Sexy

“You just need to meet a group of models because they have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes and they’re the most physically insecure women probably on the planet” – Cameron Russell, Supermodel

In relation to my last post a fellow INDEVOUR reminded me of the campaign Aerie is running this Spring called Untouched. Their featured models are girls that would not typically be chosen to show a line of intimates and the photos are advertised without any touch-ups. Their tagline: the real you is sexy.

Aerie’s clientele consists primarily of girls, aged 16-21 and they realize that this age is a vulnerable time for females. They want to encourage self-confidence and acceptance – two things my 16-year-old character was definitely lacking. I can, however, hear my younger self observing the photos thinking “aaaand they still look flawless”.

The girls in the photos are, by employment, still models – makes sense, they are modeling, but is the message that Aerie is trying to send what consumers are hearing? Or is the “message” just a part of their corporate social responsibility and not actually “we want you to accept who you are”? It would not be the first time we’ve seen that. A critic of the campaign asks “what happens when Spring is over?” Back to the business of flawlessness as usual?

While waiting in line at a store the other day, I picked up a book about Marilyn Monroe (I know, typical example but it fits…no pun intended) and flipped through the pages of pictures. One picture was this:

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I turned it to my friend, surprised, and said “that would never be accepted today!”

Their tagline is also somewhat bothersome. It leaves girls feeling like sexy is their only option and assumes that every girl wants to be sexy. The line between being called sexy and being objectified is pretty thin. If you don’t already know some of the serious consequences that objectification leads to, check out this past blog – not something I take lightly.

The name of their campaign Untouched also hints of a double standard given to girls (thanks society, once again): you have to be sexy but remain unadulterated – whatever that means.

Aerie, I agree that the real you/me/her is sexy, thank you, but I think your campaign is just a marketing scheme. Society has unrealistic expectations of what women are supposed to look like or be. I’m not convinced that this campaign is going to help young females view themselves in a more positive light. If they are anything like I was as an adolescent, it will only encourage their next pursuit of “perfection.”

Lessons from Macklemore

Naked. It’s how we come into the world, but we are almost immediately socialized to a lifestyle opposite that. For hygiene purposes alone I think this to be a good thing, but the process behind the tag on your shirt can be a bloody one.

I really like fashion. Every academic break I get involves altering/making/designing clothes of some sort. If there weren’t so many pressing problems in the world, I would seriously consider a career in fashion (or rap, or Eastern medicine…I digress). Aware of  (some of) the appalling conditions of factories producing most of the clothes we buy, I went on a shopping fast for the year 2011. In that year I decided if I wanted something new, I could renovate something I already had. I learned a lot, and sewed a lot, but I am no seamstress and was eventually (after the fast, of course) in need of some new clothes.

Tansy E. Hoskins, author of Stitched Up, talks about how fashion is represented as an open operation where you can do what you want. Of course art and personal taste are relative, but how much originality is given to consumers?

She says that poor treatment of garment workers (many of which are children), severe environmental degradation, racial and gender discrimination, and a Western culture of over-consumption can all be blamed on capitalization. It dictates what we think we want, what we wear, what we spend to get it. The sick state of the fashion industry is not due to only one issue.

There are only a few corporations governing almost the entire fashion industry. Hoskins believes that they are what control the cultural heritage we have become accustomed to. This stifles the creativity in fashion and (directly or indirectly) destroys everything in its path.

Many retailers have become aware of their consumers’ ethical consciousness and have begun reporting on the ethical practices of their industry. While corporate social responsibility is a good practice, my cynical side believes many retailers use one example of their ethical ways to cover up the many factories that are not operated in a just way. I must acknowledge, however, the complexity of the situation and realize that complete change cannot happen within the span of two reports.

Something I recently learned is that American Eagle has several reports on how they are bring justice to the garment industry. Did you know American Eagle:

•takes your old denim jeans (from any store) and recycles them for housing insulation

•takes new, single shoes for individuals needing only one shoe, or different sizes of shoes

•takes broken jewelry to Materials for the Arts (MFTA) to provide free art material to charitable and educational programs

We all need clothes, I mean, the alternative is unclean and kind of awkward, but next time you think you hear that shirt calling your name ask yourself: do I need it? Maybe you do. If that’s the case, can you justify giving money to the corporation behind the shirt? Maybe you can, there are many ethically inspired retailers out there today, just look them up! And of course, one can always pull a Macklemore and go thrifting, cause $50 for a t-shirt, that’s some ignorant bull, yo.

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My Inner Monster Part Two: Porn Is Harmful

As suggested by a fellow INDEVOUR, I am doing a follow up to My Inner Monster. Just as I assumed, certain elements of the conference caused me to hold back tears, to cry (I am convinced that I feel emotions at least ten units stronger than the average person) and of course, to learn.

