tl;dr: TV Show Recommendations Here

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

On this blog, I’ve talked about the Bechdel Test and the mythical existence of media that passes it with flying colors. The Bechdel Test can also apply to a multitude of other groups, including LGBTQ characters, people with mental and physical disabilities, people of color, etc. The following is a list of TV shows that master the spirit of the Bechdel Test as it applies to people of color. Similar to my list on female representation in media, it’s all TV shows, but I do want to talk about one film: Dear White People.

Dear White People

While it has its bumps and flaws (it’s the director’s first film), Dear White People is a dramedy about the various experiences of African American students at a very prestigious, predominately white, university. Or, as Dear White People‘s clever PSAs say “being a black face in a white place.”

Justin Simien has created a diverse cast of characters–not just ethnically, but characters with a diverse range of perspectives. His characters come from privilege and from poverty, some are political animals and others are willfully oblivious. That said, I do think that Dear White People‘s viral YouTube campaign might actually function better on its own than it does as a film. Here are some examples of its best work on YouTube:

But the film touches on such important issues–cultural appropriation, racial identity, political correctness, white privilege–so well, that it was one of my favorite films of 2014.

Everything else worth watching is on the small screen.

Shows Worth Watching That I’ve Actually Seen: 

Note: I’ve recommended all but one of these before, but many are worth calling out in a new context.

  • Avatar: The Legend of Korra: I’ve talked about Korra before, in the context of awesome lady characters, but it also has some interesting portrayals of race. While Avatar: The Last Airbender has a slightly more ethnically diverse core cast, Korra‘s protagonist is dark-skinned–a rarity in mainstream media (though, for all its cult popularity, Korra isn’t exactly what one might call mainstream). What’s more, the creators have clearly done some thinking when it comes to the racial identities of some of its main characters:

For more on the decision-making process of Korra’s exact skin tone, I would check out this tumblr post by Bryan Konietzsko, co-creator of Korra. I would also recommend reading it in contrast to the experience of this comic book colorist.

  • Orange is the New Black: Duh. OITNB is one of the best shows out there on so many levels, but especially regarding gender and race.There just aren’t any other shows–certainly no mainstream shows–that are discussing race so boldly, and so broadly. Season 2 amps it up a lot, and even diminishes the use of its “Trojan Horse” character in Piper Chapman.
  • All The Shonda Rhimes Shows: My favorite thing about Shonda Rhimes’ shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder) is that many of her characters of color have strong, interesting roles that have nothing to do with the color of their skin. At the same time, Rhimes by no means ignores their race–in fact, all of her shows have dealt with issues of race quite powerfully at some point or another. Scandal in particular has this intense discussion of power:

And recently, the show has started to provide some commentary on Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter.

Other shows that are by no means amazing, but still have some great diversity in casting, include Castle as well as Bones.

Recommendations That I Haven’t Seen: 

  • Black-ish: A sitcom featuring an upper-middle class African-American family, particularly focusing on the father figure, who is concerned about his children’s cultural assimilation in their white, suburban neighborhood.
  • Cristela: Another family sitcom that chronicles the life of Cristela Hernandez, a Mexican-American law school graduate who is working as an unpaid intern at a law firm, while living at home with her family. Stand-up comic Cristela Alonzo is the star, as well as the writer and producer. She is the first Latin-American woman to star, write, and produce her own primetime show.
  • Fresh Off the Boat: A comedy series that is inspired by the life of chef and food personality Eddie Huang and his book Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir. It is the first American sitcom to star an Asian-American family as protagonists on network primetime since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl, which aired for one season in 1994. I would recommend reading this review, from one of my favorite television critics.
  • Jane the VirginA comedy series loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela of the same name, Jane the Virgin is about the events that take place in the life of Jane Villanueva, a religious young Latina woman whose vow to save her virginity until marriage is shattered when a doctor accidentally artificially inseminates her during a checkup.
  • Empire: The only non-comedy on this list, Empire is a musical drama that centers around a hip hop entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, and the drama among the members of the founders’ family as they fight for control of the company.

