by Ingrid Calapit
It is not a secret – how people come to perceive a concept, theorem or even a principle’s worth based on its face value, of how certain facts are carefully arranged, presented or sometimes even staged to meet an audience’ expectation or dominant idea of how things are.
In a recent article that tackles media ethics, it was discussed how as early as the 18th century – certain subjects in photography are manipulated, passed as something truthful, deploring and generating debates among those in the field that pose a critical question – is what we see, really what we get?
In the advent of social media, we witness how this psychology is passed down in a culture that obsesses over beauty in terms of lifestyle and physical appearance, where the two has become a goal in itself. These pictures weave a narrative of how people assign a higher value and credibility to things that are aligned to their conceptions of what is beautiful; and how for some, it seems that relying on other people’s validation about their choices has become an addicting and unconscious habit. But should it really determine your worth?
As we think about this, we begin to realize that beauty and how we view it, can also mislead us into how we conceive our truths, our worth and how we measure ourselves against very narrow standards.
Pen & Ink: We are women
The initial founding of Pen & Ink did not escape this age-old discourse – of learning to distinguish between one’s conception of truth and the temptation to reveal only what is beautiful as I myself also underwent episode after episode of choosing between wanting to uphold beauty with its conventional meaning— from filtered photos and stories of travel, cuisine, and events, and stories of success that flood our Facebook and Twitter timelines versus wanting to uphold truth or stories of discrimination, thoughts about the marginalized and social issues – which most often than not, do not appeal to the public or to popular opinion.
As a group of women who came together to advocate alternative views through writing, Pen & Ink members know better than to be trapped in the politics and discourse of beauty that is market-driven, and to not let it affect our perception of how truth must be told.
Beauty and Lifestyle: Ending the culture of insecurity
There are a lot of misconceptions at first about what Pen & Ink is. I have heard it from many women including those whom I think are actually doing well in their lives. Some, I was surprised, were doubtful about sharing their stories. “Naku. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang maganda sa akin. Pero sige maghahanap ako,” (Oh! I don’t know what’s good about myself. But, ok, I’ll find something or I’m not sure if my thoughts are relevant) a girl whom I invited to contribute once replied.
And I thought that either these women who echoed these assumptions about themselves felt little of their achievements or that they based their standard of what is beautiful in their lives according to how society filters and projects what is successful or how people should live their everyday lives, framing women’s “ordinary days” as nothing special.
In the field of family development, social media is said to be one of the emerging social groups in today’s society, where self-assurance, approval and support are exchanged between members of one’s online social circle which reinforces the values accepted in a social group and nonetheless also rejects those who do not follow the prescribed script of this circle.
As I thought about how women doubted themselves, I felt a deeper sense of urgency to build a community of women that invites and inculcates a kind of self-awareness where women can look beyond constructed images and scripts of what is beautiful in their lives.
In Pen & Ink we make a conscious effort to write and share what is truthful, and to redefine what is beautiful – as something that is not aesthetic but something that is honest, raw and real.
Beauty & Arrogance: The difference between empowerment and arrogance
In an attempt to celebrate what it truthful I have to admit that this website too did not have a rosy beginning.
As Pen & Ink received prior support from readers here in the Philippines, Singapore, France and Boston, where the founding team are based, contradictions inside the group unknown to everyone, continue to brew until I acknowledged that the choice between truth and beauty is more than meets the eye.
This time, beauty with its many faces, came in the form of arrogance and excessive self-love that is rooted in Narcissism, perhaps, if not the extreme opposite of insecurity, another mechanism developed to block the fear that we are not enough.
It is the kind of arrogance which reinforces illusions that breed a culture of vanity and ignorance – the kind that produces the attitude that makes a person lose grip of reality, or even worse, the possibilities that lie ahead because of sheer arrogance.
This vice, unfortunately, is perpetrated even by those who belong in our ranks, hence the countless arguments over what values we would like to impart to the world and what attitudes we must correct for us to be more sincere in trying to build a movement that truly empowers.
Striking the right balance
In striking the right balance, we try to purge certain attitudes and ways of thinking in the organization – arrogance for one, which is against the new culture we are trying to imbibe. A new culture – a movement that tries to build a woman’s sense of the world through writing, without being ignorant and blind of the ways she can improve.
Pen & Ink in short, seeks to challenge all of us to also take a long, critical look at ourselves. Because we should also know how to handle truths about ourselves that sometimes we don’t want to accept.
In the end it only shows the challenges and the opportunities of how we can improve the way we work, of understanding and learning more deeply the values and culture we want to promote, and facilitating the kind of awareness that makes us conscious of the way we perceive ourselves and the world – because this is the vantage point of where we can change ourselves and our surroundings.
As we again study our relationship as individuals to society, we review our basis of judgement, superficial and simplistic views about beauty and how we can finally free ourselves from societal expectations and rigid notions about ourselves.
This is foremost of what we want and need in Pen & Ink. We want truth first, because there is beauty in truth that is not detached from reality. There is beauty in a consciousness that recognizes what also needs to be changed within ourselves.
Nonetheless, we celebrate truth first, because beauty fades, but truth does not. And more than what we want to show, this is what we want to give you.
Quill and ink banner photo from: http://cliparts.co/quill-and-ink
Ingrid is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Pen & Ink.
She founded the website with one goal: To forge solidarity between Filipinas and young women across the globe through writing and the arts.
She is a dreamer, a doer, a thinker.
View her FULL PROFILE: http://wp.me/P6gQjQ-4f