(Molly Bruns, Headline USA) Researchers seeking to justify their jobs published a comprehensive study covering 32 years of Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” programming, coming to the conclusion that it was racist and sexist.
In fact, researchers discovered that the program featured more men named “Mike” than it did women altogether.
According to the Post Millennial, the broadcast is also “sharkist” as it consistently portrays sharks in a negative light.
“Many Shark Week programs frame sharks around fear, risk, and adrenaline,” the study said, noting that almost three-quarters of the episodes studied included “some sort of fear-mongering language or negative portrayal of sharks.”
Lisa Whitenack, one of six authors of the study, described what it was like to grow up watching the program, intently searching for suitable role models in the field of shark research.
“I didn’t see very many people that looked like me on television,” she said. “Why would I know I could do that?”
She overcame that obstacle and eventually became a shark researcher, resulting in her taking the lead on this study to affirm her childhood trauma.
The scientists, funded by Allegheny College, found that the lack of representation was one of the most consistent features of the show, with 90% of the shark experts being white and 78% of them being male.
“When there are hundreds of people of color interested who work in this field, [and] when my field is more than half women, maybe it’s not an accident anymore that they’re only featuring [w]hite men,” said David Shiffman, one of the co-authors of the study.
Carlee Bohannon, fellow shark researcher and co-founder of Minorities in Shark Sciences, praised the study and reiterated Whitenack’s sentiments.
“We all grew up seeing one type of person on TV,” Bohannon said. “‘Shark Week’ was really the biggest thing, and it was always filled with [w]hite men.”
National Geographic, a Disney company, is partnering with Minorities in Shark Studies to create direct competition to “Shark Week,” with a stated goal of greater minority representation. Their program, called “SharkFest,” features seven scientists of color.