Sunday, September 30, 2007

Walking My Tightrope

Sitting in the fading light of Sunday evening, after three full days of traveling and speaking, I'm feeling like I need to share what it's like to speak.

Last week I poured over my old notes, adding quotes, rearranging slides and organizing my ideas. I was weaving something that needed to be strong enough to support me in the weekend's work. I was spinning a spider's thread. I was weaving a tightrope, working late to add layers of strength. So that when I got on that plane for San Jose, unpacked my speaking clothes and walked behind that podium, I would have a rope I could walk out onto.

That's the scary bit. Because the work of weaving the tightrope is one thing, but stepping out onto the rope, balancing your arms and trusting the strength of your arguments is another. Am I making sense? Do they think I'm too young? Can I really be a voice of truth and inspiration in these women's lives? Will my ideas hold me up? Will they hold them up? Who's going to steady me when I stumble?

There was another strand woven into my thread. The Spirit of God went before me, opened up the room and the women's souls to words I had prepared. He wove strength into my tightrope.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hitler, Propaganda and Models

Have you noticed how hard it is to like someone you don't identify with?

Hitler proved it when he change public opinion about Jews. His propaganda machine, headed by Joseph Goebbels, distorted and enlarged pictures
of Jewish faces and placed these billboards in prominent public arenas. As non-Jewish people passed these pictures they began to believe the theory that Jews were subhuman and eventually to believe killing a Jew was not the same as killing a human.

Interestingly in Goebbels library were several books by Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays who has been called "the father of spin" adapted Freud's ideas to control public opinion in ways he hoped would be more helpful. Read more
here.

It was Bernays who figured if you could use propaganda in wa
r, you could certainly use it in peace. Bernays renamed propaganda "public relations" and began playing into people's irrational emotions, teaching them they needed things to be happy. He's responsible for enticing women into seeing smoking as socially acceptable. J. Randolph Hearst employed Bernays to link products to famous movie stars. Watch more in The Century of Self.

Today we see how public relations and marketing creates more to desire than we could ever need. In moving from Whittier to Steamboat, I'm constantly annoyed
at how much I've been duped into accumulating.

If most marketing is mere propaganda, how are we as women being trained to desire what we don't need? How hard it is to notice a model on the cover of Victoria Secret's catalogue and say, "How God has blessed her. I'm glad for her beauty." She's there to tempt us to want to look more like her and less like ourselves. Models are chosen because the clothes look better on them. Models are standards for us to note, compare and mold ourselves into. Is this the good life? To model ourselves into the sexy barbie, or the perfect athlete? These models all work as propaganda in our lives.

Last Thursday I volunteered for a modeling show. My friend and I had our eyes lids glued with false eyelashes, my face already had a base primer of foundation. We got more blush and eyeshadow and mascara on top. We wore outfits that were not exactly fitted for out bodies. We looked fun, attractive, interesting, eye-catching, but it really wasn't us.

There are clothes and make-up that fit me and there are clothes and make-up that are only me playing a part.

We had fun, helping the cause, hanging out with other women. But as I stepped boldly down the catwalk, wearing 5 inch heels that were killing my feet, that I never wear because they squeeze my feet, I wondered at the way I was contributing to the problem.

Women could love one another better if we dressed in clothes that suit us, that neither minimize or enlarge what we have, that are fit to the occasion, vocation and environment we are in. We would be more human if we let our clothes fit us rather than making our bodies fit out clothes.

The
propaganda machine grinds forward, but we don't have to power it anymore.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Found: Mean Girls. Lost: Solution

My husband watched The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet two weeks back and was surprised to find these lightweights targeting the heavy problem of mean girls. The author of Tripping the Prom Queen was in the line-up as well as a psychologist and two self-proclaimed mean girls.

That got me searching for more books on this subject. Guess what? the story has already blown. Catty, conniving girls are out there. Amazon lists scores of books that target the phenomenon, and of course there's Lindsey Lohan's movie Mean Girls.

But is there a mean streak in all of us, one we're often too embarrassed to talk about? Maybe we wouldn't call it mean, just competitive or even better insecure. How do you react when you're insecure?

I'm going to begin plowing through this literature on the mean women out there to see if the solution has already been found. I want to see if Christian writers show us how to fight the urge to compare, claw and captivate in order to get ahead. Are we any more reformed than our secular friends? Do you think so?

How do other women react when they meet a woman who is totally "other" from them? The otherness could be in body, in interests, in relationship, in sexual orientation, in country, in family. It's perhaps easy to develop interest in a Florence Nightengale way, "Oh that poor pathetic thing, she needs HELP! " And then we reach out of pity which, for me anyways, too easily transmogrifies into patronizing, unhealthy mothering and setting ourselves above the poor darlings. Our pity becomes another way we prove we are better than they.

How do you get to know those who are different without resorting to patronage? Better, how do we learn from women who strike us as very different?