We’ve got jobs, yes we do! We’ve got jobs, how ’bout you?

We’re hiring! That’s right – YOU. Could work. For us!

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So if you’re into health and wellness  – check out the paid, part-time, temporary paraprofessional staff gigs for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Current open positions (and number available) include:.

For folks with an undergraduate degree:

Program Assistant (7 positions open)

Program Assistant- UNC Men’s Project (1 position open)

Program Assistant- Bystander Education (1 position open)

These positions are ideal for current graduate students in Public Health, Social Work, Psychology, Higher Education, Health Communication, or related fields.  Positions are 15-20 hours per week unless otherwise listed, and anticipated start date is August 7, 2017. To apply please see positions descriptions for links to postings on UNC’s HR website.  Please note that you may need to create an account on this system in order to apply, as it is does not use onyen or PID log in.  Open opportunities require a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences degree from a nationally accredited institution. Graduate degree in progress is preferred, not required.

For folks who will be a UNC undergrad in 2017-2018:

Photography / Videography Intern

This position is ideal for a current or incoming undergraduate student with experience in photography and videography, along with an interest in supporting health and wellness at UNC. This is a shared position between Campus Health Services and Student Wellness. To apply, submit a single pdf with your cover letter, resume, 3 references, and a few links and/or images that showcase your photography/videography work.

 

Other than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex?

sexual communicationOther than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex? Turns out the answer is YES for Carolina students!  91% of UNC-Chapel Hill first years say they’d communicate with a partner about what they want in a sexual situation.  Now, we know that all first- years are not the same; different groups of students have different attitudes and beliefs. However, interestingly enough this statistic doesn’t change a whole lot across different gender identities, races, and sexual orientations (ranges from 88%-93%).

 

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Alicia Keys Photo by Intel Free Press, Flickr Creative Commons

Not convinced?  Famous musical artists across the decades would agree with 91% of UNC first-years, and have rather good advice and examples of how to communicate about sex. Salt-n-pepa kicks us off with the obvious, “let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me”. Coldplay chimes in about getting it on with, “Turn your magic on, to me she’d say ,…  ‘Oh you make me feel like I’m alive again’”  John Legend and Marvin Gaye (respectively) ask for affirmative verbal consent singing, “I just need permission, so give me the green light” and “I’m asking you baby to get it on with me, I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push, won’t push you baby”.  Lauryn Hill talks about what she likes singing, “The sweetest thing I’ve ever known is your kiss upon my collar bone.” And then there’s Alicia Keys showing us how to set some boundaries, “There’s an attraction we can’t just ignore, but before we go too far across the line I gotta really make sure that I’m really sure.”

 

 

 

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Coldplay Photo by pinero.beatriz, Flickr Creative Commons
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John Legend Photo by Fantasy Springs, Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of talking about sex… what does “sex” refer to anyways?  Study after study after study has shown that everyone defines sex very differently.  So, for the remainder of this blog, we’re going to focus on “sexual behavior/ activity”, which can include wide a range of behaviors done with ourselves or others including hugging, kissing, vaginal sex, holding hands, oral sex, abstinence, (mutual ) masturbation, different forms of physical intimacy, anal sex, the list goes on.  Some people have oral/ anal/ vaginal sex, other people are sexual in other ways, and some other people choose to abstain from some/ all of these things! Side note: it turns out lots of UNC students are abstaining in lots of different ways as well; click here to learn more! Moral of the story is, no matter what kinds of sexual behaviors you are or aren’t engaging in with other people, learning to talk about wants/needs and boundaries is important, and practice can help. 

Back to the point. If someone is interested in being sexually active, or is sexually active, why does everyone think talking about it with the people involved is such a good idea?  The long and short: talking means everyone is on the same page and everyone will have a better experience if there is clear communication. Loveisrespect.org would say that you’re the only person who knows what’s on your mind, so your partner won’t know unless you say it!  Along the same lines, you can’t know what your partner is thinking or wanting until you ask them and talk about it. We don’t always know how to talk about sexual activity, especially since we don’t always see representations of this in the media, and because we don’t often learn about how to communicate on this topic in school or from our families. However, it’s important for everybody to talk about what they like, don’t like, and what their boundaries are.  It’s also super important to listen to your partner, and respect the things they say and the boundaries they set.  Even if they have previously consented to intimacy, but do not desire to this time. This will show the person that what they say matters to you, and they’re more likely to trust you and listen to you as a result.

