Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is Lady Justice Really Blindfolded?

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Your gender and race greatly affect your jail sentence, and it needs to change in order for us to become a better society. You may find yourself on jury duty one day, witnessing a case in which a man, who after hitting his wife, is shot by her, in self defense. You’re thinking in your head “well, he deserved it”. Now imagine the genders are flipped, and a man shoots his wife because she hit him, not so innocent now huh? This is the mindset of your typical jury and judge. What causes people to think this way? Could it be that it is simply okay for a woman to shoot a man in self defense but not vise versa? Or could this be the result of a deep, subliminal discrimination? Unlike most discrimination, this kind can literally kill you.

By being a man, you are 20 times more likely to receive death penalty for a murder than women and will receive an average of 63% more time in jail for the same crimes. This means for every 20 men executed for murder, 1 woman is executed, and for every 10 years a woman gets sentenced, a man gets 16 years. If you are black or latino you have a much higher chance of being pulled over and will also usually be sentenced to more time in jail; people of color make up about ⅓ of America yet ⅔ of inmates are non-white. I believe that people tend to be more harsh when judging a black man than a white woman, and most of the time society sees the black man as the criminal and the white woman as innocent and nice, when often it is the other way around. This is caused by how the media portrays races and genders, for example white women are often seen in cleaning commercials, kid’s cereal commercials, and clothing commercials, while black men are often seen in movies in which the protagonist goes to a ghetto area, in which you see black men in gangs committing crimes. A recent study by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, shows that in movies, Hispanic women are the most likely to have hypersexuality indicators (tight clothing, nudity, etc), which although sounds somewhat irrelevant, may be the explanation as to why Hispanic women are largest victims of rape, which shows that the way in which a movie portrays you does affect how others view you, in this case, movies commonly portrayed Hispanic women as hypersexual, and therefore were most likely viewed as sex objects to certain people. So could it also be that if people of color are portrayed as criminals, that society will look at them that way? When society is constantly bombarded with these stereotypes, it strongly affects how the jury and judge visualize the perpetrator in court.

Some would argue that discrimination has nothing to do with this jail time gap, and the reason why men and people of color are receiving harsher jail sentences is simply because they commit the most crimes and deserve harsher punishments. If they aren’t learning, then give them more time.The problem with this argument, is that by creating such a large gap in punishments, it could allow for women to commit crimes because they think they will be spared in court, it may also bring up the issue of women accusing men of stuff they did not do in order to put them in jail or give them death penalty, thinking that they will be successful since courts favor women. This will also let white cops use excessive force against black suspects because people will assume they are guilty anyways. A racist cop may be able to get away with shooting a person of color and simply say that he was robbing someone or he was coming at him with a knife. The only thing that can fix this discrimination is to change how people are stereotyping races and genders, which all comes down to media and how these races and genders are being portrayed.

Bibliography

Conclusion: Updated (11/06/2014)
People's jail sentences are greatly impacted by their appearance, specifically their race and gender and is due to the media's representation of these groups. Comments on my blog post have made me consider why male judges cause a larger gap in gender discrepancies. After a small amount of read-up on a link commented, I have concluded that another cause of this gap is the nature to be protective of women, which was evolutionally helpful in order to protect babies, and the gap of the gap between female and male judges is caused by this protective instinct, however the majority of the gap is due to media representation. I really enjoyed the blogging process, the comments made me consider stuff I had not considered or known about before, and I liked being able to join the discussion on other people's posts also. The questions left in comments, which I thought would be simple to answer, ended up requiring me think deeply at the question and from different angles. I often find at random times in my daily life these subjects that we blogged about will be brought up or mentioned which causes me to repetitively question and reflect on the subject. I now not only think about the judicial process differently, but also media, movies, judges, criminals, and everything else that I have connected to my topic. Blogging has expanded my mind to include multiple viewpoints from the comments and the articles I ran into while researching. I hope to blog again.

6 comments:

  1. Good work InvasiveSpecies, great topic and explaining your thoughts. The whole article came back to two main topics, sexism and racism. Why men get more jail time than women? Are men more dangerous? I think the society and the government should work on the laws, equally for males and females.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Passive Fungi. I agree with you that sexism and racism play a large roll in jail sentencing. When it comes to reasoning for why men recieve longer sentences, I do not think it is because men are thought of as bad people but rather women are thought of as innocent people, which is why when you hear a women murdered her husband you would assume she was in a bad relationship or she was trying to defend herself etc, therefor the slight amount of empathy felt for her would equate to a lighter sentence.
      -InvasiveSpecies

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  2. You have covered a wide range of sentencing disparities in your post, InvasiveSpecies. This is a challenging topic! Your suggestion that these disparities are dependent on how different groups are presented in the media makes sense--do you know how many movies or TV show male criminals versus female? That would be interesting to see. I read about a study that, while dated, proposes that the demographics of judges is a major factor--that male judges (the majority) evaluate women for sentencing differently than they look at men. The gap is sentencing is not as great for female judges. Have you seen anything to support this idea? Thank you for posting your article on this important issue!-Ms. Riches

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    1. Thank you for joining the conversation Mrs. Riches, I find that almost always in movies the antagonist is a guy or multiple guys, I found a list of the 100 most popular movie antagonists and after counting I found 13 out of the hundred movie antagonists were female, which I can use to guess that around 87% of movie antagonists are male. That is a great study you found and it reminds me of this episode of Everybody Hates Chris in which Chris's mother was going to court for a speeding ticket, and all the women having trials before her were doing their hair and makeup in the court bathroom before their case to give them better odds at winning. This is similar in how male judges do spare female criminals, and I believe it may be simply physical attraction or possibly the primitive nature for men to be protective of women and therefor male judges spare female criminals. Of course this is not the complete reason to why women receive lighter sentences since female judges do this too, I still believe the majority of this gap is due to media representation, while the genetic/attraction aspects of it may explain the small gap between male and female judges.
      -InvasiveSpecies

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  3. You have brought light to a very important issue! The media plays a HUGE role in our perceptions of others both inside and out of the courtroom. You have discussed at length how the media contributes to stereotypes. It is also important to investigate how the media contributes to how we view ourselves. What is the media teaching us about how we "should" be and how does it contribute to our identity? Keep investigating!

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    1. Thanks you for commenting Annie, you make a great point that the media doesn't only manipulate our views of others, but also ourselves. Media imposes lots of expectations for both men and women, especially body expectations. I find that media often urges men to be dads, husbands, muscular, manly, aggresive, protective, lean, etc, and urges women to be curvy, pretty, nice, wife, mother, good at cleaning/cooking, etc. I would be a completely different person, both physically and mentally, if I were never exposed to media. I feel almost everyone would appear different if media stereotypes had not impacted them in some way.
      -InvasiveSpecies

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