Sunday, July 24, 2005

My first school presentation

I've never actually spoken in front of students before.

Staff members yes. Public yes. But young minds that are in the process of being moulded, no.

When Siti from Unifem's Youth Wing called me early last week to "say a few words about gender stereotypes in the media" to a class of media students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, I thought why not? I like young people, but I've had some bad experiences mentoring a few who fell to the cliche that in order to look smart they gotta give the teacher lip.

Then again I was not the nurturing type till I turned 31 anyway.

A speaker from Unifem went up to the podium first to present a video (made in the hilarious late 80s, the days of Duran Duran and Miami Vice, so there were short skirts, high heel pumps and cheesy big hair all around), and then discuss why the Evil Mass Media are responsible for brainwashing people from a tender young age so that boys learn to beat up girls, and girls learn to take it.

While I can appreciate the angry sentiments (haha) behind it, I am not a feminist in any way, and do not agree that Man Bad, Woman Good. If not for Woman, Man would still be in the garden of Eden.

Anyway, that's a discussion for another post. My Unifem counterpart took to admonishing the noisy students and then to calling them out by name to answer questions. I don't think it went down well. Then again I've never been a teacher and I wouldn't be try to discipline a bunch of near-adults.

My section was representing the Evil Mass Media. As a former editor of 2 women's magazines, I took the liberty to reveal a bunch of insider secrets to these young people. I guess I thought entertainment might cut it -- these people had hauled ass to school on a SATURDAY and were being tested on the topic (or so I gathered), so the least I could do was provide a coupla laffs.

It went down well, particularly the beautiful pictures of Gisele Bundchen who is the only authentic supermodel of this modern time, who has had no plastic surgery and who eats burgers and not cigarettes and coffee for lunch.

I also revealed the wonders of Photoshop, which can shrink thighs, waistlines, cheeks, remove wrinkles, cellulite, underarm dingle-dangle and many other faults. Who needs Marie France when you've got Photoshop?

Women's magazines DO do some harm to the mindset of women. I was just watching an episode of Madeleine on the Disney channel about how her schoolmates wept at night because they did not own clothes that carried the designer label of Madame Cliche. Girls ARE at a young age encouraged to dress pretty (it's a privilege, really), and I am guilty as anyone of putting my babies in Dior, DKNY, Ralph Lauren and other designer labels (but not anymore, it's Bossini for the uns now!).

But above that, there is a value women ascribe to looks: sleek straight hair, flat stomachs and curvy hips, bigger boobs, whiter skin ... and it's actively encouraged by women's magazines.

Does it mean women shouldn't care about their looks? NO! What I mean to say is that women here need more of a unique style. I see very few women who instinctively know what to wear, who wear not what is trendy but actually start trends with what they wear. Their items aren't expensive, but it's the way they put it together.

It is a bit tiring to see, in a sea of people, long, gold-streaked locks, hipster jeans, jeweled thongs and an empire-cut top every 3 degrees you move your head.

But I digress: things ARE changing. Women ARE getting tired of traditional women's magazines. The spiralling circulation figures prove the market just ain't big enough for too many mags, and that women DO have half a brain in Singapore, and they DO look for things that feed the soul as much as the skin.

Oprah Winfrey's magazine O is the best-seller among women's mags in the US (and I read once, the world, but I need to verify that). Her magazine does not have a lot of skinny grumpy women with too much makeup on. Her magazine features her: a not-skinny, black woman on the cover. It is the antithesis of everything women have grown up expecting of women's magazines, but it is sincere, genuine and it touches a cord in women's hearts.

Locally DARE magazine (which I write for but this is not a plug, promise) set out to achieve that, to create a magazine for women with soul, and they've hit upon the highest natural subscription I've ever seen in my 16 years in magazine journalism in Singapore.

All this I shared in the lecture. Last night I bumped into one of the NAP students at church and she said I made her laugh.

That made my day (yesterday AND today). I look forward to the next opportunity I get to speak and hopefullly bust more myths.


Blogger Barffie said...

Yeah, I'm sick of the social stereotypes. And my only branded dress is one I bought for my ROM. Thrifty, that's why.

10:17 AM

Blogger Yas said...

Hi there! I really love reading your blog (this one and the other Christian one that you have). It's really interesting and insightful... especially this entry, which truly reflects my sentiments about female mags. Keep writing and God bless!

11:18 AM

Blogger xue said...

didn't Gisele get a boob job?

9:01 PM

Blogger threez said...

Nope, Gisele is 100% real. I watched her on her first season on the Milan catwalk. So awesome the pit of photographers were literally ripping each other apart to take her picture (hoping for some booby action). And they bounce real, too.

11:26 PM

Blogger tinkertailor said...

somehow, women are being judged by their looks much more than men are. not just by the media, but by strangers around them, by friends, by family, and even by themselves.

1:55 PM

Blogger threez said...

Actually, the worst is that women are the most critical judges of other women!

8:12 PM

Blogger l.y.f.e. said...

What constitutes a natural subscription?

10:19 PM

Blogger threez said...

Natural subscription is when people of their own accord decide to pay upfront for a number of issues to be sent to their home (12 or 24 months usually).

Forced subscription is when you sell in bulk to say, a store, restaurant, association, or when you give free copies to airlines.

Also most other magazines will have subscription drives, either they run roadshows at Caltex house and give away goodie bags so people sign up, or they give nice lucky draw prizes. These are not genuine subscribers because they are motivated by the gift not the content of the magazine.

11:06 PM

Blogger l.y.f.e. said...

Thanks for the explanation. Just started exploring your blogs. Will look out for your mag.


12:42 AM


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