this issue has continued to be either mis-reported or under-reported.

Story:

ZFS, Monsanto team up to grow healthier soybeans

Tuesday, September 27, 2005By Ron Cammel

The Grand Rapids Press

ZEELAND — A new food labeling law is leading to new business for Zeeland Farm Services Inc.

The farm supplier and food processor contracted with agricultural giant Monsanto Co. to process a newly developed soybean that does not require hydrogenation.

Hydrogenation is a process which increases shelf life and flavor stability in fried foods, baked goods, snack products and other processed foods. The process also creates trans fatty acid, which is blamed for coronary heart disease.

Starting Jan. 1, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require nutrition labels to specify content of trans fatty acid, also called trans fat.

Food manufacturers want to prevent trans fat from turning away consumers and have looked for alternatives to hydrogenation, said Chris Cook of Monsanto.

Over the past 10 years, Monsanto developed a soybean, Vistive, with low linolenic acid, reducing the need for hydrogenation, he said.

The 150-employee Zeeland Farm Services will contract with several growers in Michigan to grow the beans in 2006 and return the crop to Zeeland Farm Services for processing into oil and feed.

Zeeland Farm Services already supplies food makers with a low-linolenic soybean oil from a bean developed by Ohio State University, company spokesperson Norma Knoll said.

Monsanto’s bean, however, also includes the genetically engineered Roundup Ready trait, which reduces weeds in fields.

While environmental groups question the safety of genetically engineered crops, Cook said most soybeans in the United States are genetically engineered and Vistive is approved by federal regulators.

The Ohio State bean is helping ZFS satisfy manufacturers’ demand for nonhydrogenated products before the Jan. 1 deadline, but Visitive should be a more cost-effective solution, Knoll said.

Monsanto spent “millions of dollars” to develop the low-linolenic trait in Vistive through conventional breeding, starting with genetically engineered crops, Cook said.

ZFS, which could have the soybean growing on 25,000 acres next year, is the only Michigan company to contract for the product. Monsanto expects 500,000 acres of Vistive to be grown in 2006 nationally, after a limited trial this year.

New Program for Domestic Abuse Victims

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Analysis:

The WXMI 17 story does a great job of not only representing the press conference, but of the issue of domestic violence as a whole. The story provided some statistical information on how serious the problem is, with data provided by the FBI and local law enforcement in Kent County. Then viewers heard from law enforcement, the company providing the safety devise, and someone from Safe Haven Ministries which provides programs and shelter for domestic violence victims. The channel 17 story was only 1:45, but was able to provide good information and a great deal of context to viewers as well as naming local agencies for more information.

Story:

WXMI 17 News reader – There is new help for victims of domestic abuse in Kent County. A silent alarm to police if a person is being attacked at home.

Reporter – The FBI estimates that a woman is battered every 15 seconds in this country. And Grand Rapids….

Police – …so far this year from January to June, the police have responded to over 1,300 calls of domestic assault and just over 180 of those involved weapons.

Reporter – Of those who work with abused women say the violence goes unseen because it’s done mostly behind closed doors.

Safe Haven Ministries – Almost all cases of domestic abuse happen in the home that the partners share.

Reporter – That’s why Jennifer Marcum with Safe Haven Ministries feels the abused women’s response emergency system, or AWARE can be the difference between life and death. It works in the home.

Safe Haven Ministries – The best place that we can protect women who are being abused is in their own homes.

Reporter – ADT Security Services provides the alerts free.

ADT Company representative – This pendant is connected to a full security system. When the button is pushed and someone feels that they are in immanent danger, it sends a silent alarm to ADT’s monitoring center.

Reporter – Then they call police. Marcum says AWARE makes domestic violence a priority for law agencies.

Safe Haven Ministries – The women who qualify for this program, they will be ear-marked through that system for the police to immediately respond.

Reporter – ADT staff say this program has saved over 30 women’s lives nationwide.

WXMI 17 News reader – The AWARE program is credited with saving a woman’s life in Calhoun County. You can learn more about it through the YWCA, Safe Haven Ministries or at WXMI.com.

Total time: 1 minute and 45 seconds

WOOD 8 on Gay Pride Rally

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Analysis:

The piece was about two and half minutes long and focused primarily on the rally as a statement of opposition against proposition 2, the so called “gay marriage amendment” that was voted into state law last year. The segment shows images of gay and lesbian couples exchanging vows on the steps of the state capital and three participants of the rally are interviewed. One of the people interviewed was a rally organizer, while the other was a man in a costume, prompting the reporter to say “they gathered to show support, some in costume, all with one goal in mind” despite the fact that this is the only person visibly wearing a costume is the various crowd shots. The number of participants is rather unclear since in the beginning of the piece the Anchor says that “dozens” of people participated while the reporter states seconds later that “hundreds” of people were present. A small group of counter protestors were also reported on, with one man being interviewed.

While the story does an adequate job of describing the message of this particular rally, no context is provided as to greater significance of Pride day historically throughout the country. This particular date of June 25 was not chosen arbitrarily for this rally, but has been, ever since 1969, the date of annual gay pride parades. These events commemorate the Stonewall uprising of 1969, when gay and transgender bar patrons resisted a police raid in New York, an event many consider to be the beginning of the gay rights movement. So while people were rallying in Lansing, celebrations of gay pride were happening across the country is cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta, as well as numerous smaller cities. This historical context of the Lansing Pride rally were completely left out of the News 8 story as were the fact that this was a national event, not just a local one.

Story:

Newsreader – Dozens of gay and lesbian couples took part in a commitment ceremony at the state capitol today, It was a response to the passing of proposal two last November defining marriage in Michigan as that between one man and one woman. Twenty four hour news 8’s Dan Bewley is back from Lansing where he met with organizers of today’s event.

Reporter – Rachel, some say that the ceremony is believed to be the first of its kind in Michigan as hundreds of gay and lesbian couples rally on the capital steps. Some to speak out for their civil rights, others to commit their lives to each other.

Minister – You may kiss your partner.

Reporter – Barbara Allen and Heidi Smith joined others from across the state, publicly committing to one another. This step the highlight of the day for Michigan’s gay and lesbian couples.

Sarah Mieras – We’re here to educate the straight community about who the lesbian and gay community really is.

Reporter – At the base of the state capital they gathered, showing support. Some in costume, all with one goal in mind.

Derek Ward – We’re celebrating pride; we’re celebrating ourselves being gay and our rights.

Reporter – The spark for the rally actually ignited last fall, an amendment to the states constitution officially banning gay marriage was passed by Michigan voters. Organizers say that ban regulates the gay and lesbian communities to second class citizens. Others disagree, protestors with signs both outside the rally and flying high above.

Brian Harris – They want special rights; they want rights people don’t have. Protection for certain kinds of sexual behavior, and we don’t have that and we shouldn’t have it at all.

Reporter – Those on the steps say the protesters are missing the point. Everyone they say should be able to choose who they share there life with.

Sarah Mieras – it’s about the right to have someone else’s pension who you have lived with for twenty years, it’s about the right to be their legal power of attorney, there are all these things over a thousand benefits of marriage.

Minister – And pledge our love and commitment to our life partners.

Reporter – And that brings us back to the ceremony. Those involved admit that it is not a legal marriage, just a public sign, complete with certificate, that two people are committed to each other.

Rally participant – I know it takes more than a piece of paper, it definitely takes love but we already have that so you know we want the right to able to be together forever.

Reporter – Organizers say they are going to keep fighting for gay and lesbian rights in Michigan and they say they hope one day to get proposal 2 reversed.

Total Time: 2 minutes, 24 seconds