Some people think talking about being sexual is for folks in serious, long-term, committed relationships, however, this is just as, if not more, important for people who choose to have casual/ short-term sexual interactions! Why’s that?  Casual/ short-term sexual interactions often occur between people who don’t know each other well, and/or are interacting sexually for the first time.  Therefore, talking about expectations, limits and boundaries for sex (in ways that are comfortable, clear, and sexy) is even more important to make sure everybody is on the same page and having an equally positive experience. There are also people who choose to abstain from some or all sexual behaviors.  Do they need to talk about being sexual?  Absolutely!  Making sure there are clear lines of communication about what everyone wants in these situations is more important than ever so that everyone’s boundaries are understood and respected.

Sound hard/ challenging/ uncomfortable?  It’s easier (and sexier) than it sounds!  And, if someone knows what you like (and you know what they like), and everyone knows what’s on and off the table, it’ll be a lot more safe and satisfying, too. Here are some phrases our sexual wellness counselors recommend to get you started!

  • Do you want to…?
  • How would you feel about…?
  • How far do you see things going?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Would you like it if I…?
  • I want to…
  • I don’t want to…
  • That sounds amazing
  • Nope, not for me
  • I’m down to do… but I’m not into …

Still perplexed? Click here to take a free online course about creating and sustaining healthy relationships, INCLUDING skills around how to communicate and talk about sex in healthy ways. While the information is applicable to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, these modules are centered on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Trans*, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, and Same Gender Loving communities. Whether you are looking to strengthen your own relationship skills or support others in their relationships—this course is for you!

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Have additional specific questions?  Make a free private SHARE appointment to talk about talking about sex.SHARE

We encourage you to think about one way you or a friend could communicate about healthy relationships and sex in an open and positive way.  If you or your friend feels uncomfortable talking about this, remember that 91% of your peers and several pop stars have your back and support talking it out! Continue reading

What Is One Act?

What are Intervention and Prevention?

These two words are thrown around pretty frequently when it comes to violence prevention work, and it is important to understand them before we discuss One Act. Imagine that you are sitting on a riverbank and suddenly a drowning person comes floating down the river, struggling to keep their head above water. You save them, but before you can catch your breath, another person comes drowning down the river, then another and another! Instead of saving each individual person, you run upstream to see why so many people are coming down the river. In this analogy, saving the people drowning can be viewed as intervention work while running upstream to solve the problem can be viewed as prevention work (CDC). Both intervention and prevention are equally important in the field of ending violence.

How One Act Changed My View of Bystander Intervention

One Act is a bystander intervention training that teaches people how to identify warning signs of violence and find safe ways to intervene. Before I attended, I had a very specific idea of what that meant. To me, it meant being at a large, loud party and noticing one person making advances that may be unwanted onto another person, things potentially getting physical, and then someone stepping in to try to prevent a violent situation from unfolding. While this example of violence prevention certainly occurs, it is not the only kind of scenario that One Act addresses.

One Act addresses risky situations including the party scenario I previously mentioned, as well as potentially less obvious situations including noticing a friend exhibiting signs of experiencing mental, physical, emotional, or financial abuse from a partner. One Act incorporates both aspects of prevention and early intervention into its training while also addressing healthy relationships, campus and community resources, and consent.

One Act treats everyone as an active bystander with the potential to prevent or stop violence. I like how One Act offers students’ different ways to intervene based on their identity, personality, and level of comfort intervening in a potentially dangerous situation. One Act really emphasizes ‘meeting people where they are’ and recognizes that not everyone feels safe intervening in the same way, which is why they offer options.

