Making Media To Expose Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Messages

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Making Media To Expose Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Messages

Bianca I. Laureano

A new series of animated videos featuring content from actual abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, programs, and lesson plans is being created to raise awareness and get youth involved.

Many readers may know that I write a column on Media Justice at the Amplify Your Voice site, which is supported/led by Advocates For Youth. The site is focused on youth-led writing around sexuality, sexual health, and reproductive justice. The handful of older adults who publish there, like myself, do so on topics affecting youth and providing spaces to have their opinions and ideas shared.

This week on Amplify, staff presented a new series of media-making that I adore. Using actual lesson plans, scripts, expected outcomes and goals of abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculums and programs taught in the United States, staff are creating animated videos. The animated videos are created through a (somewhat) free service called XtraNormal. Check out the first video they have created called “Drink The Spit” below:

As someone who values art in various forms and when community members and providers begin to create their own media, I find this new project exciting. I see this as one way to use the Internet and popular media outlets (YouTube, XtraNormal) to reach out to youth who may not already be connected to the Amplify site. When I first was introduced to the XtraNormal site it was through created animated conversations about instant messages some of my friends were having. They encouraged me to do my own video, which is one of the ways I found out the site is somewhat free, and attempted to create a similar video.

This approach is one I think can be useful for many of us working with youth and with technology. The site XtraNormal allows users to choose from various settings and characters (I picked robots for my trial video), and also provides options for dressing the characters, altering their voices, and choosing their location. These features can be useful tools for also discussing gender identity, roles, and expectations.

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When producing and creating our own media, how do we express gender with the options we are provided in the program? In what ways do we choose to represent gender and why are those our motivations? What types of messages do we construct and what is our goal in doing so? These are questions I can see being useful in guiding such an activity as they are also centered in media literacy.

Watching the video above again, I asked myself what were some of the stereotypes I had listening to the animated cartoon bears speaking (that sentence makes me laugh). I assumed the three people that were characters (a daughter, a mother, and the teacher) were all women. The only character I can say I understand to be a woman is the teacher as the pronoun used is “she” and “her.” However, I assumed the student in the scenario was a young woman because of the voice and what looked to me as hair ribbons near the ears. The other character I now realize could be a friend or family member. The clothing sends a gender-neutral vibe and I thought about why I assumed all characters to be women. 

There are many reasons I can think of for why I made such assumptions. I think it’s important to share with others that even educators and those of us who practice the skills we wish to teach youth, in this example media literacy, that sometimes we too get “caught up.” The way we have been socialized is still a process to be mindful of, especially when trying to create change.

The way I was socialized led me to the assumption that women speak openly and with one another in such scenarios about sexuality and health. That a parent would be the one who would be surprised/disgusted/frustrated at hearing such a story from a student or young person in their life.  However, I know that young people talk with one another often and about the same topics. My first viewing of this video was from the perspective that I bring as an older adult working with youth and I had to remind myself that my perspective is just one, and that others exist and are just as correct and valuable as my own.

I’m hoping there will be at least one new video a week, but for now this is the first one. Check back at Amplify Your Voice to see when new videos are posted.