“The Revolution Will Be Designed”

That catchy title is not my own and instead is a comment on our changing culture. Everyday, especially with accessible technology, do we both perpetuate and watch society’s standards, regionally and globally, as they shift and merge.  This is why it is so incredibly important to remember that what we build, break and blog today will have a different type of significance tomorrow.

I began doing informal research on the topics of Gender and Design and how they could possibly intersect on the whole. Design, as a principle of advertising, innovation, architecture and so many other fields is often connected through its partnership with Functionality. Where Design is not always functional, it is itself a dialogue on beauty or aesthetic and, as it seems to go, often consumerism as well.

Considering how Gender is a “function” of society; a convenient way to categorize and communicate cultural roles, I only now thought of it in terms of Design. When it comes to marketing, Gender is crucial for economy and trendsetting.  In relation to inventions and new technology, Gender comes into play largely in ratios behind the scenes, but also in how we see ourselves reflected back by identity politics online. And in terms of architecture, in this case the many levels that overlap to make a society work, we notice Gender as part of the institutionalization of different populations and groups.

Remembering that Gender is a construct that we are socialized into is a key factor towards building a better, more egalitarian culture and future. Notions about how men and women (and every person who identifies in between) are supposed to act and behave is designed. Every part of one’s gender identity is packaged as a way to move in and out of social situations and how to process purpose and place when living a moment is just not enough.

We have to be open to the constant movement of trends, of language and of how we occupy physical and emotional spaces. When we chose to design, or in some cases, redesign, such decisions come with consequences we may or may not be able to determine prior to the switch. By analyzing the worlds in which we live we take the “risk” of become subversive, of going against a grain which seemingly works. What many overlook though is that when someone openly questions such functions, like Gender, they begin to realize that there are others that too are less happy than they could be. Remembering also that functionality is relative is important too if just simply to remind oneself to be an aware participant in the Design process. Because a Design works for one, or many, does not mean that it works the way it could, that it works the best it can or that it is even still relevant.

More to learn, More to grow

-Darragh

Advertisements

Agonizing Ads….

Just last week, I had the pleasure of flipping through an issue of the fashion magazine Marie Claire. According to their website, this publication is: “Your source for information on fashion, style, beauty, women’s issues, careers, health, and so much more. It is the fashion magazine with character, substance and depth, for women with a point of view, an opinion and a sense of humor…If it matters to women, it’s in Marie Claire.”

Hmm, sounds promising so far.

Inside I found these two ads:

IMG_20130519_182310_454

What matters to women? Apparently Slimfast diets and breast implants. I particularly love the Slimfast image, with its bait and switch. Women want to lose weight to be more confident, it’s improving their self-image, right….? Oh wait, what they actually meant was women want to look better naked.

Two things:

1. Don’t tell me to diet.

2. I already look good naked.

Why do these ads make me happy? It’s not because I’m looking to drop pounds or get bodywork done.

It’s not even because they expose Marie Claire’s mission statement as blatant hypocrisy.

These ads make me smile because of what happened as I was looking at them. (Glaring in anger, really.) Because at that moment, two other women in the room with me became interested in what was causing my face to twist up. I quickly showed them the offending pages. And what happened next was brilliant. We started a dialogue.

In a very simple way, we deconstructed the hell out of those images. We talked through it. We voiced our different opinions. These stupid, frustrating pictures of faceless women turned into tools whereby we could talk about what it means to be a woman now. And that’s a seed of hope for this society. Women want to talk about what it means to be women. They just need the opportunity. And what is more fitting and more ironic than using  mass media as a diagram of exactly how we don’t want to be seen?

I may even write a little note to Marie Claire, to thank them for making their idea of womanhood so clear to me. It’s useful to know thine enemy.

