On Knowing What You Want

By Madronna Holden

What I’d like for Mother’s Day is for our children to get what they want. But first they have to know what that is.

And that isn’t an easy determination for any of us in the modern age–and especially for women. According to the authors of the Mother-Daughter Revolution, girls in our society start out with an open eroticism toward the natural world, a sensual love of life.  Their presence in their own bodies gives them a vital sense of who they are:  so that they touch the world around them by being in touch with themselves.

Such girls are feisty, as full of joy and experimentation as they are full of themselves.

But if they follow our primary social narrative, they change all that connection to the natural world to desire for a single man—and if they please him, they may, in the sexual act, earn back their original eroticism.  A mother accomplishes a “revolution” by siding with her daughter’s voice as she grows, honoring her real sense of desire—so that she does not get caught in the trap that causes white middle class girls’ self-esteem to plummet in half as they reach puberty today.

No wonder Freud declared women masochistic.  We’d have to be to follow this script. But we’ve had lots of practice, beginning with ancient Greece, in which the philosopher Aristotle told women that they could become virtuous (which, according to this sage, made them happy) by hitching their star to a virtuous man. They couldn’t earn such happiness, he stressed, on their own.

As in this case, those in power in societies like our own have always manipulated the desire of those on the bottom to keep them there.  Aristotle’s main focus in his Politics was to put down the irksome impulse of oppressed people to revolt in a “democracy” that excluded women, colonial subjects, and slaves.

And all of us today are to some extent victims of manipulated desire.  Ads shout “more” to us—telling us how much we need more food, more convenience, more newness, more improvement.  Such ads assure us that we can buy whatever it is we want—after they tell us what that is.

The first part of this media blitz is deficit or scarcity thinking, as traced in the history of advertising by Stuart Ewen, where we learn of corporate meetings back in the 1920s that concluded the fostering of psychological deficits was beneficial to selling more products.  Juliet Schor’s shocking Born to Buy details the ways in which modern advertising indoctrinates children from the youngest age with the idea that they are what they own.

This dynamic also gives girls and women the idea that their self-esteem is coincident with their image. Peggy Orenstein spent time with young women in four different schools from varied social classes and ethnic backgrounds.  Her findings indicate that these girls’ self-esteem plummeted when they reached puberty precisely because they were under so much pressure of appearances.

Educator Jean Kilbourne’s work details the deadly way ads manipulate desire for particular appearances—since they link sexuality with the objectification of and violence towards not only women but girls.  Altogether, such manipulation of desire muddies the water considerably in terms of young men and women coming of age today, for whom modern media is as much an influence as their education or their families.

Like all other earth dwellers, we are all intentional creatures.  In the 1900s Wild Bill, an elder of the Pit River people said this well: everything alive is for a purpose. As living creatures, we have a meaning, a sense of belonging, an orientation toward something.  But if we don’t know what this is, we are susceptible to the infinite desire for more and more upon which capitalistic growth is based.  “You can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place”, as the astute addiction counselor put it.   So never getting what we really want fuels the engine of growth as we keep consuming more and more in the hopes we will finally be satisfied.

In this age of the gluttonous consumer, we don’t need less.  We need less of those things that give us no real satisfaction, that destroy our self-esteem—and our environment.

But when we have a clear conversation with our own desires, we may find we want more.  I know I do.

For Mother’s Day, I want lots more.  I want clean water, fresh air, contact with a live natural world, a society that allows the unique gifts of each of us to come to fruition, a place of belonging for my daughter and the generations that follow.

In telling the story of a stalk of corn that mothered itself, persisting and reseeding without water in a dark cave for generations, Linda Hogan has these eloquent words to say about natural desire in Linda Hogan’s Dwellings (p.62): “The stalks of the corn want clean water… The leaves of the corn want good earth. The earth wants peace. The birds who eat the corn do not want poison.  Nothing wants to suffer. The wind does not want to carry the stories of death.”

This stalk that continues in a dark cave by itself is like buried human desire waiting for the sun and the rain all this time—so that is can rejoin the community of earthly life again.

567 Responses

  1. Has anybody really felt more pretty, happy, popular or successful after a purchase, after the initial excitement of it has gone? Nothing we can buy will fulfill our inner desires, the ones that have become so hidden and became so small because of the millions of advertisements we see in our lifetimes. We need to somehow separate ourselves from all of this pressure, so that we can learn happiness for ourselves.

    We also need to accept that we are beautiful, smart, loving creatures despite our flaws. This is especially difficult for girls in today’s time, as we are constantly told that we need to be sexy-but not TOO sexy- and that we need to please men. This is devastating in our culture because it starts at such a young and confusing age. The effects of it can hurt so much, and it must be terrible for a mother to watch her children suffer through this. I hope that, for Mother’s Day, love can be given, and received. I also hope that in the future, there is more clean air and water, more of the wild in our lives. Like ourselves, the purity of this has been so lost and destroyed.

    • Great points, Erin. I don’t know of anyone who gained any long term satisfaction from a purchase. And I know firsthand (as a mother) what it is to watch your daughter suffer through this. I second your hopes for Mother’s Day!

  2. This is so true in our society today it seems as though whatever we want is because somehow the government or media says that this is what you want. cause if they say it is then it must be and our minds will immidietly trigger that. The one big problem here i think is that people care to much about what others think. Whether it be what they wear or what they drive or even what they eat. The reason most girls start to get self concious about themselves around that age i can only assume is because of the media and what they decide is good looking. What the worst thing about this is, is that we promote it, by watching the shows like americas next top model saying you have to be like this or your not pretty or your to fat or she to short so she cant be pretty. I am sure everyone must know this by now but i was told once that if the barbie doll that all girls play with was a real person she would 7 feet tall and far underneath the healthy weight. This is just one example of many in our society. Even the colors that seem to come in fassion every year or five years is because it was decided by a group of people to make it that way. We may think that we know what we want but we dont, because the only things we want are the things that have been told to us or is popular because of that same reason. i want a ferrari enzo, and so does probably every guy in the world. But why? because i was taught that, that was the coolest care you can have by the media. Not because i decided it was the best, but because along the line i went with the norm and thought it was the coolest car. If the media told me that the station wagon was the coolest car then i bet i would think it was too, and we would probably see people like P-diddy driving 5 of them.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comments on persuasion by the mass media, Christian–and your personal assessment on wanting the Ferrari. I think we all need to make a few critical personal assessments, especially since our over-consumption is ravaging our environment. I think we could use a bit of humorous perspective on this such as you bring in at the end of your comment. Just how foolish is it to buy something that is destroying our own ability to live sustainable and healthy lives on this planet just because the media tells us this is so!

  3. I am sad about the huge pressure girls and women are exposed to in male-dominated societies. They are asked to follow blindly the examples and standards of women that appear on the TV screens without questioning the validity of what is shown on TV. How is it possible for them to grow bigger without being manipulated in such a manner? The objectification of females in society especially by the media has often fatal results. Girls are forced to conform to models and actrices in many ways such as the body measurements and due to their young age most girls fail to realize that these VIP chicks do not look in that way outside of the TV and printmedia. These high expectations often lead to serious illnesses such as bulimia etc.

    • Thanks for the sensitive comment, Nick. I understand that many models are now asked to sign surgery agreements upon hire, since the tall thin body does not come with the requisite large breasts. Moreover, as you indicate, model pics are airbrushed and touched up with computers. You might also be interested to know that the self-esteem of top models is among the lowest of those in all professions.
      Jean Kilbourne makes the point that mask-like faces (that is, objectified and dead looking ones) are the most accepted. She also makes the point that stereotypical ad images harm all of us, men as well as women, in that they hamper our ability to live freely chosen lives.
      This kind of manipulated consumerism is disastrous for the natural world in what it pushes. And the ways in which women’s bodies are reshaped on many modern ads parallels the ways in which we attempt to control and reshape the natural world.

  4. That was such an elequent way to make a point on consumerism. It’s true, about tv ads, (or advertising as a whole) about the boxes our cereal come in, and the music videos and shows on the air. This is manipulation! I kind of see these advertising executives like the tabacco industry: they market to kids because they’re easy to twist and they know if they hook them young they can make more money off of them. Same thing with anything that we are told to buy which we don’t need.

    Since part of this was regarding women’s issues, I asked my wife to share her perspective and we had a talk about it. She said that her time growing into teenagerdom and through high school was rocky with her mom, and it was mostly because she didn’t really know what she wanted. She was always after a more attractive boyfriend, and quit high school to work so she could buy nicer clothes and a car to be cooler. She said she wishes she’d known better. (Me too)

    I can see how consumerism has effected me as well. My problem is that I always want the new cool thing, which isn’t always a great thing, financially. Why do I want it so bad that I think I need it? Let’s ask the people behind the camera, who are making the media that makes it all look so dang necessary to my hapiness. I know that I won’t die without it, but will I like life as much when I know I’m living without X-cool-product?

    • Thanks for sharing your insightful self-reflection here, Josh. And for making this a family conversation. We are all in the process of learning how to make the choices of what we really want–and I learned something from the shared experience here.

  5. I find it alarming how perceptions of body image and appearance have been unduly influenced by the media (and advertisements, in particular) in this country for the past few decades. Case studies of indigenous tribes in other countries, especially where food is a scarce resource, have actually found that larger body types are more desirable than smaller ones. I think this is a fairly good indicator of the power that society has over these kind of topics. What saddens me is that in each case society’s role overshadows nature’s. We are who we are, but external pressure from these (and other sources) forces us to abandon that. I think it is important that we find any way, no matter how small, to get back in touch with that.

    • Thanks for your comment, Allison. Good points. I think this is an instance that shows how the way we treat one another and the way we treat the environment may be linked.

  6. It is an insightful column again. When most of us think of Mother’s Day, we think about what we can do for our mother. Seldom do we think about what a mother might do for her children………as an inheritance to her children surrounding Mother Earth! The greatest gift continues to be “giving back” as we have consumed so, so much on the front end. I think this is a good idea of “teaching” the importance of giving back vs. only celebrating mothers for our sole existence of being here and her dedication in rearing us.

    Paul

    • An interesting take on this, Paul. Certainly over-consuming is NOT a return on the gift of our lives. As a personal note, I have always felt this way about my daughter on Mother’s Day– after all, it is she that makes me a mother!

      • Thanks for sharing your personal views surrounding Mothers. Here is an early Happy Mother’s Day to you. I hope your daughter and you are able to enjoy the day together!

        Paul

  7. It is very sad for me to watch young girls today and their attempts to be sex objects at such young ages. Society and the media have truly twisted the soul of a woman, but it isn’t just in recent times. Women’s oppression and manipulation has been going on for centuries, so it’s only foreseeable that despite the women’s rights movements, women are still portrayed as nothing more than sex objects. In some respects, I believe that the feminist movement actually hindered the progress of women in society. In their attempts for equality, they forgot that women and men aren’t equal and that each gender does have its purpose. I think in trying so hard to make women into men, man’s image has of us has thus become even more so that our purpose for them is sex. They have lost their purpose and identity as men and therefore the only thing left is to objectify women for the only thing we need them for anymore, sex. It makes me angry to hear from men that they don’t open doors for women anymore because some women get mad and say, I can do it myself! Since when is being courteous to your fellow human being a bad thing? Of course you can open the door yourself, but is it really demeaning to you if a man wants to open it for you? I think this attitude is completely destroying the fabric of the family unit. Without defined gender roles, men and women have a harder time finding harmony together in the way that we were created to. The media has further pushed this segregation of the genders to the point that they only thing young people feel they have to give each other any longer is sex. And a woman is only good for that if she is model perfect. I find it so funny when watching commercials these days to see that in the family environment, so often you see the husband is this sloppy, fat, unkempt man but the wife is still young, skinny, beautiful and sexy. It’s no wonder that our young girls receive this message that their only worth is in what they look like.

    • Thoughtful points, Allyson. Any ideas why it is women that are likely to be in the oppressed roles in stratified (socially divided) societies like ours (beginning 2500 years ago in the Middle East)? Any links to environmental values here?
      I like the idea of gender GROUND rather than gender roles– ground is a social arena where the members of a gender stand together–and they define that ground for themselves. One of the sad things that Orenstein found in her modern study was that boys were initiating girls into womanhood (telling them how to act and behave, etc.), in place of a circle of women into which women anciently welcomed their daughters, protect them, and honor their meaning and power. In egalitarian societies like the Hopi, such gender grounds are reciprocal: men can’t do their work unless women do theirs. The trouble with roles, by contrast, is that they don’t leave much flexibility for individual variation–and they may be enforced by means that disempower those who express such variation. Interestingly, in most egalitarian societies, there is also a ground for those who walk between genders, blending or switching gender norms. As John Stoltenberg argues, if one takes purely biological grounds, there likely should be as many gender definitions as there are individual humans. As Carol Tavris also argues, looking at women from the biological standard that sees male bodies as the norm has created medicine that does not meet women’s needs. Women are different hormonally-they do bear children.
      As for the door– I don’t see why we shouldn’t all open the door for one another rather than let it slam in anyone’s face. I can also understand women not wishing to take on the symbolism of being sheltered or protected, since “protecting” others in history has often led to abuse of those who are not given the full social and economic means to protect themselves. This is not limited to gender. I am thinking of pioneer family members whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower to escape “Protection Laws” in England at that time– which were in fact pushing farmers into the sea while supposedly “protecting” them. Allowing other adults to taker over the power to protect us can all too easily lead into the dynamics we see at the extreme end of things with the “protection rackets” of gangsters, where the price exacted for such protection exceeds any benefits it yields–and one can only back out with severe hazards.
      Thoughtful points about images: men get power and social recognition for other things in our culture, but women seldom do. A semi-humorous but pointed experiment recently had college students watching a video of small and large breasted women answering a philosophical question. Even though they gave the same answer word for word, the audience found the large breasted women’s answers considerably less intelligent.

  8. This is a great article that brings me back to the early years of my daughter’s life when she was about 3 or 4. She had a deep fancy for flowers. It was clear to me that her passion was an innate yearning to the natural world considering at the time I lived in an apartment and sadly did not have flowers or plants in our home. Any time she found herself near a garden or potted flower she became overjoyed. Since then I have collected many plants and flowers reminded that plant life is a vital aspect of our wholeness. My daughter always brings me back to the deep cry for life and as you describe a want for “lots more”. I agree that this healthy want includes inner peace, contact with nature and love. I look forward to enjoying Mother’s Day with my daughter, the clean air, and the mountains. We are going on a mountain bike ride!

    • Great, Kaaren. It sounds like a wonderful Mother’s Day outing. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with your young daughter and your response to her natural wholeness. Happy Mother’s Day!

  9. I definately found this article interesting and true. And I do agree with Allison about the gender roles of men and women. I’m not sure if women or men are sure what there roles are anymore.
    Now, without completely doing away with the television along with the computer and anything else dealing with the media, the best I can do is evaluate what we see and hear. I keep it on certain educational channels such as PBS along with the internet.
    Being aware of what i consume and consuming less of things that I didn’t want in the first place is a priority.
    I since we have a small house, it does not take much to accumulate clutter. I find the best way to be organized is to consume less.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tina. Personal alertness in relating to modern media is very important, I think. It sounds like consuming less helps you AND (naturally) the environment.

  10. I agree that modern day advertisements have molded our society into being obsessed with consumerism and image. Linking the two is a dangerous combination and does numbers on young females self-esteem. By the time they reach puberty they already know the image society expects from them. They need to be grossly thin, have the newest jeans, the most trendy accessories, and date the boy that can provide all of this for them. If they are unable to attain any one of these things they can spiral into a state of depression and poor self-esteem. I think competition is great – may the best product win, but i think that the evolution of advertising and the ethical issues involved are getting way out of hand. Thank God we don’t have cigarette companies using cartoons to market their product anymore – but now we have to worry about the hundreds of magazine covers and models marketing anorexia and bulimia to our nations children.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jason. Your last point is well taken: these are not models of healthy human bodies. I understand that many models now have surgery to remove a rib in order to achieve the required thinness. I agree with you about cigarettes, though I am concerned about the ways that the selling of instant satisfaction by using a product plays into drug addiction.

  11. I found this article interesting and true. The issue between men and women is a complicated one especially these days. I just think that men and women are unsure what their roles are anymore. Consumerism is everywhere. And without completely getting rid of all media in my home, I try to use it wisely where it does not become all encumbersome. I try to be aware of what I watch as well as what I consume since they go together. Because it seems as though what a person sees, a person desires immediately. So breaking the habit of buying on impulse and determining if it is a need, is one of my habits now. It also helps with organization and keeps the clutter down. Consuming less and understanding where everything is going is important and I hope this will help my children as well.

    • Thanks for the follow up comment here, Tina. I don’t think we always want what we see– but it is difficult to think otherwise when ads are set up psychologically in the way that they are.

  12. I could not agree more with this article about the pressure on girls, but I think goes both ways now days. Male and female has constant pressure. I am so sick of all pressure of all the products. As I get older, I am more turned off about all the consumerism out there. I cannot even stand to watch television, what a waste of time. In the United States if it is not the government telling you to go shop, it’s all the commercials, thank fully you can turn off the TV. I think I try to do less shopping all the time, unless it is necessary.

    Thanks,

    Troy

  13. What is it that drives us to have possessions we don’t need? Why is it that when a stranger tells us we need something, we must have it? Our world would be a lot better off if we could get rid of the idea of ownership. This toxic mindset infects us all in one way or another. After reading this essay it pains me to look around my room and see all the things I don’t need. If I worked as hard on making the world a better place as I do earning all these worthless possessions who knows what I could accomplish.

    On a separate but somewhat related note: I once had a nuclear engineering professor tell me “I can explain to you the most complex systems and the universe, how the smallest particles create the biggest things, and how time and space are related. But, what I will never be able to understand is how the female mind works!”

    • Thanks for these thoughts, Matt. You put it well in terms of the things we are told to need by strangers. Why respond, indeed. And as for your nuclear physicist– I wouldn’t be ready to tackle the human mind myself. There is too much potential for wonder and creativity, too must mystery there. There is also the darkness of greed and arrogance: I think it comes down to the wide range of choices open to us. We are nothing if not creatures of choice. Our choices –and their consequences– are what I think we might better own than what the ads tell us we need.

  14. You bring up so many great points in this essay Madronna! I’ve had interesting experiences with my children and consumerism. We have never had access to television on a regular basis (we don’t get stations and don’t have cable, but we do watch movies) and what I’ve noticed about them ever since they were very little, is that they just don’t seem to want as many “things” as other children their ages. For instance, we can go into a store that has rows of toys and they will spend long amounts of time walking up and down the aisles only to come out empty in the end. I think this is because they haven’t been told that they want those toys by mass media. The have not seen the advertisements for the newest and greatest this or that, and in turn have no desire for it.

    Another experience that I had, only this one more recently, was at a festival I was at this past Mother’s Day weekend. I have a booth that I take to various events and this one happened to be a “zero waste” event where the venue provided reusable dishes to all of the food/beverage vendors and they forbade the use of any disposable cups/plate/etc. We would charge customers a refundable deposit for the dishes that they would promptly get back as soon as they turned their dish back in. Sounds good, no? When someone would come and ask me if I sold bottled water I would tell them no, it’s a zero waste event, but I also let them know that they could pay a deposit on a cup ($1) and fill it with all the water they want at the filtered water station, then return the cup for their deposit back. Nine out of ten times the person would be exasperated at the prospect of having to put that much energy and effort into it and seemed bewildered at the idea of not being able to get what they wanted right in that moment. It was such an interesting psychological phenomenon to watch. In reality they would be getting all the water they could drink for free but in the moment the idea of paying for a cup of water (as opposed to a sealed bottle, I suppose) seemed like a bad deal. Consumerism is strange.

    And one last note on body image and young girls. I read in my Sociology text book that in 2006 the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers, during what is known as the Madrid Fashion Week, banned overly thin models from the runway. They turned away approximately 30% of the models. This policy was established to encourage healthier practices for the models and in response to protests that such ultrathin images of women contributed to eating disorders. Maybe that mentality will rub off in North America too?

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Dazzia. Modern consumerism is strange indeed, in that people were willing to pay for something they could throw away but not something they would have to tend. That certainly speaks to our modern worldview– and an attitude we might change when we finally get it that there is just too much excess plastic in the world. As a counter example, there is a vendor at Eugene Saturday Market (Dana’s Cheesecakes) that offers folks an option of using silverware that they are asked to return as opposed to plastic forks. I don’t her rate of return, but I hope this catches on, given the large amount of plastic silverware thrown away at this otherwise great Eugene event (I especially like the farmer’s market–and this year, just an aside, there are little farmer’s markets springing up all over town on various days– I love this resurgence of the farm-to market idea).
      I think you are doing your kids a favor with the lack of tv– they will get it soon enough at friends’ house, etc., as they get older.
      One thing that I think is interesting about the Spanish move to outlaw too-thin models is that this was undertaken by the Department of Health– this really is a health issue in more ways than one.

  15. Last year at the Oregon State Fair I volunteered to answer questions at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife booth. To each of the young passers-by I candidly offered a complementary pencil and wildlife tattoo; most children were delighted to have more things to add to their crap pile. However, the most refreshing 10 year old boy ardently responded to my offering with dissent, ” no thank you, I don’t need that.” His mother proceeded to inform me that he was an activist and relinquished posessions for the knowledge of harm inflicted on the environment. He discourages his friends from the pursuit of marerialism. All this she told me as she rolled her eyes like he was a weirdo; unfortunately, among his peers, he is the odd man out.

    Sadness consumes my heart when I think of our inherent need to belong being so pronounced that we would be willing to change who we are in order for acceptance. The irony is that false representation leads to occupation of an uncomfortable niche – one which is not meant for our true nature. If our need for belonging is such that we feel inclined to conform to an ideal so that we can belong in the ideal group, do we ever truly belong? The absolute sense of belonging we strive for physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and metaphysically is only sated when we account for our true nature and find belonging therein. Any other pursuit is in vain.

    I would rather not standardize, but instead recognize the diversity and qualities of others as an attribute which promotes the welfare of humanity. The risk in stifling creativity and uniqueness by cohercing promotion of ideals and the focus of attaining ideals is huge. The waste of energy in trying to be things we are not is better spent on recognizing who we are and becomming aware of the fact that we belong here regardless of the opinions of others.

    The problematic nature of our societal woes warrant outrage in media psychology and the warped means by which influential images and sounds corrupt us in effort for monetary gain. Our cultural lineage is soiled by self-destructive impulses fed by our innate need to belong and a counterintuitive societal acceptance of what the media defines as “belonging.” Some people embrace consumerism wholeheartedly as the savior of their lives; others secretly deplore the wanton consumption, but still try to keep up with the Jones’ in order to be “normal”; the few who outwardly object to feeling pressured by their peers into consuming material posessions may feel ostracized and experience negative emotions as a result. How do you win? Find a place where you belong.

    It is not easy to simply up and relocate, but what we really need is the establishment of cooperative mentalities which counteract the opressive influence pervading our larger culture. Communistic living is not for all, but even in small circles there is hope. Surrounding ourselves with people who perpetuate similar values comes naturally, but recruiting is hard. Sometimes I find myself creating outrage in order to coherce initiation from outsiders. ” Here is an article about chemicals in the environment. I know you have been spending the last two decades taking care of your autistic child and this may be the reason why. It’s time to get pissed.” Perhaps I’m sinking down to the level of corporate media when I try to light fires, but frankly – two can play at that game.

    I like the idea of a media campaign geared twoard reality – but where is the profit? The profit is in the cooperation and promise of mankind’s future – which we know is the only real profit. The only other alternative is to turn off the TV and live. Live with a goal of finding out where you belong naturally; don’t ever try and “fit in” because where ever you end up fitting – won’t be very comfortable for long. (Like squeezing into too small jeans – ouch!)

    • Thank you for sharing you responses–and personal frustration– in attempting to spread information, Jenna. It is ironic that what is sold as the security earned by appearances makes one so uncomfortable. Thus the top models exhibit the lowest self-esteem among modern professionals. And our definitions of “normal” are often very sad. That is a very interesting ten year old you met at the fair. I wonder how he will fare in five years or so..
      Community is essential to most of us–and I don’t think we can rove the country looking for some to accept us anymore than we can (or should?) rove the earth looking for its wealth to capture for ourselves. What we can do is establish a sense of belonging based on our relationship to our authentic selves–and can support the fostering of potential in those around us– however we can do this.

  16. I like how you open this post saying you want “children to get what they want—but first they have to know what that is.” In a society that is constantly bombarded by flashy media, where we learn our values from the television, it is hard for young people to know what is important. Want is a powerful word. We always want. With the media standing by to tell us what we want, we have created a society driven by consumerism. When I was young I hated it, but now I feel fortunate for this knowledge: My father always told me, “You need to learn to separate your ‘wants’ from your ‘needs.’” While I may want an ipod, a new laptop, or a new flashy car, I certainly don’t need any of these things. I also want clean water, fresh air, and a connection with the earth. And I’ll make the leap to say these are things we all NEED as well as want.

    • Sad point about learning values from the media, Christine. TV is all too ready to teach us values that make profit for those who can afford the ads–not the criteria for life choices, I think.
      As you point out “want” is a powerful word. We should cultivate some care in responding to it (and getting acquainted with it in ourselves).

  17. I completely agree with you about the media “blitz”. Images of what you should look like and what you should have are corrupted at the very core. No one looks like the models in those pictures, they are all doctored up to look unimaginaly perfect. The true beauty in someone is who they are and the flaws that make them who they are. The fact that our western world constantly tells us we arent happy should be a crime. We have so much we dont need today, we sometimes overlook the small things that we actually need and that actually matter. One of the reasons I left california was the fact the air pollution was ridiculous and they were tampering with the water. I only hope Oregon never follows that path. Most people today cant draw the line the between wanting and needing and if we are to ever start tearing this corrupt idealistic world we need to know what we really need.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Kevin. Good point about true beauty and “flaws” that make each of us distinctive. In fact, in her films, Kilbourne makes the point that the porcelain skin of some of these models makes them look more dead than alive.

  18. I agree that women have gotten the short end of the stick as far as social pressure and looks are concerned. However, Girls aren’t the only ones struggling to maintain any sense of self-esteem in our capitalist economy. I recently read a report on how cosmetic companies are trying to get males into the cosmetic market as well. the first step they posit is to get men comfortable with the idea of wearing make-up, and then social pressure to “look good” should kick in. This coupled with the fact the plastic surgery for men is on the rise as well shows that the scales are starting to balance under the weight of consumerism. Maybe once men understand the pressure women have been under for so long, everyone will realize that it’s not worth it and the machine will fall apart. Then again, even after the market crash, the machine doesn’t seem to be breaking down.

    • Great perspective, Mark, about learning the lesson here. What I find most reprehensible about this process is selling kinds the “born to buy” attitude–and using younger and younger made up girls (six years old in some recent mainstream magazine ads compiled by Kilbourne) to sell “sexy” products. When money and only money comes first in one’s priorities, all other ethics characteristically fall by the wayside.

  19. What you want and what you need are two very different things. Our consumer oriented society is based on getting more stuff. George Carlin said it best in his classic stand-up routine about “stuff”. One tries to find a place for all the stuff – “that is the whole meaning of life – trying to find a place for you stuff”. “That’s all your house is a pie of stuff with a roof on it or a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff (Carlin).

    Not having an understanding of one’s true self or who we really are creates this need for “wanting”. Could this all center around our the Western Worldview of hierarchy? Based on that Worldview, if I am prettier, smarter, richer, married better, etc. I then would have more self-esteem. The media feeds off this desire to have more and be more. If we had the other worldview where are are interconnected and interdependent, then we would have a greater respect for each other and in turn have a better self respect for oneself. The need to get “stuff” would disappear as you would only acquire what was needed.

    Currently, many of us are having to rethink that worldview with the change in our financial houses. Families are refocusing on the basics which is not acquiring more “Stuff” but redefining our relationships with each other. This article speaks to this gluttonous consumerism that we don’t need. “We need less of those things that give us no real satisfaction, that destroy our self-esteem—and our environment”. Maybe we will create lemonade out of lemons this time around. We can only hope.
    .

    • Thanks for the insights here, Liz. I very much like the way in which you linked hierarchy with the wanting of “stuff”: the perception of scarcity and competition is certainly linked to over-consumption. This is why I love these words of Rebecca Adamson, founder of the First Nations Development Institute (in an interview in YES magazine, summer 2009). “Abundance comes not from stuff. In fact, stuff is an indication of non-abundance. Abundance is in the sacred; it’s in the connection of love. We will find abundance through hard times when we find each other.”

  20. I love the analogy of the corn being buried human desire. It is sometimes very difficult to drown out the voices of our culture and our families to dig deep and find out what we really want. It took me a long time and many false starts. Really it wasn’t until into my 30’s that I finally turned a corner and started to figure out who I was and what made me happy. The answer definitely was not buy more stuff! I’m now a happier, healthier, more balanced person.

  21. After years of television watching, my house is now free of cable tv and all of the advertisements that it bombards us with. And the fact is, we don’t miss it. We still get strange looks when we say we don’t know who the latest Idol is or what celebrity just adopted a child from Africa or Asia, but the time we have to read, tend our garden, go hiking, and just be together is worth so much more to us. While advertisements may tell some people what they think they need, we have found what we want through ignoring all of those imported ideals and listening to ourselves and each other.

    As women, we still haven’t been able to shake societies ideals of looking good, but it’s a lot easier to feel better about yourself when you aren’t comparing yourself to the airbrushed models in advertisements. The other bonus is that we are now much more conscious consumers since our heads aren’t filled with ideas of what we want, but rather what we actually need. Because afterall, you can’t want something if you didn’t even know it existed. In a society that is consumed by rampant consumerism, but also financial woes, I think that it is important to turn off the television and rediscover what it is that we really want.

    • Congratulations on your tv fast–and absence of commercials in your lives, Bekah. TV is one of those things that when you have it you think you MUST sit in front of it at certain times, and then when it is gone, you don’t miss it (speaking from my own experience, that is). Ccmparing ourselves to others has never been a boon to self-esteem. It is great that you are going toward more conscious consuming: I don’t we can have too much of that in our society today.

  22. I get so frustrated at the ridiculous stress on appearance that puberty brings, mainly because the pain is still all too fresh for me at 21. I hated junior high, i remember trying my very hardest to look just right and never feeling a sense of success. And the worst part was that none of it came from within, I would start the day thinking I was fine, and by the end of the school day I felt miserable. When i started junior high brands meant nothing to me, wearing the same jeans a couple days was ok. But i quickly learned that brands were everything, and only guys could wear the same outfit more than twice. I remember one morning laying in a heap on the floor in despair because i could not put together an outfit even remotely suitable to survive the day. Everything about me seemed a target for criticism and by the end of my 2 years in junior high i had withdrawn into a shell. I was much more shy than I ever had been, I stopped making efforts to make friends because I thought that I knew they wouldn’t like me anyway. It was a very difficult stage to get through and there are definitely lasting effects.

    My redeeming point in the struggle of my past was how it helped me relate to a teammate last summer. One of my close friends had a very moody and irritable younger sister who was just starting her senior year of high school. The more time I spent around her, the more I noticed that she was always very down on herself. It became my goal to show this girl how incredible she really was. I started telling her “if only you could look in the mirror and see what I see.” Their family was not very well off and the girl felt like no matter how she tried she simply couldn’t keep up with everyone else. She is a very bright and creative girl, a very talented swimmer and has a fabulous sense of humor, basically I didn’t know why her esteem was so low when she was so great. I worked a lot to build her self esteem by showing her that being unique is so much better than following the crowd, that she didn’t need to keep up with everyone else she could set her own standards. I was really involved in everything she had going on this school year and when I went to her signing day for her college athletic scholarship the room was packed with supporters, and her brother thanked me for initiating the change everyone had witnessed in his sister that year.

    So in the cylical nature of time, a positive result eventually came out of the negative environment I had to ford through.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal story, Anna. You certainly weren’t alone in this experience. I am sorry that what should have been an occasion for joy and pride– your becoming a woman, should have instead been an occasion for such sadness.
      It is wonderful that you were able to mentor this other young girl! The gift you gave her can last a lifetime– I wish ALL girls coming of age had an older “sister” (or sister’s friend) to tell them these things.
      Learning to help heal others of the pain you went through is a sign of great personal maturity and resilience (the ability to transform negatives for you into hope and care for others) that will certainly serve you well in the future.

  23. Great quote..“You can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place”, as the astute addiction counselor put it.

    Christmas…is not about the gifts! The meaning of Christmas is just being together…I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this…I believe it, but I don’t think anybody that actually say’s it believes it! I’ve also heard that “giving” was also one meaning of Christmas…ok, give me, give me, give me…give what? Gifts, expensive ones at that. We are bombarded with ads, she’ll love you forever if you buy her that expensive diamond tennis bracelet she never wanted in the first place, until someone else has or had it and adds it to the smaller, less expensive diamond tennis bracelet collection in the one of ten jewelry boxes.

    Let me tell you, two Christmas’ ago my family tried the “real meaning of Christmas”…still don’t know what it is? We didn’t give each other gifts, but at Christmas dinner…I kept hearing, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas…well just think about what it felt like the 30 days of Christmas prior to Christmas day when you didn’t open gifts. Maybe it’s just the feeling we get (30 days of build up, anticipation, excitement) when we finally get to open “what we didn’t want in the first place.” I’ll tell you the only person I know that is practical when it comes to gifts is my 10 year old daughter….clothes for a growing kid….Priceless!

    ……and then we spend 2 hours feeding the less fortunate because we feel guilty about our indulgence.

    • Thanks for the perspective from your own family’s experience, Patrick. Interesting thought about anticipation. And there are things we can share/give to one another that are appropriate–or may not be things at all. I still treasure the button that was a gift from a friend of mine (now passed on from cancer): “The best things in life aren’t things’.

  24. Life does need to be simpler. I find that my wife and I buy too much stuff. We are always looking for a bigger house, better car, more clothes, and more stuff for the kids. Its necessary to have essentials like clothing, shelter, and transportation, but only whats necessary. We have gotten much better at this when we take time to make decisions. The worst decisions are always made in haste, and if more thought goes into it, a more logical results is seen.
    I think instability in the pre-teen and teen years is essential to a well rounded individual. We need to experience hardship, some form of challenge, and some hostility. As classic “helicopter parents”, we try to sheild our kids from every little thing that could cause harm. But it is essential for kids to have these experiences in order to be able to deal with much bigger threats in their adult life. By showing the proper way of dealing with strife, we pass on a powerful lesson.
    Society today is far from fair on kids. By pushing tobacco, alcohol, illicit behaviour and the celebrity lifestyle on our kids, they become less sure of themselves. The powerful dollar is the reason we are seeing our kids loose self esteem and feel insufficient. The proper perspective is what we need to teach our young. Leading by example will allow our kids to learn the proper placement of priorities.

    • Thanks for sharing your family choices here, Ross. It is very hard to see our children hurt as they are coming into adulthood– but it is also important, as you indicate, to let them understand they are strong enough to handle some things for themselves. But the “stuff” front certainly doesn’t make all of these any easier. As opposed to those who had 600 generations on this land, perhaps we ourselves are in some sort or adolescence in terms of our culture. I hope we don’t need too many hard knocks in order to learn to adjust to what is coming by acting with care for our shared earth.

  25. We assign such profound power to other people and what they think of us. For so many years I asked myself ‘what is wrong with me?’ because I did not seem to fit the mold of what I saw in the media and in other people (who seemed to be happy and popular). It took me until I was almost 20 to realize that there is nothing wrong with me. It disturbs me that younger and younger girls are being bombarded by media telling them to be ‘sexy’, there are a lot more important things in life than being sexy. My niece is 5, I’m an adoring aunt who likes to spoil her, so I often go shopping for her. I am shocked at the kind of clothes they have for 5 year old little girls, I most definitely wouldn’t wear it myself. It scares me that girls are being taught to be fragile, sexy, and weak. Most childhood movies I remember the girl was powerful and accomplished a lot, until she met a guy and then she was weak and timid. It goes the same way for boys, they are taught that they have to be strong and not show emotion. Why can’t we just let people be people?

    • Congratulations on moving beyond this mindset for yourself, Rebecca. And mentoring those little girls with support for who they are can be a powerful thing. Check out the recent comment by your classmate, Anna.

  26. Wow, this was excellent. I know that I grew up with a great mother who has done the best she could for her children. I am actually grateful to not have had a lot of money to be spoiled with. This reading is frustrating to me at some points. I know personally I have experienced the feelings a person comes across when in the midst of many advertising techniques that make someone feel the need to purchase something or look like someone else. I often feel that men are driven into this mindset, a weak-minded one if you ask me, of viewing women as mere objects. If I had a daughter, or better yet, when I do, I want to be extremely open and supportive of who she is. A solid foundation is so important, specially in the midst of troubled times. When someone believes a new purchase will make them feel better, I do want to ask how long they feel better. Until the next unnecessary want? Sorry if this came off like a rant, but so many people suffer from these qualms. Heck, I am aware of it and I still feel the burdens of media and popularity!

    • I think we all do, Lorena. I am sure you will pass these things on to your daughter (when you have one) since you got them from your mother. Good nurturing priceless– we can’t purchase that. Though modern media would have us believe we can, along with personal power, popularity and a life in which there is nothing but convenience!
      Thanks for your comment.

  27. I am raising my daughter to be independent, thoughtful, self reliant and confident in her relationship with me, her father, with her mother, and with her God, Jesus Christ. She is not overwhelmed by the world, but finds her way in it. She is a talented artist, a caring individual with such compasion that she, on her own initiative as a freshman in high school, raised money for desks in a high school in Jinja, Uganda. Earlier this month she travelled there with my wife to visit the school. I don’t tell my daughter she is saddled with 2500 years of male domination, I don’t think it would help her. I don’t have a circular perspective of time and when I read about constantly drudging it up I think people might be better off coping with what comes around when it gets here. My wife doesn’t feel oppressed, I worked so that she could go back to school for two additional degrees. She is doing what she enjoys in life and had the opportunity to stay at home and raise our children as well. Males and females both have great stress in adolescence. Males and females both have great stress in work environments. In Uganda my wife and daughter spent some time in an orphanage with two male babies less than 2 months old, both were abandon because females are more useful in their society, the orphanage has 6 boys to every 1 girl. Injustice abounds on this earth, it is brought about by people’s selfishness.

    • Thanks for your comment, David. Can you say a bit more about how this relates to modern consumerism?
      Do you feel that the statement that images of modern women are manipulated in the media implies that you do not have an equal marriage with your wife? Perhaps I am misreading your intent, but I don’t see the connection here.
      It is a plain fact that advertisers use sexist (and sexual) images to sell; such images, as Jean Kilbourne points out, also oppress men–but they don’t have the same links between sex and violence that make them so dangerous for women.
      I congratulate you on giving your daughter the nurturance that allows her to grow into being her own women.
      I also think that if advertisers are out to manipulate our desires, it is best to know it–and that it is never a mistake to look to what we can learn from history, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
      Though it makes me very sad to look at the history of oppression of native cultures by whites, for instance, I think history must tell the truth. The critical analysis of my history and culture is not an attack on me– in fact, I see facing the truth as ultimately empowering. What I face, I am able to learn from and change.

