Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"What Our Teenagers Are Seeing"

The New Agenda, presided over by the incomparable Amy Siskind, has just put out another video in their series of "Searching for Sexism." Now, personally, I don't think we have to look very far at all for signs of sexism in this culture. They are all around us, in our commercials, in our tv shows, in the news (e.g., constant sexist attacks on powerful women, not the media reporting sexism), in our schools, and in our families. In Episode Three, The New Agenda focuses on the role models (or lack thereof) our teenage girls are seeing, what they are experiencing in their dating relationships, and what they are doing to their bodies in an attempt to live up to an unachievable standard of "beauty." Please watch:

Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece about violence against women, particularly in terms of teenagers, "This One's For The Girls." The great country singer, Martina McBride, created "My Time To Shine," a project in conjunction with "Love Is Respect" for girls and women. McBride teamed with this organization in response to the rise of domestic violence in teenage relationships as one in three - 1 in 3 - girls suffers violence at the hands of their boyfriends. That is a harrowing, and unacceptable statistic. It is to that statistic, as well as to eating disorders, and the misogyny inherent in so much of our culture, that Amy Siskind and The New Agenda, created their video series.

And it is to the misogyny and sexism on display in our media that "Killing Us Softly," the groundbreaking documentary on the imagery of women in advertising. There is much you will recognize in this video. To see image after image after image of the way women, and girls, are depicted, is disturbing, to say the least:

How is it, that in the Twenty-first century, we still have these images of women, that our girls continue to embody these messages of having to be thin? How is it a third of our girls are in violent relationships?

Meanwhile, we have Egypt erupting in protests, demanding that they be out from under the thumb of their dictator, our ally, President Mubarak, claiming they want democracy. Yet, they also want Islam in their laws. No need to read between the lines there, that means they want Sharia Law in their political system. So, I guess it is only democracy for men they want, and women,, who enjoy a fair amount of freedom in Egypt, will lose what freedoms they have now. One can expect if the protesters get their way, violence against women will become law.

Speaking of Egypt, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, is calling for President Mubarak to step down, and allow Egypt to pursue democracy. I could not stop myself from yelling at him on the television. This senator comes from a state, and a party, that did more than its share in squelching not only democracy in 2008 by silencing a large number of its citizens in Florida by withholding their votes for Hillary Clinton, but also stood in the way of the people's choice for the Democratic presidential candidate by reducing the power of their votes until they manipulated who the candidate was going to be.

How dare Senator Nelson preach democracy to someone else when he, and his party, stood squarely in the way of democracy in his own STATE? "Hypocrite" does not even begin to describe it. His actions (or lack thereof) then kept the most qualified woman, and our best chance to elect a woman president, off the ballot. And his call for democracy in Egypt rings hollow coming from the representative of a state that did so much to squash the voices of its own people.

Yes, The New Agenda is right,"their eyes are watching," and what they, our girls, are seeing, is that they are less than their male counterparts in just about every way, shape, and form. They are seeing they are worth less, less important, less worthy of having a voice, a presence, a body that is healthy and whole. What they are seeing on tv, in magazines, in families, in schools, and in communities must change. And we must make that happen. For the girls. For us as a society.

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