-Nicole

Punching People Is A Bad Idea — A Personal Tale About Desensitization of Violence

As was briefly mentioned in the most recent Fatal Friday post, I punched someone. I am not proud of it. In fact, I am still a little shocked that I had the capability to become so angered by a stranger’s stupid comment  that I used my agency for physical violation. Although Nicole summed up the situation fairly well, there’s more to it than she or anyone else knows. While the moment of violence lasted less then a minute and no blood was spilled nor response made from the punched party, I now realize that although I consume mass amounts of media, I am still not desensitized…as proved by my shock…and I think that is a very important thing to acknowledge.
First things first: on Friday, November 2nd, I went to film class at 10am where I watched the war movie “Brothers” (2009, Jim Sheridan). The film has a brutal PTSD subplot which included the audience witnessing the origin of the main character’s mental disease: a violent murder inflicted on one American solider from another with a rusty pipe.
I winced in my chair and I’m sure other students around me did as well. Later in the movie, this same character cannot function in everyday life as he used to after he returns home, largely due to the emotional stress he’s holding in. Instead, it bubbles up and explodes in the form of a deranged attack on his wife’s new kitchen, a gift from his brother. He smashes it to bits, again with a metal pipe. With his family in terror, the police arrive at his home and he pulls a gun threatening to kill himself. Personally I found this overwhelm hard to digest. (A few days later when we deconstructed the film in class, it was not nearly as striking as it had been when I was emotionally invested.) Nonetheless, when the movie ended on Friday and the credits began to roll, my 150+ classmates immediately got up and exited. I was left sitting alone in a semi-dark lecture hall recounting the story, my feelings about the characters and the apparent lack of sensitive response my peers seemed to show.
About 12 hours later is when I punched someone for screaming, “…and you should’ve sucked his dick too…” in my general direction. Whether or not the comment was for me, I assumed it was and became enraged, throwing my moral and logical reasoning out the window. Almost instinctively my reaction happened, as if I could not find another way in that split second to get rid of the “thing” that bothered me. It’s as if I thought that by punching the guy who said it, the comment would just disappear as if it had never been uttered. I’d like to think I was being defensive, but I was being reactive.
For back-story  I have never been in a fist fight nor have ever found the desire to prove myself in such a way. As an only child, I received a lot of emotional attention and mental stimulation so the idea of physical confrontation has never had much appeal to me. I was always taught to practice civil discussion if an issue came up. I try to be fair and open and listen to all sides, so, in reflection of my actions, I am appalled at myself.
But onward with the night for the tale is not over yet! After a mentally sobering walk to my friend’s place for a get together, Nicole and I watched “21 Jump Street” (2012, Chris Miller, Phil Lord), the stupid comedy about two young cops trying to make a name for themselves by working undercover in a high school to bust a drug ring.
The movie is filled with on-screen death, explosives, vulgar behavior, weapons, drugs, hyper-masculinity and blood…but the catch is that it’s hysterical. Oh the magic of cinema that it can take reality and spin it and interpret it in so many ways! While watching “21 Jump Street” I laughed, snorted even, at the bathroom humor and obnoxious characters. They meant nothing to me. Their failures were my entertainment and for that matter, were supposed to be. The blatant violence was for my viewing pleasure; such an odd phenomenon in our culture.
I still feel the shock of my hit, but I cannot help to wonder why. Is it because I truly do not have a physically violent nature? I think that’s part of it. Or is it because we women are not meant to be reactive, to respond and defend our own honor? And even if the comment was directed at someone else instead of me, would it be an embarrassment that I defended their honor since I am a woman? Perhaps I was not aware how terrible it feels to hurt someone, to see their face offended and their body trying to hide away from the blow. Did I subliminally think that because of all the violence I see in the media that I would feel more heroic? More bad-ass? Is this what violence has become?
The line becomes clearer now: our world is desensitized. To gore. To sex. To anything and everything that used to be taboo. We have gangster rap and kiddie porn, 3D movie theaters and Playboy, non-stop social media and overwhelming advertising. EVERYWHERE. In theory, exposing the individual to constant consumption could begin the proactive dialogue of why the world is the way it is and how our trends and behaviors are created and effect us, but instead we expose society to media without media literacy education, thus the conversation is never had about its consequences, good or bad. This is a problem because real life and what we see on TV becomes blended together in a tangy concoction of moral disregard and confusing agendas. Media is neither good nor bad, but the weight it carries in our world is outstanding.

