Women, Beauty, and Repackaging

action My daughter saw a youtube offering that impacted her greatly and she wanted us to watch it with her. So her brother and I sat down to our hdml hookup and watched a video that went over a perennial interest I have: women and the cultural view of beauty, social impact of those views, and how our baseline moral view articulates those aspects of social identity. It was from a political and cultural perspective very different from mine ( the usual hostility to Christians that is ingrained in the liberal/Democratic views) but imparting some very real concerns and truth for all that.

The video was “Miss Representation”, and you can watch it below. It moves quickly with a barrage of thoughts and images. If you really want to think about what is being presented to you, you must stop it often to process what is being said and what it means. Otherwise, the impact is to rile your emotions without giving a real context to what you should do with these emotions.

Warning there are sexually explicit images – if you are offended with this, better to not watch. There are other presentations of many of these issues, you can find and view those. The conversation remains the same.

Truths I Would Not Argue With

  • Women are objectified and over-sexualized in our society
  • Cultural opinions do matter, and they can be changed –are changed deliberately
  • Those with selfish agendas are promoting false and quite damaging ideas and revisionist “facts”
  • There is still a gender bias that disparages women and puts them at a disadvantage
One interesting thing about this documentary is the way it presents and dismisses the role that movements like the “Moral Majority” or the “Christian Right” had on raising consciousness on some of the cultural degradation of women and the loss of concern over “public interest” as it is expressed in media. Especially in television and movies from established, big business Media.

Also it lacks the will or the depth to connect the dots between the paradoxical conflicts inherent in the old arguments on the side of “legalizing prostitution”, and the growing concern over “human trafficking”. Think about these “two?” issues. Aren’t we using mere euphemism when we want to address the enslavement of women and children in prostitution as a problem, and obscure problems that women face whenever prostitution becomes prevalent and accepted? Maybe you don’t make the connection between the way we think of and represent women and the issue of human trafficking, or how allowing prostitution to be recognized as a legal and viable occupation might be relevant. This probably deserves its own essay and evaluation.

Things I question and take issue with

  • Use of the word “Media”. There is a conflation of old media and the new social media. It is not all one “media”, but a tool that reflects the people making it. To use the word generally is evasion of responsibility, basically. Always an “other”, bad guy, instead of things we promote and allow as people, individuals and as a group.
  • This image emphasis and objectification is only a problem for women. It is increasingly a problem for young men in our society. There is a disengagement from worth being related to character.
  • Disconnect between the human drives and how marketing or media presentation takes those things and uses them. Lack of realization that culturally we have lost a huge body of history about relationship to the whole of human experience. In the entertainment culture, we are reduced to a few basic drives expressed in their lowest common denominator. Why we are doing that should be discussed in terms of where we are morally, not in how men in the media choose to display this.

Just a few thoughts on religion

If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary.
~Margaret Atwood

Before you view the documentary to see what you think of it and the issues it raises, what about a couple thoughts on some of the bias and dismissive perspectives I noticed?

(1) American women have the most freedom of any women in the world. Yes, on the whole, if we look at the opportunity and the freedom to live as we choose (lifestyle, education, economic). No it isn’t paradise, but nothing on earth approaches that idea of paradise. We do and should keep striving for better conditions, preservation of our freedom, access to opportunity, but we also should not forget or diminish what we have.

(2) Christianity is a powerful voice for the oppressed and dispossessed. Historically, it has one of the best records of any force for the empowerment of women. Ask yourself – in what place and in what age did the rise of women’s rights gain the most momentum? And it wasn’t the 1960’s. That may have been when you heard the loudest shouts, but not when you saw the greatest momentum.

Whatever your opinion of the Christian religion, it ought to be recognized for the beneficial influence on ideals of freedoms and rights. If you are willing to deny that, then I would question your ability to correct any of the injustices discussed in the film “Miss Representation” with real fundamental change. My guess is that the best you would be able to come up with is some reactionary and temporary “re-balancing”, which is only injustice inverted, not averted.

Zombie Apocalypse Housewives

We were watching the series of the zombie show, “Walking Dead” recently, and in one of the episodes the ideal woman character is having a confrontation with the feminist warrior woman about the importance of each other’s tasks.

Our family watched the previous seasons on Netflix, and this scene occurs in season 2

Which matter most, the household tasks and the making of a home, or the buttressing of the militant actions that patrol and protect the group? Making tea and cakes or guarding the perimeters and shooting things?

The Walking Dead “18 Miles Out” Andrea confronts Lori from Days Gone By on Vimeo.

