Meghan Tells It

Just another WordPress.com site

Beauty Pageants and X Games January 28, 2012

I have been pondering beauty pageants lately.  A mom on Facebook asked if she should allow her daughter to participate in a beauty pageant.  She had been in one as a child and loved it.  But she wasn’t sure if it was really appropriate.  It would also be a great expense.  She received differing opinions on the subject.  But it got me thinking. 

As a little girl, I watched Miss America and Miss Universe on television.  I loved to dress up in what I thought were glamorous clothes.  I loved to put on my mother’s makeup and wear high heels.  I would day-dream of walking down a runway in a formal gown.  My sister and I would have contests and ask our family who they thought was prettier. 

Although Miss America and Miss Universe are no longer a part of our lives the way they were a few years ago, the television show “Toddlers and Tiaras” demonstrates that these types of pageants are very much alive (if not so well) in our culture.  So many people claim to hate the show, yet how many hundreds of thousands watch every week?  According to Inside Edition, over 2,000,000 people watch each week. 

What about television in general?  I don’t have those numbers.  But the number above amazes me.  If you read their article, there are more amazing numbers about how much money some people spend on these pageants.

Why do we do this?  What is so wonderful about it?  Even those of us that don’t participate in beauty pageants often go to great lengths to look good.  How many of you reading this blog have ever been on a diet?  How many of you have been on more than one diet?  What was your motivation?  Was it to be healthy?  Be honest.  It was more likely that you wanted to look good. 

What looks good?  How do we know if something looks good or not?  Our notions of human beauty have changed over the years and across cultures.  But who determines what is “pretty?”  In our day and in American culture, we watch a lot of television and look at a lot of magazines with pictures of TV and movie stars.   

According to Nielsen, the Average American spends 20% of their day watching television.  That’s 4.8 hours.  If you figure that people spend 8 hours sleeping, that figures to 30% of our waking hours.  Where am I going with these figures?  And where do the X Games come in?  Bear with me for a moment.  If we are spending that much time looking at enhanced images on the television.  Yes, enhanced, enhanced by makeup, lighting, and computers.  These people do not look like this in real life.  Not even the so-called Reality Television stars. 

So we look at these people for a long time.  We might begin to compare ourselves to them.  You don’t?  Okay, let’s say you don’t.  Do you have children?  Do they see you looking at these people for 4.8 hours a day, give or take some time?  And how many hours a day do you spend actively engaged with your child?  All right, I am not trying to make you feel guilty – I spend plenty of time not actively engaged with my child. 

I am going to go out on a limb here, because I have nothing to support this hypothesis.  But what do you suppose our children are learning from this?  They are learning that the images on the screen capture their parents’ attention.  How should our children capture our attention?  By trying to look like the images on the screen.  How can anyone look like that?  Makeup?  There isn’t enough to quite get there.  Clothes?  Maybe it will help a little.  Lose weight?   That might help too!  Can some people’s distorted body image be traced to seeing what their parents thought was important and what captured their attention?  Probably. 

According to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 8,000,000 Americans have an eating disorder.  That is a very high number. 

Our vision of beauty must change.

Here is where the X Games comes in.  They started in 1995.  Snowboarders, skateboarders, and the like were not recognized by more traditional athletes and the Olympics.  So what are talented people to do?  Put together their own event with their own medals and get a television network to cover it.  In 1995, this event first aired on ESPN for “alternative” athletes.  It is now huge.  Few people today would tell a snowboarder that they don’t participate in a real sport.  Few people today would tell a bicyclist doing tricks in a 20 foot half-pipe that they are not a real athlete. 

So what does this have to do with beauty pageants?  Why can’t we demand a change in what we deem beautiful?  By watching the shows that the television airs, we agree with the producers and program directors.  So how about we turn off “Toddlers and Tiaras” and most of the programming out there.  What if we host our own beauty pageants for our daughters and granddaughters and nieces and neighbors?  We can celebrate people’s achievements that contribute to a healthy society.  Did your child participate in a neighborhood clean up?  Get her on the stage proclaiming that.  That is beautiful!  Did your child get the highest math score for the year?  That is beautiful!  Did your daughter volunteer at an animal shelter?  That is beautiful! 

