Archive | October, 2012

A Really Scary Story

Remember this 90s classic by World Party?

Put the message in the box, Put the box into the car, Drive the car around the world, Until you get heard

I love that song. Whenever I hear it I want to sing the chorus loudly. And there is no better time than now, when the election is around the corner and there are many messages fighting to be heard – wrestling for our attention.

In the midst of election mania I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to see a screening of a documentary this week.

The film, Miss Representation, made by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, exposes how mainstream media offers young girls an extremely narrow, often over-sexualized view of who they ‘should’ be in the world. Jennifer believes this limited portrayal has contributed to the lack of women seeking positions of leadership and power, and sabotages the developing self-esteem of many young girls, bombarded constantly by a barrage of distorted images and messages.

I couldn’t agree more.

I felt extremely emotional watching the film, which is intelligently narrated and edited and includes fascinating interviews with women who have held influential positions, like Condoleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi, as well as teenagers on the frontline.

The film is relevant to me because I am raising a 12-year-old daughter who is lodged firmly in the demographic much of this advertising and programming is aimed at. But I am also raising a 14-year-old boy, who is vulnerable because his responses and ideas of women are potentially being shaped by this insidious onslaught.

Let’s face it – this film is relevant to everyone.

Magazines are plastered with pictures of young girls draped in women’s clothing, often sickly thin and posed provocatively. Girls and women are still frequently depicted in advertising, mainstream films, TV, and music videos as sexual objects whose primary purpose is to attract men. Overweight girls and women are continually mocked and reduced to caricatures.

Reality TV pits women against one another encouraging ‘cat fights’ and  ‘bitch bashing’. And entertainment shows and magazines exert excessive amounts of time and energy into picking apart celebrity’s bodies and fashion sense – including women in politics – the small minority of females who actually do hold leadership positions in government.

This documentary is a bright red flag. A piercing siren. A disturbing alarm. And one that should be heard by everyone. I commend Jennifer for challenging the system and asking us to pay attention. She really is putting the message in the box and driving the car around the world.

I am concerned that girls are being dislocated from their sexuality as an instinctual sense of self, and relocating their sexual identity solely in how they are perceived by men. This has massive consequences for both genders, and is being fuelled by many media avenues. The results are widespread and devastating contributing to bullying, depression, under achieving, eating disorders, addiction – the list goes on.

There are people responsible for making these decisions based on revenue rather than ethics. We do need to take a stand. This could be a boldly brazen soapbox – let’s step up – join forces – gather momentum!

Miss Representation has not had a cinematic release, but you can contact Jennifer and arrange for a screening. She also runs educational programs for middle and high schools. Recently she has spearheaded a campaign on Twitter #notbuyingit, targeting companies who are using sexualized images of women/girls to sell products. Spirit Halloween is one of the companies she outed for promoting seductive costumes for ‘tween’ girls, suggesting that wearing the tiny ensembles will make them more attractive to boys.

It’s human nature isn’t it?  When the time is right, boys and girls will get crushes on either gender. Trying to accelerate the process by dressing girls up as little seductresses is the scariest Halloween story yet.

Get involved: http://www.missrepresentation.org

 

Today I’m asking you to take a few minutes to visit the Miss Representation website, watch the trailer and notice how you feel.

Write down your response. Whether you are male or female, gay or straight, I want to hear how you are impacted by some of the issues raised in the film.

What’s your take? Were you affected by these issues growing up? How have times changed? Are you a parent watching your children affected now? Are you a teenager becoming aware of the impact?

Write about it. Crystalize your thoughts. Rant or reflect. Join me in this important dialogue…

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Body Talk

Balance.

It’s a word bandied around quite a bit these days.

“Find a balance.”  “Inner balance.”  “Strive for balance”.

Sometimes if a word is overused in our media driven culture, we become immune to it. The concept begins to bleed around the edges and the essence is diluted.

When this occurs, something extreme might have to happen to jog our memories. To remind us why certain words are worth valuing.

This week, I encountered that extreme reminder. I lost my balance. Literally and figuratively. I suffer from episodes of positional vertigo, which translated means: I get dizzy.

Not just regular dizzy, but room spinning, drunk lurching, stomach churning kind of dizzy. I lose my equilibrium. Truly. Balance becomes a distant memory. One moment I am leaning down to put Lilly’s water bowl on the floor. The next moment I am on the floor.

It’s not fun.

But I think it might be my body’s way of tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear, “Slow down”,  “Pay attention”, “Breathe”, “Do not take this all for granted”.

Our bodies talk to us in ways we don’t always realize, and sometimes we just need to pause and listen – even if that pause comes in between rushing to doctors on a mission to ‘fix’ it.

