The Female Time Machine – Dr Who’s TARDIS gets to have a voice.
The other day my six year old came home from school and had evidently heard a song being sung around the ridges… Tell me what you notice about it?
Here’s a few things I noticed (and discussed with a despondent six year old):
- The men are the only ones who talk and the lyrics aren’t poetic, beautiful, wise, funny, political or in any way especially interesting;
- The women (they are named: Jordan and Pippen) are apparently part of ‘the team’, but they are silent partners – they do a lot of striding, pouting and hair-flicking;
- Austin looks young enough to be the little brother of the women he is ogling; Pitbull looks old enough to be their uncle. Creepy on both counts.
- The girl Austin talks about doesn’t respond to him when he talks to her – ie: she doesn’t want to talk to him… this doesn’t stop him from persisting rambling incoherent nonsense to her. I think if some baby-faced lad did that to one of our daughters, he’d get a stern caution about harassment.
- The men are fully clothed, the women are not.
Now in case we think that Women’s Lib is soooo last century, let’s just take have a think about some of the stories contemporary western society is telling:
So what is going on with our ideas of masculine and feminine? What are we telling our sons and daughters about how to be man and how to be woman?
It’s taken fifty years for the TARDIS (Dr Who’s time machine – always referred to as female) to become incarnated as female; for her to actually have a voice and a form. At least she’s visible, and intelligent and valued. Look at charting songs and you get a whole different picture – you get “Mm Yeah” and young women like Nicky Minaj and Lady Gaga basically selling their ‘brand’, their highly contrived, highly sexualized, marketable selves. Young men and young women are being told (informally), that we are living in a consumer world and women are on the market. Sex sells = women are sold = freedom or slavery?
Beyoncé, G.R.L and Nicky Minaj are being made out to be strong, independent women who are bold enough to say what they want… but are they really? What they wear and some of the lyrics to their songs are not about strong, independent, intelligent, beautiful women – it’s about selling songs and earning money for them and their record companies.
So what now? We need to recover a different model of ourselves before God as male and female. We need to ask ourselves what values we want for ourselves and our community.
What do we want from our artistic community – to be easy marketing fodder or to actually challenge us with stuff that is imaginative and vibrant?
There are some powerful ideas articulated in this clip: reconciliation, forgiveness and a Rainbow Nation – people from different backgrounds and cultures, working together. The chief idea is that we need to let anger and pain go before we can successfully move on, as a community, or as individuals. We need to be able to forgive.
Christianity has a radical take on forgiveness. It is summed up very powerfully when Jesus hangs on a cross, broken and battered, his life drawing to its close. It’s in this moment that all that hatred and sadness is undone, turned on its head by compassion and forgiveness.
Here are some resources that you might find helpful in exploring the idea of forgiveness more:
“The Book of Forgiveness” by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho, four steps are outlined as necessary to the process of forgiveness…
1) telling the story;
2) naming the hurt;
3) granting forgiveness, and finally;
4) releasing or renewing the relationship. This step acknowledges that there are times when you can get a relationship back on track after hurt has been caused, but at other times, it cannot be done (domestic violence or sexual abuse would be examples of when it is appropriate to release rather than renew the relationship).
The Forgiveness Project site tells a number of powerful stories of loss, pain and the forgiveness and grace that have come out of those experiences – I’d encourage you to look at even one of those stories for yourself or as a class or family.
A lighter way in to the subject of forgiveness, healing and letting pain and anger go in order to find inner peace, might be found in the second Kung Fu Panda film… can you see in this clip - where Po learns about his past – some of the steps along the way to forgiveness?
So what’s your response? Do you feel trapped by some past hurt? Do you need to seek or grant forgiveness. Are there trusted adults who can help support you with that process?
Forgiveness liberates the soul…
This week at Chapel we talked about the destructiveness of jealousy and insecurity and, thanks to an amazing presentation we heard at Staff Professional Development, some brain chemistry thrown in for good measure!
