The Final Semester…


Unless I decide sometime in the future that I want another master degree (unlikely, but possible) or I want to pursue my PhD. (very unlikely, since I’m not writing a thesis), I am in my final semester of academic life. Well, academic as a student.

Somehow, my final semesters have always been surprisingly difficult. In college, my last semester included an eight-hour class producing a 30-minute newscast from start to finish with my fellow classmates. Plus, my only Friday class in my entire college career was my final semester. This time around, I’m taking my last two classes of graduate school online. The online aspect makes them challenging, because it’s on me to log on and post in the discussion forums. Having a brick-and-mortar classroom to go to helps define deadlines and all the discussion happens in that two-hour time period allocated for class. But it’s hard to beat the flexibility online classes provide. I can post my response in the wee hours of the morning and I can work right up to the due date and time, because there’s no commuting required.

But more than the online aspect, both classes have proven challenging for different reasons. First, my research for media activism has been pretty work intensive, but so far, interesting. My other class, gender, culture and the media has been incredibly interesting especially as women’s issues have taken center stage in the news these days.

In my research class, I’ve been looking into the Citizens United decision and how it has been effecting campaign financing. Specifically, I’m looking into the campaign to amend the Constitution to strip corporations of personhood, as the Supreme Court defined it in the Citizens United decision. What’s been interesting in my research so far is the rights corporations do and do not have. From my situational analysis:

Though corporations have been legally defined as persons and thereby entitled to certain rights, they are not entitled to all rights in the Constitution. Corporations are entitled to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and equal protection. The have Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure, but they do not have Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. They are entitled to free speech and the right to a trial in civil cases. Like persons, corporations are required to pay taxes, but due to a number of loopholes, write-offs and favorable policies they lobbied for, rarely do corporations pay as much as they should, though they benefit from the services those taxes pay for, such as national security and infrastructure. Corporations cannot vote, but they also enjoy limited liability for criminal misdeeds and corporations themselves cannot serve jail time.

That’s why I find this debate so interesting. Shouldn’t a person be entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution? If so, how can a corporation be a person?

In the coming weeks, I have to conduct an interview on my research topic. I’m looking into sitting down with constitutional or corporate law scholars, so hopefully, I’ll be able to get answers to a lot of the questions I have about this. The Citizens United decision was pretty unpopular, so I’m interested in learning more about the jurisprudence behind it.

My gender, culture and media class has also been really interesting as we look at representations of women in the media. I’m hesitant to post about this, for fear of an influx of spammers, but we’ve spent a lot of time talking about pornography. While there is feminist pornography out there, a lot of pornography objectifies women and eroticizes power and violence against women. New York magazine had some excellent reporting on the porn industry last year. One of the best articles of the bunch was about the effect porn has on young girls. Girls and women are expected to live up to the expectations men see in porn and there’s no way to meet that impossible standard. But porn is really just performance art rather than an accurate representation of sex. And ultimately, it comes down to teaching that to our children.

Now, I’m not suggesting we should teach children about porn, necessarily, but rather that we need to do a better job of promoting media literacy in our society. This week’s readings focused on portrayals of women in advertising. Beauty sells, but girls wouldn’t be so quick to desire to be thin and beautiful to the standards set by advertisers if they were taught to have a healthy skepticism about the portrayals they see in the media.

It’s the same conclusion I’ve had throughout my time at the New School looking at the relationship between politics and the media. While I would like the media to move away from the horserace, he said, she said, dynamic, I think overall we’ll have more success changing the landscape by introducing a healthy amount of skepticism into the audience. People need to understand that they shouldn’t believe everything they see on TV or read on the internet.

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