Like tuning into the sound waves behind the static, occasionally we need to be patient and wait for the message.

My message wasn’t a subtle one. I stayed in bed for a few hours. I drank water. I let my daughter drift essential oils under my nose while I lay back like a queen. And surprisingly, she actually enjoyed the role reversal. She was grateful for an opportunity to look after me for once.

I haven’t regained my inner ear balance entirely, but a different kind of balance has been restored. I’m not just giving out all the time.  I’m trying to notice ways this week in which I can receive as well. I’m more open to being nourished and appreciating that, rather than only nourishing others.

I’ve moved past the static, and the music is increasingly lucid and pleasingly clear.

What does your body need to tell you at the moment? Write from the POV of your body and see what she/he has to say. Keep your pen moving for ten minutes. Set a timer. Don’t edit as you write. Be open to receiving the message.

If you are feeling brave – share here. If you are subscribed via email – clink on the link to the website and scroll down to comment.

Thank you for joining me!

 

 

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Behind the Bully

I’ve been reading too many stories about bullying recently. Shocking tales of young people driven to distraction by relentless torment. Heart crushing accounts of teenagers posting videos on YouTube detailing their harassment and hours later taking their own lives.

It’s a sickening and tragic truth.

Bullying has now extended beyond the home and school day and found a toxic and fertile breeding ground on the Internet. This means that perpetrators have access to their victims 24/7 and victims can literally never catch their breath. The Internet, as we all know, is not a cozy corner. It’s a wide-open forum where abusers can roam freely, while those being abused can feel utterly exposed and unprotected.

This is not a new landscape, but it is one where new avenues appear daily. Adults provide the tools to build unpoliced neighbourhoods, and then we allow our children to access all areas. When disaster strikes, which it inevitably will, we hold up our hands and ask “How did that happen?”

This is how it happens.

We are not born bullies. I do believe that we are born with personalities, with predilections, with potential, but the path those elements take is shaped by our environment.

We learn behaviours as we grow.

As children we consciously and unconsciously model the adults who punctuate our days. If those adults move through the world expressing intolerance and distaste for difference, then why should we be expected to do otherwise? If those adults do not show us kindness, compassion, understanding and love, then how can we develop those qualities in ourselves?

Children who experience attacking parents and frequent battlegrounds in their formative years become adept at creating defense strategies.

They harden their tenderness.They mimic. They armour. They collect an arsenal of emotional artillery and choose to either withdraw and baton down the hatches, or fight back.

If they can’t fight back at home for fear of retaliation, they fight back out in the world. They fire rounds of harassment on someone’s Facebook page. They empower themselves by bullying others. They target weakness in their peers, which in reality is a reflection of the weakness they feel within.

The perpetrator more often than not has lived as a victim. And so the cycle continues….

Why has it become so difficult to break this cycle? Because the ‘bully’  has been internalized. It’s an effort to show genuine kindness and compassion to another human being if we can’t even show it to ourselves.

And in order to harbour self-compassion, we need to have been taught how to do so in our youth. We commonly learn ways to be ‘hard on ourselves’  but being ‘soft’ doesn’t garner equal attention.

Emotional Literacy should be a compulsory class in all National Curriculums, in all schools, and then maybe we can start raising a generation of children who will blossom into parents capable of making these vital connections… capable of breaking the cycle.

Sadly it’s evident  that society’s bullying mentality isn’t going away anytime soon, but if continued dialogue can save even one child or one teenager from the fate of becoming either the victim or the perpetrator – or both – then surely it’s worth persisting?

Write about bullying. What are your thoughts on this post? Were you bullied as a child or teenager? Do you have a story to tell? Are you a bully to yourself? Let’s open up the dialogue…

Share in the comments…

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A Wish for My Daughter

Photograph by Boudist

My daughter turned twelve this week. I remember twelve.  Something about twelve made me want to linger. Maybe it was because I knew it was my last year before lurching into teenagedom. Somehow at twelve stickers and stuffed animals still seemed acceptable, but at thirteen the pressure to try and grow up was on. And that was in the 1980’s, the decade of yuppies and excess hair and ridiculous shoulder pads and fluorescent fashion explosions.

Strange how compared to today, the 1980’s appear relatively innocent and naive… it’s as if our lives pre-Internet have become equivalent to the times of a horse drawn carriage. Quaint. Simple. Charming. In the 80’s I could impress friends when I travelled home to London over summers, bringing back with me a treasure trove of cassettes – UK bands that no one in LA had heard of yet. That was serious kudos.

Sadly kudos is harder to come by today. Everyone knows everything about everyone and everything. My children have been exposed to a barrage of images and information much sooner than I would have ever hoped for. So I resisted my 12 year old’s plea for her dad’s old iPhone, and for her 12th Birthday present I took her to see Florence and The Machine at The Hollywood Bowl instead.

