Another Modest Proposal*

* written in the style of Jonathan Swift’s Juvenalian satire A Modest Proposal; this piece was modeled after the inflammatory responses to Maria Kang’s post on Facebook and the claim of poor mothering placed on her. (This is not representative of what I actually believe; please do not take this literally.)

It is indeed a wretched sight, to see those walking down the street in our towns and cities and seeing mothers toting their children all over creation. There may be a solitary stroller with a drooling little cherub wriggling with excitement, or the gang of hand-holding, squealing toddlers racing about the Toys R Us, pleading and imploring their maternal figure for every toy and piece of candy in their wake. Moms, powerless against such profuse wailing and gnashing of teeth, must give in to their every whim and fancy.

An uncontainable preadolescent meltdown

An uncontainable preadolescent meltdown

You might be asking, why are they so complacent? Why are they so willing to spoil their children? Where is the care and desire to see their children make healthy, responsible choices? As we all know, this behavior is expensive and excessive and may very well establish poor personal skills – or worse, a cavity – in these little treasures.

The answer is very clearly written upon their well-shaped legs, their fit torsos, and their skin-tight running leggings. Yes, indeed, it is their Fitness that is making these women such terrible mothers. That can be the only possibility. Every motherly flaw can be traced back to their general fitness needs.

Evidence of the epidemic!

Evidence of the epidemic!

 Velcro sneakers for the kids instead of laces? Mom is too busy at the gym.

Playing a video for the children during mommy’s nap time? Too tired from the gym.

Mommy can’t sew Halloween costumes? It’s not a machine at the gym!

Their strong legs and well-defined arms are to blame for this lack of good parenting – it only makes good sense that a woman who looks that excellent has less time to commit to her children and their well-being. Their healthy lifestyle, wrought with exercise and organic food, is causing irreparable damage to their young ones.

It's everywhere!

It’s everywhere!

But I have a solution to this nationwide epidemic. Yes, I call it an epidemic because you see it in all parents – the healthy fathers and mothers and grandparents alike. It will reduce spending for all families and turn those howling menaces of every grocery cart into little angels that much quicker. The number of children with supporting parents will increase tenfold by adopting this, my most modest proposal.

It is by my calculations that these mothers will increase their success as mothers by abandoning their former habits and embracing a sedentary life. You will see that my math is both accurate and clinically proven: for every pound of weight gain that a fit mother will have after adopting this new lifestyle, her mothering qualities will bloom and blossom as quickly as her waistline. As an added incentive, my research has found that for every ten pounds, these women will gain a new skill! Baking, cooking, origami – the benefits are unimaginable!

I have determined that a mother that gains a minimum of 15 pounds will benefit both mother and child significantly. It will lend a number of advantages to the children and to the mothers.

A mother rejoicing in her success to become a better mother.

A woman rejoicing in her success of becoming a better mother.

I am assured by marketers and businessmen alike that the model for success is undeniably positive. International statistics found at my request confirm my logic. What’s more, we are completely conforming to our inner human nature – those qualities of our subconscious that make us able to judge what is best for all through speculation and hypothesis, with a small amount of science thrown in to give the argument some real clout. It is not by true definition of character, or qualities that have been created after the existence of man. In fact, one can say that conforming to social influences is in our blood! Yes, in every candy bar and consecutive “rest day”, these mothers are truly redefining human nature by reinforcing that which is already seen.

I profess, with the utmost sincerity, that I am not personally invested in this endeavor; I merely think of the public good for my kin and country.

(Once again, THIS IS A SATIRE. Do not be alarmed; I have not gone off the deep end just yet.)

The Parent Trap – Accidental Inheritance of “unwittingly dropped habits”

Today, I want to talk about something that is a little closer to home for everyone, including myself. No, I don’t want to ask you all to think back to the last time you ate Twizzlers or spilled something on yourself in public. My post today is about parents.

This is not a subtle or underhanded way to talk about my life and the “terrible times I have suffered because of my parents”. Because I haven’t. I hope that most people have led reasonably happy lives with their parents, in some capacity or other. My goal is to acknowledge things in our lives that we see and encounter constantly without truly understanding their implications.

Understatement of the year: Parents are pretty important. Further, many of the things that our parents do, say, and believe will affect their children. Yes, as children we will grow and experience things that will make us different from our parents on many levels. But there can be some very subtle behaviors and perspectives that we inevitably absorb and project into our lives.

The following video is from the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational held in this past April. Lily Myers performed her slam poem “Shrinking Woman”, which won her the Best Love Poem award at the Invitational. In the video, Ms. Myers speaks about the difference between social behaviors of men and women. She uses her mother and her mother’s relationship with her body and food as an example of the ways that she has been socialized to think (literally) that less is more. So take a look at this.

(This is the link to the Huffington Post article  about the poem. But this video link is better quality.)

The poetry slam in which Lily Myers performed her peom "Shrinking Women"

The poetry slam in which Lily Myers performed her poem “Shrinking Women”

Finished? Excellent.