      • My intent is to state that men and women can and are equals in this society and in other societies as well. There are also instances where that is not the case. I believe that sex in advertising delivers many conflicting messages for both women and men. I think one prominent message is that sexuality can give women dominance over men, and that men should do anything to have such a woman. I also believe that is as false as promoting that you will be liked and admired by all if you smoke kool cigarettes. Bad messages are all over the place, we need to defend ourselves and our children against them and raise our children to do the same for their children.

        I definitely don’t believe that “girls in our society start out with an open eroticism toward the natural world,” nor that they should be encouraged to do so. I obviously can’t speak from personal experience, but when I started reading this to my wife she just asked me to please stop reading. Sexuality isn’t just distorted by advertisers, but by authors and psychologists too. Perhaps this is something we cannot avoid as exploitation occurs most readily in areas where we are most vulnerable.

        • Thanks for taking the time to clarify where you were coming from here, David.
          And to allow me to clarify the point I cited about natural “eroticism”– this is NOT referring to sexuality. In fact, the central point of my article is to decry the replacement of such innocent childhood smelling, tasting, feeling, BEING physically present in the natural world with sexuality-and manipulated sexuality at that. This is epitomized by the use of younger and younger child models made up to look seductive– and used to sell things like perfume and make up. To me, this is a real violation of these children.
          You might clarify with your wife what I talking about here lest she start urging you to drop out of school!

        • And just a note as to the equality of men and women on a global scale, David. You might be interested in checking out the Global Gender Gap Report: http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2008.pdf and the UN statement on global violence toward women: http://www.un.org/rights/dpi1772e.htm. States, for instance, that this tragic problem continues to grow and must be remedied. Here in Eugene, Womenspace provides shelter for victims of domestic abuse. One way to protect the equality of your daughter is to support initiatives that work against violence toward all women.

  28. I definitely agree with you when you say that we are victims of manipulated desire. By separating ourselves from nature we have lost our sense of purpose; we have lost who we are and are constantly searching for answers. Why are we here? This leaves us susceptible to a variety of influences be it religious or social. This also leaves us susceptible to being taken advantage of and manipulated by those who put their own self interest above others. Cult followings and extreme religious groups who are waiting for something better in another world or life because they cannot see the beauty in this world. Currently I don’t think many people even see the beauty in themselves, no one accepts themselves for who they are and what they have been given. We strive always to progress towards something better, prettier, smarter, or stronger. Never being satisfied or content with what you have been given, or the self esteem issues stemming from the belief that we are never good enough turn us inwards away from the larger community. I thought that the example of how individuals were treated at a state mental institution and how they SHOULD be treated, by bringing them “back to a place of honour and belonging, to include and embrace them rather than to isolate and regiment them,” was a beautiful example. By isolating ourselves because of distorted values we are creating victims of ourselves.

    • There are many well-taken points here, Chessa. Your point about unhappiness leading to openness to manipulation is one that advertisers themselves consciously work with, as Stuart Ewen has documented in his Captains of Consciousness and All Consuming Images. Re-embracing those with such holes in their hearts into our communities would not only be a first step to healing them and ourselves-it would do much, I think, to curb our runaway consumption as we found another method of satisfying ourselves.

  29. This article was very interesting to read from a male point of view, I have never felt much pressure to hold up my appearances and have not suffered from such a pressure, unfortunately I have seen many young girls be consumed by it. This is definitely an evil that is perpetuated by modern media, the tween girl market is an incredibly valuable one because of this pressure, which is what keeps the pressure going. I saw a video in my PHL 205 ethics class wherein they showed how companies got little girls to pressure other girls into buying the companies products by throwing parties where they gave out free merchandise. They company acknowledged that they spent so much effort on these little girls because they brought in an incredible amount of money because parents will cut back on most everything before they stop buying stuff for their kids.

    I like the idea of the mother-daughter revolution where the mother honors her daughters real sense of desire, towards the enjoyment of life and the natural world, to keep her from low self esteem. I have long ago vowed to never let my kids get caught up in materialism on this scale, I am especially not going to let them watch t.v. exactly because of these terrible effects that modern media and advertising is having on our young and fragile kids. It is truly sickening that the media and advertising agencies are aiming to make kids self-conscious about their image so that they may prey off their low self-esteem when they are only twelve and thirteen years old!

    I enjoyed the part about us being intentional creatures, we do indeed need a reason to strive or else we will be lost in the chaotic materialism of this world, humans need a reason to live–other than to buy clothes and look cool. It is sad that this point is not emphasized by our schools or media, the lack of a meaning for one’s life leads to the “infinite desire for more and more upon which capitalistic growth is based” as you say, and it truly can lead to an addiction to material items. We must all figure out what we want, and just as importantly we must help our children to figure out what they want.

    • Thanks for furthering the discussion on the sad–and I think, questionable from a moral point of view– pressure on tweens.
      Your conscious parenting choices are good for all of us! I agree that preying on potential buyers by creating low self-esteem is especially reprehensible in the case of those so young.
      I think figuring out what you truly want is the first step toward immunizing yourself against ads that try to decide for you what you want. Great comment, Paul.

  30. For most of my life I have tried to fight my regularly plummeting self-esteem, but as a girl living in the US, it’s very difficult to escape the constant comparisons of my own appearance and those of the women around me. This is a problem that lots of girls face every day. They fear ridicule if they don’t look a certain way, and the idea of beauty always reflects one type of girl. This fear is helped along by the images projected by the media and even by classmates–the popular girls are usually the ones that are pretty in a stereotypical way. On top of this fear of being ugly is the knowledge that in order to keep up with her classmates, a girl needs to own the right things: brand name clothes, shoes, bookbag, etc. which is even further influenced by the media. The moral of this rant is that the media projects girls as being one way, when in reality they are suffering from poor self-esteem (which the media projection is helping to cause). Often, the only reassurance of beauty that a girl will receive is from either a close family member or a boyfriend, which is probably partially why so many girls think that they need boyfriends all the time. I guess my real problem with this situation is that girls are constantly trying to stand out as the most beautiful, but in reality are just blending in to the social norms and expectations. They are conforming to one way of thinking even though we are all individuals who look, act, and dress differently and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that.

  31. The media has a huge impact on peoples everyday lives. Young girls, teenagers, and women see the idea of “beauty” portrayed in the media through tv and magazines. Girls usually enter the world carefree and not always knowing what they want. The media however, portrays an image that is quickly embedded into females who are still exploring their sexuality. Anorexia and bulimea has unfortunately affected many girls and women alike because the media portrays that beauty consists of being thin. Today we live in a society where fashion is valued. Many people buy designer clothing and spend huge amounts of money on clothes, because the media focuses a lot of attention on it. Female athletes are even objected by the way they look. They are often known for their beauty rather than their talent in their sport.
    If the media reduced the programs, commercials, and magazines that focuses on such areas, young girls would not have the idea that they must be thin and have to wear certain clothing to be beautiful. Beauty consists of all sizes, shapes, and colors. It is important for young girls to understand this and by doing so, it would help give them be more confidence in themselves and increase their self-esteem.

    • Great comment, Jena. You have many well-taken ideas here. I think of the loss of energy, time and talent we suffer as a society when young women spend all that time on consuming and trying to fit an external image rather than being who they are–and sharing their contributions with our society .

  32. I think it’s important to remember that boys as well as girls are effected by the media. There are just as many ads telling boys to be tough and manly as there are telling girls to be passive and feminine. I agree that we should focus on the non-material things in life, like clean air and water, these things are much more satisfying than the useless material things we are made to believe are what we really want and need.

    • Hi Karen, as I noted in another response here, the images of manhood are also certainly manipulated to support the consumer culture. The extra problem for girls is that they are also manipulated to support a culture of violence towards women. In my over thirty years of teaching, I must say that I think girls coming of age are suffering worse than they ever had– physically and emotionally (See “taking back the power to nurture” here), and the disrespect of women’s bodies has particular resonance in our treating of nature, in that Western traditions, as do many, consider nature as feminine. (Carolyn Merchant has detailed the history of the dangers of this coincidence in the Death of Nature). As I also responded to a recent comment here, boys are particularly trained to ignore signals from their bodies.
      And if we are not situated in our own bodies and its signals, we certainly cannot get clear about what we really want in the material realm. The fact that putting folks off-balance sells stuff is not lost on advertisers: in fact, ample studies indicate they consciously count on it.

  33. We see a considerable amount of media directed at our young women but I feel that the cycle begins at home and can either be positive or negative. A mother’s influence on her daughter is tremendous and the power a mother holds over her daughter’s emotions and feelings is like no other. When we are happy or sad our mother’s instinctively enter our mind. This desire can be both good and bad as a mother’s influence and power is at times misused and destructive.

    What I want is for our mother’s to let their daughters know that they, like every living thing, have a “purpose”. I want our mother’s to build up our daughter’s self esteem and make them strong rather than tearing them down. I also hope for other women to assume the role of “mother” in a young woman’s life when their own mother is unable.
    For those mother’s who are already doing this- I commend you.

    • Thanks for these heartfelt and powerful ideas of mothering, Anedra. I think it is also important to create a community of mothers and grandmothers who care for our children. Are you familiar with Mary Pipher’s work? She points out that even the best parents are not able sometimes to determine the emotional safety of their children in a society such as ours– it takes us all to care for the younger generation in these ways.

      • I have not heard of her but will certainly make myself acquainted with her work.
        I believe it does take all of us- people often do the best they can but fall short of what is needed in order for a child to truly grow. Speaking from personal experience I know that even the simplest act of kindness shown to a child often has a profound affect on them. It could be as simple as asking how they are doing in school or inviting them to stay for dinner.

  34. Sometimes what we want is not what we need. Everyday we are told what we want and what we need—and it usually comes in a package. That wonderfully cute skirt in the catalog is a “must have” now, but I never knew it existed until the mail came yesterday. “Things” can help us to feel happy momentarily, like an instant gratification, but it won’t last. Happiness is something that comes from within oneself.
    I’m raising 2 daughters right now, and we have to face these issues daily. I see both girls, with very different personalities and strengths, affected by these self esteem lowering forces–no matter how much we try to limit the exposure to these forces,

    I have noticed the empowerment that my girls feel when they are “full of themselves” and in touch with themselves as the author states. The genuine happiness from within is evident-it shines. One daughter has an innate sense of self and is assertive; the other has always wanted to please others before herself. Still, both have these moments when they fall victim to the conditioning of our society, marketing, and their peer’s negative influence–the need for acceptance by others.

    Despite limiting their exposure to TV, movies, magazines, etc, the messages get in and seem to eat-away at their inner strengths. It is those inner strengths that are what make them beautiful, who they are, and shape who they will become.

    But when the one “wants” blonde hair, because blonde hair is most beautiful, and the other cries for hours because a boy has rejected her, it is very hard to help them see themselves as they are: smart, clever, strong, compassionate, young women. All they see is what they are not, and what they need to make them more like what society deems beautiful, attractive, and ideal.

    When all is well, it is easy to see the good in oneself, and that our imperfections make us unique (and later special to those that know us well, as well as love us the most). Logically and intellectually my teen knows all about the negative influences that our society has on young women. Body image and consumerism –we talk about it all the time. I think during puberty she has been struggling more with this; she has so much more going on internally and externally. It’s a very confusing and challenging time for her. It’s extremely difficult to watch her go through this.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for your comment. I agree that there is a very large gap between what we want and what we need in modern society–since our wants are so entirely manipulated by advertising and consumerism.
      Thank you for articulating the experience of your daughters. It is obvious you are a caring and supportive mother. It is painful to see our daughters looking at themselves, as you point out, according to what they are NOT instead of what they are. Your perspective is obviously an insightful one and your daughters are fortunate to have you to support them as they go through this difficult process of adolescence and puberty in this society today.

  35. I was particularly struck by the final image of this article: that of a doomed lone stalk withering in a dark cave, isolated from the elements that allow all living things to grow. I found this image to be reminiscent of Plato’s allegory of the cave. In this allegory, a group of humans face the cave wall, and, seeing forms pass before a fire, ascribe reality to the shadows they see upon the wall. Such is not reality, nor is the idea that any thing, like the stalk in this article, can survive and thrive in a darkened and isolated cave. Just as is the stalk will wither, so too will those that refuse to see the importance of the cycles humans exist within, and not apart from.

    After finishing this post, I did have one question about its language in 2 sections. Early in the article, we are told of “the trap that causes white middle class girls’ self-esteem to plummet in half as they reach puberty today.” Later in the post, however, a study reveals that such plummeting self-esteem is not exclusive to one ethnicity, but rather influences girls across social divides. If this is the case, why the narrowing of focus to white girls in this earlier reference, rather than including the full spectrum of individuals that face such obstacles in maintaining healthy self-esteem?

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment and question, Tabitha.
      I indicated that whereas ALL girls reaching puberty in this society experience this drop in self-esteem, girls growing up in certain cultures that better acknowledge that girls have something to offer their communities other than looks have less of a drop (half as much among African-American girls). Having your self-esteem drop in these ways is no small matter for anyone. I spoke of white middle class girls at first, since the mainstream US is responsible for the large part of the consumptive attitude I am critiquing here. Orenstein’s work did observations in schools with white, African-American, and Latino communities.
      As for the metaphor of the corn stalk: great observation about how important community is to us. But in Hogan’s essay, this stalk actually survived, reseeding itself, with whatever life-giving power it took from the earth and its drive to live on– its inheritance and impulse to give birth–in spite of the lack of support it got from its environment. Hogan uses this metaphor to indicate the mysterious spiritual power of the corn–and perhaps some seed inside of each of us as well.

  36. I understand the need for personal expression but does our expression always have to worn on our sleeve and can our expression be uniquely ours, innate to us personally without being subjected to an identity? It seems a pity that we have to choose an outward identity and spend so much time and energy keeping that identity in place. How hard it must be to enter middle school and decide “what” you’re going to be: punk, hipster, trendy etc. and what you are going to go buy yourself so that you can be identified as that. What if all that energy could be spent exploring nature, doing art or cooking, or simply getting to know one another without the confines of “what” we are. Is this simply a need to belong to something since our (American) culture doesn’t offer much in the way of meaningful tradition and ritual.

    I wonder if in tribal societies women, girls and people in general, have these identity issues? Or is it not an issue because the physical expressions (clothes, jewelry etc.) are representative of something in nature, a rite of passage, or the culture itself which as a tribal person one automatically belongs to.

    I find it hard to completely articulate because my own identity is wrapped up in how I present myself physically. I am not sure where my own true, personal self ends and my outward self begins.

    • You raise several important issues here, Jessica. I do believe that community is essential to our identify–and from what I have seen, there is not so much an “identity” crises in traditional societies (until, of course, colonialism comes along). I wrote a detailed article on this topic some time ago, in which I argued that since indigenous communities regularly recognize and honor individuals for their unique identity, that is secure. Jacob Bighorn, former director of the Chemawa Indian School made the same point in a public talk: native peoples see it as the responsibility to help actualize the spiritual journey of their young– which is determined by the young person’s individual communication with the Creator– not by other humans. I could go on, but I’ve made my point.
      Our manipulation of young and old according to image sells things–and also makes us more malleable/susceptible to the suggestions of others rather than developing critical thinking capacities for ourselves. Dorothy Lee has some interesting analysis on this point in her Freedom and Culture, notably in her essay on responsibility among the Lakota.
      You have well expressed the conundrums of finding a sens of identity in a culture in which there is, indeed, so little belonging offered its members–belonging not only to traditions, but to land and to larger ideas of meaning–what mythologist Joseph Campbell refers to as finding our place in the cosmos.
      That is not to say that there is an absence of external ornamentation or personal expression in other societies– such aesthetic expression may be part of who we are– but it is a contradiction in terms if the impulse to express ourselves is derived from following norms derived from without.
      Thanks for raising many ideas to think about here.

  37. This was an interesting article. I can feel the heart and hope in the article and I second the feeling of hope for our children that they can grow up to be givers rather then takers. I think, though, that it is a little bit too easy to just blame the media and consumer society for our children feeling entitled to stuff or having self-image problems as they grow up. After all, we are the parents and are the most important models for our children. If my child does not learn the value of money or of things and cannot appreciate what she has, I will take the responsibility for that and try to give her a wider perspective. If she has self-image problems that get extreme, I think that I must look to myself to find out where she is getting a lack of confidence. (Although I think all teenagers go through a little uncertainty about their place in the world!) Though the media can certainly be a bad influence on a child, I think a parent’s influence is infinitely more powerful. I don’t force my children to not watch TV or never buy them anything, I just introduce moderation by providing other activities, which they tend to think are more fun anyway, and by saying “no” at the store and explaining why I am not allowing them to get everything they see.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jennifer– I appreciate the way you found heart and hope in this article. Certainly parents are essential– though sometimes the best parents cannot save their children in a culture like ours– the sad point of Mary Pipher’s work. It seems it really does take a village to raise a child. You certainly have some good tactics there. I think sometimes hearing “no” is a good way for children to practise being in touch with what they really want.

  38. I can remember my childhood and how it constantly consisted of adventures and the idea that I was part of a world that needed to be explored. As I grew hold and puberty came upon me I quickly began to forget those little things in life that I had treasured as a child. From middle school on it was my duty as a member of society to constantly worry about how I looked and what new accessory I needed in order to fit in with the popular crowd. After high school and when I first found out I was pregnant with my daughter, that entire mindset changed for me. My priorities and what was important to me completely changed and it was most definitely for the better. It frightening and sad at the same time how society so easily molds us; women in particular face an extremely hard trek through puberty and adulthood because so many expectations are thrust onto their shoulders, completely erasing who they were as children. When I look at my daughter and think of what I had to face and am still facing, it motivates me to give her everything that will allow her to appreciate the little things in life rather than all that is materialistic. It is important to me that I set an example for her because I realize how much of a burden it can be to get sucked in to the unrealistic and unsatisfying expectations of society.

    • Hi Erin, thanks for sharing your personal experience here. I am sorry for what you lost (when you should have been gaining much) as you grew into a woman.
      As for your daughter, I think that there is nothing that is quite able to change our course and set us to looking at things differently than our children.
      What is frightening and sad in this social molding you overcame (are overcoming- each of us continues to face this dynamic daily in this culture): both you and your daughter will obviously profit from your consciousness and courage. And maybe, just maybe, the two of you could return to that place of delight and adventure you once found in the natural world.

  39. In the beginning of this article, I thought, “Wow! That is so true!” Just like from the ancient Greece, we do seem to hang our happiness onto a man. And for some of us that don’t, have you noticed what happens? We are labeled as hard, stuck-up…hmm…shall I say witches? It seems for a woman to secure herself as a leader in the business world, she must act like a man. No slinky, female dresses with lipstick to office, unless you want to be labeled as a…hmm…woman of loose morals? We, female business leaders must act just as tough as men, perhaps tougher in our sharp clad business suits because that’s how it is in a man’s world, right? Since we do not hang our happiness on a man, we must become a man. Interesting concept, isn’t it? T
    hough, yes I know I am generalizing and we do not all do this or turn out this way. There are exceptions and interesting divides of every so-called “rule.” Still, I worry for my daughter, not only on Mother’s Day, for the teenage years when she will grow up. I am also taking an Anthropology course and recently read that Native Indians thought everyone to be beautiful because everyone is unique and different from one another. No one was ugly. After all, how boring would our world be if everyone looked, acted, and thought the exact same way? Our differences, whether they be physical, spiritual, etc are beautiful because we each bring something different and awesome into the world. I hope to teach my daughter that early and hopefully it will stick for the teenage years.

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your comments– and the example about the importance of our differences–and the consequences to women who step out of their given social roles.
      I don’t think you are far off in the idea of women’s assuming “manhood” veneers in order to succeed. There are even some popular self-help books that tell women how to succeed by being more man-like (e.g. Things Mother Never Told You). And there is some research on anorexia that proposes that women with this disease are high-achieving women who desire to banish the curves of a female body. There are of course other things involved. Some of these women have been abused and feel safe by avoiding any intimation that their bodies are turning sexual.
      Good for you in what you want to teach your daughter. You can’t start too early on that one.

  40. This was such a timely essay as we continue to see human consumerism bleeding our planet dry. I have been talking about this subject for years with my young children (ages 8, 6, and 3 1/2). We do watch television (although sometimes I wish we didn’t have one), and they do see constant advertising for things they never knew they needed (at least until that moment). Instead of wishing it weren’t out there, though, we talk about what to do with it. It is a normal human response to want things, and advertisers know this. But we talk about the difference between wanting and needing. And we talk about those two very profound quotes by Ghandi: “Live simply so that others can simply live,” and “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” One naturally flows into the other. Because we are aware that so many people in the world have so little while we are literally overflowing, we can be the change and stop buying so much of what we really didn’t need in the first place. Instead of feeling manipulated, we beat the advertisers at their own game. We empower ourselves and become in charge of our own lives. We recognize that this gives us an enormous opportunity to help others and the planet at the same time. And it ultimately makes us feel better than that new wide screen tv or latest toy on the market ever could.

    This essay also touched me because I have a daughter. I have tried to be conscious of the different struggles she will face as she continues to make more and more decisions on her own. As enlightened as I believe I am, even I find myself having to override the messages in my own mind I received as a young girl and now as a woman. And while girls have their own struggles with identity, I don’t believe they’re the only ones. When girls don’t know who they are, perhaps they give themselves away, sometimes to a man, sometimes to something else outside themselves. When boys grow into men that don’t know who they are, maybe it is a natural tendency to dominate something or someone. I don’t want my daughter to feel betrayed. I don’t want her to first give her power away so that she needs to take it back. At the same time, I’m raising two boys and want them to tap into themselves in positive ways so that they won’t feel the need to dominate a woman (or something else) to feel powerful.

    • Thanks for your comment, Staci. This is a wonderful conversation you are having with your children. It sounds like your are empowering them–and innoculating them against an unthinking brand of consumerism that is, as you aptly put it, “bleeding our planet dry”. I agree that it is a real issue that girls in our society “give themselves away”.
      I don’t think it is a natural tendency to try to dominate someone– though we have made it seem like that in our culture. The struggles you yourself faced and continue to face can only model your sense of courage (and self-respect in honoring the importance of who you are to your children of both genders).
      I think that you also have a good insight into the idea that the impulse to dominate someone else stems from not knowing who we really are– so we compensate.
      Obviously you are a thoughtful parent indeed!

  41. I happen to have a seventeen year old daughter and I am aware of all of the harmful ads that try to make girls think that they are only need to be pencil thin and that there highest aspiration should be to look like a model in size 0 jeans. And at this time of year it is hard to ignore the Halloween costumes for girls….it is nearly impossible to find a Halloween costume that isn’t slutty.

    I know that this isn’t a complete way to get the media from telling us what we want and need, but it works pretty well in our house; we turn off the TV during advertisement without question. It started because we didn’t like watching a family program with our kids and then seeing a horrible commercial in the middle of a ‘family’ program. Mostly we don’t watch TV anyway, but when we do, we all turn off the commercials, and I think it works. My kids don’t know what the latest and greatest toys are, and my daughter could care less about the latest fashion trends, even though many have commented on how she should try to become a model, (which thankfully she has never shown any interest in doing.)

    • I think it is a great idea to turn off those commercials, Sandra. I don’t see any reason at all to listen to them. Even if one doesn’t have set that automatically deletes them, one can simply press the mute button on the remote.
      Obviously, it means much to your daughter for you to support her as she becomes a woman.
      Thanks for your comment!

  42. I wish that happiness was marketable, but I know that that too would soon be exploited. We are constantly battling our advertisers and suppliers by reiterating to our children and peers to love themselves, because that’s who you have to live with everyday. The excerpt you added Professor in our class notes from Ester Stutzman, about thanking the earth for sharing its beauty with us, and her statement that being a better-spirited person, starting from the inside, really does have the impact we would expect it to have on the outside. Happiness is contagious, and I hope that we never quit replacing devious ads with our personal deployment of self-love.

    • I think that pharmaceuticals are all too often trying to market happiness!
      You have a great point about substituting the empty and demeaning parts of pop culture with something more substantial and meaningful to each of us. Thanks for sharing this idea, Jessica.
      I also like your idea that happiness is contagious. Let’s spread it around!

  43. Your article really hit home for me. I am very concerned about how girls growing up in this world today view themselves and the world around them. We are so bombarded by images of what we should look like in movies, advertising and music videos. I see pre-teens wearing sexy clothing and I wonder if girls ever get to be kids? When I was in my twenties, I decided to stop reading fashion magazines because they just try to sell images of women that are impossible to be and create a desire to buy new clothing all the time. Something I find maddening with the clothing industry is the way that every year styles must change. If you find shoes that fit well and you love, you can never buy them again because there will be a new model or style each year. Everything must change so we feel out of style and required to buy the newer model. What a crazy world we have made for ourselves.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christine. Everything must change in the fashion industry to spur more economic “growth”. I think we need to find a way to unhinge consumerism from economic health. Economists Daly and Cobb (For the Common Good) suggest some intriguing possibilities. But that obviously won’t come as long as the hype continues about a recovering economy based on consumer buying.

  44. It is kind of sad that the media has such a powerful hold on the way that we see our wants and needs. As a child I can remember seeing ads on TV and then thinking that I wanted whatever it was. After I got it I would play with it for a while and then lose interest in it and it would go into storage. Now that I am grown I am more aware of the impact of media and advertisement and I try to resist them. I am an avid outdoor enthusiast. I like backpacking, hiking, cycling… I am saddened when I here someone say that they can’t go backing because it is too expensive. They think that they have to go out and get hundreds of dollars worth of stuff just to sleep in the woods. I know that it is the influence of advertising and the pressure that we feel to conform to what we think is “normal” that makes them think this way. Then when they get the stuff they end up using it a few times and then it gets put in the closet. Then when the closets are full it goes to the garage. It has got to the point that many people can’t put there cars in there garages because they don’t know what they really want. They just keep buying things in hopes that they will fid it someday. I totally agree with your statement “We don’t need less. We need less of those things that give us no real satisfaction, that destroy our self-esteem—and our environment”. If more people felt this way we would all be a little happier.

    • You certainly have a great point about closets and garages, Zane–and the felt need to carry the whole of civilization with you in a backpack in order to go out in nature. In the Old Ones, Elizabeth Thomas lists the equipment her family brings into the Kalahari to stay with the Bushmen–and the list is a page long. She lists, by comparison, that which the Bushmen carry on treks hundreds of miles long-and there are about four things.
      I like your last observation that we are denigrating both our environment and our self-esteem with our relationship to all this “stuff”. Thanks for your comment.

  45. The media is such a powerful propaganda machine. They spend millions, if not billions, of dollars a year studying what they can do to make, or influence, people to buy things, to want more. I, being a man, don’t think I feel the same bombardment of advertisements and general thought that women and girls have to deal with everyday. I can see everywhere that women are the targets of consumer ideas that try to put them down, make them not feel complete, and that they should buy something, or do something more so they can feel complete. One example I have always thought is funny (maybe not funny, but odd) is that men can wake up, put on a ball cap and go out and its an acceptable look for a man, no one will notice that you havent showered, etc. But, for women to be accepted into the daily world they must present themselves, put makeup on, wear nice clothes, etc, or they might be looked at as not all put together. Just an interesting paradox I have noticed since I was a young child.

    • Hi Matt, thanks for your comment on the influence of ads. I do think you are right about women being targets here–and comparative standards of being “all put together”. Your consciousness is a starting point for chinking away at this cultural idea and substituting something better for both our society and the environment.

  46. To the discussion of women, mothers, daughters, I would like to add concepts of “beauty.” Natural beauty. Even dead leaves and fallen nuts are beautiful. They do not have to be manipulated to be “perfect.” Women’s features do not need to be manipulated to be considered beautiful. Yet, girls are taught at a young age that the application of make-up will make them more attractive and beautiful. And women continue to pursue this beauty, resorting not only to fancier make-ups, but to cosmetic surgery and procedures. I have a photo of myself when I was in my 20s that makes me laugh now — it made my husband laugh then — wise man that he is! We are camping deep in the woods. I am sitting on a stump with a mirror putting on mascara. I look just a little incongruous with my surroundings!

    • I certainly agree that natural beauty is striking as it stands–and doesn’t need any help from us to be so. It seems we might even be genetically set up to experience this (and thus care for the natural scene that produces it) like the bee is set up to come to the flower.
      Young women (and men!) the world over express themselves through ornamentation. I don’t think that is the issue so much as the great consumer push that holds women to impossible standards and links their self-esteem principally on meeting them. Thanks for your comment.
      Quite an image of your camp out! I know one of the reasons that some women feel free in the wild is that no no humans are looking at them (and we are so used to be looked at rather than looking out at the world– a historical dynamic traced through hundreds of years of Western art in John Berger’s Ways of Seeing)>

  47. In today’s dominate society, women have no celebration when we become women. I feel this has a direct effect on why young girls have so many issues as they reach maturity. There is no “good” reason to be a woman. Women still feel they must do it all- have a family, a career, and run the household. It’s been acceptable for men to have their careers. This attitude is changing, but it is a slow process. I can remember my mother doing house work before she left for evening shift as a nurses aide in a nursing home. She did a full day of work BEFORE she left. This was expected and the norm.

    I like to think women, as we “take back” our identities and ourselves will be more comfortable with our roles as mothers, wives, and career women. And Kudos needs to go out to the men who truly support the women who are taking back themselves and help out with the kids, house, and careers!

    • Your mother was not alone in working as double shift, Christy–and many women today still do it. I agree with you in applauding men who help out. It would be a wonderful thing indeed to celebrate coming into womanhood as a coming to power and place.

  48. This was a very interesting post and the increasing social pressure on women is increasing every day. Living with my girlfriend for three years now, I see what she reads in her magazines and get to see firsthand what she reads and in turn believes society desires her to be. I also believe that today these same sort of societal pressures are moving toward the male sex as well. Young men, such as me, have become pressured to conform to a society that might not be suiting to them. This leads us to pursue something that may not be desirable to own needs, but done so to fulfill societies wants. If we consume in something that is undesirable, that consumption will be never ending because we will never be truly appreciative of what we are getting. I believe society should pressure people to be themselves and to fully gain a personal appreciation of who they are and want to be. This would not only support a more diverse society for ourselves, I think we would all gain a more diverse perspective of our surroundings and others. We could begin to see the world in gray, not just black and white.

    • Thanks for adding a conscious male perspective here, Matt. Very interesting point about the ways in which diversity–accepting and encouraging all to be who they are– would change our own perspectives as we partook in such a vibrant community.

  49. This article was very “moving,” If I am a man and was moved by this article I am sure that the women that read this were even more-so moved. One thing that I hope for all women is that they grown up knowing how beautiful they are inside and out not matter what others say. Especially know that what the media subjects’ one too is not always correct or accurate. One should love themselves for who they are and what they are becoming. I grew up with 3 brothers, and only boy cousins, so I was never subjected to the female body/self esteem issues. But, once I got to high-school and started dating it really became prevalent of how women actually thought of themselves. Poor body image was a huge issue for a lot of females that were in my school. It saddens me to think that these women don’t know how special they are, they have to “listen” to the media and all that they present about body image.

    One has to realize that the people that highly contribute to this neverending vicious cycle are the ones that are the “sickest” themselves. They are the ones that have the poorest self-esteem, and they are the ones that are truly hurting inside.

    It is important to love yourself as you love the earth, for all that it is worth no matter what is on the outside, because the inside is worth millions of dollars(not in terms of money wealth) but in terms of the wonderful people/creatures of this earth.

    • Thank you for your empathetic response, Jose. It heartens me to have a man respond in this way. It is a wise statement that it is important to love ourselves as we love the earth– for our body is made of natural matter and both are the vessels of life. And it is true that what that vital spark of life in us (and in nature) cannot be bought at any price (and should never be destroyed or degraded for some monetary profit). Thanks for your comment.

  50. It IS amazing at how powerful ads are. But, we don’t have to watch them on TV (unless we’re being brainwashed as in A Clockwork Orange, and sometimes it feels that way). I hope if I have daughters, I can get into their heads before the wares of Cosmo do.

    • It it true that we can turn off or tune out those ads, Coral. But it is also true (as educator Jeanne Kilbourne has found) that they so pervade all the dimensions of our society, it is hard to get away from them entirely. Thoughtful point. I think it would be great to turn off all those ads to the point where they stopped working and influencing our cultural values.

  51. As I read this article I am both amazed and a little grossed out by the idea that we have all become pawns and have forgotten why we are and who we are. I can remember being carefree as a child, and mortified as I went further in school by others opinions. I can honestly say that the pressures on young people to “fit in” is sickening and shameful. What happened to embracing and encouraging creativity, now it just seems that if you don’t fit into the cookie cutter shape then it’s no good.

    I know who I am and what makes me happy.. which doesn’t take much! But I defintely had to struggle through stereotypes and opinions of others before I could realize that mine and my family and friends are the ones I’m concerned about.

    Be who you are, don’t be defined by your color, creed, or status. Don’t be dependent upon a man to define you, know how to be alone and happy and then you can be in a healthy cooperative relationship.

    • Thanks for your comment, Emily. A great statement that you can make that you know who you are and that makes you happy– it is a struggle for many of us to get to that point! Thanks for sharing the standards that got you there!

  52. What a beautiful wish for mother’s day! I agree, I think it is absolutely tragic what young girls go through in our society in this time: believing that we need the attention of a man to validate our own inner and outer beauty. It is so untrue, and so unfortunate that we largely lack female role models that can speak words of encouragement and truth to us about the issue.

    I’d like to touch a bit more on the subject of the media, and what an influential role it has in shaping young women’s perspectives. Democracy is the education of consent, or as you say, “Those in power in society like our own have always manipulated the desire of those at the bottom to keep them there.” Television is one massive lie after another, which is why I refuse to have cable in my household. If I want to watch an episode on the National Geographic channel, I order it through Netflix.

    The average American household purportedly spends seven hours a day watching television and possesses 2.4 television sets. The TV remains turned on even if it is not being watched, if not solely for the fear of silence and feeling alone. 81% of Americans say they spend most evenings watching TV, but only 56% report that they talk to family members. If you could take the roof off the average suburban house and witness daily events unfold, you would see each separate family member in a separate room watching a separate TV that has a separate set of commercials on it hawking a separate lifestyle. And if you looked more closesly, you’d see that they’re surrounded, barricaded, by all this stuff they’ve bought to support these lifestyles that are being sold to them.

    This is hardly connective, and a poor substitute for really living and fulfilling our true potential. But, pssst! This is exactly what ‘they’ don’t want. It is much more lucrative to keep the population subdued and the psychologies ill than to be truthful and healthy. Less chance of an uprising, too. It’s too bad our media didn’t advertise the alternative, beautiful worldview we all envision. I wonder if we could gather enough donations to do launch a massive advertising campaign that hinted at an alternate reality and a different, emerging paradigm? With links that give information for relevant and meaningful topics? Wouldn’t that be lovely? 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Natalie. I like your observation that the “stuff” that surrounds us is actually “barricading” us in. Truly a poor substitute for living as we want. Lovely idea about what we might advertise instead of what’s out there. Of course, that would only spread happiness and support meaningful lives, not make money!

  53. What a most interesting article. And it makes perfect sense to me. First off, I find it safe to say that girls in our society “start out with an open eroticism toward the natural world” and then convert such a connection from the earth and life itself to desire for a single man because this sense of desiring to connect with something and of longing to be needed by someone or something is part of a woman’s natural make-up which originated back in the Neandertal days, before modern man, when such qualities in a woman were NEEDED for the survival and prevalence of mankind; that quality of needing to embrace and nurture something (which was obviously then bearing and nurturing their young). Hence, that “sensual love of life” mentioned in the article, with which girls now start out.

    Our world has altered dramatically since the age of the Neandertals, due to our evolution, and our modern environment no longer demands of women to bear and raise children due to our ability to make choices of whether or not we will even bear children as well as to the fact that humans are greatly over-populated as it is, yet we females still possess that desire for eroticism and connection and the chance to be needed and/or wanted. But, now that this inherent need is lacking in the fact that what it was originally biologically designed for is no longer necessary for our existence, this primordial need has been altered into WANT… a desire for something we cannot truly place since the constituents of that natural need (which will never evade us) no longer exists. Just as it was stated in the article, we end up redirecting this feeling on a man. And I cannot deny that as much as I have turned to nature, I am still a prime example of a woman yearning for a man’s love and embrace, which I believe I have found for the most part. I would love to dispose of the things which have destroyed my self-esteem as well as our environment… and on knowing what I want, besides a man’s love and affection of course (ha)… these would have include the same things Dr. Holden listed in her third to final paragraph. I couldn’t think of anything more fulfilling (save for a “place of belonging for my daughter” merely because I have no daughter and plan never to due to the over-population of humans). But, the other things she listed sound superb to me, as well as it should to the rest of us.

    • Thanks for your comment here, Cherisse. Actually, the conversion of desire you mention is NOT part of our genetic make up, but part of our cultural training. And it too often becomes an unhealthy fixation that replaces being in touch with our own senses– so that the only way we feel in touch with our own physicality is through connection to a man.
      Physical bonding to others– as indicated by anthropologist Ashley Montague’s book Touching, is part of our make up and an important one. But depriving young women of any other way of being in touch with their own connection to the natural world and their own bodies. Here is where the “romantic fallacy” comes in.
      Positive and mutual relationships are an intricate part of our humanity: giving up our ability to perceive the world for ourselves is not.
      And an added note: the eroticism a young girl feels is not sexual but sensual. There is a decided difference: one is far more expansive than the other and entails being in touch with all our senses. I am so glad that you are doing away with all those blockages to your self-esteem. Bonding with another person should not be one of these. You certainly know whether your choice helped you expand and express and ground who you are.
      And as for “our” daughters. In traditional societies all women were “mothers” of all daughters. We need your energy for the next generation whether or not you physically bear a child.
      Thanks again for the thoughtful comment!

      • Yes, I understand the conversion itself is part of our culture training. There was a book I recently read that gave me the idea for the rest of my response. My mistake, if I applied it incorrectly. Thanks for the reply.

  54. This is an interesting topic. Having a 14 year-old son who wants all the new gadgets: I-Pod, cell phone, headphones, games, etc, I know it first hand. We live remotely and he is at constant battle with himself and me over the fact that he doesn’t get to do all those things that kids do. A valid argument, to a point. However, the reason for living remotely is to instill in him the tools he needs in order to be able to listen to his own voice. I want him to know the value of an I-Pod because he finds the value in it himself, not because of what the advertising tells him. I also want him to know the value of being able to drink fresh, clean water right from the spring bubbling out of the ground. In essence, I don’t want to isolate him from the “modern world,” I do want to offer him the chance to appreciate the natural world. This is all too rare in our modern world.

    The media’s control over our actions has become a bit of a grotesque cycle, often referred to as the “rat race” and systemically plagues our world. Yes, I think reevaluating what we really want, that which truly makes us happy, is crucial. Our society is over due for a reflection such as this.

