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Archive for May, 2010

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Let children BE children

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

The world is abuzz with the release of the World of Dance competition video of 7 and 8 year old girls dancing to Beyonce’s ‘Put a ring on it’ in what some call dangerously skimpy outfits with overly provocative moves. I don’t think anyone is denying that these girls are amazingly talented and extremely athletic dancers, I think the controversy stems from a far deeper and longer reaching issue that has been permeating society over the last 20 years, the over-sexualization of children.

Of course the children don’t see it that way, all they know is that they want to dance, dress and act like the pop icons that they see glamorized on television and the Internet and that is just human nature, we all did it – even my parents did it with Elvis comb overs and Jackie O’s pearls. The difference isn’t in the nature of our children, it is in the difference of what those pop icons are doing, wearing and saying not to mention what we as parents and leaders of the future generations find acceptable.

I think it is because we have all become so desensitized to sexualization through the media and the internet over the past few years that provocative dance moves, barely-there clothing and vulgarities in music have become so normal that we don’t even notice it anymore and that can be extremely distressing.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse perhaps I am overly sensitive to the issue, perhaps even prudish when it comes to what I see as appropriate for both children and adults in terms of sexuality. I am by no means blaming any victim of abuse or rape – a woman should be able to walk down main street naked and be unmolested if she chooses to – outfits don’t invite violence BUT there is something that we all seem to be lacking when we deem these type of dances, outfits and behaviors from children as appropriate and that is common sense.

there is a huge movement to stop the exploitation of children through pornography on the Internet right now and that is because for as much good as it has done like allowing you to read my blog right now, it has also opened up the world to those that would use those types of images and videos for ugly and evil intentions. No longer do we have to worry about strangers watching our children from the shadows of a park bench or behind a tree in the schoolyard, these people see our children as objects of desire don’t even have to leave the comfort of there own home to find their type of pornography – they just have to log in to YouTube.

The parents of one of these girls said in a news interview that the video was taken out of context and that the costumes and dance routine was not for the eyes of the world but for competition only. I am sure that is true but unfortunately that type of naivety in the electronic age cannot be afforded. As parents and as leaders we have an obligation to protect our children from being seen as something they are not and were never meant to be, objects of desire and sexual beings.

I say shame on the dance instructors, choreographers and parents for being so blinded by what they have come to see as the ‘norm’ in pop culture that they not only allow but encourage these types of behaviors, movements and clothing choices for their children, by not having the courage to stand up to society and say NO, I don’t care what you think is normal, my child will not be viewed in that way. If it doesn’t stop with us as parents, one child at a time, where will our society – our children be in ten years? What new form of pop-culture normality will weed its way into the daily lives of our children? What will we start to accept as normal and no longer question?

As parents and as leaders of the future, it is up to us to say that children are children and they shouldn’t and won’t be treated as adults, expected to act, dress and behave as adults in order to be considered ‘normal’. Dance community or not, a 7 year old gyrating in lingerie to the applause and encouragement of adults should never be normal, should never even happen let alone be fodder for debate.

Reference video

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Double Standards

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Ah the wonderful joy of stereotyping, it gives us the illusion of being justified in our judgemental opinions on others – safety in numbers I guess. It must be okay to say or think that way if others do – right?? it worked for the Nazis I guess so if you believe it – more power to you – judge on!

I on the other hand find people who engage in stereotypes a very funny breed. There seems to be an unwritten rule about who can be judged and what can be said, a double standard if you will . Up is fine, down is offensive. Go and read any Internet discussion board on weight, religion or money and you will see what I mean.

You will see comments like ‘skinny bitch’ or ‘twig’ or ‘anorexic’ when describing someone thinner than the poster and it is most often not a flattering post, commonly in contexts such as “This skinny bitch was sitting beside us…” or “This twig thought she was so cool” or “this anorexic chick was try to…”. Comments like this are common on discussion boards and if you are honest – common in every day life spoken by those who probably don’t even think of it. Ever been standing at the mall with a few girlfriends and had a tall slender woman walk by dressed to the nines??? How often would that happen and someone would NOT make a comment?  Something along the lines of “they are probably fake” or “who does she think she is trying to impress?”

