The Damsel in Distress

I have a confession to make. Here world, I am going to admit something .  Until quite recently I was addicted to the idea that someone was going to come along and save me and help me with all my problems.  Here I am an intelligent, assertive person who clearly should have an idea that the idea is preposterous… but there you go I found it enticing. I can remember at 14 writing a poem about some guy whisking in the darkness to save me. There. I said it. I have a damsel in distress recovered complex. I used to know too, how to get people to come to my rescue. I had the look down, the helpless quiver… the ability to have someone else carry the heavy load ( literally and figuratively…)

I am not talking about asking men to be chivalrous… but I keep reading the same thing over and over in books lately . It’s like women feel the need to have selective amnesia and act helpless… The books goes something like this

She lay shivering in the corner, the ghosts of her past stitched ever so closely to her side. They would come so. But Chastain came ( they always have ridiculous names) and held her in his big strong tatooed arms and she knew everything would be o.k. from now on.

 

Oh brother. So why do women find this so appealing? Because it’s nice to think that someone else can solve your problems… it’s also quite a condescending mythology right up there with the White Man Solves Problems of Minorities myth. It’s even more intoxicating because it’s done for love.

But let’s not even talk about what it does to women… let’s talk about the effect this has on men. How can men possibly live up to this insane all knowing standard? Let’s look at the fictional qualities this person has to have

 

They know all the answers

So basically we expect them to know how to solve your life when they aren’t in your situation and you yourself  can’t deal with it. You expect them to know exactly how to solve something in a record amount of time…. there is no consultation, give or take, learning organically together to figure this out. We are expecting immediate , straight cut answers.

Usually in this myth it is a problematic and often painful situation of the past.  So this person, without any psychological or psychiatric or medical training will somehow know how to ” cure ” us ???  How dangerous is that? We are letting someone else foster important decisions and rooting our whole self confidence in those answers. For this reason, a man can feel pressured or stressed to know everything and cannot confide when they are unable to handle a situation. This is not a key to a trusting relationship is it? Oh yeah and you can never be wrong.

Men Need to be strong all the time

Men can’t cry, or be weak or even ask for help. They are the strong ones, the ones who need to endure pain for women … Isn’t that a little strange? I mean , technically speaking women endure a heck of a lot of physical pain every month and even while they are pregnant.  What are we teaching men that they have to be closed off emotionally in order to solve our problems???

Enduring a concept of perfection

In order to be a savior one has to be perfect. An adonis , an epitome of wisdom and strength. You have to be this in order to be worthy of love.  Again… kind of messed up isn’t it?

Realizing the archetype

The archetype of the damsel in distress has existed since the dawn of time, and it’s time to change it. We need to realize that perhaps, the damsel is that part of us that needs saving. I remember I had a dream once and there was this huge chasm and I didn’t know how to get to the other side. This guy was on the other side and he said ” Jump I will catch you!” . I did and he caught me and saved me. A friend of mine told me: “what do you think this means?” I told her I thought it had to do with my relationship. But she shook her head and told me to think harder. I then realized it had to do with me saving MYSELF. He was a symbol of my ability to find strength to do something.

And this is the gyst of this : No one can save you from yourself. No one can walk for you. No one can be your voice. You have to make that decision, you have take those steps and sing those notes. Yes, someone can help you walk but ultimately we decide this for ourselves. The only thing that saves you is yourself. Just had to repeat that one.

For me, ultimately I had to continually decide to trust in God, have faith and make my own decisions… but that’s scary because then the responsibility is solely upon yourself.

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Myths fostered in the media about teenagers and pre teens

If you have been reading my blog for a long time, you probably have figured out that I am really interested in young teens/ pre teens as I work in education and volunteer at a local rural school in El Salvador with young pre teen girls.

At any rate, I have no qualms reading teen books or watching teen shows . I figure, I need to really know what kind of stuff teens are exposed to because it sure ain’t like what when I was younger.

But some things DON’T change and it’s a good idea to sit back and analyze what are the stereotypes/ paradigms that are being perpetuated on film , television and in books when they are directed towards youth.  If you read my post on race stereotypes in the media , I talked a little about how we sell myths as truths in the media and perpetuate it for the ultimate goal of consumerism.  Here are a couple of myths / stereotypes that are seen in the media :

 

The Beauty Myth

Most of the time , teens are overtly concerned about their appearance. It’s not done in an obvious way , most of the time they aren’t talking about clothes all the time. However, the way they dress and how they look are a key component of their personality.

