Hegemony and critical research theory
Hegemony comes in when there is the assumption that a dominant group has a limited thinking responsible for the limitations placed on oppressed groups in the society. A good way to look at how that works in Western media structures is to analyze a topic like ‘Feminist Theory.’ Women did not air their pleas back in the history of rampant racism like the one they do today. Black women particularly did not see the need to fight for women rights because they did not view womanhood as a critical aspect of their identity. The limited thinking here was that racism was more significant compared to the plea of black women (Hooks, 1981). The thinking was that the end of racism would also be a stop to the oppression of women. All this a revelation by Bell Hooks in the piece, “Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism.” It is a good way to describe how the media structures foster hegemony. The truth was that fighting for equal women rights would, in turn, promote all black people (Hooks, 1981). Through this concept of hegemony, Hooks aired out that women would face the challenge of not being recognized separate from black men. Additionally, even when black women would fight for equal rights, the focus would shift to white women; black women who would even try fight for that would be attacked and criticized (Hooks, 1981).
Sue Morgan, in the journal article “Theorizing Feminist History: a thirty-year retrospective” also puts it out that the colonialists’ regime, because of their racism acts, diminished the plea of women. Like Hooks, she also argues that the dominant group who were the white colonists and even the black patriates making an effort to end racism were the reason why women’s plea could get heard due to their thinking that racism was of more importance (Morgan, 2009). That is also the aspect of hegemony, and through that, the scholar was able to state out the extreme challenges black women faced such as rape.
More scholars apart from these two have also taken the same formula in media structure to examine the challenges women faced (Bennett, 2006). All along history readers realize that traditional thinking from dominant opportunist groups would be the cause of women suffering because, for example, they women just as individuals whose work was to perform wifely and maternal duties (Busch, 2009). That limited thinking is what would leave them powerless and unhappy precisely because they lacked free will. For instance, at one time in history women were seen as unfit to take up educational opportunities or special workplace opportunities.
More hegemony is visible from how scholars explain the status of women back then in western media from how men, being the dominant group, picture women as just housewives for they could not live without the support of males (Hewlette, 2002). Women had no opportunities to exploit thus, leaving them without pay to sustain themselves individually. Therefore, it left them lacking independence and chance to reach out to personal goals.
Another aspect in which usually scholars apply the aspect of hegemony in the theoretical framework of feminism in when describing women’s challenge of not being able to hold seats of power and exercise political rights. A matter has not only been present in the US but also worldwide. The society and particularly men, in this case, the ones that can get considered as the dominant group, and the limited thinking they possessed back then was that women were incapable of leading. The issue here, however, came much later as Gross explains in the paper “African American Women, Mass Incarceration, and the Politics of Protection” that it was after the earlier oppressions that women saw the need for political representation. The scholar further reveals that even in the antebellum period, women reformers in the first American women’s rights faced the challenge of being denied the right to address male audiences (Gross, 2015). The same aspect of hegemony is present in that case because, men, the dominant group, saw women as people incapable of possessing intellectual skills as that of men.
It is clear that hegemony is an aspect widely used to describe the challenges that women face in media. Women aggression and thrive in the society especially judging from the 21st century has mainly relied on this concept, that is considering the use of media for creating awareness. They believe themselves capable of being equal to man, socially, economically, and politically because even in the early times of slave trade, especially in the US, like men, they faced even imprisonment and corporal punishment.
Critical Race Theorists also use the theory to examine racial representations in mass media perhaps for the purpose of airing grievances or creating awareness. Delgado and Stefancic (2001) claim that these theorists are usually of two kinds. They could be Idealists or Realists. Idealists are those who argue that racism and discrimination are a matter of thinking, attitude, discourse, and mental categorization while Realists picture it as the allocation of privileges and status to particular people in the society (Delgado and Stefancic, 2001). It is possible that there could be scholars who stress just on one paradigm among the two leaving out another and it is also possible that others stress along the two. The conceptualization here visible from Delgado’s and Stefancic’s work is, however, traceable from other authors’ work of examining racial representation in mass media.
