I recently wrote this comment on a friend’s status update on Facebook about yet another female-objectifying advertising campaign:
We have SO MANY BLOGGERS all rendering opinions on this that I feel I can’t cut through the noise and get at the essence of the problem. The other day I read a discussion thread on slutty Halloween costumes for young girls that you’d have needed a Ph.D. to follow, and honestly, I felt it was all a bunch of crap! Sometimes we make things complex that are simple. The sexualization of young girls needs to STOP. Period. No need to analyze 17 layers of the onion, everything from how girls may “want” to be sexy to how men “shouldn’t view them that way” to “what is being lost is individual freedom.” I was tearing my hair out. NO. Twelve-year-olds should not be dressing like prostitutes and it just IS…NOT…OK. So I don’t know the answer. I feel it is racing down a rabbit hole, out of my–or anyone’s–reach. We are so messed up as a society now, which is exactly the state the marketers want us to be in.
It doesn’t matter which company is doing it this time, so I’m not going to mention them, and certainly not going to give them a link from Huffington, because isn’t that part of the problem?
I’m also not going to paste in images of random demeaning ad campaigns, or mention a single one of them by name to give context (i.e., to sensationalize and up the readership) for this post. Nope, I know you can fill in the blanks yourself.
I love that I’m writing this and I hate that I’m writing it. I suspect my motives and so should you. How many more posts do we need railing against the greed and immorality of corporate America and its sociopathic degradation of women and girls to make a buck? Sex sells, right? Right. Ok, so we’ve got that covered. And from there, the road forks 239 ways to sundown. Women blame men, men blame women, the marketers say they mirror society, everyone blames the evil marketers, and although not mathematically possible, even more people than “everyone” blame parents.
Blogging through social media is a great outlet. It lets me feel I am doing something ever so small to make the world a better place, and it even, in an ironic way, makes me feel optimistic—because with so many depressing things in the world today, if I am bothering to write, I must believe that something can change.
One of my favorite passages in all of literature is the last paragraph of Richard Wright’s Black Boy:
I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of the hunger for life that gnaws in us all, to keep alive in our hearts a sense of the inexpressibly human.
I get goose bumps every single time I read that. I could compose no better description of why I don’t give up, and how it feels to hope so badly that some of my words will echo and, as egotistical as it may sound, help keep us human.
And isn’t that the grandiose fantasy of most bloggers? The ones who write well and the ones who don’t? The ones with large fan bases and the ones with few or no followers at all? The ones who get famous and the ones who labor on in obscurity? We all want to tell you something for the good of your own soul.
Another Facebook friend, who I also will not link to because all this promotion of bloggers gets to be a bit much, wrote on his wall today: Sometimes, it’s hard not to be exasperated when one’s sense of urgency seems to be matched by everyone else’s lethargy.
An interesting thread followed, comprised of both famous and not-so-famous writers and their fans, all discussing how much energy gets expended by the few while the masses seem not to notice or care…and how to best distract oneself from the frustration over all the apathy out there.
It can feel like trying to pull someone out of a burning building while he is so busy downloading the latest app on his iPhone, he cannot get up and walk himself out with you. Is it worth trying to sling him over your shoulder and forcibly deliver him to safety if he seems perfectly content to lie on the floor of a smoke-filled room, entertaining himself? Does he want a better world for his children, if not for himself? Does he feel any personal responsibility for making that happen?
Here’s where the self-loathing kicks in. I want people to care. It seems to matter a lot to me that I be able to move people, even just a little, towards taking some agency in a society that seems on the verge of collapsing. Sometimes it feels like beating on a locked door over and over again. It even can feel embarrassing.
But there are always the faithful readers who get it and they are the echo chamber. Even when I write for well-known online publications that give me an audience of thousands of strangers, and even when I somehow emotionally survive how craven some of these sites are in their subservience to the same advertisers that I rail against, I still tell myself that it is worth it.
Today I read an article about the rise of the “Mommy Blogger.” I detest that sexist and diminishing term. But what does it mean that an uber-enormous number of people believe their writing to be worthy of public adoration? We’ve gotten to the place where the documentation of our lives has become as important as the living of them, and the Internet is rather indiscriminate. Then again, who am I to say? Why shouldn’t everyone who wants this type of voice have it? Despite the offensive moniker, mommy bloggers are often succeeding. They get petitions going, raise consciousness, and often break through the apathy.
But still, there is too much noise, and I want it to lessen, but I act as if that does not apply to me personally. I must be the biggest hypocrite in the blogosphere. Disgusting, isn’t it?
Here’s my real quandary: Writing offers the elusive promise of leaving some sort of legacy behind. Mine certainly isn’t going to be a financial one, but maybe, just maybe, it could be better than that. Perhaps through blogging I have set an example for my adult daughter about fighting for what she believes in. Or maybe it’s about the messages I send to people I don’t even know, like the man who decides that climate activism is worth his time, or the young girl who realizes that sexually objectifying herself is not actually empowering.
But maybe none of these things ever happen and I’m whistling in the wind.
For someone like me who feels compelled to continue hurling words into the darkness, I must resign myself to being part of the growing noise. That little glimmer of optimism is the only thing that lets me conquer my self-loathing. Temporarily, anyway.
Reprinted with permissions from The Huffington Post.