Question Roulette: Is Communications changing you and if so how?

Question Roulette: Is Communications changing you and if so how?

Is Communications changing me? The simple answer is absolutely. How could it not? Anytime anyone experiences something new I think it can be expected that we will be changed, even if only slightly. This goes for a good book or movie, traveling to a new place, having kids, or whatever. For me, I think the biggest indication of change shows in noticing my thought patterns shifting from “influenced” to “how to influence”.

For example, the other day I left school and managed to find time to go grocery shopping. Being in such a fast pace and intense program, grocery shopping has been delegated to my partner over the last few months (god bless your little heart Hannah). While I was in the store going through the aisles I started noticing things I had never thought about before. The labels of products started to jump out at me – and not in a “how many calories and carbs are attached to this” kind of way. More in a “how did this get here kind of way.” I began asking myself what actually went into the design of that label, and  what kind of strategies & tactics (which are in fact two different thingswere used to gain product awareness.

After asking all of these questions I found myself trying to answer them. I found that concepts I had been learning in school were undoubtedly used in every single product, movement, etc. in our world today. That behind everything was a strategy; intentional or unintentional, effective or ineffective.

This pattern of thought has changed how I think about everything. I now sign on to social media and wonder how many of the successful movements that are currently going viral are natural? Or is the concept of  “astroturfing” actually responsible for how effective these are? Who are the greatest influencers behind these movements? And how much of this actually goes offline?

*The concept of a movement going “offline” is that in order for it to be successful people have to be talking about the movement in their physical lives. This requires the evangelists mentioned in my last Question Roulette blog. 

I am beginning to realize just how much power the “average person” truly has in influencing. As Joseph Ranseth said, “you now have more information at your disposal than major leaders did just a few decades ago”. Coupled with all of this information, we have a plethora of social media platforms and communication tools that give us the ability to share our content far and wide. 

It is in realizing that with a little planned strategy, transparency in your message and the assistance of those who share our values that now more than ever it is possible to start a successful movement. It is this shift of thought of being influenced to influencing that has changed me the most while in communications so far.

Thank you again for the great question. Take care, my influencing friends!

-Steph Jael

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt challenging the status quo, again and again!

At this point it has already gone viral – and rightfully so! If you haven’t already please check out Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s lip syncing routine of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation“!From a perfectly executed choreographed dance routine inspired by Janet’s original video, to a full blown face of makeup and ponytail – he went all out! On his Facebook page, JGL explains how much effort exactly he put into his performance:

“First thing I did after deciding to do Rhythm Nation was email my ol’ friend Jenna Dewan Tatum. She danced on stage with Janet herself, did this song every night on tour. She hooked me up with two friends of hers, Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa, who were both dancers on that same tour. They were awesome teachers. They even got in touch with the music video’s original choreographer, Anthony Thomas, who came over, polished my moves, and told me all about the intended spirit of The Nation. It was really a better prep processes than I probably deserved. Huge thanks to all! Oh yeah, and go see THE NIGHT BEFORE!”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lyp-sync battle

JGL goes “full Janet” for lip syncing battle.

Part from the performance being an amazing homage to the original Rhythm Nation, and JGL never breaking character, what I love most about it is his healthy promotion of masculinity. JGL has always been one of my favorite celebrities for this reason. While he himself identifies as heterosexual (because that’s a question we clearly need to continue asking) he has always willingly and openly shared his support for the gay community – while also noting how insulting it is to gay and straight people to continue asking.

Additionally, he strongly identifies as a feminist, something he attributes to his mother and is in turn able to embrace his femininity without the fear of his masculinity cracking.

“However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what “feminism” means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist.” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, On being a Feminist

https://twitter.com/hitRECordJoe?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

JGL ain’t afraid to claim ‘fangirl’ status.

 

Notables like Sean Penn in the movie Milk, Kurt Cobain in his dresses, and Seth Rogen & James Franco in general, are all rare examples of men in the spotlight who repeatedly express and endorse themselves while maintaining a healthy form masculinity. But then you have to ask yourself;

Why is it that healthy masculinity seems to be a rare thing?

Why is it when stars like Joseph Gordon-Levitt do something not traditionally masculine we feel the need to question their orientation? (As if his orientation would define just what kind of man he is anyway)

Why is it such a breath of fresh air to hear an artist not change the pronouns in a song cover (as Kings of Leon did for Robyn’s, Dancing on my own – I’m not the girl you’re taking home”) – because heaven forbid someone think a man was singing about another man.

Why is it not socially acceptable for a guy to show affection to another guy, without ending with a “not in a gay way”?

And ask yourself really… who actually benefits from the need to deny parts of yourself, emotions, forms of expression, to live up to some unrealistic standard?

Our local community is not exempt from this. This summer, when I bought pink shorts and my “feminine” partner, Hannah cut her hair short it became confusing for others. People felt the need to ask us all sorts of ridiculous questions. Straight people wanted to know “who was the man?” and gay people suddenly commented on how much  Hannah and I were dressing alike (even though we had always dressed alike).

Who was more masculine?

