Spirit of the Season

Thanksgiving week is a week of mixed emotions for me.  On one hand, I love it because I get to spend some extra time with my family, eat some really great food, watch football (lifelong Cowboys fan…I can’t help it) and spend some extra time focusing on all the things in my life for which I am thankful.  On the other hand I loathe it because this is the time of year that consumerism is running on all eight cylinders with a nitrous boost.  Everybody is spending money we don’t have on things they don’t need (or sometimes want) so that we can show someone just how much we love them.  Our television screens, magazines, newspapers, radio stations and websites are jam-packed with ads for the latest, hottest, fanciest and best products that money can buy.  And don’t forget the stores.  The stores make it so easy for us, don’t they?  Mega deals, door busters, all-nighters, early birds, free shipping and prices so low you have to see them to believe them.  Black freakin’ Friday.

Somehow, we lose sight of what the holiday season is all about (and I don’t mean in the religious sense).  Regardless of what you celebrate this time of year, we are all blinded by the blizzard and we forget that the season is supposed to be about family, about selflessness, about caring and about appreciation.  Instead, many of us focus on what we are going to get rather than what we already have or what we can give to those that are without.

Last year, after Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death in a Long Island Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I woke up.  I realized that even though I was not at that Wal-Mart nor do I ever even shop on Black Friday, I was partly responsible for Damour’s death.  I was a cog in the retail machine that was powering that greedy mob that took his life so they could get a bargain on a waffle maker or a LCD television.  As consumers, we all have tiny specks of his blood on our hands because we continue to measure our self-worth by what we own rather than by what kind of person we are and we continue to buy without giving much consideration of the actual “cost” of our appetite for stuff.  We all, like it or not, bear some responsibility.

So last December, in a moment of clarity, I decided that I no longer would ask for or expect gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or anything else.  I decided to let my loved ones know that I do not want anything anymore.  What I quickly realized was that while I was trying to do the “right thing” I was depriving people of doing something that made them feel good.  I never looked at it that way before.  I quickly modified my stance on giving me gifts to the following:

“I do not wish to receive any gifts for __________.  If you feel strongly about giving me something please consider making a donation to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.”

I have to admit most of my family did not know how to respond.  I think most didn’t believe me and many decided to buy me things anyway.  I heard things like “yeah…but what to you REALLY want?”   However, some of them did simply make a meaningful (and greatly appreciated) donation.  That was the best feeling in the world knowing that I was able to make a difference (even if it was a small one) in someone’s life by giving up something I never had in the first place.  It was a feeling that I had not had since I was a little boy opening all those gifts that, at the time, meant so much to me.  Ironic, eh?

So, once again I am here to state that in the spirit of the season I do not wish to receive any gifts for the holidays.  However if you feel strongly about giving me something, please consider donating to Responsible Men or choose a charity that is meaningful to you and make a donation in my name.

I would also like to challenge you to join me this year.  Put your own wants aside and see how it feels to help someone else this year.  It may feel like you are making some sort of personal sacrifice, but in the end you will be getting something much more valuable than anything on your wish list.

If you plan to participate in “Spirit of the Season” leave a comment to let me know.  Also, please post a link to this on your Facebook and Twitter pages and encourage your friends and family to participate.  I would love to see this catch fire and spread across the country.  Let’s see how big of an impact we can make this year!

Happy Holidays!

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FYI (If you are Mrs. Hall)

***UPDATE*** Mrs. Hall has replaced the slutty photos of her boys with images that are more wholesome and that reflect who they really are. UNFORTUNATELY, we can’t unsee their near naked bodies.

The following is my response to an open letter posted here.  Please read it before you read my response.

Dear Mrs. Hall,

I have some information that might interest you.  Today, as we often do, my co-workers and I sat around the office discussing your blog post entitled FYI (If you’re a teenage girl).  We couldn’t help but notice that you were critical of the photos being posted on social media by the female friends of your teenage boys -lots of selfies in pajamas and such.  You were quick to point out all of the ways these girls were being overtly sexual in their photos and how your boys were certainly noticing things like their sultry pout and their lack of undergarments.

