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Why we Must Speak Out

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Guest blog by Kylie VanBuren

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I love Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Who doesn’t love a message about overcoming fear in order to express one’s opinions?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

But why is simply expressing who we are and what we think interpreted as brave? Why is this so controversial that we have to be afraid of opposition? We live in a culture where backlash has become extremely harsh, especially when it means challenging the white middle class straight status quo. More than ever we need inspiration from brilliant thinkers like the late great Audre Lorde, who challenged us to push past the fear and voice our opinions.

Speaking out can be truly and honestly terrifying. It can hurt and put us back in our place. It can leave us vulnerable and accessible to the whims of others, who can use the opportunity of our opposition to tear us apart, either because of our opinion, or because of their own weaknesses. It can make us cry and feel shamed and like a scolded child. It can be hard and it can hurt.

And yet we still must speak. Audre Lorde reminds us that silence separates and creates boundaries that only speaking our truths can bridge. It is our responsibility then, as activists and as compassionate people, to stand up to inequalities. It may be as simple as disagreeing with what someone says or it may be as important as rallying a group together to truly and loudly oppose something. We have the right to challenge a system that puts so much pressure on us and forces us into so many contradictions. If we are pressed to see ourselves as individually responsible for upholding a system that is not necessarily meant for us or good for us, then we should be able to express our opinions about that system. We should be bold and expressive, even when there’s push back.

I have been shamed for speaking. I have been shushed for questioning. I have had people attempt to put me in my place. It is scary. It hurts. I have been embarrassed and afraid. I spoke. Then I got over it. Not all situations where we speak out will lead to the back patting, to “Good job, you exposed an inequality,” but it’s practice for another time, a time when we’ll be heard, and when it will really matter. It toughens our skin and reminds us that there’s always a next time, and when we’re pushed and shushed, we will be able to handle it better, and we will sleep at night.

As Audre Lorde’s daughter reminded her, “You’re never a whole person if you remain silent, because there is always one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out.” Sometimes I will make the choice not to speak out and to avoid controversy, but not every time. I am not ready to surrender my values to that extent. Instead, I will take Bareilles as my inspiration and Audre Lorde as my muse, and I’ll continue the messy work of activism and speaking out.

My Media Thank You Notes

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Guest Blog by Brianne Wheeler

As children, we’re taught to use our manners, to say “please” and “thank you.” So I thought I’d use my manners and thank one of the biggest influences in my life: the media! I mean, when I look at the flawless woman on the cover of the magazine as I check out at the grocery store, I’m so grateful for all the choices I’m given: the clothes, the makeup, the products to make me look as perfect as this woman looks.

Dear media, I’m so grateful that you help me better understand and see what society wants me to look like, dress, act, and behave like so I can change myself for the better. Lucky me, right? What would I do without you telling me who I am?! Because you do all this work to help me out, I simply must thank you!

thanks

Seventeen: Thank you for making me feel like I must blow out my hair and put a ton of product in it to make it pretty. Thanks for putting Leighton Meester in pink to make her look even girlier. Thanks for giving me tips on how to look cute for spring… perfect hair and makeup tricks!? Wow! That’s so nice of you. Anddddd you’re going to show me how to get flat abs and a great butt by spring break, too? You’re too kind. Once again… thank you!

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Cosmo: Thanks for showing me how to look sexy while putting on my high heels… I can’t wait to pause and look up as I put them on next time. I’ll be sure to hold my hair back just like your cover girl.  Oh and I’ll make sure my dress and shoes match perfectly. Thanks for giving me crazy sex confessions… I can’t wait to laugh my ass off. And I am soooo thankful for the best birth control tips! Who knew you were so knowledgeable about women’s health!? Again… thanks so much!

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Glamour: Thanks for putting Rihanna on the cover! She looks so happy which must mean I will be happy if I read this magazine! Also, I am so thrilled you are giving me easy beauty tricks with three-minute miracles… did Rihanna use them while getting ready for the cover shoot? I figured! Oh, and thank you for reassuring me I can relax because guys love me just the way I am, I was really worried they didn’t. Also I am so excited you told me how to eat, drink and not gain weight… let me guess: eat celery and drink water? Thanks for that!

How can one little magazine cover have soooo many important messages about hair, makeup, sex, secrets, body, and clothes!? What would I be without you?

Yet more offensive ads…

Author:

By Kate Parsons

The media is constantly treating women’s bodies as objects. Here buyers equate buying a truck with having the power to “drive over” or control women’s bodies. These images suggest to women that their bodies are objects and worse, objects for others to use. Women and women’s bodies are not meant to be controlled or “driven over.”

