Monday, November 26, 2012

Cinderella Ate My Daughter + MissRepresentation CONNECTIONS/REFLECTION

  I can't believe that it has taken me this long to write this blog because this article was one of my favorites, but I'm also glad that we watched MissRepresentation in the time since we read it because they have such similar messages. To me, MissRepresentation was like watching the long-term effects of growing up engrossed in princess culture, and unfortunately many parts seemed all too familiar. I like what she said in the beginning of the documentary about how her experiences are unique, but her struggle is far too common. I've felt this way a lot talking to other girls my age who have gone through similar experiences. It's incredibly depressing feeling like you have no control of what is going on in your life and feeling like you can't relate to people, but upon realizing you're not the only one and that people really want to help is where real healing can begin. :)
Valeria Lukyanova: The Human Barbie
     Some things in Cinderella Ate My Daughter that really stood out to me were the changes that barbie dolls, dora the explorer, and even the female muppets have had as the drive for perfection in young girls has grown immensely. Barbies are getting bigger boobs, smaller waistlines, and longer legs. An impossible look to achieve as a human, and as MissRepresentation showed, even Victoria's Secret models are photoshopped beyond human dimensions and perfections. However, I came across a picture of a model who actually strives to be "the human barbie," and she has come disgustingly close with the help of plastic surgery!
      Dora the Explorer used to be an adorable, adventurous girl who wore shorts, a t-shirt, sneakers, a watch, and carried a backpack with a map inside. She was short with a round face, no eyelashes, and a cute messy bob haircut. NOW, she is tall and skinny, lost the backpack somewhere along the way, grew long thick eyelashes, wears a pink dress, purple tights and flats, has sparkling eyes, long beautiful hair and a pearl bracelet. The creators say she is just "growing up", so is this what all girls are supposed to grow up to be? Even muppets characters have gone from being purple but"fat," to "cute" but orange, until now the latest muppet, Abby, is pink with purple hair, long eyelashes, fairy wings and a adorable slogan to match: "Thats SO magic!"
   When I even just think of the title Cinderella Ate My Daughter I immediately think of the kids I used to babysit. The youngest is 6 month old, "Baby Joey" and the two older girls, Samantha and Sophia are three and four. Their house is the perfect example of the pink and blue separation between girls and boys and the problems of growing up in princess culture. Joey's room is mostly blue with red trim and there are pictures of trains and planes and construction trucks on the walls, his teddy bear is a police man, and he has dinosaur sheets. The two girls rooms are almost identical, like someone vomited pink all over everything. They have dolls and ballerina teddy bears covering their beds, and pictures of ballet slippers, princesses, and their names, well... "Princess Sophia" and "Princess Samantha" in pink wooden letters hanging on their walls. They each also have custom made books where some mystical land of fairies is looking for a new queen and they name off characteristics that "their queen needs to have"; one trait for every letter of their first and last names. They also have books called Pinkalicious and Purplicious.. it doesn't take a wild imagination to figure out what those books teach!
     These kids have the biggest friggin' play room I've ever seen, bigger than my bedroom. The walls are covered in shelves, and the shelves are FULL of every toy you could possibly imagine. No word of a lie, the mother called me to come work for her one day, and the only thing she had me do for the first 4 hours I was there was take a tiny screw driver and put all new batteries in every single one of their toys; every toy that required batteries, that is. There are toys all over their whole house, and its very clear which ones are for the girls and which ones are for Joey. Joey's dad saw me letting him scribble in a Disney Princess coloring book, and without a word traded it for some coloring book "clearly" meant for a boy. I told a story in class one day about how the girls are being taught by their mother to hate poor people and fear that they'll be ugly. She tells them, "If you don't finish your oatmeal I'm going to have to give it to a poor person", and when they resist getting dressed in the morning she says, "I'm going to give your clothes away to a homeless person if you don't put them on!" She also tells that that they'll have ugly teeth and skin if they don't wash their faces and brush their teeth before bed every night, or that they'll have ugly hair for twirling it in their fingers. What we've learned in class about discourse and how careful word choice can completely change messages and meanings has made me think back to this. When I was a little girl and I didn't finish my dinner, in an attempt to get me to eat my parents might say, "Think of all the hungry people in the world that can't afford to buy food", even though it has the same intention from both parents to get their children to eat, saying "I'm going to have to give it to a poor person" has a much different connotation. I eventually told them I was too busy to babysit for them, but it was mostly because the girls treated me horribly, and I didn't really want any part in how their parents were raising them or their son. I guess I could have tried to be more helpful and encouraging for them, but they would seriously threaten to tell their mom I was a mean baby babysitter, and they'd threaten to lock me in closets when their mom wasn't home! I've never been so afraid of a 3 year old in my life. AHH!!


