Channel 4’s Response.

Yesterday I received a reply from Channel 4 after I contacted them regarding the first episode in the series of The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Years Olds (2015). I asked them about the bean bag race and was it planned to allow the boys to win ,although the boys had cheated, to see how the girls reacted. I asked this as later in the programme they had stated certain events were to test the children’s reactions and with the race they had not. The girls reactions to the boys winning were upsetting as they all recognised the boys had cheated and still won; one girl even stated that boys will always win, they have bigger brains and girls have smaller. I addressed my concerns with this and here is the reply:

Dear Beverley,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds.

We appreciate the time you have taken to write to us with your interest in this programme and we would like to thank you for sharing with us your reasons. The aim of The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds is to observe and contextualise the behaviour and interactions of the participating children at this crucial developmental stage of their lives and all the tasks and activities deployed in the programme were suggested by the psychologists within the team.

Whilst we appreciate your concerns in relation Lola, we would like to assure you that both Channel 4 and the production team who made the series take their duty of care obligations in respect of contributors extremely seriously, particularly when they are children, and indeed detailed and comprehensive protocols are in place to ensure that appropriate care is taken both during the making of the series and post transmission.

We hope this information is of use to you and may we take this opportunity to wish you every success with your research.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us here at Channel 4 and for your interest in our programming.
Kind Regards,

Emily Rogers

Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

I don’t feel that this answered my question as to whether the boys were allowed to win deliberately to test how the girls reacted. The bean bag race itself may have been suggested but I am still unsure as to the results. The

Yesterday I received a reply from Channel 4 after I contacted them regarding the first episode in the series of The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Years Olds (2015). I asked them about the bean bag race and was it planned to allow the boys to win ,although the boys had cheated, to see how the girls reacted. I asked this as later in the programme they had stated certain events were to test the children’s reactions and with the race they had not. The girls reactions to the boys winning were upsetting as they all recognised the boys had cheated and still won; one girl even stated that boys will always win, they have bigger brains and girls have smaller. I addressed my concerns with this and here is the reply:

Dear Beverley,

Thank you for contacting Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries regarding The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds.

We appreciate the time you have taken to write to us with your interest in this programme and we would like to thank you for sharing with us your reasons. The aim of The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds is to observe and contextualise the behaviour and interactions of the participating children at this crucial developmental stage of their lives and all the tasks and activities deployed in the programme were suggested by the psychologists within the team.

Whilst we appreciate your concerns in relation Lola, we would like to assure you that both Channel 4 and the production team who made the series take their duty of care obligations in respect of contributors extremely seriously, particularly when they are children, and indeed detailed and comprehensive protocols are in place to ensure that appropriate care is taken both during the making of the series and post transmission.

We hope this information is of use to you and may we take this opportunity to wish you every success with your research.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us here at Channel 4 and for your interest in our programming.
Kind Regards,

Emily Rogers

Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

I don’t feel that this answered my question as to whether the boys were allowed to win deliberately to test how the girls reacted. The bean bag race itself may of been suggested but I am still unsure as the the results. The psycholigists described the boys as trying to navigate around the rules rather than breaking them like you could see on the screen. I accept Channel 4’s response as to due care and attention is given while carrying out the research but I feel my point was unfortunately missed.

 

Advertisements

Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds. Episode 1. Channel 4, 2015.

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-secret-life-of-4-5-and-6-year-olds/on-demand/61827-001

I watched episode 1 of The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds and there was one incident that has made me feel uncomfortable since watching. The children were involved in a bean bag race. The rules were explained and demonstrated to them and they were told under no circumstance were you allowed to touch the bean bag whilst it was on their head, this was cheating. The children were asked who would want to be team captains. Two of the boys squabbled over this before another joined in. The camera did not show any of the girls volunteering themselves. The teacher chose Charlotte to be the first captain much to Jack’s dismay and he loudly protested. The teacher proceeded to call him forward to be the second, much to Nathaniel’s dismay. Charlotte and Jack went on to pick their teams which predictably amounted to one all girls team and one all boys team. The scientists, Dr Sam Wass and Professor Paul Howard-Jones, state that this is common at this age. The race begins and instantly the boys cheat by holding the bean bag to their heads whereas the girls go slower in order to keep the bag stable. The winners are then announced as the boy’s team. The girls are visibly disappointed and the boys are jubilant in their victory. The girls are then quizzed on what they thought happened. Tia says she believes the girls should have won as the boys cheated. Charlotte is asked who cheats the most and why. She says the boys because they are ‘boyish’. Lola’s response upset me the most as she said that the girls will never win. Boys have bigger brains and girls have smaller.