The One Act Model

One Act and One Act for Greeks are on-campus trainings that offer participants the skills to intervene in the situations mentioned previously. The trainings teach participants to be active bystanders all of the time, for strangers at parties as well as for friends and family. The training outlines a 4-step process of dealing with a risky or unsettling situation where you suspect violence or a potential for violence:

  1. Observe
  2. Assess
  3. ACT
  4. Follow Up

One Act acknowledges that every bystander and every situation is different and therefore provides multiple options on how to act. The ACT acronym offers the options:

A – Ask for Help

C – Create a Distraction

T – Talk Directly

One Act on Campus:

Preventing violence sounds like a big, daunting task, but One Act breaks it down into small, doable actions that can make a huge difference. It can be as simple as asking a friend how their new relationship is going, if they feel safe with their partner, or just making yourself available to talk if they ever want to. Outside of trainings, One Act also holds several events on campus to spread awareness for violence prevention. One such event is Dos and Donuts, which is held in both the Fall and Spring semesters. Dos and Donuts offers donuts to students who participate in activities promoting healthy relationships, checking in with friends and family, and self-care. This event helps students who have not been One Act trained learn to be an active bystander in their own lives.

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Here is our Healthy Relationship Donut! We asked students ‘what makes a relationship sweet’ and they added their sprinkle to the donut. Check out more pictures from the event here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/OneAct/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1367790649927800

My Final Thoughts:

One Act gives students the knowledge, skills, and confidence to recognize early warning signs of violence, and teaches them how to take steps to prevent that violence from unfolding. Students who have attended One Act have said that they are more willing to engage in conversations regarding sexual assault and consent since being trained.

I have learned so much since being One Act trained and since working with the program this semester and I strongly believe that this training has and will continue to contribute to a safer UNC-CH environment. I believe that everyone in the Carolina community should get One Act trained in order to foster an environment of looking out for and helping one another.

You can find the dates of our Spring trainings and sign up for information or a training here: https://studentwellness.unc.edu/oneact

This blog post was written by Rachel Maguire, One Act’s Fall 2016 Social Media Intern. Rachel is a third year Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies double major who became involved with One Act through the WMST 340: Violence in Leadership Prevention class.

Living with Gender Dysphoria: Tips for Transgender People’s Friends, Allies, and Partners

A quick note: This blog post uses some terms that might be unfamiliar. We’ve used links to define them in parentheses.

What is dysphoria?

Many, but not all, transgender people  experience dysphoria. Here is a formal definition of dysphoria from the UK’s National Health Service: “Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition, for which treatment is sometimes appropriate. It is not a mental illness.” In that definition, treatment commonly refers to transition that can change the body, such as hormones and surgery, which are supervised by a medical professional. Because everyone experiences dysphoria differently, medical transition may not be right for some trans people, and it’s important that all trans people take transition at their own pace. This comic discusses how one trans person found the right pace for their transition. Gender dysphoria is not something that is necessarily “fixed” or “cured” by medical interventions. Additionally, medical interventions for dysphoria are not considered necessary by many health insurance providers. So, due to their high costs, these options are financially out-of-reach for many trans people who need them.

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“Clothing Dolls,” by Mi Mitrika. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Some trans people don’t experience dysphoria at all, and for some trans people, dysphoria is more about the discrepancy between their identities and other’s perceptions.  Here is one trans person’s account of what dysphoria is like: “Body dysphoria feels like the worst-fitting outfit you’ve ever put together, but you can never take it off. Or sometimes it’s more like a pebble in your shoe, or a belt that digs into your side, or a tiny thing that is just noticeable enough to throw your day off. Some days I wake up and it’s just there. Some days it’s because I tried to fit my not-so-masculine body into my masculine clothes, and the parts that didn’t fit made me want to scream and disappear and puke up all my guts at the same time. It can grow into a scary place where I don’t know if my body belongs to me, and I feel e this.like I’ve been detached from something essential and am about to wash out to sea. Maybe a picture makes me hate and fear the body I don’t have because it’s not the body I wish I had. Maybe I think that the someone I desire won’t desire me because I don’t look like all the handsome cisgendered men they probably grew up loving. (Click here for the definition of cisgender.) Maybe it doesn’t make sense why I feel these things, but I still feel them and they still hurt.”   Dysphoria can create disparate health and wellness outcomes, and therefore personal and academic outcomes for those who experience it. 

How do trans people cope with dysphoria?

