December 11, 2007

There must have been the conditions, the setting that would allow it to exist in the first place.

I just finished my last day of classes for the semester - yahoo! Tuesday was my day with my very good classes - Ruth and Esther, and The Political Economy of Misery class. Very informative and enlightening while not over (p)reaching; focused on the Important Stuff without beating you over the head with it. Anyway, I thought I'd share with you a bit from the group presentation we gave today. It was on The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and we had to present on the book as tied into what we'd been talking about in class in terms of race, class and gender. Anyway, here is my bit on gender and body image:

“But even before the little brown speck, there must have been the conditions, the setting that would allow it to exist in the first place.”

In the video, we saw the ballooning and shrinking of women and the heavy black marker of plastic surgery. Call it negative body image, but there must have been the conditions, the setting that would allow it to exist in the first place.

Many characters in the Bluest Eye hold unattainable standards of beauty; it is no surprise and no coincidence these characters are female. Claudia destroys the blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned dolls she is given at Christmas. Pecola finds her eyes won’t disappear with the rest of herself, and hides behind her veil of ugliness. Polly fixes her hair up like she saw Jean Harlow do in a magazine and remains engrossed in the films she watches.

As members of our society, every day we’re bombarded with images and ideals that demand more than we have to offer, yet we strive to meet them anyway. We push and pull and stretch ourselves beyond our means, judging others and ourselves with the weight of the world on our shoulders.

This is what women had to live up to in the 40’s.

Betty Grable.

Ginger Rogers.

Jean Harlow.

Rita Hayworth.

Shirley Temple.

This is what we’re faced with today.

This image is from Axe and Tag Body Spray commercials. Axe is owned by Unilever, which also owns another company: Dove, the company who produced the Onslaught video. What message does that send?

Claudia eventually concludes this: “The best hiding place was love. Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love. It was a small step to Shirley Temple. I learned much later to worship her, just as I learned to delight in cleanliness, knowing, even as I learned, that the change was adjustment without improvement.”

And here is my entry from my last dialogical notebook. At the end of Dr. Towne's book Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil, she suggests living in everydayness as a way to combat all of the -isms we encounter daily:

Living in everydayness seems too simple, too easy. Where is the commission and subsequent report? What big action plan is there to convince people of the drastic change needed?

I think the Bush Civil Rights Record speaks well enough for the big action plans and commission reports. This document drives home the point that government – especially a government run by New Haven’s favorite son – will do little to nothing to make our society one where everyone lives with hope. From Omi & Winant’s reminder that Regan suggested civil rights work was finished to the bullheaded manner in which Bush regards civil rights issues, the government has failed the people again and again. It is thoroughly discouraging to be shown so bluntly of how the issues I care about are utterly disregarded by those persons in power.

It seems to be about what looks good on the front page of a newspaper; “President Bush frequently speaks about the importance of diversity and exhibits such a standard within his own Cabinet. However, his actions with respect to affirmative action are not in line with that professed commitment as he has undercut programs designed to achieve diversity” (ix). Or how about Title IX funding? The report states, “President Bush attempted to redirect Title IX enforcement, but ceased his effort after overwhelming public expressions of support for the law” (xii). See, he’s listening to the needs of the people. Every time I read a newspaper or watch CNN, my hopes for an equal society grow a little dimmer. The nation takes on Orwellian overtones of all are equal, but some are more equal than others.

The government cannot help us, but we as individuals posses the ability to live deliberately in everydayness. Everydayness, while seemingly simplistic at first, can dwell in an abstract form if not taken seriously. The practice of living in everdayness is grounded in our day-to-day being, but what that truly means is “we must order and shape our lives in ways that are not always predictable, not always safe, rarely conventional, and protests with prophetic fury the sins of a fantastic hegemonic imagination (and theological worldviews) that encourage us to separate our bodies from our spirits, our minds from our hearts, our beliefs from our action” (Townes 163-164). Intentional, measured, deliberate, resonant lives.

Everydayness reminds me of the end of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, where Emily is brought back to Grover’s Corner and shown the minute, day-to-day living. After being shown one of her birthdays, she asks, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?” Everydayness is living life every, every minute. Only after Emily has died does she realize the importance of everydayness in her life, the grand moments of weddings and first kisses along with the small moments of walking home from school and birthday mornings. Likewise, while big sweeping social programs are important in some aspects, the moments in between our heartbeats and breaths are the ones most important for enacting change. By living intentional, measured, deliberate, resonant lives, in conversation and community with like-minded people, we can pull the richness out of our experiences and work towards eradicating the systematic misery surrounding us.

I got a H- (meaning pretty damn good), so I thought I'd share.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Can I have sex with you right now? Seriously, I could kiss you on the lips.