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Value U.: Incorporating Media Literacy into Bystander Intervention Training

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Published on: 06/22/2011

When/Where: Sunday, 10:45-11:30 in Nicolas Moore (lobby).

Presenters: Jennifer Ball, Clarkson University; Gillian Roach, Clarkson University. Presider: Unassigned.

Objectives: This poster session illustrates a community initiative using media literacy to promote pro-social behavior and positive images of girls and women.

Audience: PK-12 Schooling, Higher Education, Educational Administration & Policy, Non-Profit Sector, Faith-based Organizations

Description

In 2008, students, university staff, faculty and community members came together to form Value U. in Potsdam, NY. Value U.(VU) is a community action initiative, focused on college-age women and 12-18 year-old girls, promoting pro-social behavior and positive images of girls and women. The initiative tackles the frustrations students feel over the often unrealistic, judgmental, prescriptive and prohibitive information distributed to college-age and younger males and females regarding risky social behaviors, e.g. alcohol and sexual intercourse. A group of co-ed student coordinators and a faculty director collaborated in the development of the groups training materials and all participate as workshop trainers.

Student trainers utilize media popular with student constituencies to train both students and people who work with student groups in bystander intervention and cultural sensitivity. Value U. Coordinators present media literacy in workshops as a means of generating dialog about social values and how to challenge social norms and behaviors through bystander intervention. The program and workshops are founded a respect for participants’ ability to determine their own values on issues such as drinking, dating, sex and appearance. For example, a popular introduction to media literacy presents the concept of canting and then deconstructs media in which it appears to discuss the social norms represented in the pieces. Canting is a popular posturing of female models and actors in media to make them appear weak, dependent, unbalanced or infantilized. Working from this critique and some highly entertaining demonstrates of canting, the trainers then help participants understand the ways they can intervene to interrupt negative behaviors and unrealistic attitudes directed at women and girls.

Humor is a serious tool of the group to get participants to recognize ways media influences social expectations in regards to girls’ and women’s behavior and self-esteem. Scenarios taken from sources such as the website, Texts From Last Night(TFLN), Facebook postings, popular movies, TV shows and web productions allow participants to have a laugh while assessing scenarios for their placement on a continuum of behavior and then suggesting ways to intervene for a positive outcome. This makes the critique of the scenarios and the students’ culture an insider’s and not an outsider’s critique. This is a critical point in what makes Value U’s approach persuasive. A millennial audience is more persuaded through humor, particularly the acknowledgement of its understanding of the ridiculous unreality of media productions, rather than risk models typically presented to this audience. Hence workshop messages that you don’t want to be the next TFLN or humiliated YouTube sensation resonate with millennial audiences. Finally, a “360 Degree” approach to media literacy trains participants in successful ways to assess and challenge negative images of women in professional media and self-generated media.

Participant Involvement

Have the training techniques explained.they can explore the techniques with Value U staff.

Presenter(s)

  • Jennifer Ball, Clarkson University: Jennifer L. Ball is an historian of gender and sexuality at Clarkson University. Her historical research focuses on the history of contraception in Connecticut, 1940-1965. In addition, she researches and develops programs on media literacy as it relates to gender and sexuality. She is the director of a student-led initiative, Value U., trains people in bystander intervention skills.
  • Gillian Roach, Clarkson University: Gillian Roach is a graduate student at Clarkson University. During her undergraduate career she helped to develop the Value U program. She is now its Research Coordinator.
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