Monday, 11 October 2010

Eve Ensler {TED India, 2009}

Eve Ensler's talk was recommended to me a few months back. I think it's only fair to warn you that it does not make for easy viewing, the examples of brutality against girls are hard to listen to, but they make the talk all the more powerful so please be brave and watch it.

As well as sharing stories which cannot be unheard, Eve Ensler puts forward the notion that society has forced the verb 'to please' onto girls everywhere and argues that we need to "change that verb to be 'educate' or 'activate' or 'engage' or 'confront' or 'defy' or 'create'." Eve includes examples of what happens when girls are allowed to be fully themselves - I'm not entirely sure that the example of a teenage girl who expresses herself by getting 56 star tattoos on the right side of her face is a particularly helpful example but maybe I'm missing something?

The most powerful part of the talk for me is the reading that Eve gives at the end. The words are from her book ('I Am An Emotional Creature') and the piece is called "I'm An Emotional Creature." Eve stands up to do the reading and suddenly her words are swirling around the auditorium in a way that can't fail to sweep you up:

"I am an emotional creature. Things do not come to me as intellectual theories or hard-pressed ideas. They pulse through my organs and legs and burn up my ears. [...] I know when a storm is coming. I can feel the invisible stirrings in the air."
"This is not extreme. It's a girl thing, what we would all be if the big door inside us flew open. Don't tell me not to cry, to calm it down, not to be so extreme, to be reasonable. I am an emotional creature."

Although Eve's talk is all about what it means to be a girl she's careful to make it clear from the start that the 'girl cell' is in all of us - it's the balanced, wise, compassionate, empathic, passionate, vulnerable, open, intense, intuitive part of us that is written off as being over-emotional and irrational. Eve puts forward the notion that the suppression of our collective 'girl-ship' is done at a societal level because it doesn't meet the needs of our patriarchal, empire-building world where emotions 'get in the way'.

... Thought provoking stuff ...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Jean Kilbourne {Killing Us Softly 4}

I find it really hard to believe that I hadn't heard of Jean Kilbourne until this morning when I discovered her via a post on the Hardy Girls Healthy Women blog which named her their SPARK Ally of the Day for 1st September (coincidentally that was also my birthday :-)

Jean Kilbourne's film 'Killing Us Softly' was first made in 1979 and this year 'Killing Us Softly 4' was released [trailer]. The films take a look at how women are portrayed by advertisers in terms of their bodies, their role in society and how they relate to men - Unfortunately Jean's view is that in the 30 years between the first and the fourth film the situation has got worse rather than better, particularly regarding how girls are sexualised by advertising at a younger and younger age.

In this earlier video Jean discusses 'Killing Us Softly 3' and makes the important point that although we are completely surrounded by advertising we all "feel personally exempt from the influences of advertising". For me, Jean also hits the nail right on the the head when she says "Advertising is the foundation of mass media. The primary purpose of mass media is to sell products" but alongside selling product the adverts are also selling us what it means to be normal, in terms of how we look and behave, and what our values are.

The wonders of modern technology mean that I very rarely get subjected to TV ads these days but I totally flipped out when I saw this advert for Reebok trainers recently ... disembodied women skipping around in hotpants and miniskirts while they hoover and photocopy their way to a better toned butt ... woohoo for girl power! The problem for anyone who is critical of adverts like this that objectify womens' bodies is that they are passed off as harmless fun or 'a giggle' ... when I see media stunts like this one where a 3D billboard is used to promote Wonder Bras I have a serious sense of humour fail.

