It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s one Step Toward Representation!

This may just be me geeking out a little bit, but that’s ok.  Yesterday, I discovered the marvelous line of action figures called IAmElemental.  This line of action figures is marketed toward a young, female, demographic and makes a positive statement.  Check it all out at this link: http://iamelemental.com/

 

From what I know so far, I’m very impressed.  Not only are these figures created with young girls in mind,the body proportions are more realistic to the female anatomy.  Generally speaking, most figures of females  have been created and geared toward a sexualized audience.  Structures such as these keep the patriarchal paradigm alive and well.  This new line centers around the power and character within everyday girls and people, allowing them to find strength and pride in themselves, not an unrealistic ideal.

While seemingly constructing their line off of the periodic table of elements, IAmElemental looks beyond science and modern creation, and focuses instead on the character inside people.  Instead of relying on characters as a whole,  individual character traits are in perspective.  This unique approach sets this line apart from your everyday Superman or Wonder Woman.

In this first series of figures, “COURAGE,” the figures have names such as Bravery, Persistence, Energy, Honesty, and others.  Each figure has a specific set of skills and trademarks.  These realistic and common human attributes can allow girls to look beyond the silver screen or comic book and be their own hero.  In my opinion, these figures could act as a motivational decoy to empower themselves and those around them.  As powers unite and cooperate, they can only grow stronger.

“If you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story.”  This trademarked slogan from the company speaks a thousand words.  These figures can truly grant the gift of imagination and self-worth in young women and girls everywhere.

Of course, boys and men can always be involved in this campaign and enjoy the line for themselves.  I only hope that they are able to do this, and aren’t kept away, due to the overwhelming, macho standards of G.I. Joe’s and Batman.

Time will tell, I suppose, considering the line will become available around the upcoming holiday season.

I do encourage you to surf around the site from the link above and learn about this amazing product.  Pre-order and tell your friends.  It’s about time we women have something else to look up to.

iamelemental

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A Metamorphosis: Carol Peletier (***SPOILERS***)

Long ago, in a post far, far, away, I shared my opinions of AMC’s The Walking Dead.  Now that four seasons have elapsed, I am going to revisit a small pinch of those opinions.

Much like any other show or story, I have my favorite characters, as well as those I’m rather apathetic toward.  From the beginning, Carol Peletier has been my steadfast choice of interest.  During season 1, she was suppressed, oppressed, and abused by her husband.  Overall, she was rather timid, shy, and weak.  Although she was conveyed in this predominantly stereotypical way, a spark was burning behind her eyes. Over the course of the following seasons, that light intensified, transforming her into a new woman.  Perhaps the same woman was there all along, bound behind her fear.  Regardless, she blossomed into an amazing character.  This metamorphosis is both internal and external.

Pictured below are photos of Carol (Melissa McBride), in season 1 and season 4 respectively:

Season 1

Season 1

Season 4

Season 4

As you can see, there is a remarkable list of differences in her physicality alone.  The following rough list are just a few of the changes:  Her posture is strengthened, her facial expression is hardened and focused, her clothes are more realistic for the fictional circumstance and not so “homemaker,” her comfort level with weaponry is evident.  There is so much to be said in her eyes and expression.  She carries herself with more purpose and aspiration.  She acts on her own for the benefit of her community.  No one ever stops her – not anymore.  What Carol thinks is best, happens.

This renowned sense of being has gotten Carol into some sticky situations on a variety of scales.  Though some of her decisions are rather brash, how can she possibly be to blame?  With the world in the fictionalized state that it is, how could she possibly be in the wrong?  I suppose it is up to the reader, the fan, the watcher.

There is a remarkably long list of circumstances that Carol has had to deal with over the last four seasons.  I attempted to write some of them down, but each just outweighs the last.  I digress…

Other characters in the ensemble have gone through hell and back, but Carol is one of the few that tends to move forward and adapt.  This is a world of adaptation and progression.  Without adapting, one cannot survive.  Is Carol making so many changes to merely survive, or be part of the solution?

