Magazines and Mirrors

Magazines and Mirrors

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Does the objectification and oppression of women in modern culture stem from advertisement portrayal or do we portray women in advertisements as objectified and oppressed because of our modern culture? Does it matter which comes first if we are not willing to admit this phenomenon exists, much less consider changing either?

It is no secret that advertisements impact our perception of the world. That is after all, their intent; to convince, convey, persuade, interest, tempt us into paying money for whatever it is they are advocating. You can argue the philosophical morality of persuasion but ultimately it is happening almost every second of every day. Advertisements bombard us on billboards, buses, social media platforms, television, magazines, benches, t-shirts, digital screens of all kinds. Advertisement is not a new concept by any means, it’s been happening as long as entrepreneurship has existed. However, we have never had more constant exposure to this pressure.

In advertisements, we see a female portrayed as young, beautiful, thin and typically white. If all of humanity was to be wiped out and millions of years later, a life form came to earth and found all of our advertisements, they might assume that human females were never older than 25, never more than 120 pounds, never of color, and never in control. This is the way that we have portrayed women for almost the entire history of our nation. It is inaccurate and isolating of every woman who does not fit that small, select demographic—which is most of us.

We are visual creatures with eyes that take in incredible amounts of color, shape and depth. This is a crucial aspect of our evolution that allows us to create art, build buildings, escape predators and navigate our beautiful planet. However, this need for visual pleasure leaves us with a human flaw of a deep craving for visual perfection. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, society at large decides who that beholder is for us all. The western definition of beauty is accepted as fact by many of us. We are not taught to question this concept of beauty for much of our young lives. It is not inherently wrong to love beautiful and wonderful visuals, this very longing is what built the Taj Mahal, gave inspiration for the Mona Lisa, painted the Sistine Chapel. However, defining what beauty means for an entire continent is a limiting and dangerous concept.

We have idealized thinness in our country for the past 40 years. Our perception of the ideal body type has ebbed and flowed with the time period. In a country facing the worst obesity epidemic of all time, it is either ironic or very rational that we romanticize extreme thinness. To be thin in America is to have conquered the ultimate enemy—food. But when we demonize food, the very thing that keeps us alive and moving and glowing, we create problems that have and will kill people. Anorexia, bulimia and other similar disorders are on the rise in our country. We have fat-shamed to the point that even perfectly healthy people see themselves as undesirable in the light of day. The thing we don’t often talk about is that perfection can sometimes quite literally kill you. As children, we do not question if our bodies are perfect. We are running and jumping and swimming and pretending and playing and imagining. We are too busy, happy and full to question whether our thighs are too big. Eating disorders do not solely impact women, another stigma we must fight to overcome. But the number of women that suffer from eating disorders is disproportionate to that of men. The common denominator? Exposure to media and images that put this singular idea of beauty into our young and impressionable minds.

We harm women not only in the choice of the type of women that we choose to portray in media, but also the way that we portray women in media. Docile and dominated, women are used as props and objects to sell product. Submissive pose after submissive pose, ingrained into female and male minds alike.

We continue to wonder why sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic. We question why domestic violence occurs again and again. We are horrified when a husband violently murders his wife after a long pattern of abuse. We berate women for scandalous outfit choices. We let rapists walk free. We do nothing to change the laws that allow these occurrences to go unreported, unnoticed, unknown. And we continue to pose strong women in a position of vulnerability. We have made victimization beautiful. The romanticization of the thin, starving, sad model permeates modern fashion modeling. I am not trying to prove causation. But it is difficult to deny a level of correlation.

In advertisements, women’s body parts are used as props to sell. When we cut women into pieces on an ad spread, we segment women into parts rather than a whole. Bodies become decoration rather than human beings with souls and laughs and lives. These body parts become our defining characteristics. Not only does this lead men to believe that women are nothing but the sum of their parts but it also convinces women of this falsehood as well. Physicality becomes a measurement of our worth.

I’ve heard the counterarguments. The same sentiments that perpetrate any contradiction of feminist theory. “It happens to men too.” “We all are attracted to beauty, why is this bad?” “Just ignore it, it’s not a big deal.” But it is a big deal, a huge deal actually. When the narrative is switched, it is not the same. We notice it. We look at it and realize something looks wrong.

Why don’t we see that the other way around? It is undeniably different. Power plays a large role in the significance of perception. Women have been overpowered by men for centuries, physically and politically. This context gives momentum to the destructive manner in which women are portrayed. One is not independent of the other.

I argue that we cannot continue to blame the media for all of our societal problems. We cannot continue to point fingers and then plug our ears when responsibility must be taken. These are not “they” problems, they are “us” problems. Companies advertise to sell their products and increase their profit. They are not doing it out of malice or hatred. This is the nature of a capitalistic society. A private company’s objective is to make money, to sell goods. I think it is time we look ourselves in the mirror and ask why is this selling? Why is it so effective?