I get it – you are just being a responsible parent and you want to keep your boys out of harm’s way.   But here is the point I want you to realize.  In your article you posted pictures of your teenage boys, without their shirts, flexing their rippling muscles and posturing like full grown men.  One of their swim suits is sitting super low on his hips – YIKES!!!  Did you know that once your boys have been exposed in various states of undress that other boys, and perhaps all people, can’t unsee that?  You don’t want the whole world thinking of your boys in a sexual way, do you?

Also – big bummer – social media is a (sometimes awkward) two way street and participation is not mandatory.  Perhaps you didn’t know that since you live on your own island.  If you want to be on social media, you’ll have to realize that not everyone has the same standards for things like character and having a “strong moral compass”.  Clearly you want the Hall boys to be “men of integrity”.  But you should know that it is impossible for them to soar like eagles if they are surrounded by slutty turkeys.

Hall family, it’s not too late!  If you think you have made a mistake being on social media (we all do – don’t fret- I once had a Google+ account), RUN to your accounts and delete them.  Practice ABSTINENCE ONLY when it comes to social media.  It is the only way to 100% guarantee the Hall boys will not get involved with girls of questionable character.  Your boys are like pieces of tape.  If they have been stuck to something dirty and peeled away they start to lose their stickiness.  If it happens over and over again then eventually nothing will stick to them.  I know your family would not be thrilled at the thought of having a pack of boys that are no longer…tacky.

Will you trust me?  Some day, there will be online communities for families of character.  It is an uphill battle, but I am sure you will eventually find some place that will keep your minds pure and your thoughts praiseworthy.  It will be worth the wait.

Thanks for listening.  See you off-line!

Ted

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Long Over Due

You might have noticed that I haven’t blogged in quite some time.  In fact, the last post I made was back in March.  YIKES!  Well, not to make excuses, but here are my excuses.  First (and I hope you already know this about me), I don’t blog unless I am inspired to do so.  Of course there have been moments since March where I was inspired to write so that isn’t really a great excuse.  Like the “Ben Roethlisberger having sex in a bar bathroom with an underage, intoxicated co-ed that didn’t get called sexual assault even though it walks and quacks like a sexual assault” for example.  I could have written a book on that.  And…I wanted to.  Which leads me to the second reason why I have been away – the Texas PEACE Project.  Over the last year, I, along with a small team of co-workers,  have been steadily plugging away at creating all things Texas PEACE Project  for my day job at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.  We just launched the project at out annual youth summit at Trinity University in San Antonio [he said with a huge sigh of relief].

The Texas PEACE Project (formerly Students Taking Action for Respect) is our youth program. The intent of the project is to engage, encourage, educate and support youth activists and their adult allies to create social change and equality across Texas in order to end sexual and dating violence. The Texas PEACE Project employs a peer education model. We believe that youth educating their peers is the most effective means of bring about that change.  We train youth to speak out against all forms of oppression – in particular sexism, racism, homophobia and adultism as they are all root causes of sexual violence and have a profound impact on Texas youth.

This has been a tremendous undertaking that has occupied all of my time – especially since January or so.  It has been worth all of the work, but I have had no gas left in the tank to devote to Responsible Men.  I am glad to see that people still have been reading my blog even though I have not been posting anything new.  And now that I am nearly out of the proverbial woods, I can safely say that I will jump right back into the game on a regular basis, er, when I am inspired, er, you know what I mean.

Even though the topic is a bit dated, I did want to share something I did write during my hiatus.  This was a soapbox piece I wrote for the Spring 2010 TAASA Revolution newsletter that you can read in it’s entirety here if you like.  For now, take a look at my contribution below:

Making History

I grew up in a very small, southern town with not much diversity. For the most part, the people of my hometown were fairly conservative and reserved. Everyone looked alike. Everyone talked alike. Everyone even said pretty much the same things when
they spoke. As a member of a community like that, you know everyone’s business and everyone knows yours – like it or not. From what I can tell, my hometown isn’t all that different from Fulton, Miss. In fact, I remember watching, as a boy, the local community college playing against Itawamba Community College (from Fulton) in baseball and basketball every year. The similarities between my hometown and Fulton are numerous, but there is one notable exception. The people of my hometown, when faced with overcoming hatred and discrimination, did the right thing and took a stand against it.