Event 1: URI Honors Colloquium on Women's Healthcare in RI

On Tuesday, November 12, I attended the URI Honors Colloquium for a presentation on women’s health care, unintended pregnancy, and the availability of contraceptives and sex education in Rhode Island, given by First Lady Stephanie Chafee. I was inclined to attend this event for our topic of feminism not only because she has she achieved a position of power from being the Co-Founder and President Emerita of the Rhode Island Free Clinic, being one of the first nurses in RI with a focus on HIV/AIDS patients, and being an advocate for health care among the less financially fortunate population in our state, she was going to talk about women’s health, which I found to be a big issue in the recent election and a very serious women’s social justice issue.
The woman that introduced her made some comment about how she was always disappointed that Stephanie Chafee didn’t graduate for nursing form URI. This bugged somewhat because I’m about to finish my prerequisites and start the nursing program at RIC this spring, and I don’t really understand how graduating with a nursing degree would be disappointing from any school! I got so distracted by that comment thought that I didn’t hear her explanation for why she was disappointed, so I guess I missed the point anyways.
First Lady Chafee started by saying that she was proud of herself for having her husband, Governor Lincoln Chafee, in the audience while she was giving a lecture, rather than the much more common and opposite situation. I thought that was awesome since what we’ve learned in class about patriarchy and the system of male power and privilege would very much go against the night’s circumstances. The lecture given by the First Lady was startling. The statistics that she gave about unintended and unintended teen pregnancies in RI were beyond what I had imagined. She first defined a key term that she used often that night, unintended pregnancy, as being a pregnancy that is either mistimed (where the woman did not want to get pregnant then, but would want to someday) or unwanted (where the woman did not ever plan to become pregnant in her lifetime). She said that while women in instances of mistimed pregnancies are more likely to be better mothers that are healthy and aware of the health of their child, that both mistimed and unwanted pregnancies are more likely to have problematic outcomes than a planned pregnancy, such as negative physical and mental effects on the child as well as premature births.
Here are some of the statistics the First Lady gave about unintended pregnancy in 2011 in Rhode Island:
  • ·      14% of middle school students had already had an intimate experience, and 70% of those had never had any HIV/AIDS education.
  • ·      10% of high school students were involved with more than 4 people
  • ·      20% of high school students were drinking or using illicit drugs the last time they had a sexual experience, and 8.2% of those were victims of domestic or sexual violence
  • ·      75% of RI women who became pregnant before they were 20 years old did not want to or plan to.
  • ·      Once a teen has had an unintended pregnancy they are much more likely to have another before they turn 20 years old.
    •       Most of those women are in low financial standing.
    •    Most of those women have adolescent mothers themselves.
  • ·      77.8% of all births in Providence are at-risk births (compared to 24% in Barrington)

She emphasized the importance of effective sex education in schools because it has been greatly shown that there is a direct inverse correlation between sex education and unintended pregnancy, meaning that the more educated a person is on sex and contraception, the less likely they are to have an unintended pregnancy, and vice verse. It has also been proven that there is a direct correlation between abstinence-only sex education programs and unintended pregnancy, proving them to be entirely ineffective. She said that to her, sexual education should be just as important in school as getting good grades and doing well on standardized tests, which I agree with wholeheartedly. High school pregnancy is the leading cause of dropping out of high school in Rhode Island, which leads me to feel that grade schools should focus more on sex education and providing contraception in schools because if their lack of sex education is effecting their ability to protect themselves, lead healthy lives and make informed decisions outside of school, then getting good grades is much more difficult, sometimes impossible.  The statistics Stephanie Chafee presented also show that in areas of Rhode Island where there is greater financial distress, the rate of unintended pregnancy is much higher, and because of this she feels that there needs to be free birth control in Rhode Island, especially in urban areas where they are at a disproportionate disadvantage.
            Most cases of unintended pregnancy are due to incorrect of inconsistent use of contraceptives, which only strengthens my opinion on sex education in schools. I also feel there should be greater access to a safe abortion when the woman feels it is necessary in a situation of both unintended pregnancy and a pregnancy that affects the woman’s chance of survival. Although I had come in to the lecture already agreeing with the idea that women should have the freedom to decide when they’re ready to have children, the First Lady’s presentation only solidified that point further.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Media and Ideology CONNECTIONS

     In David Croteau’s article, Media and Ideology, he explains that mass media ideologists are not focusing on very specific examples of the messages being taught to consumers, for example individual songs or movies, but the broad, underlying messages within all of them that are often very obvious, but sometimes more invisible and subliminal. “For ideological analysis, the key is the fit between the images and words in a specific media text and ways of thinking about, even defining, social and cultural issues.” This made me think of what Chris was talking about in class the other day about seeing advertisements and media messages not just for this face value, but seeing them as a text. I wasn’t in class the day you all actually discussed this, but what I understood about the funny examples Chris gave the day we talked about sex-positivity, was that even if an advertisement just seems stupid and actually makes you ask “what does that even have anything to do with the product being sold?” there is a hidden agenda in it that intentionally makes you think a certain way about the product, otherwise marketing companies would not use those ridiculous advertisements to promote themselves.

