NPR logo The Personal Is Political

Behind the Curtain at TMM

The Personal Is Political

Remember that phrase?

If you do, then you are probably a baby boomer (or a women's studies major)! I think that phrase means different things to different people, but I have always taken it to mean that the kinds of social concerns that were once — and sometimes still are — dismissed as "personal problems" or "soft news" or "lifestyle coverage" (or, if you really want to take it back to the day, "women's issues") are now understood to have a political and social dimension. In other words, it DOES matter, and these issues can be seen as more than a personal choice...that they're influenced by larger forces, important to everybody, not just to the few. Sure there's ideology attached to this....but either is a way of saying, listen up.

Michelle Obama's campaign around childhood obesity is an example of this. People might say, what you put in your mouth or your kid's mouth is your business, and of course it is. But what if what is available to put in your or your kid's mouth is heavily influenced by government policy such as agricultural subsidies? What if what you think you WANT to put in your kid's mouth or your mouth is heavily influenced by the media environment, by what you are encouraged to want?

That's one reason I am so interested in the study on media consumption among young people that we talked about in today's parenting conversation. The study, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows that kids ages 8 to 18 are consuming an AVERAGE of 7.38 hours of media EACH DAY (and that includes texting, music, television and movie watching), and that the media consumption of black and Latino kids far outstrips that of white kids.

Is that inherently bad? Is that inherently a matter of community concern as opposed to an individual choice? Is this related to the achievement gap?

Read the report for yourself and decide if it's personal or political.