Richard Dyer in the piece, “The Role of Stereotypes” puts it out evident that most negativity in the term stereotype gets propelled by various groups such as the blacks wholly objecting the manner in which they feel stereotyped in mass media (Dyer, 1993). While applying the critical race theory (CRT) to this aspect, it is evident that Dyer is likely an Idealist because he means to say that racism is that attitude or the manner in which a portion of people are perceived, in this case, by mass media. That supports Delgado’s and Stefancic’s paradigm.
Bradley W. Gorham’s work in the article, “Stereotypes in the Media: So what?” expressed the same view as Dyer. He claimed that stereotypes become the understandings about a particular social group. That also leads to the thinking that racism and discrimination is a matter of attitude and mental categorization. As the agreements grew dominant, the society took up those understandings as the actual nature of the dominant groups (Gorham, 1999). Gorham goes on to term this as the tremendous ability of myths as a system of communication to turn history into nature. In this case, the dominant groups are capable of creating dominant understandings that could end up appearing natural and arguable (Gorham, 1999). That is ultimately relatable to what Delgado and Stefancic (2001) termed as the changing of the system of images, words, and attitudes about people.
When applying the CRT to Fernandes’s and Alsaeed’s work on the journal article “African Americans and Workplace Discrimination,” one realizes that according to Delgado’s and Stefancic’s definitions, one could term the two as Realists. Fernandes and Alsaeed claim that African-Americans got deprived of acquiring desirable jobs and even enrolling in institutions (Fernandes and Alsaeed, 2014). Relating that to the definition offered for a critical race theorist that is realistic, one realizes that the two scholars are portraying racism and discrimination as the situation where society provides more privilege and status to a particular group.
Critically analyzing all this literature, one can tell that whether from an ideology perspective or a realistic standpoint, the connotations lie on the contested meanings of racism, race, and discrimination. Again, it is evident that, however, critical race theorists can get categorized as of two kinds, but the truth is that they all mean the same thing (the same thing, as in, that ill-treatment on a particular people). Even perceiving people in the wrong way is ill-treating because that also has adverse effects on the victim. All this just means that there is unequal treatment. Therefore, the two kinds of theorists are necessary, on that if many scholars dwell on one camp, readers could fail to realize the other. That should not happen because ideology spreads after real actions. The recommendation here is, it is rather scholars would work to merge both concepts of realism and idealism in their job to have readers completely aware.
Bobo and Fox (2003) claims social psychological phenomena could evoke race, but the truth is that it also constitutes the fact that the social groupings also guide the way in way in which individuals relate. That rationalized the fact that the two categorizations made by Delgado and Stefancic could exist, but one without the other is insufficient to give full meaning to racism and discrimination (Box and Fox, 2003).
It is clear that not having these two aspects, idealism and realism, in critical race theoretical work makes it insufficient. The notable weakness is on idealists. They are the people that seem to rely on attitudes as racism. The problem with that is that when looking at it even legally today, hating a person is not a racial crime but depriving them something like an opportunity such as employment on that basis is one (Chew and Kelly, 2006).
- Bennett, J. (2006). History Matter: Patriarchy and the challenge of feminism. Manchester, Manchester University Press.
- Busch, E. (2009). Ally McBeal to Desperate Housewives. US; Lexington press.
- Bobo, L., and Fox, C. (2003). Race, racism, and Discrimination: Bridging Problems, Methods, and Theory in Social Psychological Research. Social Psychology Quarterly, 66(4), 319-332.
- Chew, P., and Kelly, E. (2006). Unwrapping racial harassment law. Berkley Journal of Employment and Labor law, 27, 49=110.
- Delgado, R., and Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical Race Theory. New York; New York University Press.
- Dyer, R. (1993). The Role of Stereotypes. London; Routledge.
- Fernandes, L., and Alsaeed, N. (2014). African Americans and Workplace Discrimination. European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies, 2(2), 56-76.
- Gorham, B. (1999). Stereotypes in the Media: So what? The Howard Journal of Communications, 10, 229-247.
- Gross, K. (2015). African American Women, Mass Incarceration, and the Politics of Protection. Journal of American History, 25-33.
- Hewlette, S. (2002). Creating a life: professional Women and the Quest for Children. New York: Talk Miramax Books.
- Hooks, B. (1981). Ain’t I a Woman; black women and feminism. Boston: South End Press.
- Morgan, S. (2009). Theorising Feminist History: a thirty-year retrospective. Women’s History Review, 18(3), 381-407.
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