Bad Girls Club. Basketball Wives. Real Housewives of Atlanta. Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. These television rating juggernauts are the most watched shows on cable, provide entertainment to millions through cast members’ dysfunctional relationships, violent bullying, unsafe sex practices, alcohol abuse, and rampant materialism. Research has shown that there is a real link between media consumption and behavior. Regular viewers of negative reality television have very different views on their expectations in relationship, self-image and overall understanding of how the world works. Indeed, young women who regularly watch reality TV accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying in their own lives.
While women are by far the largest consumers of reality television, they aren’t the only ones being influenced. Researchers have also found that violence and negative stereotypes of women in the media predisposes men towards violence against women. Black women suffer from the highest rates of non-fatal domestic violence, sexual assault, intimate partner homicide and HIV infections in the United States. While reality television didn’t create these issues, they normalize interpersonal behaviors that do contribute to the overrepresentation of Black women in these areas.
“Redefining HERstory” is an engaging and entertaining discussion that uses reality shows as a vehicle to explore students’ views on media and interpersonal violence. This interactive presentation includes up-to-date and credible information about the harmful effects of negative reality TV and helps students understand how their media consumption and consumer spending is influencing the way they are being portrayed in the media. The goal of “Redefining HERstory” is to help students make informed media consumption choices and reduce cultural acceptance of interpersonal violence. This presentation isn’t just educational and informative – it’s a call to action that motivates students to use their voice to end the blatant exploitation of Black women in the reality television genre.
Sil Lai Abrams is a NABJ award-winning journalist, anti-domestic violence activist, relationship expert for the online version of EBONY magazine, and author of the book No More Drama: Nine Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough. She has appeared on ABC, FOX, BET, Court TV, and TruTV as an expert on relationships and domestic violence, and been featured in many national magazines including Oprah, Redbook, EBONY, Black Enterprise and Sister 2 Sister. Abrams is the founder of Truth in Reality, a grassroots media advocacy organization committed to reducing the rates of interpersonal violence in the Black community by changing the way Black women and interpersonal violence are portrayed on reality television. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Safe Horizon, the National Advisory Board of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and the Board of Governors for the National Council on Family Violence.
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