Dispatches from the Culture Wars - Digitize You edition

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Getty Images' Attempt to Combat Female Stereotyping is Noble But in Vain

By Angela Phillips
February 11, 2014
The Guardian (UK)

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg wants to change the way women see themselves. She is concerned about the stock images of women that flow into our lives like digital soup: mothers pouring milk, women in knickers smiling or pouting, dominatrices in tight skirts and sharp heels, lots of glossy hair, and nobody over size 10. So her non-profit organization LeanIn.org http://leanin.org/ is teaming up with photography agency Getty Images to produce a special collection of pictures in order to "empower" women and girls, and show them that they too can have "leadership roles" just like hers.

It's not a terrible idea, but If the media are to change how they portray women, they'll need more than a new Getty stock photo collection. These are not women, they are just shapes. The new stereotypes won't even displace the old ones. Those who are seeking images will still have to ask for the "Special Collection" as though "empowered" women are a little too subversive simply to be fed into the world's biggest image machine. It is the whole that has to be changed, not just a part.

Palestinian `Arab Idol' Winner Booted From World Cup Performance

By Jamilah King
February 14, 2014

Palestinian "Arab Idol" winner Mohammad Assaf said at a recent press conference that he's been banned from performing at the World Cup opening ceremony this summer because of some "countries" or "groups" - he didn't specify who - pulled the plug.

Assaf, a former wedding singer, has become somewhat of Palestinian hero; when his victory was announced, people in Gaza and Ramallah poured onto the streets in celebration.

In addition to singing patriotic Palestinian songs, Assaf has made political statements on a number of occasions: "We are searching for our rights, for peace, unity and the end of the occupation and illegal Israeli settlements," he said to the New York Times in December.

But Assaf's popularity, which has made headlines abroad, has also drawn criticism.

France's Culture Workers Protest Cuts

February 12, 2014
Revolting Europe ยท

Performing artists turned out on Monday in Paris and in several other cities in France to protest budget cuts that threaten the future of many theatre companies and other cultural establishments, as well as access to culture from disadvantaged groups in society, Humanite newspaper reports.

Protesters fear further cuts to state and local authority culture budgets and are concerned about the consequences of certain provisions of a decentralization bill. There are also worries ahead of talks that are due to start on reforms to the unemployment benefit system for casual entertainment workers. This first day of protest marches, which should be followed by others in the Spring, is the first united initiative by all the unions representing cultural workers and employers, in the sectors of music, opera and contemporary arts.

Civil-rights Heroes in Searchable Database

By Jennifer Graham
February 10, 2014
Boston Globe

IF you're white and younger than 50, odds are you've never heard of the Negro Motorist Green Book. For African-Americans in the 1940s and '50s, the Green Book was as ubiquitous and necessary as the Bible.  

Published by a New York mail carrier named Victor H. Green, the publication was similar to the American Automobile Association TourBook. Whites worried they might run out of gas, not that they might run out of gas with no nearby gas station or a hotel that would serve them. And whites never feared being caught in a "sundowner town" where blacks were not allowed after dark.

But this was before the Green Book, an information superhighway that operated underground to help the black traveler "keep from running into difficulties and embarrassments." It ceased publication in 1966, two years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but a 1949 edition is available digitally through the University of Michigan, and the 20th-anniversary issue, from 1956, through the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. They are worth a look as President Obama exhorts the nation to "pay tribute to the heroes, sung and unsung, of African-American history" in February.

The Fracturing of American Jewry

By Theodore Sasson
December 7, 2013
The Jewish Daily Forward

The interim deal recently signed with Iran that would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief is not only a blow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It also exposes the weakness of prominent American Jewish leaders and their organizations, which lobbied the U.S. Senate to act on new sanctions against Iran - to no avail.

The failure of AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League to derail the deal puts into question the vaunted power of the Jewish establishment. It also reflects mounting disunity among Jewish organizations and polarization in the American Jewish community.

Even as the leaders of the big three advocacy organizations called for new sanctions, pro-Israel groups on the left, including J Street and Americans for Peace Now, declared their support for the Obama administration's plan. It is quite clear that these left-leaning organizations are no longer obscure challengers to the Jewish establishment.

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