Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Media God


Take a look at this Diesel advertisement: ‘Sex sells* (but unfortunately we sell jeans)’.  This is just one example of how the media forces pornography into modern culture, in this case as a form of advertisement.  Last week, a friend informed me that as TV turns digital in August, extra channels will be added to the network, and this will include pornography channels.  An Internet craze that is also available on satellite television has now stuck its filthy mitts into the likes of national television.  This exposure is somewhat criminal, and the government should be utterly ashamed of allowing such exploitative material to saturate our culture.

Advertisement and pornography channels are not the only media genres with dangerous content.  In England, America, across Europe and even more dominantly so in Asian cultures such as China and Japan, material promoting the exploitation of women is everywhere.  Strip bars and ‘gentleman’s’ entertainment clubs, raunchy music videos, newspaper photographs, magazines with pornographic images slapped on the front for any passer-by to stumble upon, it's all backwards.  For a country that's so 'politically correct' in its conservatism, this is beyond a joke.

‘If you don’t want to get involved with porn then don’t, it’s up to the individual.’
Well actually, it’s not.  Pornography affects everyone.  It is no longer a material that can be chosen by the individual to ‘enjoy’ in private.  But pornography is extremely evident in the public sector of today’s world, and cannot be avoided even at the greatest efforts.  Such material has such a huge part in media representation that it creates an entire narrative of what women are and how they should be treated.  The very fact that this material is now allowed onto national television is a huge statement in itself, a statement that says 'look everyone, it's ok to treat women as objects now because it's on TV'.  Men everywhere are jumping on the [im]moral bandwagon and women everywhere are feeling the effects.

‘But it’s just porn, it’s not such a big deal.’
Well actually, it is.  Men like to erect (excuse the pun) a barrier between fantasy (fictional pornography) and reality.  Pornography is indeed a form of representation rather than ‘real-life sex’, but like most developed media adopts the concept of realism, and therefore naturalising such ideas so that this barrier is broken.  It might be argued that this realism proves that pornographic media simply holds a mirror to the world in its natural state, but someone is creating these representations and manipulating reality through repeated exposure to such ideals.  Such material is the propaganda of a male army, created to brainwash the world constructing a social acceptance of their perverse desires.  And it will work.  It has worked.  The media is the great dictator of social values, a very dangerous tool, and when used in this way causes severe dysfunction.  To make matters worse, due to realism creating a sense of naturalisation, this exploitation is becoming a blind ‘normality’.  People are failing to question such ideals and are worshipping ‘the media god’.

‘So how exactly does embracing pornographic media affect women on a whole?’
Marquis de Sade famously made the connection between sex and violence.  He said, there’s not a woman on earth who would ever have had cause to complain of my services if I’d been sure of being able to kill her afterwards’.  The women in pornographic images are dead, both virtually and functionally.  Victimised as a piece of meat for the pleasure of the predatory male, these women have no role in the outside world.  If Sade was able to kill his women afterward they would only ever be dead, existing only as lifeless objects in the sexual realm with no experience of the outside world.  Without the escape from the sex realm to the mortal realm, women would not be able to reflect upon the abusive nature of such victimisation.  However we DO have ‘cause to complain’, as some of us are able to reflect, some of us are able to see the true damage.  This fiction, the created (fiction from ‘fingere’ = to form) enables fact to be continued into reality.  Men objectify women, using them for sex, acting violently toward them, giving them unequal disadvantage in the workplace, as well as administering continued misrepresentation of women in politics and the media. 

‘I watch porn and I’ve never hit or raped a woman’
This statement is a great example of how [some] men are getting this whole issue completely wrong.  Most think this is a battle not worth fighting.  One comment I received in discussion of this topic is that ‘watching porn stops rape’.  So not only should we accept that men are sexual predators that need to be relieved, but we as women are the ones to provide an alternative method of pleasing them to save ourselves from being raped.  We are still being raped every single day, in many ways, ways that are taken for granted.  Objectification comes in many shapes and sizes and I am sure the majority of men are unconsciously guilty of it.  You may not have raped a woman or physically abused her, but have you ever made a comment such as ‘women are bad drivers’ or criticised their capability in the work place or within education?  Have you ever judged a girl for what she is dressed like, slapping on labels such as ‘slut’, ‘slag’ or ‘whore’ upon someone you don’t even know?  Have you ever made a suggestive comment to a woman or touched a woman’s body, or expected that a woman is ‘up for it’ because of the way she is dressed?  I don’t think I have ever been on a night out without one of my girl friends or myself being ogled at or groped.  Women can’t even walk down the street without a man leaning out of a car window and hurling some lecherous comment at her.  The problems are more widespread than you thought.

