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April 23, 2008


Shaping Youth

No one is trying for shame and blame here...if that were the case, I wouldn't have given Danica McKellar's "Math Doesn't Suck" book the People Shaping Youth award, n'est ce pas? (she marketed sexy too, albeit in a less crass manner)

My point is that full disclosure and transparency on the culpability factor is warranted if we're going to be fair in media analysis. Anything short of that is one-sided grand-standing, not media literacy deconstruction. (nor scholarly analysis)

That's what Shaping Youth has become known and respected for...revealing and unveiling ALL elements of the conversational back-story to make informed assessments.

As always, Shaping Youth is not about telling people what to think or who to judge, we're about revealing the facts and letting you decide your own position.

For me, a race car driver hero for my daughter is mitigated by DP's self-objectification as a sexed up brunt of a tasteless beaver joke, but hey, that's just me.


I hope you know we admire Shaping Youth very much. I guess in the end we take a different approach (some times but not all that often), but one of the things we try to be consistent about is blaming the culture and not the girl (in this case, woman). And when something good happens, we try to highlight it and applaud the girl or woman, not matter the past mistakes. I think this is something I've learned a lot from Lyn over the years to temper my own very critical approach so that if you were to ask me, a couple of years ago, nothing EVER looked good enough to praise. But I'm now pretty sensitive to the ways many of us make compromises in this culture and use what sells and what persuades to get ahead. I can't say I've never bought an overpriced anti-wrinkle cream, for example. What I want to keep doing is keeping the focus on the media and marketers and not the individuals, not Danika, nor Britney when she flashes her pantiless private parts, nor when the next tween idol sexes it up for GQ or Rolling Stone or, heavens, Tiger Beat (Does that still exist?). And while I like Danica McKellar's math book I feel I really like MORE that she's so good at math and still think it's sad that, like Danika Patrick's self-objectificatin, McKellar had to pink it up and put lipstick on to sell it. Alas...

But good to have these discussions out in the open... don't you think? We all struggle with how to handle the omnipresence of these kinds of things.

Shaping Youth

Agree that Danica's math skills themselves give her book the sexy is smart marketing appeal, beyond 'pink think; but as for the OTHER Danika (with a K) racecar winner...you can probably ascertain I'm a stalwart existentialist; holding individuals responsible for their own actions and how they mesh into the bigger POV of humanity.

We ask it of parents (as role models) of politicians (as representatives) of corporations (as keepers of the purse strings) of media/marketing channels (which I CLEARLY have a problem with along some ethical lines) and most of all, we constantly ask this of the children themselves!

So it seems a bit hypocritical for us to then step aside and treat ‘the culture’ as some unattached amorphous blob...

Athletes, entertainers and pop icons we uphold are part and parcel of what's being painted on the greater landscape of life...It’s all a bellwether of what our society values, and what it rewards.

Mind you, we don't call it the entertainment "industry" for nothing. I totally 'get' the dollar driven impetus behind the endorsement deals (big time)...but I draw a very clear line in the sand in terms of how the damage is being done, where it initiates, why it's perpetuated, and who should be accountable.

As you say, a 'blame game' doesn't get us anywhere, but I believe personal accountability DOES. For everyone.

Just as we all need to be aware of how our own personal choices land on kids (walk the walk so to speak) public figures have an added layer...

They have the eyes of the world on them, (for better or for worse) whether on a pedestal or a pornified party-fest of ‘beaver’ innuendos like Danika's 'Exposure' ad we're discussing.

To me, it’s an inseparable proposition in terms of the impact of the media & marketing machine along with the choices being made by powerful individuals that flaunt, embrace, and/or profit from same.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel the choices themselves are personal ones, from ‘mommy makeovers and tummy tucks' (like I wrote about here at Shaping Youth: http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=1377) to age cream and pole dancing classes…It’s not the ACT itself that should be 'judged' (that’s where personal agency comes in) it's the handling of the messaging that merits attention (personal responsibility, framing, context, tactful vs. toxic)

We’re all ‘the culture’ and we’re all complicit in our various ways.

We can’t remove personal accountability (celebrity, or 'civilian') in this battle for kids' hearts and minds while applauding the perpetrators of racy glop that fuels and drives the media/marketing machine. It’s as effective as one-handed applause...

In sum, I still say it's GREAT she won the race, but there’s a slow-burn of accountability that could’ve used a MAJOR tune up in the pit.

p.s. As for open, civil debate, no worries there, as you imply, we can be on the same team and still go our separate ways on a regular basis; that’s what makes humans such a grand part of life’s race! Nice chattin' w/ya!


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You know Patrick had bad luck at Michigan International Speedway, where previous years saw her retire early due to fuel and other problems. In 2007, a flat tire late in the race forced Patrick to pit and dropped her to finish 7th.

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