I decided a few years ago that I would buy fewer magazines but I'm a complete packrat so I have a large number lying around - every now and then I go through a pile and rip out any images I find artistically inspiring ... one of the things I also look out for are positive messages in adverts or articles - somehow the act of removing them from their original context gives me a great sense of satisfaction and I like the fact that I can re-use them for my own creative purposes without any connection to whatever product the company who paid for the ad was trying to sell to me. In a very small way it feels like a political act every time I do it ... in your face advertisers!

this is me [close up]

When I was about 20 years old I developed what I think of as a fairly mild eating disorder - at one point I was weighing myself every morning and every evening, I regularly told my Mum I didn't need dinner because I'd be eating at my boyfriend's house and I told my boyfriend I'd already eaten before I got to his house. At the time I didn't think I had a problem and even now I wouldn't describe myself as having been anorexic but looking back I can see that I would probably be diagnosed as anorexic given that I was missing meals, lying to those around me and weighing myself pretty obsessively.

Wow, this is awkward ... when I started writing this blogpost I didn't realise that I would end up admitting to myself (and the rest of the world) that 16 years ago I suffered from anorexia (I still think it was a mild case though) ... a big part of me is very tempted to delete the last two paragraphs but a little voice inside is telling me to hit the publish button. Heck, what's the worst that can happen ... if the sky falls in then I can always come back and delete the post. I think that the thing that's driving me to (over)share this with you is that I know I would be that size 8 girl again *in a heartbeat* if I had the chance ... and that means all these years later I still feel pressure to be thinner than the size 16 I currently am. The pressure feels like it comes completely from inside me and that it's purely my own failure and my personal lack of discipline which stops me from losing weight ... but I also know that if I think about what I want to look like it is someone from the pages of a magazine or from a television show or movie who I am subconciously measuring myself against.

I don't really know where I need to go with this but I'm grateful to Jean Kilbourne for leading me to face up to something I've been downplaying the seriousness of for far too long. {deep breathe, and I'm hitting the 'publish post' button}

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Darlene Glenn-McClinton { website}

Sometimes the most powerful stories come in the smallest packages. In less than a minute Darlene Glenn-McClinton shares her story of what made her decide to become a teacher on the website - the other stories there are just as inspiring and uplifting.

Maggie Doyne {Do Lectures, 2010}

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Brenda Laurel {TED Conference, 1998}

Brenda Laurel talked 12 years ago about the games for girls she'd helped produce and the depth of research that sat behind the products. Brenda's comments around validation and feeling visible resonated with me: "I want to make the point that what we're giving girls, I think, through this effort, is a kind of validation, a sense of being seen. And a sense of the choices that are available in their lives. We love them. We see them. We're not trying to tell them who they ought to be. But, we're really, really happy about who they are. It turns out they're really great."

I hadn't heard of her book before 'Utopian Entrepreneur' but it's now on my reading wishlist.

Kiran Bir Sethi {TEDIndia, 2009}

An inspiring and uplifting talk from TEDIndia which I first saw at a TEDx event in London. Kiran Bir Sethi talks about the positive meanings and impacts of the words 'contagious' and 'infectious'. The bit that has really stuck with me is the city that closes down its busiest streets and hands them over to children to play in India's first 'child-friendly city'.

Friday, 10 September 2010

dr mc schraefel {JISC LMS Programme Meeting, Sept. 2010}

The first word I heard mc schraefel say was "howdy" as she asked the ECDL 2010 keynote speaker a question. The second time I heard her speak was later that same day when she introduced herself to the user experience group she was facilitating at the JISC Library Management System programme meeting ... she started off by saying "howdy" and was wearing a utilikilt and Vibram Five Finger shoes, and carried her stuff in a bright orange Patagonia messenger bag ... and I had a full on geek crush on her straight away :)

mc's main area of interest and activity is in making information easier to find and use. She currently works at the University of Southampton. She is driven by the desire to help people find the information they need to improve the quality of their lives.

Last year I first came across the concept of 'designing for delight' during a workshop with Mark Shayler and it resonated with me straight away so I was happy to hear mc mention it during her workshop. She also asked delegates to identify what 'treasure' they hold in their libraries ... hmm, thought provoking stuff. It seems like mc has a knack for asking big, thought provoking questions ... in this video of mc presenting she starts off by asking 'what is the purpose of science?'

Suffice to say that I found mc thoroughly inspiring and am hoping to see her talk again soon.