Sunday, February 7, 2010

It pays to be aware of what you are seeing around you.

Yesterday I had the good fortune to accompany my daughter to the BeachHouse at Glenelg. She loves the water slides and the other activities. While we were enjoying our wedges and ice-creams for lunch we sat next to the merry-go-round, sometimes referred to as a Carousel.

I'm informed by the BeachHouse's brochure that the Carousel had been restored for 2 years and is quite old. While I ate my lunch with my daughter I read a notice about the restoration of the screens which sit in the centre to cover unsightly inner workings. The notice explained that "heroes" were originally on the screens, such as William the Conqueror and the Black Prince (I have no idea who the Black Prince was). But when they were restored, those older heroes were replaced with more recent WWII "heroes".

Anyway, the centre of the Carousel had a bunch of 'important-looking' people on it. I didn't really recognise who they were exactly, but they were all serious looking, dressed in suits or military uniforms. All were men, because I assume we don't recognise any female war "heroines". But the upshot was that we were to consider them as important "heroes", people who had shaped our history and were worthy of respect because they (had) held high status. Worthy of being remembered.

A further study of the Carousel revealed that the top was decorated. This time, with images of women. But there was no notice or plaque to tell us if these women were heroes or not, or if they were important for some reason so we were left to guess why they were there. And it wasn't too hard to figure out. Most of the women had their breasts exposed and all were dressed in some sort of flowing, lightweight fabric. The overall theme of the images were whimsical, fantasy-like, mischievous, wanton, waif-like, vulnerable, sexual, flimsy, casual and easy. Definately, not important.

The messages I get from this are: Men are important. Women are not important. Men affiliated with WWII are heroes. There are no women affiliated with WWII, therefore, there are no women heroes. Men who are heroes should be commemorated and remembered. Women should be admired, then forgotten. Men are strong. Women are not strong. Women are vulnerable. Women are fantasy sexual creatures to be looked at.

These messages are prolific throughout our society and landscapes. The Carousel was a perfect example of both feminine and masculine depictions together. Almost fascinating as they were in such close proximity to each other. Such a contrast was startling. And I bet, nobody else noticed, at least not on the day we were there. Our children, and adolescents, are highly unlikely to critically analyse the images on the carousel and see them for what they are. And for those who don't notice, they run the risk of being the most influenced. And then, at times, we ask ourselves, why do (some) young men, treat young women badly or without respect. To my mind, one needs look no further than what we are inculcated with in our society as we grow up.