So let me wrap up some loose ends...
|the Disneyfication of an anti-Princess|
What was wrong with the original Merida? Why did she have to change to fit into the Disney brand? Upon further reflection, one student actually made the observation that Merida's entire character was changed by this makeover. What she looks like fundamentally changed who she is. I found this to be an interesting point to explore, particularly since Merida was changed into something her character in the movie actively did NOT want to be, which was a princess-y princess. This led to an interesting back and forth about our appearance and what it says about the kind of person we are. (Dress codes are another hot topic lately, but that's for another post) I pointed out that I changed my clothes and looks to come to school in the morning...I wouldn't show up for work straight out of bed still in my pajamas. Does that change who I am on the inside? No, they responded. So why or how is this different? The kids were quick to point out that this characterization of Merida was more than a simple change of clothing and the addition of makeup. The movie Merida hated that dress and getting all "done up" out of obligation to her familial and royal status. This dramatic change stripped that spunky, independent part of her character away and made her into the mold of a proper Disney princess.
Overall, I'd say the big reaction from the kids was disappointment and wonder at why it even happened in the first place. I'm impressed that they have begun to question motives. Though it felt strange to be discussing the digital alteration of a cartoon character, they could see clear parallels between this and the magazine covers of real people we had analyzed in the Picture Perfect lesson. Why does the media insist on presenting these "idealized" images of people? Will the money-making juggernaut that is the Disney Princess collection finally bend to the pressure of activists pushing for change? [To its credit (maybe) Disney has acknowledged the controversy, and a few changes have actually been made.] For an interesting take on the potential role of the Disney Corporation as leaders for change, read this post by the Girl's CEO Connection.
The Luxury of Ignorance
|Gary Howard with Benjie Howard and Maketa Wilborn|
- The Legacy of Privilege
- The Assumption of Rightness
- The Luxury of Ignorance
In the face of our past and present, many white Americans simply choose to remain unaware, a luxury uniquely available to members of any dominant group. (Howard, 2003)Though Mr. Howard's work is predominantly focused on race, the idea of the "dominant culture" certainly applies to everyday sexism. The luxury of ignorance concept has stayed with me in the months following our inservice day, and I keep coming back to it again and again. Those who don't experience sexism, or racism, or any -ism, have the luxury of not being acutely aware of the problem. They do not see it. This doesn't automatically make them bad people, but it means they cannot be fully aware and understanding of a challenge that they never experience. I'm grateful for the reminder of how ignorant I have been about many things. I absolutely have this luxury as a privileged white person. I also have this privilege as a woman in many regards. I certainly have the luxury of ignorance if we start talking about sexual violence and abuse. Having not experienced those things myself, I was ignorant to the need for a *TRIGGER WARNING label on certain stories, videos, or images in the media. I have seen more trigger warnings than I care to count lately. They are designed to let people know that sensitive or graphic content could trigger very deep and powerful feelings in them, particularly if they've been victims of assault or aggression. Though I am saddened that such a thing is necessary, I respect its power, and the bravery of people who continue to work toward justice for others despite what wounds they may carry.
|Humor or Hate Speech?|
I am happy to report that Facebook has finally acknowledged the problem in its standards and is revamping its policies on content filtering.
Soraya Chemaly, my new hero
If you follow this link to Women, Action, and the Media, you will see something amazing. Within a week, this campaign worked. Several companies (whose ads showed up on some of these horrendous pages unbeknownst to them) responded to the boycott and pulled their advertising to pressure Facebook into action. This is social activism at its finest, people! And social media, through a massive Twitter campaign as well as direct appeals to Facebook, made it possible. Technology can be used for good every bit as powerfully (and hopefully more so) than it can be used to spread hateful and shaming messages. The trolls don't win if we don't let them.
Bottom LineI have woken up. Though I have been aware of sexism, discrimination, sterotypes, gender roles, and media portrayals for a long time (and even experienced some shocking street harassment myself recently), I guess I've finally hit my tipping point and acknowledged my own ignorance. I'm more actively educating myself and sharing my thoughts with others. I'm not willing to sit silently any more, nor am I willing to fear being labeled a "crazy feminist." A more accurate term would be "humanist," but whatever. Bring it on. Feminism is not a bad word, and any label that suggests I care deeply about human rights is fine by me. I care about this, I can do something about it, and it is absolutely my responsibility to do so. This writing series began out of a reaction to things happening around me and my perceived need to address it for the sake of my children and my students navigating the difficult social landscape of the digital world. [In fact, it began with an article entitled, "To my male relatives on Facebook who 'like' sexism."] It became, however, an intensely personal journey of discovery that I am sure to be on for the rest of my life.
(By the way, I'm still keeping track of resources on the Gender/Social Health Pinterest board. Please send suggestions my way!)