Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Judging the "other"

There's a trend in modern cable network programming. This glut in similarly themed shows is a shameful one, to say the least, but I must admit to this voyeurism myself. Remember when cable channels like History, Discovery and TLC used to actually be about something of historical significance, discovery of something new or an actual learning experience? Somewhere along the lines so many offerings on these networks simply became a viewing of the other.  
The other is anyone different than ourselves that can be looked at in a judging manner for its difference from our own realities. There is no better place to position oneself in judgment than through so-called reality programming. The only reality involved in these pre-determined, most likely scripted, antics is that the set-up sequences are really shown on t.v. 
Coincidentally, a common theme runs through those premises. I contend that American audiences are inundated and obsessed with shows about seemingly lower-class people. 
Maybe content producers see periods of national disquiet or economic instability as a perfect time to make American viewers feel better than other people. They apparently believe doing so helps people think they don't have it so bad after all. Hollywood pacified the masses with musicals on the big screen during previous wars. Why not encourage modern viewers to self-medicate with reality shows during the current war? It's happening elsewhere after all, so it's easier for us to not think about it. 

Any change of the remote control can bring you to an omniscient position above people who act weird, especially those who live in the poor south and talk funnyAnyone who talks or acts differently gets the mark of a lower IQ, and spotlighting regional accents seems the fad of the moment. We're left looking down our noses at the plight of middle- to lower-class citizens on the television screen.

Cases in point:
  • Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC) spawn of Toddlers & Tiaras
  • Dance Moms (Lifetime)
  • Hoarders: Buried Alive (AETV) 
  • Swamp People (History Channel)
  • American Hoggers (AETV)
  • Call of the Wildman (Animal Planet)
Producers apparently assume viewers savor a few minutes of escape from their own realities and all else happening in the world. Hollywood did the same thing with musicals during previous wars, and we now have reality television to meet our voyeuristic needs during the current war. We don't have to think about what's going on here if the war isn't happening here in America. So why not pacify the masses with a bunch of fools acting ridiculously in their own element? Where these "reality" families live and work and act is different than our own state of being, so let's make fun of them!
by Charles LeBlanc
via Creative Commons
It's what I call the Jerry Springer syndrome. "My life really isn't so bad, huh?  Look at those idiots on 'The Maury Show.' Now that's white trash!" 
How is it okay to look down our noses at them?  It's all right if it's done anonymously from our living room, right?  Well ... it's not okay. Their misfortune and folly puts the joke on them. We can detach ourselves from other people via the couch, and it apparently makes us feel better about ourselves and think we're better than them.  
Those people may not look, act, or talk like we do, but that doesn't mean they're any less human than us. Even if they just sneeze differently or squint their eyes to see better, we still poke fun. The reality shows portray people with unique jobs, habits and maybe even mental illness. And sure ... some may even act inappropriately in front of the world and get paid to do it. 
Perhaps most "normal" people would be ashamed to do some of the seemingly crazy things seen on these shows. Making them appear so much different, and less than as a result, diminishes the reality families and dehumanizes them as "the other." But we are the ones watching the shows and only have ourselves to blame. 

I've always said, it's like the law of supply and demand. More specifically, it's the "uses and gratifications" theory of mass communication. Networks can't fund production of shameful television if viewers don't watch it. We support their creation and air time by choosing not to watch something else and by supporting the companies that endorse these shows. So how are we any better than those families? How can we continue to feel superior? That's reality for you!  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thanks, my friend! (Sept. 21)

