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Don’t Let The Media Solve Your Mysteries

By Julia Bluhm

As a little girl, I wore Lands’ End clothes; I played with American Girl Dolls; and swung on the swings. I lived in a two-story house on a little street, in a little town. And that was my own little world. Anything outside was kind of a mystery.

I don’t know if I’ve ever said anything mean to anyone. But what I’ve only now realized is that I was guilty of something: Judging. Like I said, I saw lot of people walking around who were mysteries to me. I knew nothing about them, and the way they dressed and looked was different and made them even more mysterious.

The only things I knew about these kinds of people who I had never talked to, were the things I learned through the media. The media unleashes thousands of stereotypes, and they become the reality for kids who don’t know any better.

That means that people with tattoos and piercings were “scary.” Girls who wore short skirts and lots of makeup were “ditsy and dumb.” Without really knowing what I was doing, I was judging people every day, and so were all of my friends.

The media also sends messages to us girls. They tell us that “skinny” is a synonym to “pretty,” and that not only forms a negative body image for girls, but it also allows people to easily judge based on body type. People get picked on all the time about their body type. Why? Because the media tells us that only one body type is good, and others aren’t as good. Photoshop doesn’t help. Check out the Seventeen magazine petition for more info on that.

I never really realized how much we used to judge people, until I got involved in SPARK, and opened my eyes. Just the other day, some girls at school were having a conversation that went something like this:

“I don’t understand why people would ever want to get a bunch of piercings. It’s kind of icky. And why do people wear shorts so short that they’re practically underwear? That’s just asking for attention from creeps.”

The whole time I was sitting there uncomfortably, surprised at how much their conversation bothered me. They looked at me, expecting me to nod and agree with them. I probably would have if I were still eleven, and didn’t know any better.

“Well, I think people should wear whatever makes them happy,” I said. “  That’s all that matters.”

I’ve started hanging out with a bunch of different types of people recently. Now I know that none of those stereotypes I once believed are actually true. Someone’s personality, or how nice or smart they are, has nothing to do with how they look. We all know that stereotypes don’t define people, but do we believe it 100% of the time? I knew it, but I still judged people. It was an unconscious thing, and I didn’t think it was really big deal. But now I know it is.

When I witness people judging, it hurts me, even if it isn’t about me at all. Judging is something that’s really easy to do. People (even really nice people who would never hurt a fly) do it all the time. The media drills certain ideas into our brains, and makes it normal to think about people in unhealthy, unpleasant ways. It’s all good and fine until you wake up one morning and somebody’s making assumptions about you.

I think I’m in the process of becoming my own person, and that process involves a lot of change. I’m starting to present myself differently, talk differently, and believe in different things. I’m becoming independent. That puts me at a really vulnerable place for judging, I think. I’m kind of mystery to myself, so of course I’ll be a mystery to other people. And when we let the media “solve” our mysteries, we run into a lot of problems.

Yes, there will always be mean people we’ll want to stay away from, and nice people who are possible friend-material. But we won’t be able to tell who’s who by looking at them, or by letting the media decide for us. Ultimately, if you don’t judge people, there will be a million more people you’ll want to talk to, and meet. And that will basically lead to having a million more friends who are all interesting in their own ways. In the end, your Facebook newsfeed will be pretty exciting.

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9 Responses to “Don’t Let The Media Solve Your Mysteries”

  1. Hey Julia,
    I read about your petition and decided that you’ve earned yourself a free shirt from one angry girl designs.
    Can you go to http://www.oneangrygirl.net and pick one out? Then send me an email telling me which one you want and I’ll send it to the HGHW people. Or you can visit me at facebook.com/one.angry.girl.designs and tell me there.
    Thanks!
    o.a.g.

  2. [...] This article originally appeared on SPARK a Movement. [...]

  3. Wow Julia you have hit the nail on the head! What a wonderful world this would be if we all judged less and respected each other more. Keep up the great work :)

  4. Charlotte says:

    Julia,

    I’m the editor of a collaborative book (artists and writers) that’s discussing the lack of positive, multi-dimensional female role models in the media. We just heard about you, and we’re interested in extending an offer to contribute. It could be a really wonderful published print platform for your message.

    If you’re interested, please send an email to info@thebetterbombshell.com. We’d really love to hear from you.

    All the best,
    Charlotte

  5. TL says:

    All I can say is wow! You renew my hope in the kids of this generation. You are such a strong definite force now- I can’t wait to hear about the things you do when you are an adult!

    I am so blown away that I just can’t formulate the awesome feelings into coherent sentences… so I will end with

    You are awesome and amazing and inspiring!

  6. Hi Julia,

    This is great! Please don’t ever change. Best of luck to you!!

    Take care,
    Jackie

  7. Keep it up Julia, I’m hoping the Spark team passed along my post about you on Shaping Youth: http://www.shapingyouth.org/?p=19280 As I said in the close, “We’re way overdue in passing YOUTH the media microphone to speak on issues that impact them every single day of their lives.”

    I’m so glad it’s in your capable hands. Now that you have their attention, I can’t wait to see ‘what’s next’ as the volume is amplified. Looking forward to hearing much more from all of you, as I’m sure you’ve inspired thousands.

  8. Merel Bas says:

    Dear Julia,

    here in The Netherlands (Europe), we are very impressed with your achievement to get Seventeen magazine to lessen the amount of photoshopping. As a journalist for Opzij, a Dutch opinionated journal for women, I would like to ask you a few questions for a short intervieuw in our journal.

    I’m not sure how this works in de USA with parental consent, but is it possible that you contact me about this?

    We can do the interview by skype or email, it will take about 15 minutes of your time.

    You can contact me via merel.bas@opzij.nl

    Kind regards, Merel Bas
    journalist at Opzij, a Dutch opinionated journal for women

  9. Katherine Brezler says:

    I am thoroughly impressed by your tenacious feminism! I have a friend in radio who would love to interview you. Please email me for more details katherinebrezler@gmail.com

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