Day Six

Why do certain advertisements have such a powerful effect on me? How can I move past allowing them to affect me in such a negative and disturbing way?  What can I learn from my response to the cultural images we see in the media regarding women?

We are in-between days of hosting a Girls on the Run national training in our office. Five new communities represented by 16 fabulous women are in town learning all about how to start, implement and sustain a Girls on the Run council in their regions. The mood is always upbeat, positive and filled with hope.

Several weeks ago at our annual Girls on the Run summit, one of our keynote speakers was Jean Kilbourne.  Ms. Kilbourne is a pioneer for women’s rights, bringing to light how images in advertising affect a young girl’s psyche and her development.  I have to say that in many ways, while her presentation and its content are necessary to share with the world, it was a real downer.

It’s been fourteen years since I started Girls on the Run and it appears, based on her presentation, as if the images of women in advertising, music and the popular media are becoming more extreme (rather than less) with their depiction of women as sexual objects and victims of sexual crime.

I simply can’t wrap my hands around how to feel peace around this topic.  This is, frankly, one of my “button-pushers.”  How can anyone in the advertising industry, with clear conscious, create an advertisment such as this?

There are two “me’s” at work here.  The human me is outraged.  I tend to go right for the jugular and right to the front lines.  How can anyone along the chain of this corporation allow an image such as this to enter real space and time?  How is this okay?Surely someone along the path of the production and distribution of this ad, said, “Mmm.  I’m not sure about this one.”

The higher me can distance myself from everything which is represented here and says,”Focus your efforts Molly, on those things, people and works that are good, enriching and uplifting.  What you choose to see, is what becomes your reality.”

I’ve always felt this internal conflict between “out there” and “in here.”  Many spiritual guides suggest that the “out there” is reflected upon and reacted to by what they term the “ego.”  The “in here” which, when fully engaged, demonstrates love, compassion and understanding, is termed the soul, spirit, essence or Self.  It is unaffected and “uninfected” by what lies outside of it.

As I age, I’m recognizing, at least for me where I am now, is that the balance I see in my life isn’t found in time management, more sleep, better nutrition and healthy excercise, but a balance or an acceptance of this spirit me and human me.

I just don’t know.  I don’t like being SO affected by our culture’s portrayal of women in the media, music and pop culture and wonder if something else about this topic eludes me…something else that will bring me to peace…or a reconciliation of the outraged human me and this peaceful and compassionate loving spirit me.

My guess is…that many others feel this way…some of us still stewing in the anger of it all and others of us are past it.  Then there are those of us in the middle, perhaps transitioning, seeing our anger toward it as an opportunity to move toward some sense of peace, forgivesness, acceptance or compassion.

All I know is, I’m in between.  I must still be getting something out of being angered by it.

I’d love your comments. Where are you on this continuum?  Or is there another continuum here I’m not even considering?  Really.  Thoughts, opinions and advice welcomed.

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13 Responses to Day Six

  1. Obviously, we still get something from reacting so strongly or we wouldn’t do so. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. Lawson Primm says:

    Hi Molly, I am in the marketing business and I agree that this type of exploitive junk is appaling. In my opinion and in my Christian belief, I know that all of us are sinners and this is yet another example of fallen mankind. I choose to be a person of faith. Jesus died for our sins. Our culture will always be filled with sin such as this and always has. In my opinion, we cannot change that. We can only change our own hearts. I applaud the work you are doing to build self esteem in girls and young people. I pray that parents will be diligent in parenting their children and guiding them to embrace faith through the Bible.

    • Robert Cannon says:

      Lawson,
      I checked out Duncan’s website to see what other advertising “magic” they might have worked. Basically their website is more ‘uplifting’ images… guys in suits brandishing major arsenals of firearms. Nice huh? The site says Duncan’s favorite activity is “sitting in Nice, France watching people.” Wow, a company with an inspiring marketing message and lofty ambitions to boot (sarcasm alert).

  3. Amanda Shannon says:

    Hi Molly–

    I think the best thing that we all can do is to continue our efforts in teaching young girls that THIS is not who they are or need to be. These influences are nothing but negative; the more we get that out there, the stronger young girls will feel about it and hopefully one day we can turn it around. I coach Girls on the Run in Pittsburgh, Pa and I can promise you that what we are teaching these girls is right on target. You ARE changing the world: their world…and mine! Keep up what your doing and try your best to not let
    negativity such as this bring you down!