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 More often than not, companies use women’s bodies to sell their product. In the case of this ad, the company makes the product into a body of a woman, thus taking objectification to a whole new level.

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Boobs of Steel

Author:

By Abby Fontaine

When I was younger, my older brother had a pair of Superman pyjamas that I loved. They matched Superman’s costume completely, including the cape, which made the pajamas even cooler. My brother would run through the house with the red cape flying out behind him, and I got jealous. Soon enough, I learned to make my own cape from my pink blanket and followed him around. I remember waiting anxiously for the day he outgrew them and they were put into our storage closet full of potential hand-me-downs.

As soon as I was big enough, I wore those pyjamas whenever I could, day or night. However, time flew faster than Superman, and the pyjamas were soon too small for me. From then on, I had only girly pyjamas. My superhero days were over, until this Christmas when my sister gave me adult-sized Batman footie pyjamas, complete with a cape.

I used to love pretending to be a superhero. It was amazing to think that I could have super strength or super speed. With the current releases of all the fantastic Marvel movies, my nerdy love for classic comic book heroes has been renewed and invigorated. Only now, I’m more aware of important equality issues when it comes to representations of men and women. And in the superhero world, things are very far from equal.

Recently, I’ve been playing a two-person video game called “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” The game has a huge collection of superheroes that you can choose from and then fight with in one-on-one battle. At first, I thought it would be awesome to play as a female superhero. Although, when I choose a female character, it’s disappointing. She is always at a distinct disadvantage because she’s just not as powerful. As a result, I’ve learned to love the cooler male characters.

Along with differences in power, there are obvious differences in depictions and costumes. Women’s costumes consist of minimal material and the focus is on the body rather than on power—breasts are clearly emphasized and exaggerated. Yes, men are in tights and have defined muscles, but male characters’ costumes cover all. The contrast is so annoying and so obvious.

By objectifying these powerful women, the game makers lessen their imposing presence and powers.

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If the male characters were to dress in a similar way, the result would be comical rather than sexual. The problem here is the disparity: female characters’ costumes aren’t viewed by society in the same way. Women are effortlessly and commonly objectified, while men in similar costumes invite uproarious laughter. We can use this humor to our advantage to highlight the inequality and to help consumers abandon their blind acceptance of these inconsistencies. Better yet, how about some female characters fully and appropriately clothed to kick ass?

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Own Your Bossy!

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Guest Blog by Maggie Rooney

Recently Sheryl Sandberg introduced a new campaign designed to put an end to the discouragement girls and women face from name-callling.  She uses the label “bossy” as her prime example. Sandberg’s Ban Bossy video features celebrities and famous leaders speaking out against the label used to bully girls and women into silence.

The campaign interested me and so I read an article in Forbes titled “Sheryl Sandberg, Beyonce, We Need To Embrace Bossy, Not Ban Bossy.” The author, Margie Warrell, deconstructs the messages sent out in the Ban Bossy campaign and argues that banning the “bossy” label can actually have a negative effect. She uses Prohibition as an analogy, “Just as trying to ban alcohol during the prohibition sent it underground; by trying to ban a word we actually give it more power to wound.”

Further, Warrell says that by embracing the label “bossy,” these leaders can embrace the positive aspects of the word, not the negative. The word “bossy” comes with traits like being a leader, role model, and an agent for positive change. “Bossy” females are necessary to our world and should be praised rather than silenced.

bossyThe updated campaign

Other writers have pushed back on the campaign with similar views. Margaret Talbot writes in The New Yorker that she felt the campaign itself had a bossy tone and that the message should be reconstructed. She mentions that in the past society has taken negative names like “nerd” and rebranded them in a way that’s now positive. “Bossy” is perfect for such rebranding.

Joshunda Sanders, in her article in The Week, also advocates rebranding negative words and says that famous women such as Tina Fey, R&B singer Kelis, and 1972 presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm already reclaimed the word “bossy” in the titles of their famous works.

What all these Ban Bossy campaign critics have in common is their belief in the importance of sending a message to girls that labels shouldn’t define them, that they can define themselves. As Sanders writes “it doesn’t matter what anyone calls you – it’s how you answer them.” In other words, don’t give the power to name-callers, understand the duality of labels, claim the positive for yourself. Fight for your version of bossy, no matter the verbal adversaries.

 

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