     One quote that struck me was about half way through page 160. “Instead of assessing the images and making some judgment about levels of realness, ideological analysis asks what these messages tell us about ourselves and our society.” This made me think of a documentary that I watched recently with my boyfriend who is taking a mass media class at URI. In the documentary, The Merchants of Cool by Douglas Rushkoff, marketers and market researchers are the merchants being referred to. They are the people who actually go out into society and search for supposedly “authentic” scenes and the people who take their scene to the extreme, known as “trend setters.” Once they find these social scenes and what makes them intriguing and “real” to those certain people, they go back to whatever companies they work for and create products and advertisements that specifically market to those groups. It works extremely well, that is until they have eventually overexploited it, changed it’s meaning, and what was once a “cool,” unique culture is now commonplace and ultimately “uncool.” So the people who were once the “trend setters” realize how overused their look now is, and are forced to again change or suffer from being uncool and unoriginal. This is why, according to the documentary, that youth culture is always changing; because any cultural characteristic that is "real" and unique will eventually be discovered by mass media and abused, driving the uncool-fearing culture in new direction. So after a while, the lines get blurred and the question the documentary poses is weather or not we, everyday citizens, influence the media, or if the media manipulates us. So, because any single illustration of what is cool in society can be used as an example of the influence mass media holds, the message that the sum of the illustrations tells about our society is much more profound and important. [I found the documentary really interesting, but also very unsettling, and I would encourage anyone to find it online and watch it!]

     Another piece of Croteau’s article reminded me of the movie we watched in class, “Tough Guise”. 
“ the Internet expands, politicians continue to condemn the availability of sexually explicit material online and argue that unregulated speech and imagery on the Internet pose a threat to children’s safety and well-being.
     This made me think of Jackson Katz’s explanation of sexualized violence. He said that in many violent movies, such as horror movies, the film makers are advertising to males by showing sexy scenes of women doing things like showering in a locker room together or having a sleepover in their underwear, and just as the peak of the scene is arousing the viewer, a murderer comes in a kills these women in terrible ways. As a woman, I always thought those kinds of scenes in movies were tacky and unrealistic, but I never considered how dangerous pairing the two images could be. I believe that Croteau is completely right, or I guess the politicians are right for condemning easily accessible sexually explicit material to our youth. The developing brains of children are effortlessly influenced by everything they see, and for children to be able to go on the internet and view pornography and movies that incorporate sexualized violence as often as they want and without any discretion, they can actually grow up coupling sex and violence as one, literally training their brains to almost irreversibly associate them together! It is no wonder to me why the rates of domestic abuse and cases of violent rape have been drastically increasing in recent years with those images being pushed on vulnerable minds of kids today.

Overall, the incredible power the media has on us is unsettling. Most of us don't even realize that we're being manipulated by it until we find ourselves consuming the products we were mocking advertisements of. Many more don't ever realize it at all. I'm not trying to tell anyone to stop consuming, but this article has made me more aware of how what we consume and support tells us about our society. Because the influence of the media is basically unavoidable, I find it incredibly important to at least dissect things being marketed to "us", figuring out what they are trying to make you think and feel in order to be more conscious of they ways the media influences the way we act in society.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

obama meme

Can't help but crack up to this! haha

Election Results

Glad to say that I voted for the first time on Tuesday! I had no idea what I was doing at first obviously but I made sure to watch the people before me to see what they did, and I was relieved to see that all you do is fill it out and put it in the scanner haha.. Unfortunately, I have the worst trait from my dad to be embarrassed to ask questions so I was glad I didn't have to! =] I voted against the casinos in Rhode Island and am honestly kinda bummed that one of them got passed. As a nursing student here at RIC I obviously voted yes on question 3 for new nursing buildings! I can't wait to see what they do with the money, and I'll be here for at least 3 more years so I feel that I'll actually be able to see a lot of the change.
When it got to be about 5pm my boyfriend, my parents and I all tuned into the election results. My parents were watching Fox news, which strangely enough I have been warming up to, as long as I watch the other channels too. People say that Fox News is so one sided, (which it is!) but every other channel is just as one sided - just for the other side. So if you choose to watch the news, I think its important to watch more than one channel, but mostly to read the news rather than watch it. Anyways, we watched the whole thing from beginning to end - when it was announced that Obama won. The people on Fox news were clearly a little agitated, and I actually found myself agreeing with them on many things. I support the LGBTQ rights movement, legalizing marijuana, and clearly women's rights, but I really don't trust Obama. I feel like he plays to ignorance, and has mainly made it "cool" to hate Romney and "cool" to vote for Obama. I talked to many people yesterday and it was a shame to hear how many people had no idea why they voted for Obama, and I also heard many people say that "Obamas got 'swag'" which was even more disappointing because that has absolutely nothingggg to do with politics and the issues that this country is seriously suffering from. I also heard alot of people saying that "they would move out of the country if Romney won" but had no idea why they hate him and why they love Obama. I think it is cool that gay marriage is legal in a few places now, and that women will have more rights and freedom to do what they want with their own health (if that is even the case), but I don't think its cool to vote just because the media more than anything else has influenced your subconscious.
Congratulations to everyone who is positively affected by the changes this election has brought! I honestly and truly am happy for you, along with all of my family members who are in similarly difficult situations! Now, lets PLEASE all work together and prevent our economy from totally going to shit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day!

Proud to have voted for the first time today.

Nala voted too!!