I believe that Carol has a plan inside of her.  No, she may not have a cure for the “Walker” disease, but she is able to coach people into differing perspectives.  These people come to trust and confide in her.  Much like a mother bird teaching her young to fly, she forces them to deal with things that make them uncomfortable.  That’s the reality.  The reality of this new world is scary and uncomfortable.  There isn’t time to sit back and let things happen anymore.  To each their own and to each their own power.  No one can be fully dependent on others.  The world and it’s people are challenging and frightening.

Sure, this is a fictionalized story line, but it isn’t too far fetched.  There may not be zombies walking down the street right this second, but times are changing and so are people.  Perspective and adaptation are required for survival.

Stopping Dead in My Tracks

Good evening everyone.  For the record, I am a 23 year old female, who happens to enjoy a little wine here and there.  That being said, why am I subject to offense when I go into the wine section of a common, family, grocery store?

THIS IS WHY:

Why?  Just why?

Why? Just why?

I guess in order to enjoy wine, I need to have on a silk robe with an ascot, pipe in hand, next to the fire.  Why do I need to be interested in the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated in order to enjoy some wine?  My actual sexual orientation is completely irrelevant at this point.  The point being, why must this display be tucked away into the wine section?  How sexist can one store be?  I shouldn’t be forced to feel this type of stigma when I am simply browsing for a beverage to enjoy among friends.  Of course, that stigma I feel comes from the culture and society of this current day and age.  I must shun away from such frivolous journalism and maintain my innocence, right?  I can’t be considered a “lady” if I associate with such atrocious print.

I’m being completely facetious, but the fact remains that I was offended by this sexist display.  I just want my wine.  That’s it.  I don’t need a show to accompany me.  If I wasn’t so offended and thrown off guard, this probably would have been rather hilarious, honestly.

The Honest, Innocent Truth

Dr. Giordano was making waves when she could barely tie her shoes.  At the age of four, she was the focal point of a seemingly innocent campaign ad by LEGO.  This ad, published in 1981 seemed harmless and innocent, simply showing the purely creative spirit of children.  In the meantime, 33 years have elapsed, and Giordano is seen once again, holding up a modern day LEGO set.  The comparison is amusing, to say the very least.  While some aspects of our culture have progressed, gender norms have seemingly gone back in time.  Again, progress isn’t always progress.

What a difference 33 years can make.

What a difference 33 years can make.

 

As you can see, the 1981 LEGO set is simply that:  multicolored blocks, neutral, nonspecific.  The fine print of the ad points out the “Universal Building Sets” and how children build for both fun and realism.  It states how proud she is of herself for creating something of her own.  “What it is is beautiful.”  

I agree completely.

However, as time has elapsed and we look at a current set, things have different.  “What it is is different.”  In this new “LEGO Friends” line, girls are the focus.  However, this seemingly gender neutral toy is suddenly geared toward feminizing.  Why does the news van have to be all pink and feminized?  I don’t recall Meredith Vieira or Robin Roberts ever decking out in pure pink for a glitter filled news cast.  

According to HuffPost, the advertisements for this new line of LEGOs has this description for the pink news van: “Break the big story of the world’s best cake with the Heartlake News Van!”

Really???  Breaking news coverage over a cake?  Really?  Come on.

In my youth, I too played with LEGOS, like it was my job.  I had free bricks to create anything with, as well as a couple of sets.  However, my LEGO set was of an Indiana Jones type guy traveling through a forgotten mummified tomb – booby traps and all.  I don’t remember there being a cake anywhere, but I enjoyed it anyway.

I guess I’m just missing the point of making children’s toys have sex appeal.  Why?  Why can’t children just be children and use their imagination, rather than toe the line and follow the so-called ‘standards’ of popular culture?

In 1981, Giordano was donned in baggy jeans, a unisex shirt and shoes and only had her red braid to set her apart from the boys.  Who knows what she would look like today as a child.  The eternal tom boy in me cringes when I see little girls walking around with their parents in make up and clothes more expensive than those I own now.  I suppose everyone has their own opinion and they are rightfully entitled to have them, but I will be eternally grateful for the liberties my parents gave me as a child.  I was outside from dawn to dusk and played hard.  I dressed up for special occasions and stayed clean during school.  Any other time, the world was my oyster and I had countless adventures under the clouds.

