Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoughts Inspired By "The Sexy Lie" TED Talk by Caroline Heldman

My good friend Claire Kaplan, posted a link to a TED Talk entitled The Sexy Lie.

I wrote this about it on Facebook:
Some new thoughts, some old in this compelling video. On what it means to be a sex object, its repercussions, and whether there is power in being a sex object. Here are a few ideas that jumped out at me (TL;DW?):
  •  "Subjects act, objects are acted upon. So even if you become a the perfect sex object, you are perfectly subordinate because that position will always be acted upon. So there's no power in being a sex object." 
  • New communication technologies (Internet, tablets, smart phones, blahblah) = more exposure to media = more exposure to ads (5,000 ads/day in 2011, children spend ~8 hours/day with media). To cut through the clutter, advertisers increase hyper-sexualization of their content. 
  • "Men are being sold this idea--constantly--that they are sexual subjects. It makes them feel powerful to see objectified women everywhere. And for women, we are being sold the idea that this is how we get our value and this is how we become the ideal sex object." 
  • Old thought, but I like the term "pretty girl pecking order" because it's just so apt: "We compete with other women for our own self-esteem, because we see [male attention] as a finite resource. So we go into parties and we know where we are in the pretty girl pecking order."
And some new vocabulary I picked up for this brave new world of "hyper-sexualization":
  • Self-objectification: "A key process whereby girls [and women] learn to think and treat their bodies as objects of others' desire" (Zubriggen e t al, 2007:2) 
  • Habitual body monitoring: Behavior like knowing the positioning of your legs, your hair, the light, who's looking at you, who's not. (The idea that this constant body monitoring takes up mental space that could be better used.)
Relevant thoughts from the inimitable Amanda Palmer"I want to live in a world where the internal dialogue of a woman’s brain has evolved to the point where a female performer can wear a sex-pot outfit and, instead of the all-too-common head-chatter chorus of “UNFAIR! MANIPULATED! WEAK! MANIPULATIVE! EVIL!”, she dons her sexy costume and hears internal voices screaming “FAIR! POWERFUL! PLAYFUL! BRAVE! SEXY!” You know…you go girl. But not “You go girl and be manipulated by the man, or manipulate the men in your wake”. Just…'you go girl and wear whatever the fuck you want. And play smart.' " 

Here are Claire's comment on my Facebook post. I think this is the "personal action" we need to take--men and women:

I need to remind myself, if I'm habitually body monitoring, others are too. So how do we distract and support each other? What can we say to make someone feel beautiful and valued for their presence? How do we make every single person we come into contact with feel emotionally and intellectually sexy? If we can do those things, people stop obsessing about themselves and start solving world hunger and making better theatre. I know a few people like that and I want to be around them all the time.
She's absolutely right. I do know people who do this everyday, all the time--it can be done. It's not about being a "nice" person (whooo-eee, is that a whole different conversation), it's about valuing another person for their presence. I also dig this idea of making every single person we come into contact with feel emotionally and intellectually sexy.

May we all go forth and practice a little bit more mindful appreciation of others today and every day.