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The Mayor, The Giant & The Bad Smell

green giant

What does New York City, frozen green beans & deodorant have in common? Stumped? They are all backing self-esteem campaigns for kids. What is a self-esteem campaign, you ask? Well, NYC, Green Giant & Secret are splashing out on media that lets kids know they are good enough gosh darn it. There are subtle differences in the campaigns however. The beans and roll-on focus is on bullying, and NYC is on the side of positive body image.

Mayor Bloomberg is telling girls he loves them just the way they are. This $330,000 initiative is partly a visual campaign exalting girls of all shapes and colors and a fitness program. Mixed message aside, the point is to combat the imagery with which girls are daily confronted. The Giant & deodorant on the other hand are focused on victims of bullying. Their’s seems a much more bland campaign with the goal of prompting conversation. (Is anyone not talking about bullying these days?!) What these three initiatives have in common are targeting the victim.

None of this bullying propaganda deals with the bully. Green Giant implores parents to; “Help Her Stand Up To Bullying.” Interestingly, bullying almost by definition, suggest more than a one-on-one experience. The bullies are almost always plural and the bullied is most definitely singular. (That’s why it works!) Simple math would suggest that more bean buying parents have a bully at their table than a victim. Forgetting the misguided calculation for a moment; what in the world does it mean to “stand up to a bully?” How is it helpful to throw such platitudes around? The way to combat bullying is to grow strong children. Children who feel confident and secure do not bully. Children who are told (through words and deeds) that they are simply the best build arrogance not self-esteem. Strength comes from mastering challenges not from trophies and ribbons. All children want to be liked (and hopefully grow out of that weakness by the time they’re parents.) It is perfectly natural for a child to crumble from bullying. As long as that child has friends, interests and activities outside of the bullying vortex they should be fine. But suggesting that he/she is somehow at fault is not fine.

A (meager) $330,000 campaign aimed at convincing girls they’re beautiful is also not fine. This drop in the bucket is ridiculous at best and patronizing at worst. Girls are raised in an overt feminized, and sexualized environment today. They are swathed in pink and glitter and bombarded with objectifying imagery. There are high-heeled shoes in toddler sizes now. Perhaps a campaign encouraging parents to turn off the television, stop buying celebrity magazines and get a little more gender neutral would have an impact. (Surrounding little girls with princess narratives and imagery is not terribly empowering.) Trying to grow strong girls in a climate of hair extensions, false eyelashes, silicone, twerking and botox is not easy. A subway poster or youtube video isn’t really gonna change much of anything. Particularly if they get off the subway and are confronted with softly pornographic posters in the station and above ground.

I don’t doubt everyone’s good intentions, but nothing short of being all in is going to work here. Focusing on the victims not only sends the wrong message but is simply not effective. If the bean people really want to be a meaningful voice in the bully conversation how about a graphic novel-esque serial of the Jolly Green Giant instigating an online attack against Sprout? This comic strip could illuminate the weakness and insecurity of the Giant and Sprout could demonstrate coping skills. If NYC is worried about the body image of its smallest female residents, perhaps Mayor Bloomberg could hire models to do before and after photos? Children could see the smoke and mirrors for themselves. At the end of the day it’s really hard to combat the 24/7 buzz. Girl children have never had so many negative messages and role models. There are so many ways and so many chances for girls to be objectified. There are new ways (every day) for bullies to hide and perpetrate their self-medicating ways. We (the grown-ups) created this and we can fix it. There isn’t one answer, it’s more of a collective of measures. Children have different needs and parents are in the best position to address them. One method that will never work, however, is to blame the victim.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Childhood, Cultural Critique

 

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Hello Gorgeous!

Rumor has it that October 19th is Love Your Body Day.  (Note: I would do some fact checking before assuming opposite side of the street parking has been suspended.)  While I’m not sure that schools and banks should close, I do applaud the occasion.  From what I read, see and hear (mostly by way of eavesdropping) this day is called for.  From tweens to seniors, there is a great deal of self war being waged.  We all have an off day, but there is something tragic about hating yourself every day.

I am a woman from a western culture, I am not impervious to the internalized merciless critic.  However, a couple of adult decades under my belt has pretty much muted that little voice.  Has my body gotten better with age?  I doubt it (if so, I could probably sell myself to science!)  To be utterly reductive, I think I’ve (finally) stopped comparing myself to avatars.

As soon as I was allowed, I became a devotee of ‘Teen magazine.  I poured over that magazine, not for fashion pointers, but for role models.  Like a Talmudic scholar, I wore those pages out trying to decipher the secrets.  Coming to adolescence with the zealot belief that life would be like an MGM musical, I desperately wanted to look the part.  ‘Teen magazine promised to be the most instructive.  I was self aware enough to know that Charlie’s Angels, and even Julie, the cruise director, were out of my reach.  But perhaps the fashion models, only a few years older than I, would hold the key.  The fifteen year old me, with a thin layer of baby fat, studied those photo-spreads like nobody’s business. I also, unfortunately, compared myself mercilessly to their perceived perfection.

I still find fashion magazines potentially instructive.  I now, however, understand the wonders of lighting, styling, airbrushing and photo-shopping.  (Hopefully, today’s young teens are much more media savvy than they used to be!)  All this is to say, that the first step to honoring “Love Your Body Day” is to stop comparing it to fiction.  The second step, is to stop comparing it to others.

“Others” being a version of your younger self, or the gal sitting next to you.  As far as the ravages of gravity and/or aging go, let me be the first to point out that you are never going to be as young as you are right now.  Don’t waste another moment bemoaning the fall of your bum.  Buy better pants if necessary.  (Truly, the virtue of good undergarments can not be stressed enough.)  And about that “perfect” gal sitting across from you?  She feels fat.

No one sees our perceived imperfections, they are far too interested in their own.  Whatever our shortcomings, we’re here aren’t we?  Isn’t that everything?  Life is too short to not treat everyday like a potential MGM musical.  Now as far as those off-days?  Change your inner critic’s voice to that of Irving Berlin’s: “Never saw you look quite so pretty before.*”

* Easter Parade

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Style, Well-Being

 

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