One of the odder things I’m discovering about blogging is that you write a bit about one thing, put up a video from another place on the Internet on another subject, turn your back and they start connecting. A good while back I did a post, “Every Generation Must Endure the Hazing,” on how the adults in each generation/decade, including the scholars and especially the media, tend to have a bizzarely consistent view of the current youth as always lazy, impatient, ungrateful, entitled, apathetic moral degenerates and a view of their own youth as rosy knights of the Round Table, neither of which is at all true:
Sometime later, I embedded a video of young girls doing a pretty amazing dance number to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at a dance competition, “Yeah, Okay But They Are Really Good.” The girls are wearing Latino bikinis with ruffles and combined with the dance moves, it has them confidently and innocently aping adulthood.
It also caused an uproar on the Internet. Apparently, this uproar has continued and combined of course with the view of how we’re turning our girls and children in the current day into the worst, sleaziest, moral degenerates ever. Alda Calhoun for Broadsheet for Salon has done a piece about the situation that I’m in total agreement with, including unfortunately the racial aspect, although not all the girls in the dance video are actually white. (The version of the video that I used has been pulled, but the Salon piece offers you a link to a version that works.)
Calhoun looks at how the argument against the video is an overclaim of concerns based on a “this generation is the worst” philosophy that repeats on a perpetual time loop, as shown dramatically in the 1999 essay by Mike Males that Calhoun links to, which talks about the same argument being leveled at the 1990’s “slackers” that was even more strongly argued against youth in the 1930’s.
There is a problem here though. Calhoun is directing part of her ire toward Peggy Orenstein, who did an essay about the video. I happen to know Peggy Orenstein. She is a nice person, a dedicated researcher who has done several good books in the last two decades on issues about girls and women, particularly her book Schoolgirls. But it is precisely this that also does generate my ire as well. There are issues about sexualization and thinness and messages that girls are getting that need to be talked about. But when it is put in terms of us having a collapsing society, of our children being now turned into moral degenerates, as they have so many times before, then those very real issues actually get lost in that hysteria. Yes, we need to talk about how girls can be confused by culture, but we don’t need to slam a bunch of seven-year-olds who had fun and danced their hearts out, who had pride in their really amazing performance, or castigate their parents because the girls replicated a dance video they loved and wore dance costumes. Those girls didn’t see what they were doing as sexual, and our adult fears — as Calhoun notes that span over the decades and have a lot to do with controlling females — that they’ll have sex early and get pregnant if they wiggle their hips now should not be dumped on their heads.
A pedophile, or for that matter a rapist, does not care about how a woman or girl is dressed or how she behaves. Their mental illness causes them to rationalize even a terrified girl in button down clothes as “willing” to be controlled and abused. It is how we deal with such people and crimes in our society that is the crucial matter, not how females dress or how they dance. And until we stop claiming that current young people are disasters — who will then when adults declare themselves the greatest generation ever in hindsight — and always obsessing that young females are being turned into sexpots instead of treating them as equal human beings who are more than their gender, I’m not sure we can have an honest conversation about such issues, because it is coming from hysteria and not factual realities.
But conversations we will have, since the Internet keeps connecting us from one set of thoughts to the next.