Later Tia chases Jack round to talk to him about how she is upset that the boys cheated and won and how Theo has said that the girls can win next time. Jack isn’t interested and continues to celebrate the win and tries to ignore her. Tia is persistent and obviously disappointed at his response to her and the injustice of the situation. Jack becomes frustrated with her and begins to growl as his language skills are not as advanced as others in the group. Tia behaviour is then described as unfair by the scientists as it is obvious that Jack is a sensitive boy and he must be frustrated with not being able to communicate his feelings.

The whole scenario disturbed me. After some of my research reading, I have become aware of the vocabulary and they way people speak around and to do with girls and boys. Boys behaviour has often been excused or justified and girls are often apologised for in a way to quieten them. Jack was described as a loveable rogue and Tia was described as confident and that she can be a bit much for people at times. I do not understand as yet to why the boys were allowed to win when they had cheated. Even the scientists describe the boys as finding ways around the rules when the film shows them breaking them, not compromising them. It was not stated that this happened to test the reactions of the children, even so, as it was stated at the beginning of the documentary, this is a pivotal stage of their life, I feel it very unfair that they would allow the girls to see that the boys win regardless of them upholding the rules. I am deeply saddened that one girl at 4 years old believes that boys have bigger brains and this is why they will always win. I wonder how she has come to believe this.

The rest of the programme is touching and enlightening to how friendships are formed and skills are developed through play and personalities are nurtured. I do plan to contact the scientists to see if the way the game planned out was an experiment or was it something that happened naturally at the time.

Contested Territories.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For my option unit I chose Contested Territories. The pitch for CT excited me as it addressed issues that I am passionate about; the woman’s body as a contested territory; masculinity and sex as violence in war; memory and trauma; and migration. When it got to the lectures it became apparent that this was also a very heavily research based option with a huge amount of academic reading to be done. Although I stand by how interesting and relevant I find the option, part of me thinks I could have benefitted from one that was more hands on and proactive to balance out my own research and maybe bring a different approach or method to my methodology. As I have been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of reading this week, I have decided to make this option my own in the sense that I read some of the recommended reading but tailor it to what I am finding relevant at this very moment in time.

Gender as politics is dominating parts of the media coverage at the moment. Abortion Laws, Donald Trump being elected and what this means for women, why hasn’t America ever elected a female president, breastfeeding stigma in public places and in the workplace, women striking in Poland over abortion laws, and many more. I remember my BA tutor Anna Bhushan saying that sometimes you make an image, it might come out of nowhere or be based on something small and the content and context come later, I feel this has happened now. To sum up CT we are to hold and exhibition and I feel I have my work for it. This could obviously change, but I have a piece I made after I read about the comments made in Australian parliament to Julia Gillard calling her ‘deliberately barren’. I feel like my image has universal prevalence right now as women protest against the political control over their bodies and lives across the world. I have ideas about how I can exhibit my piece. I am thinking I would like to print her large, either life-sized or larger, but that does depend on cost. At this moment it is a small image, around 13 inches tall, for the impact I want her to have, she needs to be bigger. She needs to be slightly intimidating and authoritative to leave no doubt that she should be the one who is in control of her body. If I have to go smaller due to lack of space as there will be 20 of us exhibiting, I have an image that represents how women should be quiet about their body. The image was originally made to address the taboo surrounding menstruation, however, I feel this image would represent how politics is trying to lock down women’s control of their bodies and lives with the abortion laws. This image is already very small, 8×8, and it should be displayed with a fair amount of space around it in order to draw the viewer in. It is titled quiet and needs to be viewed that way. It is an image to ponder over, in contrast to my other piece.

To go forward with CT I plan to work backwards. I have my images, I now intend to read around social activism through art whilst keeping up to date with the media reports of policing of women.