Now flip that over. If you were on a discussion board talking about weight issues and you used derogatory comments like that to describe someone who was overweight – what would happen? Well I can tell you – you would get attacked by every poster on the board for being mean, offensive, judgemental and prejudiced against overweight people. You post may even get deleted or edited by a moderator as inflammatory. Say something about an overweight person on the street and you risk the same treatment, even most of your girlfriends wouldn’t support such a comment. Even in this blog I am using politically correct terminology such as overweight and obesity because so many take offense at the word ‘fat’ but have no problem with the word ‘skinny’.

What about religion? how often have you ever been spoken to by a person of religion – told what you were doing was a sin or that you should go to church? Ever been told that you would never get into heaven or worse that you could burn in hell? Only 33% of the world is Christian but even suggest that Christmas should be taken out of schools and there is public outcry demanding that the other 67% continue to be forced into a religious celebration for fear of being offensive. Take a look at religious protesters at any political rally discussing abortion, capital punishment or well anything and the posters and chants scream judgement and punishment for non believers and it is as common and as accepted a practice as any we have seen but…. flip that around. What if you were to tell a devout person that he was delusional and believed in a fairy tale? What if you were to protest against cults outside of a church on Sunday morning or to fight against Christmas? What would happen then – would your comments and protests be met with the same level of acceptance as those of the religious sect?

And then there is the topic of money. The best example of this can be found on any wedding or bridal discussion forum. Multiple posts are dedicated to money-saving tips and budget friendly advice. Sympathy and support are given to those who want what they can’t afford – you even see people fundraising and soliciting sponsorship for weddings and these people are all met with the same acceptance and support. Flip that around and mention any type of extravagance – talk about a big budget wedding or discuss the show ‘platinum weddings’ and the claws come out. Any idea you share that isn’t ‘cost saving’ is dismissed and ridiculed as a waste of money – called tacky or over the top and the poster is dismissed immediately as an AW (attention whore) and ridiculed and it doesn’t happen talking just about weddings. How many times have you had a discussion with a friend or family member and listened to them complain about expenses, about not having enough money… how often would you share that you were doing well financially and that you were looking to spurge? Would you downplay your success because you didn’t want to seem like you were bragging?? Why is it ok to comment about not having enough but not ok to talk about success why such a double standard? It isn’t about making someone feel bad, why can’t we celebrate the good for a change and share hope and promise instead of being forced to always commiserate?

the stereotypes of the wealthy are all around us – it is ok to comment and assume that someone with a lot of possessions is in debt, is morally bankrupt, is truly unhappy, married or was born into money… it is ok to dismiss and judge them publicly, it isn’t just accepted it is usually celebrated and people will more often than not join in on the judgement telling stories of people they know who fit the stereotype. BUT… flip it around and start making judgements about the poor. Comments about work ethic or priorities, addictions or laziness and see what happens then… I guarantee you that in most circles you won’t be joined in your judgement or heralded for speaking out – you will be scorned and ridiculed for your heartlessness and lack of compassion. you will be lectured on social issues and criticized for ‘thinking you are better than.”

So my question whenever I see this happen is why??? Why are we so insecure as a people that we feel the need to bring others down by minimizing the positive qualities they have? Why is ok to ”knock them off their high horse” but not okay to “kick them while they are down”? Personally I don’t think we should do either but if we engaged in one shouldn’t we be willing to allow the other? If we are going to judge shouldn’t we be judged? Up or down, stereotypes are just that – a judgement of an entire group. They aren’t always bad, they aren’t always good but considering how many groups we all belong to as individuals we should be very very wary of stereotyping anyone because there are so many ways that those very same stereotypes can be used against us.

