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: