This morning an acquaintance I know posted a comment and link in support of photographer Terry Richardson. In essence it went something like “bitches PLEASE – if you know he’s a sleaze don’t pose for him.” This young man, and he is young at 25, is a photographer and probably didn’t know what was about to hit him.
As a teenager I was well known for my love of an argument, and the perceived victories I had over others. My best friend likes to remind me that I ended a lot of arguments by raising my hands in the air, soccer victory style, and yelling “I WIN I WIN.” I would say I have mellowed in my old age, and am much more likely to ignore rather than engage. Also, I’ve also always preferred my debates in person, rather than online.
But I also feel that ‘not engaging’ on my part is turning just a little bit into ‘condoning.’ The only way that people will change their views, and begin to understand the issues associated with gender politics or violence against women (and others) is if we DO engage.
So I politely, but insistently, suggested that maybe the “bitches please” view wasn’t necessarily the most informed judgement. While not engaging in a conversation regarding the alleged guilt of Terry Richardson (though I am not a fan of his portrayal of women and the stories are shocking) I hoped I could at least get this friend to understand the complexities of power, gender politics and violence.
To his credit he took on board my comments, and engaged me with his views. I suspect there was a bit of eye rolling when I raised the ideas of power and institutional influences, that it wasn’t just the case of a man and and a woman, but a whole mess of other baggage.
Why write this here (and not my personal blog)? Clearly my desire to engage on this topic has been influenced by the readings I’ve done in the past week, and while my opinions have not changed, the language and arguments I may use have been enhanced by the knowledge I’ve gained.
Sometimes I feel like Keanu Reeves as he is learning kung fu in The Matrix; undertaking a PhD is a fast track to knowledge, not just within the narrow parameters of your discipline. It creeps into the rest of your life and informs everything else you do. Just this week I’ve thought about how my yoga practice informs, and is informed, by my study, the relationship between my teaching and writing, and now I’ve found I’m aiming to enlighten people I hardly know via facebook comments!
This is an unexpected benefit, for me, of this educative process. My belief is that education is to expand your mind, not just to equip you with a vocation to earn money. I am personally blessed with the luxury of being able to dedicate three (or four) years to expanding my mind (and helping increase the scope of knowledge in my discipline).
How lucky am I?