Why limit it to our girls?  How about the boys?  Get them involved.  Get all of the children you know up in front of a group of people and celebrate their achievements, not just their ability to put on makeup and stay skinny.  Don’t wait for their school to do it.  Show them how important they are by turning off the television for a few hours and planning a new kind of beauty pageant.  Maybe the television people will catch on and put on a new kind of program.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  Feel free to comment below, or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/meghantellsit for a quicker response. 

 

What is in a color? January 19, 2012

I never thought of myself as a feminist.  I had always considered myself more of an egalitarian.  Feminist is such a loaded title, that it repelled me.  I don’t feel like we should be talking about women’s rights so much as we should be talking about human rights.  I am grateful for the feminists that went before me, paving the way to my education and vast array of career choices.  None the less, even today, here in the good old U.S. of A. we seem to have some more work to do with regards to equality between the sexes.  (Wage inequities and sexual harassment come to mind as I write this.)

Butterfly Beauty ShopSo what does color have to do with anything?  People, feminists and parents of girls in particular, have been buzzing about the new line of Lego Friends.  Lots of people and news organizations like Business Week reported on how Lego spent four years researching how girls play and what they like.  The result is a line of mostly soft pink, purple, and blue blocks and figurines.  Many people are crying out about this as another way of promoting girl vs. boy thinking and a regression of the gains women have made over the past few years.

I won’t disagree with the research about how girls play versus boys.  I was exactly how they described when it came to Legos in particular.  The object on the box was never my ultimate goal.  I rarely completed it.  Whenever I got a new set of the little blocks, I would make a stab at assembling the spaceship or building pictured on the box, but rarely had the patience or drive to complete it.  Instead, I would inevitably add the new blocks to the existing collection my sister and I had.  Then we (my sister and our friends) would build our houses and castles and our own versions of space ships and airplanes and use our figurines for role-playing.

But what about the colors?  Did we care that we were playing with primary colors and shades of gray?  Did we want pinks and purples and softer colored bricks to create our buildings?  I won’t presume to speak for my sister, though she has always enjoyed the color pink.  It certainly didn’t matter to me other than I would have loved to have had more choices in general.  When it came to crayons, I didn’t like the small boxes.  I wanted the big box.  So I could have more shades of pink?  No.  So I could have more shades of everything.  Nothing pleased me as much as having lots of colors to choose from when it came to making things.  I loved my mother’s collection of colored pencils.  She had lots and lots and lots of colors. 

Thirty years later, has this changed?  Do all girls want pink and its color cousins?  If you walk down the aisles of Toys R us or many other toy stores, you will see aisles full of pink and other aisles full of primary colors.  Guess which aisle is for which gender?  According to marketers males like certain colors and females like certain colors.  Is this wrong?  I think that associating colors with genders is wrong.  Do I think this is reversing gains in women’s rights?  I couldn’t say.  Do I think girls should steer clear of pink?  No.  Do I think Lego should stop marketing to girls?  No.  I do think that we all need to rethink how we market products to girls and boys. 

Why should girls be told they ought to buy pink and boys be told they ought not to buy pink?  My three year old son loved pink until he got to preschool and someone told him that pink is for girls.  Why is pink for girls?  Who decided this?  What if my son gets into Legos and wants to have some of the Lego Friends sets so he can have a complete town?  Is he supposed to steer clear and make sure his town is populated by men and boys who hate the color pink?  That is ridiculous!  What if my niece gets into Legos and wants to have a complete town?  Am I supposed to say no to buying her the boy sets and force her into a town full of women and girls who only use pastel colors?  That is also ridiculous! 

How about we stop assigning colors to genders and just let kids play with any toy of any color they like?  Why is that so wrong?  It might even sell a few more toys if the boys aren’t afraid of playing with dolls and girls aren’t afraid of playing with cars and trucks.

