Re-post: TGIF: Why is Beyonce Giving Me Mixed Signals?

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On skytrain journalism, sanitary pads and the real face of dignity.


by Tina Francis | Twitter: @teenbug
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I don’t typically brood over words like “dignity” while chomping on a piece of toast on a Thursday morning. I’m usually preoccupied with trying to make decisions like, “Can I get away with not washing my hair today?” or “How long can I sit on Facebook before I’m officially late for work?”

This week, however, was different. I came face-to-face with the stark reality that dignity is:
- A vague concept.
- A scarce commodity.

Allow me to illustrate my point by going over my week.

Monday: I spot this guy on the Skytrain. The repressed journalist in me just HAD to take a picture of his hoodie.

It’s a little hard to read in the picture because I was trying to be discreet. His hoodie says, “Chicks should come in six packs.” The infamous mudflap girl imprinted on each can. Pun intended.

The feminist in me was appalled. For the record: I’m not anti-men. I’m just pro-women.

Tuesday: I read this really great article: “MILFs and Happy Endings” (You should read it too.)

“Was it just me, or was I being bullied, along with everyone else, into having to accept porn’s invasion into everyday life with its coarseness as the new norm?”- Lili Bee

Wednesday: I sat across from this guy…

“My parts are the best,” his T-shirt reads. TMI … but I’ll take your word for it kind sir. On closer inspection, it’s mudflap girl again! Only this time she’s on her knees. I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’m guessing she’s not changing the tires.

How does a woman living in today’s world define “dignity” when the media tells us we are most appreciated on our knees, half-dressed, preferably in front of an automobile.

Don’t believe me? Take Beyonce’s music video “Run the World” for example. Ms. Knowles is singing about female empowerment on all fours in front of a car. Look at the similarities between the T-shirt and the video.

Car? Check. Mudflap girl? Check. Girl power? I don’t think so. Talk about sending mixed signals.

I really don’t want this to sound Anti-Beyonce because I love the girl. She can sing, dance and is a successful business woman. What’s not to love? It just bothers me that the music video for a song about girl power is communicating a conflicting message.

Why aren’t there more T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of Rosa Parks, Madeleine Albright and Margaret Atwood? I’d wear that!

Thursday: As you can imagine I was feeling pretty deflated by this point. The overly sexualized imagery and language surrounding my gender was depressing.

In an effort to cheer myself up I was browsing through the Living Hope website on my lunch break. Looking through the photos on the website, I saw a true picture of dignity. I saw women with deep-rooted self-worth, effortless grace, resourceful spirit, fervent courage and untainted joy.

This is the kind of “girl power” that appeals to me. I’m tired of the in-your-face, skin-baring, swearing-like-a-sailor, overly sexual, middle-finger showing, aggressive, violent, catty, condescending “girl power” the media advertises. It’s a cop-out. It’s counterfeit.

True girl power is someone who forgives the unforgivable, loves the unlovable and dares to show up for life even at the risk of getting hurt in the process.

“What should move us to action is human dignity: the inalienable dignity of the oppressed, but also the dignity of each of us. We lose dignity if we tolerate the intolerable.”Dominique De Menil

The Intolerable: Abducted, gang-raped, infected with AIDS, left for dead, mutilated, forgotten, beaten, disfigured, shunned from society and sold as sex slaves.

“Restoring dignity” is the mandate of the

2. Making Honey

3. I was saving the best for last, a brilliant initiative called “MAKAPADS.”

According to UNICEF, approximately 1 in 10 African girls will skip school during menstruation because they fear being ridiculed or stigmatized. Rural schools don’t usually have proper toilet facilities or water and girls can’t afford sanitary pads. Often times they have to resort to unsanitary alternatives like leaves or cloth. This is the crucial juncture where many girls drop out of school.

The Living Hope ladies in Gulu have been part of an initiative that provides affordable sanitary pads, called Makapads made mainly of papyrus reeds and almost entirely of local materials. It is exciting because, not only is this a skills development opportunity, but the ladies also get to be a part of an initiative that is giving a new generation of girls the opportunity to remain in school.

The finished product is pretty impressive if you ask me!

“Our ladies are not a drama of victimization; they are a story of empowerment that transforms formerly abducted little girls into successful businesswomen.”- Marilyn Skinner, Founder of Watoto – Living Hope

Transforming abducted girls into successful business women?!

Hello? I love that.

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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  • Unathi.

    This reminded me of mama Wangari Mathaai. She was all about the dignity and not tolerating what should not be and empowering women as well. Thanks Tina.

    I feel empowered from just reading. *heres to REAL girl power*

    I also love Beyonce :)