An Instance of Moral Neglect

An Instance of Moral Neglect

This is a man’s world. Everything we see on television is heavily influenced by the sexual desire and “God complexes” of men. Women are still treated like property, even though we have won equal rights, and are still discriminated against in the workplace. One reason why these archaic practices are still being observed is simply the negative way the media portrays women. The morally debased practice of  stereotyping, objectifying and vilifying women in the media needs to be abandoned if we ever plan on seeing true equality in this country.

Every day, Americans are exposed to all kinds of media. We read newspapers, magazines and other pop literature, pass billboards on the freeway, listen to the radio, and, worst of all, watch television. Many people do not realize that the super thin models we see in ads are often times not real at all. Many magazines will use Photoshop to combine elements of two or more women to create a “more perfect” woman and further modify her appearance. Olay has run several ads revealing this process over the past few years. All this is achieving is lowering the self-esteem of girls and young women. They spend their whole lives trying and dying to be super-model thin. The sad truth is that it is totally unrealistic. Less than 1% of women have a naturally super-thin body type, leaving the rest of us struggling with our weight. Many young women have fallen prey to destructive eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and overeating. Thousands of girls die every year from these eating disorders and many more from suicide related to issues with self-image. These deaths are a reaction to a failure to meet and exceed the stereotype put forth by the pop media.

One of the greatest advertising techniques is called merging, or objectifying. It began when ad designers started overlaying texture and photographs onto blank shapes of objects or mirrors. In the beginning, designers simply wrapped picnic scenes around Pepsi cans and merrily printed beaches onto sunscreen bottles, but it wasn’t enough. They have taken it a step further by using women’s bodies and body parts and making them into products. Perhaps one of the most famous is the woman whose lower half is a beer bottle. What is this teaching our children? They seem to be getting the message that women are worthless without men and that they can be used for anything.

In many popular writings such as magazines, newspapers and modern literature, women are written about rather disparagingly. The best stories are not about women who have never done anything wrong and live their lives morally; they are either feel-good stories about women who have made huge mistakes and needed a man to help them repair their lives or about party girls who live completely without morals. Neither of these scenarios creates good role models for girls, but rather encourages them to act out like celebrities and then seek help (from men) later on.

Citizens should be outraged. Advertisers should be ashamed. The damage we have done to ourselves and every generation since the “Roaring 20’s” is irreparable. What we can do is halt the casual sale of sex and idealism in the media. Why is it so hard to accept every human as just that-acceptable? We can not change human instinct or the laws of attraction, but we can certainly change the cultural variables that cause these stereotypes. Yes, this is a man’s world, but it would not be anything without women.

Tyranny

“What’s so bad about being caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals?” I asked sincerely.

My teacher, the all-knowing Mrs. Peck, replied, “You forgot the rest of that definition, Jenny. Quixotic most closely means ‘idealistic without regard to practicality’.” She smiled and continued to hand back papers. Suddenly, our principal, Mr. Lelle, threw open the classroom door and beckoned Mrs. Peck out of the room. “Stay seated class,” Mrs. Peck said with a worried face.

I see other teachers in the hallway through the little window in the door as I walk defiantly to the back of the room to sharpen my pencil. My classmates all looked around at each other and buzzed suspiciously as I returned to my seat. Gradually, we all returned to editing our fictional short stories.

Mrs. Peck returned to the room a few minutes later with Chauncey Schwendeman’s swanky parents in tow. They were both wearing very expensive watches and grim expressions. I figured someone had died. Sad, but not very interesting to a sixth grade outcast. Chauncey gathered up his things and left with his parents. Things settled down quickly and continued pretty normally. All of my teachers looked overly sad, and my classmates surmised that Chauncey’s grandfather had died. That would be a huge financial blow to the church and school. I continued to mind my own business, complete my busy work, and sneakily read my new novel when I thought my teachers weren’t looking. Parents came and picked up my classmates periodically throughout the day, and I remember wishing my parents were wealthy members of the church so I could go home and finish my book peacefully.

As the school day drew to a close and the dreaded gym class period was upon us, my classmates and I were shocked to find out that we were not going to change into our stinky gym uniforms and do jumping jacks and other menial fitness activities. Instead, the most evil Mrs. Drake wanted us to sit down in home room and write at least two pages about ourselves. She wanted us to put the date at the top in big, bold print and write about what happened that day. She wanted to know how we were feeling, what we were thinking and dreaming about, our hopes and aspirations, and what we were looking forward to. She told us to keep in mind that we do not live in a perfect world, and that sometimes change is a good thing.

I began writing furiously about anything and everything. I wrote that Mrs. Peck told me Utopia is bad just because it is unrealistic, that my sister and mom had cancer, and I that I only had 23 pages left in “The Secret of Dragonhome”. When the bell rang, the class sprang simultaneously to our feet and tried to turn in our papers. Mrs. Drake told us to give them to our parents, and we all shrugged and ran out to the parking lot.

I skipped to the bus alone after the classroom had cleared out. As I boarded the bus, I cheerily said hello to the driver and I plopped down in Seat #2 (Jenny Martin’s assigned seat).She glared at me and turned to look out the windshield. I shrugged and took out my book. I only had twenty pages left!

About 30 minutes later, my bus driver notified me that it was my stop. I grabbed my bag and hopped off the bus. The other two kids’ parents were at the bus stop waiting for them. I remember thinking what a weird day it was. I finished the last two pages of my book and bounded into my house to tell my mom all about it. To my surprise, she was standing in the doorway to the kitchen waiting for me. This was very strange indeed because she was working on a very big quilt and she should have been sewing.

She put her hand on my shoulder and led me to the living room. I sat down in daddy’s big leather TV chair as my mom turned the TV on. I remember seeing images of a plane crashing into a really tall building, bloody people crying, screaming and running away from smoke and fire. There was a lot of fire. I looked at my mom and she had a single tear running down her strong, stoic, Cherokee face. My dad walked in the room and took my hand.

A few moments later, my brother and sister burst into the house yelling a jumble of things concurrently and my father silenced them with his special this-is-serious look. They walked into the living room and we all stood together as a family viewing the carnage. It seemed like an eternity that we stood there in silence watching US Flight 93 crash into the World Trade Center over and over again. My dad finally turned to his three mismatched kids and looked us in the eyes one at a time. After another eternity, he opened his mouth and said softly but sternly, “This is the price of freedom.”