It's been an interesting few months for the media. A rejuvenation of sorts has taken place and since Mr. Trump's election, support for the media and its freedom of expression has grown inexorably.
Only where does that support stop?
Perhaps when, instead of squealing adulation for a powerful speech made to the U.N about ISIS genocide, they focus primarily on Amal Clooney's baby bump and Prada dress.
If the media coverage of Amal Clooney's speech at the U.N has told us anything, it's that we never learn, and the most important question now is will we?
And while I wish it was just tabloids that got involved in the outfit critiquing and heel commentary, the fact is, it wasn't. It was credible news sources, estimable outlets and that's the very reason why the commentary is so crushing.
I recently attended a U.N Women's event with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) addressing the #freebeingme campaign propelled in combination with the Dove Self-Esteem Project. The campaign has been running since 2014 and is centred around the need to reclaim the woman's body image in the public eye.
'The Image Myth' has plagued women for as long as the press has been in existence. Why? Because to sell papers and magazines, the press have utilized every means necessary to create unattainable beauty standards so copies will sell. Because human condition rules that we always want what we cannot have. It's a human failing - a flaw in our make up. It's how greed came to define Shakespeare's oeuvre and how both world wars began. The media play on this need to aspire - to dream, and thus manifests the image myth, whereby the women and men you see in publications are not actually real.
They are fictitious beings, transformed by lighting, makeup, sculpting, and since 1988, the great power of Photoshop. They are unrealistic portrayals of humanity, and of course therein lies the problem. If that which you seek to replicate is unreal, your goals are consequently unreachable, and you will forever be disappointing yourself by not reaching them.
And until recently, the problem with all of this has gone veritably unnoticed and unrecognized. Nobody appears to care, because, apparently, it hasn't done much harm. What women are doing isn't as important as how they look - right?
The underlying problem here is that no matter what we do, it's how we look that defines us, still, as women in the 21st century. Here of course, it was motherhood that most came to define Clooney, which in itself is problematic because if we are only ever to be considered as potential mothers or wives, women will never be elevated to those same positions men achieve daily throughout the world. To be seen through the lens of the mother or caregiver only is detrimental to the future empowerment and recognition of women on the global stage. If we're only ever seen as pretty, homely, petite - we lose the potential to be serious, intelligent and informed.
Representing Nadia Murad, an IS survivor, Clooney delivered an impassioned and eloquent speech about the U.N and Iraq's neglecting to bring to court the terrorists that have indeed been tearing apart the lives of millions of families for years now. Not one has stood trial for international war crimes. And yet, this abhorrent fact seemed to slip the minds of those who coined headlines such as "Amal Clooney Puts Her Growing Baby Bump On Display In Chic Yellow Dress For U.N. Speech" or "Wearing 4.5inch heels at 6 months pregnant... Is that wise Amal?"
“Mass graves in Iraq lie unprotected," Clooney said in her address to the U.N, “Witnesses are fleeing, and not one ISIS militant has faced trial for international crimes anywhere in the world."
Dove, together with the #freebeingme campaign collated results from a survey done in 13 countries throughout the globe and found that over half the women in the entire world have body image issues.
Why are these two events connected? Because until we start recognizing women for the real work they're doing, not the fake portrayals of people on the internet or in magazines lounging around on fake holidays - women will never be self-assured or confident enough to do anything else. What we should have been talking about the other day was Amal's speech; her client, her words and the corrosive inaction of the U.N. Instead I am painfully aware of the designer of her dress and the height of her slick black heels.
I do not want to be aware of these insignificant details. I do not care for how far along she is in her pregnancy - if she's showing a bump or not, because frankly, that is not what she was there for nor what she would have hoped people would be reporting on.
How do we fix it?
By reporting what matters; by fixing the image of the female in the public perspective; by rectifying the mistakes of those writers, advertizers, editors before us.
We are no longer household objects - we work, we build, we lead, we talk.
And what we have to say, is important.
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.