Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Talking Points #7: "Teaching the Conflicts"

Discussing Love and Helmbrecht, "Teaching the Conflicts"
(Extended Comments)

I've found that the older I get, the more I criticize and tear down movies, television, and advertising.  It gets to the point sometimes that I feel sorry for those in the room with me.  God forbid they're enjoying something like the real housewives or anything reality TV....they hear some form of my frustration whether they want to or not.  In reading this piece I became more aware of the use of female emotion regarding empowerment as a tool in consumerism and pop culture.  While I would choose to focus on any student's well thought out posting, for the purpose of this assignment I thought it might also be more relative to look into a female's take on this reading.  As a combination of the two, I've decided to reflect on Kayla's post. 

 Love and Helmbrecht focus a fair amount of attention on public icons like Pink for the messages she conveys in her music and videos.  The reality of empowerment for women is separated between feeling vs. being.  Kayla references the text quote;

"we want women to understand they do have power and agency and that they are strong and capable. Yet we still want students to see a difference between feeling empowered because the media says they are, and actually being empowered..." 

Kayla mentions how she's identified with Pink's message and lyrics which speak to strength, and the aversion to falling in with the girly girl mentality.  Love and Helmbrecht address the fact that today's younger generation don't naturally distinguish the difference between true empowerment and the media's manipulation of empowerment.  It's important to provide strong role models as an example for youths.  Young people usually identify with and emulate those which they look up to.  A strong and empowered figure of feminism is an important contrast to the princess culture we've discussed.  Kayla speaks for this point saying; "I think seeing our icons sticking up for women's rights can really encourage some of us", speaking as a female who has received such inspiration.  The issue focused on here though is the distinction between being provided true empowerment, or just feeling a manipulated sense of it because it's been fed to young women.  Kayla admits this very realization of the difference in saying; "I can definitely relate to the feeling of empowerment because I personally love these songs"...."I just never saw it as a battle between feeling and actually being empowered."  The article points to the fact that for a number of icons such as Pink there is an image contradiction which questions the intention and validity of their messages to young women.  In the case of Pink it's noted that she herself has on occasion taken on the image of the very thing she seems to preach against. 

The linking of consumerism to a source of empowerment for women is addressed in this reading as well.  Consumerism based campaigns presenting questionable messages of empowerment and identity as it relates to beauty by product corporations such as Dove are analyzed.  Kayla makes a great point speaking on L'Oreal commercials using the slogan "Because you're worth it" and "We're still worth it."  She poses a great critique asking "If one morning I'm too lazy to pretty myself I'm not worth it?."  While such messages are intended to be perceived as empowering, Kayla nails the reality of the marketing campaign's intention, which is to feed on women's insecurities.  

The face of feminism and how it differs depending on generation is also discussed in the reading.  Love and Helmbrecht speak of the variations between post-feminsm and earlier waves saying;

"we find ourselves wondering if younger feminists would feel less alone in their beliefs if they could position their ideas and their work within a broader historical narrative about gendered struggles and the women's movement." 

The fact that many young women now identify female empowerment with pop celebrities and consumer based endeavors rather than those who lead the fight through activism, shows a level of disconnection from the message of those who've come before in the first and second waves.  Is it just me or am I getting worse with these run on sentences?  A quote from Jennifer Baumgardner, a third-wave feminist explains the position of younger feminsts saying; "[They] do not want to be tied to a fixed feminist identity that requires members to be 'anti-capitalist, super-serious, and hostile to bikini waxes and Madonna.'"  Love and Helmbrecht discuss the idea that consumerism led self-indulgency is a misdirection for the femist movement, and that the only possibility for true empowerment is in taking action, as action is the only true method for effecting change.  This is the difference between truely being empowered, and a media and consumerism based feeling of empowerment that becomes more an extention of an individual's buying power. 

Comments/Points to Share:

I chose to focus on a Kayla's discussion of the text as I found that her personal insights on the topic might have more dimension.  In being female she's had the experience of feeling the influence of media and pop culture in their use of female empowerment.  I find it becoming more and more obvious to me just how much consumerism encroaches in on just about every aspect of our daily lives.  If you watch a ball game, in any given shot you are likely to see more advertisements than players in frame.  Billboards in places like Las Vegas assault you from every angle.  TV shows now seem at best 50/50 between showtime and commercial time.  Corporations take advantage of affixing theirselves to all things popular in order to gain an edge.  McDonalds is now being reported as a major sponsor of the Olympic games....what message does this send to youth?  Big Macs fuel the world's best atheletes?  Off topic, but just stating that the influence of the media and consumerism plays into all areas of modern life for people of all distinctions.  


  1. Great post! I'm glad my post helped!!

  2. I think you nailed it right on the head. Pink's lyrics do feel empowering but sometimes the message she is giving out is different than how she is presenting herself. Add to the fact that media is giving women the illusion of empowerment, when in fact it is actually feeding off of women's insecurity. Like the Dove campaign that showed women being computerized, and that they only use real women. But, then it got people thinking, "Is Dove doing this campaign to relate to women's insecurity, to ultimately make money."