    • Thank you for sharing your powerful mother’s wish for your son. It is a dilemma that all of us face as parents when we want to balance the experience of the natural world (which entails connections with the sources of our lives) with the modern world that all of us, after all, live in. Questions that come up for me in this respect entail not only learning the difference between consumerism and what truly makes each of us happy (it is a great service you are doing your son in acquainting him with this distinction) but with appropriate technology: that is, using technology that fosters the abundance and diversity of all natural life, including our own.

  55. Reading this article brought back memories of me going through puberty. I was depressed, felt I had the “ugly duckling” syndrome (big glasses, braces, uncoordinated). I used to watch the popular girls in school and wish I could be as smooth and pretty as them. Now, looking back, I thank God for making me an “ugly duckling”. Without that I wouldn’t have been able to see the beautiful swan I transformed into!

  56. Unfortunately, there is more pressure on women than men as we live in a patriarchal world. Women have to be beautiful, sexy, and physically fit which all are scripts from the media. Although having women in the media is a very important function for that media to be famous, there is an effect on the way we behave that TV and movies draws the sexual scripts in our society. Those sexual scripts tell us about who can have sex, when can we have it, and where. In media, people who can have sex are only heterosexual people and sexy beautiful women. Those can have sex after falling in love which takes three to four months in the 20’s to 30’s of their age. Based on the sexual scripts that we gain by watching movies or TV, we believe that obese people, homosexual people, and old people cannot have sex. Also, it is wrong to have sex at the first date. Those sexual scripts affect people who are “out of the image” like old or obese people badly because it discriminates them.
    Finally, all women have to believe in themselves that they are beautiful and perfect as they have one or more good points in their body or even behaviors no matter what the sexual scripts tell us.

    • Thanks for this reminder that the “scripts” of our society are not ones written by ourselves–and thus ones we should adhere to–nor make others conform to.
      It is tragic that so many women suffer as a result of these scripts–and that contemporary media enforces them in the way they do. I appreciate your comment, Duaa.

  57. Retail therapy. Not only are we told what we should want in order to feel happy, we are told that if we are unhappy we can turn to shopping for help. Want to fit in? Buy. Want to get over your last breakup? Spend. Want to forget about your problems? Consume. We are told by society that we if we participate and let ourselves be consumed by our own consumption, we will feel fulfilled and voids will be filled. What we are not told is that not only is our consumption far from actual fulfillment, but that our consumption has finite limits that we are fast approaching. At least that is how it has been until recently, when awareness of limited resources has become more widespread and concern for the wellbeing of the environment has become more popular. Maybe if we can continue the trend of eco-friendly consumption, we can shift the direction society is moving towards something more sustainable for humans as well as all natural things. More and more people are starting to follow the “go green” trend, and that is reflected in the market goods available. I just hope that this trend is here to stay, and not become a fad like so many trends of the past. That will take getting people to want to “go green” for altruistic reasons, not popularity reasons. But I believe in the good of humankind, so I have to believe this can happen.

    • It is a sad form of “therapy” that is not only addictive but destructive to the sources of our natural lives and our personal authenticity, is it not, Kirsten?
      But it is great for producers and their advertisers. I too hope the “green” trend is here to stay, not only in the kinds of retail products available to us– but in lessening the sad link between our sense of self and consuming as much as we can. There are certainly more effective ways to nurture ourselves. Thanks for your comment.

      • Yes, I agree. I think you could make a good argument that when we consume, particularly in excess, we are becoming more and more reliant on those producers and consumers, while at the same time weakening our connection to our natural selves. I like your point about different ways of nurturing ourselves. It’s certainly not something we hear from the mass media—even though it’s implications have the possibilities of greatly enriching our lives.

  58. I had many thoughts while reading this essay, most of which involve my own personal experiences. First of all, the idea that children are taught the ways of gluttonous consumerism from a very young age hit home for me. I used to work in a big box toy store, let’s call it “Toys R We.” I was shocked by the way children would get the “I wants” and would carry on and throw tantrums when they wouldn’t get their way. I understand that a certain amount of this is normal, (even with wonderfully behaved kids) but I have never seen kids act quite so badly as they do in a toy store. And who could blame them? The advertising, the events, the promotions, the displays are all created to make children believe that they CANNOT POSSIBLY live without buying these items. And the poor children are frequently too young to see outside of themselves to the bigger picture, and all they know is that they want to possess that item. No wonder it is so easy to hardwire children for a lifetime of consumer behavior.

    Another thing that I picked up on is the idea of scarcity as a prime motivator for consumerism. You state, “fostering of psychological deficits [is] beneficial to selling more products.” And oh, is it ever true. Scarcity and fear work wonderfully in that capacity. I have worked in a few sales positions in my life. I worked for a well-known pet food brand as a demo representative, meaning that I would go to a store that sold the food and try to convince the customers to try it for their pets. In that job, I was made to play on the scarcity issue (I’m only going to be here this ONE day with these coupons, so you should act now), and most of all, I was made to appeal to the consumer’s sense of fear. We didn’t call it that in the training, but I was definitely appealing to the fear sense. I would state that other foods have too many minerals and not enough antioxidants, stirring up the consumer’s fear that they are not treating their pet well. Perhaps the most troubling job that I have had was when I telemarketed for a major vacuum company, setting up appointments for demos. This job was all about playing the customer like a fiddle. I appealed to their sense of fear by telling them that dust mites lived all over in their homes, and reminding them that lots of health conditions are caused or exacerbated by dust/mites. I used the idea of scarcity (i.e. Set up an appointment now, because we’re only in the area for a few weeks!) I even outright lied to people by telling them that they had been referred to me when, in fact, I was coldcalling them. I hated having to mess with people like that, and never really felt good about the methods that I was told to use. This is my story of how consumerism looks from the other side, from what I know of the corporate mindset. Note to fellow commenters: Don’t underestimate how much they use fear and scarcity to get into your wallet.

    As for me as a consumer, I am a reforming shopaholic. I condemned people like me even as I showed the signs of gluttonous consumerism. I was drawn in by the idea of having pretty things and lining up glass perfume bottles all in a row on the vanity. As a result, I have rather large amounts of credit card debt which I am bringing with me into my upcoming marriage. This bothers me, because I don’t want to start a marriage with all of this debt. Although I take full responsibility for my actions and my shameful spending ways, I can’t help but wonder how my attitude toward shopping would have been different if our society was different. If our society was geared toward less consumerism and more “contact with the natural world”, as Professor Holden put it so well, I wonder how my life would have gone. It’s a deeply disturbing and provoking idea for me, as I think about the way things might have been better. However, I take this as a learning experience, and hope that I can impart onto my future children the wisdom gleaned from my carelessness. Silver lining, eh?

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experiences on both sides of the isle– consumer and salesperson, Amanda. Of course, I am sure the salespersons were also threatened with things like quotas. You are obviously not alone in your credit card debt– and our society as a whole lives on natural resources borrowed from future generations that we may never be able to pay back. I am sorry that you got backed into this corner, but the good news is you have the intellectual resources not only to get yourself out but to pass on your knowledge/experience to others. This is a powerful personal stance!

    • And I also wanted to added a note concerning your point on scarcity here, Amanda. Being told there is not enough motivates us to grab something up before it is gone–just as being told WE are not enough motivates us to try to purchase those things to make us full–which of course, they never can. This is another place where this quote is so apt: “We can never get enough of what we didn’t want in the first place.” Unless we find the true core of our hunger, we will never be able to find what it is we really need to fill it.

  59. My first thoughts on this article was “keeping up with the Jones.” But who are the Jones today? I see my children’s friends with all the lastest and greatest games, the name brand clothing, the pantry stocked with cool foods. But this does not make them better or happier. Just as the article says, it makes them want more, the newer version, the cooler clothing. I feel blessed that I was one of five, we passed clothing down and it took all our christmas/birthday money to save up for a game system(it had been out for a few years at that point). I learned that we could still be cool with out the ‘stuff’. I feel for those who need to keep up, those who lose self-esteem because they cannot, or do not know that they are truly sad because you can not buy happiness.

    As a mother now, I always tell my childern that I want them to be extra nice to others for all occasions. This is my idea of a good thing, rather than just a card that will be tossed, candy that I do not need or some gift that will just collect dust. They also understand that they do not need to keep up with the Jones. Sometimes it is better to have the older stuff. As a matter of fact I still have that game system, it is 20 years old and my boys love it.

    • Hi Adeena, you point on “who are the Joneese” made me think how different our society might be if we were instead practicing to be elders whom we saw modeled caretaking of our communities and the natural world…you seem to be doing some very good modeling along such lines yourself.

  60. I agree that the gluttony of our society is fueled by self-esteem issues. The analogy of young teenage girls needing the brand clothing and the best purse in order to feel like they fit in really hits home when you think about that section of our society and multiply it by other self esteem issues.

    The quote “You can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place”, and “never getting what we really want fuels the engine of growth as we keep consuming more and more in the hopes we will finally be satisfied” really touches on this main point.

  61. This is a thought provoking topic. There is a movie called “Peaceful Warrior” and throughout the movie this young guy is learning how to gather knowledge from within himself and to seek the things in life that truly matter. It’s really good, the part that I’m thinking of is when he is told by his teacher, that he needs to stop looking out into the world for his answers and being distracted by all these things that are trying to get in and that he just needs to “find your answers on the inside.” One of the main points is the power from within and really knowing ourselves on a level that we could really get by with out ever knowing. Some people live their whole lives never really waking up. I guess the part of your essay that I am focusing on the most is when you discussed the psychological methods that advertisements use and the ways that they are able to get into our heads and quite literally give us thought and desires and “needs” without us ever even realizing what happened. I want to always be in a place where I am aware of the the thoughts and desires that I am experiencing and know where those desires are coming from. Are they really from inside of me? or have they been planted there by the media?

    • Hi Alyssa, it does seem that we need some socially supported way for folks to find their place in society– and to speak to their own unique spirits. I have never seen this movie, but if it crosses my path, I will look into it (that is, when I have some time in my life!)
      Listen to the voice within is not something a lot of us in this society have practice in– that practice would make us less susceptible to manipulation! Great goal of assessing the personal authenticity of your thoughts. I think if the majority of us did this, we might have a very different society.

  62. It seems that as soon as I buy a new product, I notice that there are tons more out there that are faster, newer, and better in pretty much every way. Just as someone who “lives by the spear will die by the spear,” a person who lives by their “wants,” will spend much of their life wanting.

    In our culture, we are discouraged from enjoying what we already have. Girls can always be prettier, boys can always be stronger, the rich can always be richer, and so on. As soon as we make an accomplishment, it seems that many of us are already thinking about the next big thing before the dust even settles.

    Satisfaction, in these times, seems like a sin. What a bizarre and backwards concept that is.

    • Very nice analogy about wants– and I appreciate the quote from the article on reciprocity, Morgan. It does seem like the ads tell us we are walking deficits– how else to keep us consuming?
      Given the Supreme Court decision that unleashed corporate campaign ads, it is all the more important to keep thinking for ourselves!

  63. It really is amazing to me how well adjusted people are in spite of all the messages.The consumer imputes to buy, buy, buy has been ingrained in the west for a few generations now. Yet there is still charity and virtue. Is the world what it once was? No. Was it ever, or is this just nostalgia covering for other ills of by gone ages?

    Even if people do avoid the trap of defining themselves by what they own there are plenty of other pitfalls available. My vice of choice is to define myself the sum of my actions, as perceived by others. Seems like a good way to live until you get to that last clause, it really doesn’t allow much room for anything less than perfection.

    Consumerism is the disease of the day, but there were others before it, theocracy and feudal governance cause much suffering for many hundreds of years. Someday this too will pass away. We can hope and strive for a better tomorrow, but thousands of years of dysfunction is a lot to over come. Everything has a cost, this could just be the cost of a post-agrarian society. We can fix the environment, we can fix consumerism, but can we, and do we want to, fix being billions of humans with a globe spanning society.

    • I certainly hope you are right that consumerism is a vice of the day that will pass away before it takes a further toll on the ecosystems that sustain us. I hope, that is, that it passes away before we do. I’m not entirely sure we have the capacity to “fix” the environment– what we do have is the capacity to change our own behavior. On the idea that we can “fix” the environment (e.g. re-engineer it to accommodate all the harms we have done to it)– I think that this more of the same dangerous hubris that may have gotten us into this problem in the first place. An essay that elegantly and emphatically makes that point is an article by Alan Robock in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, ” 20 Reasons Why Geoengineering is a Bad Idea.”
      I understand that this may not have been how far you meant to insinuate our ability to tinker with earth’s systems, your words just brought this idea to mind for me so I wanted to share it. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments,Peter.

  64. It is hard to fight societal pressure to buy, buy, buy. During my very rebellious days as a parent, I carefully monitored the amount of advertising my children saw (and TV). I home schooled the younger two for three years, until we all had enough. Brand names were unknown and unimportant in our home. Clothing came from the cousins or the thrift store or were handmade. Occasionally, Grandma would send something new. As you mentioned girls have a natural love of life, my daughter and son loved the outdoors and we had many nature field trips, far more than the would have had in school.

    As a result, when they entered school and were tested, they excelled in math and reading, but missed any questions regarding brand names or current fads in toys. The public school system and their peers quickly undid any chance that they might escape the “I wants.”

    That was twenty-some years ago. I can only imagine what it must be like to raise children under our current media advertising blitz. Yes, what you suggest as a Mother’s Day gift sounds mighty fine.

  65. I fear every day that my girls will fall into the pits you described. I wonder how in this world you keep this from happening. As other students have mentioned, the make-up, perfume, bras, skinny jeans are marketed at such young ages these days. Not to mention the overpriced footwear, such a Uggs which my 5 years old recently asked for. With this sensory overload, you have to wonder what makes one girl fall into self loathing and promiscuity and another girl rise above it? I hope that the key is setting a strong example for them and my hope is that I can make that happen.

    • It is very difficult to be a mother facing such issues, Bernadette. You have one step in the right direction by being conscious of this. Good for you in setting examples. You might enjoy the Mother-Daughter Revolution.

  66. This article, by far, was one of the best ones I’ve read in these series. Having three daughters, all who I tried to raise as independent thinkers, this information really hit home. At different holidays when the girls ask me what I want for gifts, I have always told them something from their heart. (Maybe not as idealistic as clean water, fresh air, etc., although without that I can’t enjoy life), but the greatest gift of all is seeing them blossom into confident, young women, who can critically think and challenge stereotypical views. And I am happy to say so far I am seeing these results.

    The authors of Mother-Daughter Revolution (great book), young girls start out with eroticism and curiosity about the natural world. Unfortunately through misguided information from leaders, a patriarchal society, and unfounded information in the media, our girls are bombarded with messages striping them from their self-worth, esteem, and a vital sense of who they are.

    It is extremely sad to think our society pressures girls into thinking what they look like, rather than who they are as a person, is more important. This paradigm is hopefully changing, but until we support our girls in respecting themselves, it will be difficult to teach respect for all nature.

    My oldest daughter had it right. For one of my birthdays she organized, prepared, and surprised me with a camping trip in the mountains. It is during these times our family bonds together, we have time to discuss what is important, and we connect with nature; understanding and appreciating the natural resources which surround us. It is important to teach that all living things have a purpose. Hopefully these values will be passed on to any grandchildren I may have someday (my first coming in April!).

    • Thanks for your comment, Marla. It sounds like your are raising your girls right! A camping trip as a present– I would certainly love that. Congratulations on your coming grandchild!
      It sounds like you are leaving a legacy of caring–another reason for congratulations.

  67. I think that not really knowing what we want is a problem in the modern age, and I think that an equally important problem is knowing what we want and being afraid to get it because of what others may think of us. This is the self-esteem issue. Maybe I don’t really want the hippest new thing, but if I don’t have will people ostrasize me? I don’t think that we will ever get away from advertising pressure, but it would be nice if society was more tolerant of people who were not cookie cutter made by the media.

    I would like to see more girls in the outdoors. I always wanted to do the things that my brothers did in boy scouts but because girls aren’t allowed, I couldn’t participate. The local girl scout troop just learned how to make doilies and cookies. That wasn’t as appealing to me. Maybe someday girls will be as welcome and respected in the outdoors as boys are now.

    • A perceptive point in terms of not only knowing what we want– but being able to go for it even if that sets us outside social convention, Hannah. In many cultures vision quests alone in nature allow young people can find themselves and their uniqueness–and subsequently find their personal paths and the way they wish to serve their communities. It is a tragedy when young people lose their opportunity to learn, as one Klamath elder put it, “to speak with their spirits.”

  68. It is exhausting being constantly bombarded by advertisements of material things that other people think we should want. Not only is it exhausting, but it is also confusing. Sometimes I find myself wondering whether I should want these things, and if I don’t, is there something wrong with me. I’m slowly beginning to realize how my desires have been manipulated over time, and in turn realizing how to figure out for myself what it is that I truly want. Unfortunately, I’ve also realized that understanding want I want is only part of the battle. The difficult part, at least for me, is pursuing those desires in a society that tends to oppress anything outside of the main stream.

    To stop the momentum of the “age of the gluttonous consumer” and to prevent further oppression of individual desires there needs to be a change in the collective consciousness of modern day society. If we as a society are more aware of the manipulation that inundates our daily lives, we can choose the desires that are necessary for our individual wellbeing, as well as, the wellbeing of our natural kinships. Since we are woven from the same fabric, what is healthy for us will be healthy for our environment, and thus we must be aware of what our “soul” desires and not what the media tells us to desire.

    • I very much like your idea of “soul desires” in this comment, Jordan. Both knowing your true desires and acting on them will be all the more important given the deluge of corporate campaign ads the recent Supreme Court decision set us up for.
      At the same time, there is a hopeful sensibility here in that our health and the health of our environment are linked– if we wisely act in ways that further both of these.

  69. I always feel that when something is right, things seem to go your way more often. There may be some bumps on the road for your true path, but you still know it’s the right direction. I think deep down we all know what is right for ourselves, it a matter of listening to ourselves or whoever we feel is giving us the information. As parents, we too, want the best for our children. I learned when I was single (and in psychotherapy) that I could learn to be happy on my own. Things didn’t seem to go right until I decided to take control of my life. I learned how to deal with life and once I decided to help myself, things worked out. I met my husband not long after and we have built an interesting life together with two wonderful children. They have also been through the bumps of life with us and I hope it will help them with their decisions in life. Our hope for them is to be able to think for themselves and not let anyone else make them feel unworthy. Self-esteem is very important and it’s what we’ve been giving our children since birth. We also teach them respect for themselves, others and the environment. And to discover what they want for themselves on their own, not by what society or T.V. tells them they want. We hope to give them a strong foundation for when the time comes for them to follow their path in life.

    • Hi Judilyn, thanks for sharing a bit of your personal journey and the lessons that went with it. Congratulations on building the family that arose from learning to listen to yourself–and act on that listening.

  70. I agree with the statement, “As living creatures, we have a meaning, a sense of belonging, an orientation toward something. But if we don’t know what this is, we are susceptible to the infinite desire…” Many people don’t know what they want in life, and when we are bombarded by commercials that try to sway us towards their products or way of life through their manipulated statistics and propaganda, we are pulled away from what we really need. I like the comment, “…ads assure us that we can buy whatever it is we want—after they tell us what that is”. I think that people need a closer relationship with the resources which keep them alive.

    As a child, my parents would take my brothers and I on adventures in the wilderness every other weekend. This taught us how beautiful and fun nature could be. When we got older, we joined the boy scouts where our father was the scout master. He taught us how the environment could keep us alive, and why we needed to protect it and respect it. Many children never get this close of a relationship with the environment, so it’s hard for them to respect it as much. Nature became a loved one to us. We knew it well, and saw it often. We respected it like we respected our elders.

    Lately there have been more commercials that gear kids towards a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. They are kind of making it look like it’s the cool thing to do, rather than the kids establishing a closer relationship with the environment and realizing themselves how delicate it is. It is changing their mindset toward the environment though, which is important, and it gets them out working closer to nature, and this could lead to a more personal relationship to it. I think the only way to respect it more it to get to know it better.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal perspective–and your personal experience, Benj. I very much like this statement, “Nature become a loved one to us”– it resonates with the idea of kinship between humans and nature in many indigenous societies.
      I think you are right that in order to respect something, we need to know it better– which comes back to your first point. Knowing our own desires (listening to ourselves) is certainly a way to cultivate self-respect.

  71. At first I wasn’t sure of the link between this reading and the themes of our reading unit, but then I recognized so many big-picture linkages. Of course, the over consumption and manipulation of our society constitutes disrespect of our natural world. However, the way we treat our girls is analogous to our treatment of our wildlife and other resources (like the salmon in the other blog reading). The indigenous people respected all living things and we do not even respect our own children. Also, the theme of knowing what you want speaks not just to our values, but to our interdependence. The author’s face-value message about transcending the “wanting” of material gifts is an important message for all.

  72. It’s sad that our society focuses so much on external appearance. The media perpetuates unachievable aesthetic goals just to push their trash. A lot of times the images of “beautiful” women that we see are photoshopped and edited so it is not even what they really look like. Hell, even I would look good if I had a makeup and lighting crew following me around everywhere.
    Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of popularizing someone based on their looks or social standing, the media bombarded us with stories of people that actually do something for the world? I guess that the hegemonic consumerism is more economically feasible than fostering a sense of community, at least for now.

    • I think “hegemonic consumerism” is good for a few, but not for our society as a whole, Lance, since, as you point out, it comes at the expense of fostering a sense of community. I like your idea that we might better substitute contributions as opposed to appearances for what we honor as a society.

  73. I think that one of the benefits of getting older is you gain two very important characteristics that really speak to this topic; patience and self-reflection. The statement that “youth is wasted on the young” grows on me more and more as I age, as I am getting old at 28 years of age. I started to notice this about myself probably around my mid-twenties. I was less and less able to tell people what I “wanted” for holidays such as my birthday and Christmas. Sure there are things I could take, but that deep down desire to consume and buy was starting to fizzle. My wife and I were living the American dream with debt up to our eyeballs and lots of “stuff”. I find myself now trying to find ways to downsize my life and be happier with less, and I actually find myself with more. When I was young I kept trying to fill this void with material possessions that never seemed to fill. I have the means now to live well and we will surely be much better off in the future, but the flame for instant gratification is extinguishing as I get older. I have not purchased a nice new vehicle in almost 3 years, and don’t plan on it for at least another 3. I find myself more and more trying to plan for a future where my children have the help, nurturing, and guidance that I never had. I want them to be comfortable and financially secure so that they can do what truly makes them happy, without worry over financial consequences of such choices. This is quite different from my mother’s approach of spend it all now, because you can’t take it with you. She took a family inheritance of what today would be almost 6 million dollars in properties and spent it all on selfish endeavors. She set a very bad example for her children, and her reward for this behavior was to be left with nothing but debt and a small apartment she must share with four roommates. I want my children to come to appreciate everything they have and the good they can do for others, and this is all too often where children of the fortunate fail, as my mother illustrated when she wasted my father’s inheritance. I hope that I can be the role model my children need so that every future generation of my family can have a bigger and bigger positive impact on both other people, but also the world around them. Who truly leads the more fulfilling life; the man who lives on the beach in his mansion or the one who provided books and educations to thousands of people? Wealth and power is not a measure of someone’s worth as modern society would have you believe, but rather what that person chooses to do with that wealth and power that measures their true character.

    • Hi Damien, your family history has obviously given you some cause for self-reflection. One hopes that maturity fosters patience as well. I am not so sure this is automatic in a “youth culture” such as ours, but I have heard from many parents stories such as yours– that care for their children taught them to re-assess their values.
      Thanks for sharing this.

  74. As with all things, Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The birth of democracy, giving power to the people, still bore the burdens of the cultural stigmas of the time. Women were sub servant to the men and in line with them the slaves. Should the slaves or women revolt the system was feared to fall apart. At the time the men were the capitalist rulers and the slaves and women a worthy desire.
    Today the masses play the part of the women and slaves, feeding each the idea that they are inadequate in their lifestyle. Preying on the weaknesses of the self, the desire to make money over shadows the communal sharing of power or in this case capital.

  75. Objectification is a problematic manner of thought but Westerners are somewhat programmed to think like that due to cultural values. Women, the earth, beauty is objectified but moreover I think we tend to objectify everything. People, places, things are objective or economic leaving people to feel perhaps only that the self is real.
    I think that the desires for a more pure earth may be realized. There is a growing environmental movement which should give us hope. The earth can be restored with effort and the greatness of natural systems. One of the most frightening things to comprehend is how all of life on the earth is suffering due to human recklessness. Touching on that subject in a real way is something that this article does by delving into how our ecosystems utterly lack integrity nearly everywhere (at the end of the article). Our soil is poisoned by countless diverse chemicals and how many people even poison their own lawns with weed-killer and the like. All of this pollution is nightmarish beyond ones wildest imagination and practically beyonds the limits of our comprehension in its magnanimous scale but I believe that we will fix the mess we’ve made. Economics are going green independent of policy and there are many other reasons to think that the green movement will continue to take off.

    • I think you are right on the pervasive habit of mind of objectification in contemporary society, Sky. There ARE hopeful trends, as you note. But first we have to decide what we really want as a result of our actions-and I don’t think it is the poisoning of our own habitat.

  76. This is a beautiful article. We can be satisfied with less only if we stop equating things with our self-worth. We don’t have to pass on to our daughters the same insecurities as our mother’s passed onto us, as long as we completely overcome our body-image problems and other issues of self-worth, and become living examples of confident, self-sufficient women.

  77. Defining what we want in society seems to be one of the most challenging aspects to life. From the time I was young I remember being told over and over again by the media that if I had a certain toy or a particular item that I would be happier. That began a long lifetime of desiring objects, purchasing them, and then being utterly unfulfilled one I owned them. As we get older, the process seems to just grow exponentially and the items sought after get larger and more expensive. It’s as though we never learn from our disappointment and think that if we just continue on, we will eventually buy that thing that fulfills us. After moving to Hawaii in 2002, I realized I had very different notions of success than the native population. My closes native friends were content to sit on the beach with friends and family, and never seemed consumed with getting a good job, nice car, bigger house and the like. While I worked day and night striving for “success” they remained content with the simple life and watched me hurry around trying to accomplish everything I possibly could. Recently, I had the fortune of spending a lot of personal time staying with some very wealthy people. In the various households where I was staying, the average net worth of the owner was over 40 million. I made close friends with the people and we had a large amount of time to discuss life and happiness. During this time I noticed that the home owner had everything a person could want, including servants, but didn’t seem to be excessively happy. I noticed there was a lot of complaining about various things around the house , and that they really didn’t spend much time smiling. After this I returned home and began to practice my music. It was at that time that I had an epiphany. I realized I had something that made me happy and didn’t require any money or striving. My relationship with music was indescribable to someone who doesn’t play music, and I realized that if I only had a short time left on this earth, I would want to spendt it playing music. This was a revelation to me, because I’ve spent my whole life in pursuit of wealth. Sense this experience, I have begun to reshape my core values and have switched my focus from consumerism to something higher. These psychological influences affect us all is such powerful ways, that they seem to completely override our own innate passions and desires. It is my hope that with sufficient self programming, I can focus my life on what creates true happiness and not what I’ve been told creates happiness.

    • Good description of the compulsive experience of acquiring “things” and then being unfulfilled by them, Joshua. Congratulations on finding something that truly fulfills you without money or striving! It would be a gift to shape your life on what truly satisfies you–and such a life is also a model for others.

  78. I think overall, Americans take so much for granted. Everything is handed to us and we take in, what we hear and see. It is so easy to become lazy in this society. Knowing what we want is difficult when it seems as though everything already has a format even though it has been manipulated by the media. Understanding that the images on the television are manufactured and the realism of them is completely false is important. Most of my children understand that what they see on television and magazine ads are false, however, the peer pressure to look a certain way is still an issue. If one does not conform to the way, others in their class looks, then the scrutiny begins. And to be different, is to be scrutinized. And sometimes, it is easier to give in to the pressure. However, those who can move beyond the scrutiny, I think brings them closer to knowing what they really want without the influence of pop culture. Seeing the world with new eyes and really seeing that nature is a beautiful thing…

    • Knowing what we want is difficult when “everything is handed to us on a platter”– or everything someone else has decided we want or need. Congratulations on your work with your children, Tina. But I also know that having an intellectual idea of something is a different thing from acting differently in the face of peer pressure. Powerful point that to be “different is to be scrutinized”– such a sad thing for our young people coming into alternative. We need to give them all the support and alternatives we can offer in this respect: thanks for doing your own part in this.

  79. The my oldest daughter will be 8 at the end of the month. She is just entering the age where she thinks about appearance and material things. At the same time she still enjoys the natural world, playing on the rainy beach and getting muddy. I hope to continue to foster her self esteem and self image, in order to make puberty easier.

  80. After reading this article, I see several topics with several questions. Do girls’ self-esteem plummet just because of the buy more-you need this mentality or also from the awkwardness that seems to present itself at puberty? The ‘my legs are too long/short, my hair isn’t red/blond, I have braces and my ears stick out’ awkwardness? I agree that many people have been held down due to principles based on or referenced to Aristotle. He must have been a real piece of work. Does anyone know if he was ever married or if they believed in divorce back then? I agree that current ad campaigns do more damage than good for the general populace, not just women and girls. Females are told they must be as thin as Twiggy while at the same time they are being bombarded with more fast food commercials than can be numbered. (I am on a pre-surgical diet now and can hardly watch TV for all the food commercials!) I don’t believe that any well informed woman (or girl if her mother is a very open type person) feels they need a man for eroticism or sensual fulfillment. I resent being typified as a chronic shopper because that is the current female stereotype. My husband does much more of the spending in our house than I do but that’s ok? This article pushed a lot of buttons for me and not just the ones it was intended to. As far as modern media having as much an influence as their education or their families, I disagree. Media and peers have more influence on a child’s life than their family as soon as they start public school (or some private schools). My youngest daughter was not a “I WANT” kind of person when I was homeschooling her but as soon as she went to public school in the third grade, OMG! She has never been the same since. Media, because of the free speech amendment, has gotten out of control and their is no recourse other than not watching TV, movies, listening to radio or surfing the web. So you have to live in a closet to be a more caring, concerned individual? I agree totally with what you are ‘wanting’. How can we get there from HERE?

    • Hi Cendi, these are issues that all parents and young women must confront in our current culture. Thanks for sharing your own experience here. As for the self-esteem drop being a normal result of puberty, several things apply. In many indigenous cultures the self-esteem of young women rises at puberty; in our own culture, the self-esteem of African-American women entering puberty falls half as much as that of white women. I would guess that it has something to do with the fact that young white women (current surveys) base their self-esteem on appearance first and foremost and in African-American communities, young women’s self-esteem is also based on what they can accomplish or contribute to their communities.
      As for media, it is not getting any better: under “films’ on the links page on this site, you might want to view the video entitled “Spellcasters”, which indicates how advertisers are using MRIs, etc. to develop advertising that can bypass the thinking brain and make our responses to them “irresistible”. It is called “neuro-marketing”.

  81. While reading this essay, my thoughts drifted to the irony of the way girls think. By this, I mean that girls, including myself, commonly fall victim to the school of thought that appearance, material possessions and outward advertising, or the way we present ourselves, is the key to success in gaining friendships and relationships. The irony in this is that the only relationships that come from these superficial alterations are just that: superficial. Growing up with an older brother and as a girl who always got along better with boys, I have had the opportunity to hear things from a man’s perspective. I have found that yes, people are attracted to outward beauty and material possessions, but not for the right reasons. A guy doesn’t go looking for a life partner in the girl with the most make-up. This equates to insecurity and a lack of genuine character. A guy usually just sees this as a green light for a girl who is “easy”.

    What I’m getting to is that inner characteristics really define relationships– not just with people, but our spiritual relationships as well, such as with nature. I had to chuckle to myself while reading this because I have always struggled with self-image. Fortunately, I have a wonderful man that loves me for who I am, not what I look like (though he tells me he likes that too). Some of the best moments we spend together are hours passed exploring a beach or finding a new forest that exists right outside the city we live in. Our relationship isn’t based on the fact that we have cars and money and wear nice clothes and think we’re “hot”. It is that we share an appreciation for simple beauties of life. It took me a long time to learn that such a relationship could exist, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that girls create the belief that a man is the only thing that can give them value. I found a relationship after I found value in myself and accepted that even if it was years and years before I found someone who loved me for who I was, that would be ok because I was secure in my values and the things in life that I appreciated and were dear to me. I too hope that girls will find that it is not materialism and the acquisition of “things” that gives them worth. It is who they already are, the way they show regard for others, for their environment, for the things they respect. I certainly know that my life held much more value once I learned these things.

    • Thanks for sharing your own experience here, Ellen. It is great that you found your way in this way: it is also unfortunate that our cultural notions of gender and all the pressure of appearances on young women today make such a dangerous–and too often, self-destructive– journey.

  82. It think it is important to mention the distance that women have come in regards to their status in society, in the family, and in the workplace. More than ever we opportunities are opening up for us that were once seen as the duties of men. Unfortunately, with this new freedom and responsibility comes increasing pressure to conform to societal standards of appearance. This applies to men as well; while billboards and magazine covers feature nearly-naked, slim, perfectly-smiling women, the men of those photos are all muscular and athletic. Advertising, particularly in the United States, is in itself a vicious trap for the consumer in that we can never be quite perfect enough, or be satisfied in our material possessions. It is evident when we see very young girls wearing make-up or dieting, and each suffers from lowering self-esteem in a bad way. As it pertains to environmental values, I don’t think that we are able to respect the earth to our full potential until we are able to respect ourselves. We can not make sound decision with advertising companies yelling in our ears telling us what we “need” to have. And this applies to all types of advertising, because people can show us things in such a way that we either disregard or do not even realize the negative impacts. For example, we see commercials on television advertising some new drug – while they make it seem perfect in all the ailments it can cure, the side effects are given some 5 seconds of time in which someone spouts them off so quickly we cant even understand what they are saying. Concerning political environmental decisions, this is something we have to take into account before we cast our vote – are we seeing the whole picture, or is someone feeding us what they thing we want to hear to raise their numbers – because chances are it is the latter.

    • Whereas there are many things we are learning as women, Kate, it is also true that there are ways in which we are actually falling behind. My young women students seem to be suffering more from oppression around their appearance than they were thirty years ago. And if you check http://www.weforum.org/en/Communities/Women%20Leaders%20and%20Gender%20Parity/index.htm (the world gender gap report), you will see that women in the US are behind most industrialized nations in measures of equity. We still have much to work for!
      As you indicate, it is time to take seriously the ways in which we “cast our vote” with consumer choices.

  83. I wish the same thing for my daughter…and all our relations. We need a spirituality that acknowledges our earthly roots as evolutionary and sexual beings, just as we need an attitude that acknowledges earth as a conscious spiritual being. We also need this global spirituality because it seems that we are innately ready to evolve as a globally conscious species.

  84. This idea is really sad, because most girls do fall victim to it. The happy endings always include a hansome man, who saves the prettiest girl, and now she gets to be with him. Our society drives it home, and young girls internalize. It is hard to fight it off. The propaganda starts so young. As parents, we have to llok for the books who have the girl rescue the helpless boy, or better yet, they all work together to right a wrong.
    The shopping, buying and wanting, ugh. We are told we are supposed to want it. We want what others have. We did not know it even existed, but now the catalog came and it is now all I need. As soon as I get that or have this, things will be better–I will be happy. This falty logic sets us up to be unhappy. Kids are especially confused by it. Once we have it, we need more. The more we have, the more we want/need. The instant gratification can make us happy for a short while, but we can get addicted to that feeling. After a while, the instant gratification lessens and the happy feeling lasts for a shorter time. So the need to nuy/get something new, comes sooner. Shop, buy, repeat. Of course, Disney and mattel are counting on our children for their profit margins.

    Since there is no intrinsic value/reward, its positive feeling is not meaningful and will not last. It is brutal, and extremely damaging to children. It drives them farther from their natural self and nature– the intrinsic rewards in life. We need to help children discover that happiness does not come in a box or from a prince. It comes from within oneself, through connecting with oneself, being a good person, feeling good about oneself—those kinds of things help develop a sense of self and a meaningful sense of happiness.

  85. I too want “clean water, fresh air, contact with a live natural world” but as I read this concluding part of the essay I’m at a loss for the essay’s focus. The essay begins discussing women’s innate sexual desire for the natural world, which is honestly just confusing to me, ironically it reminds me of Freud’s case studies. The essay then discusses misogynist advertising, gluttonous consumerism and finally concludes with some seemingly quotes. Maybe this is the same reason I don’t understand philosophy.

  86. Wow! I think this my favorite article so far. I totally agree with every idea. The Western worldview by its mechanism of consumerism/capitalism really does have deep and long-lasting ramifications because of the way that it re-classifies our value system. This article reminds me of the suffering a fish experiences when it is taken out of its natural environment. The fish suffers in much the way that we Westerners suffer because we have lost our connection with our environment through a consumerist value system. Those ads, movies and programs are subconsciously telling women that their value is directly related to their outside appearance. I’m sure that all of our mothers told us that pretty is as pretty does, but somehow that message seems to get lost amidst the constant road of the consumerist machine.

    Along with consumerism, the patriarchal social system adds to the oppression of and competition between women by rewarding those women (through praise, promotion and acceptance) who fiercely defend the patriarchal system and its superficial values by punishing (oppressing, shunning, ridiculing etc.) women (girls) who buck the very same system. How sad that so much of our Western worldview is based on shame, oppression and a seriously displaced value system that leaves nearly every one of us asking “is this it? Is this all there is? Something profound is missing from my life, but what is it?”

  87. I’ve been guilty of wanting more. But as I grew up I learned that I wanted less. From reading and experience, I figured the advertised “shiny new thing” didn’t pleasure me that much, sometimes even made me a little sadder. Material goods often times stray me from social gatherings. These social gatherings were always more pleasurable than my time with materials. These materials will only temporarily hold me down when I’m not in a social group. I do like new technology very much though. If the shiny new things didn’t keep coming then I’d probably rebel. Right now, there’s simply too much of new materials (many times I feel inundated with technology) that inevitably causes our environment to waste away. We definitely need to slow down our processing of these toys that we have and concentrate on processing a better natural environment……and to create better social environments.

    • Thoughtful statement about sensing what “shiny new things” really did for you– an alternative approach (and certainly not a conscious one) is to say to one’s self, well this didn’t do it, so I need more, bigger, better… but if it wasn’t what we really wanted in the first place, more, bigger, better won’t do it either.

    • I totally hear you Anonymous!

      Hallmark card ads are the WORST. They imply that you are not a good mother or daughter or that you can’t have the “perfect family” without giving Hallmark cards on each and every holiday. Car commercials are next on my list. They imply that you are not a good parent if you don’t get the newest car with the latest safety features. Why should the rich be able to keep their families safer than the rest of us who can’t afford 30 grand on a new car every year.

      I work in Marketing. I spend most of my time designing ads to make people think that they will be happier and their lives will be better if they use products from the financial institution I work for. I use the image of perfection (perfect family, perfect couple, perfect retired couple, perfect house, perfect car, perfect day, perfect community) to make people feel that they are somehow lacking (it really is their connection with the natural world) but if they just joined us, they too could be as perfect as the illusions I create in my ads.

