I know I’m supposed to be sensitive to the reality that teenagers are sexual beings and that attempts to deny their sexuality are about adults’ weird hangups.
Still, to this whole Miley Cyrus thing, I say no way. We had already stayed away from the Hannah Montana clothes, especially the leopard stretch pants that looked more like hooker-wear. Now I’m just turning my back on the whole “girl culture” machine.
Maybe someone with older kids can enlighten me. To me, a topless 15-year-old wrapped in a bedsheet looking sleepy into the camera with smeary lipstick is saying “Hello, pedophiles!” How this pic looks anything other than post-coital is beyond me, but I know some folks have said the sheet covers more than some high school girls’ regular attire — though what’s “covered” is not really the point.
More than that, I just despair for my girls. My daughter already thinks that sex means something about “girls trying to look sexy so that boys will want to kiss them.” [She vehemently resists learning more, so I don’t push it.] I can’t take them to Stride Rite at the mall without walking past bigger-than-life pictures of girls removing their clothes. The worst was in Express, where in the front windows, huge pictures showed a boy standing behind a girl with his thumb hooked in her underwear. Put it in the back of the store, and I don’t care. But do my kids and I have to look at it on the way to Gymboree?
It’s true that I don’t like to think about sex and my kids at the same time, even in the context of healthy relationships. But I don’t think that’s the only factor in my discomfort with the mall photos and now the Miley Cyrus/Vanity Fair thing (and where the hell were her parents?). What really bugs me is how the process of commodifying girls (and boys, and everything) seems to be bottomless. (And I’m not referring to recent photos of Emma Watson flashing the cameras to celebrate her birthday. Major bummer.)
I really hate how feminism has been appropriated and repackaged for girls, at least since the Spice Girls, but no doubt earlier than that too. I’m thinking of all the Gene Roddenberry Amazonian women who were never more liberated than when they were wearing hot pants and salivating over Captain Kirk, though at least that was not created specifically for children. A movie like Charlie’s Angels — where hot young women are powerful because of their sexuality along with their cleverness — raises questions for me too, but I’m willing to play along because there seems to be some irony in there, and again, it’s not marketed to 10-year-olds. (For the record, we actually own the first Charlie’s Angels movie — we loved it.)
I really struggle to find a middle ground. Violet tends to find some efforts at a more intellectual form of “girl power” tediously earnest and transparently didactic, and though she is generally attracted to the manga version of teenage girls, she has no interest in looking that way herself and — again — she finds kissing gross and hates the idea of boys as anything but friends. (“Hates” as in “simultaneously intrigued and repelled,” I think.) But in the absence of our family’s efforts to offer some kind of positive girl images that will genuinely appeal to her sense of fun, her irreverence, and her awareness of aesthetics (for lack of a better word), all she’s got is the media and the mall.