I haven’t seen Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat or Cristela because they’re all family sitcoms–just not a genre that I’ve ever been interested in. But I’m glad they exist to balance out similar shows like Modern Family. I admit that despite its popularity, I hadn’t heard of Empire prior to doing research for this blog post, and I’m not sure if I’m going to try it out. Jane the Virgin, on the other hand, is a show I’ve been hearing about for a while and that has already garnered awards attention for its star, Gina Rodriguez. I’m looking forward to checking this one out.

Do you have any suggestions of your own? Let me know in the comments!

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tl;dr: According to My TV, There Is Greater Racial Diversity in Jordan than in the United States

Disclaimer: I am approaching this topic from the point of view of a white female, living in one of the whitest metro areas in the country. Additionally, this post will primarily, but not exclusively, focus on the the representations and stereotypes of African Americans in the media (mostly because this is where all the data is). 

When I studied abroad in Jordan, I overheard a Jordanian woman telling an American that Jordan has greater diversity than the United States. Considering Arabs make up approximately 93% of Jordan’s population, this is a wildly false statement. However, I can understand where this woman may have gotten the impression that there is no racial diversity in the United States: American television. American TV–particularly American reality shows–are very popular in Jordan, and our TV shows and films are widely (and cheaply) distributed in downtown Amman. And, guys? Our media tells a vastly different story from our reality.

This UCLA report, published in 2014, found that:

  • Among film leads, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of greater than 3 to 1.
  • Among film writers, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 5 to 1.
  • Among broadcast comedy and drama leads on television, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 7 to 1.
  • Among the creators of cable comedies and dramas on television, minorities were underrepresented by a factor of 5 to 1.

A few weeks ago, we discussed representations of women in media, but didn’t touch directly on women of color. You think that post’s statistics were shocking? Check this out:

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Among the top 500 grossing films of the past 21 years, only one live action film has featured a woman of color. And while I love Whoopi Goldberg and Sister Act, the film is kind of ridiculous, and not without problematic racial stereotypes (the sequel is actually much better when it comes to representation of minorities).

The Academy Awards reflect a similar, disturbing trend:

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Halle Berry is the only African American woman to have won Best Actress in a Leading Role. Not only that, but she is the only woman of color to have won the award. Only four African American men have won Best Actor (one Latino actor and two Asian-American actors have done the same). So not only are people of color underrepresented in the highest-grossing films, but there is also a distinct lack of representation in the most critically acclaimed films.

The above infographic also reveals who the largely white voters are willing to crown victor when a woman of color does win. The “Mammy” stereotype is a deeply troubling and common stereotype. Other African American women have won Academy Awards for roles as criminals, slaves, and welfare queens. All of these women are great actresses who deserve every drop of praise they have received–I especially admired Lupita Nyong’o’s performance in 12 Years a Slave–but where are the awards for women of color in roles that have nothing to do with the color of their skin? Well, as The Representation Project shows us, these roles are virtually nonexistent.

You would think this lack of diversity in big budget and awards-garnering films would imply that theater-goers are not interested in stories featuring people of color, but fluctuating television ratings tell a different story.

The 2014-2015 television season has the most diverse lineup in years. Not only that, but some of the most diverse shows on network television are also the most popular: Empire, Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and Jane the Virgin are all doing quite well in a television season that has seen other shows (in particular romantic comedies) drop like flies. How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scandal are all ratings beasts, and all feature excellent gender and racial diversity.

However, some TV critics have suggested that this diverse line-up only exists because TV ratings are so low (and that comparatively, it’s not even that diverse). Networks are casting about for an audience, any audience, that will turn on their TVs between 7 and 10pm. And shows with minority leads are cheaper to produce, and have a wide audience. The same thing happened in the 90s–I remember the diverse lineup of shows of my childhood: Kenan and Kel, Sister Sister, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I watched most of these shows in re-runs, but they were all hugely popular when they were airing week to week. But when the networks with multicultural shows started to make more money, they started to produce more and more white (usually white male) led shows. For a more complete understanding of the situation, I would recommend reading Flavorwire’s “Are This Season’s Diverse Shows Ushering In a New Era of Multicultural Television?” 