Perhaps it is safer to just take each individual as just that – an individual. Every group has its good and its bad and unless we know an individual on their own, we don’t know which side of the line they would fall so why do we always assume the worst? Is it to make ourselves feel better – bringing them down to our level because it is easier than bringing ourselves up? Do we not pick on those beneath us because we already feel superior? Don’t we deserve to treat ourselves better than that? Don’t we deserve to have the confidence and security in our own choices, abilities and accomplishments that we can look at those above us and celebrate them for who they are and what they have the same way we feel compassion and encourage and support those beneath us?

I honestly believe that what we say about others speaks more to who we are than who they are. Next time you are standing at that mall and that girl walks by or someone drives by in a shiny new sports car, announces plans for an exotic vacation or speaks of their religious beliefs or lack there of – think about that. Think about what your reaction will say – not about them – but about you. You just might find that your opinions will change.

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Life is too short.

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

I have a book in my library entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Kristine and Richard Carlson and the title pretty much sums up the five words in the English language that have the power to make every-one’s lives better. If you don’t have the money to buy the book and can’t find it in the library – give me a call I will be happy to lend it too you – it is well worth the effort.

I don’t know if it is my job or something about me but I tend to attract the type of person who feels the need to unload in my presence. It isn’t a huge burden to me – my shoulders are broad and my back is strong – I don’t adopt their sorrow as my own and can usually give a great deal of empathy and perspective on a problem but… yes, there is always a but…

Often while listening to people’s problems, their anxieties, fears and stresses I can’t help but think of that little book in my library and wonder what life must be like for those people who can’t help but sweat the small stuff. There are people out there who get upset easily by minuscule issues and perceived slights that most would not even notice. These are people who if they are me are quick to anger and women who are quick to tear and sometimes women who are quick to anger and men who are quick to tear but usually the gender stereotypes are correct. They take every comment, every look, every action of another as a personal commentary towards them and it affects who they are, what they do and how they feel every single day. It can often be very painful to watch and very difficult to live with.

Can you imagine how much more enjoyable life would be if you never had to sweat over small stuff again? If you didn’t have to get upset about something someone else said or did or about what you thought they may have said or done? It can be done and usually this type of peace can be found through conciously remembering one small thing – not everything is about you. Seriously. People can be rude to you or do something thoughtless or inconsiderate and it doesn’t have to be a judgement call about you. Most of the time it has nothing at all to do with you and they don’t even realize what they have done. So while we are stewing over their action and why they did it, what it means and what they think of us, they are going on with there lives like nothing ever happened because to them – nothing did.

How many times have you been cut off in traffic and by the time you got to work you were in such a foul mood it ruins your whole day and perhaps even the day of everyone around you? Maybe the girl at the checkout counter was going too slow and you let your impatience start to show, snapping at her and stomping out of the store – maybe you even complaint to management. What about the server at the restaurant you went to for lunch? Did he screw up your order? Did you get onions on your burger when you specifically asked for none – did you get your food way later than the couple at the table next to you – the ones who came in after you already ordered? How did you react?

These examples are well – small stuff. They have nothing to do with you – maybe the guy in traffic was speeding to the hospital because his wife is in labour – maybe the cashier has a learning disability or just found out she is getting laid off and is wondering how she is going to pay her rent. Perhaps the server’s wife just left him for the mailman. You don’t know what other people’s motivations are, you don’t know what is going on in their lives but what I do know is that only you have the power to decide how you will let them affect you.

You can bitch, grumble and gripe about the small stuff all day – making mountains out of molehills and being miserable to yourself and others or you could choose to offer a smile and ignore it because what they do, say or feel has absolutely nothing to do with you. Even if they are trying to intentionally screw you over or ruin your day – do you really want to give them the satisfaction of succeeding? If they are that kind of person – wouldn’t it be more fun to NOT let them get to you?

Living well is always the best revenge and one of the greatest lesson I have learned in this tumultuous life I have led is that well – Life is just too damn short. With all of the major events and challenges we need to face – is it really worth wasting our precious time on the things that just don’t matter n the long run? Think of all of the great we can accomplish if we took all of the energy we spent complaining and put it to good use…

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