Where would Pablo Picasso have been if he had been told he couldn’t use pink because it was a girl’s color?  What if he had been told the couple in this picture needed to be clothed differently?  After all, shouldn’t the woman be in pink and the man in blue?  (And let’s not get started on body image here.  Look at the painting!  She is fat by today’s standards.)  Lovers by Pablo Picasso art print He and a lot of other artists would not have been able to produce the celebrated works we enjoy today. 

What if every parent takes their son down the pink aisles in the toy stores?  What if every parent takes their daughters down the blue aisles?  We might move towards a more egalitarian world.  And if we are all equals in terms of opportunity, then we might find ourselves a little happier and a little more satisfied with life.  And who knows what that might lead to?  World Peace?  Dare I hope?

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.  Feel free to comment below, or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/meghantellsit for a quicker response. 

 

Finding my Focus January 17, 2012

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions.  I rarely make them.  If I make a promise, it will be one I feel like I can keep, no matter what time of year the subject comes up.  However, January often has me thinking about the past year and what I want for the coming year.  Over the past few weeks I have sought focus. 

My life has been a whirlwind of mothering and nursing my husband.  In between the demands those things bring, I have worked – music classes, playing piano at my church, volunteering at my church, editing books, and a million other things.  But I had not set any goals for myself.  I have been existing rather than living. 

There are some very good reasons for this.  I have difficulty fully acknowledging my own personal pain and suffering.  I suppose the term for that would be, Denial.  My husband’s last manic episode traumatized me more than I allowed myself to acknowledge at the time.  It has been three years, almost to the day, since he turned a corner and headed back to earth and relative wellness.  But I had yet to let go of my anger and bitterness.  He spent about a year fully immersed in CrazyLand and several months traveling there.  So, I had a lot of anger.  A lot.  Three years is a long time to carry it around.

For Christmas, my mother gave me some journals.  I have been unable to write in a journal for nearly my whole marriage (6.5 years now) because of my denial.  Journals are where I face my feelings and deal with them.  I decided that I was ready.  I wrote my first few entries starting this month.  The anger and bitterness and tears flowed.  They fell out of my soul and onto the pages of that little book.  What release!

During this dark time in my life I had also ceased to feel God’s presence with me.  I grew up in a family that tried to place God at the center of all things.  My relationship to Jesus had been very important to me.  Through all of my trials with my husband, I cried out to God, but was incapable of hearing Him answer.  It turns out that I used the anger and bitterness to block His voice.  In the last few months I have felt that closeness returning as I began the process of letting go of the past.  The past few weeks have been fabulous.

Career experts tell us that we need goals and focus to succeed.  I have had none.  I take on projects here and there, but have had zero success planning a career.  It has been hard enough to plan the next doctor visit.  Now?  I realize that I have always loved writing.  Always.  Since I learned to write.  Perhaps my parents remember whether or not I told stories before I knew how to read. 

I love to read.  I love humor, fantasy, romance.  I have devoured a lot of fantastic tales.  I have edited some books full of excitement and drama.  I wanted to copy them.  I recently realized that I am not those writers.  I also love stories about “regular people.”  So, as much as I love WendyLCallahan (yes – a shameless plug for someone whose work I have edited), I will never write her stories.  I will continue to enjoy them.  I will edit as many as she sends my way.  But I am going to focus on writing more like DebbieMacomber.  Again, I won’t try to duplicate, but I will find inspiration in examining the lives of people who might just live next door to me. 

I will continue with music as long as people will let me.  But it has never been my passion.  People are my passion.  The students that have touched me over the years and buoyed my spirits in times of trouble have played an important part in my life.  I have been honored to pass on to them what I know.  I will keep doing that as long as there is interest, but I have a feeling that I will not be teaching many music lessons in the future. 

I am at a crossroads.  That feels pretty good after wandering in a fog for a few years. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Leave a comment if you like.