I only hope that every little girl and little boy is given the same opportunity to explore in a label free backyard.

 

“Selfie”

Is there more depth to this superficial craze, than meets the eye?

As this fad has grown and grown over recent years, my opinion on the matter has been torn.  Are selfies superficial, empowering, or both?  Honestly, I can’t say that I have a valid answer, as it’s a rather subjective phenomenon.  It’s become so wide spread, that the term has been officially added to the dictionary.  Because I haven’t read the technical definition yet, I’m going to look it up and toss it on in here.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, a selfie is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”  Interesting.  Alright – moving forward.

I chose today to explore this subject, as Dove has released a new campaign titled, you guessed it – “Selfie.”  This short explores the idea of beauty and how it is conveyed in the eyes of mother/daughter duos.  The young women are relatively high school aged and their mothers vary.  Take a look:

After viewing this latest short, I continue to be torn.  I have been a fan of Dove’s previous campaigns and do still appreciate this one.  However, I feel that there are things missing.  Understandably, this is a short and not a media research analysis.  With that in mind, I looked to the people.  I listened for their words, for their stories, for their reasons.

For example, around minute mark 6:40, one mother states: “I think that my daughters have taught me that social media is widening the definition of what beauty is.”

Ok.  So.  Here is my paradox.  If social media is widening the definition of what beauty is, who is right?  Would this be a good thing, or a bad thing?  One common thread in the short is the idea of women basing their appearance off of celebrities in movies, TV, mags, etc.  So, why is that so different from social media?  Thread sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and others regurgitate the idolizing of celebs and airbrushed models.  As it were, the young women in this short admit that they frame themselves just so, when taking a shot.  If they are perpetuating these standards in their own pictures, doesn’t that just beat around the bush?

Understandably, the point of this campaign was to throw water on the situation and wake everyone up.  Did it work?  Will it continue to work?  The message is there and the purpose is positive, but I’m not convinced.  This particular community shared a wonderful event and I wish them well in continuing this renewed mindset.  As for the rest of us, what’s next?

There are many other points that I wish to touch on in this post, but I want to think a little bit more.  I’ve been reminded of other mediated messages from the past and may just have a little series up my sleeve.  Stay tuned, if you so wish.

In the meantime, what do you think?

New Year, New Me : Cliché or Not

2013 was an interesting year and I’m sure 2014 will have it’s own bunch of surprises.  It’s true, I’m not exactly where I thought I would be right now.  I just decided to put my graduate degree on hold, as the program I was in did not meet my expectations.  Although it was a hard decision to make, I know that it was the correct one for me.  I can’t be a part of a program that hinders my perspective and passion.  What’s the point in that?  Where’s the support?  So, back to the drawing board I go.

Of course, I do have a degree and do plan to pursue a more direct career here asap.  In the meantime, I’m not going to put myself on the back burner.  After working my butt off, juggling classes and a job for the past few years, I am drained.  Sure, I wake up for work before the sun everyday and don’t skip a beat, but my true being is exhausted.  I’ve been so focused on my education and work for so long, that I have been ignoring my own needs.  I am composed of more than one compartment; my spirit is hungry – my soul is thirsty.

I want that to change.  I need that to change.

I want to read for fun.  I want to pursue random interests and have new hobbies.  I want to create.  I want to explore.  I want to express again.  I want to be selfish, to better myself.  Really though, is it selfish to want to be a better, happier, healthier person?  NOPE.

Because of all of this, rather than make a New Year’s resolution, I have made a 2014 bucket list of sorts.  I composed a list of things that are realistic and attainable for me.  By utilizing this list, I hope to reach my goals and take myself to a better place spiritually and physically.  Art, music, writing, health, cookbook – so many things to work on and improve.

I honestly don’t have a whole lot of things to complain about in my life right now.  Sure, some situations could be more ideal, but I’m here.  I have a job.  I found a love for the history books, so what could possibly stand in my way?  I am the only one that can get in the way of being a better me.

Why would I ever want to stop improving?

So, here’s to a new year and a refreshed soul.  My ambition is vamped and ready to go.