One of the (many amazing) talks given, one that stuck out to me was given by another fellow INDEVOUR, Ian Pinnell. He gave a side of the story we don’t usually think about – the perpetrators, also known as the Johns. A question was raised during the forum at the end of the conference: do you think pornography in any way contributes to human trafficking?

Yes. It most certainly does.

People are sheep. We follow what we see. Watching something being done activates the same neurological triggers as actually performing the act. Pornography influences the psyche in powerful ways. It has the ability to influence a viewer’s perspective of other people, and of themselves.

  • Non-violent pornography significantly affects a person’s want for physical intimacy, discouraging healthy sexual activity
  • Of the 50 best-selling adult videos 90% contained violence and 94% of that was against women
  • Online pornography has shown a 20% rise in sexual attacks by minors and an increased likelihood of virtual rape by 600%

A study done in 2005 looking at the link between aggression and pornography use proved so strong of a relation that a replication of the study is against ethical regulations. Ana J. Bridges from the University of Arkansas studied Pornography’s Effects on Interpersonal Relationships and found that any amount of porn caused viewers to:

  1. .                 Report decreased empathy for rape victims
  2. .                 Believe that a woman who dresses “provocatively” deserves to be raped
  3. .                 Report anger at women who flirt but refuse to have sex
  4. .                 Experience substantially decreased interest in their partners
  5. .                 Report increased interest in coercing partners into unwanted sex acts

Within this disgusting industry, child pornography is growing the fastest. Eighty-five percent of those arrested for possession of child pornography had personally abused a child and 80% of them were active abusers. While I have maintained gender-neutral language, every statistic I read claimed the perpetrators to be men. This is how one becomes a John. Desensitizing, virtual lies that trick one’s vulnerable brain into thinking certain activities are desired and okay.

This is evidently a large problem that is difficult to solve (how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, and invite a bunch of friends over to help!). As Ian stated at the conference, I believe the largest tool to end such behaviour is prevention; prevention by awareness, education and open conversation.

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I am going to start by filling my little brother’s open mind with TRUTH. The true meaning of woman and what that means his role is as a real man. The reality about the world we live in, and how to recognize and disassemble the lies we hear everyday.

Where will (or was) your first bite of the elephant be?

Surf the Web to Surf Better Waves

I don’t have a personal bucket list (I have a shared one) but something that I will do one day is surf. There is something about a large expanse of water, sun and my quieted mind that appeals to me more than even John Legend’s voice. Through research and friends’ trips, I have learned that Indonesia is a good place to catch some great waves.

Unfortunately the water bodies surrounding Indonesia have accumulated large, unhealthy deposits of garbage mostly within the last few years. The country is a tiny gathering of islands in between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This allows garbage to flow in from several different continents. Critics argue, however that the largest contribution to this issue is within Indonesia.

Over 800 textile factories have been set up in Indonesia within the last 30 years. Environmental regulations are minimal and most politicians addressed about the issue claim they are not the authority on the matter and put responsibility on someone else. Education on pollution is also failing to inform citizens of the importance of environmental stewardship.

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Sonny Perrussel, a young surfer from Bali is disgusted by what his backyard has become. After reluctant debating with Bali’s governor Pastika, the province will ban the use and selling of plastic bags provided that Perrussel gets 1 000 000 signatures on a petition. Although plastic bags are just a part of this problem, banning them would decrease waste going out and serve as an educational tool for anyone that presently uses plastic bags….so, all of Bali.

Thanks to technology you don’t have to be a resident of Bali (although that might be alright) to sign this petition. I just signed it and they are slightly over 50 000 signatures. All it takes is your email. Be a part of this act that will better another part of the 100%. Seriously, though, it takes 26.2 seconds of your time and has the potential to improve the lives of an entire province. What are you waiting for? Go sign the petition already!

My Inner Monster

Two questions I, as an INDEVOUR, often get asked are:

  1. What does that (International Development) mean? Followed by;
  2. What are you going to do with that?

For a long time I responded with “fight human trafficking”. My entire privileged North-American life has been quite sheltered to say the least. Yes, I’ve lived in a town no greater than 400 people or less since I was born, and have yet to watch the classic Disney movies (don’t judge me, I can’t control my upbringing) but I don’t mean that kind of sheltered. I mean sheltered from the naked realities of the world.