    • Amanda,
      I agree we have to reach and teach girls in these matters. But of course we can’t lay the production of this stuff all on them. Each of these media “productions” takes hundreds of people of all ages and genders. All of them made conscious decisions to take part in producing these negative images.
      Rob

  4. Robert Cannon says:

    Another good topic with great questions. You acknowledge that you “simply cannot wrap my hands around how to feel peace about this topic.” Perhaps you are not meant to feel peace in this area. Why should we find peace when something with no redeeming quality is happening right in front of us? Will you…can you… obtain true peace by disconnecting your spirit from the reality around us? The reality that we see and experience is, in fact, reality. It’s there for you, for me, for all of us. It is there whether or not we acknowledge it. You have the blessing, and curse, to see and feel it for what it is.
    I’ve found that when I cannot find peace I am usually being called to action. For some that “action” might be prayer, meditation, etc. For others, like me, action means DOING something very concrete. My action may, or may not, increase my peace toward the topic, but it has never contributed to more imbalance between my human and spiritual self.
    Maybe you are being called to enter this particular fray in a more concrete way. I once asked one of my spiritual counselors “How I will know if I’ve done enough? When will I have given all I can?” He answered that I will know when I don’t have to ask those questions.

    • Alyssa says:

      Great point, Robert. And Molly, thank you so much for this post, and for your entire new blog. I know that, for me personally, there are many issues that infuriate me. I’ve tried both strategies – attempting to let go into my peaceful, spiritual side, and also doing something more proactive. Not sure what the answer is. I think it depends on the case – and how much something bothers you. There are just some things we can’t leave be.

  5. Elaine says:

    I get where you are coming from, Molly. When issues like this cause us to feel practically-foaming-at-the-mouth fury, we are less effective or even ineffective at any action we try to take. Outrage really can send us outside of our better selves and into the beserker mode of attack. Spectacular in the moment, but less helpful in effecting serious long term change. Really though, I think you ARE coping with this dichotomy. GOTR is fantastic example of turning a beserker moment into the steely-eyed, visionary type of fury needed to make a real difference. Maybe that’s the way to look at it. Channeling the righteous fury of our beserker moments into the energy for a long term crusade.

  6. Andi says:

    I love what Rob said about a call to action out of a strong reaction. Goes hand in hand with Molly’s vision to “cre-act” instead of merely react. I get cynical when I hear famous quotes re-quoted too many times, but it really does support the Ghandi-attributed idea of “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

    That dichotomy of inner self and outer self, I believe, is a struggle for the majority of people. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve thought, “But if they REALLY knew me…” I guess the inner self is sometimes thought of as almost impolite. And heaven knows I want to be a “nice” girl. 🙂

    • I’ve had some interesting creactions in my life. Here are some examples:

      I’ve been fed up with second-hand smoke for a long time. One day, years ago, I was sitting in Antony’s Carribean Kitchen on Pecan Ave. in Charlotte. It was a beautiful spring day. The door to the restaurant patio was propped open and the air was nice and fresh… until some guy decided it was time to smoke (despite the rule against it). I was there with my newborn son so I was especially miffed that my little guy was breathing that smoke. I ran around the corner and bought some kids bubbles and brought them back. I sat there blowing bubbles right at that guy’s table. Words were exchanged as my second-hand bubbles invaded his space. He ultimately left.
      I was ready to lead a crusade against second-hand smoke, but I learned that a crusade was already underway (Americans for Non-smoker’s Rights) so I joined the group and that gave me some peace in the matter.
      Another time I was fed up with Charlotte’s lack of bicycle-friendly “stuff”. I finally got so torqued that I helped start the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance, a group that is still a very powerful force in Charlotte. One of our first efforts was to get bike racks on buses. Every time I see those bike racks on the front of buses I am very proud.
      I also creacted my way into a family with 4 adopted kids!

      Creaction is very powerful stuff.

  7. Stevie says:

    This type of advertising is a very sad display of out of control greed. Basically, ad agencies use sex, firearms, expensive vehicles and other action items that get the attention of the young and even the wise male psyche to sell very simple products, ie: clothes. Not only is this totally disrespectful of women, but it manipulates men into thinking they will become attractive and powerfull with the purchase of these advertised items. So we must educate not only our young ladies, but our young men who fall into the trap of brainwashing by the media. The defense we have is “vote with your feet”. In other words, don’t purchase products, services and goods that use this type of advertising to somehow attract our attention; if possible, don’t be employed by them either. These ad agencies will get the message when thier revenues fall because their ad campaign flops. Fifth Avenue is not invincible and they will get the message.

  8. Ruth Ness says:

    First, I think the image that was created in my head while reading Robert’s post- blowing bubbles at the smoker is going to be enough to help me deal with my anger when people stick their cigarettes out of their car windows at stop lights 🙂 I LOVE that! Don’t think I could ever do it, but just thinking about it is going to help me not get mad and waste my energy.

    I’ve typed about four responses to the meat of this post, but really need to ponder this some more. Molly, you are such a blessing to so many people. Thank you for challenging me to go inside and examine what is working in my life (or not working!)

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