My favorite quote from Miss Representation applies equally well to the problematic representation of people of color: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Here’s the evidence:

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But it goes further than a lack of jobs and political leadership. We talked last week about institutionalized racism and implicit bias–biases that are often perpetuated by the media. In the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO last summer, traditional news outlets partook in a smear campaign against Michael Brown. It was subtle, but CNN, Fox News, and other outlets chose to focus not on the tragic death of an unarmed teenager, but on Brown’s theft of cigars, stating that he was “no angel.”

In my last post, I cited a number of jarring statistics: one out of three black males will be incarcerated in his lifetime, prison sentences are (on average) 20% longer for black males than for white males (for the same crime), black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Isn’t it just possible that a lack of people of color in the media, the presence of damaging stereotypes surrounding people of color who do manage to get on TV, contribute to the treatment of victims like Michael Brown, and these awful statistics? Because it couldn’t be more clear to me.

I realize I didn’t include any videos in today’s post. Don’t worry though–I’m planning a post for tomorrow that will heavily feature videos and film recommendations.

tl;dr: How Institutionalized Racism Has Infected Our Justice System

The following is the post I meant to write last week, but then I got busy. Fortunately, my posts for this week fit into last week’s theme. For the rest of this week, expect a couple of posts on representations of people of color in the media.

In my last post, we discussed how institutionalized racism has affected the United States’ education system. Today, I’d like to talk about how it has affected our criminal justice system.

For an overview of how messed up our prison system is, check out this Hank Green/Visually video:

The system Hank describes is particularly true for people of color:

Don’t believe me? Check out these statistics:

  • On average, prison sentences for black men are nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes.
  • A 2008 study conducted in Los Angeles found that not only are black men and Latinos more likely to be stopped by police officers on the street, but black men who are stopped are 127% more likely to be frisked than stopped white males.
  • Those wrongfully convicted and later exonerated by DNA are disproportionately African American.

For more resources on racial profiling:

Racial profiling in LA: the numbers don’t lie. 

The Reality of Racial Profiling.

I would also strongly recommend checking out this Vox article on the unequal treatment of minorities in drug arrests: “Everyone does drugs, but only minorities are punished for it.” Or, if you’re a visual person like me, check these out:

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Which brings us to a statistic I think most of you have probably already heard: One out of three African American males will be incarcerated in his lifetime. 

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In my last post, we talked about the black male achievement gap, and how the challenges faced by young men and women of color have led to dropout rates among African American and Latino populations that are significantly higher than their white counterparts. So what happens to the kids who leave school? The disproportionate number of African American boys who are suspended from school–even preschool? Many of them end up in prison–a path that is referred to by experts as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

For more information on the school-to-prison pipeline, check out these resources:

Fact Sheet: How Bad Is The School-to-Prison Pipeline? 

Race, Gender, and The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Expanding Our Discussion to Include Black Girls

For a more personal account of how the United States criminal justice system disproportionately sentences people of color, I would recommend checking out 15 to Life: Kenneth’s StoryThe film follows Kenneth, a young African American man who was sentenced to life in prison at age 15 for armed robbery. The film primarily focuses on his appeal 10 years after he was incarcerated, but also discusses the wider problem of juvenile life sentences in the United States. The United States is the only country in the world that sentences juveniles to life in prison.

15 to Life is not available on Netflix, but it is sometimes available on POV’s website. As always, if you’re looking for a film to screen for a community or educational event, it’s also available through POV’s Community Lending Library.

For more information on juveniles in prison, a problem in the United States that disproportionately affects youth of color, I would recommend checking out the 15 to Life discussion guide.* It discusses in detail the history of the juvenile justice system, sentencing juveniles to life without parole, and discusses specific cases that have affected sentencing practices in juvenile cases.


*Full disclosure: I’m biased, since I provided a substantial amount of research for this guide.

tl;dr: Introducing the Black Male Achievement Gap

Disclaimer: I am a white female who comes from an upper middle class family. I live in one of the whitest cities in the country, and I used to live in one of the worst states for African Americans to live in. I recognize that I am approaching this topic from a position of privilege, and that a discussion of race from my perspective is not without holes. So I want to say that my goal here is not to act as an educator, but instead recommend videos and articles that have helped me to understand the presence and affects of racism in this country. I hope they do the same for you. 