      I will be glad when I get my degree and I can change fields. I am not directly participating in this brainwashing campaign. My only solace is that I work for a financial cooperative, which means that our profits go too the community and members instead of shareholders.

      Sorry, I digress… I wanted to tell you that “being guilty of wanting” is something that we all struggle with and for good reason. We have been brainwashed since we were small children. Consumerism feels “normal” to many of us for that very reason. Many of our parents and friends and neighbors are vapid consumers and make up the majority of our population. Most don’t really even realize what they are doing.

      I completely agree with your last statement and when we know that there are other people out there who feel the same way, it makes the inevitable shift to a better tomorrow just a little bit closer!

      Sending you encouragement….

      • Thanks for sharing your encouragement and you experience as a marketer. I am glad that you will soon be able to shift to something that suits your personal sense of self better. I want to sent you encouragement as well– we all need to know “there are other people out there who feel the same way”.

  88. I found this posting to be true and very saddening. I’ve been listening to all of the reports that have been coming out about the incredible greed and trickery that lead to the housing crash here in the U.S. The banks and investment firms that packaged all of those mortgages are certainly to blame for a good portion of the current mess but what about the individual consumers? I know people who bought houses here in Bend that they obviously could not afford. I saw the “happiness” that the house brought them in the beginning and the misery it brought when they lost it. I simply do not understand why someone would spend all of their time and energy working so hard to “buy” something that turns you into an indentured servant. Seriously, as soon as you buy one of these suburban monstrosities then you have buy furnishings for it, spend all of your weekends manicuring non-native plants that require fertilizers, pesticides and water that is already over-allocated and spend sleepless nights worrying about how you’re going to pay for it all. Why???
    Sorry, a bit of a rant there. I just think it’s sad that our entire worth as individuals and a nation is all wrapped up in this ridiculous commercialism. How are we supposed to have a serious conversation about conservation when our entire GDP is dependent on consumer spending?

    • Hi Holly, thanks for your comment. I think there was a good deal of manipulation on the part of loan companies in terms of overselling mortgages to those unable to pay them. And though they might seem to made their holders “indentured servants”, I think the dream of being able to care for a place of one’s own is such a classic part of the “American dream” that many reached for it in any way they could. In the past, we cannot forget, owning a home represented the one most secure assest with which the middle class could come to retire. All these factors surely played into home buyers acceptance of over priced mortgages.

  89. We have so much to work for when it comes to equality for women. Many people look at where we have come from, and then look at where we are today and only see the accomplishments we have made and that they are “good enough”. It’s true that women do have a lot more opportunities available to us now, but we also still have a lot more work to do.
    It’s disheartening to read about the ways in which the media tries to manipulate people. I know the pressures of society all too well when it comes to appearances and what the ideal woman should be. Although I don’t feel the complete urge to try and conform to society’s standards, I do still struggle with the concept of what I want from society and how to get it. However, I do know that I too want more! I want my kids to be able to enjoy a natural environment, and to be able to appreciate the nature that lies within them.

    • I agree with you about much we need to work for when it comes to equality for women. Those who think we might be doing a “good enough” job might take a look at the world equity report (under links on this site) to see just little progress US women have sustained in many areas–and how for the US lags behind other industrialized nations in such equity. If it is disheartening to read about the ways in which the media tries to manipulate people, our knowledge of this process is also our defense against such manipulation.
      It is aboluately right that you ought to be able to hope for such a future for your kids, Amy. Thanks for your comment.

  90. The purpose of advertisements is to make us want more and more and more. That’s how retailers and other peddlers of goods and merchandise make their money. If we have a house we want a bigger house. Afterall inte interest rates are low and the prices are reasonable. As a part of the western industrial worldview where we think everything on earth was put here for human convenience it’s natural for us to have an insatiable desire for more material things. But do we ever take the time to think about where these things come from? I wonder how many trees have to die to build that new house? Or how many cotton plants are killed and processed to make the material that will soon be that shirt or pair of jeans?

    • It is something to remember, indeed, Mildred, that everything that serves us in our daily lifes has a natural source–and the way we use that source should be evaluated in our purchases. Everything, as you indicate, comes from somewhere–and that somewhere is the natural world.

  91. I would like girls in today’s society to gain a sense of self love and a strong self esteem. Unfortunately many girls are emotionally detached from a parent and this leads to a constant desire to please anyone who will love them. Even if a girl is raised in a loving self respecting home the media bombards them with a vision of who they “should” be. This definitely comes from a need to belong and fit in as they are going through the vulnerable stages of youth. I noticed when my daughter was going through high school a few years ago that a considerable group of girls were overweight; no longer just a few. On one hand I think they have a lifetime of weight struggles and health issues to deal with and on the other I think good for them to feel comfortable in their own skin. These girls showed no lack of self confidence. Maybe this small town is an isolated area where the media is not as impactful but I think the trend is to be who you want to be.

    I recently saw a survey in Vanity Fair of the best time to live such as the Wild West, ancient Rome, arriving on the Mayflower; men definitely chose various times but the majority of women chose here and now. This is the best time to be a woman; we have more rights, freedom of speech, and sexual liberation. Just as it has taken some time to get where women are today, it will take time to raise the bar in girls self-esteem and make it what everyone wants.

    • It is great to hear that these girls were comfortable in their own skin, Renea. They were definitely bucking the trend of a nation-wide AAUW survey that found that the self-esteem of girls falls in half when they reach puberty-and incidentally, this does not happen to boys. I like your affirmation of this “good time to be a woman”– and there is still a good deal more to do. Check out the link to the women’s equity survey to see some directions we need to go.

  92. I don’t know what to think about this article. It is far from the usual kind of stuff I read. For one thing it is hard for me to relate to what it must be like to be a woman in today’s (or yesterdays) society, because I am a man. On my way to school today, I heard that women make 77 cents of the dollar vs. men. The president is in the works of a bill called “equal pay, equal work” (I think) and one of the things it is suppose to do is make it easier to prove that you are being discriminated against. This article and today’s news both go to show that there is some sort of deficit when it comes to equal opportunity for the sexes and it’s in the man’s favor.
    The aspect that young women are targeted by advertising to turn them into life-long consumer addicts who try to feel a bottomless hole need is something that I have always thought as real. I really see because I do not watch television so I am not bombarded by it every day, so when I am, I feel the weirdness of it and the pressure. It is also probably one of the biggest reasons that our rate of consumption is so huge as compared to the rest of the world. We are socially engineered by the for-profit media.

  93. It is interesting how this article appears to tie together what some believe are the true inborn desires of women to the state of the natural world today. The article can be followed showing quite a domino effect. Women are born with a desire for nature, but those on top manipulate the desires of those on the bottom. Therefore, the natural passion for nature is manipulated to be a natural passion for a single man, or love. In the search for that new passion, we are willing to do whatever seems necessary, including recreating ourselves through more and more products and things to make ourselves more interesting. This desire for things is at very specific odds with the newborn’s desire to love life, since so many of these extra things are consuming the natural world.

  94. It is disheartening to hear more of the plight of women and their daughters. We hear all the time of the cases of anorexia due to ad in Glamour and Vogue. The pressures of life are great on our children, and in many cases the mothers. I have a son and daughter. They always want to buy things that allow them to have a high self esteem in the eyes of their friends. This not only happens with my daughter, but also with my son. I am not a woman, so it is hard for me to understand their pressures. I talked with my wife on this subject, and she spoke of how she needs to lose so much weight. I wondered to myself why she thinks that when she looks perfect to me. It is her image of herself due to the people she works with and the shows she watches. We are surrounded by all of these things that say we can be better. There is always the need for more material things to make us feel better. Two days later, do we still feel as good as when we bought it? The answer is almost a resounding no. I want the same things as you do. A sense of belonging to a place not things. Life as it is isn’t bad.

    • Thank you for sharing your perspective with respect to your son and daughter, Scott. Certainly your affirmations help your daughter to thrive: now we need an entire culture that does this for her and your son as well. I like Paul Hawken’s idea that we need to create a world into which we might welcome children.

  95. It is so true and so sad that as women we grow up feeling not good enough. I am generally happy with myself but at times have allowed it to affect me too. I have been really thin, I have been a little overweight, and I have been somewhere in the middle but none of those stages ever made me feel “just right”. And why shouldn’t we feel just right? Because we don’t look like a celebrity? I know a large part of it is because of what is labeled as beautiful by society. I have a niece who just became a teenager and almost overnight I could see the pressure for her to “fit in” with the other girls at school. It’s a nasty cycle that needs to be stopped. Too many times we see when it takes a nasty turn and becomes anorexia, bulimia, overeating, and the list goes on. I don’t want my niece or my future children to suffer from that.

  96. (PHL 443 Student Reply) This article especially struck home with me. I was raised by a mother who made a point to teach me how advertisement places men and women in their gender roles. For example, when watching a credit card commercial, the man is taking his business executives out to lunch using his credit card, while the woman is shopping for clothes, make-up, home supplies, etc. However, I never made the connection between advertisement and environmental values until now. It is true that society tells us to spend, use, throw away, spend and use again, without giving much thought to the consequences of our actions. Now knowing this, I plan on paying more attention to these connections in the future.

  97. As a new mother of a baby girl, I feel like I want exactly the same things for our children as mentioned in this article: “clean water, fresh air…a place of belonging for my daughter.” The pressure put on all people but especially young girls to act and look a certain way frightens me and I really want to honor the person that my child is and honor “her real sense of desire.” However for myself, even knowing about the ill social and environmental impacts of a capitalistic economy and consumerist culture based on the idea of continuous growth and continuous consumption, often at the expense of others, I find myself getting caught up in realm of material wants and the pressure to fit into a certain image. With that being said and acknowledging the difficulty of actually living up to this, I really liked the idea of focusing on our true desires and our purpose so that we do not want more and more of those material goods that do not actually fulfill our desires.

  98. I read this essay at the beginning of last term when I was taking WS 450. I can honestly say that it was the one piece of work that I read that stuck with me more than the others. This was because it inspired me to create my own list of what I truly want. I wanted to share this list, because it made me seriously think about my priorities. Here’s what I wrote.

    Without advertisements and without the pressure of others’ expectations, I know what I need. I need fresh water that is clean and pure to nourish my body. I need fresh, pure food that will allow my body to flourish and that will support my mind. I need an environment where I minimize/eliminate the toxic chemicals that I ingest/breathe/touch. I need a job that I can do secure in the knowledge that the world is a better place because of me. I need a family, related or chosen, to support me and for me to support. I need to try my best to live harmoniously with others. I need to be comfortable in my own skin, and not loathe myself, but rather make the most of myself. I need to not focus on being skinny, or “perfectly” shaped, but rather on being healthy so that I can perform my tasks and be fully involved in my relationships. I need to feel safe, secure and comfortable with being myself in my home environment. I need to love and be loved, and to have reciprocal relationships with others and with the Earth.

    I have added to this list over time, and I believe that I will continue to add to it when I think of things that I really want and actually need. As a recovering shopaholic, I was surprised that all my consumerism seems petty compared to the things on my list. I hope that this list will remind me of what is actually important in my life when society attempts to convince me that I am not pretty enough, smart enough, rich enough, well-outfitted-enough, etc.

    I encourage everyone to write their own list of things that they really and truly want. I found that when I whittled down my list to the necessary things in my life, I found a plan for happiness, of sorts.

  99. “You can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place”
    That really made me think of what I had felt like for years. I am in my mid 20’s now and still struggle to get rid of my self-image fog I created as a teenager. I remember loving who I was and what I looked like at 9, and that might have been the last time I truly did. I have been preoccupation with perfection and that is something I never wanted to try to attain. I wanted to be me, and did not need to look or act a certain way to be happy. I really believe that the natural world makes so much more beauty than we could ever try to make. I feel alive in nature and I want that to be something everyone in the world can feel. A mall could never make someone happy the way a garden can. No amount of things purchased can, but it is very easy to fall into the trap society has made. Distractions for real issues that e face that can not be treated as easily as a quick fix run to Macy’s.
    I really want the world My daughter grows up in to be beautiful. She is turning 8 this year and to think that she will not be able love herself like she should is makes me so sad. I try everyday to keep her aware of nature and what it offers to the soul and heart, and I only hope that she continues to feel that way as she gets into the tougher years as a teen.

    I want to be able to walk with my daughter in the wilderness in 40 years. I want to breath clean air in the city, the mountains, the beach and the valleys. I want to live amongst beaches that are clean and kept clean by the people that visit them daily. I want a government that wants to protect its people and its home.

    • Thanks for sharing this touching personal stance, Aimee. I am sorry that you have struggled in this way- but it sounds like you are truly on your daughter’s side. I think this is one of the ways our children teach us– as we realize the world we want for them –and decide that we will not accept for them what we put up with for ourselves.
      You have shared a vision at the end that you can hold before you as you step toward this in your life.

  100. I was talking with my 17 year old son about this article, specifically this part, “You can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place.” He said something interesting that I wanted to share here. He said consumerism is like a question in that you keep asking the same thing over and over until you get an answer. Once you get the answer, you don’t ask the question anymore. What an insightful thought!

  101. Knowing what you want, interesting concept. From the time we are born we are shown what we should be or what is most attractive, which makes other people happy, and in return we get more attention. The idea that girls once they hit puberty have lower self-esteem is horrible, but believable. The famous women that are on plastered across billboards, movies, and magazines, the women who are “beautiful” are all incredibly, unreasonably thin. These women are dressed up, with tons of make-up, and this is what we show young women what beauty is, fake. How are they supposed to have high self-esteem? Another example is that of the Camel cigarette company, they protrayed smoking as being cool, so as a child seeing this, they are easily swayed.

    • The Camel campaign to entice children to smoke was a tragic one: it turns out that corporation documents indicates that the largest potential market for new smokers was children under the age of 11– so that is who they targeted. Given this culture of persuasion, how do each of us go about ascertaining our authentic wants? The first step is, I think, realized our manipulation–and then? Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Brandon.

  102. I agree that we need to redefine what we consider “progress.” Our current (Western) definition tends to include activities that result in a massive accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few while millions of people starve or die of easily treatable diseases (like diarrhea) due a lack of resources (like clean water). We shouldn’t be able to call it progress until we can honestly say everyone benefits from our actions, or at the very least that no one has been harmed.

    I find the stance described above, which “understands disease as lack of belonging,” very interesting. It certainly makes sense that “bringing them home” would benefit everyone, by being inclusive of those “different” or “sick” (who could worsen if isolated), and by expanding the realm of experience and understanding of the “bringers.” Embracing such a cooperative stance would help us to realize our human potential, I think.

    • I think you have a fine point that we shouldn’t be boasting of “progress” until our actions do no harm–and actually improve the quality of life– which to me entails justice. I agree that much human potential is lost in our competitive stance, Crystal. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  103. As a male, I’ll tread lightly on this one, but I have thought for some time that women have it so much tougher when it comes to consumerism, particularly when it comes to the huge quantity of “beauty aids” that you find on what seems like every other page of every magazine I read.

    I have seen entire drawers in bathrooms (one comes to mind!) filled with cosmetics and “anti-aging” items. You are so right also, in that not only are these products being purchased in masse, but most probably play a role in destroying the environment, both by their manufacture and in their being tossed out in the trash.

  104. I was raised to believe in myslef, that my greatest happiness came from within me and how I chose to live my life. This article is unfortunately very true, people today are unhappy not because their lives are so horrible but because in todays society the more you have the happier you are. Thats not true, you may be able to say I have everything I want and actually have everything you could ever want and more and still not be happy. Happiness means nothing if you’re not happy with who you are. No matter how much stuff you own or money you have it will never be enough if you are not initially happy with who you are.
    Women do not need to please men in order to be beautiful, we are beautiful in ourselves and if men find that attractive then good, there is nothing wrong with love. But there is something wrong with the falsehood of love, if a woman changes herself so much just so that a man will want her then she is not being true to her self and in return is not happy with her self, she just thinks she is because a man loves her. The fact that our society is based on women making themselves into what men want is repulsive, men either like us for who we are or they dont. No one wants to be alone, but as I see it alone is better then unhappy.

    • It sounds like you have a solid upbringing to support who you are, Briana. You are very fortunate. It is not just what men want women to be: it is what sells. Both individuals who remake themselves for the sake of others and our society as a whole loses out when any of us lose our authenticity (and thus our creativity and potential). I do like your sense about what and what love is– certainly loving someone depends on loving who they are– not how we wish to remake them.

  105. The ideas and issues in this article are some of the most popular beliefs behind young woman in our society. People have lost the idea that life should be hard because of death, and struggles and money issues, not because your physical appearance isn’t hollywood appropriate. People, especially woman should be happy with who they are, and once they can achieve that, then the happiness in their own lives will sky-rocket. You should never have to physically change yourself to impress anybody but yourself.

  106. For me the article not only pointed out the struggles women have but a whole society. Looking at the past, we can see not much has changed. We still see that women are still struggling for overall equality and things in life have actually made it harder I think for us to see balance.

    Since the article noted advertisements and the “use less” approach I thought of an article I read on yahoo the other day about these tiny homes. These tiny homes literally had the less is more approach, most were less than 100 sq. feet yet had everything you truly need. I honestly was compelled to research more, but then I thought to myself if everyone in the world built one of these homes and put them on trailers like most of them are, they would be taking vacations cross country with these tiny homes and thus using more fuel. To me it didn’t make any sense unless I had built a stationary tiny home. Really, I mention this because the article points out we often buy things when we simply don’t need or even really want them.

    • Fascinating about using less and “tiny homes”, Christopher. Those are really small– but we have different ideas of space here. I remember renting out a spare room many years back. Two girls from Korea wanted to share the 8′ by 10′ space– since it they thought it too big for one person to take up. They remarked that one person would get lonely in such a large space by themselves. Says quite a bit about the houses we are building that have been growing larger and larger since the 1950s.

  107. Wild Bill put it perfectly “Everything alive is for a purpose.” Women are important because they are the balance to men. They are able to connect with the earth in a way that men are unable. Just as earth gives birth to life so do women. Women are able to identify with the earth in a way that enables them to truly connect on an interpersonal level. This relationship between women and earth is something that should be encouraged at a very young age. Instead though, young girls are told that they are objects, that only true happiness comes from men, and that real beauty is only skin deep. These kinds of messages are readily available too by the media and the ploy of consumerism. We as a society need to allow for young girls and women to stand up and assert their true inner connectedness with the earth.

    • Very thoughtful perspective, Julie; I like to think that we might have a gender “ground”– a place to stand on earth that gives us each our meaning as humans and as living natural beings– as opposed to living out roles imposed on us from elsewhere. It is tragic indeed whenever we objectify any living being– I very much like your tie in with Wild Bill’s statement here.

  108. “we learn of corporate meetings back in the 1920s that concluded the fostering of psychological deficits was beneficial to selling more products.” Wow, that’s a special kind of terrible.

    I think it is important that people be exposed to the natural world more, and I think it’s safe to say that I am the first person to ever suggest this. /sarcasm. Certainly the desire to have the newest and nicest toys will likely persist, but nothing can compare to the memories that come rushing back, and are compounded with new ones, each time I find myself in the banks of one of Oregon’s wild and scenic rivers.

    • A special kind of terrible indeed, Stuart Ewen’s research is quite striking. These 1920s think tank ad guys also came up with the idea of attacking the US family structure so that corporations could step into the psychological breach as the “father of us all”.
      I agree that there is something about exposure to the natural world that grounds us in who we are and what we really seek in life.

  109. This article has a good point; girls have the idea that self-esteem is connected with their image. The image that they have to look just like the models in the magazines or on TV. It also hits the point that once a girl hits puberty then things do become harder for her, she has the peer pressure to look just like the models that they see on TV or in magazines. I like how this article talks about how all living creatures has a purpose and they gravitate towards something to fulfill or accomplish. Yet if we don’t know what that is then we are stuck consuming things and buying things trying to fill that hole. Yet the more we consume and buy the emptier we become. Because you can never get enough of something you did not have in the first place. I really like this article because it touches the concept of the fact that humans always want more, and are always trying to fill that empty space they have, yet we are never going to be able to fill that empty space until we know what we want.

  110. “Their presence in their own bodies gives them a vital sense of who they are: so that they touch the world around them by being in touch with themselves.” Madronna Holden
    My earliest memory of the natural world was when I was five and living in Hawaii. I remember walking to a park and seeing the most beautiful red flowers(possibly poinsettas). And walking home and experiencing my shadow. I thought it was strange that there was this figure always beside me at least in the sunlight. As i grew older, I loved going into the forests (Germany) and picking wild flowers or just sitting next to a tree and just listen to the voices of the forest. I always loved the volkmarches in Europe because you had a trail to go on and had to find mushrooms, flowers, or point out different types of birds or insects. It was a treasure hunt, to say the least. Growing up, I was fortunate not to have television or if I did, it was only one channel or in another language (German). At the time, I felt it was a great disservice, but I would of never been able to experience the horses that lived right behind our apartment and all those magnificent woods caticorner to us. I have never been to northern California but after a friend of mine, posted of photos trees tall as skyscrapers on facebook, i am determined to find a way to go. One state I have not been to except on the interstate is California. I never knew what I wanted when I was younger or possibly didn’t realize what I really wanted because it seems that tje American culture does determine what we should want through the media. New homes, new cars, and everything else that can be manufactured by man or machines. But I think baking a pie from scratch or learning a new hobby in which you use your hands and experience the feeling of doing it yourself, your way, is the best way to learn who you are and what you want at the same time.

    • Thanks for sharing the way your personal experience fits into these ideas, Tina. What wonderful childhood memories you have. Delightful idea of walking in nature as a “treasure hunt”– not for the use of natural resources, but for joy in its experience. I hadn’t thought of how doing something “by hand” brings us to a sense of who we are as well as what we want– great insight!

    • “I think baking a pie from scratch or learning a new hobby in which you use your hands and experience the feeling of doing it yourself, your way, is the best way to learn who you are and what you want at the same time.”

      I am so happy to read this Tina. Making things is the great gift of confidence that getting it out of a box denies. I want to share the magic of pulling some stinky wool from a lamb, washing, carding, and felting it into a coaster with every kid I meet. A big pot of vegetable soup and homemade biscuits has the same effect and can be done by any 8yo.

      Confidence is a gift that never breaks.

  111. I had to read this article several times, not because I didn’t understand it, but because I did.

    The more I read and observe the more convinced I am that human society grows too fast to evolve in a direction consistent with our intellect. In response to unmanageable growth, we subjugate. The best way to subjugate is to isolate and undermine confidence, or to prevent confidence from developing. What better target than a being that instinctively empathizes with everything?

    “Their presence in their own bodies gives them a vital sense of who they are: so that they touch the world around them by being in touch with themselves.”

    Unless it is developed from an external source, women do not have a gender bias. They have an investment in both genders that men do not have. Women hope for at least equal chances of survival for their offspring. Women value their children no matter the arrangement of the genitalia. Some even nurture the offspring of others.

    It is not sexist to point out the biological differences of gender. Men may love their children, but physiologically the relationship is not the same. Women are chemically evolved to ensure the survival of the “offspring of their offspring” and this goes way beyond love. Men are not wired this way.

    Men are chemically evolved to spread their seed and the best way to do that is to make themselves attractive by finding and claiming resources.

    Men are not good at preservation. You cannot put diesel in a gas engine and expect the same outcome. This analogy is not in support of fossil fuels, but to emphasize that our society does not put the task with the talent.

    Women have a multi-generational investment with their offspring. Who better to charge with preserving the planet than someone genetically programmed to make longer than lifetime commitments?

    What women want is insurance for the future.

    • Hi Barbara, thanks for your obviously thoughtful attention to this essay. It is not sexist to point out differences between men and women: however, I don’t think we have refined the biological aspects of this difference (and/or the relationship between biological differences and their social consequences) enough to be able to say that men have no investment in female success as a matter of biology (if I read you properly here). I say this because not only of the cultures in which men develop and express nurturance (as in African “male mothers” of the Dogon), but because of men that I know who are exceptionally caring fathers. Indeed, in my teaching, middle aged men have indicated that it often is their care for their daughters that causes them to work for women’s issues–and to be sensitive to these in ways that they were not before they became a father of a daughter.
      I would rather that we apply our observations about men’s behavior to behavior that is culturally induced-not behavior ascribed to all men. In this context, I think we can say that nurturance is both undervalued in this culture and attributed to women–and thus indeed in this social context, women have a comparatively greater investment in the future of their children. I also think that we can speak of the distinct biological connection between a mother and her child without making a comparison with men.
      On the other hand, when Grandma Aggie says that men have had their chance at leadership and not done such a good job at it–and therefore women should take over for awhile, I think she would agree with you that there is something distinctly caring in women’s nature.
      We will be coming up on the distinction between gender ground and gender role which relates to this issue.
      Thanks again for your thoughtful comment. It is sad indeed when any who are so vulnerable (as young girls are) are deprive of self-confidence. We all suffer a loss of an irreplaceable human resource when this happens.

  112. The manipulation of desire, so that it is constantly redefined as desire for more (no matter how much one has), has definitely contributed to a general dissatisfaction in life, and not just with appearance. As stated in the essay above, we need to “have a clear conversation with our own desires.” But first we need to find a way of freeing ourselves from what we mistakenly perceive as our desires, and we certainly need to stop perpetuating ideas such as materialism (and the values of greed and envy that are inevitably associated with it) as desirable goals or attributes of success. It’s interesting that some of the happiest people I know are the ones who don’t really worry about “getting ahead” (or “keeping up with the Joneses” or whatever other phrase you choose to use), but instead focus on things like family and health, and choose “play time” over overtime whenever possible (which, granted, is not always possible; I realize that sometimes overtime pay really is needed for family and health). Tina’s point of making things from scratch, or doing things by hand (see comment above), is also valuable. Most of us do tend to feel a bit of pride when we do something ourselves, rather than just buying something off a shelf; and the work we put into something makes that object more personally valuable to us, giving us a sense of achievement, like “look at what I am capable of doing!” It also gives us a sense of what we like or dislike, helping us figure out both who we are and what we want, as Tina stated. I think it also keeps us more engaged with life, actively participating or interacting with the “things” and events in our lives, rather than simply consuming or going through the motions.

    • Very nice re-statement of central points on the manipulation of desire, Crystal. It is time to asses what we really want–as you indicate. I like your perspective about experiencing (and establishing an experiential dialogue with) our desires in order to explore our real goals in life–and what really gives us a sense of accomplishment. Thanks for your comment.

  113. I appreciate that this essay makes a connection between capitalism and body image. The inability to satiate wants through material goods (resulting in overconsumption) is definitely very similar to a girl’s dissatisfaction with their own body. Capitalism creates a feeling of want that can never fully be satisfied. It’s no wonder this line of thinking extends to body image! The media tells women that they need to “fix” their bodies, whether doing so through clothing, makeup or at the extreme end, surgery. We live in a society that doesn’t accept the status quo. As a result we are always seeking for “an orientation towards something” but unfortunately often look in the wrong place.

    While this connection is new to me, it makes perfect sense. If we look at cultures wherein women’s body image and self-view have yet to be corrupted by Western society, these are also cultures that have a more holistic view of nature.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Breannon. I might use a different word that “status quo” in terms of what we don’t accept. There are certain things about the status quo (e.g. ones that have led to ecological and social crises) that we should not accept. What we need to accept instead is a sense of our natural selves and, as you put it, “a holistic view of nature.” The thing about always wanted more (and never feeling that we are “enough” as we are or in ourselves) is that it makes us susceptible to manipulation. Thus, as you note, the link between capitalism and body image.

  114. The fact is, most people don’t know where their dissatisfaction comes from, and often, the temporary excitement of a shopping trip, and something new, promises them some temporary preoccupation. The free markets knack for making us all feel incomplete and worthless is wearing down our resources and polluting the earth, while it causes some to be slaves to toil, and others to be slaves to materialism. Unfortunately, the only way to change this must be through peace, and must be through a social, mental, emotional awakening. It doesn’t seem like that can possibly be achieved in time, but I keep hoping that something will make it come to fruition, and I keep working on myself, to make sure that I do what I think everyone needs to do to make a better world.

    • Thoughtful point about the poor choice of substituting preoccupation for real satisfaction, Michele. Your hope becomes all of ours as you indicate that you keep “working on yourself”, sharing a model of the change that each of us might be responsible for.

    • You make a great point about the instant gratification that comes from spending. A good friend of mine has been crippled with debt for years because she lives for this instant high. She always has to have the newest items; whether they be shoes, jackets, handbags, etc., and always feels disgusted with herself afterward. Spending and greed has almost become a sickness and if not treated appropriately, it can spread to others. I fear my friend is teaching her young children that this is the proper behavior and they will follow in her footsteps.

      • Thanks for sharing your observations, Jamie. You can model something different for your friend’s children– children have a habit of picking other models than their parents (or along with their parents) as they choose their own lives.

      • I use to have this problem also. But it was more on the electronic side. I always had to have the latest tech gadget and it was such a bad habit that it took me to the brink of have a zero in my account before it woke me up. Technology was never going to stop, and I wasn’t making enough to keep up with it. It was a hard decision and took lots of will power to stop.
        I find it that once you catch yourself and you realize what the problem is, you should have the power to stop. Knowing what is wrong but continuing it, is a lack of will power. I hope that you can set a better example for your friend and her children. I have helped one of my cousin who was in the same situation as me out of his spending ways. I believe in you! 🙂

    • I wish society was not so obsessed with image and materialism. I am glad to see celebrities these days showing women that they do not have to be certain images, although that sort of is the whole idea of a celebrity.

      But these people are role models, and i really like seeing that they are trying to be “greener”, or not as materialistic, or worried about body images, and therefore are actually being role models.

  115. This article just reiterates how difficult it is to raise children today. My daughter, who is 15 now, has struggled for years with her self-image and self-esteem. She is an absolutely beautiful girl, who rarely sees all of the wonderful attributes she has; instead she focuses on the flaws. Girls are expected to live up to a completely unrealistic expectation and when they feel they don’t measure up, they become disheartened. I believe girls and women have such a strong voice in this world, if we would only use it. Girls today are often too fearful to speak up for what they feel is right in the world, because of what the repercussions might be. I have tried to raise my daughter with strong moral values not only in regards to society, but the natural world as well. This however can be nearly undone by spending any amount of time immersed in the world of teenage reality. These kids just seem to miss the point on what is truly important in the world and just how much power they have to change things. I hope that these young people soon realize the role they play in protecting the natural world and let their voices be heard; especially the young women.

    • I am sorry for your daughter’s struggles, Jamie. I know firsthand how hard this is for a mother to watch. It sounds like you are there for your daughter in a special way and doing the best you can. You are planting the seeds that will someday help her to come into her own, I am hoping with you. Good luck and thanks for caring so much! We need all the mothers like you we can get.

    • Hi Jamie, while I don’t have children I remember being 15 and feeling like all of my flaws were magnified for the world to see. I think that a problem in our society is that there is so little diversity in what is considered beautiful. Similarly to how we prize mono-crops in agriculture we, as a society, only seem to value certain physical and emotional attributes in ourselves.

      Unfortunately, advertising agencies just accentuate this attitude, preying on our desire to fit within certain societal norms of beauty.

      • Indeed, Darcy. I have a post coming on the focus on image in ads– when I get a chance to get it up.

      • I too remember being 15 years old and feeling the pressures of the outside world try and break through. I also remember the way girls treated each other, which may have been even more brutal then the potential damage from the media and advertisements. It took me a few years after middle school and my first years of high school to re-gain my composure and find myself again. After I did, I wanted to help younger girls with these kinds of struggles, because I knew what they were going through. I volunteered to be a mentor for younger girls and also volunteered to be an “outdoor school” counselor. I would like to report that things were different from when i was younger, but they truly are not. Girls are still so self-conscious and fragile and easily influenced. It really made me sad to see the same problems that I had dealt with in my past affect these girls.

        Jamie I hope your daughter has a mentor to look up to, because I know that is one thing that really helped me when I was that age. I am still in contact with a lot of those mentors (one of them being my sister) and they continue to help me through any struggles I have.

  116. To me (and i’m sure to many others), it is saddening to watch young girls fall into such disastrous habits just to feel good about their image. Advertisements today are so manipulative and dangerous to young people (girls especially) because they want so badly to fit in and be discovered. Ad’s take advantage of this and instead of telling young women that they are already are beautiful, and they will be successful and strong…they tell them that they are none of those things UNLESS they buy the product they are selling. Young women believe this in a blink of an eye, and what they see becomes what they want. I actually just read a book by Kelly Cutrone who feels so strongly about the harsh advertising that encourages young people to do things and buy things that they don’t even really want. Her anger comes out in the pages of her book and she becomes disgusted by advertisements and modern day “norms” that tell young women that they can’t do things, or that they have to buy a certain product to be beautiful or sexy. I see a lot of connections with Kelly Cutrone’s book and this article. She discusses how young women (and men) do not actually know what they want, but they believe that “what they want” is what they see and those are ads. Cutrone also discusses how young women have goals and dreams, but they are convinced through advertisements and television that at a certain age they just want to settle down and become wives. Now, I am a little critical of this point…because I believe in love, and I think that love, success, beauty, and empowerment can co-exist.

    I also believe that our generation is changing slowly but surely to empower women and lessen the harsh advertisements that target them into consumerism. I have recently seen companies that advertise beauty products and in the past have used manipulation in their ads shift to what seems like a campaign to empower young women and encourage them to be their beautiful selves (even without their product). Hopefully this type of positive advertising can squash the manipulation that other ad agencies use too often to sell their products. Young women should have their own voice and be individuals, but advertisements and media take this voice away from them. How can you decide what you really want when someone is telling you and showing “what you really want” before you can even open your mouth?

    • This is sad to watch indeed, Hana. I hadn’t heard of Kelly Cutrone’s work, but I will check it out. The issue for some writers (as in the Mother Daughter Revolution) is not a critique of love, but a critique of the idea that certain young women feel they can only find themselves through attachment to another. This not a good basis for any relationship. Your last question is one that it is important for each of us to ponder, for our own sake as well as for that of the current generation of young people. Thanks for your comment.

  117. This was an amazing article to read. What Wild Bill said was something that made total sense to me. What we don’t have, we desire the most. We always see others have things that we don’t have and we always have the desire to obtain it. This is the same concept girls going through their teen years have also. They see other girls who are slimmer, or have larger breast then they do and they strive to achieve that goal, even if it is merely impossible for their body to do it. So they resort to surgery and other means that may harm their bodies. Like the article says, girls at that age face with lower self esteem. I find that if we challenge ourselves to love ourselves for who we are, we will be better off.
    It is not conceded for us to say we are beautiful and good looking because its something we should do. If we look in a mirror and always have something to criticize about ourself, we are just going to run our self-esteem out the door because we will always want to have something we can’t have.

    • Nice point about looking in a mirror and seeing the beauty in us, Will. Great point about always finding something to criticize– which is an ad technique to get us to buy more.
      And always wanting more because we think our neighbor has it is an application of the values of the competitive economic system to our sense of who we are. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Will.

  118. My generation was taught that when women were bored, they should simply go shopping. After September 11th, I remember seeing George Bush on one of his televised bits, and he advised us to all go shopping. I was astounded (until I understood more about how our economy works – all bad news there). Annie Leonard chronicles the story of our obsessive need to shop in her video “The Story of Stuff”, which goes a long way toward explaining Bush’s comment. I have been fortunate in the last 10 years, in that I work in an administrative job in education. My job pays just enough to cover my expenses, so by necessity, I have greatly reduced my need to mindlessly consume. I was at the mall the other day (a place I rarely find the need to frequent) and was walking through a department store in order to get to my ultimate destination. As I looked around, it was difficult for me to wrap my mind around the multitude of things that we’re “expected” to buy. And if you’re not able to participate in this perpetual shopa-palooza, you are perceived as less than by much of society, because everyone has been conditioned to believe that he who dies with the most toys wins.

    • Quite an astounding example, Barbara. I had not remembered that Bush advised we all go shopping after 9/11– but I can’t image a more fitting illustration of the dynamic discussed in this essay. The “Story of Stuff” is listed in our film links here, should anyone wish to see it for themselves– it is great that this film is getting so large a viewing audience. I have heard this phrase about “dying with the most toys” before–with some amount of irony. Thanks for your comment. Good for you in living within a reasonable budget that urges you to resist the expectation to buy immense amounts of ridiculous and wasteful things.

    • I like your point about all the accessories that we are expected to buy. I have gotten to a point where I do not want to keep re-learning how to operate a cell phone every time I get a new one. In five years time, video stores have almost all gone out of business as we are all expected to have netflix or expensive movie packages. We must get back to worrying about what we need to be happy, and not what new toy we want next.

      • Indeed, all that time spent relearning how to operate the new phone gives pause to the claim that this new product is supposedly saving you time and energy–and offering new benefits.
        Thoughtful point, Kyle.

  119. It is such a dilemma today to really know what you want. We are told more what to think and what is right and wrong rather than being educated in a way where we can understand who we are and how to make our own decisions. Let alone, are we ever given an honest and balanced perspective of an issue so that we can make a real choice. Instead of a pushing for a real education on a subject we are very often given a one-sided caricature that either ignores or demonizes other points of view, especially in the media, and so we are left with an empty feeling of not really knowing what to do, which many people are ready to come in and fill with their opinions or advertisements. Only with a real understanding of other points of view, where we don’t bring judgment on them, but try to understand them, in themselves, what they are, can we make a judgment for ourselves on the issue. Novalis said that he understood a writer when he could “translate him and imitate him in diverse ways.” With this way we know who we are, we don’t get lost in another’s views, and we know who others are because we can, in a sense, bring them to life out of ourselves. We emerge from it all a more rounded individual who is able to see the merits of an issue from multiple directions and so make a truly informed choice.

    • Very thoughtful response, Andy. I think you have a great point that it is our internal emptiness and confusion that provides a space for manipulation of our opinion by others.
      Do you know about the Harvard Negotiation Project’s “Interest-based negotiation”? It is a technique to get to the kind of stance you are suggesting here– that we begin any conversation (or dialogue between different parties) by figuring out what interests we share in common and then move on from there.

  120. This article was so empowering, Professor Holden.

    It’s such an accurate portrait of what plagues the average girl these days, and how we bind ourselves to a man, limiting ourselves in so many ways, and feeling special and achieved only if he is happy and achieved as well; our pleasing him pleases us. This isn’t the way it should be, at all.

    I am happy to report that this is the single largest reason that my husband’s paternal grandmother and I do not get along much at all. She does not approve of my “liberal” treatment of my husband. In her view of the perfect marriage, I should be cooking for him nightly and cleaning is supposed to be my job, not his. By not doing this, I am an inappropriate wife for him. This isn’t taking into account my eccentricities and such. Being Jewish isn’t okay with her, either. Christianity is the only path to God in her world view, but that’s another argument altogether.

    Fortunately, my husband loves me just the way I am and relishes the fact that I am “unconventional.” I can’t say that my self-esteem is any better than the article indicates it would. I, too, have objectified myself and made my self esteem coincident with my (body) image. This article helps enlighten me to the danger that is this slippery slope.