We should all have someone who supports and champions us in life. Where would anyone be without a support system? I want to take a moment to praise the first champion in my life, the first friend I ever had, and my biggest supporter ... my mother ... because I am lucky to have her constant love and praise. Especially since I was sometimes very unworthy of it.
ours - not so idyllic
via moms-in-vaud.com
My mom came from a meager background and was only one of 10 siblings to graduate from high school. She worked to supplement the family income back then and in human services areas during her work life in a variety of care positions since, as I've mentioned in a previous post. And we were some ungrateful little brats, I must say, forever fighting among ourselves. 
Having my own child mystified me as to how Mom ever dealt with four of us -- emotionally, physically, and financially. She was our main referee, disciplinarian, confidant, spiritual example, and provider of most every type of other parental support. All the while experiencing her own, mostly silent, codependency in an emotionally-abusive relationship. Mother also served as our respite in an alcoholic home. Unfortunately, the non-addict parent is usually the one to bear the brunt of the children's pain. 
Witnessing Mom's recent physical pain brought on a bigger sense of urgency to pay homage to her. It's hard to watch her suffer and feel practically useless to help her. She's given the majority of her life's energy for other people's nurturing at the cost of her own health. With her age and body waning, the preciousness of our mortality is weighing on my mind. 
My mother lives through her children and grandchildren. It's total cliche, but not in a bad way. She is so enthused when any of us get to travel or experience new things and let's anyone and everyone in her immediate vicinity know all about it (whether they want to or not). Our accomplishments are her accomplishments, and she proudly shares that joy. All three daughters being college graduates and her son's military career, along with the escapades of five grandchildren, are the highlights of her conversation. 
Mother helped instill confidence in us that probably wasn't encouraged by her own parents. She raised us all to live ethically and responsibly, which may be more the modern exception than the norm. Mom has her own stories to tell about great fun with her friends (mainly the crazy Cackling Hens) and church family, trips she's taken, and good memories. I'm glad to have been part of many of them.

Mother thanked me for helping her this week, but I should say thanks to her. She's always been my main supporter, and I've never thanked her for that. We should all honor our mothers -- we don't know how long we'll have the pleasure of their company. Here's to my mom, I am lucky to call her my friend!

Monday, September 17, 2012

blogging style

Far be it for me to get formal. I recently read how blogs are basically meant to be informal. You bet, or I'd probably not be here.

In a post "What is a Blog?" the author proposed, 
For many bloggers, it’s a form of thinking out loud, of trying out ideas that may later develop into more thoroughly researched columns or articles. Blogging represents a unique opportunity to put one’s thoughts out there, even if–maybe especially if–they’re not fully developed, in order to see what kind of response they get and uncover glaring weaknesses. A fellow blogger once described one of my posts as a “riff,” which I think is an apt metaphor because it gets at what I see as the true nature of blogging: popular rather than classical, improvisational rather than meticulously planned, spontaneous rather than deeply considered.  
This quote from Rob Jenkins, columnist for The Chronicle of Higher Education online, who more or less warns you must be able to back up your argument in presenting it. He judges the quality of a blog with the amount of interactivity that stems from it. Tall order?   

Another academic, Julie White, responded to Jenkins' post by speaking of the "art" involved in blogging. She reiterates a previous blog comment comparing blogs to graffiti, defining graffiti, 
"a form of self-expression, often in an unlikely or illicit location, intended to provoke a reaction. One person’s vandalism may be another’s public art."
While my blog may not generate a lot of meaningful conversations, it is an attempt to elicit some bit of response. Other bloggers from across the States have commented here, and some have viewed from other countries. How could they possibly find worthwhile information from the likes of Katy Did Not?  Informal, yes -- supporting a proposed argument, maybe not so much. Maybe more like expressing a fact. Feminism is, to me, a fact. And I'm glad to promote the mutual respect for and support of great women.  
Somewhere in the back of my memory, I recall blogs taking off when deployed military service members were logging their overseas activities online. Perhaps it dates back to the first Gulf War, as my google search showed it starting to become active in '04. What a great way to keep from telling your friends and family the same thing over and over in separate emails, especially from half way across the world.

Denis Bocquet via Flickr by Creative Commons
My tiny following, or even the number of people who inadvertently stumble upon this blog, will never reach great numbers. There are so many things I want to say anyway, especially about women's rights and young girls gaining the confidence to be a formidable force in their future. It's also about women supporting each other. There's enough defiance from the patriarchy as it is. To me, these are plain facts. This blog is about just that ... my repetition of belief in feminism without sending out emails about it over and over again!

I definitely feel like I'm creating the only kind of graffiti I can, my canvas the internet, and my inscription the words.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thanks, my friend! (Sept. 14)

Some times in life you get lucky enough to land somewhere you feel fits you, where there are like-minded people in front of whom you never have to censor yourself.  I call it serendipitous to have been placed with an office-mate at my current job who fits me and vice versa.  Trust me, being possibly matched with my polar opposite in this bible-belt scared the holy crap out of me, pun intended.