Although dysphoria can be challenging and painful, there are many ways trans people have learned to cope. Some trans people with dysphoria seek medical treatment to make their bodies match their identities, some seek mental health services to help cope with dysphoria, and some use coping skills they’ve learned. One recent study found that transmen’s mental health was improved by chest-binding, which helps transmen’s chests appear flatter and more masculine. Here are 25 ways that the author of the quote above copes. For a lot of trans folks, one of the most valuable tools to cope with challenges like dysphoria is friendship. In one survey of MTF trans youth, ninety-eight percent of respondents stated that friends were “somewhat” or a “great deal” helpful for emotional support. (Here is the definition of MTF.)

…Support from people like you!

You’ve probably heard a lot about trans people’s struggles with mental health. What we don’t talk about enough is that support from family, friends, and partners can greatly reduce the risk of trans people’s poor health outcomes. For example, among trans people, “social support has been linked with lower levels of both depression and anxiety and fewer suicidal behaviors.” It’s also been positively associated with self-esteem and quality of life. That’s because social rejection is the cause of a lot of trans people’s poor health outcomes in the first place.  Creating a campus atmosphere of understanding, inclusion and acceptance can go a long way in supporting our trans peers.

So how do you support a trans person dealing with dysphoria?

anole-2Because dysphoria is about the discrepancy between someone’s sense of self and their body or other people’s perception of their gender, the best way to support your transgender friend or partner through dysphoria is by (1) seeing their gender the same way they do, and (2) communicating that (as well as your communicating overall care for them, of course!)

Sometimes, cisgender people have to challenge their own assumptions, thoughts, and unconscious beliefs about bodies and identities. For example, we are all socially conditioned to associate certain physical characteristics with maleness and/or femaleness, and these associations are deeply ingrained. However, being supportive to a trans person (particularly one you are intimate with) means actively working to undo those associations. Instead affirm that your friend or partner truly IS the gender they identify as regardless of their voice, mannerisms, or body shape.

That core belief, and your willingness to challenge the thoughts you have that are in conflict with it, is the foundation of supporting any trans person in your life through dysphoria.

Tips to communicate respect for trans folks and help alleviate dysphoria:

  • Use the name and pronoun the trans person prefers.
  • Don’t disclose someone’s trans identity to others without their consent.
  • Respect trans people’s decisions about if, when, and how to transition.
  • When you’re with others who know the trans person’s identity, correct them if they get names and pronouns wrong.
  • If you’re dating someone, ask what words they want to use to talk about their bodies (for example, chest vs. breasts).
  • Use compliments and descriptors that reflect your friend’s or partner’s gender identity. For example, if your partner identifies as a masculine person, they might prefer to be called  “handsome” rather than “pretty.” Luckily, “fabulous” and “smart” are gender-neutral.  
  • When you are struggling to see your friend or partner the way they want to be seen, it can be best to process this with a cisgender ally rather than the trans person. But be sure to do this in a way that respects the trans person’s privacy. For example, check in with them first about who to process with.
  • If dating a trans person (or anyone really,) practice consent consistently and carefully. Consent is important in all relationships, but it’s especially important in trans relationships because, as we’ve discussed here, trans people’s relationships with their bodies can be complicated.

More resources

Here’s more information on how to support trans folks.

For more content on healthy relationships in the LGBTQ community, check out this online course offered here at UNC.

If you are transgender and are struggling with dysphoria, social support, or anything else, contact the LGBT Center here on-campus or Trans Lifeline.

Anole Halper is a graduate intern with Student Wellness. They are getting a dual Masters in social work and public health. Their research interests include sexual violence prevention and LGBTQ health equity issues.

Peeing in A Cup: The Troubling Roots and Consequences of Healthcare Providers’ Ignorance about Transgender Patients

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Image courtesy of Randrenfrow on Flickr

My phone vibrated as I sat in the waiting room. My partner was texting me from the bathroom down the hall at the clinic where I had accompanied her to treat a rash. “I’M TAKING A PREGNANCY TEST. I AM PEEING IN A CUP” she wrote, in a panic. We weren’t worried she was pregnant; however, because my partner doesn’t have a uterus. She is a transgender woman, and her fear, instead, was that her doctor would somehow find out. The doctor had told Hila to take the test before prescribing a cream that could cause birth defects, and Hila hadn’t told the doctor she was trans because she was afraid of the reaction. Doctors and therapists often didn’t know what it meant to be transgender, made Hila feel like a medical oddity, or dismissed every problem she was experience as a symptom of being trans. From my itchy partner’s perspective, treating a simple rash wasn’t worth the risk of disclosing.

