I watched a fascinating video the other day called “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women”. Take a few minutes to watch this powerful presentation on how we are told what to believe is beautiful and the incredible havoc it brings on our culture, but especially on women. We are conditioned to believe what is beautiful. The advertising industry and who it works for all benefit from our dollars.
The disgusting but honest admission of Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch… that he doesn’t make clothes for fat and therefore unattractive or uncool people, is the truth bared:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids… Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either…”
Openly discriminating against fat people, even if it is indirectly, has now become not only necessary but acceptable business practice. We should not be alarmed by Jeffries’ attitude or statements. He simply had the guts or the stupidity to articulate what the business already knows and does openly. In fact, he states the obvious of what our culture… our culture… supports. We condone and pay for it. I’m sure other CEOs are saying, “Shoot! Jeffries gave away our secret!” But it’s not a secret, really.
At one point in the above video, Cindy Crawford is quoted as saying, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford”. The models don’t even look like themselves. It is a facade. A fantasy. We love it and support it or it wouldn’t continue. Can we redefine what beauty is? Is it possible to get underneath the conditioning and appreciate what is without judgement?
While I was watching it I found I was relating it to everything else we believe to be true. I often mention Krishnamurti, the eastern philosopher who ruthlessly challenges our conditioning and effectively demolishes it if you let him. One of the most traumatizing times in my life was when I read his book, “The Urgency of Change”, and realized my mind was trapped in a labyrinth of conditioning that had been done to me but which I was wholly complicit in. When you realize you’ve been playing make-pretend and believing it to be true, the ground disappears from under you. I have the same reaction when I read the teachings of Jesus. To read them without judgement, without a pre-conditioned mind, is like admitting a virus into your hard drive. Something’s going to crash.
Our minds are conditioned religiously as well. What do you know to be true? What have you adopted automatically without question? What do you believe without thinking? Are you willing to look underneath the conditioning and observe what actually is without judgement? No one should ask anyone to believe anything unconditionally, automatically, without reservation. No one. Not even God.
Unless of course there’s money or power to be made. Ask yourself: how is religion, how is the church, any different than the industries that further fantasies for its own gain? Are religious institutions and organizations the industries fabricating products for its customers and is its presentation, persona, and evangelism its marketing and advertising branches? Are religious leaders the CEOs and the buildings their stores? Who do they market to? Who shops there? More importantly, how much should we believe what they say about themselves and us and what they insist we need? These are important questions. Wouldn’t you agree?
Of course, we need clothes. Even the nakedpastor does! And perhaps we need religion. I’m not going to say we do or we don’t. That’s for you to decide for yourself. But how conditioned are you to wear the clothes you’re wearing? How conditioned are you to believe what you’re believing and to do what you’re doing?
These are important questions. Wouldn’t you agree?