Yesterday I wrote about my depressing experience in a gym changing room where a little girl sucked in her tummy when she noticed me looking at (admiring) her.
Today, I’ve decided to suggest things we can collectively challenge in our society, things that hurt us and our children. I’m a big believer in taking action!
Here’s a little taster of where I’m going with this one:
HAVE you noticed how TV ads are more intense as the Summer approaches?
“Buy the right swimwear for your shape” yell the ads – “what is YOUR shape” they ask, while showing us a picture of a smiling teenager that has been unnecessarily photoshopped. Yesterday on the radio, I heard a woman ask for advice about what kind of swimwear she ‘should’ wear for her age and shape? If you expose yourself to TV3 and the like you’ll be bombarded by similar discussions. All designed to sell you something. All disguised as “help”.
Wear whatever you like I reckon.
The advice rolled in and various shops were recommended. And no doubt it was all well intentioned. Underneath that though was the unintentional message that you do need advice, your choices are limited and you do need to be careful about how you look, at your age / shape/ whatever.
We need to be aware of how we talk to eachother.
We women need to stop criticising other women. Women’s magazines are the most anti-women things on the planet. They actively encourage us to judge and demean each other, and set each other up as competitors rather than equals. We’ve all seen headlines like these” “FAIL! Check out what X is wearing at the mall!” ” Y has piled on the pounds since having her baby!” ” Cellulite on show at Marbella!” “X is too skinny now!” “What has she done to her HAIR?!?”
We need to be aware of what we say about eachother.
Our self esteem suffers when we read women’s magazines. They are full of mixed and damaging messages about body image, sexuality and relationships. The things they say about men can be appallingly sexist. They are teaching a divide between the sexes when really, we have everything but our genitals in common.
So why do we keep buying these magazines? Because we are being told that we need to read them and embrace their “wisdom”. It really is that simple. But are they helpful? In any way? Let’s challenge this (Ideally, let’s bin them..).
Of course there is also pornography, which is everywhere, and has become normalised. Our children are being sexualised. They are receiving dangerously faulty messages about what sex is, what it looks like, what happens, what is expected of you, especially girls. Here’s a good piece for parents on porn and teenagers.
For many teenagers, porn is their only sex-ed teacher.
Take a moment to think about that.
We need to be aware of what we read and what our children read and watch.
And as for the tabloids, winners of the objectification-and-criticism-of-women award:
You’re all familiar with this kind of… erm…”story”. On the right is the alternative headline to go with the same photograph. It’s a point well made. This is the website where I found this photograph, they have many similar examples illustrating the madness of it all.
We need to be aware of and challenge what we are told is news.
Actually, while I’m here, kudos to the No More Page Three campaign. Their tagline is “Boobs are not News”.
Indeed, they are not.
Let’s be conscious of how products are advertised and how women are used in them:
So….how is this photograph related to coffee??
We need to see how women are objectified in advertising and help our children to understand why that’s wrong.
And this brings me to what has become known as Rape Culture. It is such a real a dangerous thing that it is its own hashtag – look it up (trigger warning). Rape is not funny, we all know that right?
One of the things that is happening is that sexual assault has become so common-place that we joke about it. It has become normalised. I see women who feel bad about being assaulted because they have friend to whom “far worse” has happened. We joke about where not to go because the chances of being assaulted are higher there. When I was working as PR in nightclubs there was a club that we referred to as The Gropevine. I experienced sexual assault during those years regularly. But it didn’t occur to me that that’s what it was until relatively recently. This goes on all the time. Becaue we facilitate it. We teach boys that it’s not that serious and we teach girls to “tolerate” it (and to be careful not to ‘draw it on themselves’ of course…)
Teach your children about consent, don’t rely on their school to do it for you.
Here is a particularly good article that was posted just a few days ago in the Huffington Post on the subject. By a man. It’s worth a read, and it’s worth a discussion with your sons.
Lady Liberty, Everyday Sexism, The Good Men Project are some of the many projects run by men and women that challenge these everyday things. Things that you may not even notice anymore. Things that you think aren’t affecting how your children view themselves and others. The amount of followers that they have is extraordinary, because I am not the only one bothered by this. The advertising standards authority have a complaints form that you can fill in online if an advert of any kind makes you uncomfortable. They can only act if people complain.
Don’t squirm in silence and teach your children not to do so either. It will empower them.
If you are more conscious now than you were five minutes ago then great. If you’re uncomfortable even better – that’s an appropiate response. But let’s do something about it together rather than simply feel bad about it. That’s how things change.
I do believe that change is afoot, many men and women are working very hard to change things and I do believe it’s working, albeit slowly. It’s the good fight. And it’s tremendously exciting.
Yesterday I posted a list of ten rules that we are teaching children. If you challenge these rules often you will be doing yourself and your sons and daughters a great service.
So yes, we have an epidemic of self-loathing on our hands that we appear to have inherited. It’s our collective responsibity now to do something to change it. We need to start with a true acceptance and celebration of ourselves. We deserve that. Our children deserve to know that they are good enough, they needn’t change, they are already just lovely.
Have those conversations.
Little girls need to know they don’t have to suck in their tummies to deserve a smile from a stranger.
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