Our You Tube video reaching 6000+ views in one day!

You Tube video girls asking I am pretty or ugly

I’ve decided to make a video collage from bits of the PoU clips in You Tube (yes..very time consuming I know…) hoping to raise awareness of the issue.

The video reached 2000+ views in the space of just a few hours thanks to retweeting and other sharing on social media platforms. I woke up this morning and saw the viewers count at 6000+ : I am amazed!

Even if the funds in Indiegogo are not growing as fast as I wish (I know that without a specific selling point or product to show/pre-buy crowdfunding is notoriously difficult!) I remain optimistic in the power of collective awakening about these issues and the many emails received from supporters along with the growing number of subscriptions to the channel are something which really spurs me to do more.

I would like to publicily thank all the lovely supporters who have written their emails: I hope you will all appreciate that I won’t have the time to reply to each one of you as I am still managing things mostly on my own (will be soon recruiting a team of volunteers so get in touch if you wish to help!) and need to prioritise the writing up of my thesis at this stage ūüėČ

Please keep sharing and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to keep up to date with our progress and receive new blog posts directly in your email box.

Update Feb 2014: the video was removed by You Tube after I started a petition to remove or disable abusive comments. The visitors count was reaching 134,000 in one week due to Upworthy contribution.  I think this shows how much profits can get in the way of ethical conduct. You can still watch the video in Vimeo:

 

My interview with Louise Orwin (Pretty Ugly project)

PrettyUgly Show - Louise OrwinThis morning I had a lovely Skype chat with Louise Orwin, the brilliant artist of the PrettyUgly project.

F: Louise, can you tell me a bit more about the research you were doing before starting the PrettyUgly project?

L: My initial research started to explore how teenage girls express their femininity through thinness and masochism; it’s something that really intrigues me. I came across a site called Thinspiration in Tumbrl and this whole community built around thinness. There are literally thousands of pictures of skinny celebrities mixed with pictures of ordinary girls showing pride in their thin bodies and even pictures of just body parts reaching extreme thinness. I remembered myself at 7 years old wanting to go on a diet: I didn’t have such a large community to turn to for tips and suggestions. Now there are thousands of this type of websites and sharing platforms on the subject. I think social media today open up a new world where girls can really grow in their obsession and preoccupation with beauty and their body: you can find posts for example where they help each other with tips on how to best insert your fingers in the throat to puke, I mean it’s insane! How wonder how my life would have been affected if at the tender age of 7 I was able to access this type of material and find this kind of support for my thinness desire. So, yes, this is a thing which really interests me: understanding this whole phenomenon, seeing how teenagers behave online and how their way to use social media is contributing to the obsession, but also I want to raise awareness of the problem through the Pretty Ugly performance.

F: The thing that most shocked me regarding the PoU videos in You Tube is the fact that so many of these girls are incredibly young (under 8).

L: Yes, it was shocking for me as well, and it was hard to believe at first. In the Thinspiration’s type of sites the average age is older, let’s say 16 years old, so you are kind of expecting that type of behaviour from teenagers, but in the PoU videos the average age is way younger, so many 6-7-8 years old and even younger sometimes, it’s crazy…

F: It makes you wonder what they will be thinking when they get older, if they are already so obsessed at this tender age, how they will manage when reaching adolescence?

L: The other thing I noticed is that these girls grow in such celebrity-obsessed environment which make them craving for popularity, so maybe they think any type of attention is better that nothing. Social media for them is there to get some kind of attention. It seems evident that they want their video to be seen by as many viewers as possible, even while risking so many hateful and horrible comments, they don’t seem to care as long as they get some kind of attention.

F: Yes, and I agree with what you said about You Tube‚Äôs responsibility in one of your interviews: if the minimum age of You Tube users is something to be taken seriously, then they should not allow videos of such young girls or at least they should protect them in some way by disabling hateful comments from being posted. I wonder how the system works: they are very quick in removing stuff due to copyright infringement but they seem completely indifferent towards other type of complaint. Although, of course, demonising the carrier doesn’t address the cause, we need to take girls and parents’ responsibility into account. This is actually what your project want to tackle, right? Can you tell me about your main learnings from your work with the girls so far?

