Having spent the past week in the West Java Hills, Indonesia, a slight detour on my way home to Canada from Quezon City, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my internship in the Philippines. This reflection time has allowed me to think open-mindedly, yet critically, about the country in which I spent the past six months, and especially about the growing phenomenon of migration around the world.
Thinking specifically of in-bound migration in the North American context, there have been attitudes of welcoming acceptance by some, and intolerance and prejudice from others. It is all too easy for those who are pro-immigration to criticize those with a negative outlook on the matter, or brush them off as “ignorant” or “racists”. But does this attitude not contribute to fostering its own “us versus them” mentality? The open-minded, hospitable Canadian (or North American in general) and the immigrants they so wholeheartedly welcome, versus their unenlightened, bigoted counterparts?
While I do not dispute the importance of equality and fair treatment in migration, I think that the attitude taken towards those who do not share this belief needs to change. Many of us seem to find it easy, and sometimes almost noble, to be open-minded towards those who are new and different in obvious ways, but struggle to extend that same mindset when dealing with our neighbors, family members, or even strangers, whose opinions are at odds with our own. It is easy to use the reasoning of “cultural differences” to explain things that we may inherently disagree with or not understand. In contrast, it is much harder to offer that same open-mindedness to those who we believe must share our same “Canadian values”. Recognizing the reasons why immigration has become such a controversial and volatile topic is an essential step towards removing the negative connotations the word immigration brings. Instead of dismissing outright alternative viewpoints as bigotry and racism, discussing the views of those who differ from our own will go along way towards fostering a more open attitude towards immigration.
In conversations and debates surrounding the hot topic of immigration, rather than judging those who do not share the same beliefs, we must ask ourselves: Why? Why does this person disagree? Where does this belief stem from?
When asking these questions, I think one will find that a great dealof these negative opinions regarding immigrants and immigration may stem from feelings of insecurity and being discounted. Rather than brushing off these conversations defending immigration as being beneath us or pointless, by approaching those with whom we disagree with the same tolerance and respect as those who we are defending, discussions have the potential to become impactful conversations, rather than dissolving into defensive arguments. I strongly believe that this type of education and open discussion is the only way of truly dismantling all “us versus them” mentalities and embracing (or at least accepting) immigration and the benefits it can bring to our societies. In a time where some are actively seeking to close their borders, others may have to open their minds to this perspective to bring about this acceptance of immigration.
Before beginning this blog post, I think it’s important to say that I am not a doctor, nor do I have any qualification that allows me to say for sure what is “healthy” or “unhealthy.” The following post is not meant to say what is a healthy or unhealthy body or body image, nor is it meant to be critical of anyone’s physique, or the physique to which they aspire. Rather, the following is merely an observation of advertisements I have seen while living in the Philippines, a forum for me to express my own thoughts and ideas regarding advertising practices and its impact on the appearance, thoughts and actions of the public.
A number of countries across the world have come under fire in recent years for ad campaigns featuring airbrushed to perfection images of ultra-thin women and muscular-but-not-too-muscular men, which have the potential to negatively impact the body image of the audiences for which they are intended. This body negativity can manifest itself through participation in fad diets, restrictive eating and eating disorders, and unhealthy obsessions with the shape/weight/size of one’s thighs/stomach/buttocks – usually in hopes of attaining the coveted (but not always attainable) size two.
It’s safe to say that this type of advertisement is not unique to the aforementioned regions. Metro Manila is no exception. Harmful advertising permeates this city just as much as any city back home. One feature of advertising here that I have found to be very different than that in Canada is its portrayal of children.
This difference is exemplified through an advertisement for processed cheese. In this commercial, a young boy struggles to pull his shirt down over his stomach. Cut to the next scene, and this child is upset to see that the sandwich his mother made him has only one slice of cheese. Luckily, as this commercial points out, the cheese is easy to slice, so his mother has no difficulty adding two more pieces to his sandwich.
I’m not sure if this type of advertisement is a commentary on beauty and body standards, using cute kids to sell products or perhaps an attempt at body-inclusive advertising. Whatever the reasoning behind it, images of chubby children are used to sell everything from food, to clothes, to laundry detergent – but this same body image standard is not embraced by advertising agencies portraying adults.
I won’t argue that using images of chubby children to sell products is any more or less harmful than using images on the other end of the body image spectrum. (The fact that there is even a discussion regarding body image issues in children due to advertising shows a deep flaw within society – but we shall save that discussion for another blog post.) What I will say though is that the “cute-ifying” of indulgence in processed food has the potential to negatively impact more than just body image – I think of heart disease, cancer and diabetes to start (three of the eight leading causes of death in the Philippines).
Add to that the implication that I interpreted from this commercial that a “good” mother should cater to her child’s dietary whim, regardless of nutritional value, solely because he fits the societal standards of an adorable child. To me, this commercial creates implications regarding body image, health and good parenting practices – all in the name of selling cheese (the word cheese used loosely).
Body image, parenting practices, trendy products and the advertisements that depict them differ from country to country around the world. What does not differ as much though, I believe, is our ability as members of society to ignore these advertisements in favour of doing what’s best for ourselves, our families and our wallets.
It’s all too easy to take for granted the everyday amenities that life in Canada has to offer. Some might say that drinkable (not to mention delicious, pure and clean) tap water, abundant trees and adequate (nay, exceptional) sanitation regulations are boring. I would challenge those who lack appreciation of these luxuries to consider the world outside of our home and native land of milk and honey maple. Instead, consider places where the air is polluted with hazy smog, and the water coming out of the tap is dirtier than the water Canadians use to flush toilets.
A quick interview with Kieran to do a brief introduction and give some background information about my participation in the 2016 CAPI Internship Program!