My hometown is Pulaski, Tenn. Most people have never heard of it. Those that have most likely know it as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. As ashamed as I am of that part of my hometown’s history, I am very proud of the fact that the citizens of Pulaski found a way to step out of the shadows of the town’s past and write a new page in the history books. When I was in high school some 20 years ago, the Aryan Nation (a white nationalist neo-Nazi organization) was looking for a place to set up a training and recruitment facility. They targeted Pulaski because of its historical significance in the white supremacy movement. I guess they thought it would be a good fit. I imagine they also believed the people of Pulaski would be tolerant, if not welcoming of them. However, when whispers of this group’s intentions spread, the citizens of Pulaski decided to take a stand. On a weekend when the Aryan Nation scheduled a rally to announce their plans publicly, Pulaski citizens united and spoke out by completely shutting down the city. Gas stations closed. Hotels closed. Restaurants closed. Everything closed. So when members of the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and other hate groups invaded Pulaski they were greeted with locks on every door and orange ribbons (a symbol for racial harmony) in every window and on every car. The message was clear that things like hate, discrimination and inequality were not going to be part of Pulaski’s future. It was heard loud and clear and the Aryan Nation made other plans.

So what’s that got to do with Fulton, Miss.? Well, Fulton is the hometown of Constance McMillan. You might have heard of her. She is an openly gay senior from Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton who has been thrust into the national spotlight for wanting to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend. In case you haven’t been following this, the school decided to cancel the prom rather than let Constance attend with her date. After a federal Mississippi court ruled that the school violated Constance’s First Amendment rights, the parents from the community offered to host a “private” prom on April 2 that would be open to all students. Spring 2010 It seemed like Fulton, in some ways, was following in Pulaski’s footsteps. They realized an injustice and came together to do what was right. Sadly, it appears that is not the case. Apparently the parents from Fulton secretly organized two private proms on Friday, April 2. Constance and her girlfriend were only invited to one of them. According to Constance, they arrived at a local country club expecting “the prom” and discovered that only five other students were in attendance, including two students with “learning difficulties.” The school principal and some teachers were there to chaperone, but it doesn’t sound like there was much for them to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the students attended a different prom at another “secret” location.

If I could give a message to the parents, students and school officials of Fulton, Miss., I would say “you made a HUGE mistake.” You chose to overlook that Constance, like everyone in the LGBTQ community, is above all else a human being. You had the opportunity to treat her with the dignity and respect every human deserves (even if you believe homosexuality to be morally wrong). Instead, you chose to treat her as if she were somehow less than human. You chose to degrade, humiliate and exclude her because she is presumably not like you. The way you have treated her is not that different than the examples of bigotry and racism of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 60s. Did you learn nothing from the 1962 race riots that erupted after James Meredith became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi? Is the unbelievable pain and suffering caused by a segregated and exclusionary past not enough for you to change the way you treat people in 2010? If not, then perhaps you are the ones who are not human, for it is empathy and the ability to learn from our mistakes that make us so.

While Fulton cannot tear these pages out of their history, they still have the opportunity to write new ones where they will be remembered for their ability to rise above their past rather than for drowning in it. As singer Tom Morello said, “History, from this day forward, is what you make it.” I sincerely hope that the community of Fulton will realize the devastating and far-reaching repercussions of their present actions and learn to embrace and value the diversity of all people. If they do, then perhaps 20 years from now Constance McMillan will be able to write about the time that her hometown stepped out of the shadows of its past and started making history for all the right reasons.




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The Pixel Project

Recently, Responsible Men became an Awareness-Raising Partner with the Pixel Project.  I highly encourage you to take a look around their website and support them in any way you can.  One way Responsible Men is supporting the Pixel Project is by sharing information.  So, have a look at the information below:

The Pixel Project, a global Web 2.0-driven awareness and fund raising campaign working to end Violence Against Women (VAW), is proud to launch The Pixel Project Wall of Support on 8 March 2010 in honour of International Women’s Day.

