Sunday, 30 May 2010

Consuming media part 2

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hello everyone,

This post is a carry on from a post I made on this blog last year. In my journey, I have found that sustainability and living simply goes beyond our consumption and use of materials. I believe that consumption of media also needs to be done consciously and selectively. Media has such a huge influence in our lives that I think it needs to be part of the sustainability discussions.

Sometime ago, my daughter (then 5 years old), asked me if she was "hot". At the time, her question really surprised (and saddened) me. Apparently, a then six year old boy called my girl's other 5 year old friend "hot" at the playground. So she wanted to know if she was "hot" too.

We don't watch much commercial TV at home and I am always careful with the types of media we do consume. But at the time, I failed to realise that even if we did not come into direct contact with harmful advertising messages, we are still exposed to it through our contact with others, and through the billboards and ads in shopping centres and public areas. The language young children now use to describe themselves and each other can be highly sexualised.

At the moment, I truly believe that these children do not really understand what that word means. However, I'm concerned of the long term effects of introducing such concepts at such a young age. As their understanding grows, will it grow from that first perception that in order to be 'beautiful' that they would have to be 'hot'? Will they end up defining beauty in mostly sexual terms?

Last week, there has been some uproar in the US over 8 year old girls dressed and dancing provocatively as part of a dance competition. Here in Australia, my friends have told me of dance classes where it seems to be a requirement for girls as young as 6 years, to wear heavy make-up and sport fake tans.

Sometime ago, I watched an episode of "20 to 1". The theme was "Child Stars: Where are they now?". I couldn't help but notice how so many girls chose to take raunchy film roles or photos - essentially photos/roles that required them to take their clothes off - in order to show people that they've "grown up". Nikki Webster did it, Drew Barrymore did it, Britney Spears did it.... and the list goes on.

I find it incredibly sad that so many of these young women felt that in order to announce their transition into 'womanhood', they had to dress and act like tarts...

Is that what really defines a woman - that the day you leave your childhood behind is when you display yourself as nothing more than a sex object? It is depressing that people could demean childhood AND adulthood in this way.

I believe that one of the most important skills my children could develop are media and consumption literacy. I think its essential for their own sense of well being. But I have found it hard to find practical day to day tips and advice on how to go about doing this.

So here is what I do:
  • I have and will continue to ban most TV programs, certain toys and magazines at home.
  • I have and will continue to explain to my children why they are not allowed to watch those programs/have those toys/magazines whenever they ask.
  • I will continue to explore and deconstruct damaging messages *with* my kids. We do not live in a bubble and even with my precautions, my children are still being exposed to damaging messages. I want them to process those messages with my guidance.
I have to say, I *do* find it hard. Especially the third point. So many times the messages are complex, highly explicit but presented in such subtle ways. Trying to explain these messages in an age-appropriate way is difficult. So all I can do is keep trying and hope for the best.

I know this post has gone on for a bit, but before I sign off, I would like to share with you this slam poetry from Katie Makkai, called "Pretty". (Note that the "f word" is said once in this video). Please take the time to see this and to share:


Laura @ Getting There said...

I agree that this is a very difficult thing to deal with today. There is just SO many unhealthy influences and messages out there, that sometimes I feel quite overwhelmed when I think of how to protect my kids, especially my daughter, from them.

I am glad that we no longer have cable tv, because that makes it easier. I only allow the kids to watch DVDs or videos that I think are okay. Where is gets difficult, is when relatives give questionable books or movies to the kids--it happens fairly often.

Claudia said...

We don't watch TV either, not do we listen to commercial radio, though my daughters are grown and on their own.

We DO love music, and have found a wonderfully eclectic, on-line DJ who left the "corporate" music world where he was told what to play, so that he could choose his own music. His station is run out of his home in Paradise California helped by his wife and his dog, and you can stream it free. There are no commercials, hie is listener supported! And the music is amazing. He is a wizard of mixing, choosing music from all types and times, perhaps with the exception of Rap, which is okay by me.


Dea-chan said...

You should have told her that she was "pretty enough for all normal purposes"... that's my favorite line from Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

From having grown up through this charged atmosphere (I'm only 22), and dealing with all of that craziness, I can say that what kept me grounded was a large diet of books. Keep her reading, and it'll help to keep her sane and understanding. Have her read the standards for "what makes a girl/woman" such as L.M. Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, Charlotte Bronte, etc. etc. Even older cookbooks are fabulous for that -- they give such practical advice (in my Marion Harland Cookbook, there's a section called "A Word With 'Our Maid'" and how to appropriately work with women of different stations, and what behavior you can and should expect).

Good luck!

Ilene said...

Well said, and well done. How refreshing to find there are still sane people in this over-commercialized, over-sexualized world!

therese said...

wow, that video!

Anonymous said...


I so agree with your post! I am only 28, my parents brought me up mostly without plastic toys or candy.

I notice how children aged around 3 or so are already influenced by commercialism related to particular TV-shows. For example, I went to the supermarket with my neighbour and her two-year old, who wanted a particular type of chocolatespread to use on bread because it had a certain cartoon character on it. She also has shoes of another, trendy cartoon-character.

These kids are really sensitive to these things (and parents even more so), but how to deal with this? I don;t know what I will do when I have children, if I let them watch these programs and join in the craze, or otherwise "risk" that they will be unable to talk to classmates about the latest, thus more easily being left out or excluded from the group. I think the answer will lie in giving them other skills which are more worthwhile than these brand-items, communicative etc. We'll see how it goes!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


msbetterhomes said...

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, but I have to say I cringed when I read the line about 'acting like tarts'. I think that kind of language is used to shame so many young women, & police female behaviour in a really negative way. Adult sexuality might be inappropriate for children, but it isn't inherently dirty or shameful.