    Another point raised in the article that I thought was interesting was:

    “Educator Jean Kilbourne’s work details the deadly way ads manipulate desire for particular appearances—since they link sexuality with the objectification of and violence towards not only women but girls. Altogether, such manipulation of desire muddies the water considerably in terms of young men and women coming of age today, for whom modern media is as much an influence as their education or their families.”

    Could this account for the seemingly DRASTIC rise in pedophilia and sexually-based crimes in this country? This objectification and violence correlation for both men and women, could this be that link? While I understand that things like this were largely unreported prior to the 1980s, it seems like there are a dozen sex offenders on any street in the USA. Could this modern media exposure be corrupting the delicate and fragile minds of these perpetrators-in-the-making? I’ve likely watched too much Law & Order: SVU lately, but it honestly isn’t an entire day where the news isn’t reporting some horrifying sexual offense having been committed. There has to be something we are doing as a society that is contributing to this. While I can agree that there exists something wrong, perhaps physiologically, for some, this is not the case for the astonishing amounts of child molesters and rapists out there. What is causing this prolific abuse of people in the most sensitive aspects of ourselves? That paragraph I reference above really illuminates what are media teaches us as mold-able children about each other, and the possible problems it could create for a fragile mind.

    • Hi Crystal, I am very glad you found this essay empowering! Thanks for sharing the ways in which the issues here apply to your personal life– and I applaud your working on an egalitarian stance in your marriage. From what you have written on this site, it seems that that serves you both well!
      It is sad that even capable women still suffer from self-esteem deficits in the face of our current image blitz in the media that tells us women are supposed to look like (and do).
      Objectification of others is the characteristic first step of violence toward them (and I would certainly call the abuse of children a serious form of violence). I find it inexcusable to prey on the vulnerable in this way.
      I appreciate your thoughtful response. There is much to consider here.

      • I really need to proofread better. I hate making such embarrassing syntactical and grammatical errors in my posts. I get in such a hurry, though. Chriminy.

        Thank you for the positive response, Professor Holden. It’s a work-in-progress, but I think I am starting to get better. The more I like who I am as a person, the less I am worried about my exterior. I am very fortunate to have a husband who doesn’t play into those typical gender roles we assign ourselves and allows me to be domestically-challenged. I am the least domestic military spouse I know, thank goodness my husband doesn’t mind this bit of traditional role reversal. HE empowers ME. I can safely say he’s amazing and I am damn lucky to have a husband like him. He makes me question my previous feelings on fate and “soul mates” (both of which I denounce strongly in my personal philosophies on life and love). I am sure I talk about him and our personal life too much, but this entire course is structured around material that is very near and dear to my heart (or, OUR hearts).

        • I am glad that this course relates to your personal journey at the moment, Crystal. I wouldn’t ask you NOT to proofread, but if it is any consolation, I sometimes bounce off emails with embarrassing mistakes that I wish I hadn’t made.
          Mutual empowerment is not a bad basis of a relationship–and it sounds like you have found a true partner (if not a “soul mate” in some stereotypical sense).

  121. All I hear from my little brother when I go home is I want this…I want that. There are so many accessories available to young people especially in America, that it is almost becoming common for them to get what they want. I agree that there is added pressure on women, and physical appearence. I also agree that these accessories can lower self-esteem and hurt our environment. Our environment is what we must protect in order to preserve this planet for generations to come. The author is right that we may not need less, but at least less of certain accessories that negitivly impact the environment and our own well being. The love of the natural world needs to be emphasized more, and I think that once we realize this then we will be able to seperate what we need from what we want.

    • It is a sad statement about one’s sense of self if all they verbalize is “I want”, Kyle. I hope you can find the opportunity to support your little brother in developing a different sense of self– I bet he looks up to you a bit as an elder brother away to college.
      I am with you in hoping that the love of the natural world will motivate us to more clearly separate what we need from what we (think we?) want.

  122. I believe Jean Kilbourne’s statement is spot-on in the context of this article, “Altogether, such manipulation of desire muddies the water considerably in terms of young men and women coming of age today, for whom modern media is as much an influence as their education or their families”. I believe this is the root of the matter. In today’s society, we are influenced by the media in almost every facet; from what we should eat, how we should look, where we should shop, what we should drive, etc. The media mentally programs us to desire what we do not have, what we probably cannot afford, and what we probably do not need. Young people are especially susceptible to this type of “psychological attack”, usually falling victim to the newest fashion fad or electronic gizmo. The article alludes to young females who unfortunately face much harsher pressures to look the way the media and their friends think they should. I’ve read some of the posts by my peers on this subject, and while I don’t have any children, it is saddening for me to read about what some of their daughters are experiencing. It’s almost as if people are forgetting that we can actually live a fulfilling and happy life by simply living in harmony with one another and with the environment. Material possessions do not define us; unfortunately that is something a lot of people have forgotten.

    • I like your point that material possessions do not (and should not?) define us; there is a good deal more to being human– including developing a satisfying life in which we actualize our personal gifts to give back to our communities and our world.
      With you, I am concerned when media ads have the potential for replacing other forms of education.
      Thanks for your thoughtful and compassionate comment, Kazmi.

  123. I guess the only way to counter this way of feeling is losing the image of “self,” as in the buddhist way. This way of thinking is inherited in all of our generation and in everyone in some way or another, unless they do in fact lose the image of self and ego.

    These ways of thinking are not just in the minds of young girls but for everyone. People feel that the more material possessions they have the better they will feel. The coolest car or the biggest T.V. will make everything better. This is obviously not the case. you do not need any of these things to make you happy. Like you had stated what you wanted for mothers day, these things really are what is important in life. Clean water, clean air, a connection with the natural world and the world around you.

    • Thoughtful response about Buddhism, Jason. This is a tact many have taken in terms of countering the kind of overwhelming wants in modern consumer culture.
      I do think there is another way as well–is a sense of self that is interrelated to the rest of life, in which our wishes for ourselves are linked to the well being of others…

  124. When the people of Pit River said everything is alive for a purpose that reminded me largely of the idea of religion and God. Those that are religious often believe that everything happens for a reason, and we should respect life. In one way it means the same thing, that we are all here for a purpose. However the natives meant it in a way that we fit into a purpose with nature and our planet. Religion has a much broader concept and is not directly related to nature, although if it were we might all have a better planet and more respect for nature.

    The concept that everyone keeps wanting more and more because they don’t know what they want is SO true.

    I relate this to the idea that when you are hungry for a certain food, and if you do not get it, sometimes you will eat and eat and yet are never satisfied.

    • Thoughtful analysis of “for a purpose”, Sarah. There is one another point here: something made for a purpose expresses what philosophers call “intentionality”– the intent (and in this indigenous tradition, responsibility) with which it is made (like the bench) by humans. In this sense, something we make takes on the character of its maker (and some have also argued, our technology shapes who we are).
      Good analogy of wanting a particular food–and not being satisfied with others. To take this further: if our bodies need a particular nutrient found in that food, we “need” it in a different way than if it is something advertised as a comfort food (e.g. chocolate).
      Thanks for your comment.

  125. I’m very glad to see Peggy Orenstein’s Schoolgirls referenced here. I found her book to be very well-written and helpful when it comes to understanding – and helping ‘outsiders’ understand – what young women and girls go through when it comes to finding a solid sense of identity that isn’t completely fueled by a patriarchal, heterosexual society. Which… is almost impossible, anyway, as patriarchal society dictates women’s lives in a way that keeps them constantly guessing themselves – their bodies, their power, and their self-worth. This is also a very good aspect of our dominant culture to examine and compare to non-western views on environmental ethics. In the same way the dominant paradigm oppresses the natural world, it oppresses women and girls – and our natural ways; our bodies, our connections with the world and other living beings – our reciprocal ways of being . Our sensuality – our connection to the physical – rather than a connection to one dominant man (god, father, husband) keeps us in touch with the natural and physical world… and keeps us in a place of understanding with the fulfilling power of the physical realm; which completely undermines the idea of amassing wealth (as discussed in Lesson Three lecture notes) for one individual. If we realize our full, natural and physical potential, instead of devoting all of our energies to the consumer-oriented and sexual wealth of the dominant paradigm (is it any coincidence that women do the majority of shopping and make the majority of consumer choices in the average household?) – then we can also realize the give and take relationship of all life (something as simple as taking care of our own bodies and getting health and happiness in return – vs. hating and denying our bodies, which keeps us from realizing our full potential as living beings in a reciprocal cycle with the physical world, as we are pressured by the dominant society to do). Of course, the way our society is currently structured, anything that deviates from amassing wealth for the individual is definitely frowned upon and to be avoided, if patriarchy is going to have its way. Very nice also, to see an analysis of how hetero acts of sexuality are an important way in which the dominant paradigm keeps women in our “place” – how patriarchal society denies us the physical reality we all crave and naturally need as part of nature, but due to our societal structure, we are denied unless it’s done to (physically/sexually) please a member of the hierarchy (men).

    • Nice analysis, Lauren. This is obviously a topic about which you have done some personal thinking. Great points linking our consumerism to the role-prescribed sexuality (which has replaced our sensual and authentic personal connection to the natural world–and our own senses).

  126. This essay is so true. What are we doing here? What are we supposed to do to achieve happiness? What is the truth meaning of life? I don’t think many of us can answer those questions. Why? Because we are trained to become materialism and consumerism individuals. To maximize their profit, big companies do not hesitate to pure a lot of money into advertise industry. They are manipulating people’s mind. Wants become needs. Internal happiness transforms to material satisfaction. As a result, we are growing up with misconceptions about almost everything. I agree with the author that nowadays young girls are worrying too much about their appearance. Because of all the “norms”, they think that, to fit in the society, they must be good looking, sexy, ect…It is not true. In fact, the real beauty comes from inside. Women are respected because of their patient, wisdom, and many other good characters. If a young girl focuses too much about the outfit, she is decreasing her self-esteem and the appreciation for nature beauty.
    It is wrong to degrade women. I always remind myself that whatever I have achieved is all because my mother raised me the right way. Aristotle is great thinker. However, his concept about women is not reasonable, maybe because of history context. Men and women are the same. We both need each other to survive. No one is more important than others. It is unfair to treat women differently. In my own opinion, I think that in order to change the way people think about women we need to recall more about our mother, grandmother. What role did they play in war time? What did they do when family get into hardships? Those memories and experiences will give people a better idea about women.

    • Thanks for sharing some deep thinking in your perspective here, Vu. I cannot agree with you more about consumerism changing our wants into “needs”– as advertisers manipulate us to believe.
      I also agree that placing one’s self-esteem on looks is an inevitable way to lose it. Thank you for your support of women–and the women in your family, including the mother to whom you express your respect here.
      I like your perspective about Aristotle and his historical context. Just because someone has some good ideas, it does not means that every idea they have is good.

  127. I really related to this article because I also found my interest in nature was transferred to the male species after puberty; around the time of middle school. I no longer felt permitted to build forts, walk in the woods, or sit under a tree, as I did in my youth. My existence now became dependent upon my looks and my waking hours were spent putting on makeup, styling my hair, and reading about how to attract the right guy. This was a devastating change for me, as for many young girls, and my lack of self-esteem showed in a variety of ways. One being that would refuse to wear a swimsuit in front of boys. For an entire summer I wore my T-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit. No one said anything, but it was clear that I was no longer free to enjoy my own body and my soul was dying inside my own skin. I think part of it was my insecurity, but another part of it was my fear of being gawked at, analyzed, and compared to the “perfect” women I saw in magazines. I felt my mind no longer mattered.

    The discussion about consumerism reminds me of what I’m learning in Political Science. We’re socialized from the time we’re born to constantly want more and as whole, I feel America totally buys into this manufactured want. I know I did for much of my life, but I also know the feeling of lacking true happiness, no matter how many clothes, or cars, or houses you buy. My own personal feelings of dissatisfaction only proved what I later learned in college: consumerism will never lead to happiness. I knew this from a very young age, but as a brainwashed American, I kept right on buying. I think somehow I felt at some point I would finally gain the happiness we’re promised, but now I feel my sense of being must come from within.

    • Hi Kelsey, thanks for shared your own personal story here. What a tragedy that you were no longer able to freely enjoy your body but were instead “dying within your own skin”. John Berger’s little chapbook, Ways of Seeing, documents have women in Western art have been looked at while men are portrayed as looking out onto the world. This being “gawked” at made you feel awkward for good reason: it is part of an objectification process.
      You have obviously matured into a wisdom beyond surface consumerism and image as you search for and honor something deeper in yourself. Congratulations on this important journey: our society cannot afford to submerge the minds of young women– we need you as we face our challenging future.

    • Growing up as a “Tom-Boy” I can relate to what you are saying. What an awkward time for girls, as we are pushed into being something that we aren’t comfortable with. I still enjoy “male activities” and never have fit into the mold that society wants me to be, and I am okay with that. Being American, it is hard not to have your possessions own you, but I will probably always struggle with it.

  128. This essay definitely hit home for me. I agree that whatever innate desires and needs we are born with are subjugated to the “needs” pushed on us by advertising and the media. The young are the easiest targets because they are building their sense of themselves and their place in the larger world. A culture that equates sexual appeal to self-worth (and worth in society) is bound to breed generations of people out of touch with their real value and therefore more susceptible to outside values pressed upon them. Thus we have a dangerous cycle inflicted on us by the very system we have come to rely upon for guidance (perhaps not as individuals but indeed as a culture).

    I can’t help but question the assumption that girls are born into this world with a deeper and truer sense of who they are and are innately in touch with the world around them through being in touch with their bodies. I believe there is truth in this, however I want to also believe that this is not an essentialist idea and that this type of intuitive nature is the birth-right of every living being. Our culture tends towards dangerous dichotomies which negate complexity and natural contradictions; boys are not like girls, to be male one cannot also be female…etc. I think we all have the potential for (and potentially start out with) a truer connection to our own needs and desires. I also believe that there are many factors for the reality that the needs and desires we start to feel as we get older are not our own; a huge factor being media and advertising. I also think the age of targeting is getting younger and younger. Just look at the Fischer Price line up of toddler toys: shopping carts, kitchens, grocery check outs, tool kits, toddler versions of garage shops. All geared towards the ‘appropriate’ gender, of course. And all complete with a variety of light up and sound making functions that relieve a child’s burden of imaginative play (I hope that sarcasm is evident!).

    I completely agree that women in particular are made to feel that their self-worth relates to their ability to obtain male attention. I think this might have shifted from the connection with one man in particular (although heterosexual marriage is still considered a necessary and status-giving adult right of passage in our culture), to the more general sexual validation of the opposite sex.

    I hope that as mothers (although I have yet to become one), we are/will be able to give (or encourage as the case may be) our daughters (and sons) the strength, perseverance, critical-thinking skills, and self-awareness to know themselves without the pressure of magazines and television ads. I think one of the best ways to do this might be modeling behavior; if my children see that I value myself as a person and take time to get to know my true needs and desires, they will be more likely to do the same as adults.

    I like how this relates to purpose. So often I find people of my generation to be stumbling around in a purposeless state. Perhaps this is because we have been conditioned to be so out of touch with our real desires and needs that we no longer know ourselves as living beings. If we can learn ourselves again, maybe we will find that Wild Bill is entirely correct; we have meaning as ourselves. And maybe we can start to break this painful cycle of wanting things that do not fulfill our desires.

    I want more also. More connection, more community, more respect for beauty in all of its forms, more clean air and water too. And more respect for every diversity of life.

    • Hi Johanna, thanks for sharing your personal insights here. Great point that the young are easy targets for manipulation as they find their place and build their own sense of who they are. This makes it all the more troubling that ads are manipulating rather than freeing them on this important journey.
      I don’t think the authors of the Mother-Daughter Revolution– and I certainly hope, my own essay here– meant to imply that women are more privileged in their innate relationship to the natural world–only that they tend to lose more because of the gender dynamics of our culture. I would absolutely agree with you about the birthright of every living being– all of us, after all, came to life in a natural system that had millions of years to adjust us to one another. Men (though that was not the topic of this essay) are taught to ignore their bodies in other ways, as Power at Play elucidates: they are taught to “play through the pain” as they develop “hard bodies”. I would argue that there are some biological differences between men and women (see the Mismeasure of Women, for instance): this does not imply oppression–as the grandmothers illustrate with their own lives and their own battle against such oppression. However, in the current global arena, we cannot ignore the fact that one in three women will be the subject of violent abuse in her lifetime, and in certain areas of the world, being born a woman is more hazardous to survival than fighting on the frontlines of battle. See Half the Sky for some illustrations of the worst that women have to face simply because they are born in a woman’s body. Nor are such gender issues absent from the US-we currently rank far down among developed nations on the current “equity scale” between men and women (see links here for this yearly report). These are just bald facts that flow from an oppression gender system. The other results are ones that I see all too often in my classes–the suffering of young women– or older women in the military, for instance (the essay on “taking back the power to nurture” here goes into that problem a bit).
      Jean Kilbourne’s work concurs with you about the younger and younger targets of ads, as does Born to Buy.
      I hope with you that as mothers we will change this and agree with you that the kind of modeling you point out is very important. We also need a whole community to do this. There is much work done on the sorrow of individual mothers (or good families in general) that still lose their children to addiction or eating disorders because of the dynamics of our society as a whole (see Reviving Ophelia, for instance).
      Thanks for finishing this very thoughtful piece with your own true desire to “more”.

  129. Growing up with two sisters and having close friends who have experienced this time in life I have to say I feel sorry for what girls go through during this time. First you have them, their bodies producing hormones making them feel and act in ways they never had before. This is also a time where pressures in life start affecting them. Then you have the boys who are changing also. This is where I think you see a lot of violent acts that are not reported. The boys are trying to be the leader of the pack. Mothers need to unite with their daughters during this time to help them through it. This is a major molding time in a person’s life. They need that support and help. If they don’t get it they can have self esteem problems their whole life.

    • There are biological changes that girls and boys go through– as you point out, they need support, not manipulation by ads– who attempt to sway people, including children, at their most vulnerable.
      Ancient societies offer these children-becoming adults initiation ceremonies or vision quests in order to allow them time and support to find out who they are and what direction they wish to take in life. The least we can do is listen to their voices as the authors of the Mother-Daughter Revolution suggest.
      Thanks for your comment, Bob.

    • Thank you for bringing the male perspective into the discussion. Perhaps with more focus on men’s attitudes towards women in most modern societies, we can allow our girls to mature in a healthy way instead of bowing to the pressures put upon them by a male-dominated society. I found my escape from the pressure in my horse-oriented activities, but even in that world, their were the girls that felt a need to impress, a need to fit in.
      Another area to explore: get children out of the modeling business. Adolescents and even pre-adolescents dressed up and made-up to look mature with that aura of youth showing through just fosters the idea of youth=sex =success=popularity.

      • Very important points, Rebecca. I concur one hundred per cent with getting children out of the modeling business. Jean Kilbourne’s video Still Killing Us Softly, shows examples of six year old girls made up to look sexy. This is blatantly inappropriate on several levels.
        There was a great article in the most recent National Women’s Health Network News written by a young women commending men for exactly the same reason as you do here. Some great reasoning and links: definitely worth checking out http://nwhn.org/young-feminists-targeting-men-prevent-violence-against-women

    • Again the main problem is perception. We are taught through television and other media what women should look like and act like. Without this knowledge, men have no basis to decide who is attractive and who’s not. Some things make men less attracted to women but most of the bullying comes from seeing the prototype appearance from other formats. Also the competition amongst each other to look more attractive plays a significant role.

  130. I was very enlightened by this article. It got me thinking about a lot, and I especially liked the part at the end that summarized that nothing wants to suffer. How true that is! The problem is, as conscious humans we should be able to prevent the suffering of others on our behalf and yet we often do not. As in the example about the corn stalk, I can see how in the natural world there is a balance and humans are disrupting that balance and over consuming things. Gluttony is one of our biggest sins, this is evident as obesity rates go up and people are literally dying from overconsumption because they do not know how/when to stop.

    • I like your idea about our responsibility to avoid causing suffering to other lives, Samantha. Something that should lead to more careful consumption and honoring of what we really want/need.

    • Great point on gluttony Samantha. I think a lot of times it isn’t even about the food, cars, or what ever the case may be. I think it may just be the act of “what can I get next?”. The ongoing question that people seem to ask themselves without pausing and realizing what they already have.

  131. The notion of beauty is flawed. Models on the billboards and on television have been photo-shopped so much that they don’t even look human anymore. If we were to see one of these models in real life there is no way that we would recognize them with all of their blemishes and slightly unsymmetrical proportions. The products sold to make women more beautiful are filled with chemicals. Go ahead and rub these chemicals all over your eyes, it will make you pretty!

    Just yesterday I went to the local drugstore and it is covered in pink and red hearts for Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a perfect example of a made up commercial holiday. Men are supposed to buy expensive presents for their partner, and if they don’t they are looked at like they are cheap or uncaring. The day after Valentine’s Day all of that junk goes on sale. What a waste.

    • You are right about these images of photoshopped women, Tiffany. These images have little to do with living, breathing women except to sell the latter something.
      Chemicals on the eyes doesn’t sound too inviting to me.
      Other things about Valentine’s Day is the chocolate (much harvest by children doing slave labor in Africa) and the flowers (see the latest Smithsonian– whose chemical treatments cannot be good for the workers).
      So there is human as well as environmental “waste” involved here.

  132. I enjoyed this article and as a father of a 10 year old girl find it impossible to guard her from the pressures from society. I find these pressures in everything from signs, magazines, to even advertisements about hamburgers. All of them telling her what she should look like, what she should eat, how she should enjoy herself. The only real way to fight this problem is by understanding what there purpose or intentions are and understanding what we hold as important. This realization of knowing ourselves and what is important to us is easy to loose sight of. The best reminder for me at least is taking my family camping where we enjoy each other and the wilderness around us. Hopefully the human race will keep what truly matters such as family and the environment in a condition where we can pass it on for generations to come.

    • I too enjoyed this article, Philip! I have a 15-year-old son myself and I have found personally it isn’t about protection it is about allowing my son to express himself authentically without judgement so he feels comfortable in making is own choices. Who am I to judge what is right or wrong for him or his path. Of course there is guidance and consequences for his choices but I cannot protect him from an energy that he is attracting in his life through his thoughts and behavior. I have to allow him to learn from the way he thinks and behaves and support him in his decisions. I have learned the more I try to protect the more I shelter him from his own path. I am a reflection of my thoughts and behaviors and so I have to allow him space to be a reflection of his without judgement. I must admit, this is a learning process and sometimes I am better at it then others. He got a bad grade last term and I had to really work on my own conditioned thoughts and behavior when I helped him process this decisions. I really like what you say about understanding intentions because a lot of what we manifest around us is to help teach us that. 🙂

      • Thanks for sharing your own struggles as a parent, Angel-and the decision you made to let your son make his own choices. That isn’t a bad lesson for any of us to learn as parents when we want so much to protect our children. Yet if we over-protect them we run the danger of making them feel we don’t believe they can make it without our help.
        I love my wonderful mother’s statement that it is the job of parents to teach your children to live without you.

    • How fortunate your daughter is to have a conscious and caring dad, Phillip–and I can’t think of a better remedy to all this “stuff” than spending time in the natural world as a family. Not that that guarantees your daughter (and you as her father) won’t suffer from the image dynamics.
      Critiquing what is behind the ad’s intention is important– and as I read your post, I thought of another kind of intention– the intention that indicates the way in which we find our goals and meaning in life. Intention, in a philosophical sense, means our personal goals. I love the idea of some native elders I have been blessed to work with– who honor the fact that each of us has been given a particular gift in life, something that no one else has — and it is each of our job’s (and that of supportive community’s) to find that gift and give it back to life.
      All best wishes for your work as a father!

  133. I really enjoyed reading this post and it resonated very well with me. I remember as a very young girl never fitting in with my family and a lot of times with my friends because they wanted me to be something that I was not. I didn’t realize at the time that was a form of conditioning me to think and behave how others wanted me to think and behave. That was my first lesson in conditioning. I also know now it was not my family’s fault, nor my friends fault that they did this because they were only thinking and behaving as they were conditioned to think and behave. I feel blessed to be in a place in my life now where I can connect with my authentic-self and feel comfortable to slowly begin to be comfortable to express myself how I feel comfortable without judging myself or worrying what others might think if I say or what they perceive as inappropriate. I still don’t know what I want because just as I think I arrive there I realize that is simply another layer of conditioned thoughts and behavior. I know I am getting closer because when spirit flows through me authentically I feel a deep inner peace and that inspires me to face the conditioned states of behavior and admit my addictions so I may not be enticed by the media trying to distract me and hook me into wanting “more” when I have all I need, “now” in this moment. I too want more, but it isn’t more material “things” it is more awareness and cleansing so I am not distracted by the energies that snag me back into conditioned thoughts and behavior. I want to know my authentic-self “more” and be driven by hopes for a cleaner more beautiful natural world we can all live in harmony with. If that is idealistic then I am ok with that!

    • It is a gift -and a matter of personal courage– that you have been able to move beyond such conditioning, Angel.
      I think that it is easy to get pulled away from “this beautiful natural world that we can all live in harmony with”–but if we hold the vision that this is where we truly belong, the earth we treasure has much to teach us about being as fully human as we might be on our shared home. Thanks for your comment.
      Seems to me spirit flows through all of nature– where else does life come from?

  134. Societal expectations are set, in my opinion, to never truly be met. This creates a promise of money to models (to stare at), plastic surgeons (to re-create faces and bodies), therapists (to talk through misery), stores like GNC (who provide magic pills that will eliminate fat) and gyms (namely the 24 hour ones to accommodate those addicted to exercise). There is a relationship, or a web, or deal made between the media and these agencies. The deal is probably never spoken of, acknowledged or written down, but it exists. Young girls today are witnesses to ridiculous models, sexually erotic songs and music videos and young men who eat it up. The desire for humans to be loved and accepted is so powerful, more powerful than the little voice inside of us all that says, “you are beautiful, you are good enough, you are valued”. That voice is not heard over the speakers of society’s expectations.

    • You are absolutely right about ads consciously creating that which never satisfies, Katie–and the web of money-making products that is involved in each of these dissatisfactions. There is more info on ads in the more recent essay here, “Lost in the world of images.”
      Thanks for reminding us how important it is let each girl coming to womanhood know “you are beautiful, you are good enough, you are valued”. Over the years, I have been amazed to learn the effects such small acts of support might have in someone’s life. It can never hurt to plant something different in a child’s ears than “society’s expectations”.

    • Katie!
      You are beautiful, good enough and valued! That quote resonates with me so much right now. This week has been crazy, and I’ve been zombie-ing through my assignments, and that quote sounded like a clear bell on a silent day in the bells, resounding and echoing through the chaos of the day. I’m putting it on the wall to remind me, because you’re right, it’s really hard to remember when the loud speakers of societal expectation are constantly reminding you that you are not enough.
      Thank you.
      Anna

  135. I find that this essay raises some valid points just from reflecting on my own childhood, and also observing on how my nieces are growing up. I’ve been told (and I believe) that I myself have a higher than average (for women) self esteem. I tend to not let what others think of be affect me too much, unlike other women my age. Considering this, I also grew up with not a lot of money, and we only had the necessities of life. Compared to my other friends, I didn’t have a lot of possessions, and I spent just about all of my free time outside just enjoying nature. I loved it. My nieces on the other hand, are more fortune with money, however my oldest niece, who is now 15, has some major self esteem issues, that its becoming a concern for the whole family. This connection of a girl’s self esteem correlating to a media controlled desire, is a new one to me, but it seems to make a lot of sense. Especially since in my Marketing course I took last term, one of the concepts we covered was how marketers target young girls (and boys) because they haven’t been “branded” yet.

    • Congratulations on your self-esteem, Michelle. It is unfortunate that this is not the birthright of all women. Connection with the natural world can do t his for us. The book Born to Buy documents some questionable dynamics in “branding” children (as you observe) from the youngest age. Thanks for sharing your perspective here.

  136. I have come to realize that materials are not important. Everyone seems to want the newest phone, TV, computer, faster car etc. I just think, how will this make me happy? I have an ok cell phone, a computer that gets the job done and to be honest, could spend a little more time away from the TV. Sometimes I don’t understand why people NEED to have new items and better things all the time. I just wonder what happened to fulfillment for what we have? I hope to be able to teach my children that real treasure is having fun, being healthy and having people you love.

    • “How will this make me happy” is a great question, Sami– especially if we are able to ask and answer it authentically rather than in line with the manipulation of contemporary advertising. Fulfillment (and even gratefulness) for what we have is an important realization. Teaching your children that “real treasure is having fun, being healthy and having people you love”will surely be a priceless gift for them.

    • I agree with you in your confusion of why it seems that we all are always wanting the latest and greatest available. Last term I took several marketing courses (business major) and was able to learn a bit about how corporations almost “trick” people into thinking that they must have a certain new product or item. It can be a very interesting and manipulative system that is used (not all of them, but some). I hope to make a difference in the way safe products can be presented to our future generations.

      • Wonderful, Josh. Check out CSRwire in our links sections here– there are businesses who hope to make a real difference by doing things differently–and are succeeding as well.

    • I have a young cousin who is an only child and she has always gotten whatever she wants. I remember being young and making a Christmas list and wondering what thing/s on it I might get that year, but she makes a list and gets everything. She has so much stuff that the guest bedroom is crammed full of all the things she can’t fit into her own room. She even had unopened toys from Christmas still sitting there six months later. As a result, she is growing into a spoiled teenager with more than a little attitude. I think that parents spoiling their kids by buying them whatever they throw a fit for ends up harming the kids in the long run – who wants to spend time with a person who has a bad attitude and no gratitude?

      • Unopened presents from Christmas? This does seem over the top for even our consumerist society. This is a sad case of the parents giving certainly not doing their child any good.

  137. I’ve personally never been a ver materialistic person, possibly from growing up in a family that always seemed to struggle to make ends meet. The more I talk to people, or hear about their desires for the newest or “best” of anything, when it is often something they don’t need, I can’t help but wonder how long it’ll be before i’m listening to the same person talking about “needing” something to replace that which only a short while ago they couldn’t live without. I’ve watched friends get extremely far into debt this way, and some even continue to buy things to make them feel better about themselves, because their overwhelming debt depresses them. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that this mindset, consumption to feel better about one’s inability to stop consuming, is not only detrimental to the individual, but to our environment as well.

    • It is great to be immunized against the incessant wanting of something else, John. I think your comment indicates how true, “you can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place” is.
      This is a sad result of an economy that runs on the continual growth of consumption: as you indicate, not good for either ourselves or the environment. Thanks for your comment.

  138. We absolutely live in a society that revolves on the idea of image. Young girls have the beauty myth already embedded into their mind before they have even reached an age where one should look at them sexually or romantically. Happiness does not come from purchases of any kind but from our personal experiences and the beliefs that we hold.

    • You indicate the importance of personal authenticity, Chamae– in thinking for oneself, care for oneself and being the unique person you are — as well as understanding your contribution to society instead of placing your identity on an image. Can you see any ways in which the dynamic described in this essay throws more light on this contrast? Thanks for your comment.

    • Chamae, I completely agree with you. It is sad how early young people already have beauty and image embedded into their minds. At such a young age young people, especially girls, care way too much about their appearance and what material items they have compared to others. My niece is only 10 and already wants to start wearing make up and wear revealing clothes. My sister doesnt do this so we knows its media and school portraying these messages to her. It is so sad.

  139. This essay was very interesting and eye opening, especially being a woman who someday wants children. This is honestly a great piece of work that I feel more mothers should read to see what influence the media has on their children, especially their daughters. As a society it is just so easy for us to turn on the television when we want to entertain children, but I do not think we fully see how much influence it has on the viewers. I am not saying we need to cut out all media outlets but parents need to be aware of what their children are taking away from the fast food advertisements that show happy thin children eating the advertized food, when we as adults know that is not the reality. The media purposefully targets children because they have not developed the filters that we have as adults to see what creates a true reality. As adults it is our responsibility to act as the sounding board for children so they can tell the difference between what is real and what the media wants us to believe is real. Same goes with clothing and makeup, especially when some of those products are harmful to our ecosystem due to byproducts, we know there is something wrong and we need to take a stand.

    • There are a lot of other concerns to take into account, in addition to harm caused to the environment from chemical byproducts. For example, the use of child labor and sweatshops in a lot of the textile producing regions of the world, the testing of cosmetics and other products on animals, and the oppression and exploitation of native peoples by MNCs extracting natural resources like gold, diamonds, and timber.

    • Thanks for your kind and thoughtful feedback, Michelle. I agree that we need to see the influence of media on our children–and mentor different models for all young women. The responsibility adults should assume that you outline here is something well passed on to children as they develop their own sense of self.
      And part of this comes from being conscious consumers ourselves.

  140. I recently watched the documentary, “The Corporation.” In it a study is described that was conducted by a marketing company about kids nagging their parents. The marketing company paid for this study so they could see how effective a nagging child was to a parent, what made the parents respond to the nagging by giving the child the thing it was nagging about. I found this to be an enlightening example of how corporate America will go to any lengths to sell products, with no concerns if their product has any value.

    There are no coincidences, and acting out of ignorance to our wants is making a stand. Sitting on the fence is a choice, and a damaging one. It leaves us open to the glottun of capitalism. I believe part of the solution is finding your foundation, your source of strength. From this rock you can decide what your desires really are. Hopefully for most people that will mean more conservation and less stuff.

    • This seems to be an enlightening example of to what lengths a corporation will go to sell its products irregardless of the value of the product (or the need for it on the part of the consumer)–or the ethics involved. Encouraging children to nag their parents for what they don’t need seems a questionable practice to me. There is more of the same in the essay “No real apples need apply here”– indicating to what other lengths corporations are currently going to sell their products.
      Great point that “sitting on the fence” is also a choice–and a damaging one.
      Excellent point of deciding what your decides really are from an authentic point of personal strength.

  141. How often do we make purchases that truly bring us happiness (in the long run)? I think that most of what we buy today is what we think others will be looking for us to have. The new phones, cars, clothes, homes are all things that we might think make us happy, but it’s only the thought of what others will think when they see those things that is giving us this false sense of happiness. The image issue that many girls from a wide array of ages suffer from can be directly derived from our current cultural pressures. We want to be what our culture tells us we should be. For example, today much pressure is put on girls to be thin, but in some native cultures women are viewed as more beautiful the “healthier” they are. This is why I absolutely agree and think that people don’t really know what they want, only what others do. So much money is spent on things that do nothing but bring us unhappiness and cause much harm to our environment, society, and self-esteem.

    • The fact that many of us buy for image means that we are buying thing for others rather than meeting our own needs– great thing to point out Joshua.
      And one would think that if all these things brought happiness, the wealthiest folks would be the happiest. At the very least folks like many CEOs don’t seem very secure or they wouldn’t be trying to consolidate power rather than living full lives and assuming responsibility in caring for the commons .

    • Joshua,
      I like that you point out that we purchase things that others will be looking for us to have. It’s like we feel an invisible pressure that thinks everyone is getting this, and I will feel out of place if I don’t get it too. I absolutely don’t believe money buys happiness. I think it buys you a false happiness, unless you have other people to enjoy those things with you.
      It’s nice to hear a males perspective about how the media portrays girls, and it’s refreshing that you also realize the way ads objectify women. Thanks!

      • Thanks to both of you. I was just at the ceremonial blessing of the Willamette River in Eugene this afternoon, where I was touched to to hear a native man speak up about the need for men to support the work of the grandmothers. A perspective it would be great to see more of!

  142. This essay said that Ad’s shout out wanting “More”. I can’t think of a better way to describe advertisements, and it got me thinking about how much more the U.S has than other countries. We have an abundance of advanced technology and gadgets, but as a country, are we happier with all of these things? I thought about my own life, and remembered I recently switched from my old phone to the Iphone. My older phone could text and call, and I never thought I would need anything else. Now I have the Iphone and there are free apps galore! So I asked myself, am I happier now that I have this Iphone, which is vastly more efficient than when I had my old phone? I honestly thought hard about this (Because I really do love my Iphone..) and came up with, “No, I’m not any happier”. Of course I’m happy to have it, but overall this amazing piece of technology didn’t make my life happiness any better.
    I found this puzzling. As a society we always want the newest and best piece of equipment, but I think on the “Happiness Scale”, we go unchanged. It’s like we are always hungry, but never satisfied.

    This article also mentioned the ways girls can be effected in a major way by the images the media portrays. I feel like this is another form of dualism. The media is putting so many people down, when only 2% of girls actually look like someone in the magazines we read. I wish we could say all of us were above it, and wouldn’t let a photo shopped image effect our self-esteem. Sadly, that is not the case for the majority of woman.

    • I had a very similar experience with the iphone. I had the same cell phone for years. The cheapest possible one, with a cracked screen, all scuffed up. But it worked for what I needed. My friends (most of whom have iphones) really liked to tease me about it (peer pressure at 27 years old?!). I swore I would never buy an iphone, or anything like it. Then my phone broke, and I went into the cell phone store, and somehow walked out with an iphone, convinced that I had just improved my life, happiness, and productivity 100 fold! And now, I find that I am completely attached to this phone. When I am outside, I lose a few minutes of being in nature, because I am able to check my email from anywhere. When my daughter is playing quietly on the floor, I am on the Internet instead of watching all the milestones she is passing through. And it makes me really unhappy. I can waste away an entire hour on that phone, and be really upset and disappointed with myself afterward.
      I agree with you, ‘more’ and ‘the newest and best equipment’ does not make us happy. Instead, I think it is a distraction from the things that make us happy.

      • Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any statute of limitations on being subject to peer pressure, Isabel! 27 seems pretty young to me! And I am quite capable of wasting time on the internet- even though a good portion of my time is spent working on my online classes there.
        Thanks for your comment.

      • Isabel,
        Isnt it startling how you can become dependant on something that you didnt have before and somehow functioned just fine?

        I had the same experience with a phone- I had a basic prepaid cell phone and was just fine. Then I got a blackberry with the internet and was constantly checking it. There I was at the playground- on my phone checking facebook like all the other moms – thinking how sad it is, yet still doing it! I think the fact that there is now this distraction that can fit in our pockets, it’s harder to walk away as you can on a computer.

        I began leaving my phone on my front table when Im home and not picking it up unless it rings and leaving it in the car when Im out. Im not ready to give it up altogether, but not as attached to it anymore! Maybe you can try that.

        • Nice suggestions to allow maintaining balance with the use of such devices.
          Telling point about getting along without just fine before we had it– but now thinking we can’t do without it.
          It is a sad portrait of a playground with moms involved in their blackberries more than their kids–and kids likely saying, “Mom, Look at this!”– seeking an adult’s eyes on them, as kids so often do.

    • You give us an important reminder about the US proportion of “stuff”– we are about 5 per cent of the global human population and yet use 25 per cent of its resources to got about our daily business. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting something clever and well made (and long lasting)– as long as we properly understand its place in our lives.
      And there is other recent sad news about iphones– a few Chinese workers who make them are committing suicide– some speculation about the bleakness of their working conditions: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/02/ff_joelinchina/all/1. So neither our happiness nor worker satisfaction is served by certain gadgets.