Jealousy and insecurity are terrible things. These are among the dynamics present in Maleficent, a creative imagining of the story of the ‘evil fairy’ in Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent becomes the victim of them and in her turn, stripped of her wings by the boy she loved and trusted, and she flips her lid (that’s the term we talked about in Middle School Chapel when your ’feeling’ brain kicks in before your ‘thinking’ brain – check that first Emotions and the Brain clip out if you haven’t already…). Her world becomes small, shrunken around the primitive brain stuff – her desire to survive, to protect herself, to ensure that nobody harms her again. Jealousy and insecurity and that all craves for recognition, power and status, these things have very old beginnings, they hit us at primal levels and disconnect our higher order thinking.
So, how do you get back your ability to connect, negotiate and think clearly and positively? Well, this is where the language of faith and spirituality have a part to play. Be grateful. Be slow to anger, be quick to forgive. Love God, love others, love yourself. As far as it depends on you live in harmony with all people: these are all key messages from our Bible. Maleficent is healed when she learns to love and remembers that she is loved. She leaves behind the jealousy, hatred and revenge that have crippled her, and she reconnects with her higher order thinking
Jealousy, insecurity, the will to be Top Dog or Queen Bee, and all the power struggles that go with these feelings are such time-wasters. And the question is: is that how you want to live your life? Plagued by these things? Wasting your energy, flipping your lid, looking over your shoulder, or on facebook to see who is better than you, who’s having a more interesting, better life?
Don’t be swamped with jealousy and insecurity, sold out, tied up, held back by the endless ‘what ifs’ of life. Know that you matter; You are precious. And so are they (whoever “they” might be for you). Forget the stuff that doesn’t matter, and focus on the fact that we are all children of the same God. And be free.
I think many of us have been horrified at the story that is unfolding between Australia and Thailand, where a Thai woman has agreed to be a surrogate for an Australian couple and has had twins, one of whom has been taken by the couple, the other little one who has Downs Syndrome has been left behind. The story continues to get more complicated and indeed much murkier. It highlights the tip of the ice-berg with regards to a whole bunch of very complex issues, which range from some very pure and compassionate motivations to help the poor and provide homes and love for children in desperate need, right the way through to the very sordid world of human trafficking, where children are taken from their families to profit a third party elsewhere in the equation.
Yesterday I happened to catch the last part of the Head First documentary series by Sabour Bradley on ABC2. This episode was entitled “The Orphan Business” and it was truly sobering to watch. Issues like the need for regulation of groups that run apparent charities, the involvement of government officials in covering up the true nature of these orphanges and the way in which they act as magnets not only for the very good, but for the very depraved, were among those discussed.
The link to the I-view of the episode is here. Please note, it has an M Rating, and is not advised for viewers under 15 year of age. Bradley’s direction is summed up by a short extract from the episode between 1 minute and 6 seconds through to about 4 minutes.
Earlier this year I read a book called “Little Princes” by an American, Connor Grennan. This is a slightly different story, but the echoes are there. Children being trafficked, in this case given up by their parents in poor rural areas to protect them from being recruited as child soldiers, or on the promise of a better life. The traffickers are unscrupulous souls who take the children and often exact a phenomenal payment to secure their safety. Then the children are dumped in Kathmandu, or taken in by orphanages, that are routinely visited by the traffickers to ensure their ‘assets’ are still within their control.
Here is a brief clip from Anti-trafficking Charity Not For Sale giving some figures relating to contemporary human enslavement… You might like to review these and do your own research. I am very aware that as such a huge multi-billion dollar industry, complicated by a web of corruption and abuse, there are also sub-campaigns to discredit those who are actually doing a lot of good. So be aware of that… be careful what you read and research it thoroughly.
Here are links to a couple of higher profile anti-trafficking Charities. AngliCORD’s work is broader and includes a range of projects to help ensure stability and justice, directly tackling the issues that stem from poverty.
Please take time to connect with them. Later this Term, one of our Middle School students is running a Charity Stall to raise money for the A21 Campaign.
At the heart of all this what we need to do, as people of good heart, is to look at they ways in which extreme poverty drives a negative agenda here. The Bible speaks extensively about justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable – the orphaned, the widowed and the foreigner. Jesus highlights the ways in which God’s preference is for the vulnerable (just read Matthew 25: 31-46). What we need to do as people with some influence, education and wealth, is to explore critically the ways to share the world’s resources more equitably so that all have enough. What do we spend our money on, locally, nationally, globally? What are our values? What understandings of ours are based on partial truths or mis-information? We need to agitate for change and be brave enough to make that change in our lives too.
