America, the Beauty-Obsessed

Men making a movie about beauty? Uh oh! Is it another movie about “hot chicks,” unnaturally thin waifs and women who are Botoxed, waxed, liposucked, sculpted and styled to within an inch of their lives (or just airbrushed and Photoshopped to look that way)? Nope! America the Beautiful is about beauty, but it’s a movie made by men in support of women. Filmmaker Darryl Roberts has created this documentary to bring attention to our obsession with perceptions of beauty in the U.S., and the impact such an obsession has on everyone.

Thanks to images of beauty promoted through a plethora of avenues, from celebs to advertisers to media to modeling to plastic and cosmetic surgeons, to sometimes even our own parents, our perceptions of what’s beautiful, and what makes an acceptable model, celebrity, woman, mate, person, beauty regime, etc., have evolved into something strange, toxic and sometimes shocking, and it’s influencing our children at younger and younger ages.

As part of the film, Roberts interviews a variety of media, entertainment and social professionals, from Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to feminist playwright Eve Ensler to former Seventeen editor Atoosa Rubenstein. Much of the film focuses on the experiences of Gerren Taylor, who was discovered as a model at 12, became wildly successful, and then was dumped a couple years later because she no longer fit the modeling industry’s definition of perfection.

The film reveals a variety of sad and horrific realities, such as:

  • A 1990s study of the effects of television on the native people of Fiji showed that, before the arrival of TV, no girls were bulimic or anorexic; three years after TV arrived in Fiji, 11 percent of girls admitted to throwing up to control their weight.
  • The cocktail waitress who was fired from her job for not wearing makeup.
  • Magazine industry reps who state that putting “average” people on the cover isn’t an option because it would cost them money.
  • The 6 foot tall, 130 pound model who’s told she has to lose 15 pounds.

You can see the trailer on the website.

America the Beautiful has only recently been released in theaters and is making its way around the country. (NOTE: This movie is coming to Portland to the Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10 theater the weekend of September 5.)

Although the film is rated R (some strong language and shots of cosmetic surgery), it provides a great opportunity to explore and discuss issues of beauty, marketing and advertising, body image and more, especially with teenagers and pre-teens.

Find out more:

Roberts writes about his experiences in a Huffington Post article.

A recent article about the film from the Long Beach, CA, Press-Telegram.

~ Marsha


I Need a (New) Hero! Get Inspired by the New Heroes

Tuesday we had our MOGO potluck, with some yummy, tasty food, followed by watching selected profiles from the 2005 PBS series The New Heroes. Hosted by Robert Redford, the 4-hour series profiles 14 social entrepreneurs from around the world who are making a positive difference for others. Many people hear about child slavery or child prostitution or poverty or other social ills and shake their heads and feel bad…and then go on about their lives.

The New Heroes features changemakers who have stepped up and taken positive action to help others. We watched the stories of Albina Ruiz, Muhammad Yunus, and Kailash Satyarthi.

Albina Ruiz was devastated by the health and environmental problems caused by garbage in Peru. She decided to take action and is now working to revolutionize waste management, helping create jobs, promote sustainability and protect people and the planet.

Muhammad Yunus was teaching economics in Bangladesh when he became aware of the crushing poverty all around him. He started asking poor people what they needed, and ended up creating the Grameen Bank, which lends microcredit to the poor, asking for no collateral and inspiring and empowering thousands. The bank also focuses on loaning to women, which was unheard of in his country.  Yunus won a Nobel Prize for his efforts, and his system has been replicated all over the world.

Kailash Satyarthi has dedicated his life to helping free the millions of people — many of them children — who have been forced into slavery. Satyarthi conducts raids to free slaves, has established an Ashram so that freed slaves have a place of safety to begin again, has worked to develop child-friendly villages that support, educate and nurture their children, and established the Rugmark system, so that people can be assured of buying slave-free rugs.

The series profiles 11 other changemakers inspiring and empowering others around the world. It’s easy to become depressed and pessimistic about the state of the world, but seeing these new heroes in action can uplift your spirits and infuse you with new hope, passion and commitment. Be sure to check it out!

