The changing face of society: the growing importance of looks

Josh Mahannah, ‘Doah Staff Writer
April 24, 2013

The other day while perusing YouTube I stumbled upon a video of one of my favorite female singers, Mama Cass Elliot performing the famous song “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Elliot was a member of the 1960’s band The Mamas & the Papas before she embarked on a solo career.

Being so moved by her singing, I shared the video with a friend of mine who had no idea who Elliot was. He listened to the song, and his comment to me after was that she was beautiful, but today she would not even get a record label. Elliot was what one might call a “whole lotta woman,” as she generally weighed around 300 pounds. Despite this truth, his statement irked me.

Deep down, I knew he was right. The question I had though, was why? Why do we as a society care more about how an artist looks than about their skill and ability?

Over the years our views of how women should look and present themselves has changed. In the 1950s, a woman with curves and a healthy look was in. Now, women feel pressured to be as thin as possible, often going to unhealthy lengths to get there. Elliot herself died at the young age of 32 because of health issues she acquired after losing 80 pounds in a short period of time. Can we find a happy medium, or is the world going to be dominated by the thin and beautiful while the rest of us are shunned for not living up to the standard?

In today’s society you have to be drop dead gorgeous in order to get anywhere in the entertainment industry. In fact, talent isn’t even a necessity in order to become a star anymore, as people like Kim Kardashian have proven. But, what about all of us regular people who work hard? What about our very own school and all the talented students we have here? We are all going to try to achieve our dreams but sadly many will fall short.

Society puts a stigma on overweight and obese people, and while there is a health concern attached, it often has more to do with appearance and not fitting into what is considered conventionally attractive.

My entire life I have dealt with being called names because of my weight, and while it may be true, it is still incredibly painful to hear such things said about you.

Being classified as “morbidly obese” is not something that can be fixed in a week. It takes months and years of work and dedication, and even then one might never achieve a “thin” body.

I know that medically I am not healthy right now. I have been working hard and at this point have lost nearly 40 pounds. However, it has been a constant battle. The desire to eat whatever looks good and not worry about your weight is an incredibly enticing thing. In the past I have lost weight only to gain it all back again.

No matter what weight I’m at, I try my best to not let what society thinks get to me, but it’s hard to fight the social norm. I feel shunned and like an outcast for not fitting with that norm.

I wonder if it is possible to change our progress down this path?

Can we return to a time where the ideal woman is not deathly thin?

Can we break free of the restraints of what we’ve deemed the social norm?

Can we use real talent to get to the top again?

Only time will tell.

 

 

Tread lightly when scouting for reform

Josh Mahannah, ’Doah Staff Writer
March 26, 2013

For the past few weeks I have been contemplating this question: Should we as a population force private organizations to change their policies, when their freedom of expression–policies included–is protected by the Constitution?

The best example playing out right now is the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and their anti-gay policy which is as old as the organization. This is the dawn of the BSA’s 103rd year and in the next few weeks they will once again try to solve the problems that their anti-gay stance provokes.

I feel that it is not right for us to pressure them to make the change, yet at the same time I sit with the large groups of people who want them to rewrite their “old-fashioned” ways. We are now in the year 2013, not 1913, but how hard is it appropriate for us to push the BSA to change their rules of membership? I don’t know. I don’t think I will ever know how to answer this question.

I am proud to say that I was once a member of this esteemed organization, and it made me the person I am today. I am an Eagle Scout, and would have gone on further, but when I turned 18-years-old, I made the decision to leave. One of the reasons I left was because of the financial struggles I saw occurring in the organization.

However, there is also another, deeper reason for why I left the scouts. I am among the ranks of those boys who joined the program, hiding who they were so they could learn from an amazing opportunity. I am gay and have known since just before receiving my Eagle Award in 2008. I was never vocal about it, because I knew that I could be asked to leave the program at any time.

Even now, I could be asked by a superior scouting executive to turn over my Eagle Award because of who I am, basically throwing five determined years of hard work in the trash in order to walk the path I wanted.

I have watched from the sidelines as gay and lesbian leaders were asked to leave the packs and troops they represented, left with a national mark of shame upon them. For years I have seen the names of LGBTQ community members smeared because they were “different.” Many have taken their own lives because of the weight of the shame.

