Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ending the Cycle of Obectification

To better understand the topic on which I am speaking, I recommend watching Misrepresentation on Netflix. It is a documentary that chronicles the objectification of women in the media. It does an excellent job of disillusioning the viewer from believing that the images of women in the media is simply the media corporation giving the people what they want. The very first quote of the film that is displayed across the screen is from Alice Walker.

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."

Many parents today seem to be of the belief that there is nothing they can do to keep certain images away from their children. They believe that at some point, the objectification of women is inevitable. Others seem to be oblivious to the reality of just how these images are making their way into their lives. Upon viewing the film, I was instantly proud of my parenting skills. I let my husband know right away, that we have done an effective job, albeit by accident, shielding our children from those negative images.

I can't remember the last time I watched a music video. I only know that for a fact, I have not seen one since I found out I was pregnant with my now eight year old. I remember thinking as a young, wild, college student, that music videos of all genres were dangerously close to porn. I remember feeling inadequate as a beautiful and intelligent young woman. I remember thinking that my roommates had degraded themselves on a Los Angeles club dance floor, and for what? They reminded me of a quote from the character Ronnie in the 1998 movie The Player's Club.

"Sometimes, they be making you work too hard for that lil' ten dollars. They be wanting you to do too much. 'C'mon, bend over, spread your legs, bankhead bounce for me.' What?? all that for $10??"

I made a conscious decision not to watch music videos or movies that objectified women. But I was not 100% successful. The things I did not remove from my life remained because I too was brainwashed into believing it was normal. Still, my eight year old son has never seen a music video. He has never seen his mother dressed inappropriately, the he has seen a few brief moments of affection that were not intended for his swift prying eyes. As a result, when we see a woman inappropriately dressed, he diverts his eyes. In his mind, she's naked. When a love scene comes on, he leaves the room. He has never been prompted to do so. Of all of my son's transgressions, cursing has never been one of them. A unique personality trait all his own. But the word "bitch" has never left his lips. Interestingly enough, my son knows the difference between nude art and nudity to sell ads.

A friend of mine was terminated from her job due to a black and white topless photo. The interesting thing about the photo, is that you can't tell the women are topless. They could have been wearing tube tops for all we know. This was immoral and grounds for termination. My son saw the same picture and said, "See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil." He then took note of the fact that it was on a page for full figured women. He had come to recognize this friend as the face online that seeks to have all women treated equally among themselves as well as among men.

I showed him an image of Kate Moss, black and white, nude. It was an ad for Obsession. He turned away. When questioned about his reaction, she answered, "She doesn't need to be naked to sell cologne. Why isn't there a man there? Cologne is for men anyway." I'll say it again, my son is eight.

My three year old daughter is another story. She too has never seen a music video, but her favorite Disney character, second to Eeyore is Tinkerbell. You remember Tinkerbell, mini-dress, servant to boys. In fact, all of her favorite Disney princesses are in movies where the main objective is to get a man. How could I have missed this? Perhaps it is because I was busy cheering for the evil queens whom I was convinced were bullied and misunderstood. I once told my daughter, "Maleficient isn't bad. She's fed up, fed up with being treated like a second class citizen." So maybe there is some hope that at least, my daughter won't think of the less pretty villains as villains at all.

To be clear, I am not a revolutionary. I am simply a mother who intends to ends the cycle of objectification in my family. Yes, I wear make-up and have competed in pageants. But I make it very clear, that I wear the make up as a form of self expression rather than a need. I competed in pageants as a way to prove to myself that I could be both beautiful and smart and be admired for both. I didn't have to choose to be one or the other. But I refuse to allow my son to believe that women exist purely for visual and sexual gratification. I want my son to choose a mate based on her intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being rather than how well she can twerk. I want my son to be able to guide his sister as they step off into the world together, without their parents. I want her to choose her mate based on the same merits upon which her brother chooses his mate. I want her to know that she is free to dress in anyway that makes her happy but to be aware of the message some attire sends when worn at inappropriate times.By emphasizing equality, I hope to empower both my son and my daughter.

Here are some small ways to begin to end the cycle of objectification of women in your family.

Block music videos on your cable or satellite system.
Change the radio station in the car when sexually suggestive songs come on.
Ask your teenagers what they want to have happen on their date.
     If they want to get to know the person, is his or her attire a distraction from what they are saying?
     If they want to be seen as more than an "easy lay" are they prepared to say "no" when his or her date makes a move?
Ask your teenager why he or she chose their date in the first place.
Go without make-up on weekends or at least once a week to show that it is not necessary to be considered beautiful.
Don't watch entertainment news programs or stations such as E!, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight etc. When Good Morning America or other news programs begin to report gossip, change the channel. Say out loud, "That's not news."
When a news anchor or weather person is inappropriately dressed, change the channel.
Keep your scrutiny of other women's make-up and clothing to yourself. If you're judging, they're judging.
Don't watch demeaning or demoralizing reality shows that thrive on "catfights" or objectify women. These would be shows like Scandal, Basketball Wives, Real Housewives, The Bachelor etc.

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