Monday, May 30, 2016

Beauty

I'm teaching a hybrid class this summer (part online, part butt in the seat), on Media & the Sexes.  We're looking at the influence of media on our lives.  All different forms of media - tv, videos, movies, books, comics, newspapers and news reports, print ads, magazines. 

My grading companion - singing wren.
Media - we're surrounded by it.  And, as my students are discovering, media rules their lives because often it rules their thoughts.  Especially when it comes to how they view their bodies, their beauty.

This iris = beauty.
Every semester, I ask my students to evaluate how much time they spend in a day thinking about their bodies.  Even it's a passing thought, tally up the time that takes.  And, evaluate whether what they think is positive or negative.  Overwhelmingly, students acknowledge that thoughts about their body are ever-present.  There is always an awareness of what others might think.  Or what they are thinking - how to make their body better, what they should do, what they shouldn't do.

This is true as much for males as females.  (Which wasn't the case until just a few years ago.)

Quan Yin - Goddess of compassion
Most of these thoughts can be traced back to the influence of the media.

Scary, when you consider that most media content is determined and/or influenced by a very small, very elite, very white, very rich, very hetero, very male group of large corporation owners.  

Not people I want influencing my life.  Or my students.

Yet, this morning as I got dressed to take my computer outside in the garden to grade and enjoy the glorious spring day, I thought, "Wait.  This shirt might be too ratty for the backyard.  What if someone sees me?"  I also wet down my curly bed-head.  Even though the likelihood of anyone seeing me is nil.  Maybe the neighbors, who should be used to my ratty tshirts by now (13 years!).

The media has all of us well trained.

Advice I give my students.
This week, my students and I are discussing binaries - either/or, white/black, male/female, positive/negative.  Gender & Women's Studies is interested in that space in-between, the multiple perspectives.  The acknowledgement that media might ask you to believe everything you think.  But, you can choose not to.  Or, to be selective.  Like the wren - VERY choosy about who she spends time with.  That iris?  Blooms when and where she wants.  (First bloom in 3 years!)  Quan Yin - sacrificed eternal bliss to care for her people, despite pressure to do otherwise.


Don't believe everything you think.


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