My partner’s experiences of poor care are common among transgender people. Half of trans people reported having to teach their medical providers, a fifth said they were refused medical care, 11% were denied therapy, and most disturbingly, a quarter of trans people reported harassment in medical settings.

This poor, unethical, and downright dangerous care is concerning because lifetime experiences of stress and discrimination have caused transgender people to have higher rates of many health issues than the general population. These same health issues are exacerbated by the poor treatment trans people receive. For example, transgender people who are refused treatment by a provider experience an increase in the lifetime rate of suicide attempts from 41%–already shockingly high—to 60% of the transgender population. Further, the poor experiences that transgender clients have with providers can deter them from seeking care in the future. In one study, a quarter of trans people reported postponing medical care. In another, 43% of LGBT clients who had unhelpful experiences in therapy reported diminished quality of life and a quarter developed a negative impression of therapy in general. Health professionals are therefore complicit in worsening transgender health disparities.spaceball

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Image courtesy Marlan on Flickr

Yet at the root of providers’ incompetence and hostility toward transgender people is ignorance. More than half of health care organizations do not require employees to take cultural competency training that includes LGBT issues and 41% of social work program stated that their programs trained students “slightly well” to “not at all well”  when it comes to providing services to all LGBT individuals. Data on trans people, specifically, is unavailable, as trans people are often overlooked in research. No wonder trans people like my partner educate their providers—no one else has.

Trans Health Resources On and Off Campus

Check out this page for more information about how Campus Health Services supports trans health needs. The UNC LGBTQ Center is another resource to support students in navigating trans healthcare on campus. Finally, the LGBT Centers of Durham and Raleigh each keep a listing of community resources that are supportive of LGBTQ people. See the Durham LGBT Center’s listings here, the Raleigh LGBT Center’s community listings here, and the Raleigh center’s list of mental health practitioners here.

By: Anole Halper

Anole Halper is an intern with Student Wellness over the summer.  They are getting a dual Masters in social work and public health.  Their research interests include sexual violence prevention and LGBTQ health equity issues.

 

The Health Benefits of Altruism

This blog post was originally published on October 7, 2014.

It takes on many forms: paying it forward, peer-to-peer support, volunteering, being there for a friend or partner. Altruism, the concern for well-being of others, is a powerful part of overall wellness. Doing things for other people can help build relationships and bring meaning to life. And, if that’s not awesome enough, altruistic actions can also have health benefits! Though the spirit of altruism is helping others, it has been shown that altruistic actions have an impact both on others and the person doing altruistic things.

Here are some of the health and wellness benefits of altruism:

  • Increases satisfaction and self-esteem

On a psychological level, doing things for other people through service and volunteering has been shown to be associated with greater positive feelings, well-being, and overall satisfaction. In a study by Sawyer and colleagues, most students surveyed who volunteered for a peer education program found it a valuable activity, and nearly half of those surveyed reported increased self-esteem as a result of participating in the program.

 

  • Deepens knowledge

Studies of peer education – or programs where a group is taught how to offer education and support to those in similar situations (ex: college students who are trained to provide health education to other students) – show a wide array of benefits to both the educators themselves, and the persons they are educating. In one study, peer educators were found to have increased their own health and wellness knowledge, with 43% adopting healthier behaviors themselves. Interestingly, the same study also found that some (20%) students participating in peer education programs also changed their career direction as a result of participating in the program.

 

  • Enhances cultural acuity

By being of service to others and advocating for their needs, activities like peer support and volunteerism can help build awareness and perspective. In the study by Sawyer et al, 20% of those participating in peer education programs were more open to students’ behaviors and opinions. Altruistic activities can challenge one to think about issues that another person or group is facing, and increase empathy as a result –important components of cultural wellness.

 

  • Acts as a powerful motivator for individual and population-level behavior change

Mind experiment: pick a health behavior –anything from vaccination, to screening, or smoking cessation. Now think about the following questions: do you want to do this behavior for yourself? How about committing to the health behavior for the benefit of others (partners, family, friends, community members)?