Among the Clouds- KGA

among-the-clouds

Here is an illustration I made for the song Among The Clouds by KGA. The song is intended to be used for relaxation and sleep aid and will be released with the artwork online. I will be printing the image for my own personal portfolio and designed the image with risograph printing in mind. I thoroughly enjoyed making the piece as it is such a contrast to the heavy research I have been ploughing through. I hope to work with KGA again in the future.

Children’s Books in Waterstones.

I took a visit to Waterstones to look at the children’s section of books and to be honest, I came out more optimistic than I was when I had arrived. There were the obvious and expected books where the books for boys addressed possible professions for when they grow up and in contrast, the books for girls were depressingly full of fashion and popstar aspirations. However, there were many books where important women were written about or girls were the protagonist of the adventure story. There were a couple of notable finds; David Walliams and how he addresses stereotypes with his books, for example, The Boy in a Dress and Billionaire Boy; A book written by a guy called Steven Lenton and he addressed the old-fashioned fairytale concept where the princess is helpless and waits on the prince to rescue her. He turns this on its head by showing the princess to be the hero and calling out dated gender expectations; and a book called Mama Can’t Raise No Man. This is a book for teenagers about how a young man comes to question the expectations surrounding masculinity.

 

I found a beautifully illustrated book that was simple in design and used only a small amount of colour. My only issue was how the colours were used to depict gender within the narrative. The male protagonist was rendered in blue and another in green, the females were pink and lemon. Again. No challenges here. Downstairs in the Christmas Buys display a row of slim books introducing these important women to children whilst underneath were presents for the fashion and aesthetic conscious… I guess it’s a start.

Reflective 1. Tutorial 2.

I had a tutorial today which I wanted to avoid. It has been a hard week in the sense that I have read so much that I feel like I can’t process any more. Initially after the Pecha Kucha I felt more focussed but I seem to of added the initial narrowing down of my area of focus to the broader research. It feels so big that I am now inadvertently avoiding researching. I decided to start to make my observations into small stories and print them as a series. I intend to make them quickly and in a naive way rather than design focussed. I want them to reflect the quickness and almost normal way these conversations occurred. I originally wanted to disseminate them around different places throughout Liverpool and Manchester to draw attention to the normalised gender stereotyping.

During my tutorial it was pointed out that I would need to be there to help with the context of the reports and also how that would be necessary to know what impact, if any, they had. It was suggested that these could be used as a conversation prompt, maybe with a group of friends or in schools as a way of talking about bullying because of stereotypes. I was planning to print around 7 of the stories, but I might do a test with people using maybe 4-5 and record the conversations around them. The visuals of the booklets worked but they probably won’t create a big enough impact to help people think twice about the sexism we are involved in everyday.

We spoke of how I can step away from reading so much and involve practical research. I don’t mean to ignore all future reading, still read alongside making, but allow the making to ask questions and direct the reading also.  Perhaps the first step could be to take the language and name calling and create a narrative starting from someone being called a name to how that person felt at the time, what they internalise, how it affects them. Experiment with different media, either through typography, illustrative typography or hand drawn type, the images without type, a softer approach to invite people in to the story or the harder approach to make people see the consequences of their words and actions. Is all of this too big for 2D work and does it need to be interactive? Turn the words people say into physical contact, maybe an app or computer game? In addition to media and form, I have to consider how people think, what draws people in, what surprises people, where do people spend time where they can come in contact with the images? How can I engage people in a hard-hitting way without making them turn away and discredit the work as ‘shock value’. How do I disrupt people’s complacency without being accusatory. Perhaps in a way similar to the play Lennon where the actor on the stage is acting out a scene when all of a sudden the drum strikes 3 times and the lights go off ending the play. This would be poignant way to communicate the sudden sadness of the families who have lost someone to suicide due to struggling to accept themselves and have others accept them.

These are all elements I also need to research but test my research and practice too allowing this to inform the next bit of research. I think I need to slow down, keep reading for my background knowledge, but start playing about with words and colours, just snippets at a time. I will still get the images I have designed printed although I may not put them around as I planned to. What I had not thought of was how Clinton addressed how people see authority. How if you designed a glossy magazine that looks high-end, people will pick it up and already regard it as respected and how could I play with that. Use what people take as a given to draw them in and keep their attention, allow them to question what is going on and surprise them.

