The question for the panel relies on a report prepared by an all female “Task Force” of the American Psychological Association. It is a forceful report, attempting to set up a causal relationship between media aggressor and receiving victim.
I remember Gloria Steinem and her famous article “The City Politic” that appeared in the April 7, 1969 issue of the New York Magazine and her op-ed article that appeared in The Washington Post on Sunday, June 7, 1970. Gloria Steinem made similar arguments back then, but her work is still in progress. And this, mind you, was a powerful woman who invented the title “Ms.”
Is this report the beginning of another movement, fashioned after Steinem’s? The eras are similar: Iraq and Vietnam. Henry Kissinger is still advising the White House. We see a new proliferation of heroin, polarization of domestic politics, and economic inflation akin to 1970s. I think of Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin, Janice Joplin and James Brown. I miss those clumsy 8-track tapes, but not the bell-bottom jeans.
In Iran, we are also revisiting our past. Since the Revolution in 1979, strict codes and old-fashioned social norms banned public disclosures of sex-driven advertising, films or entertainment. It is noteworthy that the Revolution is now 28 years old. I notice a very slight relaxation of the rules.
A majority of Iranians have not seen the pre-revolutionary Iran. Almost all Iranians, and the rich Persian (Eastern) culture, never adopted the shallow sex-and-sell commercialism often associated with Western societies.
Such amusing behaviors raise eyebrows in Iran. They always have, even prior to the revolution in 1979 when a peculiar and redacted version of western “liberalism” and social mores of the 1960s & 70s -- the hippie variety -- was injected into Iran.
In retrospect, that was a short-lived experimental period of the last 10 years of the Shah’s rule. A mass rejection of such values by a majority in Iran sparked a revolt. The majority finally chose to recall more traditional roots of social interaction.
These days, Iranian women are busy with more substantive goals and achievements in all walks of life. They are not amazed with fiction that clouds their perspective. Education, computer literacy, discovery of the world and achievements in cinema, arts, medicine, politics, journalism, development and charity are higher priorities for most Iranians. For example, all of Iran beamed with pride when Mrs. Anoushe Ansari, an engineer, traveled to the space station.
This does not mean that Iran is an ideological soviet gulag. Persian literature is a rich treasure that appreciates beauty and mystic revelations of creation. A vast body of poetry, all spanning several centuries, point to a deep and intellectual appreciation of body and mind of the opposite sex. Iranian plastic surgeons are quite busy these days with their practice of rhinoplasty and cosmetic surgery. They search for balance, beyond simple superficial appearances.
In an objective analysis, I am not sure what can be done about changing the sexualization of American society. With the notable exception of the British, Europeans tend to deal with sex and the suggestive tease more easily.
Sexually suggestive behavior is deeply set in American culture and its advanced economic system. It is a consumer driven, but saturated, economy. As such, consumption must be propelled by increasing appeal to the senses. Social and economic issues blend. The impact of separating such deep ties and roots might spell disaster for the American economy. A complete disconnect of American marketing and business from sex could cut a noticeable piece from the American GDP -- a piece that may well be larger than the GDP of Iran and its neighbors.
Hollywood and its massive entertainment industry thrives on the celebrity culture that sex generates. If selling sexual images stops, supermarket tabloids with some of the highest circulation will go out of business. Several television stations will have to find other content and the businesses of apparel and cosmetics, health and diet foods, beer marketing, cheerleaders in football games and perhaps Las Vegas will either shrink substantially or simply go out of business.
The close link of the social fabric and the economic structure will probably continue until such time that corporate bosses find and test an alternative method of grabbing the attention of the consumer. The state of the consumer’s mental health is a cost that they dismiss.
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