  143. I find this essay relevant to my life, as I have a baby girl, 16 months old. Currently, she is fascinated by nature. I watch her play in the dirt, smell flowers, chase bugs. She finds pure enjoyment from exploring the natural world and other life forms. I sometimes feel frantic about trying to find ways to help her preserve this love of nature, and not trade it in for connection to technology and desire for “more”.

    I like the idea of a revolution as a mother, but have to admit that I feel overwhelmed by what I am up against. I can see how people just fall in line with what the rest of society is doing, exhausted by even the idea of making a change.

    It is alarming to hear about the effects of media on girls. As children are bombarded by media and messages, I think one of the best things I can do for my daughter is to teach her what to do with it. I can limit these messages, but I can’t keep her from it completely. She should know how to recognize harmful messages and what to do with them before she internalizes them.

    I feel that I know what I want, and it does not involve excessive wealth or acquiring of goods. It involves being a teacher and educating, travel, sharing experiences with other people, and nature. I have noticed that when I am in touch with these things, I feel happy and fulfilled (even though I don’t quite have them yet), and when I begin to lose touch with them, and start to want “things” and “possessions,” I feel unhappy.

    • Thanks for such a well considered answer to a dilemma (often, one with much grief to it) of the mothers of daughters. As you note being conscious of what makes you happy–and communicating a critical consciousness skills to your daughter is very important. Would that she might somehow retain the wonder and joy she has now!

  144. Defining addiction as wanting more and more of what we dont want is very accurate. The consumerism in our society is an addiction. Less people consider themselves happy and content, which are attibutes I would consider to coincide with living in accordance to your spirit, than in the past. Yet houses are bigger, we have many more possessions and we continue to buy. Our culture seems to exist for the purpose of convincing people to dislike themselves and try to become something else both physically and spiritually. The trappings are rooted so deep, they are hard to completely disregard. For example, I am aghast at the idea of plastic surgery, yet I wear mineral makeup, which is also an attempt to change myself albeit less drastically. It is very difficult not to be affected by all of the advertising.

    • I don’t know of a society that doesn’t like adornment of some sort: the issue is whether such change becomes addictive –and whether it is toxic to ourselves and the environment. Check out “Skin deep” on our links page for some consumer knowledge of these points.
      Excellent –and sad point– about the consumerism that gives us bigger and newer (and never what really satisfies) at the same time that it is so destructive to the natural sources of our lives. I can’t imagine how such things could ever make us more “beautiful”.

    • Valerie,
      I really enjoyed your reflection. I too wear makeup and understand where you are coming from. Part of me just wants everyone to take a step back and look at where we are. Like you stated: people are less happy now a days, wonder if that has anything to do with the continuous consumerism? When people had less material possessions, they were happier, but now we are all just trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’. No one wants to be left behind or they will be labeled by society and that is stigma no one wants. This sounds like a social problem to me.

  145. I think this essay might be one of my favorite I have read to date. I am in a sorority and know everything there is when it comes to young girls and struggling image. My sorority works with young Girl Scouts in the community and we have a partnership with Dove to help promote true beauty. It is so sad to see the girls growing up having such a bad personal opinion about their looks and body. I truly believe, like this essay stated, much of it is based on the media and the materialization of our society. Women are supposed to be beautiful and nurturing – we are already assigned gender roles before we are born. It is hard to feel passionately about things if we do not feel good about ourselves. There are so many bigger issues in the worry about rather than what size pants we wear. I just wish we could come together and create a more positive environment for our younger generations so they can spend their energy tackling the important issues.

    • Hi Ellie, thanks for sharing your thoughtful perspective. You are doing very important work in supporting girls to grow up to honor themselves rather trying to remake themselves in the image of the media.
      Great point that it is “hard to feel passionately about things if we do not feel good about ourselves”. There are indeed many bigger issues we should come together over than “what size pants we wear.”
      Keep up the good work mentoring young women-to-be!

  146. As a mother, I truly appreciate this essay. .
    This essay also makes me wonder, does how a girl is raised at home have anything to do with the kind of young woman she will turn out to be?
    If a girl has positive re-enforcement at home and is complimented and praised for doing well in school rather than how pretty she looks in a dress, will her self esteem still plumit?
    If that same girl, who is taught beaty is within, has to work for the things she wants, will she see things as having more value? I certainly hope so because this is how I am attempting to raise my ten year old daughter.

    • Loni, I think these lessons for your daughter are absolutely important– along with another, which is that in imparting your values to her, you care enough about her (and about your own values) to do so.
      As Mary Pipher’s work indicates, there are no guarantees this will be enough– it is like a necessary but not necessarily sufficient condition to protect our daughters: for that, we need the work of a larger community and a different form of social values. Thanks for the very important work you are doing in mothering this child who represents one part of the future of us all.

    • Loni, I am not yet a mother, but I can imagine the struggle that accompanies how to raise a child in today’s world. From my own relationship with my mother, as long as you are always there for your daughter to listen and answer questions or research the answers to her questions she’ll will gorw up just fine. Even if a question is startling or against your nature, approaching it with calm will do her great benefit to form her own opinions and be strong of self.

  147. I have never felt so horrified by American consumerism until I watched The Story of Stuff video for a class last term. Basically, the world of fashion, the auto industry and every other similar industry exist because they make people feel bad about themselves and thus encourage people to buy newer and better products. The narrator uses the specific example of changing heel shapes and sizes to emphasis the point of fashion controlling self esteem, value and personal worth depending on how up-to-date with trends a person is. Same goes for changing auto body styles. When the body style changes a person can peg whether you have a new car or an “old” car. What people want is to be desired and liked by other people. They want to feel included and important within society. Using consumer goods is not the way to obtain this feeling of fitting in because it is not personal, nor is it forgiving or understanding. If only we could learn from those cultures that do not put such an intense value of “things”, but put value on human relationships and working together to achieve goals.

    • There is a link to the “Story of Stuff” on our links page here- it is a “fun” video to watch that also makes a point that is horrifying (as you note) in its consequences.
      Not only does our society put an intense value on “things” rather than relationships, but it often objectifies humans into as thing-like– as in the consumers of the lip balm you describe in your last comment. Surely, the true needs of the consumer as another person were not at all considered here.

    • I agree with you, Amy. I just watched “The Story of Stuff” in a class I took last term. It was very eye opening. Another idea from the video I found particularly disturbing is that of actual obsolescence. People design products to have short life spans to increase consumerism. This practice is very environmentally and socially irresponsible.

  148. The pieces about Aristotle’s teachings highlighted to me just how long women have been made to feel inferior. Where did this believe come from? Throughout history we see examples of women being subjects or dependents. Aristotle’s idea that women must attach themselves to virtuous man in order to be virtuous themselves makes me sad. It makes me sad that the negative feelings women feel about inferiority or self image have been around for a very long time.

    • Thanks for bringing this up, Melissa. My exposure to Aristotle was years ago and I always accepted him as a brilliant philosopher, as I was taught. I will have to reassess this! I think what the discrimination stems from is that people who have a domination based worldview strive to have physical, financial, psycholological and political power over others. Convincing the female half of the population that they are inferior automatically accomplishes this.

      • Good point, Val. I think it is aptly said that what characterizes such thinking (and the society that it fuels) is the attempt to make the oppression of women into a “natural fact”– as if there is no alternative.
        And sadly, Aristotle could be brilliant in one way– if we take it on faith that it is possible to segregate one’s logic from one’s ethics- which I do not, but some who argue the possibility of objective thinking do.

    • Thoughtful question, Melissa. It seems the pre-Socratics (just before Aristotle) were about the first in Greek tradition. Charlene Spretnak has a book on the earlier views of the Greek goddesses that fell in status with the Greek move toward the philosophy that saw women as inferior. Pointedly, this change came about just about the time that Greece was becoming a colonial power that took over its neighbor’s land through force. At the same time, many very positive views about women are still around in indigenous societies today–those of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers are a case in point that might life your spirits.

  149. Melissa,
    I have to agree with you- and this attaching oneself is such a predominant idea. A friend of mine waits impatiently to find the man she is supposed to marry so that she may be complete. She longs for the time when she was a size zero and looked like a model in a magazine. My friend is wonderful, but I don’t know if she wants these things because she truly wants them for herself, or if she has been conditioned to believe that she cannot be whole/good/beautiful if she cannot be beautiful and married.

    • And “beautiful” means a size zero– not health and vitality? Your friend’s attitude is an illustration of the disempowering dynamic outlined in the Mother Daughter Revolution. Your friend is fortunate to have you as a friend– someone who accepts her for who she is.

  150. Based on the commercials I have seen on TV, I’m almost scared for our future the way we are pushed towards greater and greater “convenience.” All of these items designed to increase our convenience seem to go hand in hand with increasing amount of waste generated – two that come to mind are Kleenex hand towels (I guess like giant Kleenex tissues to dry your hands with, because cloth towels are so laden with germs) and McCormick Recipe Inspirations – a box with a recipe on the back and little plastic boxes on the front with the exact amount of spices called for in the recipe. Really? If you don’t want a ton of spices sitting around, buy small amounts from the bulk bins – many stores seem to have them now – and I can’t recall when it was that I last saw an obituary that stated the cause of death as “germ infested hand towel.” And what is all this extra convenience really getting us? We have been learning that many traditional peoples spend only a few hours a day doing “work” while Westerners spend more and more time away from home and their children to pay for all these so-called convenience items.

    • I think there is reason to be concerned about our future in the ways that, as you note, convenience equals more waste– and even more reason to be concerned that such commercials instill the idea that such “convenience” is our due.
      Thanks for sharing the thoughtful point, Sarah.

  151. I think this is subject resonates with everyone, male and female, in today’s world where every child is ripped away from the natural world and have these images of who they should blaring at them. Being a female who did grow up spending most of my time outdoors, I am acutely aware of when I lost that connection, and even more so the moment when it came rushing back. During that phase and still today I struggled immensely with who I was/am in relation to the word around me socially and naturally. It’s a serious issue because both boys and girls lose a very precious and intelligent part of ourselves as we are pried from our true selves, our purpose.

    • Thanks for sharing your struggle, Anna– and for keeping at it to recover not only who you are, but your place in the natural world that sustains us.
      Your response is a good reminder of the importance of not allowing ourselves to be “pried from our true selves” and our “purpose.”

  152. Though it is definitely true that women face far more pressures in society, especially during puberty, this article forgets that young men go through many of the same problems. Yes, young women are far more likely to have low self-esteem because we live in a male dominated society in which females think they need to look and act a certain way, but we cannot simply forget about young men. Young men view the same ads that females do. Though women are more likely to fall to the ads about clothing and makeup, men are more likely to fall to those that tell them them that they need to not have acne, that they need to have a six pack, that they need a sporty car, and to be sporty. Men are led to believe that they can fill their void by material things with things that should be filled by things of nature. And men should, just as well as females, “have a clear conversation with our own desires” to learn what we really need to be fulfilled in life. So this mother’s day, do not forget about your sons just because they are male and society says they should not be affected by ads that challenge their self-esteem, because they will be affected just as much as your daughters.

    • Thanks for adding the perspective on men here, Caleb. The essay focuses on this dynamic, but it does not mean that the way consumerism and image effects men is negligible. Michael Messner’s Power at Play indicates the pressures to which men are subject in this society.

  153. I am a single mother of a young boy. I have many of the same concerns about my son as you express about daughters. I want him to maintain his connection with the natural world and the wonder he finds in himself and his love for others. I have an exceptionally sensitive and caring boy, and I strive to defend his sensitivity against a world that would have him be tough and dominant. I find myself going through profound personal changes as I attempt to model the behavior I would like to see from my child. i feel like I am getting a chance as a parent to not only defend my child from negative and life rejecting cultural forces, but to defend the child within myself from those forces and allow my own sense of wonder and connection to nature and others to heal and regrow. I think the culture of life and affirmation we want for our children is also what we need for ourselves and the process of creating that world for our children can allow us to live in a better world ourselves.

    • Hi Rosie, thanks for your comment. Your issue of the personal changes you experience as you model what you wish for your son is a pointed one: I think all our children have the capacity to teach us in this way.
      What a wonderful stance you are assuming as you see your mothering as an opportunity to heal your son with such a sense of “wonder”.
      It would be even more wonderful if our culture could turn toward the life-affirming stance you suggest. Congratulations on your conscious relationship with your son: the way in which you “defend” him is certainly an essential expression of your love–and lends hope to our collective future.

  154. I believe it is a sad state of affairs indeed when we are told what we want by the white patriarchal capitalistic paradigm. There was a time when people were at one with the Earth and all her glories, and we didn’t want, relatively speaking, for anything. We had food, shelter, clothing, and a relationship with the world around us. We cared for the Earth and received her bountiful blessings with thankfulness. Somewhere along the line, things changed, and women were told what we needed (I’m looking at you, for one, Aristotle). Many modern women were raised with the notion that they need to be attached to a man in order to be anything (or anyone) of importance. That need, in turn, was indoctrinated into our heads as a “want,” and that, along with the portrayal in modern media of a woman who has to be thin and beautiful in order to be someone has become the belief (and downfall) of modern woman.

    What happened to the days when being a larger woman was considered beautiful? Where are the big, beautiful women who resembled the ancient goddess statues? That is not to say that anyone who is thin is less of a woman than those who are big, it is just to say that we have been brainwashed into thinking that thinness is the “norm.” Why are women who practice earth- or nature-based religions called names like “tree-huggers” or “witches” in a derogatory manner? Why are Native American and Pagan rites considered outside the “norm” of any other religion? Because the patriarchal paradigm of monotheism has been widely accepted as the only way.

    We need to get back to basics, back to a time when Nature (and, by association, women) were revered and treated with respect. When the Grandmother of a village was consulted before any matter of importance was decided. What I want is a clean, beautiful planet for my grandchildren. One where my grandchildren and my growing number of nieces and nephews can live in harmony with Nature and be thankful for all the blessings bestowed upon them. One where they are not defined by the things that they own or their looks, but by how they care for other people and the world around them.

    • I love your vision, Kim. That is a list of wants that frees and nurtures others–as well as securing the future of the lives that come after us, rather than the “wants” that Wangari Maathai notes (in our newest essay here) only offer a short-term “fix” for the holes in our spirits, our loneliness and lack of purpose.
      I appreciate your passion and your insight here!

  155. I can strongly identify with this article. I often find my wants influenced by my environment and things that I am exposed to.
    I often say that I am happy with my body and that I do not need to be stick thin like the girls in the media to be happy with the way that I look. I have natural Latin curves and think that the way I am built is naturally beautiful. I tell people that I feel this way often, yet I catch myself dieting and exercising at times – not to feel better or for my personal health, but to look thinner in my clothes. While I think there is so much wrong with the media and the way in which it portrays “beauty,” I find myself affected by it. So what do I want? Sometimes I want to be happy with my natural self, and sometimes I am inclined to want to be thinner than is natural for my body type. At the end of the day, I am making more of an effort to set aside outside influences and biases in order to determine what exactly MY wants are, regardless of societal pressures.

    Another example of where my wants and needs get mixed up is in the area of men. At times I want to be independent and equal. At other times, I want a man that treats me special just because i am a/his girl. The other day my husband told me that when we first met, I wouldn’t let him hold the door open for me but that now I expect him to. I’m not sure what exactly happened, but I went from not wanting a man to treat me different than another man to loving being treated like a woman. In this way, my feminism stance tends to side with the “separate but equal” category. However, I often find that my views still conflict.

    I liked the quote about never getting enough of what you didn’t want in the first place. Finding exactly what someone wants in order to attain happiness is so tricky and all to often do I find myself attaining things and being let down at how unfulfilling they are. Like the article stated, society often tells us what to want when wants are such an individual and personal element. I know that I need to look into myself more in order to find what wants will fulfill me in the long run.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughtful assessment and sharing your personal struggle with these issues here, Amanda. Wanting another to care for us is something that seems to me to be beyond a sex-linked trait– and part of our belonging to community. You touch on the central issue of which part of our “wants” are part of our natural selves and which are manipulated by something outside ourselves–and not incidentally, destructive to our environment in creating consumerism. As another point, instead of measuring our wants by the standard of whether or not they are “feminist” in an undefined way, perhaps we might work to create a feminism that supports the society and lives that personally resonate with each of us.

  156. First: interesting approach to Mother’s Day.

    I think the reason a lot of people are depressed is due to not knowing that they want. Or they do know what they want (whether it is thanks to it being shoved in their face or not), but they lack the funds or means and can not acquire (or do not think they can) what they are hoping. It would not matter if someone had all the motivation in the world if, in their mind, their goal was impossible. Many folks are prone to think it’s impervious to try if there are a million obstacles and inner struggles standing in the way. This causes one to be sad.

    This article reminded me of eating disorders. Eating disorders are stemmed (sometimes) from image, along with the woes of life and the control someone wishes they could have in other parts of their well-being. Having everything shrieking “this is this” and “that is that” can make someone develop mental issues, causing an eating disorder.. Now, regarding self-image, this read really focuses on women. I just want to point out that women aren’t the only ones concerned about how they portray themselves!

    I’m personally not affected by the media in “what I want” but how I feel. It makes me second-guess myself occasionally and constantly being judged (you should wear this- but not this- but it has to be like this- but still not that!) can have an effect on your health. Either way, I don’t follow the trend. I want what I want, I’m independent, I don’t care what anyone thinks (usually). I do not need a big car, a large house and thirty kids; I want a moderately sized house on some land with enough room to do what I need to do, to be child-free and if I never had to drive again, I’d be all for it! Nonetheless, I will agree that society has influenced me in what I find to be more appealing — I may not have ever thought skinny is more attractive, or a certain hairstyle or car was better-looking if I’d never seen others praise it multiple times. Media also has a way with narcissism. In order to preserve this high and mighty image it tells you to have, you become self-centered and focused entirely on yourself. You never think to want anything for others. It’s too bad.

    Overall, it’s hard to know exactly what you want all the time. Your desires have the ability to change and society can certainly influence you. You can be selfless in your wants: clean water, fresh air. This could make you happy: you want this. It could make you sad: you can’t give it to everyone. Nevertheless, you have to discover yourself in order to figure out what you yearn.

    • Hi Jessica, I am glad you found this interesting. Good for you in rooting your own goals and sense of self in something deeper than what others think.
      Your connection between media manipulation and narcissism is a good one; ironic how those who focus on top or have a self-image based on how others see them are narcissistic.
      It is indeed hard to know precisely what all the time– takes a lifetime, I think, to find that out, but it is important to use your internal gyroscope to move toward those things that you and only you are meant to contribute to our world.

  157. Although I’ve taken several classes and read several pieces about the effects of the media on girls and women, I had never before seen that information presented in terms of their relationship with nature. This article brings up a unique perspective that, sadly, is completely true. Women are always under pressure to be, act, and look a certain way by the media and through popular culture, yet nowhere is it suggested that one of the things we should do is get closer to nature. It’s not listed between wearing the right clothes or having the right haircut or dating the right man. As the article points out in the beginning, children are always drawn to nature: watch them at the beach, in parks, or even chasing ants on the sidewalk. It’s such a normal human tendency to drawn into the natural world and to take part in what is such an important part of us, yet it is now just as common to shut down that inner voice that connects us and go looking for the next designer handbag or weightloss fad. Clearly, we need to rekindle our connections with the natural world; maybe then we can find what we’re so desperately looking for in material objects.

    • Thank for sharing a thoughtful take on these ideas, Adaline. I think “getting closer to nature” is a substantial way of empowering ourselves–as Maathai says in our latest post here, consumerism merely provides a short term distraction in place of finding what we really want–and how to fill the holes in our personal lives which, as you indicate here, a connection with the natural world might heal.

  158. Focusing inward allows our minds to get wraped up in things that do not matter: clothing, hair styles, electronics, having the next biggest- best thing. If we focus our thinking outward, it naturally leans toward being useful, helping those around us, being more conservative in our giving and in our taking.

    I have a daughter and I hope she never feels inclined to get caught up in trends, I can see already that she is much more than any name brand logo. Thank you for sharing this thought.

    • Great point about expanding ourselves outward instead of shrinking inward into self-absorption, Michael. As long as you look at your daughter and see how much more she is than any “name brand logo”, you give her a priceless gift.
      I also think there is a way of turning inward that is part and parcel of our authenticity– of being in touch with who we are and what we truly feel and think that is very different from such shrinking or ego-centered walls we build.

  159. Sometimes in our modern society I feel blessed that I am “poor.” By American standards, I’ve nearly always been poor, but my own standards I’ve rarely felt like I was. I have a sister who “escaped” poverty by marrying a man who takes very good care of her and their children. But she struggles (thankfully she puts true thought into this) every day with when to say “yes” and “no” to her children. She never has to say “no,” but because she realizes that saying “yes” to every whim is a detriment in the long run, she weighs the requests carefully.
    I, on the other hand, have never been burdened by the need to make those decisions. In raising my children and disciplining myself, I’ve never had to say “no” to a daily latte or ice cream because it’s not good to indulge this way (for a variety of reasons). I’ve simply never been able to afford to indulge. I wonder sometimes if I would have the will to say “no” simply because it’s the right thing to do (I have the sneaking suspicion that I would find it difficult).
    Perhaps this is part of the issues facing U.S. today. Most Americans, including myself, are actually pretty comfortable. Though my cupboards have been sparsely stocked at times and I’ve even been known to live in my car for a couple of months during the really trying moments, I’ve never gone truly hungry, or wanted for warm clothes for myself and my children. In other words, I’ve never known the poverty of “under-developed” nations, nor have most Americans. Because of this, we must learn to say “no” simply because it’s the right thing to do, we must learn self-discipline if there is to be plenty of everything you listed for future generations.

    • Thanks for sharing the insight deriving from your personal experience with respect to this issue, Neyssa. You have a great point: we have so much to be grateful for and even the poorest among us (that is not to say that any child among us should ever go hungry as so many currently do in the US) is better off than many peoples in other regions of the world. We have, as you aptly note, the ability–and responsibility– to say “no” to the material consumerist flood. Or perhaps to say “enough”?

  160. The story of the stalk of corn is a perfect example of people today. I know that I want clean air, good earth, a life of peace, no form of poison in my body, and I most definitely dont want to suffer. According to (WebMD), more than one in 20 Americans aged 12 and older are depressed.

    Of them, 80% report some level of functional impairment because of their illness, with 27% reporting that it is extremely difficult to work, get things done at home, or get along with others because of the symptoms of their depression.

    We live in a very dark age, its unforunate that the media can have such an impact on a young girls self esteem and happiness. My younger sister was the girly girl yet also a very talented athlete, she did cheerleading and many sports in High school. For a while I felt that pressure to be like her but at an early age I realized who I was and what I wanted from life. I no longer felt that pressure to be the person everyone else wanted me to be. I realized that to me “life” was important. All forms of life; insects, animals, nature etc..

    I grew up in a very Catholic family where going to church was not an option but a duty. So, later in my life a left all my unasnwered reliogious questions and feelings of not being good enough behind me. I now have a more buddhist view of the earth and I have never been more happy. This class has been helpful in opening my eyes to the many world beliefs.

    • Hi Kiley, I appreciate your take on the failing nature of our mental and physical health– though WEB md has some good points, it is not the most reliable place to find such stats. Where money is involved, there tend to be problems. Watch any site with “sponsoring products” Check out the websites on our links page under health for more objective info.
      There is a problem with disease creation (supported by pharmaceuticals) in contemporary society–it is not that many of us do not suffer from depression, but that setting stats up in this way sets the stage for selling drugs or vitamins. The same is true for largely non-diseases such as incontinence and menopause (which is a natural stage of life, not a “disease” to be corrected with hormones– though after research indicated the increased cancer risk with hormone therapy, doctors have backed off on this one).
      With all the material on the internet, it is important to develop a critical perspective. WEBmd is not up to peer-reviewed material or those sties run by non-profits (notice that if you google webmd, the first choice tells you of its stock options).
      Speaking, as you do, of “media” influence, there is the media influence of the web to which we might develop a critical response.
      Thanks for sharing something about your personal journey, challenges and choices: it is great that you are making authentic choices based on who you are! Congratulations.

  161. I want more chance to walk among the towering evergreens, to soar with the birds who fly among their branches, to have fun in the canopy with the squirrels, and to slowly, but surely make my way across a small patch of leaves in an hour with the snail. I want to spin a web with a spider and watch the dew drops form in the early morning stillness of a fresh spring day.

    I feel that being gay man is a blessing. In respect to what you wrote here, I think the female characteristics of joy and experimentation are alive and well in gay men. While it is easy to succumb to the ads and social stigma of body image, material wealth, and prestige, I believe we can go beyond that psychology. We have it within us to frolic in the woods and alight upon a delicate petal with the lady bug. We only need to look inside ourselves to that inner feminine child and be an example to others.

    • Thank you for sharing your own sense of the “inner feminine”, Dwayne. Some delightful images here– I would only add that the “feminine” is different in some cultures, which allow those in male bodies more nurturance: I am thinking, for instance, about African “male mothers”, relatives who mentor male initiates in terms of developing their emotions.
      In terms of such role constraints, I like what John Stoltenberg has said: there are as many “genders” (the social interpretation of biological sex) as there individuals in any given culture.

  162. I’ve learned lessons from my own daughter, she is so in touch with what she wants and how to be a good person. I look at her and remember what it felt like to be innocent. I feel like she was born with a natural empathy for people and animals, she wants love and for people to be good. I used to almost worry that she didn’t play with toys or want things. I never knew what to get her on holidays because she seemed so uninterested. I wised up after a while and, she played with her imagination, I signed her up for Children’s acting lessons, she said she wanted to be a singer and for Christmas a few voice lessons. My daughter is in the 5th grade now and not yet conforming to, but feeling the disapproval of others for not really caring yet if her outfits match and wanting still to be a good person rather than a “cool” person or a stereotypical girly girl. I have had to contact the school because she was being bullied on a daily basis by other girls, in the fifth grade? So much is demanded of these young girls, the Disney channel tells them how they should be dressing and acting. What they own, like cell phones or handheld devices, increases their status in their groups; and so much of who they are is dictated by what others think…many of these 10 year old kids are on social networking sites where others comment on what you do and what you post, and I can;’t help but think that these comments are the direction that kids are using to develop in our society. I hope as a mother I can help my daughter retain some of her natural self, in touch with this universe, and not replace it with what she thinks other people want from her.

    • It seems that now is the time to apply those lessons your daughter taught you–and the strength you spoke about in the previous comment as you stand by your daughter. It is sad indeed that girls once so open and vulnerable turn into bullies (it seems that those innocent and open girls turned bullies much once has been “innocent” themselves) — who bully those who are still open and vulnerable and not one of the crowd who follows media standards.
      I wish neither you nor your daughter had to go throw this– but in the end (as in your other comment) perhaps it will lend both of you strength and new authenticity (in your daughter’s case, as she learns more of who she is and finds well being in expressing this). I wish you all the best in this difficult time.

    • Awesome write up! Great courage and strength, I have a two year old little girl and I hope she has the strength to be who she really wants to be. I will work my hardest to instill all the strength that I can into her to be her own person and not follow whats cool, cool to me is being your own person. Good luck!

  163. While I read this, the back of my mind was replaying ads I’ve seen for larger vehicles, pricier computers, and outfits that would put me back a month on my rent. I won’t lie: I would like for my fiancé and I to own a house someday. Our goal is to find a space where we can live without fences and be as self-sustaining as possible. Fortunately, my family is just fine with that concept, although some of our friends are still waiting for us to “grow out of it” and go for something a little less “hippy-ish”.

    I was one of those girls who spent innumerable hours outside, and I was fortunate enough to grow up on the fringe of the city limits. None of our neighbors fenced the edges of their property, and I had several acres of lava hills to roam and play childish games with my imagination. I was a difficult child to ground, both because I grew up with very little in the way of electronics and because I was fairly well-behaved. My worst trespasses generally had something to do with staying outside too long without checking in, and that wasn’t something that my parents usually had the heart to really punish.

    Years ago, when I was extraordinarily self-conscious and thinking very little of myself because I wasn’t as slender as I thought I should be, I realized that I wished I could go back to feeling as carefree as I did when I was younger. My lack of self-esteem bothered my mother especially, because she never encouraged looks over happiness, and had a hard time understanding what I disliked so much about myself. I tried to follow my friends’ leads, but no amount of shopping or styling fixed my self-image, and I don’t even enjoy clothes shopping to begin with.

    In addition to my family’s constant support, I have to thank my fiancé for taking me back to being happier with less. The first time he came out to Oregon to visit, he went skipping down the beach. Yes, skipping, as a grown man. At first I was embarrassed, and I remember blushing furiously when he grabbed me and insisted that I skip with him. Somehow he understood how reserved I was about having fun, even if he didn’t understand why (not that I did, either). He has since helped me remarkably in re-affirming my confidence in myself, and I can look back at my attempts to buy and style my way to happiness as a learning experience.

    I agree whole-heartedly that the culture of purchasing goods for happiness is one that will often leave us wanting more, because what we buy isn’t usually what we need. If we could buy what we need, we wouldn’t be buying so very much, because we would know exactly what it was we were shopping for.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal story and the way it ties into that freedom and being in touch with oneself as a child that contemporary society (and especially the media consumerism) tries to supplant, Adrienne. How fortunate you are to have a support family and a fiance– of course, you did choose the man, so there was something inside you wanting out– or something you perhaps wished to reclaim in yourself all along!

  164. Wow, I wasn’t expecting this article to be as it is. I chose it because it was about knowing what I want. This is something I struggle with…sort of… like you, I want all these things that don’t make money; clean air, water and dirt. The freedom to live on and work rural and wild lands…and to be a mom. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I became one. Right after my son came into the world, my first thought was that I had an alien child, but once he nursed and had his bath and I made all the necessary phone calls, I remember thinking, ‘oh, this is what I was made for’ and for the first time in my life, I felt a genuine purpose. It was very grounding and totally unexpected. I was blessed with a son, which was a relief to me, because I have always been terrified by thought of raising a little girl in this society. I rebel against the beauty norm. I am trying really hard to grow old gracefully. But, I’m not going to lie, it hurts not too look like Barbie. I just can’t bring myself to go out and buy the products, the clothes, the glossy magazines…I guess because I know that, like the anorexic who can never be skinny enough, feeling beautiful comes within, not without. If Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra, who were so as genetically barbie as any human can be, felt the need to go under the knife…well, it’ll just never be enough. We speak about biodiversity, but what about diversity within the beauty standard? Women in magazines are becoming so mono-fied(?), I can hardly distinguish anyone. I remember loving seeing J Lo when she first appeared on stands, all latina and voluptuous, or Ashley Simpson, with her nose…and now, I can’t recognize Ashley Simpson at all, after all her surgeries, even with a caption and it always takes a second to recognize J Lo because she has become so anglo and generic looking. It’s just crazy. This manufactured world. But the natural world, it makes you feel whole.

    • Thanks for a lively and revealing comment, Amy. I dare say there are many mothers (the ones that truly treasure their children) that have gone through the transition you did. Breastfeeding and bonding seem pretty much intertwined.
      I like your responses about diversity of beauty standards– there is something wrong when you can’t tell anyone apart! I am also thinking we might expand this back to our food, for instance. Suppose every carrot was not supposed to be standardized to look like every other– or every apple blemish free. When I go to the Farmer’s Market, I actually look for blemishes in my applies, since that tells me they are not sprayed–and apples are subject to some of the most toxic spray regimes going.
      But how sad it is that you felt that way about raising a girl in this culture (good for your son, but sad for our cultural standards).
      But you and many on this forum are thinking and living in ways that might change that– and I am sure your son will have different models of women than the media provides with you for a mother.

  165. Ads are set up to make you feel less then normal, if a product can play on your emotions or your insecurities. Then you are more likely to purchase that product that just made you feel bad about yourself, you want to be just like that person in the add. I’m guilty of it at times, but I try to limit my inferiority. I like the quote “every thing alive has a purpose” we have a purpose, and living a good life with our imperfections is it!

    • Perceptive points, Wil– that will make the ad industry harder to convince of your insecurities. There is documentation from ad design meetings that boldly lay out the plans to instill this insecurity in audiences in order to sell things.

  166. Congrats on this article. I don’t think people realize how ads affect them. We swore off tv and radio broadcasts that carry ads about five years ago. We watch streaming video and online shows, we listen to cds or mp3 players, and watch dvds. As a result, our daughter has been “detoxed” of all the negativity. The whole family has. These days when I come into contact with commercials, I can’t believe what I see. People really fall for this stuff? I’m so sorry for them.

    • Congratulations on opting out of the commercial system, Shawn. I am glad it has taken daughter out of the “negativity” cycle. That is a priceless gift for her–and for you.

    • Good job on ditiching mass media like that. I still have tv though but mostly I wat the Discovery channel or Cooking channel. I get made fun of at work because I do not know pop culture references that are on the tv. I am ok with that though because when I talk about important stuff they just give me a blank stare. It is sad that people let themselves get sucked into mass control like that.

  167. If we compared our lives in the United States to much of the rest of the world, we would realize that we have to work very little for food, shelter, and water, let alone all the other things we think we need/want. This is not to deny that there are many people in this country that are struggling to obtain even the fundamental necessities for life, but for the most part, we have it pretty easy. I think that’s why we don’t know what we really want. We have so many things to choose from and so many opinions about what we need, we can no longer hear our inner voices.
    I keep a quote on my refrigerator that helps remind me that NOT getting everything I want is really at the core of my happiness:
    “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” – Bertrand Russell
    When we don’t always get what we want, it forces us to make choices about what will really make us happy. And when we have to work hard to get those things, we make better decisions and generally enjoy them more. Because we are such an over-indulgent society, my children have come to expect that even doing things that are required or should be done in an altruistic manner deserves some sort of compensation. This is not my value system, but they are hugely influenced by the greater culture in which we live, and it is something I must be aware of every day. I talk to my children about the intentions of others, whether it is a large corporation or a single person. Others’ intentions can sometimes blur our own, so we have become very conscious about knowing who we are and what we stand for. And we also have to know our own intentions lest we risk manipulating others in order to get what we want. This goes hand in hand with knowing that what we desire does not come from without but rather within. I have a daughter and two sons, and this is undeniably one of the most important lessons I can teach them.

    • Thanks for sharing this Bertrand Russell quote, Staci. I had not seen it, but as you indicate, there are many solid reasons why not getting everything we want is an asset in developing maturity–and certainly, what we don’t need to get is all the glittery stuff that ads hold out to us.
      Good point about being conscious of our intentions. I think this is a great conversation to have with your children.

    • I really liked how you note, “knowing that what we desire does not come from without but rather within”. I believe there are a few definitions for “want” and of course we always must separate between what we want and what we need. I think you hit the definition right on when you discuss the difference between wanting what advertisers tell us we want on an outward appearance and what we truly want when we look inside ourselves and question who we are and how we wish to live our short existence on this earth.

      I would argue, however, your comment, “we have to work very little for food, shelter, and water, let alone all the other things we think we need/want”. Of course it is all relative and based on our perspectives but, I believe, in America we do indeed work hard for our necessities. In an article by Roger Bybee he quotes Steven Greenhouse from the NY Times saying, “‘the average American worker clocked 1,804 hours of work in 2006,’ the highest in the world…That represents ‘three full-time weeks more per year than the average British workers, six more weeks than the average French worker, and nine more weeks than the average German worker’.” (http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/11570/the_new_bargain_in_the_us_long_hours_for_low_pay) To own and keep a home in America has gotten to be rather difficult and more people are having to work 2 to 3 jobs just to make ends meet. Many people, I included, live pay check to pay check, hoping to put some money aside for future rainy weather. But it is hard. In comparison to other countries a few things come easier yes: we have the ability to turn on a faucet. But many people live without heat in the winter time, many people rent a house for their entire life not having the means to buy a home of their own. We may not have to use dung to build a fire to cook on or have to walk a mile to get fresh water, but we may have to work a second job to pay for the water delivered to our house because our fresh water source is so polluted it is dangerous to our health. It’s just different and to work hard for something is all relative to the society in which a person lives. I do not think it fair to claim that “we have to work very little”.

      • You have an important point, Michelle. It is true that US workers work longer hours for less pay than European workers –and we have far fewer vacation hours, a later and less secure retirement age, and less access to health care–which is the most expensive of any developed nation.
        This condition is amplified by our unemployment and homeless statistics- and the growing span between the poor and rich in the US today. I did not mean to gloss over any of these important points.
        On the other hands, we work far less than do those in most developing countries–and we pay a far lower percentage of our salaries for food than do most developed or developing countries. And we pay a good deal for luxuries, like having big screen tvs, etc. Or for having two cars in a family (then again, we do not have public transport of most of the world).
        What I want to emphasize that most of what the media tries to sell us are things we don’t need (nor does our environment). The fact that so many work hard for the necessities and yet are besieged by such ads makes this situation all the more troubling–as if we aren’t providing properly for our children is we don’t get them the latest technological whatever.
        Thanks for your comment.

    • I understand you philosophies with the “over-indulgence” of our children. I had foster kids for years and worked with them to understand that their background did not entitle them to video games and televisions in their rooms. Instead I worked to instill the appreciation of a job well done and to work for what they wanted. Together we picked up trash along our section of the highway and we raised chickens. They would sell the eggs to the neighbors for spending money. Unfortunately, I was told by “the system” that denying them unlimited video games and uncensored television was “unacceptable in the modern society.” They thrived under my care, but when returned to the system I cannot say this continued. It’s a sad fact of reality, but the intentions of others can destroy children.

      • I can only hope that your experience with these children planted a seed about something you could give them other than video games– that they may well understand in the years to come.

  168. The idea that we think we are what we own is sad, but I think it’s kind of true. Whether you are a little kid or an adult a lot of times it’s about what toy you have, what kind of car you drive, how big your house is… I can remember when I was around puberty and all of the sudden I was very concerned with how I appeared. This feeling has gone up and down as I have gotten older, but it’s never been the same as when I was a kid. You can tell yourself appearance doesn’t matter, but there still seems to be a little voice in the back of your head that says it matters a little. I think that appearance seems to represent more of your views in life and what you value. When it high school maybe it was about having brand name jeans, now it’s more like ‘I drive a Prius’, and when I’m in my 60’s it may be dying my hair to hide grays (although I highly doubt I’ll do that).
    I also like the idea of how she wants more ‘clean water, fresh air, contact with a live natural world…’. Christmas just ended and there always seems to be someone asking what you want for Christmas. A lot of times I say I don’t really need anything or can’t think of anything. But really what I want is more free time, time to get out and travel and see the natural world, more time to take backpacking trips in the summer. I think that traveling and adventure has maybe become my appearance. I guess that it is still a kind of consumerism, buying plane tickets, putting gas in the car, but I’m not sure if it is the same as buying wrinkle cream.