‘But pornographic media can be empowering to women’
Well, if the way a woman empowers herself is through sexual objectification then there is definitely something wrong with the world.  It is far more empowering for a woman to work 9 till 5 earnestly sweeping floors than for a woman to sell herself as an object to a man.  The women that aren’t being forced into such degrading submission usually only apply for these jobs because they are pressured into thinking that this makes them beautiful.  Particularly girls who have low self-esteem and little self-worth due to lack of appreciation of personal qualities and lack of motivation toward them reaching higher goals.  This is one way a woman can gain attention from men, and what is perceived to be ‘respect’, although is actually the complete lack of.  A common argument is that ‘women get paid for doing this so there’s no issue’.  Being paid is exactly what makes them objects.  Again due to discouragement in the workplace and throughout education, women are lacking the support and encouragement they need to succeed, and therefore take the easy option of selling their bodies in pornography, strip bars and prostitution.  At this point I will point out that not only men are to blame for this societal corruption, but women too are responsible for adhering to such ‘ideals’ and degrading positions, and therefore subjecting women on the whole to such victimisation.

‘It’s too late to change things’
The tragic truth is that pornographic imaging is something that has existed for thousands of years, dating back to the Romans and the Greeks.  This is far too often used as an excuse as to why it is acceptable to continue such degrading behaviour; ‘porn isn’t wrong, it’s always been around’.  So has the slave trade.  But surely if a diseased thinking has been spreading through the generations for so long, this age of revolution is the perfect time to step outside the box of conservative ideas and change things.  Think about it (and yes I AM going to play this card), is this really the kind of world we want to bring our children into?  It is disturbingly easy for an innocent child to flick over the television channels and find some form of pornographic imaging, or walk around newsagents and supermarkets with parents to glance upon the revealing covers of ‘ladmags’ such as ‘Nuts’ or ‘Zoo’, or even the pages of tabloid newspapers.  Not only does it affect children directly, but indirectly.  As men are naturalised to embrace certain concepts of women, this is passed not only between friends but also down to their children through primary socialisation in the home.  Pornography causing sexual deviance and unequal treatment and expectations of women, often results in damaged relationships, and in some cases can cause parents to break apart and therefore leave an inheritance of disrespect toward women.  Problems are then magnified through secondary socialisation from the education system, impact from peers and again the media.

‘So what can I do?’
Ok men, if you’ve come this far then perhaps you’ve realised that you feel a slight pang of revolutionary passion for the fight for equality.  After this stage, some men tend to hit a brick wall: ‘There would be a representation of us as impotent and as losers which we cannot risk’.  Well ‘man-up’ and risk it.  Women need you.  The revolution against racism could not have succeeded so well without the white man accepting equality and forming an alliance to end such discrimination and oppression.  Challenge the ‘man-made morality which covers up the immorality of women’s oppression, subordination and violation’.  Empower the weak and bring them to your level, respect them as equals and exhibit this attitude to the world.  Stop watching porn and find a real woman.  Love and care for her.  Tell a woman she’s smart, acknowledge her potential, be a supporting figure rather than tearing women down all the time.  And if you do respect women, do not be ashamed, but make it known throughout your day-to-day life.  Chivalry will never go out of fashion.
            United we stand! (Which is exactly why we’ve fallen so far…)
Women have died so that we, the women of the future, have the blessing of freedom.  And look what we’ve done with that freedom.  We’ve been given a voice and a choice, so why do we still choose to be objectified and fail to use our voices?  I ask you also to ‘man-up’, to take responsibility as a singular woman and set an example for the nation of women.  Do not try to be what other people want you to be.  Learn to love yourself, and do not ever feel as though you have to prove yourself to anyone.  You do not need to take your clothes off to be beautiful.  Look for respect where respect is due, and never underestimate your potential as a human being.

