Sunday, March 4, 2007

Please Teach Your Daughters, Nieces, Friends, etc

OK. I don’t have a problem with young women being sexually liberated, but four-year-old girls are just too young.

A recent blurb in The Week mentioned a new report by the American Psychological Association, which studied the sexual pressures felt by young women who are exposed to popular media.

As it turns out, “when girls as young as four get the message to look attractive, or to act sexy, both the physical and emotional health suffers.”

Um. Yeah. Look at Britney Spears for example. Or better yet, ask any of the 80 percent of those women locked behind metal bars in your local state prison.

The report goes on to state that the more these young folks are subjected to images of women being sex objects, the more likely they are to develop “eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression.”

Little Miss Sunshine, a film which recently racked up a boatload of awards for its satirical view into our competitive society, explored the idea of little girls learning how to stay young looking, and sexy. In a scene where the audience is whisked behind stage at a beauty pageant for girls under the age of ten, we see these pre-pubescent babies getting spray-on tans, being hidden below layers of makeup, and stepping into adult-like outfits that include deep v-necks for cleavage (which these young girls obviously do not have).

Proving its point, the American Psychological Association research pointed to the $1.6 million worth of THONG underwear that was sold to girls between the ages of seven and 12 years old.

Seven years old? That is, what, first grade? Why would a young person have to portray this type of sexualizing at such a young age?

Did someone say patriarchy?

Oh yes, not only are the men in society pushing for women to remain young looking -- meaning mirroring that of a teenager –- the women are also so used to this degradation, and unnatural transformation, they now push the look onto the younger generation. I guess that means buying your little ones THONG underwear. Get them ready for the big time.

"The message to children is, 'You're already like an adult. It's okay for you to be interested in sex. It's okay for you to dress and act sexy right now," Deborah Roffman, a sex educator, quoted in the blurb, stated.

A similar conversation came up tonight at dinner. I was surrounded by these stunning, beautiful women, whose intellect and caring attitudes excite me, and what do they speak of? Botox. Treatments to rid them of their wrinkles. Hair dye to mask their graying hair. Um. Isn’t the idea of maturity a right of passage thing? Should it not be a time where they embrace their years of wit, adventure, and knowledge and accept it as strength? Who would want to go BACKWARDS in time? It is my contention that we get better as time moves FORWARD.

Alas, I know it is not their fault.

It has been years of men telling us that we should be smooth and supple – and innocent as lambs (or 12 year old girls?). Maybe men find a young person sexy because they have not yet learned the tools to stand up for themselves. They have not yet understood the value of intelligence. They are still naïve enough to be molded into a submissive woman: the second sex.

Empowering women to truly understand that since the day they were born society set them on a gender-specific path is not cake walk, but it should be attempted.

Take for example a woman who has sat in a jail cell, and who has recently admitted to me that it is quite difficult to go through her rehabilitation because it means that she is away from men, and that this is hard for her.

As a woman who has relied on men as her sole source of protection (including providing a place to live, food); security, financial stability (including prostitution acts), and even as a partner to help shoot drugs, she will no doubt have a hard time acclimating herself back into the community without reassociating herself with self-degrading activities.

All of the relationships in her life has circled around drugs, the engagement of sexual obsessiveness, and making sure that she is subservient to her man.

Much of this has been deeply engrained since she was a young child.

There appears to be a trickle down effect: women are objectified and monitored in society; they begin to believe that they are second-class citizens; they devote their lives to their men – doing what ever it takes to be accepted; the stress to look a certain way/suppress their emotions from years of abuse by using drugs; they commit crimes against their bodies, as well as their community; and, finally, end up getting locked up. This trickle-down example does not include the severing of family ties, the loss of women’s children to abortion or foster care; or the physical consequences (i.e STDs, loss of teeth, jaundice, anorexia, infertility, and so on) of abusing drugs and engaging in unsafe sexual encounters.

As a feminist, and social worker in training, I wonder how to best aid this population. With so many anti-feminist women out there – it appears that the word automatically creates a scare, as most equate it to man-hating, ugly, lesbian bitches – getting people to recognize the scariness of the this sexual obtrusion is an uphill battle.