Defining ourselves and our neighbors through popular culture | Street Jazz

Monday, June 18, 2012

Defining ourselves and our neighbors through popular culture

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Prejudice against women is the last socially accepted bigotry. - George McGovern

I have written before about how I lost the friendship of my best friend because he knew he could never tell me that he was gay; my attitudes regarding gays and lesbians were formed by the cliches I was exposed to in films and on television.

I won’t harp on that today, but will touch on this instead:

When we see “The Other” coming toward us on the street, sitting close to us on the bus, or even working with us, how much of our perceptions are based on badly written songs and films that reinforce stereotypes?

Some may sneer at this point, and remind you that they are only songs/films/TV shows/commercials, but the ones who would dismiss the concerns raised usually haven’t been the victim of preconceptions, or haven’t recognized it when it has happened to them, or people they love.

I began with a quote from George McGovern, which is enough to make some readers go, “Oh, that guy. He got trounced by Richard Nixon in 1972. Well, I can stop reading now.”

With the ever-increasing assault on women by the Men with Bad Haircuts taking all sorts of forms, with one state legislator even barred from speaking because she dared to utter the word “vagina” on the house floor, and “No means no,” - her actions have been denigrated as having a temper tantrum by the men who barred her from speaking.

When was the last time a male politician was described as having a temper tantrum?

What is happening to women today is bigotry. It is both sexual and intellectual bigotry, and the sheer rage on the part of the men who are intent on reminding women that they are second-class citizens is frightening to watch.

It hasn’t been helped by what we see when we turn on the Boob Tube, of course, and that is almost quite literally the name for it. The fascination with breasts, and requiring women in authority positions to wear revealing clothes on a TV series just to ensure male viewers should be insulting to any viewers with the wits to actually think about it.

But it’s just a TV show. I’m sure it’s not sending any messages to my sons or daughters.

If you are black?

Have you ever watched a supporting character on a television program, and thought to yourself, “You don’t really talk that way, do you?” when a black character begins speaking in what might be called black-American TV-speak.

More educated than Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch, perhaps, but you still ain’t gonna sound like William Shatner.

No, you sound like a TV executive might imagine that black people talk.

There are exceptions to this, but they are few and far between.

And then there are those pesky folk from the Middle East, whom we have all been taught to distrust on sight. Is that a college textbook that young man is carrying on the bus, or a book of Sharia Law?

The working class in America. How well are they served, when the shows about “working” people are peopled by total buffoons, and it takes a show like Undercover Boss - ugh - to show employers how bad working conditions are, because employees simply have no way of standing up for themselves?

And their workers, who once upon a time would have had a union to make things better long before this, must grovel and tell their boss how grateful they are that he is now going to fix things?

All of the workers in America who have been trained - like Pavlov’s dogs - to believe that unions are bad - can only hope and pray for the day that Undercover Boss comes to their place of employment.

At this point, Wandering Reader, someone out there is snarling, “So, he wants us all to be Politically Correct, does he?”

I hate those two words, actually, but I do have two things to say on the subject.

For me, being “Politically Correct” simply means that we don’t drop racial, sexual or religious slurs into our conversation just to amuse ourselves.

And secondly:

How many times have you personally heard someone say, “I’m not Politically Correct but . . .” and then the most vile comments spew out of their mouths, sometimes while they are grinning like a loon?

There are lots of other examples, but I think you could probably come up with many on your own.

Which movies or TV shows have helped form your opinion of people you have never met? How hard was it to overcome those preconceptions?

******

Photographer Don House on “Women and Violence”

Along the lines of the above, I recalled an interview (found in my book, “Ozark Mosaic”) I did with Fayetteille photographer Don House in the 1990s, on his series of photographs, “Women and Violence.” I’m still not sure that a lot of guys understand this when they look at images like the ones he describes. Below, he talks about what inspired him to undertake the series.

It was a project that started several years ago by comments that women friends of mine were making about the concerns they had about the way that female sexuality and violence were being used together in advertising imagery. I started looking around more carefully at the images I was seeing.

And it was true. I saw some disturbing images, and in talking with women, and showing them images from magazines I found that a lot of images that I was not looking at as being disturbing, they were. There is a photographer who is known for producing advertising images where there is an aura of violence. A couple come to mind immediately. There is an ad that was done for jewelry and it showed a woman whose clothes were disheveled, and she is laying backwards on a bed. It looks like there has been a lot of activity on this bed. She is leaning back on her neck is over the bed, and she looks like she has been raped and strangled. There is a ring of pearls around her neck, which is what the product was.

The photographer purposely produced those images. He was known for it. Another one was for shoes, and it showed women in Central Park who were laying as if they had been killed.
Some of them were in bushes, their faces hidden. Others were laying on the ground, but in positions that looked as if they had had violence done to them. I think to many women, those images would be disturbing.

A lot of men don't find them disturbing, is what I have found. That is what really prompted this series, the idea that men just don't get it. For most men the idea of sexual assault is not a reality, and they just don't understand it, or the fear that it can engender in women and how it affects so many women's lives. Where they go, what they do, the effect this can have.

One in three women will be sexually abused by the time they are eighteen. That means that in Fayetteville, where there may be twenty thousand women, at any one time, seven thousand of the women either have been or will be sexually abused. In Rape Crisis in Fayetteville they get three or four hundred calls a year. These are adult victims of rape, or their loved ones calling for counseling or help.

*****

Quote of the Day

Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think is necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't it is of no use. —Carlos Casteneda, from The Teachings of Don Juan

sdrake@cox.net

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