L: I have still so many questions which are still unanswered but one of the main things I see is that teenagers girls tend to value themselves overwhelmingly on the basis of their appearance: for example in one of the exercises, I ‚Äėve asked a group of young teenagers to describe themselves in words not relating to their appearance and I could see that they were really struggling to find words/adjectives which were not appearance-related.¬† Another main thing I‚Äėve realised is that girls have a different way to relate to themselves, depending if it‚Äôs in their real life or online. For example the same girls who post these videos in You Tube would probably not ask the same question to people if they were face-to-face. The Internet seems to bring this careless attitude; they look for confirmation without understanding the dangers. I have done a set of street interviews where I would stop teenage girls in the street and ask them to define themselves though words, writing a few word on a piece of paper. In the first half of the paper they would have to describe themselves in their real life, while on the other half they would find words who define them as they appear online, for example in their social network, Facebook and the like. Shockingly, there appears to be a real split between what they thought of themselves in real life and how the portray their identity online. The online profile was all about portraying a popular, out-going, good-looking girl, while their own view of themselves offline would be full of insecurities: it was really a revealing insight.

F: Absolutely. The internet and social media seem somehow to have exacerbated the issue. A completely new area for research is opening up regarding the construction of on-line identities and how these identities can be conflicting or influence off-line identities. Can you tell me a bit more about the workshops you are currently doing with teenagers?

L: I’ve organised them through the local borough-Council, they put me in touch with some local secondary schools and I had the chance to talk directly with groups of teenage girls regarding mainly body image and how the constant bombardment of media portrayals of beauty can make one obsessive about her own appearance. I found that talking about the issue was really liberating for these girls and they had the chance to put things into context, for example understanding how the many images they see around are manipulated through Photoshop and how the whole celebrity culture doesn’t have much to do with real life. For now I only visited some schools as one-off workshop, we get together for 3 to 5 hours and we have this collective time to discuss and reflect on these issues, but the idea would be to keep in touch with these girls and try to arrange some follow-up. It’s difficult though because they have busy lives and even if I’ve tried to get them engaged in a forum, there is very little chance they will actually go on it. Of course, this is expected: there are so many distractions at this age, so many other social platforms where they can share their experience…

F: What about the process of funding your project?

L: It was fairly easy: I‚Äėve applied to the Art Council as they run this scheme for art projects which was perfect for the idea of my show and I ‘ve managed to raise ¬£10K through them.

F: What are you planning as a future development after this project?

L: Well, for now I want to continue to bring the show in many other places nationally and hopefully even internationally. The show is quite visual so it would be understood even by foreign people. Hopefully we can raise awareness of these issues through this.

F: Thanks Louise, good work! I am sure your show will continue to raise awareness and hopefully be an inspiration for other type of initiatives as well. ūüėČ

More useful articles about the PrettyUgly project:

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-10/11/pretty-ugly

http://dailym.ai/18hTOYM

You can visit the PrettyUgly project here:

http://louiseorwin.com/site/project/id/15

Do they know what feminism really is?

feminism

I found this lovely quote in a¬†teenager girl’s blog, in a post where she explains why she is a feminist, (via http://hijabihomegirl.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/i-am-a-feminist/) and where she highlights the main misconceptions about feminism in the media.

The fact that this teenager is a Muslim speaks strongly about the fallacy of common Muslim women’s stereotype as submissive and brainwashed victims.

She notes that often feminism is mistakenly given the wrong connotation and that this is affecting the way women and young girls relate to the concept entirely, with (ironically) many of them rejecting the label of “feminist”. This phenomenon includes¬†seemingly “empowered” women celebrities such as Katy Perry, for example, who recently declared in an interview “I am not a feminist”. This is indeed very sad, considering how young girls¬†look up to these celebrities.

Why would women and girls feel TODAY the need to distance themselves from a movement that has done¬†SO MUCH¬†for advancing women’s social inclusion, human rights,¬†freedom and self-respect?

Do they actually know¬†that feminism’ s main goal is¬†to reach gender equality?

From many recent magazines articles I am reading, I don’t think it is so. The word “feminism” is now more and more commonly¬†associated¬†in very radical terms with¬†misandry. We should make a constant effort to change this wrong conception and give feminism the glory it deserves. Girls should not be fooled into confounding the two concepts:¬†if it’s required that to change their false assumptions we need to plaster public walls and post pictures like the one above in every social media outlets, so be it!

