The Fear of Creative Power
"What would life be if we had not courage to attempt anything."Vincent Van Gogh
It all started with an advertisement.
Yes, my partner in Spark Collaborative and I decided to feed the beast that is Facebook, and post an ad about an upcoming one day workshop we are offering. Word of mouth only goes so far.
So we created an ad. As far as ads go, I didn't think this was aggressive or offensive. In some ways its kind of eye-catching and somewhat calming. Below is the image, with the text we included on Facebook.
So offensive, isn't it?
I myself don't love being inundated with ads, and try to stay off of Facebook because of their algorithms. I am also very confused when an ad shows up on my timeline which clearly aims at someone on the complete opposite side of my political and belief spectrum. I scratch my head, then I click on the three dots near the advertisement and request that I do not see ads like it again. It works, to some extent.
When setting up an ad on Facebook, there are only limited things you can control in terms of audience. One uncontrollable element is gender. So while I recognize that this ad might appeal more to women, or people who are not afraid of their feminine side, we had no way of saying "don't send this ad to anyone who might find it offensive."
The ad found its way to some aggressive types. The types of people who clearly think that we are so skilled with technology that we can control Facebook's algorithm. I wish it was true, because clearly I would not be worrying about money. Rather than simply scroll by, ignore it, or take control of their own timeline--these delightful people decided that insults, and disturbing memes would intimidate us into stopping.
I admit, my first reaction was doubt and a little bit of fear. Social media is not a safe space for women. Being attacked is not pleasant for anyone.
My mind whirled. Had we done something wrong? Were we offering something so ridiculous that it deserved to be attacked?
Then, I realized, that we were mostly getting positive reactions. There were only 5 angry responses (and 7 offensive comments), but a lot of people seemed to be responding in a good way. This particular ad was getting the most reaction out of any of various ads I have posted throughout the past few years--which means that it was at least catching people's eye.
So why were these few so offended? Why did they have to attack? That's what I am interested in understanding.
Why do People Fear Creativity?
In an Op-Ed article in the New York Times, Eve L. Ewing--a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration--wrote:
"But as Hitler understood, artists play a distinctive role in challenging authoritarianism. Art creates pathways for subversion, for political understanding and solidarity among coalition builders. Art teaches us that lives other than our own have value."Ewing, Eve. “Opinion | Why Authoritarians Attack the Arts.” The New York Times, 6 Apr. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/opinion/why-authoritarians-attack-the-arts.html.
In other words, art has power. Creativity has power.
Historically, people who express themselves in educated or creative ways, are often the target of totalitarian regimes. Artists, writers, playwrights, actors etc. often face retribution or end up imprisoned for speaking out.
So, why do these people feel so attacked by an ad that is encouraging them to connect with their own creative power? Why are they offended by the possibility that there are ways for them to change their own lives by seeing through the lens of creativity and innovation?
What are they afraid of?
They lack creativity or are not creative.
Giving people access to creative power will somehow limit their own power.
Exploring something new will reveal how stuck they actually are.
If they dip into their creative side they will be seen as "girlie" or somehow "lesser".
Embracing something they don't understand fully, somehow makes their own lives have less value
Everyone can be creative, they just need practice.
There is plenty of creative power to go around. However, it is true that embracing a creative approach to the world will probably challenge the status quo.
This is probably a painful truth, but living a fulfilled and happy life means letting some creativity into your world.
This is a stereotype that leads to stagnation, and is offensive to all. It is one of the reasons Spark Collaborative exists. We believe that creativity is crucial to changing the world.
The true value of life is learning, growing, and exploring. It lies in finding new passions. There is no one way to do this, creativity is merely the tool we choose to use.
It makes me sad that we live in a world where creativity is somehow insulting. It makes me sad to live in a place where people thrive on negativity and insults rather than finding ways to support one another in making our lives better. It makes me sad to see the continuing vitriol online when two women simply want to inspire other people to live fuller, richer lives.
It makes me sad . . . but the Van Gogh quote that starts this post reminds me that the world is made better when we have the courage to attempt anything. That, my friends, gives me
If you too want to feel hopeful, or explore the power of creativity, join our free community at Spark Collaborative, or sign up for one of our workshops.