Friday, April 25, 2014

I See London, I See France... I (Don't Want to) See Beyonce in Her Underpants

Of the many powerful women who have graced the cover of TIME magazine in it’s near century existence, only one was in her underwear.

Beyonce Knowles-Carter is a wonderful choice for the cover of this year's "100 Most Influential People" issue, hitting stands this week.  In addition to having sold over 118 million records in her solo career (and another 60 million with the girl group Destiny's Child), she has won 17 Grammy Awards and been nominated for a Golden Globe for her stellar role in Dreamgirls.  Add to that dossier her credits as fashion designer, social activist, working mother and self-proclaimed "modern day feminist", and it is impossible to find her undeserving of the title.  Why, then, is the often politically and fiscally skewed magazine showcasing only her sex appeal on their dramatic cover?

I've taken a look back at many issues of TIME featuring women on their covers, including this one published less than a month after I was born.

Clearly we've come a long way since the mid-1970's, but likely too far.  While Sheryl Sandberg's 2013 cover below may have played on the 1980's Pantene "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful" advertising campaign, I'm (somewhat) surprised we didn't have to see her in the shower.

Even this 2006 cover of country music sensation the Dixie Chicks demonstrates their gritty attitude and strong views on patriotism, but not without highlighting their toned physique and crazy sexuality.

None of us needs to be told that sex sells, but what we may benefit from is a reminder that so do other things.  I prefer the Dixie Chicks image over any other that I researched because of the balance it strikes between sexuality and strength.  It doesn't ignore the appeal of their feminine bodies, but uses them as a pedestal on which to exhibit other qualities that complete their character.

Many years ago, my mother started a fine tradition of saving important television news clips on VHS in a collection for her children as a keepsake.  Little could she have known back then that the same clips she rushed to chronicle in real time would later become available at the click of a mouse, but the sentiment was perfect.  I have since started saving important print media for my own children (both girls), as while the digital copies will be easy to reprint for all of eternity, nothing can replace the feel of a half-century old newspaper.

At first I was tempted to toss Beyonce's TIME cover, but have since had a change of heart.  Raising strong, well-balanced, emotionally secure women (and perhaps continuing on the road to become one myself) isn't about shielding ourselves from messages that upset or offend our ideal.  Instead, it is about embracing those differences in opinion and educating ourselves and others about them so one can truly become influential.

Rock on, Sasha Fierce.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


The last time I checked, there were no children for sale in the aisles of an art supply store.  Of course, anything to the contrary would be completely ridiculous, let alone abusive and flat out illegal.  Why is it, then, that babies and toddlers have become such a hot prop in today’s photographic arts?

I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few examples of what I mean, such as these.

credit: Sioin Queenie Liao

credit: @2sister_angie

Granted they are beautiful pieces, worthy of all the “awws” and (nearly one million) “likes” they garner on every single social media platform.  That said, they completely freak me out.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am all for using my children as inspiration.  There is little that inspires me more than my desire to stimulate, encourage, educate and provide for my kids.  In fact, they even inspire my darker side.  I love to poke fun at their bad habits, maddening tantrums and poor handle on the English language.  I even do it publicly.

The difference is, the only material I have is what they give me naturally.  I never make up a quote, embellish a story or put them in a costume they don’t choose for themselves (infant Halloween garb aside).

In short, I celebrate who my children are, not what I can do with them.  (Like this.)

credit: @MommyShorts/Ilana Wiles
I wonder how, if at all, the situation would be different if we were using teens in the photos as opposed to infants?  As a society we have become so sensitive, with good reason, to the exploitation and bullying of our youth.  And while significant progress has been made in those areas, I cannot help but fear we are taking an enormous step in the wrong direction with our younger generation.

Parenting is the greatest gift, and the greatest burden.  There is no job more difficult, more taxing, or more rewarding.  With it, I believe, comes a silent vow not only to do no harm to the child but to do quite the opposite.

For me, every day is a journey in which I learn a little more about what being a good (or bad) parent means.  I have no idea exactly what it means to anyone else, nor should I.  I can only hope that nowhere in their definition does it say a thing about acquiring likes on Facebook.