What I Read This Morning That Made Me Want to Go Back to Bed

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So, the first thing that upset me was this article on mountaintop removal. I remember my sister, the hardcore Republican whose favorite channel is Fox News and great idol is Bill O'Reilly, telling me a few years about some tv show she'd seen on mountaintop removal, how horrible it was, how she wept as she watched it.... But did it make any difference at all in the way she shopped, consumed energy, thought about politics, or voted? Not a whit. She just thought it was too, too bad that these lovely mountains she'd never see were being destroyed. But she'd never see them, so why should SHE sacrifice or change anything about her life to save them?

Then there was this story about people facing economic hardship abandoning their pets. It struck me in part because I'd recently written something about the Mormon practice of stockpiling a two-year supply of, ideally, everything you need for two years: food, water, clothing, toilet paper, dog food. Yes, dog food: because, as I wrote, "You can't neglect to feed your dog just because Armageddon comes along." Hard times aren't Armageddon, but people are still throwing their cats out on the side of the road, tossing puppies down garbage chutes. I guess if people really don't have the money to feed their pets or get them veterinary care, they really don't have the money, but until it's truly a matter of feeding the dog or feeding the kid, couldn't they forgo some other luxury and honor the commitment they made in adopting the animal in the first place?

Finally, there was this piece from Salon called Little Girls Gone Wild, featuring an interview with M. Gigi Durham about her new book, The Lolita Effect: The Media Sexualization of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It.

You have to have a subscription to read Salon, so you might not be able to see the article. But there's some pretty good stuff in it, for instance, this:

Salon: What are some of the distortions that girls learn from magazines and advertising about what girls' sexuality is all about?

MGD: If you've got it, flaunt it. Sex is only about baring the body, and exhibiting the body, and especially girls' bodies. That's a very narrow definition of what sexuality is. At the same time, you can't express yourself, you can't enjoy your body, you can't feel like your body is sexual unless you've got this perfect, sex goddess anatomy, which is something like a Barbie body. That's ridiculous, too. It makes girls end up hating their bodies, and not enjoying their own sensuality and sexuality. That's a real problem.

Then, there's this insistence that younger and younger girls are sexual. There's this huge emphasis on linking youth with sexuality. People mature sexually throughout their lives, and there is a lot of scientific evidence that women who are past menopause really enjoy sex. Children who are 12, 13 years old are not in a position to understand or cope with their sexuality very well. Linking sex to youthfulness is really dangerous.

Girls are always supposed to be changing their bodies and dressing up in order to attract male attention. There is not much emphasis on girls enjoying their own bodies, or even any reciprocity where boys might be thinking about what they could do to please girls. It's not very mutual.

So read all that if you want to feel worse too.... Or maybe I feel better, because at least someone is confronting the problem, getting the word out there. I don't know. MGD also advocates talking to children--even two-year-olds--about what marketing is and how it works, as in this:

I've done it. If they're watching a commercial on TV, and there is a toy, you can just start talking to them: "Do you think that toy is as good when you bring it home as it is on TV? Do you know why they make it look so fun, and like these kids are having so much fun? Because they really want you to spend money on it."

They understand.

5 Comments

"Children who are 12, 13 years old are not in a position to understand or cope with their sexuality very well. Linking sex to youthfulness is really dangerous."

I have two friends whose daughters started developing early, at just before their 10th birthday.(Which may be more the norm these days.) My one friend has talked to her daughter very openly when she asks questions about sex, boys, her changing body, etc. Both her and her daughter do not have what would be considered desirable body types. In short, they're not built like Kate Moss. Fortunately, my one friend has a very positive image of herself and is passing that on to her daughter. Part of this was due to the fact that A.) She had a very active sex life as a teenager (from about 16 on), and B.) Her mother never taught her anything about sex, sexuality or discussions regarding respect for herself.

While she would prefer her daughter wait until she is older to have sex, say 17 or 18, she is realistic about things. Teens will experiment, and aside from chaining her in her room, there is little she can to stop it. She can however, educate and inform her daughter as to what to expect, and when no means no. She also knows, based on her own experience, that there is plenty of pressure from peers, media, etc. regarding how a girl should look, feel, think with regards to sex and her body type. At the end of the day, she wants her daughter to be as comfortable in her own skin as she is.

Hi Mr. Nighttime--sounds to me like your friend's daughter is lucky to have a sane, well-adjusted mother.

I do want to make clear that Durham isn't advocating abstinence or a denial or fear of sexuality. Instead, she says things like, "Everyone is sexual, and we develop sexually throughout our lives. I'm not at all insisting that children have to be innocent and sex-free or anything like that. But I think that the kinds of clothing that they're being encouraged to wear are really associated with sex work, in particular. And that to me is a very troubling tendency."

BTW, off-topic, but are you familiar with this site?:

http://landoverbaptist.org/

It is a la The Onion for religion......

I haven't looked at it in years. I used to check it fairly often, back when I wrote for a website of Mormon satire. The website I wrote for no longer exists; a more recent (but still not updated) sited is here. It was modeled on the Onion, which is why it was named for another plant, the Sugar Beet.

I took Children's Media at BYU; talking to kids about media, and how kids are portrayed in the media, was the main point of that class. The professor was awesome and kind of revolutionary for BYU - he would tell us that we should ALWAYS think about what we're watching and what messages it's sending, both overtly and unintentionally. He told us that he had no problem letting his kids - pretty young kids - watch R movies (remember, this is BYU - half the students don't even watch R movies) as long as they talk about them before and after. He said he'd rather they watch The Patriot or Gladiator than Bambi because Disney cartoons sent terrible messages about parenthood (absentee fathers are people to look up to) and women (thin and scantily clad, and rescued by a man), among other things. I know that all sounds painfully obvious, but it really was an amazing class. It made me look at things in a whole new way. Kids totally get things, so don't just let them consume mindlessly.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on May 20, 2008 9:00 AM.

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