Our next MOGO meeting will be Tuesday, September 9 at 7:00 pm at Cascadia Commons. We’ll be focusing on the power of advertising and marketing (and our own power to counteract its influence). Come join us for a lively discussion and some fun activities! Contact for more information.

~ Marsha

MOGOing Around Portland: The Green Microgym

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly gym workout, check out the new Green Microgym in the Alberta District (NE Portland). Today the Los Angeles Times featured the gym, which opens this week.

The gym, owned by Adam Boesel, features solar power, human-powered cardio and cycling machines that help generate energy, and a variety of eco-friendly features, such as “green” flooring, CFL lights and non-toxic soaps and cleaners (see their Fifteen Ways the Microgym is Green).

As Boesel says, “We are creating a neighborhood gym that is as comfortable and effective as any other….At the same time, our members are doing their part to help the Earth.”

Of course, it’s a lot cheaper to walk or bike your way around, but if you want a gym experience, this one seems to be focused on the health of people and the planet.

(Thanks, Treehugger, for the heads up.)

~ Marsha

Let Them Eat Sandwiches (Instead of Animal Products)

For those not yet ready to go cold Tofurky with veganism, there’s a great little campaign out there in cyberland called The PB&J Campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to encourage people to take a pledge to eat a certain number of non-animal meals each week. As they say:

“Each time you have a PB&J you shrink your carbon footprint, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, you cut back on habitat destruction, and you conserve water.”

Although they mention health and animal welfare in itheir resources section, the PB&J campaign focus on encouraging plant-based meals primarily for environmental reasons. In fact PB&J carefully and clearly separate their intention from that of vegans (while complimenting them), citing that, as they say in a recent blog post, “the environmental movement is afraid of being associated with the radical-fringe reputation of the animal rights movement.”

In addition to explanations of how eating PB&Js (and other plant-based foods) reduces our agricultural impact, the website offers stats about conserving water and land while reducing global warming contributions. They also have little videos of their “spokes-sandwiches,” PB&J Boy and PB&J Girl. (Honestly, I find them a little creepy.)

Most of us have fond memories of PB&J sandwiches as kids (I still have them for lunch most days), so this campaign has a great hook that may help tempt even your most carnivorous friends and family into choosing the occasional meatless meal. Forward this site to your eco-friends and colleagues who have thusfar covered their ears at any mention of the V word, or sign the pledge yourself if you’re still on the omni side of the continuum.

~ Marsha

Connect Others With “A Life Connected”: A Simple Tool for Vegan Awareness

Sometimes simplicity is a most powerful tool.

In our culture deeply marinated in the habit and tradition of eating animals and their products, it can be challenging to find a voice to counter all those other voices repeating the meat mantra. And it’s often hard to find a way to share the passion and power of a commitment to veganism in a way that won’t make omnivores feel defensive or pressured or cause them to shut down and turn away (like they often do when presented with graphic videos).

The people at Nonviolence United have created a beautiful and compelling 11 minute video called “A Life Connected.” It focuses on the increased awareness that people have about the power of their choices to help create a peaceful, sustainable, compassionate world and calls on those making these new choices (sustainability, fair trade, etc.) to look to their food choices for another way to make a better world. Through unfolding the three primary “legs” of veganism (people, planet, animals) in a way that reveals their interconnectedness to our food choices, the film emphasizes veganism as a positive and powerful tool for a humane world.

The film uses images, a few statistics, occasional humor and insightful observations to increase awareness and call for positive action, such as:

“How can it be that over 95% of Americans feel it is wrong to unnecessarily kill and hurt helpless animals, yet 95% of Americans continue to unnecessarily hurt and kill helpless animals so they can eat them? Why the disconnection? It’s time to connect.”

Check out the film, and forward it to everyone who needs to hear this message.

~ Marsha

Humanity By the Numbers: The Miniature Earth video

Many of us trying to grasp the details of the lives of the more than 6 1/2 billion other humans around the world can feel our brains melting at the attempt. It’s challenging enough for some to empathize with our immediate neighbors and community members, but with 6+ BILLION of them?

That’s why tools like The Miniature Earth are so useful. This little video helps viewers connect with others by distilling and quantifying humanity into numbers and ideas that are easier on our brains — and more likely to inspire us to think critically and compassionately about others.

The video uses Donella Meadows’ “State of the Village Report,” in which she reduced Earth’s human population to 100 people, and, keeping the same proportions, calculated statistics such as ethnicities, religions, income distributions, and so on. The information for The Miniature Earth video has been adapted and updated.

Viewers can imagine themselves as one of the hundred. Would they be…

  • One of the 9 disabled?
  • The one with HIV/AIDS?
  • One of the 67 non-Christians?
  • One of the 43 without basic sanitation?
  • One of the 6 that own 59% of the entire wealth of the community?
  • One of the 7 educated at a secondary level?
  • One of the 97 without Internet access?
  • One of the 71 living on $2 a day or less?

The images are moving, and the statistics included provide excellent opportunities for discussion with friends and family or for educating others about human rights and social justice issues. It also serves as a good reminder to all of us to remember to be grateful for all that we have.

~ Marsha

Mark Your Calendar: Fall Conferences (and Workshops) Worth Noting

One of the fortunate aspects of living in the Pacific Northwest is all the terrific conferences and events available throughout the year. Below are a few worth knowing about (though you’ll have to pick, as some share the same dates):

Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference
September 11-13, 2008
Portland, Oregon (at Portland State University)

This conference brings together educators, scholars, activists and others to “explore alternatives to violence and share visions and strategies for peace-building, social justice and social change.” This year’s theme is “Building Cultures of Peace.” Although it’s a bit pricey, this conference is jam-packed with sessions for peace-lovers of all types. And, if you’re interested, I’ll be leading a workshop on Saturday the 13th about the power of humane education to help manifest peace.

Nonviolence as a Way of Life Conference
September 11-14, 2008
Eugene, Oregon

This conference offers “workshops, panels, dialogues, play-shops and other activities focusing on inspirational and practical applications of nonviolence in all areas of human life.” Speakers include Marshall Rosenberg and Julia Butterfly Hill.

Living Earth Circles Workshop
September 27, 2008
Hood River, Oregon

Living Earth Gatherings is hosting this 1-day workshop designed to “provide the basis for ongoing Living Earth Circles, communities of practice where dialogue and deep reflection combine with creative, compassionate social action on the critical issues facing our communities and our world.”

Animal Law Conference

October 17-19, 2008
Portland, Oregon (at Lewis & Clark Law School)

Lewis and Clark Law School is hosting its 16th annual conference. This year’s theme is “One Earth: Globalism and Animal Law.” Although you may think that a law conference would be just for lawyers, there are some useful sessions for those interested in animal advocacy and in knowing more about legal issues that pertain to animal protection. There are some terrific speakers lined up for this conference. (Note: Unless you’re a student, it’s a bit pricey.)

October 17-19, 2008
San Rafael, CA (and Seattle, WA)

If you want to see some of the top environmental movers and shakers, check out the very popular Bioneers Conference. The conference brings together visionaries who are helping create a “healthy, equitable, diverse and beautiful world.” Since CA is a bit of a trip, you can also attend one of the satellite conferences, such as the one in Seattle, Washington. Satellite conferences include a mix of regional speakers and events and a live satellite of speakers from the national conference.

Sowing Seeds Workshop
October 24, 2008
Vancouver, B.C.

Interested in learning to teach others about the power of their choices? The Institute for Humane Education’s special 1-day workshop will teach you how to offer effective and transformative humane education programs in schools or your community. You’ll learn new activities that teach critical thinking about relevant issues of human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation, the media, and consumerism. (Full disclosure: I work for IHE. But, even if I didn’t I’d recommend the workshop; and I’ll definitely be attending!)

Do you know of other great conferences and workshops that people wanting to live a MOGO life would be interested in? Please share them!

~ Marsha