Life360 isn’t the only blog I write for and every so often I like to share a post I wrote for SheHeroes with you guys here at Life360. Especially when it’s nice and ranty and about one of my most passionate topics: the messages the media sends to our kids.
Sometimes, as I manage my way through my thirties, I look in the mirror and ask myself, “When did I become the old ‘Get off my lawn!’ lady”? It seems that everywhere I turn I see things on television or in magazines that make me angry, annoyed, shocked and just downright crabby. Why didn’t the girls on TV make me angry when I was younger? Why was I not offended by television ads when I was in my teens and twenties? Or when I was a tween even (though we weren’t called tweens back then, we were “pre-teens”). I wasn’t naive; I grew up in a liberal hippy house with a nose for feminism. Why didn’t these things make me angry before?
Yes, I know part of me is obviously more aware now for the plain simple fact that I am a mother of both a boy and a girl. So I have a much deeper stake in what messages the media is sending out there. These are my children that are getting these messages, my children who will someday be teenagers and adults and the parents to my grandchildren. So yes, that does make me more aware, but I know that isn’t the only reason I regularly am shocked by what the media puts out there. Recently I finally figured out why.
I was watching reruns (as I often do with my kids) of some of my favorite 80s sitcoms. And I watched very closely the girls in these sitcoms and realized, I wasn’t angry or upset as a teen, because I wasn’t seeing half dressed brain dead girls who weighed 9- pounds on TV when I was growing up.
I was watching the beautiful daughters of Cliff and Clair Huxtable on the Cosby Show. Girls, who were funny, hip, gorgeous and BRILLIANT. Over on Growing Pains I was watching Carol Seaver who, despite being made fun of by her brother (who was not exactly known for being smart), was a total book worm school loving smart girl, who still managed to get the captain of the football team. I was watching the tough, black-eyed, baseball playing, tough talking Sam Micelli on Who’s The Boss. Who despite acclimating herself to the Connecticut suburbs never lost her edge or her brains. And always had Chad McCann knocking at her door… Or the girls of one of my favorite shows, Head of the Class. They were the smartest girls in school. Still pretty, still cool, and wicked smart when it comes to math.
Back then, the only reality TV were the documentaries on PBS or Dateline specials. Back then, real housewives of any county were too busy being housewives to waste time on TV. And celebrity divorces got a write up in US Weekly, People magazine and the Enquirer. And that was it. They weren’t reported about on the evening news.
On my stereo I was listening to girls like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. Wholesome girls who where excellent role models who were curvy and gorgeous, dressed and looked like girls I actually knew and never shaved their heads or were caught dancing topless at an LA club. Granted as an ADULT woman Tiffany did pose for playboy, but guess what I was an adult by then too and was not too fazed by her choice. Women like Queen Latifah and Lita Ford were out there making a name for themselves in rock and rap. Strong women, who could rock and rhyme just as hard as any of the men who they competed with on the charts.
Even Madonna, who despite her risqué and sexy persona, managed to preach to a generation of girls that THEY control their own lives. Not THEY, but WE controlled our own lives. WE were the captains of our destiny and we should never ever accept being second best in anything we do.
The magazines I read would be full of more than just make-up tips. In the pages of YM I would see girls who’s smiles might have been a little brighter and clothes a little nicer, but for the most part they looked like me. Or at least enough of them looked like me, to make me OK. And in Sassy magazine, I found articles that helped shape who I am today. Not articles about make-up or Kim Kardashian, or how to lose 50 pounds in a week. But articles on date rape, the environment, politics, racism, eating disorders, AIDS and a number of other relevant subjects that I still care about today.
All these things are missing today, that’s why the media messages out there drive me so crazy. Unlike when I was growing up, there is no balance to them. My generation may have had negative messaging, I think that has existed as long as the media has existed, but at least we had some balance. At least there were lines of decorum and morality that were hardly ever crossed. And when they were crossed, there was usually some deep political or artistic reason for doing so. The line wasn’t crossed just for the sake of crossing it. Now that line is so worn out, most of us hardly remember there was a time when it was there.
Where are the Sassy magazines? Where are the pop queens and powerful diva’s singing about power and independence and making videos where they are wearing clothes on MTV today? Where are the Samantha Micelli’s and Huxtable girls today?
It’s not just about the lines companies and advertisers keep crossing in the messages they are sending. It’s the messages that MY generation was being sent, that at some point stopped coming.
So maybe it’s time I, (and by I, I actually mean WE) stop focusing on the messages being sent in mainstream media and start focusing our energy on the messages NOT being sent.
Are you a screenwriter? Well start writing that treatment for a new TV show. Start downloading the albums of that spectacular unheard of female artist you just discovered and tell all your friends about her. Stop buying magazines and for the love of all that’s good and holy turn off MTV.
And please, please Jane Pratt if ever there was a time to bring Sassy back. It would be now.
Lets bring back the good girls on TV, the power divas with clothes on MTV and the magazines that actually teach girls something that enriches their life.