The effects of institutionalized racism are reflected most starkly in our education and criminal justice systems. Today, I want to discuss the American education system and the black male achievement gap by recommending the documentary film American Promise, and a number of accompanying resources.

One of POV‘s services is to lend out DVDs of its films to schools, libraries, and community organizations for free. Its Community Lending Library features approximately 80 films on a variety of topics; from uplifting stories about donkey libraries to examinations of genocide. Its most commonly requested film to date is American Promise. This film follows two young African American males over the course of 13 years, from kindergarten to their high school graduations. The filmmakers watch as their son, Idris, and his friend Seun grow up in the academically and socially challenging environment of the Dalton School, one of the most prestigious–historically white–private schools in New York. The film brings to light provocative questions about race, class, gender, and differences in opportunity in our country.

American Promise is available to watch on Netflix.*

If you don’t have time to watch the full film, I would strongly recommend watching the half-hour long Behind Every Promise, which includes excerpts from the film alongside interviews with Idris and Seun.

American Promise introduces viewers to the phrase “black male achievement gap“–referring to the phenomenon in the United States wherein African American males, even when given the same educational and economic resources as their peers of other races, are likely to fall short of their counterparts in virtually every measure of academic success.

For example:

  • Across age groups, black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended.
  • While boys make up the large majority of students who are suspended (about eight in 10), about 12 percent of black girls are suspended and 7 percent of Native American girls are suspended. That’s a rate higher than that of white boys (6 percent).
  • Currently, only 15% of black students attend schools that are well-resourced and high performing, while 42% attend schools that are both under-resourced and performing poorly
  • Only 16% of black males hold college degrees, compared to 32% of white males.
  • In 2009, 4.8% of black students dropped out of grades 10 through 12, compared to 2.4% of white students.

For more statistics, visit:

Black Preschoolers Far More Likely to Be Suspended 

American Promise in Context 

Dear Colleague Letter: Resource Comparability 

The above statistics, and the anecdotal evidence of American Promise, make it impossible to ignore the reality that young people of color lack access to the same opportunities as their white peers in our country.

Something interesting to note, is that in schools where this achievement gap is markedly smaller, administrations report classroom characteristics that should be obvious when considering how to support student achievement:

  • A clear sense of purpose
  • Core standards within a rigorous curriculum
  • High expectations
  • Commitment to educate all students
  • Safe and orderly learning environment
  • Strong partnerships with parents
  • A problem solving attitude

I’m not here to propose solutions to this problem–I don’t have the qualifications to make the attempt. But I do know that one of the first steps to solving any problem is recognizing that it exists. Educate yourself. Watch the film. Read articles regarding race, African American and Hispanic youth, and the American education system with a critical eye. And if you do choose to take action, I would strongly recommend checking out the following organizations and movements:

America’s Promise Alliance: America’s Promise Alliance brings together hundreds of national nonprofits, businesses, communities, educators and ordinary citizens in support of making the promise of America accessible to all young people. America’s Promise Alliance frames its work around what they call the “Five Promises” to be kept to all young people: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, an effective education, and opportunities to serve.

The GradNation Campaign: America’s Promise Alliance launched the GradNation campaign in 2010. It is now a large and growing online community of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis.

American Graduate: Supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate has partnered 80 public media stations with 1,000 community organizations and at-risk schools to increase understanding of all facets of high school dropout rates, including the important role that caring adults play in the lives of young people.

Finally, some additional resources:

American Promise Overview

American Promise companion book, Promises Kept.

American Promise Workshops and Toolkits

The Trouble with Black Boys: The Role and Influence of Environmental and Cultural Factors on the Academic Performance of African American Males 

How School Segregation Divides Ferguson–and the United States

These resources are limited to what I have come across through my work with POV and independent research. If you have your own resources or films to recommend, let me know in the comments!


