Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Do You Notice?

     We are absolutely inundated with visual stimuli that vies for our attention. Entire industries are dedicated to capturing images, packaging images, transmitting images, branding images, correcting/changing/updating images, getting the most hit counts for your images...

     I bring this up, because whether we like this or not, the truth is that in our culture we invest in what matters to us. And according to our spending habits, we are overwhelmingly concerned about what we look like, and how that look is perceived by others.

     This is true in all areas of American life, but for the purposes of this blogpost, I'm going to focus on women's personal appearance, okay? A simple Google search on "women spending on appearance" comes up with 62,100,000 links. In the first few links I clicked, Huffington Post articles note that American women spend $426 BILLION a year on beauty products and treatments.  Lea Goldman from MarieClaire talks about the unfair business practices targeted at women, resulting in $151 BILLION in mark-ups that men do not pay for the equivalent products marketed to males.  The Today Show revealed that on top of spending their money on products, the average American woman spends two weeks of their time a year on selecting clothes. Judging by the way we spend our money and our time, women, clearly, have accepted the messages about image.

     Only every woman I know is so much more than our image. We are more than our hair style and the clothes we wear and our skin regimen.  We are more than the vehicle we drive and the place we get our coffee and our magazine subscriptions. We are absolutely more than the color of our skin or the language we were first taught at home. We teach children, heal the sick, run corporations, write poems.  We grow vegetables and flowers. We develop policy and draft legislation.   We start families. We worship. We build communities. We make mistakes. We fail at some of our relationships. We suffer losses. Sometimes we give up.

We experience the entire gamut of the human experience. 
We are so much more than what we look like.

     I don't actually have a problem with women (anyone, actually) cultivating their image. It's part of what makes each of us ourselves. Personally, I love getting my hair done, and a new skirt can make my whole day. The problem is when we all make our value judgments about each other based solely on our look. There is a lot of great work going on right now, bringing attention to that--especially in regards to women.

     Here is one project that has especially resonated with me, though. Florida artist, Lori Pratico, and photographer, Elizabeth Sanjuan, have founded Girl Noticed.  Over the next three years, Lori and Elizabeth will be traveling to create mural-sized, charcoal portraits of local women in all 50 states. The subjects of these portraits are allowed to voice what it is about themselves that they wish the world noticed.   Designed to be an interactive project, viewers of the murals will also be able to add their own notes about what they want noticed about themselves. The installations already done in Florida and Michigan have been powerful and impacting. I cannot tell you how excited I am to be even tangentially involved in this important creative work.

     You, too, can get involved in this project.  Check out their website. Make a financial donation. Submit a story about why you or another woman in your life would make a good subject for a portrait. Offer up the exterior of your business as a site for a mural. Visit one of the installations and add a note of your own. Most importantly, make the effort to notice, really, fully notice the women in your life.





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