For many behaviors, the desire to perform or commit to a given behavior can be based on a mix of personal versus interpersonal motivations. In a personal example, I recently thought about hand-washing in my house. Don’t get me wrong: I definitely appreciate the importance of hand washing! But, when I thought about it, the desire to wash my hands to keep my partner healthy was as much, or possibly more, of a motivator for me than me washing my hands for my own health’s sake. In yet another example, with behaviors like getting the flu shot each year, it can often be very powerful to consider the benefits both for oneself (i.e., you are less likely to get the flu), and to others (i.e., it reduces flu transmission to the population).  All in all, altruistic reasons for adopting healthy behaviors can be extremely powerful – sometimes more so than the reasons you have for adopting change just to help yourself.

 

Getting involved

 Interested in getting involved in service and volunteering programs on the UNC campus? There are some fantastic service opportunities through the Carolina Center for Public Service, one of Student Wellness’ peer groups, or Student Wellness’ interpersonal violence prevention trainings. Be sure to check out our recent Healthy Heels blog post on being a more conscious volunteer.

It’s important to note that the health benefits of altruistic actions are not limited to formal service and volunteering opportunities. Every day, smaller actions that consider other people’s needs and feelings or help others can also have a powerful impact for oneself and for campus culture.

Club Sports and Intramurals: A great way to get some exercise and become involved!

This blog post was originally published on December 9, 2014.

With the end of the semester come finals, and often, lots of stress. But the good news is at the end of the week you are done (congratulations)! Whether you finish strong or limp across the finish line, the semester is over and you cannot change the past. What you can do is enjoy your time off, get some rest, and look to the future and a fresh start in January. And if I may, I would like to make a recommendation for the spring semester: do something new and something that will help you with all that stress that school can bring. Become part of some sort of extracurricular physical activity, preferably one that gets your heart rate up.

Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo: Going up for the frisbee in the fog by Nathan Rupert, Flickr Creative Commons.

Now before you say, “I don’t have time for exercise,” or “but I don’t like to exercise,” stop. One, you do have time for a little exercise, but often you will not do it unless you set aside a time for it. If you continually say, “I will exercise when I have free time,” you will always find something else you could be doing. Additionally, if you have hours and hours each month to check Facebook, tweet, Instagram, watch movies, online shop, play video games, or any other things that your normal day entails, then you likely have time for some exercise. Second, exercise will help all the other parts of your life as well. So many studies show that exercise not only improved physical health, but mental health as well including stress and depression. And if you don’t like to exercise, fear not! There are many options for exercising that don’t feel like a chore, including many club sports and intramural activities.

For me, physical activity means getting into the Carolina North Forest for runs, and joining road bike group rides in Chapel Hill. In addition to this, last year I joined the UNC Cycling Team, which includes a wide variety of individuals who have all different ability levels and who enjoy all different types of biking. Maybe this is something you would like to try, but if not, there are so many opportunities to participate in club sports, and intramural activities here at UNC. These include: basketball, soccer, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, football, rugby, and so many more. These are great opportunities to meet people, create social networks, and get exercise at the same time. These also can be really helpful for motivation on those days when you would rather just curl up in bed, but you know that getting some exercise would be good for you and you would enjoy doing it once you got out there. Not everyone is self-motivated, however, how or why you get out there is not the important thing, but rather that you get out there.

Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)
Olympian Tours Colorado Trip (by Jed Hinkley)

So, if you’ve wanted to become involved with some sort of sport or activity, there’s no time like the present. This is the perfect time and there are so many options to choose from. After all, college is about trying new things and meeting new people. It is also about becoming immersed in the culture and involved with the school. What better way to do that then with a bunch of other students, faculty, and staff that like doing the same things that you do. Your heart, your head, and your grades will be better for it.

Media Literacy III: White-Washing, Misrepresentation, and Implicit Bias

In case you missed all the hoopla about the movie Aloha (like here, here, here, and here), don’t worry – the 3rd blog post of the Media Literacy Series explains the lack of people of color we see on the big screen.

The case with Aloha? They made a super odd decision to cast the blonde-haired, white-skinned Emma Stone as Hawaiian, Chinese, mixed heritage Allison Ng.

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Image courtesy of http://www.teasers-trailers.com

Here’s what’s up.

