19 Jul

Yet again I found myself thinking about feminism on my bus ride to work. Yesterday I read an article (find it here) about Wendy Shalit’s new book “Girls Gone Mild”. Some of you might recall that name from her last book, “A Return to Modesty.” 

I’ll be frank. Her previous book irritated the hell out of me, because at the time, I found the entire movement for returning ‘chastity” to young girls smacked too much as a problem with them, something that girls needed to fix. But with this new book, and what’s been quoted from Ms. Shalit, I find myself nodding and wanting to read the book. I don’t agree with this woman and everything she says-far from it. In one short article, I find myself at odds with gems like

Traditional feminism has been utterly incapable of dealing with problems that girls are facing. They are so committed to the idea that that we have to be like men and that any differences between the sexes are socially constructed the result has been extremely unhealthy for girls. Let’s be clear: A lot of men are wonderful, but it’s the adolescent male that the third-wave feminists are now imitating.”

I don’t believe it’s unhealthy for women to be able to be as mediocre and asinine as men in any way. In fact, I resent the implication that women need to be some sort of flag bearer for a better, simpler more chaste sex.  But her basic argument, that the current climate of SEX SEX SEX more More MORE! is not truly empowering, is one that I agree with wholeheartedly. Look around-children aren’t children-we feel free to allow them to dress as adults, yet treat them as powerless creatures. We let young girls just blossoming into their womanhood strut around with degrading messages. We allow our daughters to believe that careless sexuality is always the answer, instead of a choice. And let’s be frank-in the current culture, it isn’t a choice as much as a battlefield. Bucking the trend of your peers can be a very difficult endeavor that many girls, let alone women, are unable to force. If the perceived guide to happiness is a little action in the back field, what do you think will happen?  I

 firmly believe, and always will, that a woman’s power is in her right to choose-choose sex, a career, children, anything. To be as lame or as powerful as any man. Young girls also fall within this. The difference is in age, and experience. Young girls today are constantly given the message that how they dress “doesn’t matter”. It does though doesn’t it? I know I judge everyone I see based on their clothing to a degree, as most people do, whether they’ll admit this or not. The two girls who were are most 15 and had everything, and I mead EVERYTHING hanging out were not empowering themselves. They were on display like heifer. I wanted to grab them and tell them that there are other ways to prove their equality and their worth, ways that actually mean something. But who listens to the fat old lady? It’s a world of pelvic thrusts and “slap my ass” dance moves.

You my darling, cannot be equal to a man. You are different all right. You are a thing. A little modesty, a little self worth, might help girls, and ultimately women, realize that empowerment isn’t at the end of a penis. That truly feeling equal, acting “like a man” has more to do with asserting one’s self and realizing one’s value. So perhaps it isn’t so much acting like a man, but acting like a fully realized person. I’m not naive enough to believe that all ills can be traced back to provocative dress, but I worry about the effect on an entire generation growing up within a world that places outward value solely on T&A. What kind of leaders are we creating? Where are the GRRRL’s? 

It all causes a serious disconnect within me regarding my own daughters. I want them to be in full control of their sexuality-they choose who and when they sleep with someone, within reason. I want them to be proud of their bodies, and what they can do. I want them to value themselves. But I also want daughters who realize that sexuality means more than a quickie in a parked car. With the multitude of messages the world sends me, and my daughters, I have trouble finding where rationality begins. 

I can tell you one thing though-they are dressing as little girls for as long as humanly possible. Recent construct or not, they deserve the childhood our society can afford them.

6 Responses to “Mild”

  1. radicalmama July 19, 2007 at 9:22 am #

    Well, this is how I feel about the difference between men and women: yes, it is socially constructed (duh.). But looking at the differences in those constructions, I will raise my girls to be women. If I had boys, I would raise them to be nurturing and kind, not violent and unemotional.

    I don’t think women are better than men but I do think that the way we raise girls as a whole is superior to the way we raise boys. There are SOME things I will do differently: I am not going to teach my girls that they are “bad” if they are not virgins at marriage (neither will I go the Cosmo route and teach them that all of their self-worth lies in their ability to be a perfect lover); I will NOT teach them to be meek and quiet and to never speak their mind; I will not teach them that boys are strong and girls are weak; I will not teach them that there is some Prince Charming waiting to transform their lives into a fairy tale.

    As for the rest, I totally agree with you. I don’t think girls need to dress like Mennonites but neither will my daughter be wearing thongs at the age of 8. There is more to empowerment than sexuality. I believe that girls cannot be empowered sexually until they understand all the various ways to be empowered (including education, economics, etc), and they understand what it means to be a sexually empowered woman, and that just doesn’t happen at 13. It took me quite a long time to understand that sexual empowerment had nothing to do with clothes or how often I had sex, but WHOM I CHOSE to have sex with and how enjoyable it was for us both as cooperative partners. “Course, some of have to learn the hard way and that’s just life. 😉

  2. bine July 19, 2007 at 10:05 am #

    cheer! cheer! now where can i sign this?

  3. jen July 19, 2007 at 10:21 am #

    yes. it’s complicated and yet so possible.

  4. cherylann July 19, 2007 at 11:54 am #

    I hear that. I was at the fair yesterday and there were 12 year olds wearing skirts shorter than I EVER wore and their shirts were unbuttoned almost to the waist… I couldn’t believe it. As for my daughter, I agree with you… she will be dressing as a little girl for as long as possible… and dating… don’t even get me started!!!

    On the whole feminism movement… I went to an all women’s college (I didn’t specifically look for all women’s schools… it’s just that I wanted a small liberal arts college with a decent campus and a good rating) and after the 2nd year I was sick of hearing… “How are you going to change the world?”. I mean seriously.. what if I just want to live my life and change MY world… not THE world??

  5. Netter July 19, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    I, too, went to a women’s college, since gone co-ed, and I’m going to change the world by raising my son to think of women as something other than a sperm receptacle.

  6. thordora July 20, 2007 at 8:48 am #

    It seems that the biggest changes we can give the world are in how we raise our children. But no one ever likes long term goals.

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