The Wall of Support is a gallery of video endorsements from people worldwide who support The Pixel Project’s mission to get men and women to work together to end VAW. Endorsements are uploaded to YouTube and displayed on the Wall of Support galleries in the Community Buzz section of The Pixel Project’s website.

By showing a human face and voice with every endorsement, The Pixel Project hopes that this global chorus of voices against VAW will ignite conversation and focus public attention on the urgency of ending gender-based violence afflicting one in three women worldwide.

Each endorsement will be counted as an “action” towards UNIFEM’s “Say NO – UNiTE” campaign’s bid to raise 1 million grassroots actions against VAW by November 2010.

Guidelines for submitting a video can be found at http://www.thepixelproject.net/community-buzz/wall-of-support/. For further inquiries, contact Chrissie Moulding at info@thepixelproject.net.

I will be submitting a video soon and  I strongly encourage you to do the same.  This would be easy to ignore, but preventing violence against women is too important.  Please take a moment to show your support.  The Pixel Project has provided very clear instructions and even some assistance in writing the script.  All you have to do is record and post to YouTube.

Today is International Women’s Day and I can’t think of a better way for everyone, especially men, to show our love and support for the women in our lives. Let your voice be heard and speak out against violence against women!


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Taking a Page from a Different Playbook

As I have stated many times before, I am a huge football fan.  College or Pro – it doesn’t matter.  I am a fan and have been for as long as I can remember.  As a small child I recall begging my mom and dad to buy me a pair of Dallas Cowboys shoes out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog circa 1978.  I lugged my school books around Pulaski Elementary in a Cowboys book bag that was bigger than I was.  Football is something I have never grown out of and likely never will.

Sadly there is a lot about college and professional football I don’t like.  You may have read some of my previous posts about that.  It seems we can barely go a month without reading another headline about some player being arrested for beating his girlfriend or for raping a stripper.  Stories of homophobia, violence, drugs, and murder at the hands of current and former players seem to be rolling on a continuous loop.  They have become the dominant narrative for football and sports in general.

Yet from time to time a story emerges from the abyss that blind sides us like Demarcus Ware coming unblocked on a jailbreak blitz.  They are stories that are shocking, not because they are horrific or disturbing, but because they go against everything we’ve been taught to believe about football players.  During the week of the 2010 Superbowl,  two of those stories managed to find the light of day.

The first was in the days prior to the game.  I read an article at Jezebel.com about New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.  In the article I learned that Fujita had recently given an interview with the New York Times where he “diplomatically but firmly” opposed the Tim Tebow ad that eventually aired during the Superbowl.  While I thought it strange that a football player would publicly state his stance on such a hot button issue, I didn’t think too much else about it.  However, from that same article in Jezebel, I learned that Fujita also lent his name to the 2009 National Equality March and has been quite outspoken on many gay rights issues. Now that got my attention!  Why was this story not dominating sports headlines in October of 2009?  Fujita’s surprises don’t stop there.  Check out the entire Jezebel article here.

The second story came moments after the Superbowl ended.  Amidst the boom mic jungle and the on-field  mass hysteria, television cameras caught something extremely rare and beautiful.  Take a look… [watch it a second time with the sound muted ;-)]

With the world intently watching their every move, it was as if Brees and his son were the only two people in the stadium.  During the most watched event in television history we witnessed an NFL champion football player turn into a world class dad.  Brees could have just as easily handed his son off to his wife or a nanny and celebrated with his teammates.  It would have been fine for is son to be in the stands or at home getting a wave or a wink from the Superbowl MVP.  Nobody would have even questioned it.  Instead, on the biggest of stages, we saw a caring father telling his son that he loves him.  We saw a father holding, hugging, and kissing his son in exactly the ways we, as men and as fathers, have been socialized to not do because it isn’t considered “manly.”  And as if that weren’t enough, we witness the moment where the enormity of it all hit Brees right in the heart.  It was the moment he realized that he was sharing this incredible moment with the most special person in the world to him.  And then, his brow buckled, his head turned and his eyes filled with tears of joy.  That was truly a beautiful moment that I feel fortunate to have seen.

