But to see them you have to look past the visual bombardment of dead-eyed-Kardashian-object images, pop-up balloon-boob ads, and the opening scenes of violence against women on CSI: Whatever.
The signs are there, at the current Olympics, on the helmet of Calgary skeleton racer Sarah Reid, the fashion-baggy gear of female snowboarders, the bulk of the women's ice hockey team jerseys.
They read: Fierce, driven, focused, fearless.
For me, the Sochi Olympics has been a perfect study in semiotics (the study of signs). They're captivating in their complete contradiction to the prevailing mass-media image of young women, and they point to an emerging, alternative 'system of signification,' as the academics might call it. Calgary-based Sarah Reid, 26, shows it in the haunting helmet she conceived with artist and goalie Jason Bartziokas (Alberta College of Art and Design grad '04).
It took some hard lobbying on their part to get here on the ice or in the half-pipe, and it took a lawsuit win to get them the chance to fly through the ski-jumping competitions. (International Olympics Committee members have a history of excluding women, notably because the sport may injure their reproductive organs.)
I keep these visual signs at hand, to show whenever one of the young girls in my life is confronted with another misogynist music video. See here? See how they run, ski, jump, spiral, play well together, delight in their own abilities?
Visual signs as new modes of thinking.