    • It is true that we “own” land according the property laws of this nation–and sometimes this gives us the power to conserve it, as the Nature Conservancy does when it buys up land to gain the power to protect it.
      We live in an image-driven culture– exaggerated by our media– but I don’t think that is the way it has to be, and perhaps we can all understand this as we reach maturity (I also wish we could save all those coming to woman or manhood from suffering as a result of this emphasis).
      That is not to say that we do not each want to be attractive in some way– or to express our personal uniqueness.
      As for gray hair, you may be interested to know that advertisers have more than once threatened to pull ads from “women’s magazines” that feature any articles on positive acceptance of aging!
      I think we must evaluate all the things we buy and use– planes are among the worst ways to travel in terms of carbon loading in the atmosphere (and global climate change).
      Important to think about all these things– thanks for your comment.

      • That’s just crazy that advertisers threaten to pull adds from magazines that promote positive acceptance of aging! It should be the other way around, magazines should refuse to accept adds when promoting acceptance of aging.

    • M. Erkel,
      I so know what you mean, I remember as a child falsifying my lute from Santa so I could fit in with my peers. The first steps to change may certainly include minimizing a materialistic world, however, even more importantly, we must strive to respect one another and our differences and be more accepting of who we are as individuals. For example, we are so quick to judge the new employee driving up in the beat up 1980 Datsun 510 and eager to greet the person driving up in the brand new car with the lot sticker still in the window. We impatiently judge the obese woman strolling to Burger King in her electric wheel chair, or the developmentally disabled volunteer employee at the office, or the slow driving elderly man on the highway to work. We must learn to respect and accept eachother without regard to size, color, abilities. We can sit and blame our lacking society stricken with consumerism, materialism, etc. in this fast paced working world, but the reality is we mostly lack treating others with dignity and respect. This same lack of dignity and respect flows to our habitation and ecosystem. No wonder so many live in fear rather than confidence and lack self-esteem. We can’t seem to measure up to everyone else’s expectations of what society has determined acceptable. We are the society. It begins with me, it begins with you… I so long for the peaceful hike into the wilderness where the beauty of creation can be soaked in and enjoyed, yet that is the first thing to be put on the back burner for the college degree that will get me in with my coworkers or that long, southt after raise. I guess individually we have to make up our minds what is important to us in each given moment. Wow, what a reality check. Thank for letting me share.

      • Thanks for the reminder not only about acceptance of others– but of ourselves and the aches in our spirits to do something other than keep our nose to the grindstone. It would be a strange thing if a class on the environment kept you from ever experiencing it!

  169. This article is an amazing reminder to consider what we really want. I work with girls who struggle every day to understand who they are and who they want to be. The majority of those struggles come from outside influences about what society deems acceptable. These influences have often times influenced what their own parents think they ought to look like, act like, or be.

    In discussing Freud declaring women masochistic and the philosopher Aristotle’s idea that women need to be attached to a man to become virtuous as the beginnings of creating oppression for women and others for that matter, can be enlightening when attempting to recognize who we are as humans, man or woman, and discovering what we really want without the influence of outside views that skew our own desires for self improvement, goals, dreams, abilities, etc.

    I too believe that understanding our own innate purpose and belonging is imperative for each human. Our beauty can be defined by the beautiful creations we are internally instead of modern media. It is falsely portrayed which can be seen in Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty at dailymotion.com in a short clip about the graphics that go into creating that Cover Girl look on a model.

    I love the stock of corn story too. We are stuck in a cave, dark and caged waiting to be rejoined to earthly life again. I can identify with this from being consumed by the busy hustle and bustle of work and school, always working towards something greater and never a moment to enjoy the beauty around me let alone discover my own beauty.

    • It is wonderful that you are working to challenge such ideas and side with the girls who are struggling under the burden of our media and general cultural images, Liz. It is also very sad that these girls have to struggle their way into womanhood– instead of being honored as they move into a circle of women who can protect and respect them. I hope we are getting there–and you are part of that circle in your work.
      I would hope that giving young women perspective in terms of their culture might help!
      I love your elaboration of Linda Hogan’s story of the stalk of corn that must nurture itself in its dark cave!

    • Elizabeth,
      While reading your post I thought of a line from an Ani Difranco song that I really like, “I don’t take good pictures because I have the kind of beauty that moves.” I too struggle sometime with being in the moment and enjoying where I am and the beauty around me instead of constantly thinking of the next place I am going to go or what else I need to get done. Thanks for sharing.

  170. This article was such a needed wake-up call today, as I was falling prey to the “student script” in which all can be sacrificed in order to become/remain the “good” student.

    I particularly loved your mention of Jean Kilbourne, whose “Killing us Softly” documentaries have rocked my world. When we (the Women’s Center staff) brought her to campus last year, her presentation worked to explain how advertising supported the mass distribution of sexual scripts, the boxes within which we (as women) should reside. The way the advertising was described in that presentation and in this article, I want to expand the idiom from ‘sex sells’ to ‘suffering sells’. The beauty myth that dominates the industry is unreachable: no one can be that photoshopped, that thin, that healthy and that happy all at the same time. For someone like me, whose body is radically different than America’s “beauty ideal”, fulfillment of this standard is impossible. Yet, advertising tells me (and so many other women) that success and happiness awaits if only I buy this, eat that or join something, I can overcome the fact that I’m not that ideal. In this way, it capitalizes on suffering, targets those who do not fit in [read: almost all of us].

    There was a section of the article I questioned about ads: “ads shout ‘more’ to us—telling us how much we need more food”. Perhaps I am simply more aware of weight-loss ads as a person of size, but most often the ads that I see that target women’s bodies are shouting ‘less food’, more exercise, more policing of your body.

    As a woman of size, I have struggled often with the societal standard of equating my self-esteem with my image. I have so often been told that since I’m not pretty, I’d better be smart (but not too smart)! I really loved your relation of this strange and unfortunate standard to Freud’s assertion that women must be masochistic, because surely, anyone who has lived with such constant bombardment of their need to better themselves through materialistic gain would agree with that assertion!

    I too hope that one day, we can all be as bright as those girls you described, “feisty, as full of joy and experimentation as they are full of themselves”.

    • Thank you for your touching and insightful personal response, Anna. In terms of weight loss ads– so true that media catches us in a bitter circle in which weight loss is hyped at the same time that more and more junk food is also pushed. In Pollan’s the Omnivore’s Dilemma, he indicates how this idea of “value added” (convenience and processed and re–packaged) food was a boon to corporations who were stuck on the issue of how to get people to consume more food (which otherwise seemed a rather limited proposition).
      In terms of women of size, contemporary research indicates several things: that we are born with particular body sizes (not a matter of “discipline” to get down to a certain weight), that diets actually exaggerate weight gain (the Famine Within is a great documentary that makes this point, still timely even though it was made in the 80s); and now, that particular toxic chemicals in the environment act as “obesegens”, from exposures as early as in the womb. There is certainly and tragically a large amount of blaming the victim going on with respect to women of size. Thanks for bringing up this issue for us.
      Must have been wonderful to hear Jeanne Kilbourne in person– I miss much because I live some distance from campus. It is tragic fitting point that “suffering sells”, from trumped up diseases to the media moguls in the 1920s who got together (documented in Stuart Ewen’s work) to work on ads that worked to undermine the happiness and security of audiences in order to sell things.
      I look forward to that wonderful day, as well– perhaps girls whom we support in honoring these traits can help us to reclaim them in ourselves.

    • Wow Anna, very touching. I loved your comments here. I too have struggled my whole life being a woman of size. I have always been larger than my two sisters. My father even nicknamed me “lead-butt” as a child. Today I still stuggle with my own insecurities but have come to know myself for all the OTHER qualities I have. Those of us who gained strong shoulders from being ridiculed as children have a better sense of empathy for kids who struggle today with similar issues. Your insight here is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

      • You seem to have met these challenges and grown for it, Elizabeth. I would hope you not only see yourself for your OTHER qualities, but come to enjoy and appreciate the strength and health of your body and its connection to the natural world as well.

      • Elizabeth,
        I’m with you in having learned coping by appreciating other qualities. Only recently I have expanded my feminist (and often radical) activism by joining the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement and Fat Activism. These have helped me relearn how to love and appreciate my body just as it is! While I don’t fit societal standards/norms, my body has, as Dr. Holden put it, strength, health and a connection to the natural world. I think hiking has really helped me to remember this and embrace all of the things my rocking body can do! 🙂

        • Wonderful, Anna. Thanks for sharing your personal successes with all of us. Knowing about these resources as well as your personal story helps many of us.

  171. My oldest daughter is now 12-1/2 years old, and she is in seventh grade. It’s amazing how unhappy she has become with her body lately, and it makes me so sad. She’s very tall (5’9″ and growing), and she’s very thin (to the point where her friends ask her if she’s anorexic–she’s not, it’s purely genetic), but she berates herself for being “fat.” I’m not sure where she gets this feeling, since she is almost as thin as those supermodels that look like walking “stick figure” drawings. I try to keep her from looking at fashion magazines, even those geared towards girls her age, simply because I think that they are vapid and too materialistic for her to read. Unfortunately, many of her friends read those magazines, and my daughter does want to fit in with her peers. I’m guessing that a large part of my daughter’s self-esteem problem is related to her classmates at school. I can see some of those girls using the word “fat” as a means to bully someone, and I would not be surprised if those same girls are being told the same thing by their own families. All I can do is encourage my girl to love herself for who she is, and to let her know that what’s inside is what is most important.

    • I am sorry that your daughter is suffering in this way–being never thin enough is something the media drills into too many young women– the new “size zero” clothing size does not help either.
      You are certainly right about the influence of peers. You have my sympathy and I think you cannot give your daughter anything more valuable than the encouragement you state. Good luck during this difficult period. Your daughter is fortunate to have your as her mother!

      • It’s hard for me to relate, because when I was her age, all I cared about was finding jeans that were long enough for me (I’m 6’1″ tall, so it was definitely a problem). I make sure that she never gets teased for her pants being too short, but it seems like society has changed for the worst in the past 30+ years. She’s only a size 3! She should NOT be worried about her weight, especially not as a middle school student. Thank you for your support. I am doing the best I can to raise her to be strong and confident and happy, but there are days when it feels like the entire world is trying to bring her down.

        • I think one of the saddest things for a mother is to see your child being hurt by others and not be able to fix this! But it seems you are working to give her the tools to deal with this from inside herself (a hard lesson for sure).

  172. When reading this the first thing that came to mind is my children and how society today has them wanting everything. It also made me think how much I have contributed to it. I grew up with a father that would give the shirt off his back to who ever needed it. In turn I have become the same way but there is a good portion of the time that I give my kids things they don’t need just because I love to see them happy. It has become a new goal of mine that I stop doing this. Instead of giving in every time they want something I would like instead to start doing some of the charities that I did growing up with my father, to give them a better view of the world. I want them to better understand that their is more out there than just themselves and have material things.
    The other thing that came to mind is actually something I just saw online today. There was a man that decided that some ads he had seen on TV of woman just looked to fake so he decided to do a spoof for You Tube about how ads for makeup and hair are Photoshopped. It was amazing what you can do with this technology. I knew that they tend to airbrush some pics of models to clean them up a bit but he could actually take a picture of a older woman and make her look young and beautiful again. It was in many ways sickening. This is one of the biggest reason for eating disorders in young woman and teenage girls. They see these ads and think that is what beauty is but that isn’t real. It is what someones idea of beauty is not what actually woman look like. I am glad to see that this is coming more to light. Perhaps girls will start to love themselves for who they are.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal journey with respect to what you give your gives, Adina. Certainly each of us who are parents feel the joy of giving to our kids and making them happy. The issue is what we give to them (as you indicate) to satisfy them. Fun as it is to give them new “toys” or other indulgences, the best thing we can give them is our presence– something each of us, including myself, can work on.
      Sharing your values in the way you are doing (and the way your father did) is a priceless gift for them as well).
      It is a great hope indeed that our girls will start to “love themselves for who they are” as they understand just how fake these media images are.

  173. Maybe because I grew up in a family that couldn’t afford extas even if we wanted it, I have never really been affected by advertising. My desires sometimes were affected by what others around me had. When I was growing up in the 60’s I wanted a cool car like a lot of my friends but I was very happy with my first car, a 1956 Chevy four door sedan that I bought for $50 from the local school district that had bought it from Army surplus. I thought it was cool because it had the gas tank behind the tail light. By the time I became a full fledged working adult I never wanted “things” even when I could afford them because I could never have what I really wanted. I started learning about the environment in my mid 20’s and from then on I’ve never wanted anything but to be able to have a piece of land where I could be more self reliant with some extra that I could share with others and to have a world around me that people loved and cared for, to have peace for all who live.
    Anyway, I believe a lot of the blame lies directly with parents who grwe up being so heavily influenced by all this advertising and wanting “more of what (they) didn’t want in the first place”, never really knowing what it was they wanted because maybe it is natural, but so deeply buried in us, to want what is best for the world around us. It seems that most of the people who did “know” what they wanted were the ones that wanted everything.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal perspective here, William– and the ways in which you were influenced by your peers. I am not quite clear on why you stopped wanting things because you could not have what you really wanted– because you realize those things would not fulfill you? Or am I missing your point?
      I appreciate your personal goal, though I am not sure that those who consume the most know what they really want– since all that consumption has not made us a very happy nation. By contrast, the country of Bhutan (a Buddhist country) has declared a goal of “gross national happiness” and protects its environment stringently.

      • What I meant by not wanting “things” was (im)material possessions. What I meant by not being able to have what I really wanted was that having a piece of land on which to be more self reliant, to have extra to share with others, and to have a world around me that people loved and cared for was somewhat unrealistic. I’ve been told by many loggers that they just love to be able to be out in the woods to do their job and they are just out there destroying it all. We like to go for drives out in the country and we get out there and the people have turned their own little part of heaven into a junkyard. We take our dogs for walks out on the logging roads and find that people would rather dump their trash there than to pay a lousy $11 or just try to squeeze it into their garbage can.
        Not to mention the hunters who dump the carcasses of their kill. Well, I guess I did mention it.

        • Thanks for the follow up. I appreciate your clarification about your own stance. I do prefer discussions that entail what we can do and or change in ourselves rather than those that focus on what other individuals do wrong (though I can understand your frustration in this).
          I do also think it is important to develop critical perspective on the social or worldview context that encourages one type of action rather than the other.

  174. I always wonder what I really need, and I find myself identifying myself with what I wear and what I do with the things I buy. For example, I try to keep myself active in the outdoors and my community, because of this I buy things that help me look and feel the part. I believe I do this because I do not feel that I fit the part of an outdoor active person and I must prove it by buying things that make it seem like I know what I am doing. I am 5’7″ and 195 pounds, a size 12. I climb, hike, explore, and live, but yet I still feel that I have to show that I am worthy of my life through what other people see on my body.

    I don’t believe that my parents have much to do with my need for “stuff” because they are frugal people and tried to teach the art of frugality to their children. I do believe though that the pressure that this article is describing comes from the community and other outside pressures. No matter how loved I am by my parents, I will always be striving for the acceptance of the community and a sense of belonging through the stigmas placed upon my areas of interest.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience with this issue, Elizabeth. It sounds like you have a strong and healthy body. Though I don’t do it enough (or even often), I like to think of ways to thank my body for the gift of life it gives me daily.

  175. This is all very interesting to me. The article, and a few of my classmates responses. This all goes to show how each of as are very similar but very different as well.

    I am oblivious most of the time to the ads places in front of me; not very often am I thankful for being overwhelmed by tasks I have taken on; but in this case I am. Having to focus on doing things that make a difference in my community is much better than fretting over my looks, although I am human, and I do do this from time to time. 🙂

    I am also a parent of 3 children, and my oldest child is in public school and lives part time with his father and step mother who is quit different from myself in the materialistic part of life. My son definatly looks good when he’s out and about, but I have been able to teach him to see within others; he is the kid that you see playing and be-friending the other kids who normally don’t have playmates and friends.

    I, like you Professor Holden want many great things for mothers day. Good health, clean water, peace of mind, etc. And I plan to work each day of my life for all these things, for myself, my children and those around me.

    • Thanks for sharing your profound personal goal and glimpses of a son with whom you have obviously shared important gifts, Danielle!

    • Hi Danielle,
      I am happy to hear that you were able to teach your son to see within others. I believe that it is very important for parents to teach their kids that beauty is on the inside, and to be their own person. It pains me to see parents who teach their kids that looks and money are the things that are important. Also, I like to hear about children playing with other kids that may not have as many friends. What a great person!

  176. It’s terribly sad to see that the media has given more reasons for young girls to have low self esteem and confidence. Not only the media, but many of power leaders in the past which has basically brain washed most women into believing they are worth less than they really are. We live in a society where men dominate and are the leaders. It’s obvious that women have made substantial success and progress and are continuing to do so which makes me as a woman very proud. I totally agree with the statement, “we don’t need less- we need less of the things that destroy our self esteem” because it is very true. We need more love and acceptance rather than more reasons to be self conscious.

    • Hi Shaylene, it is important to remember that, as you point out, women have won some victories– and worked very hard for these. It saddens me that young girls becoming women are facing more challenges from the media, in some ways, than I did growing up some decades back. I hope that all woman and men can join to change this for the sake of all our young people. Thanks for your care here.

    • Hi Shaylene,

      Good post!

      It is indeed too bad that young girls give the media so much power over their self esteem, and we, as mothers can only educate, educate, educate. I find that keeping them busy with things they are good at–for example, science, drawing, music, etc and away from media helps a lot.

      I wish we, as women, would stop trying to be “equal” or “equivalent” to men. We are different…and that’s OK. Men and women are never going to be equal, because men are so much stronger physically than women. Let’s put our energies into where our strengths lie.

  177. “…when we have a clear conversation with our own desires, we may find we want more.” I would add that more could be less in a physical sense. I think this is the most important quote in this essay, man or woman. Most often when you ask a young person about their deepest desires, they say, “To be rich.”—but they don’t know what that means. I always dig further and ask them what “rich” means to them. All throughout our lives, we put things off in with the idea that we will do it when we are rich, with rich meaning financial. Male or female, when I ask them how they plan to become financially “rich”—they usually don’t have a plan.
    Recently, I asked my own husband if he thought we were rich since we are now in our 50’s with no children at home. He answered, “No…of course not.” I then asked him when we will be and he looked at me like I had three eyes.
    “Give me a number,” I said. He rolled his eyes.
    “OK, what if we use the number we have now? What if we decide we have enough stuff? How does that effect how we plan the future?” He smiled.
    Ever since we had this conversation, we really have changed what we want. We have enough stuff, now we want health for our family…and that does mean working towards our next phase of being rich– a healthy environment for future generations.

    • Wonderful, Bev. And check out our current “quote of the week” for what Kerala accomplishes with the meager income of its people.

    • good point!! I do not really know what the actual meaning of ” to be rich”. I never think about it. Each person have own value so we cannot decide what would satisfy to be rich. Of course, if people have advantage on financial we can call it as “rich”. I might need to think more about what kind of “rich” person I want to be.

  178. The media blitz is all too real. A cartoon I recently worked on, one that will remain nameless due to my company and the title has not been released yet as of this writing, pokes fun at this type of fast paced world. Each episode is 23 minutes long but is broken up into two different episodes 11 minutes long. In that time there is enough information and dialogue to cover a 25 minute episode. The show is so fast and so hard to keep up with by the time I was finished with it, everything else was slow to me. It took me about a month to get used to normal pace again. This is a real problem with kids today they want more and more and are too attention deficit to know what they really want without someone telling them. People need to slow down a bit and look around them and know what they want out of life before acting.

    • This pacing is a serious problem indeed: when I told stories in the classroom, I could readily tell those who watched a lot of TV, as opposed to those who had heard many stories in their lives, since the former were seriously handicapped in being able to bring their attention and awareness to listening to the world around them. The good news is that as I told more and more stories in one classroom, the ability to pay attention on the part of these kids increased.

  179. It really is sad that the media has created reasons for girls to have low self confidence. As I fought through my middle school and early high school years I was one of these girls. Every day I felt like I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough or even skinny enough ( I was always the scrawny girl). I thought that I needed to look like all the women in magazines and on television. At some point in high school I realized that I actually wanted to be like none of these women, I just wanted to be myself.

    After this realization I have made much progress. Not only do I actively fight looking like these models I also continually monitor buying things to look “cool”, though sometime I catch myself thinking I want one of those like that person. I try to make practical choices about vehicles, clothes, electronics and ect. Having things to have things or things having expensive things to show how much money one has is despicable to me. I know that sometimes my unwillingness to buy, wear or say the right thing makes some people think that I am “weird”; however I know what makes me happy. Instead of spending my hard earned money on things to have things, I can spend my money taking art classes, dance classes and becoming an educated well rounded individual.

    • Thanks for sharing the story of your own realization honoring yourself, Alicia. I am thinking of an Oscar Wilde quote: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken!” (sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of humor– I have been at the computer too long– but there is also some truth here).
      If weird is personal authenticity, than I say we need more of it.

  180. I find it amazing that here in America many people do not know what they really want for themselves in this life. A few years ago in an acting class a person could get up and do an “anger/rage” workout so easily (a stream of consciousness exercise where you exclaim: “I am angry about…”, “I hate…”, etc.and allow the truth in the emotions to follow the words) but then you ask them to do a “want/need” workout and the person stands there dumbfounded, they are incapable of doing the exercise because they are incapable of putting to words what it is they truly want for themselves (and not material object wants but real wants for themselves and the world around them).

    Yet, yesterday I found myself watching a Ted talk by Jonathan Harris (http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_harris_collects_stories.html), where he went to Bhutan to find stories. He went around and asked people how happy they were, on a scale of 1 to 10, then would blow up that many balloons and ask them to hold them. In the interview of their life stories he would ask them for a wish…what it is they want. The wants of people who have nothing, who know who they are and what they want for the rest of their life is inspiring. It made me think about my own wants and understanding of who I am within this world. Three years ago I stepped out from the known life that I had been leading and thought I wanted; removed myself of the media and the material objects that tell me what I want and into a journey where everyday I am exploring my emotional and creative needs. To offer this to myself has been empowering and slowly I have been learning what it is I want.

    • Sounds like a great TED talk, Michelle. Thanks for sharing the link– there is a link to another video on Bhutan and their government geared to developing the “Gross National Happiness Quotient” on our links page.
      Gives some perspective on our consumer choices in industrial society.

  181. This article reminds me of material that I read for “Woman Study 223”. It is very true that young girls become sex objects at such young age. However, I do not think the movement occurred recently. Actually, this movement has been going for more than one century. In the recent feminist movement, I think they forget men and women are originally not equal and women. They lost their purpose and each gender has own purpose, so we cannot compare each other. It is actually hard to tell how we can become equal because we are not equal, even each men have different thought (maybe women too).

    • Thanks for sharing this perspective. My experience is that there is much more media pressure on young women today than there was when I was growing up. And actually, many indigenous societies practice an egalitarian and reciprocal partnership between men and women.
      And I don’t think we want to confused identity with equality– I wouldn’t want to live in a world in which we thought everyone should be identical. Being equal is something else again–as in equal pay for equal work. Moreover, I think we should not confuse gender (how a society develops roles for men and women) as biology (men and women’s “nature”)– there are just too many variants on male and female roles throughout world cultures to make such a statement.

  182. Some women do hold their self esteem based on inner feelings but the majority in America would link self esteem with appearance. Maybe it is because our culture has led women to think this way probably the media outlets which give us a standard of what one should look like. Does any other species on planet Earth look significantly different then one another? The answer is no. Only humans look so different from one another. Other species can appeal to one another from colors or movements but we are able to use expression and judgment in our process.

    • Media defiantly play apart in which people think they should look like. You mentioning other species looking different in some ways yes. Many species pick their mates by choosing a mate that is more attractive either by being more colorful, being the alpha male, or actions such as dance or sounds. Media suggest what beauty is and people buy into it, getting surgery to be more attractive for a mate.

  183. Just to comment on the last paragraph
    The Earth wants cleaner water and cleaner air? Everything that happens on the Earth comes from the Earth. Does mother nature not have the ability to clean and take care of itself? Why would it allow a species to evolve as we did without having the ability to sustain them? Humans are not completely from Earth and until this is widely accepted, questions like these will never be answered.

  184. Finally, In a few of my past post that exactly what I have suggested. I like the phase gluttonous consumer, We need less of those things that give us no real satisfaction, and destroy our environment. Everyone is just worried about the instant gratification.

  185. Why do we focus so much on what we want instead of what we need? If anyone is anything like me and have done something called college pro that feeds on young students like I once was desire to get out of college debt free and end up in a position much worse than having ever done the program. Well, then you’ll understand my dry humor with the company. My point, however, is about the idea of money and graduating without being in debt with student loans. Why does that matter? And while we are on the subject of school, why must we go to school in the first place? Why is the degree so important to our society? Do we really need school to survive? Of course, being a student in college I am conflicted by what my answer is. One one hand, college helps us to understand the world around us and gives us grounds for why we need to protect keystone species. At the same time, going to school is also about a major incentive to earn more money and become “richer” when you graduate. Going to school is also about acquire the richness of status. Is this really necessary or it is simply a desire? I am not so sure. However, I am sure that it is not without education that we have created websites like this that allow us to think about the differences between a need and a want that leans me more toward education being a dire need in our society. Only if, that education is not only used for the incentive of money, but true knowledge.

  186. Being a mother of a daughter is a difficult and rewarding job, but today we as mothers and daughters are being threatened by the very things we desire most because we are still not allowed to fully make these decision for ourselves. Women are told they need this or that THING to be acceptable in society, but when they get that thing or become the person that values only material possessions, they find they are left hollow inside. what they really seek is worthiness as a person not just a object of desire. The idea that we socialize our young girls to believe they are not worthy unless they find a man to take care of them fosters the idea that women are not able to care for themselves. If that is the situation then why are women the caretakers of the future( the children) It has always amazed me how the patriarchal society controls women and feeds them with false ideas of happiness to keep them complacent and yet they intrust us with the care of their offspring, the most important job.
    As for the media and their role in the individual conception of ones self, it has twisted the needs to survive, replacing them with the wants as being more important to self image. They tell use that those wants are now needs convincing women they are less of a person without these things. When young girls spend so much time on their appearances they forget about the needs of education, personal relationships and individuality. By fostering those false qualities shown in media, we will end up with a society of selfish, spoiled citizens. Why can’t the media show how real women look and act in daily life as a model for others. Young people need real role models to aspire to not just an image.

    • Hi Mary Ellen, you have a profound point regarding our being threatened by what we desire when we don’t have the power of choice regarding these desirables.
      You perceive one of the many ironies and irrationalities in a society that oppresses women and yet leaves them in charge of the young– that irony is of course ameliorated if the society does care all that much for future generations either.
      And yes, as you note, so many media-conceived “needs” are manufactured for the sake of profit and once again, the full personal choice of the buyer is a bit of an illusion.
      I agree that we need better models and that the results of a society in which we determine our personal value by what we can purchase are negative in many important ways.
      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. It sounds like your consciousness gives you an edge in the difficult challenge of being the mother of a daughter today.

      • Thank you for the kind words of affirmation. It is the greatest challenge today to raise a girl with a conscious of her own that is not in some manner altered by the media. If they would be more realistic in their portrayal then maybe we can start to allow young women to form their own concepts of beauty, hopefully from within and not on the outside.

    • Mary ellen- I have also thought about the important role of mothering and how women, throughout time, have colluded in their own oppression- and the perpetuation of a culture that does not value life. Extreme examples are foot binding and genital mutilation- where women are actually the ones doing this to their own children or grandchildren. I wonder how women in these cultures could ever stand together to take on those in power and demand change, after being so betrayed. Yet, other examples would be women entering their young daughters in beauty pageants. And somehow, we still raise young men who will go off and fight in a war, or kill someone in a rival gang. Maybe if mothers (and I am one too- so am not pointing my finger at anyone else) stayed conscious of the powerful role we have in raising children and a generation, we could change the world.

      Peace, Jen

      • On the other hand, my collection of oral history told of situations in which oppressed mothers manage to communicate power and hope to their daughters against all odds.

    • I agree wholeheartedly about the influence the media has in our society. We as individuals, and our culture as a whole, give the media far too much control over how we act, look, and who we are. We need to be able to foster our own identities free from the media’s influence and scrutiny. Unfortunately, we do this to ourselves much of the time. We are all too quick to share everything about ourselves and our lives on social networking sites, and giving the entire world access to our lives. If we want our young girls to grow up strong and independent with positive self-worth, than we need to get them away from so much media involvement and quit allowing them to broadcast every aspect of their lives online for the world to see and comment on. These girls need love and support, which is rarely available from mass media and social networking sites.

  187. My 4 year old daughter Phoebe taught me a very important lesson about 6 months ago and it relates quite well with this article. We watch a cartoon called “Angelina Ballerina” and my daughter started doing her form of ballet in the living room. I asked her if she was dancing like Angelina, she said in an offended tone, “no, I’m dancing like Phoebe.”
    It was so simple for her to be herself, and want to be herself, and not have that linked to someone else. In fact, it made her upset to think that she was acting like someone else.
    So, when does this appreciation of self-image disappear and change into a need to conform to social “norms”? Why are children developing a thought that “self esteem is coincident with their image”? Where are the parents, people, educators, and organizations, that should be encouraging our children to be unique?
    My lesson was to appreciate her unique qualities and encourage her to be confident with her decisions in maintaining happiness because of who she is on her own.
    I know what I want for her. And, it will be important for me to teach her what she wants for her self.

    • What a wise and self-possessed response from your daughter who was “dancing like Phoebe”, Rebecca. How “simple” is is for her to be herself must certainly be linked to your mothering.
      This also exemplifies what the authors of the Mother Daughter Revolution have observed. It is sad to see any of our young girls grow into women who leave this sense of self behind– it is great that you are alert to honoring her personal voice as she grows.

  188. This article really made me think about how girls and women change throughout their lives and what leads to that change. It seems easy today to blame many of the problems women have on men, but in my experience other women can be more cruel and devastating toward our own self-worth than men are. Women can have such a strong effect on other women, both positive and negative, and this starts with our mothers. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother who has always been an inspiration and supportive of my choices and decisions, but I have known many other women and girls who are not so lucky. Having a strong female role model in our lives affects us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine and the same is true of female friends and co-workers. Women need other women to be our champions and advocates, not judge our appearances and every word we speak and demean us. In my opinion, while having the support of men is important in our lives, having this same support from close women is even more so.

    • Good point about women’s need for other women to be “their champions and advocates”– as your own mother has done for you. This is the idea behind the concept of “gender ground” we will be looking at a bit later in this class.
      I also prefer NOT to blame either men or women for the current problems we have–but to hold them responsible for the effects of their actions instead. And then to make an analysis of the cultural and historical and economic contexts that support some kinds of actions rather than others.

  189. As I read this article I thought of my position as a single mother and the difficulties I face in raising my children alone. At times, I feel “less than” or as if I am being judged as lacking that important peice of my life. Society and media portray lives involving a partner as being happy, loving, passionate and whole. This is definitely not always the case, but I still occasionally find myself “missing something”. When I spend time with single women, the conversation regarding relationships or men tends to become quite negative. There are many women who have been deeply hurt by failed relationships and it can lead to a sense of vengefulness towards the opposite sex. I tend to prefer spending down time with my friends who choose to be positive, strong, independent and hopeful as this creates a place of peace within ourselves.

    • Thanks for sharing this about yourself. As I mentioned in my post, I’m not a mother myself, but I can imagine the pressure that is placed on single mothers by the media and just society in general. Looking and thinking about all the shows I see on TV, the ones with characters that are portrayed to be happiest, or like you said most “whole,” are the ones who have spouses or partners of some sort, and I know for some women that is just not the case. It’s nice what you said about spending time with friends who add peace and hope to your life when it seems that most other elements of society are failing to do so in many ways.

      • We may not all be mothers, but we are all the children of mothers– and should have some care for the generations to follow us as well. Friends of the type you both mention here are essential contributors to our well being, from my perspective.
        For what it’s worth, I saw a psychological survey some years back that found the two happiest groups of individuals in our society were married men and unmarried women.

    • Thanks for sharing this take on your personal situation, Janae. The experience of hurt can certainly lead to defensiveness– which may a necessary form of self-protection for some women– at least in the short term. It is sad that instead of getting additional support from society for the essential task you are engaged in you feel judged as “less than” because you are a single mom.

  190. This was really powerful. I’m not a mother, but the first thought you wrote about wanting your kids to have what they want spoke so much to me because I thought of my mom and my relationship with her. It seems to be very applicable to your statement. She lives very far away from me so the only contact we have except for summer and Christmas time is over the phone, and all she has to say besides how proud she is of me and how much she loves me is that she wants what I want. I know I probably have no idea because I don’t have a daughter of my own, but I would imagine all mothers can relate in that way, so thanks for sharing that.
    On a different note, I was also interested in what you had to say about advertising. As a new media communications student, I have received a lot of lessons and teaching on what goes through an advertiser’s mind when he/she is trying to sell something, and I think you nailed it right on the nose: whatever it takes. You focused on the psychological tactics they use to get people to think they want, no, NEED something, or MORE of something.
    I agree with this entire post, and I’m happy something is discussing it in the way that you did- calling out the negative effects the unnatural world can have on us and our loved ones if we don’t have a solid understanding of what it is that we want.

    • Your relationship with your mother is obviously a gift to both of you. Thank you for your kind feedback as well as sharing of your insightful observations here, Joce.

  191. This article was very touching for me. One reason is because it reminded me so much of my mother and the way she raised me. I was nothing less than feisty and full of it, I was a tomboy who was allowed to be as dirty as I want when I got home and my mother was proud of the girl i was because of my independence and curiosity. unfortunately this article brings up another devastating topic that is much too common in our world. That is the demolishment of a girls confidence, much due to the media. It is something that I see so many girls go through, I know I did. The things a young girl starts to see and learn are about pleasing someone else, almost all of the time this is directed toward a man, instead of pleasing ourselves. This is a huge reason why women lose themselves and what makes us happy. I think it is so interesting the connection this article makes between a young woman’s confidence and the success of our environment. I know my mother has told me so many times that in order to love others you must learn to love yourself. I think this can also be a direct correlation to our environment! Great article, so inspiring and empowering for me. It’s so important for young girls to learn how to be virtuous on their own because they can! It’s so special to be able to spend your life with a partner, but so many girls lose themselves at such a young age trying to be “what a man wants”.

    • It is a gift for both of you that your mother was able to support you as the spirited child you were, Korrin.Thank you for your feedback here–I am sorry that you and so many other girls lose their freedom and spunk when they reach womanhood (shouldn’t it be just the opposite as young women come into their power?)
      Thoughtful connection between the ways in which we treat the environment and the ways we treat women!

  192. What a great article. The sad fact is that girls are being bombarded with these sexual ads multiple times a day. Even if a parent tells a young girl every day that she is beautiful, it is still counteracted multiple times a day by advertisement letting them know that this is not true at all. I remember vividly being a teenager and being obsessed with trying to make my boyfriend see me as something I wasnt. I changed my dress, my eating habits (from vegetarian to meat eater), my hair color, and my interests to mold to his interests and personality. I did not even realize that I was doing this until much later in life. I realize now that I was trying to find myself through him and it makes me sad to think of all the time and energy I waisted on trying to find what I thought someone else wanted me to be instead of who I truly was.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal experience of the effects of media pressure on your finding your authentic personal identity, Jessica. Congratulations on finding the latter in spite of the pressure exerted on you and other young women. The sadness in this dynamic lies not only in your personal losses, but in the losses to our society of the energies of our young women.

  193. This article was such a needed wake-up call today, as I was falling prey to the “student script” in which all can be sacrificed in order to become/remain the “good” student.

    I particularly loved your mention of Jean Kilbourne, whose “Killing us Softly” documentaries have rocked my world. When we (the Women’s Center staff) brought her to campus last year, her presentation worked to explain how advertising supported the mass distribution of sexual scripts, the boxes within which we (as women) should reside. The way the advertising was described in that presentation and in this article, I want to expand the idiom from ‘sex sells’ to ‘suffering sells’. The beauty myth that dominates the industry is unreachable: no one can be that photoshopped, that thin, that healthy and that happy all at the same time. For someone like me, whose body is radically different than America’s “beauty ideal”, fulfillment of this standard is impossible. Yet, advertising tells me (and so many other women) that success and happiness awaits if only I buy this, eat that or join something, I can overcome the fact that I’m not that ideal. In this way, it capitalizes on suffering, targets those who do not fit in [read: almost all of us].

    There was a section of the article I questioned about ads: “ads shout ‘more’ to us—telling us how much we need more food”. Perhaps I am simply more aware of weight-loss ads as a person of size, but most often the ads that I see that target women’s bodies are shouting ‘less food’, more exercise, more policing of your body.

    As a woman of size, I have struggled often with the societal standard of equating my self-esteem with my image. I have so often been told that since I’m not pretty, I’d better be smart (but not too smart)! I really loved your relation of this strange and unfortunate standard to Freud’s assertion that women must be masochistic, because surely, anyone who has lived with such constant bombardment of their need to better themselves through materialistic gain would agree with that assertion!

    I too hope that one day, we can all be as bright as those girls you described, “feisty, as full of joy and experimentation as they are full of themselves”.

    • Thank you for your touching and insightful personal response, Anna. In terms of weight loss ads– so true that media catches us in a bitter circle in which weight loss is hyped at the same time that more and more junk food is also pushed. In Pollan’s the Omnivore’s Dilemma, he indicates how this idea of “value added” (convenience and processed and re–packaged) food was a boon to corporations who were stuck on the issue of how to get people to consume more food (which otherwise seemed a rather limited proposition).
      In terms of women of size, contemporary research indicates several things: that we are born with particular body sizes (not a matter of “discipline” to get down to a certain weight), that diets actually exaggerate weight gain (the Famine Within is a great documentary that makes this point, still timely even though it was made in the 80s); and now, that particular toxic chemicals in the environment act as “obesegens”, from exposures as early as in the womb. There is certainly and tragically a large amount of blaming the victim going on with respect to women of size. Thanks for bringing up this issue for us.
      Must have been wonderful to hear Jeanne Kilbourne in person– I miss much because I live some distance from campus. It is tragic fitting point that “suffering sells”, from trumped up diseases to the media moguls in the 1920s who got together (documented in Stuart Ewen’s work) to work on ads that worked to undermine the happiness and security of audiences in order to sell things.
      I look forward to that wonderful day, as well– perhaps girls whom we support in honoring these traits can help us to reclaim them in ourselves.

  194. I must confess I find the observations in the first few paragraphs a tad strange, I must say that the constant bombardment that makes women feel that they are only valued if they are physically attractive is indeed disappointing-while most men prefer the type of image that’s marketed, admittedly, and I seriously doubt we need an ad to tell us that, the fact remains that focusing on one’s appearence as their only valuable trait in any gender is misinformed and tragic, as is an overly heavy focus on consumerism.

    This is the dark side of economic liberty, though perhaps I would say that in many regards, the duty falls to the individual and their family: a society is no better, or worse, frankly, then the people that comprise it. And that would therefore be my solution to societal ills, in many regards: personal morality, even education, perhaps, and strong families that can raise their children with the strength to resist undue pulls in the world.

