Womens Center continues ‘Are You a Feminist?’ series with discussion on black female celebrities


The Women’s Center held a “Race and Feminism” discussion Thursday as part of a series titled “Are you a Feminist?” The series seeks to promote increased community awareness of feminist issues.

In honor of Black History Month, the discussion encouraged those in attendance to examine how gender and race are portrayed in the media, with a particular focus on black female actresses and entertainers.

The series hosts a different event on the last Thursday of every month, revolving around a myriad of issues, each of which tries to offer a unique, modern angle on feminist studies.

The discussion analyzed the public perception of many popular celebrities, questioning whether or not television, film and music provide equal representation and opportunity to all genders and races.

Members of the Women’s Center said they wanted to discuss how black female pop culture figures such as Kerry Washington, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have impacted society, influenced the media and the kinds of roles for which black women are casted.

The group paid special attention to the stereotypes and restrictions that are placed on women of color in the music industry, in terms of the styles and artistic directions they are popularly expected to represent.

“I think we had great dialogue about the various racial issues within the media,” said Emily Prendergast, ’15, a staff member of the Women’s Center who organized and mediates the series. “We talked a lot about African American, Asian American and Latina actresses and musical artists, and how there is a lack of accurate representation in the movies and TV shows that we watch.”

Several fictional characters from television and film were also discussed as examples of how the media perceives race and gender, providing a good common ground for college students to tackle these larger issues.

“Whether we want to or not, we all swim in the sea of popular culture,” Rita Jones, the director of the Women’s Center, said. “It’s unrelenting and difficult to get away from. Because pop culture plays a role in challenging, supporting, and re-imagining identities, we must engage it critically.  ‘Scandal,’ for example, is popular among a good number of viewers, particularly undergraduate women at Lehigh.  Coming together to talk about how and why gender and race function and matter in the character of Olivia Pope helps all of us recognize that ‘woman’ isn’t a stable concept.”

The next discussion, “Female Strength,” will be held March 26 and will focus on female athletes and the criticism they publicly receive for being strong and muscular. The final event will take place April 23 and will use the popular Emmy nominated television show “Orange is the New Black” to generate a dialogue about race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomics.

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