If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
ideas sometimes when you wait they come to you.

Preparation for starting with BAPP

Monday, 23 September 2019

Critical Thinking - Literacy through questioning

This blog is about Critical Thinking – not being critical(being judgemental) when you are thinking, but thinking critically (being analytical). For me critical thinking is about asking questions about the things we take for granted: asking about the ‘normal’ things we see. These are things that because of our culture, or society we take as ‘just being’ (not noticeable). Critical Thinking asks us to notice/take the position that this is a perspective: if we lived at a different time or place or culture these ‘normal’ things would be noticeable (not normal). Here are two presentations about body images. This topic is a good example of where within the culture of ‘performers’ we might have been exposed to a kind of ‘normal’ perspective of what is expected of our bodies. The presentations suggest this is a construction that is a result of social and cultural pressures. Jean Kilbourne* and Holly Baxter**     ask us to rethink the things around us in order to explore the familiar. 

As critical thinkers we often look at the familiar and tries to see it as strange (by questioning).  What are your reflections on these two presentations? Are they saying the same thing? What strikes you, or resonates with you? What surprises you?  What do you think of ‘Media Literacy’? This idea of ‘literacy’ through questioning (critical thinking) is important as you research and study – it is about not just accepting the first thing that pops up on your search engine! 
Please comment below...

*Pioneering activist and cultural theorist Jean Kilbourne has been studying the image of women in advertising for over 40 years. In the late 1960s, Jean began her exploration of the connection between advertising and several public health issues, including violence against women, eating disorders, and addiction, and launched a movement to promote media literacy as a way to prevent these problems. A radical and original idea at the time, this approach is now mainstream and an integral part of most prevention programs. Kilbourne was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses. She is the creator of Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women film series and the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel.

**Holly Baxter is the 25 year old co-founder and editor of The Vagenda http://vagendamagazine.com, an online media satire magazine for women, as well as author of the Vagenda book, (2014). She is also a columnist for the Guardian and a freelance journalist for a number of other national publications.


  1. I must say that the points both women presented is absolutely shocking and really makes me question how with all the 'advertising laws' things are still presented in this way. I think these days social media gives as a platform with accessibility to 'plus' sized models like Iskra Lawrence, Ashley Graham and Emma Breschi who are using their platform to slowly break the stigma on how 'mainstream media' portrays women. There has also been the #BodyConfidence, #BestMe and #BodyPositivity movement started on social media to take back the power from these advertising companies and promote real women in real situations. Even though these are wonderful steps forward to changing the way in which advertising portrays women, I still feel there is a very long way to go. I agree with Holly when she says we need to view advertising with satire and then go about creating change through education and self-awareness.

  2. Thank you Adesola for posting such an interesting blog and I found it incredibly thought provoking. I intend to create my own blog post to further my perspectives on this topic, but the messages portrayed in the videos certainly resonated with me. Both Holly Baxter and Jean Kilbourne are asserting the rights of women by shining a light on the embedded cultural views in our society. I was struck by the examples of advertising mottos over the century, where promotions targeted at females which were ignorantly accepted in the past, would be seen as outlandish in our current day. Perhaps ignorant is too harsh a term, as we can only see the world as we have been reared to see it. Our present environment shapes our reality, our perspectives, hence why it is so important to think critically.
    Upon reflection, I can stand back objectively and see that many of my beliefs in the dance industry are shaped by a set of 'unspoken tenets'. Body ideals which are discussed above, the definitions of success as a performer, the view that it is acceptable for performers to earn less than they necessarily deserve etc. Only when we analyse these climates can we question their morality. Perhaps in a decade we'll be squirming at the thought of models even being airbrushed? But we must maintain these critical discussions and 'Media literacy' in my opinion has positive intentions.
    But then again, thinking critically about my outlook, perhaps I am bias towards the need for change in the industry due to my own grievances? Perhaps if I'd have had a thicker skin this whole topic wouldn't have struck a cord? Is my opinion swayed because I am a young woman, the targeted viewer for these striking media outlets? Given me a lot to think about.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I particularly enjoyed Jean Kilbourne's speech. I like her factual way of presenting information which I found clear and gives you the opportunity as an audience to draw your own thoughts on the subject matter. Jean Kilbourne's examples of juxtaposition were fantastic, particularly men in the same positions/scenarios as the women really stood out for me.

    What I am taking away from this blog post is that, as I look into culture throughout my inquiry, particularly across different areas of history, I must seek what is normal and unusual then and now and what is relevant? Sometimes the obvious isn't actually so obvious! I need to keep pushing and researching to keep finding new avenues of exploration.

  4. I just wrote a huge response to these incredible videos involving media literacy, but blogspot.com crashed and erased my writing. Very upset! It is the thought that counts. I will attempt to re-write the thoughts I have just lost. Apologies.

  5. Showing a different perspective is important I am learning. My perspective is as a mother.
    As a mother of a young daughter , viewing the videos is incredibly shocking. I wouldn’t want her to grow up with these awful messages being sent out to her. But unfortunately although the first video shows a lot of hope for the future that we have moved forwards, the second video shows that we have a very long way to go.
    The comments from the media about Suri Cruise were inappropriate to say the very least. How can this be allowed ?
    Where does Web 2.0 fit with all of this ?
    As CathLimerick said above , Social media had had various hash tag campaigns and movements that have spread much more awareness about sexual discrimination, and the need for not using filters on Instagram for example . However , still we see airbrushed images , perfect looking lives and photos on Instagram when it isn’t always the reality. Not only do we have the issues surrounding feminism but also as a society as a whole we are always looking for the perfect photo and are always editing or using filters to get it.
    Quite often parents will put a photo on social media of their child using #instagramvreality

    Showing the difference of the photo of their child looking perfect on the photo and then the before and after ( potentially having a tantrum !!)
    To a degree we are showing ‘reality’ a lot more in the past year or so , but we are still always searching for the perfect photo to portray the perfect image.
    We are a product of our generation. Because we have been conditioned to all of these ad campaigns for so long it has influenced us all ( like it or not ) to portray the perfect image.
    This shows how powerful and dangerous the media really is.

  6. After some extra reflection I wanted to also add...

    One facet I can pick from the second video to challenge it, is the ‘tips’ taken from Cosmopolitan magazine aimed at young women.
    I would like to question if a magazine exists aimed at men similar to Cosmopolitan magazine? Are the men also offered ‘tips’ for their women ?
    That would balance that element of literacy out potentially?
    It is difficult to think critically when you agree with the videos but when you take a step back and digest there is always something (however small) that can be challenged. I will try and use this within my work as much as possible.