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Jan 27, 2017


Here’s to a Happy and Healthy New Year

The start of each new year is usually marked with brand new resolutions that we know we probably won’t keep — and, although making a commitment to better yourself is not necessarily a bad thing, we begin to tread dangerous waters when we attach our happiness to those resolutions. When, “I really want to lose weight,” turns into, “I would be happier if I could lose weight,” we may trap ourselves in that familiar grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side mindset. This makes our happiness contingent upon one particular characteristic rather than seeing ourselves as a whole person.

 

As an organization that is dedicated to empowering youth to be kind to others, to build healthy relationships, and to accept others for who they are, sometimes we forget the importance of being kind to oneself. Sometimes we forget that, even though it’s healthy to strive for continual self improvement, it’s also healthy to pause right here in this moment to recognize that we are, indeed, enough.

Accepting that we are enough should not be confused with the idea of settling into mediocrity. It does not mean that we shouldn’t strive to be better versions of ourselves. It means that we need to teach ourselves to fully embrace the fact that we are all a work in progress. It means we completely understand and accept that the perfection for which we may strive will never truly be attained; however, it’s the challenge of the journey which is rewarding in and of itself. Having a healthy relationship with oneself means accepting who and where we are in this moment and recognizing that our happiness and our self-worth are products of our own self acceptance, not conditional by-products of an unrealistic state of perfection. Ultimately, when we practice accepting ourselves fully, we equip ourselves to be able to accept others unconditionally and we model this healthy behavior to everyone around us.

 

This New Year, we at the Be Project want to challenge you to build a healthy relationship with yourself as well as others. Challenge yourself to be more, to love more, to show more kindness. Challenge yourself to be a better person—and remember to see the beauty in that process. Remember that you are worthy of happiness and respect now, not later. We wish for your New Year to be a happy and healthy one in every way.

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Nov 18, 2016


“You should smile more”: And other things women politicians don’t need to hear

As we wind down an election year, let’s take a moment to reflect on the different ways that the media and the public at large judge the physical appearances of male and female politicians. In the book Women for President: Media Bias in Nine Campaigns, Erika Falk analyzes the media coverage of every American woman presidential candidate and, ultimately, finds that women are subjected to 4 times the scrutiny of their physical appearance than their male counterparts.

Yes, male candidates have been critiqued for their appearance. President George W. Bush has been mocked for his smirk, and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney was made fun of for his half-smile. But, criticisms of male politicians’ smiles do not have the same social and cultural meanings attached to them. Many women know what it feels like to be told by a strange man on the street to smile. Young girls know what it feels like to be told that they’d be prettier if they just smiled more. The media oftentimes focuses more on what a woman’s mouth is doing (or not doing), rather than the words that are coming out of it. During the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, an editor at The Atlantic tweeted the following about Clinton’s smile:

After the third presidential debate, the US installment of The Daily Mail ran this article:

None of these criticisms address the content of the debate. Instead of reporting on policy central to the election of the president of the United States, these media voices zeroed in on a woman’s smile.

It’s not just women’s smiles that have come under scrutiny, it’s their faces in general. After the second presidential debate, Newsweek ran the following article:

The author details how and why voters react to women politician’s faces, which ultimately falls along gendered lines. Clinton was not the only female politician to encounter this type of criticism this past election cycle. During the presidential primary, Republican candidate Carly Fiorina was criticized for her face when one of her opponents said, "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" That we even question if a woman’s face can make or break her political career shows that we have a lot of work to do.


This constant focus on women’s appearances is nothing new, nor is it purely an American problem. In 2014, Scotland elected its first woman Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Last month, Sturgeon was set to meet with Theresa May, Britain’s current Prime Minister. Instead of focusing on the important issues to be discussed between the two nation’s leaders, media outlets focused on their footwear:

Not only does this headline draw attention away from the issues that the two women were set to discuss, but it pits these two women against each other and distills their political stances into a petty competition between two women’s taste in stilettos.

And when you Google “Theresa May,” the first result is a bit shocking:

The way the media portrays women politicians matters because it reflects whose voices we value in politics and whose voices we do not. When the media and as a result we as consumers of media only focus on women politicians’ appearances, we are saying that their voices don’t matter nearly as much as their smiles, clothes, or shoes. We might not be able to change the headlines ourselves, but by recognizing the gendered bias in media, we can-- and we should-- begin to change our own attitudes and beliefs—and that’s a good start.

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