I am not yet desensitized. I can still feel and hurt and be blown away by something meant to blow me away. The media can frame anything the way it wants, but deep down I know (and sometimes have to remind myself) that the Himalaya mountains will never be as beautiful on television as they apparently are in real life, that physically intimate interactions are at my and my partner’s discretion and will not be acted out “as seen on TV” in sexy soap operas or music videos and that as long as I can actively work on being media literate, I am closer to a human being than any scripted character or photo-shopped model in an advertisement has ever been.
-Darragh Dandurand Friedman (darraghdandurand@aol.com)

Halloween, “Whores,” and Seeing Past It All

yourdailymedia.com

In response to Halloween & sexy costumes:

‘Tis the season of childish laughter and playful ploys bringing families together through the joys of free candy, costumes and the rite of passage that Halloween is to most. Specifically, an American Halloween. And that’s all fine and dandy for the youngsters, but when it comes time to pay your college dues at frat parties and night clubs, stumbling in short skirts and high heels is not necessarily fun anymore, it’s work, but it’s honorable work, because, that’s what girls are for and that’s what they do best. DUH.

DISCLAIMER (and then some): This post isn’t about slamming “slutty,” stupid, or inappropriate costumes. Nor is it about being pro-slut walk or encouraging the “flaunt it if you got it” idea. Instead, this post is personal because I want to talk about the pressures of popular conventions on All Hallow’s Eve (and honestly a whole ton of other nights out of the year) and why we all need to be more aware of what we say, how we think and the way we treat each other.

From my own observations and experiences, there are pressures on young women to be feminine, sexy and (sometimes) smart (in that order). But it’s more complicated than that: we ladies also have to balance constant judgments from peers and ourselves while being compared to and from the media. To say the least, it can be a little overwhelming to form an identity from these three main factors, especially when there seems to be a superficial, limited definition for each. As Jessica Valenti points out, it seems as though a woman’s worth is based on whether or not she’s having sex (The Purity Myth, 2009) and not on her intellect, her accomplishments or her character. With this being said, it’s no wonder that women spend more time second guessing what others will think of what she’s wearing instead of the political advocacy or individuality she holds.

Now, on Halloween it’s all about walking the fine line of being a “slut” and just pretending to be one. As Cady says in the popular movie, Mean Girls (2004), “In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” Stereotypically, that pretty much sums up Halloween in college. The night is projected through the male gaze, but seems to be more about women competing with each other for the hot-o-meter.

And, as I said, this writing isn’t about chastising them for such choices, nor is it about applauding them. It is about critically looking at this formula, this set of mental questions and applications women must go through to constantly assess the response from their surroundings, peers and self-image.  It is the balancing act of getting by unscathed from participating or not participating in certain social functions and conventions. How can you be “slutty,” but not “too slutty?” More so, how the hell do you possibly create a scale to measure that question?!

Sure, you can dress up as a sexy magician, a sexy referee, a sexy child’s character or, the always classic, sexy cat. Fine. That’s all great. Go for it.

candyapplecostumes.com

zombiefun.com

Yandy.com

completelybonkers.co.uk

But how do you deal with the negative and positive responses you may get? Are you dressing that way to please yourself or others? Are you wearing those clothes (or lack thereof) because you think they look good or you’ve been conditioned to believe so? It is this idea, this belief, that if one succumbs to Halloween peer-pressure, it’s ok, as long as they succeed by being the hottest. Whether a decision is good or bad, it comes with consequences, some accounted for and some unforeseen.

Basically, I think, when a women dresses in any of the costumes above or the like, she is doing so because she’s been taught to believe that sexy is as sexy does and sexy means mini-skirts, heels and cleavage. Often, women are not offered an alternative to identify with, let alone a different standard to uphold. I do not think any girl wants to be told she’s a slut, but instead when she dresses provocatively that she wants attention. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING. Sadly, looking good is the easiest way in this world to get compliments and adoration.

So, in conclusion, ladies — I don’t care how you dress or how you feel when you dress in a certain way, but no matter what you’re wearing, remember that the words and ideas of being slutty, whorey, hoey or sexy are relative. How you chose to see yourself is up to you, no one else. And hetero-men — the women dressed at parties bearing their busts and booties may catch your eye, but don’t need your approval or applause. And the women who choose to cover up do not need your name-calling or insults either. No one wants to feel like a piece of fresh meat hanging from the ceiling or a pair of disembodied parts waiting for your gaze. The world we live in says women should be beautiful. Let them learn on their own that no matter who they may be or what they look like, that they are stunning as themselves, inside and out. We don’t need your confirmation.

Darragh Dandurand Friedman, darraghdandurand@aol.com