Papers, Projects, Stress, and Little Revelations

The semester is finally coming to an end; I royally dislike semesters.  Because I began college on quarters, I greatly miss the speed and efficiency of the quarter system.  Due to the recent transition – naturally occurring during my senior year – no one has a clue what’s going on, or how to structure classes.  Therefore, I am certainly not sad to see this semester coming to it’s final resting place.  It can stay there.  Excuse the rant.

That being said, I am in the midst of finishing multiple projects and prepping for presentations on projects that are already finished.  Although I usually enjoy projects and making a culminating pieces in reflection of my classes, one in particular has me trapped.  Currently, I am in an upper level Communications course, taught by a favorite prof, entitled Race, Health, and Gender.  At this point in my college career, I can’t even recall all of the classes I have taken with her, that all share the same relative theme…surprise surprise.  I wouldn’t be writing this blog if the correlations between health and gender meant nothing to me.

Anyhoo, we have been working on a project that is based around a concept map of our own construction, as well as a working outline that incorporates multiple themes, ideas, theories, etc. that we have worked with this semester.  Normally, I love these types of creative projects, that have so much room for individuality and spirit…….but I keep getting stuck.  I’m certainly not lacking ideas or materials.  I’m finding it difficult to pick the most important implications of my piece.  My project speaks to the personal experiences and interpretations of things I’ve faced, growing up as a feminist.  My trouble lands in an internal battle that is difficult to sort through.  After a few re-writes and reconstructions, I can’t decide whether to focus more on my young life, before I truly had a language to back up my beliefs, or whether to focus more on my more adult life, when I learned the phrases and theories behind the thoughts I’ve always had.

So, I sit here now (not in my favorite coffee shop, because it is under new management and is super lame now, but across the street instead) attempting to rework my outline for the final time.  Naturally, my mind starts to expand and hone in on aspects of my project, that in turn, lead me to further project ideas.  Now, I am focusing on the power of language.  This theme is always present in most of my work, and it reigns true this time as well.  Language to me, is community.  I may have always been a radical little feminist from the moment I was born, but I didn’t understand the power behind the way I was, because I had never heard the term “feminism.”  Since that time, I have become scholarly and learned about the theory, power, and people behind the ways ingrained in my being.  Here-in lies the community that is surrounding my own personal identity.

This idea is present in so many arenas.  Being a communication major and an English minor, words and language mean everything to me.  Every word in every language and dialect across the world and throughout time, has meaning.  How we use these words can make or break ourselves and those around us.  They can create communities, tear families apart, buy you a cup of coffee, or bring peace.

Ever since the discovery of feminist language, I have been nothing but further empowered to continue to be myself.  Language is everything, and how we use this critical tool can impact generations to come.

Health Equation

A few posts back, I had a brief little poll that inquired upon people’s thoughts on the meaning of health.  After receiving a handful of answers, all but one agreed that health was an all encompassing term that deals with both internal and external factors.  These physical, mental, and emotional factors all work together to create one cohesive state of health, though every individual has a differing equation.

In order to better understand what all creates our image of health, so many variables have to be examined. My own equation is very extensive, but I’ll do my best to examine as much of it as I can in time.  For now, I’ll just focus on five main points:

1. Physical State of Being

As I grow older, I’m really starting to notice slight differences in how my body reacts to and handles various things: I can no longer go nights without sleep and live to tell the tale; Coffee has become a staple, and not just a favored drink; Stress physically effects me; Working out feels awesome; Late night snacking turning into a cruel joke when I put pants on later, etc…

Although I may be average in size and stature, with some muscle, I am totally out of shape and I can’t stand it.  My days of having a super metabolism and twig-like figure are totally over.  Aside from all of that, I’m really starting to feel how crucial proper nutrition truly is.

2. Mental State

Like mentioned above, stress is starting to affect me for the first time.  I’ve always been busy and a great multi-tasker…but college is new ballgame.  Although I can still manage everything very well, I sincerely have to find ways to maintain the stress and not let myself get overwhelmed, even in my fourth year.  (My drumset being 2 hrs away doesn’t help much).

Though I may be struggling with stress here and there, I try to remain calm and keep my normal down-to-Earth vibe about me.  So many factors work their way into the equation of my mental state.  For now, I’ll just cap it there.