When I watch her speak, I am reminded of memories from my childhood that have left indelible marks on my worldview and my inner view of myself and, sometimes, my body. It was nothing that my parents said to me with malice or insensitivity. Many great minds have stated that we never know just who it is that we influence with what we say or do. My parents could never have known that one thing that was said or done would impact me in some way. Good or bad, right or wrong, they have influenced me.

However, when I watch her speak, I also think of memories of the selfless love and unfailing support they have given to me during my life.  Not everything I have felt about myself  was the result of the parenting I received. I have made my own decisions, formed my own opinions, and made changes to my life that have been affected by other people in larger social circles. Some of them have not been the healthiest for me, and some of them have left me a better, more confident individual.

Lily Myers

Lily Myers

I call this “the parent trap” because I don’t think that many of us realize how  much our parents have impacted our lives, especially around our bodies and what we believe they see. I don’t think our parents realize it, either. This shouldn’t paralyze anyone with fear or self-doubt; rather, understanding where some of our body image expectations and values originated empowers us to consider their validity and reevaluate their importance in our lives. It only has to be a trap if we let it become one.

The RIMMA effect — or, How Male Music Artists are Initiated into the Adult Music Industry

Did you spend an entire afternoon watching music videos on YouTube, procrastinating your work away into oblivion? I know I did!

In this instance, however, part of my work was to spend my time faithfully searching YouTube  for videos that served as examples of what I like to call the “Rites of Initiation for Male Music Artists”, so chosen because of the halfway decent acronym that results from it (RIMMA).

What do I mean?

I will give three very good examples of this phenomenon, not because they are the only ones that fit this mold, and not because they all happen to fit the same demographic (young, white, male). It is because these three artists have displayed an evolution in their music that maintains a well-defined trend in the presentation of their music.

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Jesse McCartney (above, 2nd from left) with boy band Dream Street

Let’s start with Jesse McCartney, for no other reason than showing this video from his early music career with the boy band Dream Street. Once you get past the 90’s fashion disasters and haircuts, the song is actually not that bad, in a teenybopper sort of way. I will note that, while the young girls in the video are the center of attention in the video, it is starkly contrasting to Jesse McCartney’s music video for his single “Shake”.

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Jesse McCartney in his music video for “Shake”

This one is not too difficult to figure out. The male gaze has shifted to a dominant perspective, where the women in the video are plainly being used as sexual objects around a central male figure.

No? Not convinced?

Alrighty then, let’s move onto the next victim of RIMMA – Justin Timberlake!

A heartthrob even with his ramen-noodle hair of the 1990s, Justin Timberlake’s tenure with ‘N SYNC was filled with hits like “Bye Bye Bye”  and “Tearin’ Up My Heart”.

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Justin Timberlake with ‘N SYNC

The post-‘N SYNC era presents yet another glaring example of sexual objectification, as JT produces music videos to his songs “Rock Your Body”  and “SexyBack”. The women in these videos gain specific attention because they inhabit roles as objects that the male viewer can observe or own in some capacity. Not to mention, the sexually violent nature of the video for “SexyBack” (which was probably for effect, but still is there) places the male in charge of defining the time and place for sexual activity, therefore receiving control and dominance.

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A screenshot from the music video for “SexyBack”

Last but not least, I present to you all the youngest of our musical triad — Justin Bieber. I feel that this change is the most sudden, considering that there are only two years separating the music videos for “Baby” and “Boyfriend”. Bieber begins the latter video juxtaposing a recording of the music video that contains many elements of his past work — floppy hair, dark lighting in the background, etc. The video then cuts to the actual thing, and what takes shape is a supposedly different video that takes place in the daytime on a roof.

Justin Bieber in "Boyfriend" video

Justin Bieber in “Boyfriend” video

My problem with his change in music video representation is that the young woman who becomes the center of Bieber’s attention only becomes so because he looks at her and finds her attractive. In as little as ten seconds, for no other reason than her appearance, Justin wants to be her boyfriend — a role that encompasses quite a bit more committment than “keeping [her] on my arm”.

Not only that, but I was most definitely not a fan of the way that he basically manhandled the young woman leading up to their seeming “relationship” in the video. Perhaps it is permissible to touch a woman in that way if the relationship has been established between the two of them, but the idea of a person that I have never met grabbing me is not exactly an enticing or compelling enough reason to warrant a relationship.

A similar thought may be considered for his music video for “Beauty and a Beat”. There is no main female interest (unless you count Nicki Minaj when she raps), but as you watch the video, some things are very clear. There are a lot of young women in the video, wearing very little clothing and dancing (often) all over Bieber. Most importantly, however, the song is all about needing a “beauty”.  All of the girls emobody socially expected norms of body type and physical features, taking the role of the “beauty” from any other body types.

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Shot from the music video of “Beauty and a Beat”

During RIMMA, there is a persistent tendency to give women the burden of a significant role shift — from strictly objects of romantic interests, to objects of incredible sexual objectification and male dominance. It is the women that are suffering from the efforts of these artists to become intiated into the adult music industry. The focal point is now the physical, superficial appeal of women, which establishes an unhealthy sense of worth and expectation upon women exposed to this type of media. Why these efforts are considered “adult” as opposed to shallow and ignorant is beyond me.