Canada is well reputed in the world for its diverse population and its open mindednessregarding situations that are deemed controversial on a global scale.
Although, does Canada live up to those standards in the media? First of all, what is the definition of media? Media refers to various means of communication whether it be newspapers, social media, books etc (Christensson, 2006). It is intended to reach and address a large target group or audience (Roy, 2015). Media of today is playing an integral role in creating and shaping of public opinion and strengthening of society (Roy, 2015). Many people around the world even in Canada are blindly convinced by the stereotypes being thrown around in media that define Canadians as “nice” and “welcoming”.
Even though it may not be completely false, it should not be overlooked as the minorities of Canada argue that this is a growing concern in Canadian society in this day and age. In everyday life, citizens of Canada interact with various types of individuals regardless of their race, sex, gender, and ethnicity. This is because Canadian history has proudly established an inclusive environment for Canadian citizens today. However, where did the equal representation of the various individuals that make up Canada go in Canadian media? Why is there a lack of diversity in Canadian media and what can be done before Canada’s reputation hits rock bottom? In this essay, the causes, impacts, and solutions to the ongoing crisis will be mentioned in detail. Causes Media and culture are interconnected (Dakroury, 2014).
Culture is the characteristics of a group of people; language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music, and arts (Zimmermann, 2017). The Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition elaborate the definition of the term culture as shared patterns patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are acquired through socialization (Zimmermann, 2017). Various cultures influence the material found in media and various media platforms affect different cultural practices (Dakroury, 2014). Western culture can be seen as the dominant culture in Canada and is therefore one of the main reasons as to why Canadian media is rather restricted. The Western culture is characterized by artistic, philosophical, literary, & legal themes and traditions in which the heritage of Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Jewish, Slavic, Latin, and other ethnic and linguistic groups, as well as the religion Christianity (Science Daily, 2017). Sociologists have identified and characterized the relations of English and French to cultural assimilation, integration, and accommodation of minorities (Rocher, 2015). Plenty of individuals and groups have been brainwashed or have adapted to following the mainstream Canadian culture; stripping them of their ethnicity. For example, in Canada, it is certain that most of the population is seen to be wearing attire heavily influenced by the European culture and consuming Western cuisine (ie.
pizza, poutine, hamburgers etc.). There has also been a definite amount of assimilation of Indigenous people and of French Canadians outside of Quebec into following the dominant anglophone culture (Rocher, 2015).
Assimilation, in anthropology and sociology, is the process where individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of society (Pauls, 2008). The process of assimilating involves taking on the traits of the dominant culture to such an extent that the assimilating group becomes indistinguishable from other members of society (Pauls, 2008). Relating culture back to media, Canadian books, magazines, songs, films, news media, radio and television programming reflect Canadians as individuals (Government of Canada, 2015). Through various media platforms, they entertain, inform, and help shape the identity of Canadian individuals (Government of Canada, 2015). The dominant principle in Canadian television shows is that white people make up the majority of the main characters while racialized characters play secondary roles (Elghawaby, 2014). A report by Media Action concluded that although certain television programming do show Canadian society as it is; an inclusive multiracial and multi-religious nation, the stereotypical white and Christian Canadian lifestyle is the preferred and superior norm (Elghawaby, 2014).
On top of that, visible minorities are underrepresented in Canadian screenwriting industry (Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, 2013). 4.1% of screenwriters who responded to a survey regarding the Canadian screenwriting industry were visible minorities which is about one quarter of the minorities represented in Canada’s overall population and 36% of them have reported of occupational discrimination due to their ethnic or racial background (Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, 2013). As can be seen, although it is vital to promote Canadian culture through various media platforms as it defines the individuals that compose Canada and is the most essential way to enable the growth of Canadian culture, it is safe to say that various cultures/ethnicities are being underrepresented in Canadian media. In everyday life, people define ego as an individual who thinks highly of one’s self.
However, in psychology, Sigmund Freud interpreted ego as the psychological structure that regulated sexual and aggressive impulses and navigated the tension between those impulses and the demands and values of society (Henriques, 2013). A modern perception of ego is to consider it as the self- consciousness system (Henriques, 2013). This system reflects on one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions and inhibits or validates them to one’s self and to others (Henriques, 2013). To be brief, ego is interconnected with identity. During the time of settlement in Canada, it is eminent that the Aboriginals were the first settlers of Canada. The Europeans (British and French) had arrived later on in Canadian history and had a huge impact on the way the Aboriginals led their lives. Since the British had colonized a big portion of the world, that led to the possession of large sums of wealth and power. The result overtime was a big ego because when someone is given unlimited access to power and wealth, it can have an immense impact on how they are going to treat others.
