Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

How Can I Make a Difference?

“Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I love these quotes from German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you haven’t heard of him, he was a German pacificist and theologian during WWII who ended up getting involved in actively fighting against Hitler. There were no good and easy ways to respond to such a situation. But, Bonhoeffer’s point was that we all have to take responsibility for making this world a better place. This is why Operation Transformation is so important. It’s about standing together and leaving our children a world that is better than the one that we found. In particular, this movement is focused on responding to the increased sexualization of media. So, what can you do?

1. Pay attention to the media in your life:

When you see stories or images that encourage sexualized ideas, noticing it is the first step. Ask yourself, “What message is this sending about what makes a person valuable or powerful?”

2. Talk about those messages:

When you don’t agree with a message, it’s important to share your thoughts with the children and adolescents in your life, or, if you’re an adolescent, with your parents. Starting conversations allows children to see you critically analyzing media messages. It also starts them on the road to being critical consumers. If you’re an adolescent, pull your parents into these discussions even if they seem unaware of the issues. You need to be talking about this together.

3. Speak out:

When you see an opportunity to speak out about sexualized messages through talking to the manager of a store that’s selling a product, signing or starting a petition to a company, and so forth, take it! When we take the opportunity to let our voices be heard, we are on the way to changing the world.

If you’re an adolescent and you find yourself in a situation where you’re being asked to do something that you feel represents a sexualized viewpoint, ask your parents for help. For example, what if you’re on a dance team and your coach wants you to perform overly sexy moves or wear a sexy costume? KNOW that you have the right to discuss this. It is your body that is being sexualized, not your coach’s, so if you feel uncomfortable with something, enlist the support of your parents and speak up.

4. Form Community:

Social psychology research tells us that it’s easier to stand up for our values when we know that we have a support network. Find groups of friends for both you and your child that will endorse your values in the face of sexualized media. That will make it easier for both of you to reject the sexualized messages.

If you’re an adolescent, look for groups of friends that support your values. If you find yourself hanging out with a group that pressures you to do things that you know are wrong, then it’s time to move on. Enlisting at least one other friend as a support during these times can be a huge help in your fight against peer pressure.

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2 comments on “How Can I Make a Difference?

  1. Daniel Clark
    March 2, 2011

    As a red-blooded American male, it seems to me that the hardest part can often be not noticing the harm in the media we consume. We often do not understand how these narratives and images have an impact on how we see the world and especially significant women in our lives. We forget how much more there is to them than we can see in a picture. Somehow, talking about it seems to break the cycle. All of a sudden, God’s truth comes roaring to the surface.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      March 5, 2011

      I agree that men need to be as aware of these issues as women. And you’re right, Daniel, on an individual level it makes a big difference to females if the men in their lives are aware. A grown woman recently told me, with tears in her eyes, how her dad had repeatedly made jokes about her getting fat as she was going through puberty. She wasn’t fat, her body was maturing, but she didnt understand that as a young adolescent. Nearly 40 years later his thoughtlessness still hurts her.

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