Pop Culture Counterpoint

surprised-babyThey say a picture is worth a thousand words.  In the case of two recent upheavals in the zeitgeist, I’d say that’s an understatement.

I’m speaking about the uproar caused when Derek Jeter’s super model girlfriend, model Hannah Davis posed suggestively – I’d say pornographically – on the cover of Sports Illustrated newest swimsuit edition.  My gosh, you didn’t have to imagine much, as her swimsuit bottom, revealed her freshly shorn or retouched pubic region much the way an overcooked pamper might reveal too much of an infant’s behind. HD.SI_-273x300

Next up in the cacophony of social chatter was the leaked photo of Cindy Crawford looking more like a human being and less like an airbrushed alien Barbie Doll.  Really?  Did we really need a national debate to engage us all because I saw Cindy’s belly and it didn’t make me want to stop the car and hurl myself off the highest bridge.  B9uP_e7IEAAcx-i

What does this hysteria to hyper sexualize and hyper analyze our body types really speak to?  Is it aspiration?  Envy?  Hatred?  Is it Sex?  Love?  Pornography?  Are we feeling overprotective of ourselves, or our children?  Are we getting in touch with self-like, or self-loathing.  Clearly there must be a reason that all the chatter has surfaced, but I’d like to offer a slightly more out-of-the box argument.  And it starts with gratitude.  

No matter what the issue, no matter how pro or con we feel about Sport Illustrated or Cindy Crawford, I am grateful we live in a culture where art and commerce, where freedom of speech and freedom of expression is ingrained in everything we do.  It’s in our DNA.  But freedom comes with a price.  We have to think right around it.  We have to respect freedom.  And we must do anything and everything in our power to understand that with free speech comes responsibility.

There are responsibilities that come with Sports Illustrated’s artistic choice to infiltrate the vision of minors with Hannah Davis’ peek-a-boo love patch. There must be an awareness that such images create and promote damaging responses in young children. Hyper sexualized images sexualize childhood.  Sexualized childhoods interfere with normal childhood development.  Sexualized images, especially of infantilized (“pre-pubescent”) women force children into an unhealthy state of being because, by their very nature and age, children are not equipped mentally, emotionally or physically, to deal with these images. These images promote stereotypes, teach highly inappropriate gender roles and cause body dysmorphia – a HUGE issue for tween and teen girls in this country.  

And the effects go beyond seeing the magazine in supermarkets, 7-Elevens or gas stations.  They permeate the world at large.  Did you know that ISIS, the current world-wide incarnate of evil and one of the greatest scourges on earth, is full of male members who are completely addicted to porn?  One of the most painful and heinous acts by its members is to go into villages and kidnap women for the sole purpose of mutilating, raping or forcing them into sex slavery.

This conversation needs to go deeper than Ms. Davis’ “down there”.  We have all but obliterated the delicate balance that must be regained between having the honor of living in a free and open culture and society, and understanding the ramifications of running roughshod over this treasured fact.  We are charged with the responsibility of considering the impact our personal and artistic freedoms has on the landscape of the souls of children and young women all around the world.   

Having been raised in a rather artistic, intellectual and creative home by poet and professor parents, I tread carefully when it comes to offering critiques that could be construed as censorship.  I dream of a world where all thoughtful, mindful and intentional acts of art and personal expression are received without fear of repercussion.  I do not wish for anyone to have to live behind closed closet doors for safety’s sake.  We should not live in a world where evil incarnate such as terrorist and rebel organizations commit daily heinous acts of mutilation, torture and rape.

On the other hand, we’ve seen a bit more of a true Goddess.  In a rare and naturally un-retouched pose leaked of 49 year-old super model Cindy Crawford we glimpse a spiritually sexy mother whose body is sexy, strong and REAL.  Wonderful.  For all you haters please know for most of us, Cindy Crawford is the embodiment a grown women who represents true beauty.  She is a beacon of personal and artistic freedom flaunting imperfections and experience in her image – honestly exhibiting signs of normal life and function, such as eating, birthing and aging.  

I don’t know if the photo of Cindy Crawford leaked to the world was agreed to by Ms. Crawford.  I don’t think it was.  I’m sorry if its caused her embarrassment, but for the rest of us, it’s a not-so-subtle reminder that sometimes, even in the midst of a social leak, there is some good that can come from the breach.  I’m proud to be reminded that even one of the most beautiful women in the world is truly a flesh and blood creature whose life reminds all of us that beauty can take many forms, and why not?   Freedom of speech in this case is a reminder that perfection is indeed perfect when it is surprising, provocative and created by nature.

So most importantly, amidst the screaming, posting, tweeting, writing, producing and reacting to the images that permeate our culture, first – be grateful that we are able to do, think, feel, and say whatever we wish.  And from that gratefulness, I pray there will be a growing mindfulness.  Then we can really start to get somewhere as a nation, on behalf of all our humanity – and all of our children.

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EDUCATION & RESOURCES:
Below are links to read, share and offer support on the important topics covered in this blog:
BODY DYSMORPHIA
IMAGES OF WOMEN IN MEDIA
HYPER-SEXUALIZATION
MEDIA EDUCATION: THE CODES OF GENDER
SEXUALIZED CHILDHOOD
GENDER ROLES
MORE ON PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM A SEXUALIZED CHILDHOOD
ORGANIZATIONS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
1) ECPATUSA.org
2) Human Trafficking.org
3) WomensLaw.org
4) Katonah Education Exchange Program (KEEP)

KEEP-Logo-sized

[N.B. Thank you to ChuckWebster for the surprised baby shot, lipstickandpolitics for the beautiful “I Am Powerful” jpeg & tweep Melissa Atkins Wardy for your excellent piece: Add To Your Grocery List Some Mainstream Porn and powerful book Redefining Girly.

And thank you to Andy Kadison. This blog post was inspired by, and finessed after passionate discussions with you, my partner and sounding board. I love you for acquiescing when I’m right, and aiding me by aligning and brilliantly editing my intentions and words. You are the yin to my yang.]

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