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teenage girls: "...they haven’t been living, they’ve been performing."
October 23, 2012 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Teenage girls try to navigate the minefields of desirability, attractiveness, and self-objectification in the age of Facebook.

The first two links via Miss Representation's Facebook page; Miss Representation previously on MeFi.

"What a Gross Facebook Page Tells Us About a Woman’s Need to Be Desired":
The crux of the problem for this girl, let's call her Susie, is that she's stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side, there is the crushing pressure to be sexually desirable. She is aware of this pressure even before she caves to it, and at a much younger age than adults would like to believe. Why do you think we cake make-up on toddlers, sell push-up bras to 9-year-olds, or suggest that tweens get bikini waxes? We are preparing them for what we know is coming. They are smarter than we think and they know these tricks and tips are not for their benefit, but for the benefit of people who look at them.

On the other side, Susie knows that she loses the desirability game if she caves to the desires she has inspired. Though "sexual capital" isn't a phrase she will run across until her gender studies classes 10 years later, Susie intuitively understands that she loses hers if people think she's too accessible... The wiggle room between the rock and the hard place-that sweet spot between being wanted and being respected-is all but non-existent.
"We tell young women that they can achieve anything they want, but the extra pressures are everywhere to be seen":
She continued: “I always feel like if I don’t look a certain way, if boys don’t think I’m ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’ then I've failed and it doesn't even matter if I am a doctor or writer, I'll still feel like nothing...successful women are only considered a success if they are successful AND hot, and I worry constantly that I won't be. What if my boobs don't grow? What if I don't have the perfect body? What if my hips don't widen and give me a little waist? If none of that happens I feel like [sic] there's no point in doing anything because I'll just be the 'fat ugly girl' regardless of whether I do become a doctor or not.”
"Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls":
T-shirts that say, “Yes, but not with you” are now sold to eight-year-olds. Girls understand what these T-shirts are about: pretending to be sexually aware. We have girls who are now putting on a pretense of adult sexuality that they couldn’t possibly feel, and the danger of putting on a show is that you lose touch with your own sexuality. You’re wearing a mask, and when you take off the mask, there’s not a face there. Another thing that’s happening is the acceleration of the onset of puberty. Girls are losing what psychologists used to call middle childhood: eight to 12 years of age, which is the age of Pippi Longstocking and Harriet the Spy, the time for girls to have adventures and develop a sense of who they are as people without worrying about whether they’re hot.

...In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure. Today, so many teenage girls I’ve spoken to across Canada and the U.S. regard sex as a commodity that girls provide to boys. Increasingly, unfortunately, that is the case... I find it troubling that so many girls are using their sexuality in an instrumental way, in order to accomplish some other end such as raising their social status, but not as an expression of their own [feelings and desires].

Girls spend a lot of time photoshopping their pictures, making themselves look a little bit thinner than they are and getting rid of the pimples, because they know boys are interested in the photos on these sites. So you’ve got 14-year-old girls essentially presenting themselves as a brand, trying to create a public persona, polishing an image of themselves that’s all surface: how you look and what you did yesterday, not who you are and what you want to be. And that leads to a sense of disconnection from themselves, because in most cases, these girls don’t even realize that their persona is not who they are. They’re just focused on striving to please their market and presenting the brand they think will sell. It’s one thing for Angelina Jolie to be doing this—she’s an adult—but it’s really toxic for a 14-year-old. It gets in the way of the real job of adolescence, which is figuring out who you are, what you want, what is your heart’s desire.
"For Teenage Girls, Facebook Means Always Being Camera-Ready":
Trying on 10 outfits and staring critically at the mirror before leaving the house is practically a teenage rite of passage. But these days, girls know precisely how their peers are judging them, thanks to the “Like” button on Facebook. “When I choose my profile picture, I want people to ‘Like,’ it,” said Grace. In fact, she and her friends are keenly aware of how to goose the numbers. “You get more ‘Likes’ if it’s a model shot and not a goofy picture with your friends,” she explained. The formula is simple: The more “Likes” you get, the more popular you appear. “Girls don’t just want to get ‘Likes’ from their close friends,” said 14-year-old Lily. “They want to get them from boys, or older kids or kids from other schools who are popular.” One way to be popular is to be sexy.
posted by flex (80 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'll add to this with a link a friend posted on FB that just made me so sad: What It's Like Being a Teen Girl.

After reading this, sometimes I think the scariest, bravest thing in the world is to be a teenage girl in the 21st century.
posted by Kitteh at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2012 [16 favorites]


I have 12- and 15-year-daughters (at public schools in Portland) and I just don't see this hyper-sexualized, intensely anxious world so often depicted on the web.

35 years ago, I saw much more of this drama with my sister and her friends. Then again, she was in Portland's punk scene, as was Courtney Love. Conclusion: my anecdata kicks this anecdata's ass.
posted by msalt at 4:45 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


My niece is turning 15 next month, and I would not trade places with her for anything in the world.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:46 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for adding that link, Kitteh.
posted by flex at 4:47 PM on October 23, 2012




I have 12- and 15-year-daughters (at public schools in Portland) and I just don't see this hyper-sexualized, intensely anxious world so often depicted on the web.

Amanda Todd, who committed suicide last month in Vancouver, is a pretty harrowing introduction to the challenges teen girls face.

At age 12, she was encouraged to flash her breasts during a webcam chat. The image was then recycled and reposted for years, while she was ostracized.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:56 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love this post; all the links are fantastic.