The whole show (at least in the second season) is obsessed with whether a life that is reduced to animal survival and the lowest forms of brute morality is even worth living.

Hmmmm, tea and cakes and cleaning bathrooms suddenly seems to gain a notch or two in prestige and honor.

It turns out that just about everything we do involves cleaning the bathrooms. Creating an environment where care and trust are expressed. -Seth Godin in “Clean Bathrooms

It was never about either or, but about understanding that people need to give due respect to each others roles and vocations, to have the freedom to grow as a society and support one another by occasionally giving precedence and hands on help to something other than our own little tribal preferences.

Your Beliefs Make and Break You

It is surprising how certain core matters pop up in the most unexpected places. I was reading a marketing article, because I am sales challenged to a certain degree. Like what is probably true for the vast majority of people in my culture, I don’t like to sell. I feel forced to learn how, especially now that I am trying out different business avenues online (Zazzle, for instance). Plus I like reading marketing and social media articles. Throw in some pop psychology and you’ve got my attention.

This thought grabbed my eye:

Beliefs form a fundamental part of our psychological make up and are the building blocks of our personality. Our beliefs dictate how we see the world and therefore, every single decision we make while interacting with our world.

Beliefs start and end wars. Beliefs make and break relationships.

Sales Psychology

This has been my conviction for years, although I phrased it in a slightly different manner.

This is why I think ideology is so important. Francis Schaeffer articulated a lot of this for me when he explained that one of the reasons it matters to understand the art and innovative thinkers of your generation is because it is the seedbed of what your culture will reflect in the next generation (that is to say, ‘what they will believe”). With enough push in thought forming mediums, a culture will change… even in what once seemed to be an “unthinkable” way.

It explains to me why visionaries are so important, whether they are initially accepted or not.

We might be seeing this more clearly than ever when the accelerant of the internet made consensus change work in ways that are now described as “viral”.

What we believe not only influences everything around us, it creates a future.

I’m just going to let this sink in without further comment, until this very broad idea finds the specific application I want to think about. It applies on so many levels… like what we think of ourselves, what we choose for our families, how politically manipulated we become, all sorts of thing from business to what we think of our future.

Related to this is whether we believe something reality based, or we believe a lie… about any and all of these things, because not all beliefs are equal- or morally neutral!

Seven Mountains

The church I attend has started interest groups that serve to connect people who are called to, or now involved within one of the “seven mountains of influence”. This idea is based from a teaching that seems to have originated in 1975, from Campus Crusade and Youth With A Mission leaders. I was not very informed about it until recently (and still not well versed), but it is an interesting way to communicate a concept that has a parallel to similar ideas that have been around much longer.
In more negative terms is the idea of “the fifth colun” or in closer terms could be the ideas of “The Third Culture“, although not really like either of those, the seven mountains holds one similar line of thought: changing the status quo through those of a different worldview.

As the “Reclaiming the 7 Mountains” website says it:
“These seven mountains are business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.”

I think our church has a little different take than the original, but takes the same view of the categories. Anyway, I went to the first meeting centered around the “Media” mountain.

There is a great deal of emphasis on using your gifts to a full potential; and that would be all your gifts, both natural and spiritual. It is something I am very interested in right now, and might mean that this blog will change and get more attention from me (writing, posts, stuff!)

I want to share my faith here, and explore thoughts and opinions as I did in the past, but not in the same way that I had. So much of social media has replaced the functions of the old style blogs. We’ll see if there are new avenues for this blog to follow.

In the meantime, think about reading more about the “Seven Mountains” and where you fit. We all want to develop our gifts, I think, but sometimes we get confused along the way (I know that has often happened in my life), but perhaps a fresh way of looking at vision and our life map could not just invigorate our projects, but give better focus to our energies and time.

Watching Lately: The Beatles

I grew up with the Beatles, their music and their impact on the culture. In fact, I owned all their records at one time in my life. So, when my husband got “The Beatles Anthology” five discs worth of video out to watch… I didn’t think I would find much unfamiliar information. I was wrong.

It is a set really worth watching and I am enjoying the many interviews that give an entirely different point of view of the times and the phenomenon. Seeing “Beatlemania” through the eyes of the Beatles is quite a new perspective. Strangely enough, I like the stories and interviews more than hearing all the music, which is what I most enjoy about most such documentary films.

Well worth the time even though the length and depth of it might bog down for some. I try to find the amazon link if I can, later.

