Indigenous Media Analysis: Depiction Of Indigenous Women

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Throughout history, Indigenous women have often been stereotyped and are “victimized” and “sexualized” in news and media. This paper focuses on Indigenous women, and summarizes and analyzes four different news stories from Indigenous news media outlets, with attention to tones and frames used, in comparison to non-Indigenous news media outlets. We will look at a podcast episode called “The legacy of Tina Fontaine” by Rosanna Deerchild (2018), followed by an APTN Investigates television episode called “Cindy’s Story” reported by Melissa Ridgen, a news article called “Red dresses mark the 11th Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Sault Ste. Marie” by Lynne Brown (2018) and lastly, a news article called “I shaved my head to start anew” by Jolene Banning (2018).

The podcast, “Unreserved” by Rosanna Deerchild (2018), entails an episode called “The legacy of Tina Fontaine”. Rosanna mentions that approximately 1800 Indigenous females (from all ages) have either gone missing or have been murdered in Canada. Tina, a young indigenous girl, was found murdered in the Red River in Winnipeg. The way Tina’s story is discussed in this podcast is very different from the way it may have been explained in non-Indigenous news. The podcast initially starts off with Rosanna reciting a heart touching poem that she wrote herself. Rosanna mentions that this poem was written to honor the many Indigenous women and young girls that have gone missing or have been murdered. Rosanna recites sentences from the poem such as the following: “…secret lies under frozen river, waiting for ice to crack…”. As mentioned in lecture by professor Shpuniarsky (2018), Fairhurst and Saar have a framing theory which talks about how metaphors can be used in media stories in-order to frame ideas via comparisons to other things. Therefore, it is my understanding that this poem acts almost like a metaphor which essentially frames an idea of what these young girls and women go through or have gone through, and so it really grabs the listener’s attention. Rosanna speaks to various people in this episode about Tina, but what really stood out, was how Rosanna speaks to Tina Fontaine’s aunt (Thelma Favel), she uses a very soft vocal tone, that comes across as very empathetic, and this tone continues throughout the entire episode. In addition to this, the way aunt Favel describes Tina, calling her lovable and talking about how she loved to bake, allows the listener to view Tina as more than just a murder victim. Thus, this podcast goes beyond the stereotype of simply “victimizing” which is usually prevalent in mainstream news media.

“Cindy’s Story” is an episode reported by Melissa Ridgen and is aired on APTN investigates. Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous women and mother of three, was found dead in an Edmonton hotel bathroom in 2011. Gladue worked in the sex trade industry, and met up with a man named Bradley Barton the night she was murdered. Cindy’s medical examiner revealed that the cause of death was from an injury to her pelvic area which caused her to bleed to death. Barton was taken into custody, put on trial but was let go of all murder allegations against him and walked free, as the court ruled that there was consensual “rough sex” between Cindy and Barton and that Cindy’s death was an accident. What was interesting about the way this news story was portrayed was how the story initially started off. The episode starts by showing a picture of Cindy Gladue and her three daughters, all standing together smiling. The camera then pans into each one of Cindy’s daughter as they explain a small memory they shared with their mother. One daughter talks about how Cindy loved to cook, another daughter talked about how helpful she was to others and another tells how she had an amazing heart. These small memories set a frame that creates a memorable picture of Cindy before even knowing what happens to her. I feel like this makes the viewer very empathetic towards what happened to Cindy and allows them to see her as more than just a murder victim or a sex trade worker as the episode unfolds. The tone in this episode came across as a sad and angry one, with anger stemming from the verdict of the case. However, when the episode showcases the protests happening in the streets of Edmonton for Justice for Cindy it also brings along a feeling of hope for justice. Furthermore, the episode highlights the way the case was handled by the court, showcasing flaws in the Canadian justice system that eventually led to an appeal for Cindy’s case to be retried, again reaffirming the feeling of hope and justice to be served. Through this episode viewers are able see how the verdict of Cindy’s case really upsets a lot of people across Canada, as opposed to just a victim or a sex trade worker who is simply just being reported in a news story as another sex trade worker, she is being remembered for something more. Hope.

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A news article called “Red dresses mark the 11th Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Sault Ste. Marie. ” By Lynne Brown has a very powerful and empowering tone to in my opinion. This article discusses the mark of the 11th memorial march for Indigenous women who have been murdered and those who have gone missing. This article is empowering women to come together and stand against the horrible crimes that continue to be inflicted upon Indigenous women and to remember and raise awareness of the ones that have happened. It is my understanding that this article allows the reader to see the view of the women who have been affected and place emphasis on why this is such an important issue and growing concern in our society. This news story entails the use of a frame consisting of an artifact; the red felt dress. As mentioned in lecture, the importance of a frame can be created through use of artifacts which is usually an object that has a symbolic value and holds greater meaning to it, which in this case would be the red felt dress. As mentioned in the article, the red felt dress symbolizes “physical remembrance to honor and grieve women and girls who have died though violence or who have gone missing. They are also a call to action – to end violence in all its forms. ” This kind of story seems atypical as news stories involving Indigenous people are typically negative ones. However, instead of a negative news story, this one focuses on remembering murdered and missing indigenous women and empowering women to take a stand against these horrific crimes. This last written piece is a little different as it is an article written by an Indigenous woman herself who shares how patriarchy has affected her and what she is doing about it. Jolene banning uses a story telling frame and tells the reader a story of how growing up she always struggled with how her hair looked and blames society for making her believe that beauty is what gives value to a woman. She discusses how so many Indigenous women have faced violence for so long that it has almost become normal in our society and as a result it can lead to indigenous women inflicting it on themselves.

Banning uses the “love-hate” relationship with her hair as an example. Therefore, banning decided to shave her head and break the “appearance-based value system”. This story is different and unique and really showcases the strength of this Indigenous women and it is empowering to other women who may feel the same way, which makes it different from typical stories in mainstream news media outlets because we do not normally see stories in mainstream media about Indigenous women empowering other women. As mentioned before, they are normally negative stories where Indigenous women are “victimized” or “sexualized”.

In conclusion, there are many stereotypes that continue to exist against Indigenous women our mainstream news and media today. However, this paper has allowed me to see the many differences between how mainstream media portrays Indigenous women in the media and news in comparison to actual indigenous news outlets. Mainstream news outlets place more emphasis on women being victimized, and sexualized whereas Indigenous news media outlets do not. For example, Indigenous news media outlets, talk about the lives of murdered indigenous women and showcase stories of indigenous women who are empowering other women and have had other impacts on society as opposed to just negative ones.

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