For the longest time, there was the misinformed belief that to be gay meant that you were a deviant and a pedophile. Therefore, having a gay man around a group of children was clearly inappropriate. While some men have gotten into the program and were gay pedophiles, that does not mean that all gays are. They need to have faith that the LGBTQ community has more control over themselves than feral dogs.

In the past year I have come into contact with a group known as Scouts for Equality, a unified group of scouts from the LGBTQ community. I have signed several of their petitions against the BSA, such as to cut funding from outside agencies like UPS. I do believe that now is the time for a change, but I also know that it is one that we cannot pressure the BSA into.

It will take time for them to make adjustments, and then the orders must come down from the national level to all the other councils. I think they will ultimately leave it for the individual councils to choose as they will, which will not solve the problem. People will keep pushing until it is made a national rule that no one is to be discriminated against.

The next decision comes in May, with enough time for the new rules to be unveiled by July’s National Jamboree in West Virginia. There is a chance for change, but we cannot pressure the BSA from the outside or inside; we need to give them room to breathe. After all, their rules against interracial troops didn’t get rewritten until the 1920s.

Pushing and forcing the BSA to change their historical rules will just push them off a cliff, permanently shutting them off. Think before you speak out against a group whose views are not what you think they should be, because it creates a huge mess, and those trying for the change may receive nothing for their hard work and determination.

Fairytales collide in ‘Into the Woods’

Josh Mahannah, ’Doah Staff Writer
March 6, 2013

Into the Woods 2013 (316)
‘Doah photo courtesy of Cathy Kuehner

This past weekend, “Into the Woods” opened in Ohrstrom-Bryant Theatre, and I decided to go and check out the hard work of some of our fellow students.

“Into the Woods,” a Sondheim classic, has never been my favorite musical. The idea of mashing up several fairy tales into a show fit for performance on Broadway just did not sit easy in my head. Through the combination of stories like, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel, we might be swayed to think that the individual stories would end with a fairy tale ending like we have been taught. This isn’t exactly the case, but in the end a sort-of happy ending was achieved.

S.U.’s production of the musical did an amazing job of bringing it to life on our own stage. The set design was fantastic. Everything was covered and done with many intricate details, which is different from past performances of this musical I have seen. The costuming, credited to Cheryl Yancey, was spectacular. It fit the time period, and every character looked comfortable performing in their works of art.

On the other hand, the costuming for three of the male characters, the Wolf and both Princes, over-emphasized each of the character’s “assets,” making them seem more like Don Juan than Prince Charming. This made for some of the songs to be more sensual and uncomfortable for the audience who spent more time in shock at first, trying to take it all in.

All of the acting in the show was wonderful. Many people thought that Victoria Crump, as the Witch, stole the show. She played the part well, and with the help of a few special effects — such as the sparks that flew out of her magic walking stick — she manipulated the other characters to doing her bidding quite easily. Out of the entire cast, my favorite characters turned out to be Little Red Ridinghood, and the Prince’s Steward.

Rebecca Kaz, as Little Red Ridinghood, brought out the loudmouth antics for this version of Little Red, and did so with astounding strength. She was able to produce the cute “Awwh” moments of a little girl, then turn into someone in control and bossy who wanted to get her way. I absolutely loved Kaz in this role. The Steward, performed by Tanner Pippert, brought a comedic and flamboyant light to the show.

Overall, I was very much impressed with this particular production of the show. It started off strong, with a great opening night and was generally considered a hit by those who had seen it. Freshman Tom Valdez said, “’Into the Woods’ is an amazing show with a wonderful lesson of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ The Shenandoah cast, crew and pit were amazing, and one of the better productions I have seen.” International Student Claire Glover said this about the show, “aside from a few minor slipups on opening night, which ultimately proved to further cement the comedy which ran throughout the show, the show ran smoothly and was an excellent production.”

Students train to be ‘Concerned Listeners’

Josh Mahannah, ’Doah Staff Writer
February 6, 2013

Spiritual Life Coordinator Amanda Shenk is diligently working to bring Concern Hotline training to campus. The Concern Hotline serves as a 24/7 help hotline for those in need of assistance, or just someone to talk to, for the counties of Winchester, Frederick, Clarke, Shenandoah, Warren and Page. It also functions as a suicide intervention hotline.

