Sunday, June 05, 2005

Yep, it matters. 

The kittenish pose of Mary Anne and Ginger right after (or before) a pie fight, in an ad on Dailykos running right now, matters. If Markos wants to buy into packages with Time Warner, that's his business. However, be aware of the consequences: ads appearing of which you won't know the content ahead of time.

It touched off a firestorm on Dailykos yesterday, and resulted in a lot of bruised feelings, on both sides of the gender gap. Ouch. Take off the gloves guys and gals, and let's discuss this, if possible.

I can tell you that since the feminist movement of the 60's and 70's, the issues concerning women have been marginalized and trivialized, and largely dropped from the national radar, with the exception of abortion, and thanks to Planned Parenthood, contraception.

Gone are the days when women held workshops and teach-ins, apart from men, to school themselves in self-empowerment and reclaiming their lives. Women today take it for granted the hard won gains of the feminist era, including the right to a legal abortion, and equality in the workplace. Some of these hard won gains are now threatened, not only by republican policies, but also by sheer neglect from liberals from right, center and left of center. Some of the gains were never fully actualized.

In issues of divorce, men flaunt their cultural power by threatening to cut off support from their ex and children. There was a local, high profile case that made the newspapers here, that included sex, lies and audiotapes, and the ex-husband is heard to say on one tape, "I'll cut off your support, if you don't...", you get the picture. I saw this in my sister's divorce, and he got away with it a good part of the time. There aren't many options. Throw the bum in jail, and there is no chance of earning money to help support the children.

Now, regarding that ad. The obvious positioning of the women in relation to each other, the way they were dressed, and the purpose of the ad which was obviously to titillate (and what kind of IQ would be titillated?), to get you to watch that ridiculus show, the ad was, in my view, demeaning and exploitive. It reinforces the still stuttering stereotype that women are here to please men, and that is their purpose. They are not the complex, feeling human beings that you men are.

One need look no further than the teenage pregnancy rate in this country, along with the incidence of venereal diseases in young people, to look at the negative consequences of that kind of stereotype. There is also a connection, I believe, to spousal abuse and rape and the incidence of rape in our culture. The devaluing of women, and their exploitation, takes place on many levels.

Now I can tell you that our culture devalues and exploits men and children as well, and when we engage in that kind of behavior with each other, we expose ourselves to the same, or, it is already occuring. War is an exploitation and a devaluing of men and women, despite all the speeches proclaiming the "honor" of the sacrifice of life and limb. There is no honor to this, but there is the sacrifice of a peaceful future for our children and grandchildren.

Children are constantly exploited in the ad industry, pressured to pressure their parents to purchase the latest craze, doll, toy gun, certain clothes or shoes. Children are nothing more than consumers, to the ad industry. Devalued and dehumanized.

On Dailykos, I was surprised to hear several women declare they felt nothing in regards to the ad and were actually annoyed with us gals who stated our objections to it running. Some of the men were downright hostile. These are liberal men and women, with whom I have fought alongside, since joining this forum 6 months ago. It was an awakening.

If issues must always demonize the right, then we lose the opportunity to see the seeds of those issues in our own backyards. That ad, that ridiculus ad, is just one of those seeds. It isn't the entire problem, but it is one aspect of the problem, the problem being, that women have yet to take charge of the identity of woman in our culture, and I can tell you, our culture is suffering for it.

There's the issue of anorexia and bulimia.

Now I'm not exacting that the ad industry has created the body imaging problems of young women, but I am putting forth that it reinforces it. The question is, how do these values arise? I can tell you how it gets started, this body image "problem": it is circular, you see.

The ad industry reflects the values of those it represents, and it represents all of us, in some degree or fashion. How many times have I heard well meaning, and not so well meaning family members commenting on the weight gains of young, adolescent girls. I'm no expert on this, but as a woman, and most women do, have a feel for the kinds of pressures women are subjected to in terms of their body images. One must educate and illuminate oneself to be totally free of its tentacles.

I have two nieces, one eight years old, and one just entering her teenage years. The eight year old, as slim as a toothpick as she is active and athletic, is already worried about gaining weight. This is devastating to me, and I can tell you it originates in a culture caught up in worshipping thin women. It's no accident that many women in the fashion industry retain that adolescent look, though they are 20 something in age. There is a conscious and unconscious attempt to control women by encouraging them to keep excessively youthful, even childlike, dependent on men, or that is the fantasy, and easily controlled. This results in excessive control on the woman's part of her appetite, to the point of starvation, or, through forced vomiting.

There are no easy answers, but I can tell you that we need an aggressive push from women to begin to create and reclaim the identity of woman. When we let men do it for us, we become men in drag, fighting wars, starving the poor for corporate greed, and starving ourselves.