 

How much time,energy & money are spent in the pursuit of beauty?

bellism

In this interview Alexis Jones (starring in the Vagina Monologues of Even Ensler) talks about the huge distraction that the pursuit of beauty represents for most girls and women.

It is an undeniable fact of our society, a logic consequence of the process of socialisation which most girls will go through from the day they born until they are grown women. The message is unmistakably clear, loud and coming from every direction: family, friends, teachers and the media in the form of movies, music, adverts, games and so on.

A girl learn¬†from the very start in her life¬†what is the most valuable and appreciated thing about herself and, as Alexis points out, the constant preoccupation with one’s own¬†look takes away¬†SOOO much energy, time and money ūüôĀ

What could be accomplished by these same women and girls if they were¬†set free from that worry? Let’s just¬†consider¬†for a minute how much time and energy they could dedicate to other aspects of their life, how their personality, confidence and¬†skills could develop without this constant draining.

The main challenge for a better, happier society is to stop taking for granted this fact as if it was a natural, irreversible reality. We need to remind these girls that there is a process of gender socialisation which is totally constructed, artificial and imposed by an oppressive ideology. Human beings love to look at beautiful things, this is undeniable: but how we define beauty is another matter. Girls need to see how the idea of beauty itself has been manipulated by media and advertising: they need to see the historical, sociological and psychological implications of a system that is NOT designed to make them happy, but miserable, frustrated and insecure.

This is why we need more and more activist like Alexis. We need¬†more roles models talking to¬†girls from a very young age… in schools, youth and community¬†centres, associations, even nurseries!

If we can succeed in making girls understand the artificiality, the construction, the oppressive design behind the “beauty trap”, then they will be free to¬†ultimately step into a new consciousness, with the power, the skills and the confidence to really live their life as a fully deserving¬†human beings¬†rather than beautiful, animated dolls. ūüėČ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0NigNt7SD0&feature=share

Watch & Reflect! A collection of featured videos in our You Tube channel

youtube screenshot MSG

Please check¬†MSG’s¬†You Tube channel playlist for some interesting videos and documentaries on the topic of “Media effects on girls’ body image and wellbeing”.

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuW2vBvU29jEmo7DoAkQK_fyoHYLfBvQS

Many of them have been made by girls themselves. Please share far and wide + don’t forget to leave your comments or personal suggestions: how did they change your perception and awareness of the issue? ūüôā

A 15 years old girl realising the meaning of feminism

combine_images

This is what I found today in Tumbrl (Hear Me Roar blog) and, as it is written spontaneously by a fifteen years old American girl, we can only hope this statement may resonate with many more teenagers around the world.

Isn’t marvellous to read such a powerfully clear realisation from a 15-years old?

What was extraordinary is becoming ordinary: this is a brilliant example of how the internet has become a site of sharing and empowerment, where the awakening consciousness¬†of so¬†many young girls can reach out to others… gaining recognition, synergies and power¬†as the words spread around a myriad of blogs and sites: these¬†are the wonders of social media which I applaud and rely on¬†ūüėČ

An interesting documentary about children’ sexualisation

sext up kids doc

This is a very recent documentary from US regarding the sexualisation of children through media and marketing.

The documentary does a good job in making us reflect on the different values pushed on our kids by media, advertising and celebrity culture and it does stress how the reality in which children live today has dramatically changed from even a few years ago: they are constantly bombarded by images and messages, but there is rarely any guidance provided to them regarding how these messages and images are produced and which financial/political/ideological interests are behind certain representations.

The film¬†stresses also the necessity of¬†providing media literacy¬†interventions¬†at an earlier age. We can’t wait for kids to be 12-13: at that point they will¬†have already ingrained into them an incredible amount of¬†messages/images¬†on how to be successful, popular, sexy, beautiful, rich and so on!

The other day I was at a friend’s barbecue and I¬†had the chance of watching¬†with interest one of my friends reproaching (in a very stern way) her own daughter for posing and dancing in a sexually suggesting manner. Being the girl only 5 years old, the scene was actually quite disturbing for many adults to watch and embarrassing to say the least. The girl could not understand in the slightest why reproducing something that she actually seen many times over in TV shows or the internet was a¬†reprehensible¬†thing.

I felt both her pain and the one of her mother!

Only a¬†few years ago adults’ sexual¬†fantasies and imaginary were carefully screened from¬†children view, so we¬†did not have to deal with this sort of problems.