The reason behind this is solely because they believe they are above others which causes belittling of other individuals or groups. In consideration of the fact that the British had tremendous amount of power, wealth, and technology than the Aboriginals, they strived to convert them into abiding by the Western culture. The outcome of this was that the Aboriginals were disparaged and stereotyped. Adding on, humans are social creatures and develop and thrive through communication. The media allows individuals to communicate, express, and support one another. As mentioned earlier, it is also an outlet where all the information one needs is on the tip of one’s fingers.
Information can spread very fast and therefore has given people the freedom to express themselves freely without anyone to stop them from saying what they want since it is all anonymous. Researchers have concluded that the feeling of being loved and worthy are normal and is a universal phenomenon (Bergland,2013); referring back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Consequently, media is the perfect setting for encouraging such feelings because it is so attainable and easy to express and obtain knowledge. In Canadian media, because of such a prestigious mindset that has developed since the European settlers have settled in Canada, it is expected to promote and prioritize Canadian culture that is heavily guided by European traditions on various media platforms in order to sustain the customs and beliefs.
As a whole, the identity of Canada is well reputed but individual identities of various groups is underrepresented.In addition, another factor of not having enough diversity in Canadian media is the evolution of stereotypes. A stereotype is a fixed overgeneralized belief about a particular group or class of people (Cardwell,1996).
Stereotypes can be both positive or negative. Most stereotypes implement a negative view of a particular group of people and this usually leads to prejudice and discrimination (McLeod,2015). Social media is the most efficient way of propagating negative stereotypes. The three main types of stereotypes include racial, body image, and gender stereotyping. Racial stereotyping in the media is leading to a very problematic society. Canadian media has labelled the Aboriginals as savages and drunk, poor, lazy individuals (Joseph, 2015).
Final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission state, “The country’s large newspapers, TV and radio news shows often contain misinformation, sweeping generalizations and galling stereotypes about Natives and Native affairs…The result is that most Canadians have little real knowledge of the country’s Native peoples or the issues that affect them” (English, 2015). Also, University of Toronto associate professor and former journalist Minelle Mahtani states, “The narrow range of images of ethnic minorities has effectively decreased the ability of minorities to be seen as positive contributors to Canadian society” (Elghawaby,2014).
Media researchers have pointed out that these negative stereotypes are cause for concern, because it creates a divide between ethnic minorities and so-called “real” Canadians (Elghawaby,2014). Visible minority Canadians are seen as “others” or “foreigners” who potentially have the power to threaten the nation.”(Elghawaby, 2014). The percentage of visible minorities working in newsrooms is tiny (Elghawaby, 2014). Researchers John Miller and Caron Court found that the percentage of minorities working in daily papers is more than six times lower than their presence in the general population (Elghawaby, 2014). Their 2004 study illustrated that editors are simply not that concerned in hiring minorities (Elghawaby, 2014).
In fact, compared to their 1994 study, commitment to improving diversity dropped in half to 13 per cent over that ten year time span (Elghawaby, 2014). A majority of managing editors blamed a lack of interest from diverse communities, saying “minorities just don’t apply here,” but as the researchers noted, “only one mentioned taking any steps to ensure they were attracting minority candidates, such as recruiting at journalism schools or ethnic publications.” (Elghawaby, 2014). On top of that, media stereotypes are the primary reason for sexualization in society today. The average American child watches 20,000 television commercials each year (The Media and Body Image, 2017). That amount of exposure can lead girls to believe the women and girls they see in ads represent “normal” or “average” body types (The Media and Body Image, 2017). On the contrary, fashion models are typically between a size 0-4, which is far smaller than the average Canadian woman (The Media and Body Image, 2017). Last but not least, gender stereotyping is also becoming an immense concern in Canadian society.
Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas in which females and males are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited according to their gender (Gender Equality Commission of the Council of Europe, 2015). International development agency Plan Canada conducted a survey of the perspectives of many young individuals including 1000 Canadians. They found that while 91 per cent felt that equality between men and women in Canada is good for both boys and girls, some youth still agreed to gender stereotypes (CTV News, 2011). For example, 48 percent of the youth thought men should be responsible for earning income and providing for the family and 31 percent of the boys felt that a woman’s most important role is to take care of her home and cook for the family (CTV News, 2011). Movies and TV shows are some of the dominant media platforms that encourage these gender stereotypes.
According to the Common Sense Media report, gender stereotypes in movies and tv shows are incredibly effective at teaching kids what the culture expects of boys and girls (Knorr, 2017). A 2012 report on Canadian screenwriters show that there are nearly twice as many male screenwriters (65%) as females (35%) ( Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, 2013). Men dominate the highest-paying and most powerful writing positions while female screenwriters have less overall experience in the industry and earn less for screenwriting work (Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, 2013). Overall, stereotyping is another leading cause of lack of diversity in Canadian media. Impacts Where there are causes, there are consequences to every scenario. In this case, lack of diversity in Canadian media has disadvantageous outcomes for various groups in Canada.
Cultural assimilation as mentioned earlier, leads to stripping the identity of minorities living in Canada. For example, for First Nations, it diminishes self-esteem and cultural pride, and for non-First Nations it dehumanizes and enhances negative perceptions of First Nations people and their culture (Joseph, 2015). Also, when young people from diverse communities do not see themselves adequately represented in the news, it may also make them unable to imagine a career in the media (Elghawaby, 2014).
Negative stereotyping in the media results in many negative emotions in adolescents and other groups affected by it. Such feelings would include lowered self-esteem and self worth. This could lead to the development of a mental illness such as depression. For example, inaccurate representation of body types makes many girls feel insecure and unhappy with their own bodies because they don’t look like the images the media presents (Body Image-Girls, 2017). In general, lack of diversity in Canadian media affects various Canadians by making it difficult to be apart of society, securing a job, a place to live, and defaming Canada. Existing Solutions There are ongoing solutions that were put into action in order to help aid the fight in diversifying Canadian media.
Such resolutions include identifying and understanding why negative stereotypes exist in Canadian media (Grewal, 2010) and another solution was to implement more appropriate media policies that calls for an inclusive and enjoyable environment for everyone (Davis, Shtern, & De Silva, 2012). The three stakeholders that benefit from these solutions include the minorities of Canada, media outlets, and the Canadian government. For the first solution, the minorities are given an opportunity to understand why they are being portrayed in such a manner in Canadian media and enables them to educate other individuals about their beliefs and who they are as a person.
They would also regain their self-esteem and self worth as this solution brings forth a time of empowerment. Media outlets would gain a good reputation as they are aiming to control the negative stereotypes being thrown around and promotes global citizenship. Finally, this solution will soon generate a positive view of the Canadian government and will guide the government in molding a righteous path for the citizens. The second solution will bring upon a sense of acceptance and will open up more job positions for minorities as they will begin to see themselves in the media sector. This solution will allow media outlets to create reasonable and inclusive representations of people and help build a safe environment for everyone to grow, learn, and succeed. This solution will benefit the government because it creates a better economy as the media sector will be developed and a sensation of unity will be felt which builds a stronger nation.
These solutions are a work in progress and will hopefully bring success in the near future. New Model Another method of diversifying Canadian media is to educate children from a young age about stereotypes and how they can be a good citizen on social media. This can be done by incorporating interactive methods in the education system and enlightening students about the various media platforms and what steps they can take to be inclusive of the various types of people in society.
Further execution of laws to solidify the basis of the media sector will result in a boom in this sector of the workforce in the sense of job openings and will leave minimal room for discriminatory and derogatory slurs to be thrown around. By opening up the minds of the citizens in Canada, these stigmas regarding many different types of groups in Canada could be eliminated eventually. Conclusion In a country where the population is so diverse, it is appalling to witness such a lack of diversity in Canadian media.
In this time and age, it is unacceptable to treat individuals as outcasts on various media platforms as the media heavily influences the way people act and think. The media is a very powerful tool and it should not be misused and abused. Instead, it should be a place to allow for development and connection between individuals; its intended purpose. Thankfully, there is action being taken to promote equality in media and hopefully one day all the hard work pays off. It is up to the citizens of Canada to sustain the beautiful attribute it is known for, diversity, in the media, before it is too late.