By Ivy Brashear
“Diversity” may not be the first thing one thinks of when they watch “Family Guy” or “South Park;” but Matt Glowacki wants people to know that these two popular cartoons have valuable lessons to teach about several different “-isms” that he says plague American society. Glowacki began his lecture by showing a clip of “Family Guy,” in which the main character, Peter, has plastic surgery to improve his body image. Following the clip, he introduced the idea of “lookism,” or judging someone based upon how they look.
“It’s ok to be who you are,” he said. He described his point by talking about unrealistic visions of beauty perpetuated by the fashion industry. He said these visions are unrealistic because everyone’s body mass index (BMI) differs based on the size and shape of someone’s body.
“The fashion industry is selling eating disorders, not fashion,” Glowacki said. He added that one in four college-aged women suffer from at least one symptom of an eating disorder, and this is probably a result of how the fashion industry portrays body image.
He also pointed out that the way one’s BMI is calculated was determined in 1820, and the equation does not take skeletal structure into account, or the fact that humans as a race have grown two inches over the past 200 years.
“The images of beauty you want to look like are not any more real than the cartoons we watch,” he said.
Glowacki then discussed what he termed, “ableism,” which is the discrimination against someone with a physical disability. He once again introduced this segment of his lecture with a clip from “Family Guy.”
Glowacki, who was born without legs and uses a wheelchair, gave an example from his own experience to demonstrate ableism. He said that when he drives to Walmart (his car is modified with hand-steering controls) and gets out of his car, the Wal-mart greeter always comes to help him. It’s help that he says he doesn’t need because he can complete this task himself.
“Disabled people want able-bodied people to assume that everyone can do anything,” he said.
Glowacki said that talking about ableism is important right now because there is a high rate of veterans coming back from the war in Afghanistan and Iraq that will be disabled upon their return.
Glowacki works with these veterans to teach them how to play wheelchair basketball in an effort to make them comfortable with using a wheelchair.
He said these veterans will go through the five stages of grief after losing limbs, just as if they have lost a loved one, but they will still be able to be successful in life.
“They can still reach their full potential,” Glowacki said. “What changes is the road they take to that potential.”
Glowacki then introduced his final topic, racism, with the assistance of a clip from “South Park” that dealt with the use of the “N-word” as a racial slur.
He introduced the history of the word and followed that with an explanation.
“A word is just a word until someone says it’s bad,” Glowacki said.
However, he added that he chooses not to use the word because he understands that it’s very hurtful. He encouraged audience members to try and stop their friends from using racial slurs in everyday conversation if they say certain things, as a way to change the perception of certain hurtful words.
“If you can do that (stand up to your friends), then you are fighting terrorism,” he said.
Glowacki ended his lecture by reminding the audience that avoiding these three “-isms,” will be beneficial not only to them, but to society as a whole.
“There are people in this country that get terrorized every day,” Glowacki said. “And if we stand up and fight for them, then we can change the world.