The hotline is completely staffed by volunteers in the community. Shenk is currently looking for people to respond to the incoming calls. Because the line is 24/7, there is a shortage of volunteers in the area. “One guy had logged in over 2,000 hours in the past year. It’s time to let people take a break,” said Shenk.

Now, not all of the calls are from those considering suicide — most people are simply reaching out for help. “Many people call in looking for help to find food when they don’t have any or are trying to decide whether to pay a bill or buy food,” said Shenk. “Our job would be to give them ideas on how to try and get what they need.”

Volunteers function as “concerned listeners” for four hours once a month. A six-week, intensive and interactive training course is required to volunteer. “I just went for the training and loved it! I thought it may be a great way for students to give back, without having to leave campus and figure out how to get themselves into the community,” stated Shenk.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Shenk at spirituallife@su.edu, and check out the Concern Hotline website at http://www.concernhotline.com. Also, if you are ever in need of someone to talk to, do not hesitate to call the Concern Hotline at 540-667-0145.

Anti-bullying desperately needs to get hands-on

Josh Mahannah, ‘Doah Staff Writer
December 5, 2012

About a month ago, I heard about a terrible incident that had occurred at my former high school between two boys I knew by name. One is currently in his senior year; the other is a freshman, and the brother of a guy I used to hang out with 10 or so years ago.

The way the story goes, the freshman student jumped the senior when crossing paths in the hall one day. The senior is now in the hospital with a fractured skull, brain swelling and terrible migraines. The freshman is being charged with a misdemeanor. It seems as if this matter is solved; the freshman gets a slap on the wrist, and the senior goes back to school once he recovers.

End of story. But, not for me.

Administrators at the school confirmed that there had been a previous exchange between the two. It’s hard to say without proper confirmation if the situation may have been bully against bully, where each party went after each other and caused this violence. No matter the circumstances, it didn’t need to happen. If an intervention had been made earlier, maybe things would have turned out differently.

But, I question the ability of the administration to have set something like that up. An informant would have been needed, which would probably have just caused more problems.

There has been a major increase in the awareness of the issue of bullying in recent years. I’ve attended anti-bullying workshops about once or twice a year; all with names like “Rachel’s Challenge” and a motivational speaker. They are all passive-aggressive. They just dip their feet into the ever-growing river that bullying has created.

Look at what has happened because of bullying: school shootings, countless suicides, hell, historically wars have started over “bullying.” We cannot truly learn from these, we cannot learn from the people that commit suicide and become household names because of bullying. There needs to be a hands-on course that attacks this, that hits the nail on the head.

I think that school administrators and law enforcement should work hand-in-hand to overcome this problem. Students need to get more than a slap on the wrist or a short suspension, because it doesn’t change anything. There are some that think of the idea of suspension as a nice vacation from school.

Perhaps, if they were faced with actual criminal charges, the offenders might stop and consider their actions. Or even better yet, send them to a scared straight program. Put them in jail, have them processed and let them get face-to-face with real criminals; because bullying is a crime against humanity.

Someone has to stand up and draw the line to signify enough is enough. Someone has to say that the person needs to be punished for his or her wrongdoing, but at the same time the punishment needs to be more than just a slap on the wrist.

Recently, I heard about an incident where a student attacked a teacher. Instead of writing it off, as they generally do back home, the teacher is taking full action and suing the offender. I say props to that teacher for doing what is right.

We live in a nation where one in seven children are bullied, and it can start as young as kindergarten. These are terrifying statistics. If we continue to ignore these facts, and not step up to the plate, the consequences will be dire.

I have friends who avoid going to school, or have considered killing themselves because they were bullied. My friends should not have to live in fear, should not have to think that they can take away their pain by ending their lives.

I realize that there is really very little that I can do besides addressing the subject like I have, but somebody’s got to do something and I will stand next to them to help them see it through.

I just fear that we will not be able to act fast enough. I come from a small town with big problems, and I know that there are many more like it.

There is a solution at hand, there are people to speak about it, but where is the proactive fight that’s more than putting posters in our schools, wristbands on our arms, and other junk of a similar nature? Where are the activists that do more than just speak? Why do I feel like I’m preaching about a lost cause we have already surrendered to?

I do not have all the answers, but I hope that I at least made you think.