This is a pretty classic case of Hollywood white-washing and misrepresenting other cultures, races, and ethnic groups. When we look at all forms of media, the television and movie industry has a particularly bad habit of having overwhelmingly white casts, even if the characters’ whiteness does not add to the characterizations or plotlines. In fact, a lot of characters on television could be portrayed by people of color, but that just does not happen. Instead, you get white people playing white people or passing as light-skinned racial and ethnic groups. People of color get stuck with non-series regular roles, the sidekick/best friend/less significant roles, or roles that play off stereotypes.

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Image courtesy of http://www.ramascreen.com

And this happens all the time.

These patterns are well-established. For example, African men are portrayed as inherently violent, and Indians are portrayed as nerdy or overly sexual. People of color are generally misrepresented or invisibilized in movies.

Moment of Reflection: If this is what we see all of the time, do you think this could affect how we view students of color at UNC? How could this impact the way students of color view themselves?

Why don’t directors cast people of color?

People are less likely to go see a film or watch a television series about a Person of Color protagonist. And directors fear this. They want to capitalize on the fact that audiences are drawn to productions that have the face of a (famous) white person. Even Jenji Kohan took advantage of this, and I think she did it brilliantly!

And these rules are written and institutionalized. A 2011 licensing agreement between Sony and Marvel, which share the rights to the Spider-Man character, lists a series of traits to which Peter Parker must legally conform. Despite the fact that Spider-Man is totally made up and can literally be ANYONE…this character is legally restricted to being a white, straight male.

Moment of Reflection: Would you have tuned in for the 1st season of Orange is the New Black if this was the promotional poster?

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Image courtesy of from s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

Why does this happen?

There’s this thing called reciprocal determinism which basically means that there is a dual relationship between us and our environment, in that we affect the environment that in turn affects us. So, the media shows us what they think we want to see, and by spending our money and time on their shows, we in turn tell the media what we want to see. The media reflects and reinforces societal and institutional patterns of injustice. Mostly, this act is implicit. We don’t go around explicitly stating that we love seeing white people on TV (at least, I hope not!). We are fed messages daily about how we live in a white normative and white ideal society, and many us don’t realize that or choose to ignore it! This can lead to implicit bias:

“Most of us have implicit bias that can impact our behavior and understanding. Although most of us are completely unaware of its influence on our subconscious, these biases affect how we perceive, interpret, and understand others’ actions. Because these attitudes, unrecognized on the conscious level but powerful at the subconscious level, individual and institutional discrimination can occur even in the absence of blatant prejudice, ill will, or animus.”

– John A. Powell, “Postracialism or Targeted Universalism?” Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, May-June 2010.

Moment of Reflection: How do you see your own implicit bias playing a role on UNC’s campus or within your relationships?

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Image courtesy of memegenerator.net

Let’s revisit that phrase “unrecognized on the conscious level but powerful at the subconscious level.” We have to work against this process and deconstruct the way we think so that the messages can be recognized on the conscious level, like when we see instances of white-washing and misrepresentation – whether it’s on magazine covers, billboards, advertisements, TV, movies, etc.

What should we do about all of this?

Public Outrage!! I’m kidding, to an extent. We all do need to critically engage with media and actively recognize moments of social injustice. We also need to continue these public conversations, whether it’s through blogs, public forums, petitions, you name it! People notice when we do this. In fact, the director of Aloha issued an apology (though it’s more of an excuse/justification in my opinion…). Networks are also adding more shows with strong roles for people of color like Blackish, Fresh off the Boat, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Jane the Virgin, and Empire. Hashtag trends like #OscarsSoWhite got the attention of people in leadership and now we’re going to be seeing some real awesome changes around diversity in Hollywood because of the Academy’s effort to double the number of women and people of color by 2020!

And of course, there’s this:

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Image courtesy of lh3.googleusercontent.com

The more we can show the world that we notice, CARE, and can articulate WHY all of this matters, we can reshape conversations about race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. and take steps to creating lasting change.

 

Niranjani Radhakrishnan received her BSPH from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill in 2013. She is currently a Program Assistant for Health Promotion and Prevention Initiatives at Student Wellness. She is also in graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill pursuing two masters degrees: Health Behavior and City and Regional Planning with an emphasis in environmental justice, health equity, and spatial analysis using GIS.