While I was researching for our Images of Masculinity and Femininity Chapels, I came across this amazing thought from Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century… He says ‘man’, but obviously it applies to humanity generally – this is a call to action for girls and women too.
Read it, think about it and courageously use your intelligence to make the world around you a more compassionate place.
Last year a lovely person in the College community gave me a recipe for fudge. She said it was easy. It turns out, making fudge is not so easy for me. I have to be facing in a south-westerly direction and give my full mind to the anti-clockwise direction in which I am stirring the saucepan of sugary goodness. I swear if I look at the mixture the wrong way, if I think anxious thoughts while it is simmering, things don’t go so well.
Here’s the thing I have noticed; sometimes I can get the recipe right and it does produce good fudge. SO good. But there was this one time when I accidentally sloshed in some cold water (don’t ask) and I thought it was wrecked. Indeed, it looked that way until I discovered something. I had failed to create fudge: epically so, but it completely succeeded (for reasons I cannot explain) as filling for caramel tarts.
It was brilliant – and I’m not even lying!
And that reminded me a bit of life; sometimes, you can follow all the steps faithfully, stick to the recipe and things don’t work. Accidents happen, or life just proves bigger, more complicated and less manageable than humans like to admit. We know those times don’t we – when things don’t go to plan?
The thing is, when those times happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of the line. For fudge: maybe. But for caramel, maybe not. The person who invented Peach Melba created it by accident – he was aiming for something else entirely and voila! Peach Melba came about. Some days, I grant you, the results need to be scrapped and you need to start again, but life can still take us off the recipe book and into unchartered territory. And unchartered is something we need not – necessarily – fear.
“With nearly a million children educated in our schools (in the UK) we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying; but we must also take action. We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can find anywhere, that specifically targets such bullying. More than that, we need also to ensure that what we do and say in this Synod, as we debate these issues, demonstrates above all the lavish love of God to all of us.” (Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion – July 2013)
Children taunting or teasing other children is not new. I remember when I was at school myself the terms that were available to us then to put others down, diminshing them in the eyes of others. As perpetual newcomer to schools (I had seven all told, one of my siblings holds the record at ten…) and the children of an Anglican priest we were frequently the butt of the taunts. There are some I remember to this day.
Taunts about weight, taunts about height, taunts about skin colour, or braces, or glasses, or pimples; taunts about the house you live in or what your parents do for a living. Take your pick. I think most of us are familiar with them. It’s not new. No. But it’s not acceptable. The name-calling and the put-downs, the shove in the playground, the frustrated exclamation when your mate misses a goal he should have gotten – none of these things are acceptable.
Of particular concern in more recent years are those tags that arise based on gender or sexuality: slurs like “you’re such a girl!” or “you’re so gay!” These are attached to ideas of weakness, as if somehow being female or being homosexual makes you inherently less strong and therefore less worthy than someone who is the opposite – and what’s that? Male and heterosexual. These slurs are inappropriate on so many levels, but especially on this one; and what they end up doing is perpetuating the notion that there are heirarchies and that some are better/stronger/fitter/more worthwhile than others. They are easy, throw-away lines that lack tact, thought or in a good many cases, accuracy; but beware of the thing they mask. They show a hidden, though present intolerance of difference, because we can fear what is different or what we don’t understand.
On a related note, in May this year the Anglican Church in the UK released a document called “Valuing All God’s Children”. It is targetted at changing attitudes to specific forms of bullying in Anglican schools there, specifically homophobic bullying. I was heartened to see its publication. I was heartened also to hear our own Diocese of Brisbane Synod debate the issue of affirming the rights of all people this week, and condemning violence against anyone on the basis of gender, race, religion or orientation. You may not understand the story of those who are different from you, but taunting them, making them into a convenient joke, or worse, making them the subject of prejudice, discrimination or violence is unacceptable. Wake up! Bullying, fear, hatred and violence – these things betray our humanity, and they ultimately betray the God who loves us all.