In my case, I was even lucky enough to have been paired up with someone who also became a friend.  Alexis is not only a compassionate person who is loads of fun but was cool enough to invite me into her book group.  Or maybe I infiltrated it ... however you want to look at it.  The book club women have similar tastes to mine but also opened up my reading world to a much bigger place and pulls me out of some self-imposed ruts.  A summer lake trip with this "drinking group with a reading problem" is one of the highlights of my relatively new existence in this geographic area of the world.  True joy is laughing so hard your face muscles hurt, and that happens a lot with them.  Some even pee their pants, but that's probably more about old age and worn out bladders (hee hee).  

Alexis didn't just welcome me into her inner fold, she enthusiastically participates in any fun we can find around here.  She's gone to hear live music -- sometimes with me instead of her husband!  We enjoy many of the same musicians, except of dumb old Radiohead, and do lots of chair dancing.  Wild days of youth might be behind us, but we're still going to live it up as much as we can. I'm glad we both have the exuberant attitudes necessary.   

This woman is socially conscious, concerned for others and is easily inspired to selfless acts.  She is genuinely compassionate for the plights of marginalized people,speaks up for the so-called underdog often, and is caring to a fault.  Speaking of which, Alexis is one of us who can't watch those Sarah McLachlan commercials for the ASPCA without crying.  Don't try to make her watch sad clips on youtube either.  You won't, however, have to twist her arm for happy kitty videos, though.  

On bad days in the office I love to do some dancing to (and ogling of) Marky Marky's Good Vibrations.  I've got an awesome office-mate to join me.  Especially for that, I thank you, my friend!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thanks, my friend! (September 7)

I am compelled to pay it forward lately through my attempt to highlight a strong woman here each week, which has just so happened to be someone I know personally.  We women must support each other, especially in such sketchy times of the persistent war against women in America.  Support and encouragement can only help females demand the equality and recognition they and many feminists before them have worked so hard to earn.    

The women featured in the posts within this meme do not necessarily share my political/spiritual/life views, but all our opinions and feelings are valid.  More importantly, we need to support each other instead of participating the ongoing inner turmoil of our gender.  Doing so only perpetuates the demeaning images of women and minimalization so heavily mediated to young people today.  We must acknowledge each other's worth if we expect and demand the same from society.  If only girls, as well as boys, were shown more ways to respect others and themselves in the process.  But that's another story.

An amazing woman I know has lived an exciting life.  We met while working in the same office at a large university.  My friend, Kristin, was one of the few people who made me feel welcome and confident in that new environment where women weren't so supportive of each other.  It was hard to know whom to trust, and that was only the beginning of my awakening in a big city.  Here was a woman who seemed to have it all together at such a young age.  She had (and has) such a good nature that students, co-workers and generally anyone she met was drawn to her.  With her help, I was able to open my mind to much more than my small-town upbringing had manifested by then.  She and I worked hard to get it all together with each other's urging.

She is now raising two young boys who will no doubt follow their parent's example of a couple who walks what they talk.  They encourage other couples do the same.  I was honored to be in Kristin and Dave's wedding party and have never seen a happier, more beautiful bride than on that day.  She is strong in her faith and lives it every day.  I know a lot of her strength comes from within, though, which I've always admired.

My friend went through a lot on her way to get where she is, and she deserves many kudos.  She speaks her mind but never makes a claim she can't back up.  We've seen each other through some stuff, let me tell ya, but also had lots of fun!  Two lounge chairs at Bicycle Club's pool stand deprived of our deep discussions in the sun there.  I miss living near Kristin and getting to spend time with her.  We could always stir up some drama if there was none to be had.  I'm just mad she's disabled her Facebook profile with pictures to steal for this post!  But she might also be mad if I scanned the old one of us as Brady sisters ... oh, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

Through these weekly posts I encourage women to recognize someone important in their life by acknowledging her worth and letting her know how you feel.  It can mean a lot to say just a little.  I want to "walk my talk," too.  With that, I say thanks to Kristin who I love like a sister and whose friendship I treasure.