Today everything is on show and children watch with interest, indeed! There is a also a growing emphasis on sex and being sexy in the media, while at home or at school children are discouraged or told off if they express any sexuality or imitate any of the images and behaviours they see so often on TV, the WEB, magazines and so on.

Children¬†are thus living constantly connected, in a constant flow of images and messages which suggest them to be and act in a certain way, but they are expected at the same time from their family, parents and educators to refrain from reproducing the hyper-sexualised nature of these images/messages: what we demand from them is to continue¬†“behaving like a child”, despite the constant pressure surrounding them and the natural, playful, psychologically relevant attitude of children to imitate adult behaviour.

How¬†unrealistic our demand is! To expect from a child to know a priori whether a certain behaviour, action, presentation, performance is right or wrong without providing any guidance and advice regarding the nature of this ever-growing and ubiquitous media content…

…this is not just unrealistic, it is preposterous and unfair.

So let’s watch, reflect and move forwards: let’s give the chance to our children to fully comprehend what’s surrounding them.

Along with many other parents and educators, I am still wondering why media literacy is not becoming central as math or English literacy in the¬†primary school’s curriculum.¬†Despite the MediaSmart initiative being launched a few years ago in UK, there is¬†still a lot to be done in terms of efficacy, involvement¬†and reach:¬†year by year, we watch the “media and marketing machine” becoming ever more sophisticated, putting an ever increasing pressure on our kids, but – at part from¬†the¬†occasional protest¬†or bewilderment – we don’t offer solutions, failing to act urgently on the issue.

Our¬†children are left behind, wondering about¬†this constant¬†carousel of messages and images, gathering¬†important clues from them, probably constructing their own identity, aspirations and fears¬†around them…it is such a disfavour we are inflicting on our society not to¬†act with¬†urgency on this issue.

Back to the documentary. I am including both links: the first link¬†is for the short trailer in You Tube¬†while the second is the movie full length in¬†low resolution (watchable as a demo from the distributor’s website).

Happy (well…probably NOT SO HAPPY…) watching! ūüôā

 

Slutty Clothes for Young Girls: Irresponsible Parenting?

shirt1200018border

I am receiving positive comments regarding the “Don’t you tell us it’s just a shirt!” slides.

But what many parents are more worried about is the “slutty” trend of clothes targeted¬†to girls at younger and younger age: mini skirts so mini that knickers are permanently on show and mini tops so mini¬†that nothing is left to the imagination. High heels are on the rise too and we talk about 6-8 years old sizes!

I have read also many articles regarding parents complaining to chain stores for selling inappropriate clothes¬†to young girls (a padded bra and tongue for 4 years old was a case in point) and in many instances the complaint seemed to work, at least¬†when there¬†was enough collective upraising regarding a particular “unsuitable” item.

Sadly, as we know, most of these clothes are still around.

The thing is: shops are selling this kind of attire¬†as long¬†as there is demand for them and at this stage we would expect the parents to¬†be the buyer of course, so… this means that there are parents around who are buying into this trend, right?¬†Instead of labelling these parents for being uncaring or irresponsible it would be better to consider that perhaps – due to their culture/background and upbringing – they simply haven’t thought about the issue in our terms.

Some parents may think that bringing up a daughter to be a gold digger or footballer wife is indeed a good thing. Messages and slogans that¬†some parents¬†perceive as disempowering, may well be perceived by another class of¬†parents¬†as empowering: indeed, the power of female sex appeal!¬†It all depends on perspectives and if you live your life surrounded by a raunchy culture it becomes second nature to¬†think and act in those terms.¬†For this reason, I don’t agree with many comments¬†accusing parents who buy this sort of clothes¬†being irresponsible and not caring about their daughters: the¬†way forward should be to avoid accusations and judgements, engaging in dialogue and reflection instead.

In my view, creating resources and thought-provoking material to awaken people’s consciousness of certain issues is one way to move forward. And another way is to be open-minded and ready to start a dialogue: next time you see someone buying into the slutty trend, try to put yourself in their shoes, thinking within their own frame of reference (not an easy thing I admit), instead of dismissing them as they were not capable of thinking. I have tried this myself with¬†a mother¬†and the conversation we started has made me realise that my preconceptions were¬†far from¬†accurate¬†ūüėČ

Another slide for reflection today, please pass it around!