Why was it such a statement for me to wear pink shorts?

And why does length of hair, colour of clothing or beauty products, or even pronouns define what is or isn’t masculine?

I’ll have to think on this one a little more and get back to you. But until then, if you haven’t seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance yet, you can take a look here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPWs1QkK9k8&feature=youtu.be

Be kind to your beautiful selves,

Steph Jael

 

Does Gender Inequality Actually Exist: 3 Things That Became Grossly Apparent

7© Steph Jael, 2015

Does Gender Inequality Actually Exist: 3 things that became grossly apparent.

(when I felt my gender)

*Disclaimer: It should be noted that gender falls within a spectrum. Perhaps one of my greatest realizations that has come from my encounter with gender inequality is the variety and fluidity that gender has presented itself in. We are more than just men and more than just women. Non-binary terms are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past.

It is with that, that I state, for the sake of this article I am writing this from the perspective of a woman; realizing the expectation that traditional male/female stereotypes were expecting from me. It is my hope to delve into further discussions on future posts about the many facets of identity, from many perspectives.*

So my photo was censored… and then another one after that, and another. All of a sudden my gender and what was expected of me became pretty apparent. Something that I had never really thought about, that had always been relatively fluid, suddenly was demanding things from me that I hadn’t bothered to really question before. It was the middle of summer, disgustingly hot, and 3 men got on the elevator, shirtless. Where I once had not questioned how acceptable that was, I was now feeling rage. I was just as warm as they were, why couldn’t I be shirtless, without being objectified? Things started to sink in pretty quickly… gender inequality still existed.

Here are 3 key things that became grossly sobering as I realized gender inequality is in fact alive and well.

  1. My Body is a Wonderland; a Sexual Wonderland

This one cuts deep and can be traced back as early as the middle years with simple concepts like “dress-coding” for young girls. Being a “tomboy” with baggy clothes, hoping to hide whatever it was puberty was doing to my lean and androgynous frame, I had never personally experienced this.  But in watching the experience of my friends, I can’t count the number of times they were sent home, asked to change or to cover up because their clothing (or skin) were distracting.

What exactly is this idea saying to young girls?

  1. That your body in its natural form, is inherently sexual and should therefore be prohibited.
  2. That in turn a boy/man/whoever’s education is contingent on how focused they can be (around you).
  3. Which in turn implies that this person can’t stay focused so long as your sexual body is distracting them.
  4. Therefore, it is your job as an inherently sexual being to cover up if you expect anyone to get any work done, or additionally, are to remain safe.
  5. And finally, if you do decide to dress like this, you must be doing it for attention (heaven forbid you dress for yourself).

Conversely, what message does this send to young boys/admirers of girls?

  1. You, young man, have no control – least of all over your sexual desires (this notion is the basis of what has become rape culture).
  2. And because you are always thinking about sex, in an all-consuming way,  multi-tasking is not an option for you. You couldn’t possibly ever be engaged with anything else as much as you are engaged with this.
  3. Conversely, because you are always engaged in the pursuit of sex, it would be inconceivable to think you could ever be violated… least of all by a woman.

What we don’t seem to realize is that from even our early years, we begin grooming and sending out the message that our bodies are to be reduced down to nothing more than sexual objectification. We are not endorsing any regard for the content of our character or the responsibility of our own moral and ethical code.

Simply put, we are sending the message that sex is broken down into two categories; sex giver (women) sex receiver (men). Movements like the Slut Walk or the Free the Nipple effort will later become contingent on this ideal.

 

  1. Missing & murdered indigenous women is still a thing

Now this one has always been close to my heart. Growing up indigenous, in an indigenous neighborhood, I have always been aware of the marginalization and inequality of my people in Canada. But as I started to digest the idea of gender inequality, I realized that one of the biggest indicators it still existed was the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women movement – a topic still very much present today.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada states that between the years 2000 to 2008, Aboriginal women and girls represented approximately 10% of all female homicides in Canada, even though they make up only 3% of the female population. NWAC’s research confirms that Aboriginal women experience violence by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders, and the vast majority are men.

While these numbers show that racial divide is still very much present in Canada, it is also worth noting that another demographic within this issue is reserved for women.

 

  1. Unequal pay in the workforce is DEFINITELY still a thing.

Archaic as this concept may seem when I really looked at it, it became quite apparent that the pay gap between men and women is also still very much existent and another indicator of inequality.

I didn’t have to look very far for an example. A good friend of mine makes next to minimum wage serving. She has a university degree, and has been with her company for 8+ years. While she does make additional money in gratuities it is not near the amount her boyfriend, without having finished high school, makes in the labor industry. During off season when he is  unable to work, he makes more on Employment Insurance (60% of his earnings) alone than she will make during a full 40 hour work week.

While it should be noted that women are now claiming their place in the working world we still have quite a ways away to go. Women are now able to hold positions in traditionally male dominated industries, but this does not deny the reality that other traditionally female dominated industries do not receive the same or comparable compensation. Even within my current field of Public Relations, women make up more than 70% of the field, but still make less than men. Huffington Post: Gender Pay Gap Canada article elaborates on this further.

