ABC News is trying to assure us that young girls who have a “fascination with itsy-bitsy clothing, misogynistic hip hop music and porn star-esque celebrities ” is just behavior that “isn’t cause for alarm”.
Gee, I feel better already.
Wearing short-shorts and belly shirts, grinding to hip-hop hits, and posting provocative pictures of themselves on the Internet â€” the behavior of many teen and tween girls has parents wondering if their daughters are bound for a lifetime of promiscuity and loose morals.
But some psychologists and child-development specialists believe nothing about the teenage drama has really changed. While young women may express their sexuality more overtly than they have in the past, for the most part, their behavior isn’t cause for alarm. It’s a necessary step in growing up.
ABC relates the recent findings that teens seem to be having sex less these days — that is a good thing of course — but is it really nothing to worry about that we are sexualizing our children at younger and younger ages?
Perhaps the danger that is represented when our girls, at increasingly younger ages, are dressing like street corner hookers and bad copies of Britney Spears (perhaps a redundant pairing there, I realize) isn’t that they will indulge in underage sexual activity but that they trivialize their sexual expressions so? That they are making the way they feel about sex and personal comportment something to be unconcerned about? Is it a good thing that they are taking one of the most important aspects of their adulthood and taking away the gravity of it all?
Recently a story made the rounds that reveals that 51percent of women in America are not married . In the story, women in America seem to be revealing a dismaying tendency toward considering marriage unimportant in their lives. Older women, too, seem more interested in their own selfish wants focusing on their desires to “go places and do things” instead of sacrificing for family. Also, consider the rise in sexually transmitted diseases in young women, a fact that does tend to confirm that sex is a casual consideration.
(There are an estimated 19 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, up from 15 million nearly a decade ago.)
All of this is bad for the perpetuation of society as well as the health of its members.
Worse than what it does to girls, this failure to consider the importance of sex and marriage trivializes sexuality for boys who are watching this casual expression in girls and, in reply, treating women with a corresponding lack of respect. Why should women be treated as objects to cherish and protect if they make themselves into caricatures of sexual carelessness?
Yet, even as ABC is telling us not to worry about this sexualized acting out, they tell us that we should talk to our teens about why it is wrong to dress that way contradicting the “don’t worry about it” stance they took only a few paragraphs earlier.
Rather than dismiss teenagers’ expression of sexuality as a breakdown of values and decency, child development specialist Juvonen suggests parents and school administrators should talk with teens about what it means to display sexuality.
“It’s the kind of dialogue that’s missing from our schools at the moment: Have you thought about what that kind of picture does to people? What is the likely reaction for people who see that picture? ” she said. “It’s about adults learning what kids do on the Internet and using that information to help us prepare them to deal with the issues they have not thought about.”
Wait a minute, ABC. Is it OK to dress like a slut or does it present a picture that “does something” to people?
Apparently they are having trouble deciding.
Then they double back again to the “don’t worry about it” stance, equating these sexy Internet postings on MySpace.com to a teen “having a healthy self-image”.
For parents still uneasy about MySpace, Friendster and Facebook, Broughton said consider social networking sites from a new angle. In an age where the pressure to weigh less and look hot can overwhelm young women, a teen girl posting her picture on the Internet can be seen as having a healthy self-image.
“Putting up pictures of yourself scantily dressed on MySpace is, in a way, kind of a good sign,” he said. “The good news is that it’s somebody who isn’t horrified by their appearance. Also if they get some positive response, that can be very supportive.”
So, starving oneself to look like a 90 pound waif so that they can “look hot” on MySpace is now a good thing, ABC?
For years feminists have told us that “looking hot” is NOT a goal worth achieving and that emulating the glitteratti is a bad habit, right ABC? Even I can agree that the ultra thin look popular in the entertainment and fashion industry isn’t healthy for girls to copy, even if it is to “look hot” on MySpace.
In the end, ABC seems to be having a hard time with this sociological investigation of how our girls are dressing for their webcams. Sexualizing teens is good in one paragraph, bad in another. And “looking hot” is good for their self-esteem despite the health risks of emulating anorexic fashionistas!
Lastly, with all the emphasis on “Internet predators”, ABC doesnâ€™t even mention the possibility that these sexy web postings can easily lead to our children being exploited and molested. Why do we get that angle on every Kids and the Web story but this one? Why not even a mention of the possibility?
Still, I wonder if writer Sheila Marikar would think it’s “cool” if her daughter were dressing like a hooker and displaying herself on the internet for all to see?
Somehow Iâ€™d bet she would be shocked and want to stop it.