‘In Switzerland, women took the military to court for allowing officers to use photographs of a woman as targets for shooting practice.  The reply of the Swiss authorities was that only the particular woman, the model of the photographs, could sue.  And she would be unlikely to, added a spokesman, since she had posed in the first place.’
Do not fall into the trap of treating each case singularly.  This is a widespread problem and representation has lead to the naturalisation of generalisation.  A tiny drop can cause a huge ripple, and every snowflake pleads ‘not-guilty’ in an avalanche.  So be a good snowflake.  There are always going to be worshippers of ‘the media god’, and there are always going to be people that pull the rope the other way.  But the more people that play on the right side of this tug-of-war, the more chance we have of changing things.  It’s not impossible.  Black and white people share contented lives; racism is dying a well-deserved death.  Our next world mission: gender equality.  Get on board.

(quotes from ‘The Pornography of Representation’ by Susanne Kappeler)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Great Divide

I am currently in Wolverhampton staying with my Grandma, what is supposed to be my home when I’m not at university.  I don’t have a Church here.  I don’t have Christian friends.  And I don’t have the Christian Union.  Here is my secular place.  Nottingham is my sacred place.  For two years now, my mind, heart and soul have been set in an unhealthy bipolar fashion, as I like many, have fallen under ‘The Great Divide’.

            This summer between my second and third year of university (the last time I have to return here to live) was my last chance to get it right and make an effort.  I urged my sister in Christ (to whom I am accountable to) to push me over text and email, something that to both of our surprises was not much needed (thanks Jess!).  I arrived on Saturday evening and by Sunday evening, after walking for almost an hour, I found myself in a Church, joyfully singing worship amidst a large family bearing happy hearts and welcoming faces.

            Personal progress aside, this ‘Great Divide’ is something that continually effects the majority of us, it being a way of life that is too easy to fall into and exceedingly difficult to climb out of.  Whether you’re at university and return to a home town during holidays, you have work life and personal life or separate your different groups of friends, think of the ways in which you banish God from parts of your life.

            At this new Church I’d visited, a woman asked, ‘what kind of fruit are you?’.  At this I was rather confused and so patiently waited for the coming analogy.  ‘Are you an orange or a peach? Is your life broken into segments, or is your life integrated with God as your strong centre?’.  Well I happened to be an orange.  I was always satisfied with merely being a fruit of God, bearing the good news in my heart, but I never took much notice as to exactly what kind of fruit I was.  And it turns out I was the wrong kind.

            In Paul’s biblical letter to the Colossians, he writes ‘whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3:17).  To me this means three things:
1-    Whatever: absolutely everything you do, from preaching the gospel to doing the shopping, playing sport with friends or doing the housework, in prayer or in day-to-day conversation.  Whatever you do, do it with God on your heart and mind.
2-    Whoever: absolutely everyone you meet, not just your Christian friends but your non-Christian friends, the people on your course, at your workplace, on the bus, at the gym.  Whoever you meet, show them that you have God in your heart and mind.
3-    Whenever: absolutely every minute of every day.  Not just on Sundays, not just at times of organised mission outreach, but all the time.  Whenever you live a waking breath, live it with God on your heart and mind.

It all seems ridiculously difficult, almost impossible.  But the beauty of it is that we WILL mess up, and we WILL drift away at times and almost slip into the ‘Great Divide’, but God in his outstanding grace knows this already and forgives us.  He won’t leave us, nor will he forsake us, and no matter how far from Him we drift He will always seek us out to carry us back in loving arms.  So why banish God from certain segments of our lives when He so desperately wants to saturate every inch of it with His love and grace?  Give it all to Him, don’t hold back, and He will do things with your life so incredible that you could never imagine.  Get rid of that ‘Great Divide’ and let the sacred bless the secular.  Be a peach!

Alternative helpful Bible passages:

Romans 12:1-2
            ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’

Matthew 5:16
            ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’