*If you are interested in screening American Promise for any kind of public event, you’re going to face copyright issues if you use Netflix. Check out the Community Network at POV and see if you can borrow the film for free (if you are screening the film at a university, college, or private school, you have to buy the film).

tl;dr: Institutionalized Racism, It’s A Thing

Disclaimer: I am a white female who comes from an upper middle class family. I live in one of the whitest cities in the country, and I used to live in one of the worst states for African Americans to live in. I recognize that I am approaching this topic from a position of privilege, and that a discussion of race from my perspective is not without holes. So I want to say that my goal here is not to act as an educator, but instead recommend videos and articles that have helped me to understand the presence of racism in this country and my own implicit biases. All of which have helped me to put current events into perspective. I hope they do the same for you. 

This past Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the historic march on Selma, Alabama.

Before the Oscar-nominated film came out in 2014, I had never heard of Selma. Sure, my school celebrated Black History Month, but while we did learn about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, and George Washington Carver–that was it. No discussions were had on police brutality, and very little was taught about African American achievements outside of the civil rights movement. Even in the context of the civil rights movement, I didn’t learn enough. I didn’t know anything about Malcolm X beyond the “he was a more contentious MLK” rhetoric until I saw the Denzel Washington film in college. This is on the one hand a pathetic reflection of our school system*, and on the other, further proof that media can be a powerful educator.

Despite the ignorance regarding race and racism that I know is not unique to my own experience, many in our society seem to be reluctant to talk about it. When people do try to discuss race in the context of police violence, criminal justice, or everyday experiences trying to get a taxi, they’re accused of “playing the race card.” The same people are likely to say things like “I’m color blind” or “If we just stopped talking about race, then racism wouldn’t exist.”

Stop. Just stop.

Nothing will change if we stop talking about race as though the consequences of racism were not real:

To quote Jon Stewart: “Race is there, and it is a constant. You’re tired of hearing about it? Imagine how f#%*ing exhausting it is living it.”

So let’s talk about race. It is just as important to talk about today as it was in 1965.

First things first, I want to address a few myths when it comes to discussions on race and racism:

“Color Blindness” is Not a Thing** 

One of the most important lines from this video: “When people insist that we are color blind–what you’re saying is that their [people of color] experience is not real.”

Recently, a study conducted by MTV (yeah, I was surprised, too) found that millenials are shockingly ignorant when it comes to racism in America. I would strongly recommend reading this Slate article that analyzes the study’s findings. Among other things, the study notes that:

  • A majority of millenials believe that our generation is post-racial.
  • 48% of white millenials believe that discrimination against white people today is as big a problem as discrimination against racial minorities.
  • 73% of millenials believe that ‘colorblindness’ is something to strive for, yet confusingly:
  • 81% believe embracing diversity and celebrating differences between the races would improve society.

Some of the contradictory statistics in this study might put into question millenials’ ability to read and comprehend basic polling questions, but that doesn’t really make me feel any better.

More resources:

If You ‘Don’t See Race,’ You’re Not Paying Attention

Colorblindness is the New Racism

Also Not A Thing: Reverse Racism

You may have already seen the above video–it was floating around the Facespace a while back. In it, comedian Aamer Rahman does an excellent job defining reverse racism if it did exist, eloquently discussing the relationship between racism and power.

This is one of my favorite scenes from the film Dear White People:

I strongly recommend watching the full film, and I’m going to talk about it a lot more next week. In this scene, the main character, Sam, has a brief and excellent monologue that perfectly explains why “reverse racism” is not a thing. She says, “Black people can’t be racist. Prejudiced, yes, but not racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racist, since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.”

Or, as this everyday feminism article puts it: “Yes. Any person of any identity can be an asshole to any person of any other identity. But that doesn’t make it oppression. It doesn’t even make it racism or sexism or heterosexim or any other -ism.”

tl;dr: Prejudice ≠ Racism.

