What is Oppression in Media Representation?

In her book, “The Second Sex,” Simone de Beauvoir states, “All oppression creates a state of war” (Source here). For the sake of this post, I’m considering oppression in the form of reductive or absent media portrayals, although oppression as a concept can be seen differently in a myriad of institutions today. Regarding representation, bell hooks underlines the absence of black women in television and cinema in “The Oppositional Gaze,” stating that “black female spectators have had to develop looking relations within a cinematic context that constructs our presence as absence” (bell hooks 118). Similarly, Patricia Hill Collins examines objectifying portrayals of black men that reduce them to their body or genitalia in “Booty Call: Sex, Violence, and Images of Black Masculinity” (Hill Collins 152-162). These media representations, or absence of representations, further oppress minorities by limiting viewers’ perceptions of them. If constantly present in the media, these objectifying images work to dehumanize the identities of the portrayed “oppressed group,” both in the eyes of the majority group and the minority groups. I can imagine these forms of oppression enhancing inner conflicts among individuals who feel as though their personal identity does not coincide with inaccurate media imagery. Therefore, in addition to the obvious conflict created between oppressor and the oppressed, I think oppression can create a sort of internal war among individuals that are labeled as oppressed.

Patricia Hill Collins. “Booty Call: Sex, Violence, and Images of Black Masculinity.” 2004.
bell hooks. “The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators.” 1992.


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