Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

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Sonic#
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Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby Sonic# » Mon Mar 13, 9:54 2017

Last week, a video went viral. Live with the BBC, a professor of political science is talking about the ousting of the South Korean president. While on air, one of his kids comes marching through the door to see what's going on. The newscaster points out the kid is there. The professor smiles and tries to push his kid away. A baby also begins scooting through the door. At that moment, a woman rushes in and pulls both kids away. The professor apologizes a couple of times and tries to get on track. It's okay. They go on. (Link to Huffington Post article and video.)

When watching it, I had three initial reactions. One, it's genuinely adorable how the first kid marches in, arms swinging up. Two, I grimace a bit at how the father handles the situation, focusing more on the camera and the newscast than his daughter. Shoving his daughter away feels brusque, even if I understand doing so in a moment of surprise. Three, I wondered at the frantic actions of the woman, and how they might be interpreted. I think I first assumed that she was domestic help. Then I considered she may be the kids' mother, operating in a domestic role. Article headlines focused on the professor's magnanimity (more as professor than father), but seemed less interested in accounting for "the woman," as the article calls her.

Professor/father was easy to assume. Her role was also easy to assume, but the assumptions could more easily go awry. She's their mother, as an article reflecting on the perceptive biases involved points out, but I saw several friends of mine assuming she was a nanny or domestic worker. Was it that she looked east Asian but he looked white? Was it her frantic energy, evoking assumptions of a worker who's fucked up? Was it the blurring of paid and unpaid domestic work? Assumptions about class status and what the professor can afford?

The second article linked points out some important intersections with this bias, including that the domestic labor market is important both as a "wealth escalator" (working-class women work and support their kids' education) and as work that keeps more educated women in the larger workforce. Otherwise, women with children may choose "not to work" (that is, they would do unpaid domestic labor) because paid domestic workers are scarce and expensive. Missing that connection seems to be one way bias works in the video: there's seemingly less room for thinking of the woman outside the circle of domestic work. It's hard to imagine what would happen if the roles were reversed. Would her role as professor/mother be challenged rather than celebrated? One thing seems clear: the father would not look like a domestic worker, and the possible assumptions would then be whether he's a stay-at-home dad or whether he works outside the home on a different schedule, something not considered for the woman in the actual video.

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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby Enigma » Tue Mar 14, 18:45 2017

First, this video was hilarious. The woman diving in like a bat out of hell, the excessively happy toddler, the baby rolling in like a boss. All comedy gold.

Second, I'm guilty of this. I'm in a mixed race marriage and I regularly get mildly annoyed with assumptions that I'm not with my husband. (I went out with his family on the weekend and literally everyone assumed I wasn't with them. I'm talking every single fast food worker, random people, it was pretty crazy.) and I still thought she was a nanny at first. The reality of the situation is that in our culture we're confronted with images of Asian woman as nannies to the rich white men more often then we're confronted with images of mixed marriages. Especially when you see a white man in a suit and an Asian woman in her around the house casual clothes. This is definitely a symptom of a racist society. But its also a symptom of our lazy brains. I think this situation is most helpful as an example of why we need more diverse and interesting representation in our media.
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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby Nech » Tue Mar 14, 21:41 2017

I figured she was either the wife or the nanny, but it was the way she rushed in that worried me in either scenario. She almost seems to back out of the room in a scared state bowing in some sort of attempt to appease (I don't buy the "she was trying to get out of the shot" crap). At first I thought she was the nanny, but after a few seconds wasn't sure and was more trying to figure out if she is worried about losing her job or being beaten later. Her body language just struck me as very "oh shit I'm gonna pay for this" type stuff.

But it is interesting most people seem to think she is a domestic worker (even if only briefly). I saw fear of someone worried about either losing their job or being beaten, so I wonder if most people subconsciously lean towards the thought of someone losing their job because domestic violence is still an uncomfortable topic for most. Even if there wasn't a concern for abuse, maybe the body language itself seems "unwifely" in some manner? For this instance and how brief the clip is, I feel body language itself has a bigger impact here than any sort of racial stereotyping (though sexist views could definitely still come into play). Thinking back I'd say there's maybe a 50% chance I'd think of a man rushing in the same way a demonstration of a worried domestic worker. I think that percentage could easily shift though depending on body type, with a higher assumption of a domestic worker the thinner or more demure the man was.

(I both hate and love analyzing my own knee jerk reactions)
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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby Sonic# » Wed Mar 15, 6:48 2017

^ I think that's another way the bias here can be misleading. Like, yeah, it's a possibility that her frantic scrambling could be due to a poor working situation, someone wanting to keep her job. Alternatively, she could really care about this interview and want to help out.

They've now had a post-interview with the family together. There's some hilarious stuff here too - that baby! The article's description also fleshes out some details: dad had failed to lock the door, mom was busy filming the TV and jumped into action when she saw the time-delayed footage of her daughter entering.

And given the video, I'm willing to take them at their word. It makes me wonder if one bias here is that none of us (to my knowledge) have kids, so it's harder to imagine the chaos.