What am I taking away from all of this?  Well, I realized that as an armchair media critic I often lose site of the good stuff in the media.  It is sometimes a little harder to find, but it is there.  I guess in some ways when I blog about the latest Axe Body Spray ad I am also recirculating that ad into the media landscape.  I am not sure that is a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity to recirculate stories like these.  So, I am going to take a page out of the Scott Fujita/Drew Brees playbook and, well, throw out the playbook every now and again. I am going to  look for media examples that highlight positive masculinity, uplift and empower women and model the world I want to see rather than the one I’ve got.  In the meantime, I hope that other men will take some plays from their playbook as well.  Or…we could all get together and draw up a few of our own in the dirt.

Go deep on 2…ready…BREAK!

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One Leg at a Time

WOW…seriously???  I mean…seriously???  Dockers, what are you thinking?  Take a look at this new ad campaign that Dockers is putting out there and tell me what you think:

So is it that Dockers is of the opinion that their pants will somehow make men more “manly”.  I hate that this campaign is calling for a return to the days when a woman’s place was in the home cooking dinner and minding the kids and that men are the ones doing “real work.”  And that somehow our world has gone off its tracks and landed in a feminized (and therefore chaotic and broken) world that could be fixed with a healthy dose of testosterone.  If only we could go back to a time when men were in charge then the world would be one big Shangri-la (but not in a frilly, fluffy, emotional way – that wouldn’t be manly).  I get that the ad is trying to be funny.  However, funny sexism is still sexism.  It is just more palatable and easier to dismiss as harmless.

I happen to have a different opinion of what is wrong with the world today.  Try this on for size.  I feel that society has lost its way, at least in part, not because of feminization but because far too many men can’t (or won’t) let go of the past.  Far too many men have remained in a state of suspended animation – frozen in that mindset that men work so they don’t have to have a hand in child rearing and house cleaning.  Well fellas, women work too (they always did – we just didn’t call it that).  In most families today both parents have full time jobs outside the home.  Gone are the days of the bread winner and care taker roles.  Nowadays, both parents need to share the responsibility of raising the children and maintaining the house.  Unfortunately, many men have been reluctant to engage and the results have been catastrophic.  We know that something has to change, but many men are afraid of that change.  We have a fear of the unknown.  Unfortunately while we are “sitting idly by” cities do crumble and children do misbehave.   In my opinion, you can add to that list that family relationships crumble.  Children are forced to raise themselves (or let their television or X-Box do it).  Divorce rates skyrocket and children’s grades plummet.  How about things like childhood obesity? Dating violence? Self mutilation?  Is it possible that they are also symptoms of this larger problem?  I think so.

Please don’t mistake this for male bashing or that I am blaming all men for the world’s problems.  I certainly am not.  After all, I am a man and I know plenty of other men that are wonderful partners and fathers.  I also know a large number of men that aren’t meeting their potential as partners and fathers because they feel like they cannot be masculine and be a loving and engaged partner and father at the same time.  I can certainly understand that.  The messages men receive from all around us is that men are supposed to be anything but engaged and loving.  Most men, I feel, are at a crossroads.  We feel like it isn’t safe to be authentic, yet we can see that problems in our families, in our schools and in our communities has reached critical mass.

It is time for men to engage, in meaningful ways, in our families and in our communities.  It is not enough to bring home a paycheck and make sure the yard looks nice.  Those things are important, but they will not ensure that the world our children and grandchildren will live in will be a place of equal opportunity for everyone where people’s differences are celebrated rather than shunned.  I truly believe that the majority of men in this world want to be really great guys (and often are).  What I think we need is a way to bring these men together so that we can meet one another (either in person or online) and see that we are not alone and that we can be considered masculine by our peers.  That would be the permission we need to be more visible as engaged partners and fathers.  That is why I started Responsible Men in the first place.  Now all I need is guys who are willing to take that small step forward to say “I am one of the Responsible Men.”  Are you willing to be that guy?