The media is us. We are society. We are choosing to consume these products, to buy these magazines, to believe the narrative that they are selling to us. It is a conscious decision and as conscious consumers we must protest, speak out, draw attention to redesigning the appeal. In a patriarchal society, this is not a simple demand. But I believe the tides are capable of changing, that the wind is blowing from a new direction. I choose to believe this because I have to believe this. Because it is too terrifying to think anything otherwise.

[photos property of Vogue]

 

 

 

 

Introvert is a Loud Word

Introvert is a Loud Word

Growing up, I was shy. Like hide-behind-my-dad’s-legs-everytime-a-human-looked-at-me-shy. But by middle school, this innate fear of people wore off, I came out of the shell and actually got moved to “Siberia” for talking too much in Spanish class in high school.

So yeah I like people, I like parties, I like socializing. But not all the time.

Introvert does not mean shy. Shyness is often outgrown, introvertism is a way of existing. Extraversion and introversion reference the way through which we re-energize, relax, rejuvenate. For many people this is done through hanging out with friends, dinner with family, drinks with co-workers, social activities. And as much as I love all those things, I will remain exhausted. I find energy through quiet and independent things such as reading, hiking, watching a movie, going to the grocery store alone, whatever, as does roughly 25% of the world population. These are times to be in my head, uninterrupted, resting. Introversion is “the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life”. Introverts do not need to “break out of their shell”. Introverts are not sad. Introversion does not need to be cured.

Like many things in the world, extraversion and introversion occur on a spectrum. Most of us fall somewhere towards the middle, slightly leaning one direction or another. A few fall directly in the middle, call ambiverts. But understanding and acknowledging how you draw energy is vital to living fully.

Much of our societal structure is not well designed for introverts, specifically college or most of our education system. College is a noisy, crazy, engaging fest of never ending stimulus, that I truly do love. However, we reward speaking often in class with participation points, speaking often in clubs with leadership positions, and speaking often on campus with the label of leader. We often treat extraversion and capability as synonyms. But by doing so we could miss out on a lot of incredible beings; Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Rosa Parks, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, JK Rowling, Hillary Clinton, Elon Musk, Barack Obama, and Frederic Chopin– all introverts, to name a few.

This is a call for educators and leaders to understand that vocality does not always positively correlate with intelligence. This is a call to listen to those with the good ideas. This is a call to lead, even if you do so with a whisper, if you’re the one with the good ideas. And don’t feel weird if you’re the only one not yelling.
Don’t just take my word for it, here’s people who know more:

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/251177

 

https://www.inc.com/john-rampton/23-amazingly-successful-introverts-throughout-history.html

 

Featured photo from the Women’s March 2017

That’s How It Is

That’s How It Is
(Photo by Maeve Scully Photography)


darkness plays on darkness

and we pretend we don’t hear

we don’t feel

we don’t know

and that’s how it is.


and the questions 

without question marks

where were you

why

what were you wearing

why

what were you thinking

why

why

why

they start and don’t stop 

and that’s how it is.



mothers’ daughters

who might one day

hold daughters 

and fear for their own different 

dark corners and fuzzy lights. 

and that’s how it is. 


and the act of walking 

home 

alone

in the dark

is a sentence

a line crossed

a fault

because you are a girl 

and he is a boy 

being a boy

and that’s how it is.


lips that drip poison

persuasion

pleading

and another set 

unable to form no

and that’s how it is.



our bodies are our own

until he gets drunk

then the lines are blurred

and smudged 

mascara 

flows

and that’s how it is. 


and I heard a girl

tell a girl 

to just not think about it

that it was okay

but it wasn’t 

and we knew it. 

and we dried her tears

with pieces of hope and 

easy words.

and that’s how it is.



we ignore

and pretend

it’s not real

it doesn’t happen here

it will never happen to me

until it is 

and it does

and it could

and that’s how it is. 



words are not

suggestions

pushes are not

green lights 

nothing is not

yes

do you hear me 

but that’s not how it is. 






O.A.

photo by: Maeve Scully

[pronouns are replaceable at your own discretion; 
this is from my personal perspective]

Red

Red

Blood spills red

from black or white

blood spills red

on pavement

littered with sharp shards of oppression,

broken glass and bottle caps

a child loses a father

a wife loses a husband

a mother loses a baby

9 months in the womb

24 years on the planet

cut short

cut short by a world

that sees red blood

on the pavement

in black and white.