The Mask You Live In.

The Mask You Live In is a documentary made in America in 2015 by The Representation Team. Although it discusses difficult situations specific to America, bullying tactics within American Football (47.18) , per se, it presents many quandaries similar to that of British culture. From the outset accounts of how men are moulded into what they need to be in order to be a man (0.08-1.21) and the recognition this leads them to crave, the acknowledgement from another man of their masculinity and how it feels when they feel like they are always short of the mark. The introduction is hard-hitting as news clippings and confession style admissions are made by numerous males highlighting the damage that is done when emotions are expected to be kept hidden and not discussed (1.21-4.20).

From the fear of being called a sissy or being seen as weak from a young age (4.38), how interviewees learned masculinity (6.38), how masculinity is associated with athletic ability (7.23), economic success (8.27), sexual conquest (9.27), and many more throughout the film, society becomes all the more obvious. Constructs have consequences. Self-medicating using alcohol is discussed, how women being viewed as objects in the media, and the dissociation of any feminine trait gives an understanding of the culture while also highlighting the dangers. Workshops are facilitated where participants are asked to write on two sides of a piece of paper. The front, over a mask shape, they are asked to write the persona they put on for the public to see. On the back they share how they really feel inside. After throwing their papers across the room as a means to staying anonymous, they are read out. The similarities are laid bare leading to some becoming overwhelmed (37.55).

Dr Lise Eliot (Neuroscientist) explains how sex is the biological term and gender is the construct (12.30) and how in reality masculinity and femininity are spectrums, they are not bipolar, they crossover. Dr Michael Thomson (Psychologist) (!3.02) states how males and females are predominantly the same. He proceeds to explain that if a psychological experiment was conducted with 50,000 girls and  50,000 boys, the results would overlap by 90%. The 10% that protrude over each of the sides are what forms the stereotypes for gender constructs. Eliot reiterates how people see the brain as a fixed state so any difference between the sexes must be ingrained as it is biological, where in reality it is malleable and changes due to experience. Therefore whatever the child, regardless of gender, spends their time practicing or being interested in, this is what they will excel in. Pediatrician Dr Nadine Burke-Harris reaffirms this by explaining how the brain works and strengthens the connections it uses and dampens down the others (13.43)

Overall this documentary may be distressing. There needs to be acknowledgement that of all the experiences told this may not be true of all masculine understanding, however, it does give food for thought.

Pecha Kucha Summary and Learning Outcomes.

Yesterday’s Pecha Kucha presentations helped make sense of my research so far. I am in no way able to pinpoint one area of focus for rest of my research but it was suggested maybe holding mini projects within the groundwork and look into one area at a time and see what practical work can arise from it.

There are many contexts for my research to take place. Academic reading provides me with factual and background knowledge and allows me to be aware of what research has taken place already, at the same time communicating and observing what is happening within society is imperative to my work. I am engaging with people face to face, observing from a distance, as well as becoming involved in groups of like-minded people via social media as a way to problem solve and come up with ideas to educate and raise awareness of these social constrictions. Reading people’s comments on media articles and interviews with people who are speaking out against the conventional is difficult, distressing, and disturbing, but in spite of that, it highlights just how deep this problem runs. Talking through my research with my peers highlighted that I have inadvertently avoided any illustrators or designers who are also working to highlight this issue through their work. I have looked to Grayson Perry as he is again very prevalent at the moment, but my research so far has been predominantly looking away from the art world. I need to rectify this. I don’t want to be re-inventing the wheel. To narrow down my reading slightly I may have to identify areas that interest me and set small areas of focus within the larger body. Perhaps I could draw attention to the use of colour, the difference between dialogue and tone, children’s toys, the differences between genders in accordance to science. Testing the reaction to the work derived from these areas will hopefully then progress to further experimentation and highlight key areas to engage within.

