Embrace the Strange

Guest post by my seester. I love any blog that uses Willow Smith and Susan Cain.  I’ve seen Susan live and she’s fantastic – and more corporations would have happier employees if they would listen to her – just sayin’.

Strangeness has been on my mind lately. I know that sounds…(I won’t say it)…weird, but it’s made me pretty emotional this morning, so I want to share. I followed a link from Design*Sponge (a really cool design blog that has just gotten better over the years) to Willow Smith’s new single, “I Am Me.” Since I don’t have cable and I don’t really listen to contemporary pop music or the radio, I’d never heard it before. It might not even be new now, I guess. It’s all about Willow embracing who she is, regardless of those who criticize her music or fashion decisions.

While I was watching it, I couldn’t help but think that Willow is strange. She doesn’t dress like the typical tween, her hair is shaved very close to her head, and she is a t.w.i.g. In the video, Willow actually looks like a young Will. The fact that I noticed (and I’m the last to register these sorts of things) got me thinking of our very narrow perception of beauty. You have to be white, or a minority with very European features: small boobs, small butt, angular features, straight hair (full disclosure: I only have the small butt, which just makes jeans shopping a chore). If you’re a girl, you need to look feminine.

Now you may be thinking, “DUH,” but I think what’s so powerful about this is how deeply rooted this thinking is in our global culture. Indians value light skin and European features just as much as Americans do, and I’m sure other minority cultures are the same. So what Willow is doing—flaunting her Strangeness—is really impressive because it’s having a “global” impact.

Yesterday I watched Susan Cain give a TED Talk called “The Power of Introverts,” all about how our society seems to hold extroverts and extrovert qualities on a pedestal (group work, group think, etc), when really anywhere from a third to a half of our population is made up of introverts who just don’t function as successfully in groups. Again, it had made me think about how such people are called strange for what is essentially a biological quality. How messed up is that?!

I don’t know how we go about changing such a deeply rooted problem, but isn’t step one recognition? Isn’t step two conversation? I think I made that one up, but it sounds appropriate. So parents: please share these two videos with your children, and tell them to embrace what’s strange about themselves. But remember that you have to do it too.

Here’s the Willow Smith video. If, like me, you cry if a butterfly flaps its wings in Japan, grab a Kleenex before you watch. Also, this made me think of the “Everybody Hurts” video for some reason.

And here’s the TED talk:

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