3. Gender

Where do I even begin?! This could and probably will be a post of its own here soon enough.  For the time being, I’ll just keep this one brief.

Gender seems to be everything in this day and age, politically, personally, and in other ways.  This election season (for example) seems to be a constant battle of health and gender, focusing on how and why these two terms go hand in hand.  One moment, we progress forward.  The next, we make a screeching halt and go flying back to the 40’s.  Womanhood is constantly on the line, and somehow religion, economics, and two-party systems find their way into the mix.  Why does the stuff between my legs determine my rights as a human in every aspect, especially something as sensitive as health care?!

4. Media

With all of the technology readily available today, messages are smashed in our face every single moment of the day.  The number of mediated messages that register in your brain each day would probably astound you if you sat down and thought about it.

The media has a huge hand in what is deemed as healthy, proper, right, wrong, and so much more.  This could be anything from skinny mini models in magazines, to the font used in advertisements.  Therefore, one is swayed in different directions without even realizing what’s going on.

5. Family

In the most basic of ways, family and upbringing has a lot to do with what I deem as health.  I was raised with a very health conscious, fit, happy go lucky family.  Because of this, I listen to Enya while I relax and write papers, I love hiking for fun, brain power is wealth, being personally fit is important (that doesn’t mean I have to be a stick), happiness is a virtue, food is vital, awareness is key, and so much more.

Health can mean any number of things to someone and I’m sure those closest to me have a different set of variables in their own equation, than I.  There is no right answer for what health is and isn’t.   

Olympic-Sized Surprise

As I’m sure you all know, it’s Olympiad time across the globe!  Of course, I have always enjoyed watching the Olympics over the years, during both the winter and summer time.  No matter what the season, the Olympiad always makes a wonderful statement for unity and friendly competition.  In the past, various historical moments have happened between athletes and nations alike.  I am particularly proud of the all around outcome of this years’ games.

Gold medals are often the main goal of competition, but I have become overly excited in other arenas of the games this year.  First and foremost, it is the first time in Olympiad history for every participating nation to be represented by both male and FEMALE athletes.  Whether or not some may consider this a big deal, it certainly is.

Along with the female athletes, came an outstanding performance by a woman I am a huge fan of: Dame Evelyn Glennie.  During the opening ceremony, one could catch Glennie playing various drums that powered over the entire city.  She has been a major role model for me ever since I caught her on a rerun of Sesame Street, way back in the day.  Being a percussionist myself, I rely on a woman such as her to bring a positive feminine face to the world of drumming, which tends to be male dominated.  (Note to self: Make a future post about that issue.)  Not only is she an outstanding musician, she is the world’s first solo percussionist, and on top of all of that, she is deaf.  Because of this, the rhythms she ignites, which pour from her soul, are vastly without comparison. Here are a few pics from her historical performance:  http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Dame+Evelyn+Glennie/2012+Olympic+Games+Opening+Ceremony/dCp6UTiHPzL

Changing gears slightly, I’ll touch on another major success noted around the Olympics.  While I was eagerly watching the games one night with N, I was quickly drawn in to a commercial.  Thanks to my health comm prof and mentor, I can no longer watch TV like a normal person…I always have to point out the subtleties of everything I see; I try my best not to though.  Anyhoo, I was very impressed with a commercial by Chevy.  I may not be the biggest fan of most American cars, hence my adoration for my 13 yr. old Camry, but I am now a fan of Chevy.  In this outstanding ad for a Silverado, entitled “Like Father, Like Son,” a little boy is seen playing at home while he waits for his dad to return from wherever.  The little boy is playing around with a mini-sized Silverado and other masculine toys, until the camera pans around a bit, and we see the boy playing with a multitude of rather feminine and “girly” dolls, pony trailers, and other various toys.  Again, this may not seem like a major step for some, but to me, this is a firm statement made by a popular, American brand name, and deserves to be congratulated.  Gender stereotyping begins at such a young age, and it is essential for children to be exposed to gender equality, and not discrimination.

The commercial closes with a simple message, spoken by Tim Allen.  His fatherly role on Home Improvement was a favorite of mine, as well as my entire family.