    • Thoughtful points about the responsible commitment each family should make to its children– it is my sense that this commitment to future generations is one key to our environmental responsibility as well.
      Unfortunately and sadly, there are limits to what the best of parents can do in the context of our society and the peer and media pressure exerted on our children– as family therapist Mary Pipher’s details in her work on addiction (Reviving Ophelia). Her case studies reveal the tragedies faced by some of the best parents.
      This means we need to redouble our family responsibilities for the sake of our children– congratulations on your own personal commitment in this respect. It also indicates that we should understand the larger social pressures our children face and work to change the social values that harm them–and that we must model for them the values we want them to express.
      But there are no guarantees in this realm.

  195. This article was very interesting too me. I am a mother of two girls several years apart. I can see in relation to this article how each of my girls have been impacted by societies view of women and consumerism. I am not the traditional mom, so I grew up in a very liberal household and probably many women my age experience more of these concerns that I did, maybe I was oblivious when I was younger. But I see it in my girls today and I always try to teach them to be true to themselves. You know, that age old adage you have to love yourself first. I think as you can see from this article that we as women have to ensure that we are teaching our children the value of a person, not as society sees them, but internally. Our society becomes vapid and fickle towards how women are perceived. So as someone said before, it is important for all children to have strong women role models, guides to show the next generations self worth comes from inside, not from the outside.

    • I think you have an excellent personal stance with respect to your daughters. Your careful observation and support of them is a gift to them and though there is no guarantee in a society with mass media messages like our own, your support is a good ground in inuring them from the domestic violence you see in your professional life.

  196. There is a lot of truth to this article and I think it is unfortunate that adolescent girls often succumb to the pressures of being attractive and finding a man. What they do not consider at that age is that if you only focus on your outward appearance you are setting yourself up to be with someone who only cares about your outward appearance. But hindsight is 20/20 I suppose. It seems like this may be something that girls, and boys as well in some cases, just have to go through so they can learn from their mistakes. Life experience is usually the factor that helps us decide what we really want in life.

    • I think you are right that life experience should help us decide what we really want/value in life, Peter. It is a shame when our media works to subvert this process of maturity. I can only imagine all the human potential on the part of both young men and women we are losing when they are pressured to go for outward appearances over everything else. And obviously, consumerism is not doing anything for our environment either.

  197. Dr. Holden, this is a wonderful article that depicts how today teenagers and young adults see is themselves in a world full of needs and wants. How can society move forward when as a whole we cannot find our own path? Not only are teenagers now a day finding it harder to be accepted by their peers but even by certain clubs. Image today plays a major role in how a teenager will see his or herself and make it difficult to see what it is that they are meant to do in this world. Of course we have all been victims of manipulated desire because we cannot turn on the television and be told what we need to be wearing, eating, reading, watching and even doing. We may believe or think that we know what we want, need and do but in reality all of this is driven by our advertisement, after all the major corporations spend billions of dollars annually to sell us their products, and by using psychological means to sell us thing that make us feel like we need this or that we have fallen victims to a world that will be lost and careless.

    How can we move forward if we fail to see that no matter what we are smart, loving and beautiful creatures despite our defects. It does not matter what society thinks of us, it is all about what we can do for society and the environment. In today’s society it is very difficult to be a teenage girl, because appearance is everything and that hinders many smart girls from achieving their full potential. I am worried when my daughter hits teens and how she will see herself. This is why I constantly reminder of the beauties of earth and the environment, I take our out, bike riding, catching bugs, hiking, etc to allow her to see the world in different perspectives and become a leader that will someday change how as Americans we see this world full of violence and advertisement. Thank you for the insightful article!

    • I very much like the balance here, Moises. At the same time that you acknowledge the pressures of modern media that inhibit our freedom to truly be who we are, you provide a powerful alternative vision that “no matter what society thinks of us, we are smart, loving, and beautiful creatures despite our defects”– in fact, I would add that those things seen as defects by others are often an essential part of our distinctive identity.
      It is a priceless gift you are giving your daughter (and yourself) in the time you spend together. Sounds like you have some fun catching bugs!
      Thank you for doing this very important job of fathering so conscientiously.

  198. I’m glad this article brought up the topic of personal wants. It does seem as though media is doing an ever efficient job at creating superficial desires to a society in order to profit from said “wants”, but what I find disturbing is the lack of consciousness of people not being able to discern that it is a existentially created desire. It is disheartening when I ask some of my friends “so what makes you happy?” and they reply with “oh, I don’t know.” I feel this is directly related to the amount of things they have purchased and experienced due to societal pressures for them to “want” them. When this structure of unfulfilled consumerism is past on for a few generations it’s no wonder we have a low-esteem problem with many of our youth because the odds are there parents might have never really experienced true fulfillment from obtaining there desires.

    So we need to analyze how we get a society with people that are passionate because they have experienced the joy of fulfilling a true personal want. I personally think this comes from less media exposure and being able to get to know yourself on a very intimate level. Sometimes when I feel lost about the direction of my life and I need to know what I want I ask myself “well, what do you not want?” and the honest answers to this question normally point out a couple of true personal wants that I can pursue. The way I feel these ideals pertain to this class is that a fulfilled, harmonious consumer is more likely to contribute to a well balance harmonious ecosystem.

    • Thank you for sharing your approach to getting in touch with what you truly want, Aaron. It seems that this skill is an important way to address the problems of consumer society–and is also a way to understand the values we care most about in order to both satisfy (and, I think, challenge) ourselves in good ways.

  199. I thought that the idea of mothers siding with their daughters as they grow up sounded wonderful. I wished that my mother did so. Perhaps that is one reason why I fired her ten years ago. I have had no contact with her since then and this has been the happiest decade of my life. I did not fire her frivolously. She forced an abusive step-father on me and was kind of abusive herself. Abusive parents are lucky that I have no power because I feel that it should be a felony without probation or parole to give aid to a formerly abusive parent, or for an abusive parent to receive aid from their victims. I strongly believe that one reason why parents are abusive is because they know that there will rarely be consequences. Abused persons of the world rise up and unite; you have nothing to lose except the criminals who committed crimes against you!

    As a person with an extremely strong sense of curiosity, I read many of the responses to this article. I know that you do not have time to read them all. Therefore, I have noted a few that interested me. Jennifer Johnson said that in an anthropology class she learned that “Native Indians thought everyone to be beautiful because everyone is unique and different from one another. No one was ugly.” I sure wish that the American society would adapt this philosophy!

    Madronna Holden also wrote about how two Korean girls wanted to share an 8’ by 10’ space because they thought it was too big for one person, who might get lonely if they were by themself in the room. This is such a difference with American social boundaries. I know that I have a need for a lot of personal space. Another thing to feel guilty about—I use too many resources and too much space!

    Madronna Holden wrote that “These 1920s think tank ad guys also came up with the idea of attacking the US family structure so that corporations could step into the psychological breach as the “Father of us all.” Quite ironic, as allegedly communists were the ones who wanted to destroy the American family.

    Michellerpierce wrote about vacations. I guess we are not always number 1. The US averages 12 vacation days a year. EU nations require four weeks vacation. Norway and Sweden mandate 5 weeks and France and Spain mandate 6 weeks. I believe that these countries have better vacations than we do because they have a stronger left to promote these laws.

    • How do you feel about James Hillman’s idea that we finally mature when we are able to tell the story of our parents’ lives– and we heal from abuse when we are able to help prevent abuse to others?
      The first idea is based on the fact that when we understand our parents’ stories, we can let go of the power they have over us and make our own choices and stories instead.
      Altogether, our consumptive attitudes certainly need more careful scrutiny!

  200. I think what this article is saying is that we need to determine what we want ourselves rather than letting others do that for us.
    I agree that we are “intentional creatures” as the author puts it, and that we do have a meaning. I also agree that it is important for us to know what that is so that we have a firm grasp on what is important and true, and can tell those things apart from what is fleeting and false. It’s impossible to overestimate the danger we put ourselves in when we don’t take the time or make the effort to decide what is important to us and commit ourselves to that.
    There are points in this article with which I do not agree. I am not an ecofeminist, and I disagree with the implication that a relationship with nature really is what is most important. I don’t want to be misunderstood in this: I love nature. I love the beauty of creation and the majesty that surrounds us, and I love that each of us is a part of that grandeur. But I believe that the most important things are a relationship with God and a relationship with people. Those are the things that last forever, and those are the things that I want and that I am committed to. However, while the things that are most important to me are different from the things that are most important to the author, I respect the fact that we both know what we want: we both know what is important to us and we have chosen that ourselves and are committed to it.
    Although we may differ in our ideas of what we want, I believe it’s almost always possible to find common ground on which we can agree: In this case, we can come together in our love for a beautiful world and our desire to take care of it.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful response, Samantha. I think the central issue for discussion here is the definition of “nature”– if we see ourselves as embedded in the natural world–and we see nature as Creation (as a profound expression of spirit in its living systems), then prioritizing our relationship with Spirit (however each of us feels and enacts this) and with other humans is by definition also prioritizing our relationship with the natural world.
      There are indeed profound ways for us to come together on these issues, as expressed, for instance, in the works of Thomas Berry outlined in a brief essay on this site.

    • Here was my response to your posting.

      There is a Green Bible that you might be interested in. I took the following quote from the website about the Green Bible.

      “The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God’s vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth.”

      Also, I have a question for you. If you created something magnificent, would you want some part of your creation to wreck your creation for everything else?

      I got the following quotation off the web. “Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם‎) is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world” (or “healing and restoring the world”) which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility (with the Creator) ‘to heal, repair and transform the world.’”

  201. There is a Green Bible that you might be interested in. I took the following quote from the website about the Green Bible.

    “The Green Bible will equip and encourage people to see God’s vision for creation and help them engage in the work of healing and sustaining it. With over 1,000 references to the earth in the Bible, compared to 490 references to heaven and 530 references to love, the Bible carries a powerful message for the earth.”

    Also, I have a question for you. If you created something magnificent, would you want some part of your creation to wreck your creation for everything else?

    I got the following quotation off the web. “Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם‎) is a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world” (or “healing and restoring the world”) which suggests humanity’s shared responsibility (with the Creator) ‘to heal, repair and transform the world.'”

    • Hi Leonore, thanks for the comment. How would you focus this response on the essay in question?

    • Lenore,

      Thank you for posting this quote. I have never heard of the Green Bible, I will make sure to look at it during my studies this term. I think the world is strongly influenced by religion. I also believe that the way we interpret written works or religious theory, strongly influences our life decisions as a society. This book might offer another perspective I have yet to consider. Thanks again!

  202. I have always believed that everything living has a purpose, a reason for being. The problem comes for individuals in trying to figure out just what is that purpose, the “why” of our lives. This is what advertisers focus on and what they put in front of us is what we want to believe will help us find our purpose. This, however, becomes a neverending cycle because our new purchases eventually make us think, “Well, that wasn’t it,” so we go out and get something else, only to come to the same conclusion. What we need to realize (and I know this is not easy) is that material things and how we look on the outside don’t make us who we are; it’s what’s on the inside and how we show THAT to the world that really counts. I still don’t kow what my purpose is in life. I thought for many years I was here only to raise my severely disabled son and through him teach others about tolerance and diversity. He passed away six years ago at the age of 26. I’m still here so what is my purpose now? What do I want? As Madronna Holden says, “…I want lots more.” Well, so do I! I want girls and women to come out of that dark cave and thrive on clean water and good earth and live in a world of peace. I want girls and women to have their fair share of society’s benefits and responsibilities. I want our children to be their natural selves, all wild and full of wonder in the outdoors.

    • I am so sorry for your loss. If I knew how to take your pain away, I would.

      • Thank you for the sentiment, Lenore…it’s appreciated! However, I think I need to feel the pain and learn from it in order to pass on the lessons of tolerance and connectedness. In thinking this through today (painfully), maybe my son was the catalyst to teach ME to be more tolerant and learn of the connectedness with the Earth, and now it’s up to me to pass on what I’ve learned. ???

        • You have taken a powerful and courageous healing stance, Cheryl. We can certainly use such lessons as you are willing to pass on from this experience.

    • I found the book Girl of the Limberdlost to be very healing.

    • Sorry to hear about your loss Cheryl. I worked with adults with different levels of disability when I worked at Coast Rehabilitation Services. I must admit that they have a lot that they teach others who work with them. It was one of my most rewarding experiences.

    • I am sorry for the loss you sustained with your son’s death. What you have said here indicates that you can take heart from the love that he received from you while he was here– not all of us receive such gifts, no matter the length of our lives.
      As your comment also indicates, our personal journeys do not always have a straight line course–and our purpose in life can shift and expand as we live our our lives. You are indeed still here–and I hope what you truly want from life for yourself and others will guide you.
      Thanks for your heartful comment. You have also given a good analysis of the ways in which the fact that we can “never get enough of what we didn’t want in the first place drives never ending consumerism and our buying never truly satisfies us.

  203. What do we want? As I try to think back to my earliest memories, I am trying to think of something I wanted that wasn’t advertised. I’m trying to think of a point in time where I did not know how to tell who was socially “beautiful” and who was not. These are two things I unfortunately cannot remember. My generation has been surrounded by media advertisements on a daily basis, with today’s generation only getting more extreme. As an adult the majority of my wants revolve around my passions whether they are political, environmental or artistic. I have learned through my education and personal choices to filter media advertisements as much as possible. However, my foundation and most others will always be tainted by “toxic” media and social influences. This does not mean that it is a lost cause but a time for awareness and for a reversal in our beliefs of what it is we want and to somehow connect this to giving the environment what it needs as well.

    As Peggy Orenstein discovered, and I feel that most people are currently aware of, adolescence is where we can see how our society’s constant advertising can affect our youth, especially adolescent females. The idea of girls and in my opinion all people getting back to a natural connection with nature can only help alleviate the pressures of the media influence. Children who spend more time outside with nature, whether this is gardening or working with horses learn many valuable lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom or from a television. These experiences teach responsibility and most importantly empower themselves. It shows that they can physically change the world for good with some hard work and devotion. It is also teaches the invaluable lesson that the world gives you what you put into it. It you plant those seeds and water it and treat the land with love, it will give you back food, plants or flowers which will nourish your life. If you spend time with the horse and take care of it, it will love you back and give you a relationship you did not know was possible with an animal.

    To me this article is a mother asking, no begging, to give her daughter a chance to survive in this world and be a happy fulfilled person. It is all any of us can ask for. Although, I doubt media will seize influencing society, I do believe that the way media influences us can change and be used for good.

    • Thanks for sharing something of your personal experience with respect to media influence: it sounds like you have gotten out from under.
      I like your discussion of the satisfaction and hope that experience in the natural world can yield.
      Your last paragraph is a powerfully compassionate one!

  204. The portion of this article that really stuck out to me is our search for fulfillment and purpose. When I was a child my mother was not around very much and my sister and I were raised by our father. I use to ask my dad why my mom wasn’t around and he, never wanting to say anything negative about her, would simply say she was a “free spirit.” As a little girl I didn’t really know what that meant, and I still don’t really know what classifies someone as a “free spirit,” but I know thats the only thing he could think of to say. I use to worry that I had her “free spirit,” but one day I just realized it wasn’t a “free spirit” that had pulled my mom away from us, it was her desire to find fulfillment and a purpose. She was unable to find these things in family life, and needed to go out and try to find them on her own. She said that she eventually realized her purpose was to be a mother, but it took her quite awhile to figure it out. She always tells me how important it is to know yourself before you become a wife and a mother. And I think that is the best advice she has ever given me. I think in order to be fulfilled and happy you first need to know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, what you want out of life, or what you think is important, you can end up searching for the “next best thing” and never be satisfied in life.

    This is when the media really can hit you hard. If you are always searching for something that you think will make you happy, you will have a hard time being truly happy. I know it is hard to answer the questions “Who am I?” “What is my purpose?” “What is important to me?” “What do I want out of life?” but I think just asking them, and really thinking about them, can be extremely beneficial.

    • Thank you for adding your personal story to the theme here, Maddy. I agree that we can hardly think to mother others if we don’t know our own hearts, and you are fortunate that your dad was ready to offer you essential nurturing– as indicated in your generosity in telling your mother’s story. It is certainly true that the constraints of contemporary gender roles too often do not give women room for authenticity as “wives and mothers”. Pretending to be a good mother without having your heart in it is likely not doing your children much good.
      On the other hand, though some of us are unsuited for parenting by dint of any number of factors, the vulnerability of our children has a particular priority in our responsibility to care for them. One thing your story highlights is that we need extended communities to care for children– the kind of community out of which Grandma Aggie came– expressed in her statement that she is “everybody’s Grandma”.
      Further, knowing what you want in the most authentic sense– as separate from media shaping of identity– is not the same as an egoistic trend in our culture that has us “finding ourselves” no matter how this effects others. “Finding ourselves” as bound up in self-absorption is not all the same of finding our purpose and place in the larger community of life.

  205. This article got me thinking about my younger sister and how this all relates to her. When I think on her younger days the author accurately states, “young girls start out with eroticism and curiosity about the natural world.” Sadly the media and societal values have made her worry more about her appearances than personality. This is a change I saw drastically occur especially as she watched more television geared towards 10-14 year old girls. My mom constantly tries to teach her to respect herself, this will help teach her to respect all things from other people to nature.

    • Thanks for your comment, Aakash. Your mom and sister both are fortunate that your younger sister has you to model your authenticity and encourage your sister’s.
      I know you have an uphill battle in untangling your sister’s sense of self from the media blitz, but hang in there. At the very least, you are planting seeds of a different way of seeing the world that gives your sister some options– though it may take some time for those seeds to sprout and grow.

  206. This was a really interesting article to read. From my understanding of this piece, the author is saying that we need to know as people what we want. This was an interesting concept for me to think of being a business major. I took a marketing course last year and learned about how advertisements make people think a certain way to get them to want their product/service. And, how our culture has an image oriented mindset.
    “In the 1900s Wild Bill, an elder of the Pit River people said this well: everything alive is for a purpose.” I completely agree with Wild Bill. Every living thing in nature has a purpose/reason for why they are alive. It is very true that if we do not know what our purpose in life is, it can lead to a dangerous livelihood. This is because it is led by the “infinite desire”.
    Overall, at the end of the day every living thing needs to find their/its purpose in life and needs to work hard to try to fulfill it to the benefit of them and others.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful response, Sandeep. Balancing the “infinite desire” of life with the manipulated desire of marketing is quite a challenge, yes?
      It is interesting to contemplate, as you do, how these exist in the same universe.

  207. We are surrounded by the idea of what women should be: flawless, sexual, intimate beings. No matter what our mothers may do, we are born to buy this pre-made low self-esteem and cheap cosmetics. We spend hours doing our hair and makeup trying to look like what the advertising agencies want us to look, which leads us to a herd mentality towards something that actually doesn’t make us happy. Peggy Orenstein’s finds were so darkly correct, that the pressure of appearance is what helps make us no longer a complete being. As a child you couldn’t deny that you always had an answer to the questions “who are you?” and “what do you want to be when you grow up?” But somewhere along the way we lost our confidence and by the time you ask a teenager or a woman these questions she doesn’t have an answer anymore. We are forcing ourselves to suffer, even though deep down we know it’s not what we want, when really perhaps we should be standing in the rain and washing all of this away. We have a purpose in this world, but we can’t find it if we spend all our time trying to be someone else.

    • Hi Cassandra, thanks for your comment. Your final point that we can’t locate our own purpose in the world if we spend all our time trying to be what we are not is a pointed one– and indicates that great loss to our community when so many are not able to live their authentic purpose.
      Our being “born to buy” is an ironic term in the title of the book cited here: ironic in the sense that we are NOT actually born to buy, but shaped into this obsession by ads that target younger and younger children.
      It is also ironic that a “herd” mentality as you put it, is sold to us as a supposed way (so the ads tell us) to be a distinctive individual who is better than others.
      Let us hope we able to do better than this both for ourselves and our daughters.

  208. Knowing what I want has been something that I have personally struggled with. When I think about ads and media as a whole- I see how it affects my thinking and the modern society today. Yes, I was one of those people that media would look at and criticize for my weight (I am so glad that there are women like Queen Latifah) and the fact that I don’t put on make up every morning. For my lack of hearing, they would want to find ways to fix it, even if it means selling a product that is not worth the money. Since 1995, it has been my mom and I; we have learned to live without TV. I am glad Mom and I live without television because if you watch the commercials or see the stars for any length of time, it seems like we become unsatisfied with what we have and who we are that we try the latest weight loss supplements or have to get what is new and out there. I know I don’t have kids, but my wish for my nieces and nephews is that they grow up knowing that it’s okay to be different and that they are still valuable as a person even if they don’t have much.

    • Thanks for sharing the ways in which you developed your own critical view of the process of learning what you want, Mary–and the personal choices/actions (or lack thereof–such as putting on make up) that went along with them.
      Congratulations on opting out of the TV ads that would teach you to be dissatisfied with your own body–not for its health but for its image.

    • Mary, I love your post and the fact that you and your mom do not have TV. Good for you. I have said for many years that I could certainly live without a television. I don’t watch “TV,” but I do watch tennis, pro football, and the News Hour on PBS. I DO NOT watch commercials (okay, I have to admit here that I do watch commercials during the Super Bowl game…only for the entertainment, not for the message). As for make-up, most days I do not wear make-up mostly because I don’t feel I need to “look good” by someone else’s standards…I’m more of the mind of “take me as I am.” I completely agree with you that the more time we spend watching commercials, and television shows for that matter, the more dissatisfied we are with ourselves; trying to be what we are not.

  209. While reading this post, I related the portion on the ‘gluttonous consumer’ to detrimental relationships as well. As mentioned in the post, women have been historically taught that they need a man in their lives and that they cannot stand alone (a theory proved wrong time and time again). However, women sometimes choose men who do not encourage their growth and are detrimental to their sense of self and self-esteem. They keep consuming more and more of the relationship (in hopes that they will one day be satisfied by it) and are afraid to leave the relationship, because they ‘need’ a man. My favorite quote from this post was that “you can never get enough of what you didn’t want in the first place”. I believe some of us get blinded in relationships and it takes a while before we are able to realize that we never really desired the other person in the first place. For as DR. Holden mentioned, when we are able to have a clear conversation with our own desires… we may find we want more.

    • Thanks for sharing your insights about the “gluttonous consumer” Leah as it applies to bad choices in relationships as well as buying products. Interesting point about the infinite and unsatisfactory cycle of “consumption” involved in some human relationships as well. I like your phrasing about the need to “have a clear conversation with our own desires”!

    • I never thought of the article in terms of relationships. I like how you link the article to relationships between men and women. It is sad that it is often the case that women feel like they depend on men for survival. I am 32 years old and I have not been in a relationship because I have seen how damaging relationships can be. My three sisters have all had partners that were violent towards them. I made a promise to myself that I would not be in a relationship like my sisters have been in. I do believe that we can be blinded by what we want, especially when we look towards relationships to get what we want.

      • I am sorry that your sisters suffered this all too common dynamic in their relationships. It is great that you learned what you do not want from these instances, but also sad that it has put you off of relationships altogether. My hope is that we will create communities in which such violence is finally behind us.
        Thanks for your comment.

  210. In this article I feel a sense of how women feel they need to be to be successful and satisfied with themselves. Now I will admit it is difficult to relate, that as a guy I feel that we have a little bit different looks at how we want to be satisfied. We want the big house, the nice care, and loads of money, but when we look on the women’s side we see that they feel like to make them satisfied they need to look as skinny as possible to attract a certain guy who will in turn make them feel satisfied with their accomplishments. What bothers me the most in this article is when Aristotle told women that they could be virtuous. He stated that “They couldn’t earn such happiness, he stressed, on their own”. In the early days I could see this seeing as the women were the sole providers in these times. As for today I don’t believe that this is a very true statement. Lots of women are becoming more successful each and every day and a lot of these women are also the main provider of income for their families. Women can easily achieve happiness with the involvement of themselves and I think that women don’t require a man to make themselves happy or satisfied. As both Peggy Orenstein and Jean Kilbourne discovered, societies image of the perfect female and/or male is causing self-esteem to drop fast. Everybody wants to look like this or that and most the time it’s just to get a person of the opposite sex or even the same sex. Society is blowing up in magazines, on the television, in the adult film industry; simply everywhere and it gives these younger adults the feeling that to truly be accepted and wanted they have to look like that and it puts a lot of pressure to achieve such a feat. What really sums up this article is at the very end when you learn about the corn. The corn is both relying and being relied on to help something else. As Wild Bill stated “everything alive is for a purpose. As living creatures, we have a meaning, a sense of belonging, an orientation toward something”. This corn has the belonging to feed the birds, but also expects good water and good earth. It’s a great analogy to what we want out of life and that is to earn respect while also respecting others to overall have a better world.

    • Thanks for sharing a bit of the male viewpoint here, Jason. I appreciate your work in developing empathy for what young women go through in this culture. It seems that modern media manipulates men’s desires as well- if in a different way than it manipulates women’s (as you point out, in the desire for a big car, etc.)
      I agree with you that Aristotle’s point of view is problematic with respect to the notion of true self-determination for both men and women. I very must like your idea that we might base both ethics and self-esteem on mutual respect instead of hierarchy. Nice analysis of the metaphorical meaning of the “corn” used at the end of this article.

    • Thanks for sharing Jason! It’s good to hear a guy’s perspective on this and as well as matters dealing with ecofeminism! Similar to you, I found it upsetting to read Aristotle’s statement. However, it is good to live in a modern society where that no longer applies. I was also glad that you recognized the current pressures on women to be the media’s version of ‘beautiful’. I think what upsets me most, is how this effects the young/impressionable minds of children. They grow up learning this concept of ‘beauty’ and come to believe it.

      • Thanks for your reply to Jason, Leah. I hope we are entirely through with Aristotle’s views, but I think they may still linger on– indicated by the way in which some young women are still and sadly manipulated by media images. Just as he divided people into distinct groups or classes which separated them “by nature”, we continue to divide people into in groups and out groups. It is partly the desire to be on the inside that allows ads to manipulate those with relatively little power in modern society.

      • I agree. I think it is a really important job that the parents need to teach their children when their younger; that the media isn’t the law of beauty. I think it is important for parents to teach their children (male or female) that they don’t have to conform to what everybody else is doing. I don’t think that this should only be focused towards women. Men also face the same stereotypes. They are told they need to be the breadwinners, that they need to be the alpha males of the group. They also go through similar body image issues leading to lower self-esteem. The covers of male magazines all show big muscular men with 10 pack abs and girls hanging all over them, while they are sitting on a massive yacht. In the past, men also did what was expected of them from society. For example, the first born sons took over their father’s businesses, whether they wanted to or not.

        • Parental support/nurturance is certainly important. So is community support to combat the sophisticated media blitz. See Mary Pipher’s work on media’s overwhelming of good parental messages: Though parental messages are important, we need a whole society to change this.
          Both genders have their issues to deal with in this regard: thus the work of men as well as women in mentoring different images.

  211. I think the hardest lesson to learn is to accept yourself as normal. Even at work there is this constant desire to look better and to fit in because it seems like that’s how you get noticed. I’m so tired of spending money on more expensive clothes, makeup, jewelry… just to try to stand out in a good way, or to blend in with those I want to be like. It is hard to accept yourself as being normal when you don’t always feel like you are. Especially with media, society and our current lifestyle showing not only you, but everyone around you that what is normal is what is “in” at the moment. It is going to be pretty difficult to raise a daughter who wants so many things because her friends have them. I’m dreading the high school years already!

    • Hi Jamie, thanks for your thoughtful assessment of this issue. Your consciousness will certainly help your daughter to find her own voice.
      Interesting point about being “normal”: I just saw an essay that says the standards are so high in relation to determining that one is “healthy” that virtually no one can meet them: “On the Mental Catwalk, As Diagnostic Thresholds are Lowered, Being ‘Normal’ is as Difficult as Being a Supermodel”.
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130111092455.htm.

    • I was fortunate for one thing growing up and your post reminded me of something. One time, when I was ten years old, I had ear surgery done to fix my already damaged eardrum because of previous ear surgeries and the problems and the complications that came with them. I remember that the day after surgery, my mom told me that my grandma was coming to visit the family and I was really uptight because my ear doctor wrapped something around my head and my hair was literally sticking and I wanted to look nice for my grandma. I asked my mom what my grandma would think if she saw me with my hair standing up on end and my mom told me that beauty runs deep. I knew that I did not have to look perfect for my grandma because she loved me just the way I was.
      I understand that pressure of feeling the need to fit in because I felt that need when I was younger. I often feel the need to fit in with my peers when it comes time to looks, especially at work. Because of the pressure we face trying to fit in, I am grateful for family and friends who love me just the way I am because I know that I don’t have to look perfect for them.

      • What a touching story about you, your mom and your grandma! Obviously you were close to all of these women who nurtured you in their important ways. It is an invaluable gift indeed to be loved for just who you are–and this is one way to inoculate young women– indeed, all young people– from the consumerist pressure of modern media.

    • Your spot on Jamie when you talk about all the fancy jewelery and clothes to go noticed. Personally i think there are some guys out there that find that as a turn off. It potrays that women seem self-conscious about the way they look and it shouldn’t matter more so about how they look, but more about the person they truly are inside.

      • Thank you for your great expression of solid values and respect toward women, Jason. It can be fun to dress up in ways that express our distinct personalities, but when that becomes a shell or a mask that is more important than what is within, that is indeed a danger signal. In the spare time (!) of you and our readers there is a Parabola Magazine issue (fall 1994) on clothing and its meaning in different cultures–the essays and stories here explore “inside” and “outside” in terms of our authenticity and self-expression.

    • Yes, I also think the hardest lesson is to accept yourself. I know the feeling of having to fit in at work and spending more and more money on items. When I was younger I would spend a lot of money on clothes, make-up and shoes, now that I am older I have changed and have different priorities. I am now thinking more about the environment when purchasing items, like the origin, working conditions of the workers and the chemicals used in the products.

  212. Money: something we work for to pay our bills, eat food, and get pleasure from. This essay has me thinking about the role of media and how it ties in with money. Through commercials, we see what makes us “less” than what we can be. We see ads about things that help make up beautiful from make up to a brand of clothes. If we aren’t skinny like the supermodels sporting those commercials, we must work until we get that way even if it means trying out dangerous diets. All the ads tell us to spend money on their products in faith that their products work and in the end, company gets what they want: our money even if they know their products will never satisfy. We all want to feel a sense of satisfaction with who we are. I think that the satisfaction that we want is found in taking time out of our lives to go to a place of solitude and reconnecting to the natural world and being reminded that we are a part of it.

    • Hi Mary, thanks for expanding on your former response to this essay.
      I wonder, do we get pleasure from money itself, or from something money represents or buys? And is it money alone that can bring us this– or some other way we might satisfy ourselves, and perhaps better after we have taken care of basic necessities in an economy based on money?
      You offer a great alternative to the attempt to buy our personal satisfaction: the “time out” you mention is a good way both to get more acquainted with ourselves and to connect with the vibrant world of life in which we are inescapably embedded

  213. At age 20, I am still finding my way out of this awful trend of seeking fulfillment through consumerism. I first began to realize how inefficient ‘retail therapy’ was when I got to the point that my emotional shopping remained in the bags in my car weeks after the initial purchase. But I still find myself longing for longer hair, perfect skin, and a size 2 body after scrolling through my favorite fashion blog or watching my usual television shows. Society has set the ‘ideal female’ so far out of reach that women can spend an entire lifetime trying to get there. Often I see girls losing their teenage years to this and it is truly sad. I look back now seeing how much happier the teenage me would have been if I wasn’t concerned about the brand jeans I was wearing or how straight my hair was. But I believe it is a continuous process to fight the demands of the media and find our true desires and fulfillment.
    I hope all women who have found this out the hard way can help the younger girls in their lives see that self worth and happiness is not found in a store.

    • Hi Gina, thanks for sharing something of your personal journey with us. Congratulations on finding your way out of what you properly refer to as “this awful trend of seeking fulfillment through consumerism”. It is tragic indeed that this “ideal body” is not a matter of vitality and uniqueness. As you point out, being consumed (this word is important in more ways than one) with meeting media standards also consumes so much of the precious time we have on earth.
      I do think it is important to pass on the stories of our struggles as well as to nurture younger women so that they do not have to suffer this struggle alone. After, this passing on of stories between generations so we don’t have to live everything all over again is an essential part of what makes us human.
      I also think that we continue to find our way into who we are no matter what our age– so your statement helps all of us.

    • I find the great, at age 20 you are realizing consumerism. The media has set the ideal female out of reach or should we call it impossible. My mother was a compulsive shopper, which would consist of going to the mall every time there was a sale and the big tradition was the after Christmas sale. I am still trying to consume less, but having the Internet is a compulsive shoppers dream.

  214. This article speaks so loudly to me. I always have a sense of wanting more, but I never know what that is. Nothing ever seems complete. Some days I feel like life is good just as it is, other days I want nothing more than to starve myself so I can be “thin” despite my boyfriend telling me I am perfect. I do not feel so. Other days I want to just do nothing but bake apple pies or go to the supermarket. I feel like a failure when I burn something or the store was out of something on my list. Then there are the days I want to do nothing but research and study. I keep thinking, I can go to grad school and as soon as I have that thought, I automatically have another that says it is pointless. Life is nothing but a stream of wants and confusion because any of the choices I make don’t seem to have the right response within myself. I wish I did know what I want. Every time I think I do, it only takes a while to change my mind and start the process over again. Sometimes, the only time I am happy is with my animals, outside in the sun. It makes the most sense. I feel free because they won’t judge me, they love me and listen to me and I in return would do the same. I would give anything for those days outside in the sun with my dog. As much as I love my boyfriend, there is something about being one with nature. It makes me feel strong and powerful and without desire but to just be. That’s what I want; that feeling, all the time.

    • Hi Denise, thank you for sharing your struggle. You are not alone in this. It is great that your boyfriend thinks of you as “perfect” in spite of the pressures you feel from our culture and media.
      There are so many things open to all of us, it is no surprise that we often move between one thing and another– especially with media pressures thrown into the mix.
      Your animals don’t have this problem–animals can model being in the moment for all of us. It seems that being present in the natural world has and will continue to guide you toward the way that you want to shape the story of your own life.
      It is an essential first step to be conscious of the fact that you are asking such questions of yourself and looking for the answers that truly satisfy you.

  215. This is an extremely important concept in our society. I feel very fortunate for the parents that I have. Ever since I was little, my parents have instilled in me the importance of doing whatever was best for me. I have had cousins that followed their boyfriends to college, or to a different state because they believed that without them, their lives had less meaning. These relationships, in the end, never worked out. My parents were afraid that I would do the same when the time came that I felt I was in a serious relationship. They have constantly told me that I should do what is best for me. This includes, majoring in what I enjoy most, going to a school that fits me, and not necessarily my boyfriend, that I should pick a job that doesn’t have to be close to my boyfriend but one that has the type of environment that I’m looking for, in a place I want to live. My parents have taught me how to be my own person without having to rely on anybody else. If my boyfriend and I do end up going to the same place, I will be bringing in my own money, I will be contributing to rent, bills, food etc. equally. Relationships are nice but learning what I want to with my life, and who I want to be, are the most important things my parents could have taught me.

    • It is wonderful that you not only had parents that honored your personal sense of authenticity and self-determination, but that you were able to unhinge yourself from media dependency messages!

  216. Jean Kilbourne’s is correct on how the ads manipulate young girls and women. As I was growing up as a teenage in the 1980s my friends and I were pressured to buy the trendy clothes, losing weight or even gain weight and trying to look like the models in a Glamour or Cosmopolitan Magazine. I did have very low self-esteem by these magazines. In the 1980s Jane Fonda had a new workout video that was a big hit, but the one thing that was not revealed is that Jane Fonda had plastic surgery. As women work out to the Jane Fonda’s video they were mislead and this still goes on today.

    • Jane Fonda also had an eating disorder. Check out her autobiography for a sense of the struggle she went through. It is important to understand the real life issues behind the glitz and glitter of such “models” that are presented to young women.
      Her telling her story is at least a way to strengthen others with her honesty.
      Thanks for your comment.

  217. When I was a teenager I remember the pressure that was felt to have the newest and greatest material objects. I know that sadly I did not only want the newest clothes to be cool but to impress a guy. Though this not once did I think about myself and how I felt. I just wanted to impress and be accepted. I did not care if I accepted myself or not I only care about what others thought of me. As I got older I realized that these material things gave me no happiness. The newest clothes just represented my unknown support of sweat shops. They represented the sad truth that I was hiding myself behind brand names.It is sad to know that girls are still being subjected to these ads that trick them into thinking that a shirt or pair of jeans will identify them.

    • There are a number of good points to ponder in your comment, Laura. Thanks for helping to make some ideas in this essay accessible by making them personal. You have an excellent point about the falsity in identifying ourselves with our things. As indicated in your case by the perception in your comment, you and all of us are much more than a logo displayed on our clothes– especially, as you point out, a logo on clothing produced by sweatshop workers. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion.

  218. I really resonated with a few different points in this essay. First of which is girls being programed by society to only feel complete when they are in a relationship. I have seen this in everyone of my friends growing up, they would alter their own personality to better fit that of a boy they wanted to date. I have never felt that I didn’t that, but maybe I was blind to my own actions. I feel fortunate to have never felt the need of having a boyfriend or husband, and I found that my current relationship that formed out of that state of mind is a healthy relationship. My mom is a strong woman in certain areas of her life, after her and my father were divorced she spent years trying readjust herself from having been a stay at home mom to a single mother. In the process she made many mistakes that eventually cost her the custody of my siblings and I. However she not only turned her life around, but she didn’t all on her own, without help from a man, or the state. My boyfriends mother is another inspiration. She is a war bride. She met her husband in Korea during the Vietnam war. He died when their children were still young. After his death she worked three jobs at fruit packing plants to support her children all on her own.

    The materialism of our society is another point that really hits home. The essay points out the ads that we are bombarded with. They are everywhere, not just on TV, but in movies, on billboards, in the grocery store. They are not only telling us that we wont be happy unless we buy their product, but are also telling us that we have to look a certain way to be beautiful. I have a wide assortment of friends, that come in all shapes and sizes. I remember this one time in particular when someone asked me if I had any ugly friends. I stopped and gave the question careful consideration and realized that no, not one of my friends are ugly. They were far from the medias standard of beautiful, but they are awesome people, with a unique style each their own, and that is what beauty is. Not fitting into some mold that society sets for us.

    • It is great that you were solid enough in yourself that you did mot feel the need of another to complete you. We are all interdependent, I think, but there is a difference between two people bringing who they are to a relationship and a relationship in which one person dominates and creates the identity of another.
      The different marital situations you bring up are interesting.
      If there were no ads setting beauty standards today, would that person ever asked the question about your “ugly friends”– was the point of this question that on a personal level all those we care for are attractive to us?

  219. I know this piece is about mothers and daughters and I understand the importance of connecting our daughters with the feisty, nature centered girls they should become. But I also keep thinking about my son. I want him to grow up and be the kind of man that accepts women for the wonderful creatures they are, rather than the women media says they should be. If we don’t teach our sons how to navigate the tricky waters of media, how can they learn to grow and respect women?