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Metro Brief: Campaign against media stereotypes and gender-based violence launches on Jan. 20

District of Columbia

On January 18, 2015
Sil Lai Abrams

Sil Lai Abram's project, Redefining HERstory, aims to
combat Black female stereotypes, gender base
violence in reality television.

A campaign to combat the impact of stereotypical representations of women of color in the media and help curtail gender-based violence will open at Howard University on Tuesday, Jan. 20, when the Redefining HERstory program kicks off.

The initiative will be launched at the College of Medicine Auditorium, Room B5, from 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m.  It is sponsored by Truth in Reality, a media advocacy organization whose goal is to combat the negative effects of stereotypical representations of women of color in media, especially on violent reality shows. The Redefining HERstory Campus Social Action Program is part of a larger Redefining HERstory Public Awareness Movement that will continue to run after the Campus Program concludes at Howard in March, during Women’s History Month.

Sil Lai Abrams, National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) award-winning writer and a domestic violence activist for women of color, created Redefining HERstory to provide students with tools to help reshape the violent and over sexualized stereotypes of women of color in the media, especially on reality television. The program also attempts to educate them about the links between media violence and domestic and sexual violence and increase male accountability for preventing gender-based violence.  Howard is the fourth university to embrace the campaign.

Redefining HERstory is being brought to Howard through the School of Communications’ Media Messaging Fellowship.  Established in 2012 by Tom Burrell, a member of the American Advertising Hall of Fame and founder of Burrell Communications in Chicago, the fellowship creates opportunities for students and faculty researchers to investigate the impact of media messages on African Americans and explores ways to improve African-American images in the media.

Recent studies have revealed that violent reality shows have an adverse effect on the emotional development of young women and girls and can predispose men towards violent behavior towards women. Roughly half of all reality shows feature cast members primarily comprised of women of color whose behaviors reinforce damaging stereotypes that normalize relational aggression against women of color, including university-aged women who are at greater risk than their White counterparts to be victims of sexual and domestic violence.

Redefining HERstory will challenge students on their existing belief systems around gender-based violence and redefine society’s existing negative narrative of Black women by using the media messaging on reality television as the basis for this much needed conversation,” said Sil Lai Abrams.

For additional information on Truth in Reality, Redefining HERstory and existing partnerships, or to join the cause and download the Media Advocacy Toolkit, please visit

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