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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby tomokun » Wed Mar 15, 11:54 2017

So, in order to frame my perspective - I used to run a daycare, so I am no stranger to the chaos that comes with child care. There is no such thing as "baby-proof".

So, yes, at first I wondered/assumed she might be the nanny, but I wouldn't have placed a bet on it. I figured she was trying to stay out of the way of the camera, and never thought to make the connection between the mother and what the kids looked like... mainly because I was too busy laughing. I mean... this was just adorable.

I was unpleasantly surprised that there was any controversy at all about this honestly. Dad's in the middle of a high-profile, career enhancing interview, and the kids do what kids do, and the mom did what moms do, and I don't know that even dreamy Justin Trudeau could have handled it better (ok, he definitely could have, and it would have been even more adorable #Trudeausexualityftw).

I think Enigma hit this on the head - our brains are lazy and statistically speaking it's not exactly an unreasonable assumption - plenty of white folk have non-white nannies. This assumption to me is not a problem at all.... right up until the point where people start being negatively judgmental or treating people disrespectfully because of these associations. For example, the fact that he's wearing a suit jacket and mom is dressed like a mom taking care of the kids... this is likely one of the million different things that were calculated by our brains when "filling in the blanks". The problem really isn't that our brains went there, but how CERTAIN some people were that it was true based on the video clip alone.

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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby rowan » Thu Mar 16, 14:39 2017

Sonic# wrote:It makes me wonder if one bias here is that none of us (to my knowledge) have kids, so it's harder to imagine the chaos.

Almost all of my friends are like oh ahhahahaha yeah that totally would be me/us/has actually happened lol look at the kid who is awesome.

It's hard, you know, you're trying to be All Serious Talking About Serious Things and you just kind of have that moment of panic.
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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby Nachos » Thu Mar 16, 15:19 2017

Ok, I saw this video a few days ago and had a good laugh about it. It was simply adorable! And I don't get the controversy. This is exactly how my mum would have reacted when I was a child and if I was interrupting an interview my dad was giving.
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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby antfancier » Thu Mar 16, 21:01 2017

When I first watched it, my brain vaguely registered that the woman was Asian, but that was it. My main thought was 'Oh, I bet she just really needed to pee and in the few seconds it took her, the kids were out of her sight and wreaking havoc.' (I have a kid and this happens to me regularly). I shared it on Facebook and an Asian friend commented 'looks like the nanny's in trouble'. At this point I went back and watched it again thinking that maybe I had missed something, but then I noticed the kids looked at least partly Asian so I assumed the woman was the mother. I didn't realize it was causing a controversy until later in the day. I also didn't watch the video with sound until later too, and as soon as I heard they were talking about Korea, I assumed the woman was Korean, which she is. I viewed the crouching down at the end as her not only trying to stay out of view, but also sort of a bow of embarrassment.

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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby Taurwen » Sat Mar 18, 7:02 2017

See and I thought she was so low while closing the door because she was tripping over the kids and wasnt going to spend time to right herself. I thought it was a speed issue, and totally something I would do.

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Re: Gender and racial biases in professor's newsvideo

Postby DarkOne » Mon Mar 20, 8:11 2017

I came across the video from a link unrelated to this post and it took me a few moments after seeing it to make the connection to this post. I did not think "nanny". I thought Mom. And I did not think "fear"; I thought, amused, "I know you're trying to be inconspicuous, but I can still see you". And I'm sure it's because I'm projecting my own experience: I'm a mom. My dad's a professor, my mom a SAHM. I dont think we could have afforded a nanny. I've never really been around people who have nannies -- nannies only show up on TV, along with butlers, awesome treehouses, and people dancing at house parties. And I grew up pretty sheltered from domestic violence or emotional abuse, so my brain did not see "fear" either. I saw what I'm used to seeing (i.e. a mom dealing with kids, people unnecessarily leaning in on pictures when there's a good 2 feet of space between the people and the picture frame). Almost every post I've seen here seems to fill in the gaps in the video with our own experiences, at least as a knee-jerk reaction.

The discussion of bias here reminded me of an interview I saw related to the Black Lives Matter unrest. A police officer promoting an upcoming local community integration event said, in a nutshell: "We filter news through our experience, and fill in the gaps based on those experiences. Having a positive diverse experience is the only way to fill in the gaps with something other than unfounded bias." When the only black people we see are criminals in Law and Order, that's all the experience we have to fill in the gaps in the latest news of shooting. When the only Asian women we know are women in the service industry, that's how we'll fill in those blanks. Even when we know better, it's hard for many brains to override actual memories with the theory of impartiality. We need to generate positive bias.

Bias is inevitable. What we CAN control is our ability to override the bias with objectivity and reason. But something that seems would be even easier to control is our apparent compulsion, as a society, to tweet every goddammed thought that crosses our minds. #notthenanny wouldn't be a thing if people hadn't needed to be publicly righteous and post things like "I hope she doesn't get fired if she's the nanny." *sigh* End social media rant.
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