And it was pure joy.

For those who know me and for those who have been reading this blog from the beginning, you will recall that I LOVE Florence Welch and her Machine. She is a truly exceptional role model for young girls and women. She’s gentle and fierce. Strong and vulnerable. Expressive and Free. Dramatic and real. She whirls across the stage like a magical nymph and has a voice like an angel. She weaves stories and tells truths through her lyrics. She asks the audience to move. She requested that all 18,000 of us jumped. And we did. I held tight to my twelve year old’s hand and we jumped as high as we could. And we sung. And we smiled. Florence gave us permission to play!

And I threw a wish into the stars. A wish for my daughter:

That she can hold onto twelve while it lasts.

That even though she is growing in an age that is so far from innocent, that somehow she will still seek out the mystical moments of delight that cannot be delivered via a screen.

That she will mature into a teenager and a woman who is not afraid to embrace the child she was once was. The child she is now.

That she will always feel free enough to jump with abandon.

Who knows what the future holds? She too may look back at twelve and reminisce about the clunky gadgets she used to long for.

“When I was your age we had an archaic gizmo called the iPhone. We all wanted one. Those were the days…”

What was your decade? Share a memory from when you were twelve. OR write for ten minutes using the word WISH as a springboard.

I hope to see you in the comments section! Thank you for joining me here at Write To Be You. I am tremendously grateful for your support and presence…

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“Who Still Serves Consomme?”

Last week I wrote about holding onto conflicted feelings and my best friend, Karen, shared this beautiful response:

I just spent two hours ripping through dusty boxes from a storage unit that we finally emptied after ignoring it for seven years. I came across some treasures. The kind you love, but you can also live without, and even totally forget ever existed. I found my children’s tiny hand prints dipped in paint and made to look like turkeys for thanksgiving day. I wanted to keep them and throw them out all at the same time. Same with my grandmother’s china. What will I ever do with eight gold plated consomme bowls and matching saucers? Who still serves consomme? I wanted to smash them to the ground at the same time I was holding them gently up to the light appreciating their delicate craftsmanship. If all this had burned in a fire I would have been better off. Now I’m having to decided where it all goes. Recycling, the shredder, the thrift store, my already full kitchen shelves? Or worse, back in the box to live in our basement.

My favorite line in her response was “Who still serves consomme?”

It struck me as so funny and so accurate. I have actually also been sifting through ‘old stuff’ recently in an attempt to liberate some space in my garage. I stumbled across a once precious journal, tied tightly with bright coloured ribbons – a silver unicorn dancing on the cover. The pages were heavy with heartache. The pain of trying to fit in. The blinding intensity of middle school and high school friendships. The longing for the life I felt I ‘should’ be living. Excruciating analysis both of myself and every person around me (perhaps a precursor to the psychotherapy route I would choose as an adult!)

Scattered amongst the words were concert ticket stubs and carefully transcribed lyrics.  From that tender age, I found empathy in music and I found release in writing. That hasn’t changed about me. But many other things have, and as I flicked through my journal, I understood on a deep level that it was time to let it go… or in Karen’s words, who still serves consomme?

Research has proven that writing down our emotions can be hugely cathartic. But the act alone can be enough. Revisiting those feelings repeatedly in the future or exposing those feelings unintentionally to people they might wound or confuse isn’t useful. 

My revelations were written for no one else to see. That journal was my private refuge, and leaving it lurking around in my garage for my children to discover one day felt like a betrayal to my middle school self. That book served a purpose at a certain time in my life, but that purpose has long since expired.

So I photographed a few key pages. I kissed the cover.  And I set that unicorn free!

The next morning I thought I might regret this brazen act of pack rat defiance.

But I didn’t.

I have been writing profusely since I could use a pen. I have written journals and letters and cards and fiction and poetry and short stories and articles and blogs and essays and a dissertation and a novel. I hope to write thousands of more words to come – but do I need to preserve every one of those words?

No.

Sometimes there can be tremendous value in the process taking precedent over the product.

If you want to explore the subject of ‘letting go’ further, please visit a fellow writer and blogger, Erin Kurup, at her site remadebyhand.com – she is an inspiring role model!

Are you a word hoarder?! If so, I am giving you permission to divest yourself of some of those words which might be weighing you down. I’m guessing this is a controversial topic! But why not give it a try? Create a ritual. Tear up an old journal, school essay or half baked short story. This non attachment will also help you tackle the editing process. OR try writing something now that you never want anyone to see, ever, and then delete it immediately or burn it. Notice how you feel…

Report back, and in the meantime – thoughts on this post? I’m curious to know where you stand?

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