Thursday, December 10, 2015

Last Exploration by Ruksana Kabealo

In Wendell Berry’s essay “The Idea of a Local Economy” Berry explores the destructive nature of a total economy as well as the method to remedy it: a switch to a local economy. Berry defines a total economy as “one in which everything – ‘life forms,’ for instance, or the ‘right to pollute’ - is ‘private property’ and has a price and is for sale”. Berry describes a local economy as one based on neighborhood and subsistence, in which communities locally produce and exchange as many products needed by their citizens, while taking into account the effects on the environment and the interests of the people.

One of the things I realized while reading the essay was why exactly it’s so hard to enact widespread change in the current economy we live in. We all want to try and do better, but the greatest obstacle in our way is that we don’t necessarily know how. Even in today’s information age, it’s unnaturally hard to find out the true extent of corporate pollution or what the effects of a certain chemical in our foods are. Berry elaborates on this in the essay, describing the situation the consumers in a total economy find themselves in:

Though one is shopping amid an astonishing variety of products, one is denied certain significant choices. In such a state of economic ignorance it is not possible to choose products that were produced locally or with reasonable kindness toward people and toward nature. Nor is it possible for such consumers to influence production for the better [7]

I used to be of the mindset that education regarding the production methods and practices of companies was the problem. I used to believe that corporations themselves weren’t a bad thing, but the amount of secrecy regarding their practices was. However, Berry’s essay has made me consider that maybe the reliance on corporations themselves is the problem. After all, as Berry states, corporations are not people. Corporations lack morality and therefore are extremely unlike to put the interest of the people above the interest of the corporation. Perhaps the solution is not greater required transparency regarding a corporation’s methods, but the reduction of corporate power.

I also agree with Morgan that change goes far beyond complaining or having a change of heart. Every single one of us needs to act on our feelings and do something that will create lasting change, especially if we’re going to do something as drastic as the switch from a total economy to a local economy.

One issue I don’t think we discuss enough in our culture is the sexualization of girls at increasingly younger ages and just how detrimental it is. My younger sister is twelve-years-old. Recently, she was showing me the Instagram profile of one of her friends. In one picture, the girl poses seductively, her lips pouting, her face full of makeup, in a low-cut top. This girl is twelve. 

From the increasingly provocative nature of girls’ Halloween costumes [1] (especially when compared to the same boys’ costumes for the same age ranges [2]), to popular, nationwide clothing lines such as Abercrombie & Fitch marketing push-up bikinis to girls as young as 7-years-old [3], to the drastic increase in girls represented with sexualizing characteristics (for example, tight clothes and high heels) in popular girls’ magazines aimed at girls as young as ten (such as the popular Girls’ Life magazine) from 1970 to 2011 [4], there’s no doubt that young girls are becoming increasingly sexualized over time.

This increasing sexualization has led to a change in the attitudes of young girls. Girls are becoming more self-objectifying and more caught up in their physical appearances. In a recent study conducted on girls from 6 to 9 years old, girls were presented a doll dressed in clothes that were tight and revealing and another doll dressed in clothes that were fashionable but looser and more modest [5]. The girls were then asked which doll looked how they wanted to look, which doll was more popular, and which doll they wanted to play with. The girls overwhelmingly chose the “sexy” doll. 

This sexualization of girls stems from the rampant sexualization of women in the mainstream media and pop culture of the United States. Women are sold the notion that beauty is associated with happiness/popularity/wealth/success and that in order to be beautiful they must look a certain way. This message is everywhere, from film to television to magazines. With the rise of social media and the internet, these messages have become even harder to avoid.  

The idea that women’s sexual appeal is inherently linked to their self-worth is in and of itself an extremely problematic notion. When this notion is marketed to children who don’t quite understand the full implication of the message, by companies looking to expand their audiences to make a profit, it goes beyond far problematic. It’s disgusting and immoral.

Not only that, but it’s been proven that this increased sexualization of girls in the media has negative effects on girls’ mental health. Sexualization in the media leads to increased self-objectification. The American Psychological Association released a report in 2008 called "The Sexualization of Girls", which went into great detail about the negative effects of self-objectification on girls:

Studies also show that self-objectification is associated with negative mental health outcomes in adolescent girls. For example, Tolman et al. (2006) found that in early adolescence, girls who had a more objectified relationship with their bodies were more likely to experience depression and had lower self-esteem. Similarly, Harrison and Fredrickson (2003) reported that among Black and White adolescent girls, self-objectification was a significant predictor of depression, body shame, and disordered eating, even when controlling for race, grade in school, and body mass index [6]

The full APA report is available here, for anyone interested:

It’s a long report, but it really does a fantastic job of both explaining the negative effects of increased sexualization of girls in the media and describing approaches to lessening the influence of sexualization we can all take in our own lives. Honestly, I believe being aware of and knowing how to counteract these influences is vital to anyone with young women in their lives, especially those of us who have younger sisters or those of us who might have daughters someday.

Works Cited:



  1. I think that the sexualization of our culture is a prime example of how corporations are not moral. They are machines that are created for the sole purpose of making money and to thing of them as a person is irrational. They are not going to change their ways as long as they are making a profit, regardless of how detrimental their operation is to the environment or to the well being of their customers.

  2. Like Jared said as a culture we are so focused on the way people look and it can sometimes turn women into sex items in order to sell a product, like it was said in The Idea of a local economy how we do not realize how much harm we have on something with the carelessness we do.

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