There are still a few of us around who remember the counter-cultural phrase that originated from Canadian educator and scholar Marshall McLuhan but was popularized by writer and psychologist Timothy Leary: “turn on, tune in, drop out.” The idea behind the slogan was to get the flower children and just about everyone else caught up in the turbulent 1960’s to move away from conventional society, detach from the world, and get re-connected to themselves. Leary ran with the saying to promote his own agenda. He claimed the best way to “turn on, tune in, and drop out” was through the use of hallucinogenic or psychedelic drugs.
Acid trips aside, in today’s media-saturated culture, where the over-sexualization and objectification of women and girls is off the charts, and where women are given all types of conflicting messages about who they are supposed to be in the 21st century, the idea of turning on to something besides Toddlers & Tiaras, The Real Housewives of Orange County, Twitter, and Facebook — and getting away from or tuning out the media at least temporarily — would be a good idea. It really is time for women to get back to basics and realize their true dignity as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.
Let’s look at some of the messages women are receiving recently. Thank goodness NBC’s The Playboy Club was cancelled after three episodes. But just the fact that a major broadcast network believed a TV series developed around, as the Parents TV Council described, “a pornographic brand that denigrates and sexualizes women,” was a good idea for prime-time television is disturbing. Given the strides women have made in the last few decades, one would think the media moguls could do a lot better; but apparently that old Virginia Slims “you’ve come a long way baby” advertisement was all wrong.
The popular reality-TV genre is another area of media unkind to women and in particular to young girls. A new study by the Girl Scouts of America, “Real to Me: Girls and Reality TV,” found that not only are the reality-TV shows popular with young female viewers, but these same viewers have a hard time discerning fact from fiction. Of the 1,100 girls surveyed for the GSA report, 50 percent said the shows are “mainly real and unscripted” when just the opposite is true. If that isn’t bad enough, those questioned also have come to accept the antics regularly portrayed on the programs such as fighting and gossiping as part of normal behavior
Even those women considered to be part of the group known as “the beautiful people” aren’t quite beautiful enough. Take for example the stunning dancers on the ABC hit show, Dancing with the Stars. Two of the program’s professional performers, Lacey Schwimmer and Cheryl Burke, two women probably in better shape than most people on the planet given what they do for a living, have been publicly ridiculed by the paparazzi for being “too fat” to be dancers. Why? Because they are not a size “0” or a size “2” and instead are more muscular and shapely than most women who walk the red carpet and look like they are in dire need of a sandwich. Go figure.
Given all that is thrown at women 24/7 in today’s culture, it’s time for us to have an extreme media makeover. Let’s start turning to more of the positive sources in life such as family, friends, and faith — and start dropping out and tuning out all the noise. Less time in front of the TV and laptop and more time in prayer and fellowship would do wonders for our relationships and our self image.
— Teresa Tomeo is author of the new book Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ Not Confirmed to the Culture.