More resources:

7 reasons why reverse racism doesn’t exist

If You Think ‘Reverse Racism’ Is Worse Than What Blacks Face, Read the Ferguson Report

Now that we’ve talked about things that are not things, let’s talk about some things that do exist:

Cultural Appropriation

In recent months, this has been most commonly discussed in regards to artists like Iggy Azalea (also this) and racist Halloween costumes. Here’s Akilah, Obviously*** to explain the concept of cultural appropriation:

In a similar comedic vein, the Dear White People creators envision a future black history wherein twerking has been entirely appropriated by white people:

More resources:

5 things white people need to learn about cultural appropriation

The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation

White Privilege

Even Megyn Kelly from Fox News–who says some pretty terrible things in the following video, in addition to the positive message I’m getting at–understands that white privilege not only exists, but is pervasive in our society:

When the woman that claims that Santa just is white recognizes the existence of white privilege–with genuine conviction–stop fighting it. It’s a thing.

tl;dr: Read this comic:

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(Source) and (Source)

More resources:

Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack

Institutionalized Racism and Implicit Bias

In the video, Hank talks about The Implicit Association Test, which covers a variety of topics outside of race, including gender, violence, weight, etc. The IAT is a great primer on learning more about yourself and your own biases. Mother Jones does a great job of explaining what it is and the implications of its findings, especially in regards to race.

Unsurprisingly, Hank’s brother John Green does a great job explaining how institutionalized racism and implicit bias affects society:

One of the most important quotes from the video: “To deny the existence of systemic racism is to deny a huge body of evidence indicating that racial bias affects almost every facet of American life.”

More resources:

Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?

Undercover job hunters reveal huge race bias in Britain’s workplaces

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK

Finally, here is why institutionalized racism, implicit bias, white privilege, and cultural appropriation are so important to talk about:

Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tony Robinson, and so many others.

Institutionalized racism, and all that it entails, can have fatal consequences.

I know that considering my readership (Hi, Sam), I’m largely speaking to the choir here. But I still strongly recommend you check out the videos and resources I cited above. You just might learn something new–I know I did when I was writing this blog post. If you’ve already seen these videos, try sharing them with a friend who may have missed them (if you like the videos that is. If you don’t, let me know in the comments!)

Some progress has been made since Selma, but not enough:

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We can all do better.

So, this week we’re going to be talking about the effects of institutionalized racism in our society. I’m going to talk about some of the most devastating statistics in John’s video, including the black male achievement gap and mass incarceration in the United States. Next week begins my series of posts on the representation of people of color in the media, so watch out for those.


*To be fair, I attended private school. I can’t speak for the United States school system as a whole, but I get the impression other schools don’t treat Black History Month much better.

**Black/White color blindness, that is. Obviously, red/green color blindness is totally a thing.

***Watch Akilah’s videos! She’s great!

tl;dr: Tough Topics

Disclaimer: The following post discusses issues regarding late-term abortions.  

While I was an intern at POV last summer, I worked on promoting a film called After Tiller. The film is about the four doctors who are legally and openly performing late-term (third trimester) abortions in the United States. It chronicles their decision to continue in their profession despite the murder of a colleague, Dr. George Tiller (who was killed while attending church in 2009). It’s an uncomfortable film at times, but worthwhile if you’re interested in why a late-term abortion might be requested, and why these doctors continue to risk their lives to help families make painful decisions.

After_tiller_film

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In my opinion, it’s one of the most well made films of POV’s 27th season. But the public disagreed. Something important to know about POV is that it airs on PBS, a government funded television station. So when POV started to publicize the airing of After Tiller, the trolls were unleashed upon the film’s comment section. People were writing hateful vitriol, seething that a publicly funded television show would air any film that dare discuss abortion. Angry commenters threatened to petition PBS to get the film off the air, complaining that their tax dollars shouldn’t be used to fund something they disapproved of.*

But here’s the thing: After Tiller is a film that wants to explore why a woman might choose to have an abortion–from serious birth defects detected during pregnancy, to being financially unable to afford another child. After Tiller seeks to shed some light on this controversial issue; it’s interested in dialogue, not debate. It explores these issues with empathy and compassion, rather than with a political goal in mind. In fact, a colleague of mine at POV expressed that his mother, who is firmly anti-abortion, liked the film and learned a lot from it. I believe strongly that if the world wants fewer women to have abortions, we need to encourage strong sex education programs. And part of a strong sex ed program is talking about tough topics, including abortion rights.

After Tiller is available on Netflix.

