Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Mixed Messages and Our Media" or "Check Yourself Before Pointing Fingers"

***This is a sort of 'tough love' post. I also brush on some experiences from my own past that may cause distress for some. Just a warning.***

As I said in a post the other day, I'm moving my originally scheduled blogpost to next week, because there is something I do feel needs addressed.
I my last blogpost that covered Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, I addressed the issue of Ageism, which is something that people of all age groups experience in one form or another.
Shortly after I made the post, I got to thinking about it in a little more depth, especially with the incident concerning Elliot Rodgers. Now, before I go into this, I will begin with saying that yes, I know what it's like to be attacked, threatened, and chased. I know what it's like to experience things like emotional abuse in a relationship, AND I know what it's like to drive around all night because I'm afraid to return to my apartment. I know because I experienced it. Ideally, I should be jumping on the YesAllWomen hashtag (at least according to some, I'm sure), but I believe the issue goes much deeper than what the media scratches on. And they do only scratch on the surface while withholding alot from us.

Let's take a look at how the media operates, shall we? I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to see that it is fueled by sensationalism, polarizing, and preying on emotions. Always has been. Now, I am not denouncing things like the YesAllWomen hashtag; I feel that if this gives some people who may not have had the courage to speak out before the ability to do so and create a sense of community among those individuals, then that is a great thing and should be praised as such. But as I said, I feel that we are only scratching at the surface instead of really getting down to the root of the problem.

As I covered in my blogpost on Ageism, we are given mixed messages every single day by our media. One minute, we are being told to embrace ourselves at any age, 40 is the new 20, etc. and so on. The next, it is age insults and a heavy praise for anyone under 30, or even 25 in some cases. Instead of embracing each passing year as another year of newly retained wisdom, lessons, experiences (both good and bad), and attained goals, we lament over how were "another year older." Instead of looking toward the next year and making it count even more, we anticipate it with dread. These are things we are taught by our media culture, and many fall for it.
In my post on Ageism, I used Madonna's 2012 Superbowl performance as an example of how backward it all is. Many focused on her as a 50-something-year-old instead of as a performer. People were more concerned with her age and how dare she still be up there performing when her 25th birthday had long passed. And that is only one example of many fueled by the media and entertainment industry. As a culture, we take part in this and then wonder why people have a hard time respecting one another. In fact, if you want to talk about misogyny, some of the most degrading remarks toward women that I've seen/heard/experienced have been by OTHER WOMEN. I'll use an example from an interview I conducted about a year ago.
For my webzine/webcast, The Underworld (relaunching this summer), I interviewed another fellow actress in the horror genre. Well, about a month or so ago, I went to check on the interviews so that I may archive them for the new 'zine and noticed a comment beneath the interview, basically denouncing the actress as 'old, tired, and washed up' and basically said something to the extent of 'who wants to watch a 50-year-old actress.'
Well, first of all, the commenter (a woman) was off on the actress's age by about a decade and the actress in question is far from being 'old, tired, and washed up.' In fact, she's pretty damn hot. And no, not hot for a 40-year-old. Hot in general.
Sure, things like that will happen when one is in the public eye, but the point is that we as women seem to largely have a hard time with respecting one another, yet we demand respect from the opposite gender. We look down our noses at passed decades, as though everyone who lived before us was nothing more than an ignorant Neanderthal. In doing so, the great women (and men) of eras passed, their accomplishments, and the doors THEY opened so YOU can have your say are undermined, insulted, and forgotten. It is upsetting when I come across a college-aged female who calls herself a feminist but doesn't know who Susan B. Anthony is. And then she'll talk down Anthony's peers without really educating herself and only listening to the surface the media scratches at.
As much as people don't want to believe it, a strong woman is really nothing new. In fact, because the powers that be were more stringent on 'keeping women in the kitchen' decades/centuries ago, I would say that women like Susan B. Anthony, Mary Shelley, Carrie Cat Chapman, and Emily Dickinson should be held in even higher regard. How about instead of male bashing and making snarky remarks about the 1950s, we CELEBRATE the amazing people of those times, both men and women. Let's celebrate the Susan B. Anthonys. Let's celebrate the great female rulers of history who ran countries and empires. Let's celebrate Mary Shelley who was a brilliant writer. Let's celebrate her husband who valued his wife's talents so much that he had her edit his own work. Lets celebrate Mary Shelley's mother, who was an advocate for equal rights. Let's celebrate Emily Dickinson. Let's celebrate Jane Austen. Let's celebrate the Brontes, let's celebrate the Sufferages. Let's celebrate the Amelia Earharts. Let's celebrate the Rosie the Riveter women. Let's celebrate the Neta Snooks. Let's celebrate the Louise Thaddens and the Bessie Colemans. Let's celebrate the Helen Richeys. Let's celebrate the men who supported them (and there were many).
I've spoken with many individuals whose now seventy and eighty year old mothers actually ran their own businesses. Let's celebrate them. Let's celebrate the Bunny Yeagers, the Lucille Balls, and the Mary Astors. And those are only a few names among many.
Instead of getting on a superiority pedestal, let's take a moment to remember those - men and women - before us with dignity and respect. Because we are not superior. Now, have I read and seen things from bygone eras that make me cringe a little? Absolutely. But I've also seen things written in the year 2014 that make me cringe as well. With every bad there's good, and with every good there's bad. How about also focusing on the brilliant and educated writings that came out of those eras by *gasp* BOTH genders.

For those who already are, you all are awesome. But for the rest, maybe check yourself before finger pointing and ridiculing. Because when you say things like how stupid people were in previous centuries and decades, or how they wish the older generations would die out, consider exactly who you might be taking about.

People finger point, blame, ridicule, and undermine the accomplishments of many.

And then we wonder why nobody gets respect.

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