There’s nothing more powerful than the human mind, but the media in its perpetually rapid advancement has proven to be a fierce competitor, wielding the wishes of the few in the form of what is commonly known as brainwash.
Believed to have originated in the 1950s by a CIA operative, brainwashing is thought to be the single most powerful method for large-scale control. A key tool of the advertising industry, the effects of such practices have a significant impact on females; particularly African American women.
The following thoughtful piece entitled “Gorgeous Models Make You Feel Bad”, addresses this issue by examining how viewing magazine & TV ads impact women and girls:
“All women are equally and negatively affected after viewing pictures of models in magazine ads for just three minutes.” A University of Missouri-Columbia study found that all women experience a blow to their body image – regardless of their height, age, shape, or size. Researchers previously believed that heavier or slightly obese women feel worse about their body image after seeing magazine cover girl ads, as compared to those who are of average weight. However, they’re finding that women’s levels of satisfaction with their bodies dropped regardless of their appearance.”
The National Institute on Media and the Family present similar findings on the war against our psyches:
“The popular media (television, movies, magazines, etc.) have, since World War II, increasingly held up a thinner and thinner body (and now ever more physically fit) image as the ideal for women. “
As usual, what the study neglects to share is that the majority of the time, the thinner body is that of a white woman. This is an unstated fact, which has a compounded effect on the mental state of women of color. From subtle to brazen, everything from hair care products, make-up, medicine, tampons and trash bags are advertised on the tube, all touting the same standard of beauty. Day by day, we are exposed to these influences that not only tell us what’s beautiful but what – and whom – is not.
At the risk of overstating the obvious, it’s safe to say that brainwash-ready minds have been instructed to believe that thin is in and fat is fugly, women are still nothing more than sexual objects and trite and untrue “ the brighter the better”, “darker is dreaded”, you know, basically all things northern European are godly. Anything else is tantamount to heathenism.
Statistics are a wonderful thing, but they have no place in this discussion since many studies exclude the media’s lasting impact on women of color. Just stand in line at a grocery store, turn on the TV, walk past a newsstand, Hell, simply keep one eye partially open and you’ll be inundated with all the stats you’ll ever need (and then some). There’s no doubt that there’s been some progress on this front since the pre-Civil Rights era, but the widely accepted definition of beauty is still pretty obvious.
Rather than “Unthink” what you consume, as KFC would have you do, it’s time to unthink the perpetual brainwashing that would have us believe that we are never as good enough. All it takes is a concerted effort on our part to engage ourselves with what we see, rather than passively absorb it. Dig the following tips that if used properly will help you break free from the bondage and get our brains back:
- Keep an open & inquisitive mind: Avoid taking info at face value, and try to consider all sides of a story before solidifying your opinion. Sure, Heather Locklear may feel “superior” with those wispy blond locks, but notions such as these are opinions, not facts. If it’s a relatable image you seek, the Internet is a wonderful tool. Use your inquisitive, open mind to seek out that which your heart desires.
- Stay in reality: This, for some, may harken the version that involves large amounts of Black women lusting after Flavor Flav or Ray-J on VH1, but most of us know better than that. Contrary to popular belief, Black America isn’t the only cultural group that houses a percentage of exploitable delinquents, despite what the media projects. Reality means accepting that we do have many faces, but we also have the final say in declaring which ones best represent us, not VH1.
- Educate yourself: The more you learn, the more secure you will feel as your new reality will be based on truth, rather than illusions. You may start to feel inferior as you watch a seemingly tall woman with pale skin and long silky hair sauntering across your screen. Take time to learn about how these images are created and you’ll discover that virtually everything we see on the tube, or magazines that matter, is an immense departure from reality. It’s the hair & make up artists, production crew, director and sound technician that are behind the image you see. For all you know, the model you envy is an ugly little thang who’s own real locks barely resemble the silky strands that were sewn onto her head.
- Respect Yourself: Love of/respect of self is the most effective means to permanently reverse the effects of brainwash. Media moguls in particular are literally banking on the lack of regard for ourselves and prey on low self esteem by promoting products that encourage us to consume our way to a state of short-lived joy. Why learn to love your kinky hair when you can simply buy the coif of your dreams? Putting your hard earned dollars into someone else’s hands may make them rich, but in the end, your sense of shame/self-hatred remains. Those who are content with themselves are their own best friends, and the advertisers worst enemy, given that they thrive on the notion that one must always look outwardly for his/her source of self-worth and happiness.
- Honor Your Uniqueness: Perhaps one may desire to look more like Jessica Alba, Nicole Kidman, or Naomi Campbell because she despises her own reflection. We’ve all been trained to compare ourselves to other women for the purposes of finding fault with ourselves. Combat this foul habit by highlighting all the dope qualities that make you who you are. Everyone is unique in someway; we cannot and should not be measured by the same ruler. Every time you feel self-pity rear its ugly head, shift your focus to your strong suits, and that which makes you feel good about yourself. You may find that you actually have it going on way more than you realized.
- Repetition, Repetition, Repetition: Unending repetition is the lifeblood of mind-control and literally what brings the idea of brainwashing to life. Every step you take to undo the harmful effects of the media must be repeated ad nauseum. The word militant comes to mind because it takes a large measure of aggression and discipline to train your mind to accept a new mode of thinking. This is best accomplished with a positive attitude, to avoid your mind associating this new quest with feelings of rage or hostility.
Again, breaking the chains involves listening closely to yourself to uncover your heart/souls desires. Rather than just unconsciously lap up what is placed in front of you, be proactive. If you don’t like what’s placed in front of you, seek what nourishes you, or create it yourself. Stay true, or like the saying goes “do you.” No one can (re)define us but ourselves.