I’d also recommend the following resources for more information on discussing tough topics–both of them are great resources to use in a classroom:

Shmoop hosts online courses on every topic imaginable, from Literature to Chemistry. The also have a great rundown on abortion rights, and the link between abortion law and the right to privacy.

ProCon is another great resource for educators. It provides nonpartisan summaries of a variety of controversial topics, including abortion.


*Hey, I’d love to not pay for a lot of things the US government spends our money on. But I do. 

tl;dr: Sex! (Need I Say More?)

At my high school, I learned very little about sex beyond what an STD is and teen pregnancy statistics–i.e, all the scary stuff, with no information on prevention.* Sex was presented as something vaguely dirty, or at best, technical (for making the babies). It wasn’t something to be explored and discussed, but something to avoid–because if you didn’t abstain, you’d be covered in warts and babies and then die.

So, naturally, I turned to the internet for my sexual education. Any parents in the audience might be horrified–the internet is for porn after all–but this method is becoming increasingly common for younger generations, and overall, I think this can be a good thing. I do think it’s important to have comprehensive sex ed classes in schools, where students are free to talk and learn about sex openly, with a licensed professional to guide them. But I also think we can’t depend on our country’s education system, and as we’ve previously established on this blog, the internet can be an excellent educational tool.

The philosophy of my high school was that the more you talk about sex around teenagers, the more likely they are to have it before they’re ready–but that has proven to be false in too many studies to count. Fun fact: the MTV show 16 and Pregnant is believed by some scientists to be a significant factor in decreased American teen pregnancy rates. Media can serve a useful purpose in encouraging responsible sexual behavior and health. So, the following are my recommendations for learning more about all things sex–including discussions on sexuality, gender identity, sexual health, sexual self-help, self-esteem, kink, relationships, and more.

Crash Course 

There is no Crash Course: Sex Ed channel, but Crash Course Psychology has done one excellent episode on the history of studying sex and human sexual behavior, and is a solid intro to the topic. Like all Crash Course videos, it does a great job of fusing entertainment with education (and includes some hilarious animations).

Sexplanations 

Dr. Lindsey Doe is a sexologist–yes, that’s a real thing–and presents topics related to sex in an academic manner without being dull, overly technical, or awkward. If you’re looking for a great teacher, check out Sexplanations and look no further. Sexplanations is also produced by Vlogbrothers’ Hank Green, so there’s a unique awesomeness to Dr. Doe’s videos.

Some of my favorites: 

A great intro to Sexplanations, this video has brief snippets of conversation on 22 topics, from demisexuality** to sex toys:

Dr. Doe feels my pain! She discusses sex ed horror stories that are much worse than mine, and discusses why good sex ed is so important:

Do you ever feel confused about the language of sexual identities? There are a lot of terms to remember, and Dr. Doe does a great job of summing them up here:

Sex + 

The title “Sex +” can be read two ways: “Sex Plus” or “Sex Positive.” Laci Green, while not a doctor as on Sexplanations, has been making videos on every topic related to sex you can possibly conceive of for years (since about 2009, but she starts putting forward a more coherent, sex positive platform beginning around 2012). She considers herself a “sex education activist” and while her videos aren’t as professional or technical as Dr. Doe’s, I think she makes up for it with exhaustive research and an engaging technique. Something I particularly like about Laci Green is that she focuses often on self esteem and sexuality, and how important self-image is in healthy sexual behavior. She’s charming, funny, and I always come away from her videos feeling better educated, as well as entertained.

Some of my favorites:

There are so many Laci Green videos, too many to choose from really, but I think these showcase her range really well: from basic anatomy to discussions on the sexual experiences of people with disabilities, if you can think of a topic, Laci Green has probably made a video about it.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Let me know in the comments!


*To the surprise of no one, my high school sex ed class was separated by gender. To my surprise years after graduation, however, the boys had a more comprehensive curriculum than the girls! Turns out, while the girls were watching videos about giving birth, the boys were actually learning about how to prevent teen pregnancy–putting on a condom. That would have been super useful to learn! Thanks for nothing, high school.

**Which my computer insists is not a word–though it does recognize bisexuality and asexuality, so I guess that’s progress.