Other suggestions were for me to revisit DaDa. This movement although born to help everyone feel part of a whole regardless of race, origin, language barriers, and religions, it shown sexist traits. A peer recommended I watch DaDa Cinema to see how the artists conveyed people as one as to other. It was mentioned again that this topic could be addressed as a film, be with with actors, animation or as a documentary piece. We spent some time looking at video mapping also which could prove very interesting. My partner and I had also spoke of computer games or a virtual reality experience. Although I would like to keep making collage illustration for certain aspects of my research and documentation, due to the nature of this topic, it is too big for 2D static illustration alone. This is exciting and daunting at the same time as I have never worked with moving image before.

One of my peers suggested I need to collect data and do something with that. Respectfully, I would like to argue that will not be so visually effective and I don’t believe people would react to statistics for this topic. I feel documenting occurrences would be more productive, or even telling people’s stories. People are aware that young men are affected by mental health issues and a higher percentage of young men commit suicide than women. I don’t feel the facts of this have helped change anything, maybe just made people more aware. With this I believe it could be more effective encouraging people to relate and connect in some way rather than illustrating facts.

For us all to move forward with our research and start to cover the learning outcomes we have decided to organise and exhibition as a response to the critical feedback from the exhibition. For me this is to research into how and why pink now constitutes as feminine. Our group plans to meet up every Thursday and talk about our progress, test pieces with each other, and gain from the critical feedback.  We will be enquiring about dates for the exhibition next week.

Diary Entry 1 (ongoing)

22nd October 2016- 4 yr old girl blows raspberries at mum. Mum shouts “STOP THAT!! Little girls do not do that!!!”

Mum asks 4 yr old girl what colours she would like her nails to be painted. The girl says she would like them turquoise. Mum says “you’re not having them torquoise when you are looking pretty all in white. Why don’t you have pink or yellow?”

23rd October 2016- Friend tells me of an incident at nursery when a father came to pick his son up and saw him wearing a dress-up dress. The dad became aggressive and caused a scene. The mum later on messaged her to apologise about the dad’s behaviour and said to allow her son to play in it if he wanted to and she would give her a heads up if he would be coming to pick the son up.

25th October 2016- I deliberately head to some toy stores to look at the toys and the displays. I take lots of photos and take one of a science set called ‘Neon Science!’ A man picks it up and says to one of his children that one of the others would “really like this as she is into science and that. Neon Science! And it has all the girly stuff too. Neon nails and that”.

29th October 2016- I help facilitate a printing workshop as part of Manchester Science Festival. The security guard sits his son down to make a print with me. He tells him exactly how and where to draw the lines and is frustrated when the boy hesitates as to what to draw next. The dad tells him to use his head, tapping him on the head. He tells him he will be over soon to see what he has done. He leaves and the boy is flummoxed and what to draw. He starts to draw very self consciously and small.

A little while later, the photographer is around the workshop and takes some photos. He takes one of the same little boy and he looks up to see him and instantly strikes a pose to flex his bicep muscles. The photographer laughs and he strikes another, this time clenching one fist into the other. This whole scenario made me feel sad.

Another little boy sits with us to draw with his mum and his younger brother. They engage for a long time not getting bored although the printing veered away from the Peppered moth fairly quickly and became more experimental. The elder boy makes a print and writes on it ‘swagger is power’.

Later on in the evening I was at an engagement party. The conversation had turned to children and a friend talks about how her 9yr old daughter wants to wear a belly top. She says this makes her feel uncomfortable as even though she isn’t fat, she still doesn’t have the figure for it. I am shocked and say maybe it is best for her to be confident in whatever she wants to wear and I genuinely don’t see how her daughter could be seen as too big for one. She explains she thinks they are tacky anyway and would rather steer her in a direction of what would suit her as she feels you have to be stick thin to wear one. I say again I feel like her confidence should be encouraged and she says that maybe it is different for me cause I don’t have to protect anyone. ( I don’t have children). She says she remembers how mean people were to her and she wouldn’t want people to make her daughter feel that way. I try to remind her that she knows of my childhood experiences, but she cuts me off and carries on speaking to my partner about how she feels. I walk away.

4th November 2016- (not child related) I am doing a clients hair and she is talking about a 32yr old woman she cares for with learning disabilities. She tells me how attractive she is and how it is such a shame. The night before, she had showered her down and she noticed that no one had been taking care of her shaving so she took it upon herself to shave her underarms and down below. I asked her whether her underarm hair was bothering her at all or irritating her. She said no, she didn’t seem bothered by it.