The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

66° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Student combats female stereotypes

Student+combats+female+stereotypes

When elementary school classmates would play house, Mary Ann Warren was asked to be the maid. The experience stuck with Warren, who learned to speak out against injustice.

Warren, a 58-year-old African-American interdisciplinary studies senior, was born in California, but her parents were born and raised in the South where they picked cotton during the time of Jim Crow segregation laws.

Warren’s mother would recount to her children her husband’s words as they worked: “My children are not going to pick any cotton. They’re going to be educated.”

Her parents kept their word. Warren’s four siblings went to college, but she was the first to attend a university — the University of California, Berkeley. In order to receive her master’s degree, Warren joined the military to help pay for school. During her 30 years in the military, she moved up the ranks, eventually becoming a lieutenant colonel.

She moved to Arizona after her military retirement. The first class she attended at the UA was Film and TV History, Beginning to Mid-20th Century, with Professor Mary Beth Haralovich. The course covered the segregation period in the United States, and Warren said she was surprised when they began to discuss the topic.

“It was awesome because I was born during those times, I lived during those times and it was like something that was foreign to my classmates,” Warren said. Besides one other African-American classmate, the class was primarily made up of Caucasians.

Growing up, Warren was not allowed to watch television because her father did not want her seeing stereotypical African-American characters. He would tell her, “That’s not you. That’s what they want you to be, but that’s not you.”

In her first class with Haralovich, Warren watched a video depicting African-American stereotypes in film. Instead of becoming angry, Warren said she learned to be proud of the characters’ ability to own their roles and turn them into strength and power. Haralovich’s ability to talk freely about race in class also inspired Warren to do the same, she said.

“I saw what she (Haralovich) was doing with the work and I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to try it too,’” Warren said. For her honors thesis, Warren decided to focus on the negative portrayal of women in the media.

The Honors College accepted Warren’s abstract thesis, and she won $1,500 for her efforts.

From there, she went to the National Association of Black Journalists, where she submitted “Negative Portrayal of African American Women in the Media: A Qualitative Study of Silencing Stereotypes and Strategies for Change in Today’s Media.”

“I think it has turned into something really different from when it started,” Haralovich said. “It started as exposing the stereotype, and now it’s become strategies for change. The project has developed in a beautiful and important way.”

Warren said she wants people to understand that her project is heartfelt, and that African-Americans are not all out to harm and steal from others.

She added that she feels like she owes a lot to Haralovich because her life really started after taking her course. Warren was inspired to expose stereotypes and struggle for change.

Following the class, Warren and Haralovich developed a close friendship and Warren still continues to confide in her former professor and current honors thesis adviser today. She is even taking another class with Haralovich.

“I have a lot to thank her for, because she’s so encouraging,” Warren said. “Each student is treated differently, they’re not brushed off. I think that’s admirable.”

Haralovich described Warren as a hard-working and ambitious student. She boasted about her achievements and ability to inspire those around her.

“She gives me too much credit,” Haralovich said. “She’s inspired and she’s inspiring too. She’s very warm and candid and it’s very good to have someone like this in class.”

More to Discover
Activate Search