Andrew Wyeth and Wintery Thoughts

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape . . .Andrew Wyeth (1917- 2009) quoted by Richard Meryman in ‘The Art of Andrew Wyeth’, 1973
Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life

Editing a winter navigation page in my garden website which contained that quotation, I looked up “Andrew Wyeth” to find his date of death. That search led to his obituary in the New York Times: he died around this time of year, January 16th, in 2009. A bit coincidentally odd to be this time of year, but it was the discussion of his art and the illustration of the painting that became the icon of an Icon,”One picture encapsulated his fame. “Christina’s World” …” that drew me along this winter path of thoughts.

Continue reading Andrew Wyeth and Wintery Thoughts

What Are Your Odds For Happiness?

‘TED’ produces many talks that provide some productive thinking.

In this video lecture about estimating value and how to do the right thing for the best outcome[it is approximately 34 minutes long]. Expecting value seems to be the odds of a gain by the value of that gain.

For all its emphasis on using rational thought, it kept underscoring the human error factor and how powerful a force that is in people’s thinking.

If we keep making mistakes in how we estimate value and outcome, why do we keep placing so much of our confidence in it? I’m not talking about critical thinking, which helps to circumvent the fringes of our foibles in understanding what is valuable in terms of human happiness and what is a scam.

The time factor, the way humans invariably prefer something now over something far in the future, certainly infuses our thinking when considering an eternal existence. Compound this with the resistance in our present culture to visualize the future in terms of anything except what we can see and handle.

Are you ready to toss away a relationship with God, like a lost ticket, because you are encountering disappointment and frustrated hopes along the way to the heavenly residence in His presence without all these present sorrows?

Or is that relationship as valuable as your most highly desired attainment and relationship? Or like Jesus portrayed it, that pearl of great price in the quest of a merchant seeking beautiful pearls.

What does this have to do with your odds of happiness? How do you measure the choices you make in terms of what gives happiness in life? Is it a side by side comparison with other peoples lives or choices? Is it in line with some measure like the “American Dream” or that of some other culture? Maybe you don’t take time to study what the Bible says about happiness, or making right decisions [a vital area of happy outcomes]. Perhaps you bought the idea that the Bible has nothing useful to say, and that you are better off not investigating the answers there because you have drawn negative conclusions about Christians and Christianity.

But are we overestimating the odds of pains and failures of Bible advice? Are we underestimating the pleasures and good that comes by sincere application of it? To borrow some of the Dan Gilbert’s TED talk conclusion.

Some of this line of thinking started percolating from viewing the movie trailer for “Happiness Is”. I haven’t seen the movie, but was stunned by how much of the observations given, which we almost presumptively accept, are things found in the Bible precepts; yet we reject many rules of conduct alongside those same precepts. An example being Willy Nelson’s idea that we get more from giving than from receiving. That is classic Bible teaching right there, as was Mellencamp’s comments.

So what are the odds of happiness for you? are you looking in the right place? are you using reliable measurements to gauge that?

Use Twitter Well

I’ve been using twitter for awhile (2060 tweets), and have found myself less enthralled with it, but still interested and hoping to craft my use of it. Maybe you are,too or maybe you are just looking into it. One of the blogs that have expertise is Twitip. Today there was a post on Follow Friday… that hashtag meme where you take time on Friday to recommend people to follow.

In a post about the #followfriday practice some great guidelines that I like were put forth:

Clearly, FollowFriday remains a popular phenomenon and while I have noticed some improvements in how some people make their recommendations, there are still far too many who simply don’t exercise good FollowFriday etiquette. Proper etiquette could include (but is certainly not limited to) the following:

* Limit your recommendations to only the absolute best people.
* Explain why you recommend someone.
* Spread your tweets throughout the day via scheduling services like Tweetlater (currently rebranding themselves as SocialOomph, Futuretweet or Hootsuite.
* If making multiple recommendations, send them in small, logically organized groups.

I especially like including the second recommendation- it gives context and personal meaning to the whole reason to follow someone.

Sarah Palin Shows the Hiccups in Social Media

When blogging came into its own, I found it quite exciting to have a platform to share conversations on religion and politics with the world. In my real world life I found too few interested or comfortable with that sort of conversation, the topics being either too controversial or wrangling for most peoples taste. (At least among those here in a Midwestern, and certainly Church circles). Social media developed a place where those who liked to talk and debate for sake of thinking things out were welcomed,… and yet, as the saying goes, “Something’s rotten in Denmark”.