Thank you 2012 Olympiad, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Chevy, and Tim Allen.  With strides such as these, that impact the entire globe, perhaps the world is truly moving forward.

Gender Awakening

First of all, thank you to those that contributed to my poll in the previous post.  (Please continue to do so if you haven’t had the opportunity yet.) Now, on to the fun stuff.

Looking back over the course of my life, I have grown to notice certain stages, stepping stones, milestones, and factors that have contributed to who I am today.  I’m in the point in my life where I am on the cusp of full-on, frighteningly-exciting adulthood.  Because of this, I have a firm grasp on who I believe myself to be, as well as what/who it took to get me here.  The one and only conclusion that I keep bringing myself to, is the fact that there isn’t one simple conclusion.  If I were to write down a list of these factors, the list would reach all the way to Tatooine; for now, I’ll focus on a few of the bullets on my list.

When I attempt to sum up who I am in just a handful of labeled terms, the list is as follows: Female, Woman, Daughter, Loyal, Musician, Inquisitive, Passionate, Driven, Stubborn, Etc.

The first few terms on my list deal with my gender; in my own eyes, I find power, prestige and worth in the fact that I am a female, and therefore always find myself placing those terms first.  Because of this, I constantly question the first thing that pops up in my mind when I consider my gender.  You should try it for yourself, right now.  Consider your gender identity, and then realize the first image that pops up in your mind.  Ready, set, GO!

The image that first pops up in my mind is that of my parents; my Mom and Dad standing side by side, both equally represented.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household with both my Mom and Dad, who are now happily married for 30 years.  Although I was always a Daddy’s girl growing up, my Mom has been a wonderful role model for me my entire life.  She is a very proud and loving woman, who has lived a life dedicated to teaching, and has changed the lives of many people.  She is a fantastic mentor and finds every opportunity to teach, whether it be about diversity when I’m watching cartoons, or carving a path for a scared, young teacher at her school.  Why wouldn’t I want to mirror that image in my own life?

I would, and I have.  Not only have I had a strong mother in my life, I have had other strong women throughout my family…from my grandmothers, to aunts, to cousins, to my big sister.  Better yet, I have had compassionate men in my life.  My Dad is the strong, silent type, who will always be there to catch me when I fall.  He has been supportive of everything my Mom has ever done, and has continuously pushed me to new limits, knowing my full potential.  Although he sometimes jokes with me and calls me the son he never had, I know he is proud to have me as a daughter and was never judgmental of my non-Barbie ways.  He has taught me so much, from how to play the drums, how to play basketball and how to cook, to how to be a strong woman, how to never back down, how to be proud of who I am.  He was blessed with strong family of women, being the only son, and has kept that mentality throughout his life to date.  Other male figures in my family have been he exact same.  So much of what I have become stems from things that my late Grandpa taught me, without even knowing it.

Knowing that I have been fortunate enough to have a family experience like this, I look to others to see how they became who they are.  I certainly can’t deny that simple mediated images of girls and girly stuff helped me understand the difference in cultural views of boys and girls, though my family taught me to be me.  It is impossible to stray from the imagery and messages the media show on a daily basis.  Since the moment of birth, most people are tossed into either a pink or blue blanket.  From there, it’s a never-ending battle of Barbie vs. G.I. Joe and so on.

Unfortunately for most, these mediated messages are what dictates how they express their gender.  For boys, the masculine messages tend to be that of violence and force; this image only seems to be getting more and more out of hand.  For a simple example, consider how much bigger secret agent 007’s gun has become over the years; consider the suave and sophisticated Humphrey Bogart to the maniacal look of Rambo.  As far as girls are concerned, we have anything pink, glittery and foo-foo.  To be a sex symbol is to be adored and not much else.  That may seem a bit extreme, but when

Norman Rockwell

six-year-old girls are having body image issues, there’s a major problem.  What ever happened to the likes of independent Eliza Thornberry of the great 90’s cartoon?

In my future posts to come, I plan to delve deeper into these issues and many more.  In the meantime, let these thoughts percolate a bit and raise questions of your own.  One of my favorite paintings that depicts all of this, Girl at Mirror, was painted by the late, great Norman Rockwell.