As 8:30 approaches I have a decision to make. Do I watch the hit comedy show “New Girl?” Now to most people this probably wouldn’t be such a big dilemma, but last weeks episode left a huge impression on me about our society today. The previous episode of New Girl, mainly revolved around roommates Winston (Lamorne Morris) and Schmidt ( Max Greenfield ) teaching their friend and other roommate Nick (Jake Johnson) how to “dump” a girl after sleeping with her one time. While the show made me laugh several times with corky lines and a truthful perspective of society today, it also saddened me.
Seeing as its 8:18 and I just got home from work, I think I rather write this instead. Too many times I watch something and have a deep thought about it, yet I don’t share it. I have neglected my blog since I came home, but finally I have something worth writing that parallels my Peace Corps experience and daily life in America.
I call this blog the “Liberated American” because I will never forget one of my first days teaching in the Philippines. I brought my laptop into the teachers’ lounge and a slideshow appeared as my computer hibernated. The picture illuminated a tall male kissing me on the cheek, this man was one of my best friends, it was not an intimate picture but instead playful in manner; yet when my co-workers saw the picture they said, “you are so lucky to be a liberated American.”
“Liberated American?” I asked, “What does that mean?”
Unfortunately “liberated” did not have the definition that I was hoping, instead it was as though my Pilipino co-teacher had already made an impression of me based on what American girls represent in their culture, sluts. I had no choice but to laugh off the comment, by American standards I am the farthest thing from a “slut” however, by having a boy kiss me on the cheek in a picture I was representing something that further engrained what my American stereotype represents to Pilipino woman, a lack of morals. My co-teacher, who later became one of my best friends eventually, explained to me that American women are free to love whomever they want and whatever they want, a freedom that does not exist in the Philippines.
After first hearing this I thought how sad that Pilipino women don’t get to “date” boys. The process of dating in my community included courting, dating and then marriage. If you officially “dated” someone that meant you were going to marry them. Many students keep their relationships private from their parents. In my young life I have “dated” many boys, all of which taught me what I do and don’t want in a relationship. I felt those relationships where lessons (some much harder to learn than others) that taught me more about myself and the standards and morals I wanted to keep for myself.
I lived in the Philippines for 14 months, during which time American media greatly changed in my mind and its effect on what it means to be in a relationship. Several American TV shows aired in the Philippines (a few seasons late), in which I was able to gather my Pilipino family around the TV to watch a familiar movie or show. While I was happy to point out background scenery and explain American culture and clothing, there was one thing I could never explain; why the men could have as many women as they wanted yet the woman didn’t have a value to the man.
This idea of women not having a value to the man has really stuck with me. Then suddenly last week as the episode of New Girl aired I was reminded of that conversation. What if that episode goes to the Philippines one day? Why is it okay that girls are presented in media as not respecting themselves? Are you okay with this? Am I?
Upon further reflection, my actions would say I am. If nothing is on TV I find myself watching Two and Half Men in the background as I browse Facebook. By viewing that show, what am I teaching myself about the worth of a woman? Could anyone count how many women Charlie Sheen has slept with in his real life let alone TV life? Countless girls with perfect bodies and unmemorable faces roam in and out of sheets without many lines or purpose but to say, “Just sleeping with me is okay, but I don’t matter.”
Maybe your reading this right now and saying, “It’s my choice to sleep with whoever I want, I get something out of it too.” To those of you who are thinking that I’m not trying to say that as a woman you shouldn’t have the right to your own body and to do what you please, however I am trying to ask is why is it okay to devalue woman on TV by allowing countless TV shows and movie dismiss girls as quick as they seal the deal. I’m talking about truly objectifying women, there is a difference between treating a woman as an object or a person. I’m not judging anyone. However, I think it’s something we need to talk about as a society. I believe that woman have value and I don’t think it’s okay to let TV shows or movies dictate to men that it’s okay to sleep with us and then cast us to the side minutes later. It’s not okay to use my friends, my sisters, my generation of women; because this issue of value is not just effecting our society, the idea is effecting the world. Many countries look up to Americans, but what are they looking up to?
My message to my students before I left was to value themselves, but do I value myself by watching shows that dismiss women? Joking or not, this happens in real life. My friends are better than that, your better than that. I wish American TV culture could translate a message of the intellectual women I am surrounded than rather than a devaluing of our ability as woman to make decisions of value.
I had to write this and ask my friends and all readers of my blog to value yourself. Don’t let people use you; you are better than our TV culture teaches us. When I left the Philippines I hope that woman I affected saw me as an “Intellectual American” instead of a “Liberated” one.
Thanks for reading,
(ps guess I missed new girl)