As Twitter came along, I adopted that, as well. The internet has become an intellectual stew for creating new recipes of thinking, and connections across the world have become congealed. News flies fast, and rumors with their lightweight coverings, faster. It changes how politics on the grand stage is done, now, too.

But here is where the hiccups show up in the way the system of communication is utilized; and I think it is because in politics the personal mores have most easily broken down. The goal is everything, the means nothing in that world, for many.

The latest manifestation of this, and what inspired this little diatribe is the rumor of a Palin divorce which spread through Twitter finding source in an obscure Alaskan bloggers pen. This, according to Mashable. Which also, by the way, shows the clumsy way that social media is used to create and diffuse rumors and news. I suppose the idea is to fight fire with fire, but it also exposes how the manner of democratizing the ability to publicize also has degenerated its accountability to a moral standard of delivering things with truthfulness and responsibility to facts. I never thought I’d say that. Perhaps it is the lightning quick run of Twitter which has broken through the accountability barriers of blogging.

I think we are going to have to reassess some of our views of how social media is used and what it is good for, because right now the rot is threatening to undermine what has been a grand experiment in expanding our freedom of expression.

Another lesson in contrasting true freedom with license, and how human nature will revisit these definitions time and time again.

Does New Media Make Us As Powerful As We Think It Does?

I followed a twitter link to Unveiling the New Influencers from the PR2.0 blog. It was the usual (well, better than usual) ‘social media’ empowers us post. But the caveat offered in the comments highly interested me (quoted in entirety below).

I think that new social media does empower many of us in ways that were not imagined previous to the explosion of blogs, and twitter, etc. Yet, I also agree that once the main power brokers negotiated the ways to manipulate these forms of communication, things have not changed so much as they appear.

That is not a complaint, by the way. Not complaining because more empowerment of individuals and freedom to speak is always a benefit, and not to be scoffed at (not that I think anyone is doing that, just saying). Blogging has changed, as one person observes,”do you spend an hour reading an in-depth piece on the Net? Not a chance, this kind of type and display is really hard to read (which is why Net articles are now really, really short).” We are no longer looking so much for information with which to do critical thinking as short bytes of commentary on what the guys at, say, NYT present to us. Two steps forward and one step back, you might call that.

Read Lelia Thomas’ comment and tell me what you think.

Lelia Thomas:

As much as I agree with the ideals of posts like these, I think one is choosing to be ignorant if he or she actually believes consumers have changed the world through social media, or that communication is really as open as this post suggests. We have certainly altered the world. There is no question of that. That is how a free market economy works (and most of us in OECD nations have at least some small form of that, though we all have a fair bit of Keynesian economics at work, too).

What we experience today is most certainly more democratized, personalized and customized; however, the most-visited news sites on the web, at least in English-speaking OECD nations, are owned by the same companies that have existed for decades, some even before the foundations of the Internet were laid in the 60s. If our information economy was truly democratized, I could mention citizen journalists and citizen journalist websites, indie musicans and artists, and people would know what or who I’m talking about. However, at age 22, most of the people even in my demographic are largely unaware of what exists outside of the main players and their products (for news or otherwise). This is clearly evident, as well, when one looks at the top-followed users on sites like Twitter.

The conversations we have on the web largely influence us and our feelings about each other, but the influence we have on powerful conglomerates, which undeniably and unfortunately dictate much of what even becomes law, is negligible. If it weren’t, we would not have groups like the RIAA suing the pants off of people at the tune of $80,000 to $150,000 per illegally downloaded song, flying in the face of all just processes. No matter one’s opinion about filesharing, most would agree that the results of these trials are not fair, and most have been vocal about that…and yet the law stays the same, because our voices, online, off, etc. are not as powerful as the lobbying men and women in Washington.

My point is that a lot of these services are indeed great, but I sometimes wonder how much they just placate us, leading many to believe that we have a lot more control than we really do. I would definitely say that of all the services that have come out to date, Twitter comes the closest to decentralizing and liberating everything. I love that. We have a long way to go, though. Companies may be listening, but most often it’s only halfheartedly. Surely most of us, as consumers, are aware of this.

One way, that homeschoolers and then later the political campaign machine of President Obama, people have utilized the power of these new media forms is in what I heard called “the lightning fast” alert and delivery system of massing opinion quickly to put pressure on a political concern. That is still one application of these means to increase individual power and say. But just as marketers have quickly caught on and spread their message virally, so too, the political institution will be as savvy at mimicking the independent voice of the common man. And it will be “the Man” again. Until then, blog on… and twitter freely.