 

I don’t hate you guys, I swear. 

For what it’s worth I want to make it clear that my comments in no way whatsoever are meant as an attack on one gender in order to uplift another – if we are going to break it down to two genders at all. For some reason I have found whenever a comment is made with the intent of uplifting a woman someone has felt the need to spin the effort as an attack against men.  I personally have some wonderful men in my life. They have done nothing but love, support, and respect me. Perhaps that is why it took me so long to realize that the rest of the world did not view women the same way they do. It is because of the men in my life (and the women, and the in between’s) that I am inspired to speak up on these issues. No one benefits from gender inequality.

All people are loving, sentient beings, that are beyond the stereotypes and expectations society places on us – and it is with that in mind that I encourage you to think about these things… and then challenge them.

All my love,

Steph Jael 

Shirts are for Boys – Your body offends me

Offensive Nipple

The above image is responsible for how I found feminism – which in turn lead me to the idea for Shirts are for Boys. This photo is one I took this past summer of my partner Hannah, while we were at a Manitoban nude beach. To be honest, at the time it was taken there were no real convictions or preconceived meanings behind it. The landscape was vibrant, the weather was warm, and after a lifetime of struggling with my own body issues I felt incredibly free being naked. Quite simply, I wanted to remember that moment, and so I took a picture. Not for a minute were there any thoughts about what the implications of taking this photo could be, or how it would completely change everything I thought I knew.

Let me back up a little bit. I was never fond of the idea of feminism. For one, I had no real idea of what the term actually meant and absolutely no intention of finding out. Like many, my idea of a feminist was an angry, man-hating lesbian with short hair, plaid shirts, and body hair. Given that I was already a short-haired, plaid-wearing lesbian I set out to make sure I conveyed an image that made it clear I was a humanitarian – NOT a feminist. I didn’t hate men and quite frankly didn’t really believe women were having that much of a different experience from them. It’s the 21st century, in North America nonetheless. Women have the right to vote, are allowed to wear pants, and sometimes we even get away with bad behavior because we are “non-threatening”. For women in the LGBTQ community, we were now able to legally get married, hold pride parades (in Canada) without much interference and for the first time in a long time had a growing amount of community support. Truthfully, I didn’t see the point in feminism or the true value of its efforts. I had never really felt connected to my gender until I received this response on my sharing of the photo of Hannah from a reputable social media platform:

“We removed your post because it doesn’t follow our Community Guideline. Please read our Community Guidelines to learn how you can help keep our site safe.”

Censorship?! My photo was reported for nudity and taken down because it was offensive?! I was in shock.

I had heard of censorship and the “free the nipple” movement. I had read articles on public breast feeding and knew the female body was offending people far and wide. But the actual implications of it were so far removed from anything I had experienced personally – I was outraged.

I have been an artist my entire life and am constantly striving to create controversial work. One photo I had success with entitled “She” depicted violence against a person identified as a woman. The photo gained some attention, shocked a few, and got some commercial and artistic recognition – but not once did it seem to offend anyone, least of all social media platforms. Now here I was… offending not only the individual who felt compelled to report my photo as inappropriate (which is actually quite petty in my opinion) but an entire social media guideline! I couldn’t wrap my head around how something that was meant to be a beautiful moment was being exploited and taken entirely out of context. It was then that I got angry. How dare a widely accepted and used social media site, one that should be responsible in encouraging ethical treatment and equal rights of all peoples, try to censor something that was very clearly artistic?

In response to my photo being removed I shared a call to action for all of my viewers, supporters, and fans to share the photo of Hannah. To my surprise people responded with an overwhelming amount of love and support by not only sharing my photo but adding commentary and encouragement to continue pushing back against my censorship. All of a sudden my inbox and media pages were being flooded with touching emails, words of encouragement, and stories of individuals who wanted this story shared – most of these people being women. Women who were vocalizing and sharing their stories that did in fact prove our experiences are different from men. That even though we can vote, wear pants, secure employment, that we are still very much existing in a binary and oppressive structure. That femininity, regardless of gender, was not socially acceptable and therefore something to be censored. That by accepting a part of yourself and owning your existence you can challenge social constructs – without being an angry lezzie.

It is this realization that lead me here, to this blog, Shirts are for Boys. Think about that phrase for a moment. I mean really let it sink in. How ridiculous is the notion that a shirt is for a boy… or a girl? That bare chests are only acceptable for one gender, while dresses and the colour pink for another? That any object or expression is reserved for a specific characteristic? That it is offensive for someone to be anything they want to be?

Shirts are for Boys is a creative response to inequality in our current culture. The focus is on creatively informing and discussing relevant issues surrounding gender. It is a blog dedicated to encourage readers to live authentically, find self love, and be what ever you want to be. It is about empowering others, exploring non-binary concepts, and liberation.

This is my response to censorship. It comes with love, compassion, and a real desire to affect change. Shirts are not just for boys, they are for whoever the hell want to wear them.

– Steph Jael

P.S. I’m sorry your body is offensive Hannah