Meet Rebecca Gibson from the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office

This is Rebecca Gibson, the Report & Response Coordinator at UNC. She works in the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office, where she provides support and resources for students who have experienced sexual or interpersonal violence, stalking, and other forms of discrimination and harassment. She is your go-to person in case you are in need of the services she provides. I chatted with Rebecca to get a better idea of who she is and what she does.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Gibson.
Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Gibson.

Kelli Raker (KR): Tell me about your background. What led you to this position?
Rebecca Gibson (RG):
I’m a social worker by training and previously worked at the Durham Crisis Response Center managing the sexual assault program. I’ve consistently been drawn to this field because of the greater social influences and the resiliency that survivors exhibit even after great trauma has happened to them. I have always aspired to work in higher education. When this opportunity became available at UNC-Chapel Hill to do the work that I’m passionate about, it was just too good to pass up.

KR: What happens in your first meeting with a student who has experienced violence?
RG:
In our first meeting, I will explain my role in the process and available resources. I thank them for contacting me and try to assess any immediate safety concerns or medical needs. We’ll discuss community and campus-based confidential resources, interim protective measures, and reporting options, including speaking to law enforcement and making a formal report to the University.

I will explain that I am a private resource, which means that I will share information only as needed with the Title IX compliance coordinator, relevant staff in the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC), and other parties on campus who have a need to know depending on the conduct and where it happened. I will discuss immediate safety concerns and the option to go to the hospital to receive medical care. If the student discloses or alludes to some form of sexual violence, I will explain the option to receive a sexual assault forensic exam at UNC Hospitals or Campus Health Services and talk a bit about the role of the community advocate in providing hospital accompaniment if they choose to receive the exam. I will also provide information about confidential resources such as Cassidy Johnson, gender violence services coordinator, in the event the student would like to talk in a confidential space before talking with me.

It’s truly up to the student in this meeting to decide how much he or she wants to tell me about the violence itself. There are no obligations to provide details. That being said, my ability to help address safety concerns or discuss protective measures will be limited if the student doesn’t want to tell me anything. We’ll talk together about any concerns with academics or housing and if there is a possibility the aggressor will contact the student in the near future.

KR: What about when you meet with someone who may have harmed, harassed, or discriminated against another person?
RG: My role at Carolina is a neutral one. I’m a point of contact for those involved to answer questions, clarify steps, and connect to resources. In meeting with the individual who is responding to allegations of misconduct, I will provide appropriate resources and support just as I would make referrals and connections for a student who reported experiencing these types of conduct. I will explain what they can expect throughout the University’s investigation process, discuss next steps, and address questions they may have. There are times I’m simply not able to answer a question due to student privacy rights, relevant laws, or safety concerns. If there are questions or concerns either party has that I’m not able to answer or address, my job is to find the person who can provide the information.

KR: Why should someone come to talk to you?
RG:
I can facilitate interim protective measures such as academic accommodations or changes to housing, give perspective on reporting options, and connect individuals to resources both at the University and in the community. Ew Quimbaya-Winship also provides this assistance.

For someone who wants the University to pursue a formal investigation of an alleged policy violation, I’m the first point of contact to get that process moving.

For someone who isn’t sure about how they want to proceed, I’m able to talk through what the reporting process would look like and connect that person to others who can support them regardless of the decision to report. The University will make every effort to respect the individual’s decision about how to proceed.

KR: What do you wish all students knew about your office?
RG: I want students to know that my office is a welcoming space and resource for the entire Carolina community. My team is made up of smart, compassionate people who are working hard to make this campus safe and equitable.

I also want folks to know that in addition to addressing sexual violence, my office is also the place to go if you’re experiencing harassment or discrimination based on any protected status: age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and veteran status.

KR: Well, there you have it. Thanks, Rebecca! Always remember there are resources on campus to help you if you face any form of discrimination or harassment!

 

Kelli Raker is the Coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs at UNC Student Wellness. Kelli has a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary in Women’s Studies. Kelli believes we can prevent sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment, and discrimination by changing systems of oppression, empowering bystanders, supporting survivors, and holding individuals accountable for their problematic behavior.