If the world were set up so that men could feel safe about being authentic I imagine it would be a very different place.  I imagine in that world the advertisements might look something like this:

Maybe a good place to start is to recognize that regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other ways we classify people, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

Join Responsible Men on Facebook and Twitter


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Falling on Tone Deaf Ears

Well, well, well…Reebok, it seems, has themselves a new product called the EasyTone running shoe.  It is said to use “balance ball inspired technology” to get “better legs and a better butt with every step.”  So, how do you market this miracle shoe???   Take a look:

OR this one:

I wanted to discuss this from a couple of different angles.  First, and the most obvious, these ads objectify and sexualize women.  Like so many ad campaigns before this one, Reebok has bought into the idea that sex sells.  In this case it is fitness wrapped in sex.  In addition, the entire ad campaign spews the message that if you buy these shoes then men will be “speechless” (meaning they will be too busy staring at your body to bother talking to you) and other women will be jealous.  Is that what being a woman is all about?  Attracting men and making other women green with envy with by having a firm backside???  I don’t think so.  Yet Reebok would like you to think so.  Even Oprah is getting in on the act…YES OPRAH.  It is plastered on the Reebok EasyTone website.  Take a look…

While you were on their website you might have noticed another video.  In case you missed it, here it is:

…which beings me to part 2.  It bothers me that men in many ads (and other forms of media) are often portrayed as being mindless and only thinking about one thing – SEX.  Now some of you may be saying that men really do think about sex all the time or that it is in our genetic make-up and we can’t help it.  My response to that is that might be true to a degree.  After all, we are sexual beings and we survive as a species by having sex and making more of us.  However, we are not without the ability to choose when and where we are sexual.  If this were not the case then people everywhere would be having sex in places like the cereal aisle at the grocery store.  We’d have to step over naked, writhing bodies in the throws of passion to grab a box of Fruit Loops.  It would be like like seeing two dogs going at it in the park or one dog going at it with a basketball or your leg.  AND IT WOULD SEEM NORMAL!!!  But we don’t and it isn’t because we were also born with the ability to choose – free will.  We get to choose how we respond in any given situation.  Unfortunately, we are socialized to believe otherwise.  We are told what is masculine and what is feminine by society.  Society tells us that “boys will be boys”  and “nice guys finish last” and “diamonds are a girls best friend” and “girls just wan to have fun” and millions of other messages that slowly but surely define gender in very narrow terms.

If we can agree on that, then it is concerning when companies like Reebok produce ads that portray men as being mindlessly and completely sexually-minded – as if that part of us never shuts off and that we are powerless over its constant influence on us.   This is just as problematic as portraying women as sexual objects.  It is when these two things are working in concert that potential danger becomes reality.  It is in the space where men buy into the notions that they must to be hypersexual AND that women are objects that exist for men’s pleasure and enjoyment that sexual violence lives.  If men view women as sex objects and men are told that men are judged by their sexual conquests (quantity or quality), then it stands to reason that some men will go to great lengths to prove they are a “real man” – including rape.  Also, if it appears that there are no real consequences for their “hyper-masculine” behavior (i.e. staring at a women’s bodies, cat calling, groping, forceful sex, etc.) then why would these men stop?  What is stopping them from committing a rape?  ***Please note that I am NOT saying that all men behave in this way.  In reality it is a very small number of men that do these things, but it is these behaviors that have come to define all masculinity.

I decided to look into Reebok’s philosophy as a company to see what they stand for (if anything other than making money).  What I found is worth sharing.  I found that Reebok is owned by Adidas Group.  Adidas Group, who also owns Taylor Made Golf, has a very strong belief in social and environmental sustainability.  They have a “Social and Environmental Programme” (they are a European company) that is dedicated to promoting social and environmental sustainability as the name suggests.  While I feel like this is a great step in the right direction, I had some questions for them.  So, I wrote them a letter.  Here it is:

Hello,
My name is Ted Rutherford.  I am the founder of an organization in Austin, Texas called Responsible Men which is dedicated to promoting gender equality and ending men’s violence against women.  I am writing today to thank you for your dedication to the concept of sustainability through your Social and Environmental Programme.  I am glad to see that you are making a public commitment to this on your website and that large corporations like Adidas Group are leading the charge so to speak. I’d like to also ask you if you have considered looking at sustainability in terms of gender.  I recently came across your ad campaign for the Reebok EasyTone shoes and was sad to see that some of the video and images objectify and sexualize women.  Also, in one ad, there is an off screen character (presumably male) who repeatedly stares at the on-screen woman’s butt despite her redirection, which reinforces the gender stereotype that men only care about sex.  While I get that the campaign is telling women that they can have a sexy butt and legs by wearing the shoes, I think these ads reinforce the notion that women’s primary value lies in their sexuality and sex appeal.  In addition, the entire campaign reinforces gender stereotypes (men are always thinking about sex and women are out to make other women jealous) which simply aren’t true.  In my opinion, it is ads like these (when combined with other ads and other social factors) that help build versions of masculinity and femininity that are not sustainable.  In fact what we are left with are very rigid, narrow and oppressive options for expressing our gender that have much larger social ramifications.  If men are taught that all men care about is sex and if men are taught that all women are sex objects, then we have a “perfect storm” for things like sexual assault to occur.
Please don’t get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that Reebok EasyTone shoes cause rape.  That is obviously ridiculous.  However, I am suggesting that this ad campaign is part of a much, much larger system that helps create a culture where sexual violence exists on a large scale.  What I am asking you to do is to really do some soul searching as a company to see if you care about the sustainability of your customers.  While you cannot change the actions of other companies and other social influencers, you are responsible for your own actions.I must tell you that I purchased a new pair of basketball shoes today.  Because of this ad campaign, I chose to leave Reebok off of my list of options.  I liked the shoes that I saw, but opted to spend my money elsewhere because I can’t support a company with sexist advertising practices.  I know that may not mean a great deal to you, but it is an example of how I may not be able to change your actions, but I can certainly be responsible for my own.Please consider marketing the EasyTone shoes and all of the Adidas Group merchandise in a way that promotes gender equality and sustainability.  Thank you for your time and consideration.

The idea of gender sustainability is one that I have been pondering for some time now.  In fact, when I think about it, gender isn’t actually a  real, tangible thing.  It is a social construct, to which most of us subscribe, that is one way to organize and make sense of the world.  It is the way males and females are supposed to look and behave according to society’s definition of “normal” in gender terms.  In other words, we are not born with our gender predetermined.  It is largely imposed on us by society.  When babies are born we wrap them in a pink or blue blanket (according to their sex) and assign them a name that usually indicates whether they are male or female.  We encourage them as they grow older to look and behave in a way that is consistent with the way society defies “normal” in gender terms.  We throw around phrases like “boys don’t cry” and “that is not how a lady acts” in order to teach the next generation to ignore their true selves and assimilate into the gender binary world.    Companies, like Reebok, market products to us in a way  that leverages our socialization to maximize their profits.  This Reebok ad campaign is a great example of that.  Reebok is banking on lots of females buying these shoes because they want to be successful at playing the role of  “woman” – meaning that they want to have a great butt to attract men with and to make other women jealous.  After all, many of us are just acting the part of “man” and “woman” so that we are not ostracized from our gender culture.   Throughout our lives we are pushed into very narrow gender roles that ultimately are not sustainable.  We are pressured to be something that we frequently are not.  That is a very fragile and precarious state that will collapse sooner or later.

The take away from all of this is hopefully that it is the job of conscious citizens to embrace gender diversity and stop perpetuating the gender binary that society has created.  While it is becoming cliche, it is true that if we want to change the world we must first change ourselves.  It is our job to demonstrate to corporate America that we embrace our diversity as human beings and we expect them to honor and accommodate us by acknowledging our differences rather than denying them.  If we choose to live outside the gender boxes they have built for us, then they will have no choice but to shift their approach in order to reach us.  Never forget that it is our money that is lining their pockets and informing their decisions.  Perpetuating narrow gender roles is just a strategy that corporations use to manipulate and control us in order to maximize their profits. If they can convince the majority of males to buy into one version of masculinity, then they only have to create (and pay for) marketing strategies for that one type of man.  That means less money spent on advertising and more money in the bank.  In the end, it is our money and we can choose to spend it in a conscious way that will send a clear message to corporations that we are tired of the same old song they are singing and they had better change their tune.

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