By Silvana Scarfe
Could what we audibly and visually consume impact us in ways we may not even realise?
I’ve been asking myself this question for quite some time. Perhaps it was that pesky little song released almost a decade ago by Tel and Acacia “Garbage in”, that first had me thinking about the possible truth in it all.
We’re taught from a young age that what we choose to eat will impact our overall health and wellbeing, and whether or not we can perform adequately in a school sporting contest (half-time oranges, anyone?!).
Nutritionists, doctors and healthcare practitioners tell us to eat certain foods if we lack the necessary nutrients and to avoid certain foods that may be contributing to digestive issues, ailments or blood pressure, for example. Either we choose to take their advice – in trust – or we turn a blind eye and keep eating the same processed, heavily sugary foods, thinking we know what’s best.
From what I’ve gathered in my own health journey – and that of others I’ve had the privilege of walking beside – what we choose to eat or not eat does actually have a massive effect on our physical and emotional health. There really is no doubt about it. Just as you wouldn’t put diesel in a car asking for unleaded petrol, why should our bodies be any different when it comes to fuelling our energy, vitamin and mineral stores on a daily basis? To function well, we need to feed our bodies well!
In my last blog post I challenge the normalcy of a pornographic culture and how it contributes to a climate of sexual harassment. I want to pick up on a thread from this and explore the idea that perhaps what we allow ourselves to visually and audibly consume has an impact – for better or for worse – on how we see, interact and live in the world around us.
The controversy surrounding the 2013 release of Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” (and not only due to the copyright plagiarism of one of Marvin Gaye’s songs), highlighted the appalling degradation of women in and throughout the music industry through both lyric and music videos. At least 20 student unions in the UK banned the song from being played on campus due to its misogynistic lyrics. Nevertheless, songs like this are still played frequently at parties, in bars and nightclubs, enthusiastically supported by those on the dancefloor. Do we even realise that what we are consciously or sub-consciously singing along to might actually affect us?
Or what about the content we consume by way of TV – shows like the very popular Game of Thrones – rife with nudity and highly graphic (and violent) sex scenes. Or even the content we consume by way of literature – a popular form of entertainment that especially captures the imagination of women, that is remarkably impactful. Consider the 50 Shades of Grey franchise, now films in their own right, normalising sado-masochism and sexual violence under the guise of “romance”.
Psychologists warn about the impact our visual and audio consumption has on our mood, thoughts and actions, especially in the way it contributes to and alters the way we interact with the world. We can choose to feed ourselves with positive influences in the same way we choose the ones with negative consequences.
What can seem like harmless fun, undeniably has an impact. What is seen cannot be unseen and what we consume affects us whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
Serial killer, Ted Bundy, in interviews prior to his death by capital punishment, discusses the role that pornography had on his view of women and the subsequent rape-killings he committed. Pornography alters the way we see others, how physiologically responsive we are to sexual intimacy with our partners and what we deem as acceptable in such situations.
If pornography has such a profound impact, then the so-called “harmless” entertainment we consume, particularly that which borders on the pornographic, must also impact us. Both women and men deserve better, and it begins with our own individual choices each and every day.
Silvana Scarfe is a freelance writer from Sydney.
Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.
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