-O.A.

http://www.joincampaignzero.org/action

http://www.ravishly.com/2015/04/10/what-you-can-do-right-now-about-police-brutality

I cannot pretend to know this struggle or to understand how this may feel. But I offer my sincere support and belief that we truly were all created equal. Condolences to the late officers’ families and to all effected by this spread of violence. Create space for peace.

“This is not just a black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about. All fair-minded people should be concerned.”

– President Obama

Not Like Other Girls

Not Like Other Girls

We’ve heard it all before. Whether it was from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in another John Green novel or from an anonymous Typical Girl Twitter account. We’ve also potentially been guilty of using this sentiment. A way out. An excuse. A validation. A plea. A retort. When, yes, when did it become so wrong to “be like other girls”?  An accusation thrown at half the population, a harsh, stringent sentence to the generalization of a crowd. Why has the simple act of existing as a gender pushed us against a wall and thrown us into a pigeonhole? When a female oh-so-non-chalantly echoes this “I’m not like OTHER girls” what does she really mean? Who are these other girls we’re so desperately fighting off?

When did the word girl become synonymous with catty, gossiping, high-maintenance, mean, crazy, etc. etc. etc.? All these stereotypes when we’ve proven again and again as a gender, as a group, as a complex pile of beings we are not so simply put. Because that’s not how humans work. We are not easily categorized. We are not a list of our likes, dislikes, hobbies, beliefs, habits, pastimes, favorites, in a mathematical equation all adding up to the answer to a question. We are not one dimension, not much in life is. We are complicated creatures, good, bad and ugly. We all exist as so. As human beings, sometimes we are often many of those bad things and sometimes we are worse.  Man, woman, other. Imperfect. And also everything. And we’re tired, exhausted, of fighting off the assumptions of our genders.

We can like sports or hate sports or have one-night stands or not have one-night stands or watch Star Wars or not watch Star Wars or wear makeup or not wear make up and live a lot.

This is not a political statement. This is not a defamation of a singular thought group. This is a truth I would want my future daughter to know. Please don’t be afraid to “be like other girls“. Don’t be afraid to not. There is no right answer and there is no one type. Don’t attempt to validate your choices to others. Don’t fight your teammates. This is not a competition, you can’t win like this. We can all be good. 

Rewrite the synonyms. Change the antonyms. Make sense of the words.

It’s okay to be “like other girls”. Ambitious. Excited. Confused. Powerful. Brave. Intelligent. Bold. Growing. Changing. Learning. Human.

Peaches

Peaches

One morning in early August I woke up and decided I was going to cut my hair off. So I did. 10 inches gone. I had been thinking about doing it for about 2 years but whenever I brought it up people would say “No! Keep it long!” “It won’t look as good short!” “I think you would look better with long hair.” And for 2 years I listened. A lot. To some people hair is just that: hair. It’s dead cells that grow out of your head and you cut/color/curl/ignore. But to others, our hair is our comfort zone, a security blanket, our safety. I had long hair for 18 years, so at that point it was like my arm or foot or something, it’d just always been there. But after 18 years I was sick of it. It was heavy and tangly and stringy and always, without fail, somehow in my way. My 19th year has been a big one, with a lot of change, a lot of learning and a lot of growing. I think I just outgrew my hair. But this is not about dead cells growing out of your head. It’s about knowing when to listen to the world, and when to stop. It’s about choosing what makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be big things. It can be small, seemingly insignificant choices like a hair cut or a hat choice or your favorite band. Every day we unwillingly make small choices for other people. Small sacrifices of who we are and what we want. We lose ourselves piece by piece when we change our outfits because of what our co-workers might say in the break room or quit playing the clarinet because goodness knows what our friends might think. People will always have their opinions to give, whether we ask for them or not. Whether we listen to those opinions is our own conscious decision. After I cut my hair, I got a lot of compliments (thank you by the way) and a few “Why the heck did you do that?”s. But at the end of the day I was happy. I am lighter and more myself than ever before. You can not possibly be everybody’s cup of tea. (hey Kacey Musgraves) “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” – Dita Von Teese. We can not please everyone. It’s exhausting, consuming and quite honestly impossible. This is an especially difficult pill to swallow when you’re in middle school or high school and being accepted seems like the most important thing in the entire universe. And even for some grown adults. As human beings we seek acceptance and love. But as human beings we need to step away from this constant endless chase. You are a very unique collection of your own individual experiences and thoughts. Just do what makes ya feel alive, I promise someone will love it. There is nothing more refreshing in this world than someone who is unapologetically themselves.

Ps. If you want to donate your hair but cannot donate to Locks of Love because it is dyed/processed consider donating to Children With Hair Loss. They accept any healthy hair that is at least 8 inches in a pony tail. I just mailed my hair in a regular envelope and somewhere in the world there’s a little girl or boy who needs it much more than I did. Just go to childrenwithhairloss.us!

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