Every single character is beautiful. They don’t have zits, they aren’t awkward looking and in fact they don’t look like teenagers.  They are also most of the time white, or “white looking” ( straight hair, straight nose , wide eyes). A lot of them are wealthy, have an endless wardrobe and are very much consumed on popularity and how things look even when supposedly they’re not.

Why the media does this : What better way to teach kids that the only thing they should be concerned about is buying stuff? Get them while they are young and gullible, perpetuate the idea that money buys happiness, beauty and popularity.  Focus on individualism and bloated sense of self.

Myth number two : The Bitch

There is almost always a girl who is a mean girl. She wants the man, the popularity, is sneaky and up to no good. The main protagonist has to spend a huge amount of energy plotting revenge, self defense or something or the other. In other words, she isn’t a human being she is in the plot to create drama. This creates a sense of otherness, a feeling that there  are cliques, social status and people are divided in us vs. them. 
It also fosters an unhealthy sense of competition, of a feeling that you cannot work together and find goodness in everyone. It makes the world black and white.

Why they do this : To create drama, and also it is much simpler to make someone a bitch than to really find a healthy balance.

Myth number three : Sexuality and Relationships

I mentioned that they always seem more mature than they should be . They usually don’t question their identity or who they are. They act like they are 25 and not 14. That’s because in television and film they are played by adults and in books they are written by adults. They are a nostalgic idealized version of what teens should be.  Teens aren’t the ones writing the story. We have no idea what they REALLY are feeling because we don’t allow them to have a voice of their own. We are writing it for them because we want to have a version that makes sense, that would fit into a sense of consumerism.

There is also a very real blase attitude about sex. Most of the teens have sex like they are chewing bubble gum. Very few of them have reservations about doing it, and if they are they are dubbed a prude , a religious freak or isolated freak.  This is all at the ripe old age of 14/15 where technically it shouldn’t be a given that someone had sex. On Mtv, in the show awkward the main girl Jenna asks the guy she slept with how many sex partners he has had. ( uh… they’re 15!! Why would anyone assume that he would be experienced at that point???)

We have become so numb to blatant sexuality that the lack of this, the idea of chastity is such a foreign concept that we really think of it as against nature.  What’s more,  there are no direct consequences for their actions.

Why they do this : This goes back to the fifties, in rebel without a cause. There is actual research that showed that teens were more likely to consume more and go to see something if it had a lot of sex , drugs and alcohol.  The rest as they say is history…Myth Number four LOLA

You only live once. The idea is that, when you’re young you have to take advantage of your youth and get  wasted, drunk, and just be reckless.  Anyone who isn’t like this is again, a prude and doesn’t know how to live. Usually someone has to show them how to LOLA .

 

Myth number five : The Rebel

No one understands them, they need to rebel they have to go away from what society expects them. Parents are douches who just don’t know anything.  Youth is a time of recklessness…. not of doing good

Youth are a burden, but can’t change anything around them.

By being consumed in this world of popularity, beauty , etc they are not even considering that they can change their environment for the better. None of them engage in service or try to do better in the world. None of them talk about spirituality or try to change their neighborhood. If they do, it’s done in such a corny , unrealistic and sappy way that turns people off. If they do , it’s in such a saintly way that no one could possibly live up to that standard.

Myth six : Teens aren’t religious or spiritual.

I don’t think I can think of very many examples of teens who are religious . ( Probably a walk to remember is the only thing that comes to mind) Religion isn’t cool, and it inhibits your behavior.  According to the media, it only is a means for fanaticism, judgement, repression of your true self. It is never a means for growth, faith, adquiring positive values in your life. It never is their decision but imposed by parents who are douches and don’t understand you.

Myth Seven : Youth Love and Not Caring

Teens are only concerned about love and relationships and their inner circle. No one’s pain is important to them. They aren’t concerned about issues like the environment or the world. If they are concerned it’s in a naive and misguided way ( think cher in clueless) or in a very judgemental and bossy angle .  They don’t care because they can’t do anything about it, it’s not their problem it’s someone else’s.

Breaking the paradigm

How about thinking that youth are capable beings who are the best equipped to make significant change in their communities and in themselves? How about they become empowered to grow spiritually and intellectually by fostering their innate talents? How about thinking that about what they want to do when they grow up and to start from the age of 12 to try and work towards those goals? How about instead of having parents be their enemies they are their allies for growth and betterment? What if instead of thinking about themselves they care about the world around them? What if instead of focusing so much on how they look they focused on becoming better people?

I would watch that… wouldn’t you? I bet if there were more stuff in the media like that, it would help to break down these paradigms into something new and entirely different of what teens should be.

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