Obligatory Media Post

Cosmopolitan-Cover-February-2009-cosmopolitan-5254061-413-544I’ve been recommending products to you, dear readers, but to what end? What do you gain by taking my advice?

I remember being in middle school and, like many others, struggling to fit in. I recall begging my mother to buy me Hollister clothing (perish the thought) and wishing for a certain body shape and hair type. I didn’t want to be myself; I just wanted to be like everyone else. Most of that pressure came from the joys of adolescence, but some was due to media exposure via television, print ads, and the internet.

I’m writing this blog in the hopes that it will be accessible and useful to everyone–not just young, white, middle-class, cisgendered, college educated, able-bodied, employed individuals like me–but I know that’s just an ideal scenario. My tips aren’t affordable or accessible for everyone. Hell, if I wasn’t still moderately dependent on my parents, I wouldn’t be able to test as many products or afford to buy $13 styling cream.

One of my primary life goals is to ignore stereotypes, but the media is full of them. There are women’s magazines, and men’s magazines, the glossy pages of which are filled with retouched images of “ideal beauty,” and of rigid standards of masculinity and femininity. There are a million articles about why this is harmful to girls and women in particular, but it’s actually harmful to everyone. Yes, girls are developing eating disorders or having other kinds of unhealthy relationships with food, but so are boys. Women are still caught in the Madonna/whore complex, and men are still expected to be strong, stoic, aloof, and powerful. The images show a mainly heteronormative narrative, portray mainly Caucasians; they are thinner than most of the American public, and they are always airbrushed.

Ad agencies are better than any bully at exploiting our insecurities, and they are so insidious that we rarely notice. We are taught that in order to be “acceptable,” we must buy things to make us better, because our selves are worthless without physical proof.

These are dark thoughts, I know. I’m sorry, but it all had to be said.

So, what can we do?

1. We can stop reading Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health, Playboy, (for the articles) etc, and we will therefore limit our ad exposure considerably.

2. We can learn to look at ourselves honestly, and to embrace imperfection as something that is both universal and beautiful.

3. We can recognize the importance of personality; of forming real connections with other people; of appreciating our talents; and of knowing that each day holds the possibility for learning and personal growth.

4. We can stop thinking about the word in binaries like good and evil, male and female, or pretty and ugly. We can stop putting ourselves into so many boxes and categories.

5. We can stop thinking that $100 perfume, $300 gold/bull semen/placenta-based anti-wrinkle cream, or 48oz of pure acai berry juice is going to make us exponentially more desirable.

My intention, with this blog, is to explore the things that increase my health and happiness, media influence aside, and to pass them on to you. I like smearing myself with oils because I am an itchy person, and because not being itchy improves my quality of life. I like knowing which oil is safest to cook with, because I love cooking, and I love eating (and eating is kind of integral to my survival). I read labels and only put things in or on my body that won’t poison me. And I write about my hair because I once hated it. It made me different than most of my Hollister-wearing peers, and standing out is scary.

So maybe I’m coming from a limited perspective, but I’m coming from the heart. I want to pull each and every person out of the media net, because I think it’s a terribly unfair place to live.

I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I respect your right to put placenta on your face.


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