This is an Hungarian singer Csemer Boglárka, whose song Nouveau Parfum went a bit viral earlier this year… The clip is interesting in that apart from her beautiful voice, it features her image being retouched until she is really quite a different person…
The comments below the youtube clip include one that observes what an amazing job Photoshop technology does retouching her – it’s all so believable, a subtle improvement on the original beauty. Most pick up on the way she was beautiful before, and that what results is a contrived package, making young women yearn for a beauty that doesn’t exist without Photoshop.
What struck me was that when I beheld the ‘end product’, I was hard put to recall what she had looked like in the beginning, which leads me very neatly to my second observation. last week I had two separate conversations with people who reminded me that the human brain processes what it sees/engages with as ‘fact’ or perhaps ‘truth’, whether it is or not. So what the eye sees, what the mind interacts with effectively, the brain believes. One of those conversations related to the pervasiveness of the media in our world, and that whether truth or fiction or reality television: the mind takes it on as ‘real’.
It’s one of the primary questions that exercise the little grey cells: what is real? what is true? We want to know, becasue that’s what we want to be part of. What’s the point wasting time with stuff that doesn’t matter? However, we are surrounded by stuff that doesn’t matter all the time and we’re being told that it does matter; the stuff gets a back-story and impressive packaging and media attention – so it just has to be real, doesn’t it? Short anwer: No.
We have fixed our gaze so consistently on this air-brushed image of the world we’ve created, little wonder we’re not sure what is real these days. We cling to what we see or experience as somehow true to life, justified, because remember what we behold, our mind responds to as real/true whether it is or not.
Faith should be the voice that reminds us what matters, or at least it should be, and it fails dismally when it is not. Faith is the voice that says what matters is love, what is real and true is forgiveness and compassion, not marketing and faster, bigger, better, shinier and cleverer. We are consumer boys and girls, neck-deep in our consumer world. And let me tell you, life in plastic is not so fantastic. Life in plastic is not the truth. Yet we are so fixated on what our wealth can secure for us, that we are not seeing the truth. The Empire we have created is mastering us and cash-rich and time-poor, we are doubly its slaves. The unknown God walks among us still, mysterious and beautiful and liberating. This God calls to our hearts, not our wallets; and this God says come and follow me.
When we were in the UK one of the popular ‘reality’ shows was “Splash” a series that featured celebrities coached by Tom Daley, Olympic diver and medallist, diving from various heights and being judged. Here’s a glimpse of a young dancer (who featured on Britain’s Got Talent) called Perri Kiely….
Yes, he dived backwards once and it was replayed four or five times. He didn’t just invent the cure for world hunger or win the Nobel Peace Prize. In terms of human narratives, the whole celebrity/look at me/admire my diving/dancing culture is a fairly shallow one – in natural history terms, there’s a kind of tumbleweed thing about it – no real depth, no groundedness, just an aimless pursuit, blown this way and that by whatever trend is the hottest or how many ‘likes’ you get.
The world is full of stories, some are true, some are based on a truth or a piece of wisdom, some are part of our history, and some are what we dream of for our future. But what troubles me about our present culture is that we are losing touch with those deeper shared narratives, and even the sharing of personal or family ones is getting beyond our grasp. Instead, cash-rich and time-poor, technology allowing us to fit more and more into the working week than is good for us, we turn to these tumbleweed kind of stories, which in the end don’t sustain – because they were never meant to.
We know the difference between the shallow, something-nothing stories of modern celebrity-reality culture and the Real Deal. It’s just easy for us to access something that has got all the window-dressing, the glitz and glam, but none of the depth. It’s easy for us to zone out to manipulated stories that require neither thought nor commitment from us. But the kicker is that when we buy into those shallow things all the time, they erode all the really great values in our lives and make tumbleweeds of us all. And is that what we really want for ourselves?
So may you choose something more for yourself than being part of the tumbleweed stories. May you choose to be part of the human story with more depth, more compassion and more beauty. The world is full of stories. That is how humanity connects with itself and with God. So make your story worthwhile.