Social Sciences Forum tackles representations of diversity in politics, pop culture and media

19th October 2018

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–The Social Sciences Forum will present a panel discussion on representation and diversity in politics, popular culture and the media.

The event will take place on Wednesday, October 24 from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Library’s third-floor study area.

“Unfinished Business:  Representation and Diversity in Politics, Pop Culture, and the Media” feature speakers Dr. Aimee Adam, assistant professor of psychology; Dr. Sara Hare, associate professor of sociology; and Dr. Rhonda Wrzenski, associate professor of political science.

Adam teaches classes in which diversity-related topics are covered, examining how the media shapes gender roles and beauty standards based on how men and women are represented. Students seek to understand human behavior in a variety of cultural contexts.

“An understanding of cultural diversity is essential for explaining human behavior,” Adam said. “Stereotypes and prejudices learned through the media directly shape behavior toward members of stereotyped groups at the individual, institutional and society levels, and can perpetuate inequality between social groups.”

The representation of individuals and groups in the media, whether positive or negative, can and will shape widespread attitudes towards them. And when they are out of sight in the mass media, they can all too easily be out of mind in the population, which can manifest itself in negative self-image on the individual level, and policies of exclusion at the scale of society and government.

“We should all care about diversity, because these stereotypes and prejudices indirectly and directly impact interactions between faculty, staff and students, social interactions off campus and policies set in place on campus, and in our local, state and federal communities,” Adam said.

Hare teaches classes in the sociology of gender roles, global society, and social movements and collective action.

“In sociology, we focus on diversity in many areas, such as class, race, gender, sexual orientation and others,” Hare said. “We study how your multiple identities shape your experiences in life.”

Gender is a primary subject matter in her current Research Writing class, which looks at gender disparity between male and female characters in over 150 popular animated films.

But even gender is only one factor of our experience, and is itself shaped by class, race, age and more, a phenomenon explained through the concept of intersectionality.

Diversity in political representation is at the heart of Wrzenski’s research and teaching. She sees the drawing of legislative districts and term limits as expressions of attitudes toward diversity.

This is especially true in the current election cycle, in which immigration, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and the #MeToo movement are likely to have a strong impact on the outcome of many races.

“In any given election cycle the topic of diversity comes to the forefront because our democracy is based on the notion of representation, and our political system doesn’t reflect the demographics of the United States,” Wrzenski said. “There are far fewer female and minority representatives in our government than in the broader national population.”

The Social Sciences Forum is free and open to the public.

Homepage photo: Spiva Arts on Visual Hunt / CC BY

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