We have all heard the staggering statistics that:

  • 2.5 million people are in forced labour/sexual exploitation
  • People are exploited in 137 countries – reaching every continent and type of economy
  • 95% of trafficking victims experience physical or sexual violence
  • Profits from human trafficking are estimated between tens and hundreds of billion dollarsSTOP_HUMAN_TRAFFICKING_by_yannieroxxx

But it’s easy to think that it’s a world away, thus we remain sheltered. This past weekend I heard about a woman who spent time with trafficked victims of Cambodia. The woman giving an account of the international volunteer said she came back “just… broken”.

A typical response to my “fight human trafficking” is a serious “wow, that’s heavy” or “it takes a special type of person to do that”. What does “special type” mean? Strong? Selfless? Indestructible? I don’t know that I am any of those, but I do know that nothing can make me [cry, scream, angry, want to change the world, turn into a monster etc.] exercise my passion for justice more than hearing the realities of human trafficking.

What if I come back broken? Maybe that is just what my sheltered little mind needs. It is in the break that healing can make someone stronger. I am not trying to be self-destructive, but we are all equal, all part of the 100% and my remaining sheltered does not benefit any part of the 100%.

This Friday is the International Development Conference on the topic of human trafficking. I will likely cry, I will definitely try not to, but I hope to become even slightly less sheltered from the everyday lives of my fellow 100%ers.

Join me?

Kiss You Kishu

Do you drink water?

Do you use a filter of any sort to ensure you are getting the purest taste of hydration?

Have you heard of Kishu? (no, I’m not talking about the dog)

It is a science that has been used in Japan for thousands of years. Kishu is a piece of charcoal, essentially, that purifies your water.

A piece of wood is slowly heated in a kiln extracting the oxygen until is becomes carbonized. Once placed in water the carbon immediately bonds with the toxins typically found in tap water while releasing beneficial minerals like magnesium and calcium. It effectively reduces harmful minerals such as lead, mercury, copper and cadmium as well as chlorine. Because the toxins and carbon bond at the molecular level, you do not need to worry about the toxins being released into the water a second time.

Maintenance requires boiling the stick for ten minutes once a month to keep its pores open. It comes in three different sizes appropriate for water bottles, pitchers and 3-5 gallon jugs. The filtering life of a stick is four months. After which it can be used to absorb offensive smells in your refrigerator, absorb water at the bottom of a flowerpot or in your garden soil.

The charcoal does not decompose, but unlike many plastic filters, it is not environmentally harmful nor is its packaging. Prices start at $9.00 and if you buy one before Valentines Day using the “Kiss You Kishu” promo code you get 25% off!

I think this is a great natural way to purify the processed water of developing countries. It does not address the  issue of pathogen-infested waters that cause water-borne illnesses prevalent in developing countries, however. Maybe the Kishu charcoal stick is the prelude to a solution for that.

Would you use the Kishu charcoal stick?

A Super Goal

This past weekend was the Super Bowl. My apathy towards football may present a bias, but the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the words Super Bowl is “how can you justify spending $133 000 per second of advertising when this is happening just a plane ticket away?” The event has been know to raise heart rates, sometimes to the point of cardiac arrest (not just because of all those wings and beer) and the advertisements usually upstage the game itself.

I understand it is a cultural event and cannot counter that, but:

  • Some of the ads are so distasteful I am not sure if I actually just watched that
  • A cardiac arrest over a football games requires some re-prioritization
  • $133 000 could buy a lot of people safe drinking water

The Super Bowl holds a colossal audience every year. This means a great potential to influence. Instead of mindless ads and feeding a society that just craves entertainment, what if it would be used as a platform to raise awareness on issues that are worth the passion that is already within each Super Bowl fan? As Martin Luther King Jr. believed “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. What do you think? Is my hopeless idealist showing a little too much?

A Scarring Image

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

American model and actress, Scarlett Johansson was recently made the international representative of SodaStream International Ltd.

Scarlett Johansson

SodaStream is a product that allows you to make your favourite cold drink in the comforts of your own home. You can choose from 60+ flavours and carbonate you drink as much or as little as you prefer. The product comes with reusable BPA-free bottles that last for years. Although the product gives the rest of the beverage industry incentive to consider the environment, it lacks complete legitimacy.

SodaStream is located in the West Bank. International law holds that commerce with Israeli settlements is prohibited. Accordingly, Oxfam contends that such activity propagates the inequality and poverty of the Palestinian residents receiving provisions from Oxfam.

What does this have to do with Scarlett Johansson? She is also an ambassador for Oxfam. Although the organization appreciates her influential presence in their organization, opinions on whether to keep her as an Oxfam ambassador vary.  She is not the first celebrity to partner with an organization striving to better the lives of those living in poverty.

Do you think celebrity affiliation is a benefit or a drawback to poverty-alleviating organizations?