Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Messed Up Media

Since the beginning of my class at Brown (only yesterday), I have already learned an incredible amount about leadership, the status of women in the US and across the world, the people in my class, and myself. Everything has been so interesting so far; today I was both inspired and shocked by the different things I learned.

Class began with an energizer, and after that we quickly went into our lesson, which continued what we learned last night about different styles of leadership. After some discussion and recap of yesterday, we split into groups of five and each thought of someone who we knew personally who we thought of as a leader. I see lots of people in my life as leaders, with many of my family members at the top of that list. However, after some thought, I decided to tell the class about my bike coach. He is not what most people would think of as a "typical" leader - he is not very assertive, and in fact seems quiet and shy at first. However, he has qualities such as passion, knowledge, modesty, and leading by example that inspire people on the team to get out and ride, and push themselves to improve. Once you get to know him, he's also very personable and an all-around cool guy, which makes people admire him even more. At the end of this activity, Kisa asked us all if we thought the person we chose to talk about knows how we feel about them. Most of us realized that our person probably did not, and this made me feel that I should be a more openly gracious about what I appreciate in my life. 

Later on in the morning, Kisa asked us to fill out a sheet of paper that asked us to list qualities and skills that we thought we were good at personally. I felt somewhat conceited filling this out, and talking to some of the other girls later I found out that they felt this way too. We all shared why we felt like this, and realized that we often don't feel that we deserve the compliments we get, and are usually really hard on ourselves in terms of working to be good at things. It's amazing how much I've learned about myself and so far in this class; I've started getting more in touch with my strengths and weaknesses. I've also been happy and amazed at how much I can relate to the other people taking my class. 

In the afternoon, we watched a life-changing movie called Miss Representation. The movie was about the portrayal of women in media, and how this portrayal influences millions and millions of people both consciously and sub-consciously. I was shocked both by how blatantly media can put women down and how subtly it can put women down. To give an example of blatancy - some radio and TV show hosts outright call female political leaders dirty names, which is degrading and creates false stereotypes around these women. I was also incensed to see that there is slightly less blatant but still obviously sexist treatment of these political leaders in the media; many articles are written, and many comments made about the clothing that the women wear, whether are not they are "attractive," if they "pull off" their outfits, etc. This causes people to focus not on what these women are saying, but how they look. This and other factors in the media cause millions of easily-influenced women to worry about their appearances much more than anything else, to the extent that they are depressed because they cannot achieve the "perfect" photoshopped body that appears on TV and in magazines everywhere. One statistic that stuck out to me in the movie is that the US is spending more money each year on products and things surrounding beauty than on education. There is something really backwards about how our country is prioritizing what it spends money on here, and I don't think a lot of people even realize it. 

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