Black women's narratives are often viewed through a very limited and sometimes damning scope when it comes to mainstream media, especially reality shows. According to activist Sil Lai Abrams, the way black women are portrayed on reality shows has an adverse effect on how society treats black women.
But she has a plan to help change this with her non-profit, Truth in Reality.
In conjunction with Truth In Reality, Abrams has launched a Crowdrise campaign to raise funds for pre-production of "Redefining HERstory," a documentary that highlights the imbalanced images of black women in the media. She said she hope the documentary will help combat the "violent," "dehumanized" and "hyper sexualized" images of black women all too frequent in the media, while raising awareness about violence against black women, as noted in the trailer below.
“Our goal has always been the same, about teaching media consumers about the real life impact that these images have on our health and well-being, tying it in to really getting people to understand that media is used as a tool to oppress and marginalize women of color," Abrams told The Huffington Post. "I want people to see how abnormal our portrayals are and say… 'We have to take a stance.'"
In the documentary, she connects the public's perception of women of color based off of certain reality shows to the disproportionate violence black women face. Black women have the highest rates of gender-based violence in the United States, Abrams told HuffPost.
Abrams said that she wants the message in her documentary to steer "the hell away from respectability politics." She said she realizes that reality shows like "Basketball Wives" and Love and Hip-Hop" are forms of entertainment for many people, but she wants audiences to take accountability for how much they impact their audiences, especially children. Abrams said she is wholeheartedly against the constant portrayals of black women being overly combative, fetishized and dependent on a toxic relationship. Her remedy is to demand that more black women have the power to create content for mainstream consumption.
“We want alternatives for young people to understand what the hell it is they’re consuming and for adults to say 'I’m going to think twice about my love affair with certain shows because by me watching them, I’m supporting an industry that is really harming me and my sisters,'” she told HuffPost. "The more that women are encouraged to create their own content and to get out there, I think the more that we will see that landscape change."
"Redefining HERstory" features commentary from Tom Burrell, Jamilah Lemieux, Stacey Muhammad and Anne Williams-Isom. Abrams is aiming to raise $50,000 for pre-production by April 7. She said that once it's complete, she wants the documentary to be used as a tool to educate students on how distorted black women's images are on television in schools across the country.
"This is for our girls," she told HuffPost. "This is bigger than a housewife show, it’s bigger than 'Love and Hip-Hop.' This is really about our safety, our well being, our humanity and us taking back our power and demonstrating through our solidarity. That we truly are our sister’s keeper."