I can't even imagine the horror of trying to maintain any kind of identity, offline or no, as a teenager in this society. The pressure must be immense. And to think too about how nonsensical our brains are at that age (at least mine was, even thought I thought otherwise at the time). Good god.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


The thing that gets me is that it always sucked to be a teenage girl in some senses, but I absolutely cannot imagine what it is like for them now, with the advent of social media and really no way to escape even when you leave school. Not even the Internet is a safe place. Your schoolmates and random strangers accosting you in chatrooms, etc. It's just mind-bogglingly horrible.
posted by Kitteh at 5:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a grown ass man and about 1,000 times more confident than I was in high school and I still get all insecure about myself on facebook. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a teenager on there and all I can say is that I am quite glad I went through that hell before cellphones and social networks.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:03 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not even the Internet is a safe place.

Has anyone ever thought the internet was a safe place?
posted by item at 5:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hasn't sex always been used as a commodity and bargaining chip by women? I don't see how any of this is new; it's just more out in the open and visible because to the internet.
posted by MattMangels at 5:06 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever thought the internet was a safe place?

Trolls, it seems.
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on October 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


My point was this: let's say you're not a very popular girl, but you're a creative girl. You are bullied at school. Instead of keeping an actual paper journal (like I used to do), you keep a blog or an LJ. You never had to worry about your tormentors physically showing up at your house and taking your journal. But the nastiest and most determined of bullies CAN find your blog and make a safe-feeling space (yes, I am aware if you blog, it is public and not private, but that isn't the point) toxic. Even worse, they can send the link so any comments you might receive are pointed insults about your looks, your clothes, anything. That's what I meant. You can't escape your tormentors unless you avoid the Internet altogether, but if you do that, you will still be bullied. Just less people will know.
posted by Kitteh at 5:11 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hasn't sex always been used as a commodity and bargaining chip by women?

Certainly women have been made to feel as though their only option is to consent to the characterization of their sexuality as a commodity for a very long time, yes.
posted by Sokka shot first at 5:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [61 favorites]


I think back in the early days of the net it seemed safer. If you could get online and nobody from your high school (or nobody who wasn't an outcast nerd like you) was there, it was an escape.

I cannot imagine going thru the pressure cooker of being a teenager with the added intensity of facebook etc. Gah.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:12 PM on October 23, 2012


I'm so glad I'm not a teenager growing up under the microscope of the internet. Growing up in the 70s/80s all we had to worry about were leg warmers and Kevin Keegan poodle cuts. I simplify, but at least the stupid things you did as a kid would be less likely to haunt you.
posted by arcticseal at 5:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


My 16 year old daughter seems to have avoided this by just refusing to participate. No Facebook, no Twitter, no IM, rarely uses her phone, etc. The only boy whose opinion of her matters has 4 legs, weighs about 1000 pounds, and answers to Skip. Not that I'm suggesting everybody should buy their daughter a horse, but it does seem that teens that have something healthy to focus on (sports, academics, dance, knitting, whatever) have less issues with self-esteem than the kids whose interests are primarily what everybody else is thinking or doing. But you can't wait until they are 14. Cultivate and encourage their interests and passions when they are 7, so that when they hit the teen years that have something meaningful to them in their lives to fall back on. It seems to have worked for our son too, who got through high school without the usual teen issues and is now a freshman in college.
posted by COD at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2012 [31 favorites]


self-objectification doesn't seem like a thing. it's sounds more like what you call whatever you don't like.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:16 PM on October 23, 2012


By women. Not girls. The increasing pressure on girls to commodify themselves should not be written off as just getting an early start.
posted by casarkos at 5:20 PM on October 23, 2012


Yeah COD, I l think there's a sense of achievement and agency that comes with being really good at something, be it playing trumpet, dressage, hockey, whatever. That sense of agency seems like it helps to get past the stupidity and hatefulness. You know, like, who cares what you think, I can hit a jumper from 20 feet!
posted by Mister_A at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2012


In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy

Worst "kids these days" narrative ever.
posted by MillMan at 5:22 PM on October 23, 2012 [39 favorites]


That Amanda Todd story pisses me off. I remember about ten years ago a girl in my high school had printouts showing breasts floated around the halls when this kind of shit was in it's beta phase, yet she came out of it alright. If it didn't happen in a small town/small school scenario where she knew a lot of friends who supported her and the administration gave a shit, I imagine it could have been a lot worse.

COD, that's awesome.
posted by whorl at 5:24 PM on October 23, 2012


Has anyone ever thought the Internet was a safe place?

It used to be a safe(r) place, before the push to tie your Internet identity to your real identity. What used to be an escape from reality for people who were mostly outcasts anyway is now just an extension for the same brutal judgement system they face every day.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:25 PM on October 23, 2012 [25 favorites]


What if my hips don't widen and give me a little waist? If none of that happens I feel like [sic] there's no point in doing anything because I'll just be the 'fat ugly girl' regardless of whether I do become a doctor or not.”
Can someone explain to me what the [sic] is in there for?
posted by rebent at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure.

Wow, this person didn't grow up where or when I did. That's not the message I got when I was a kid or young adult, unless I happened to pick up the right book.

The pressure cooker for girls today is several times uglier than it was when I was wearing leg-warmers and trying to starve myself down to 115 pounds. (Why? I was told I was "ugly" and "fat" by boys. I was neither.) On that note, when I say "several times," it really is multiplicative. We sure didn't start at zero.

All of those gripes aside, thank you for the post. Miss Information is doing good work. The MSM like to focus on how badly women in theocracies half a world away are treated. You know what? Charity begins at home.

On preview: amen, COD. Pulling the plug reduces the exposure. And seconding the importance of an activity or hobby. I have a co-worker whose daughters are into Irish step-dancing. Not surprisingly, those kids have managed to live age-appropriate lives.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2012


rebent, the [sic] is there because "like there's" should read "as though there were."

Should I ever have a daughter, I will first be terrified, and then I'll do my level best to help her get good at something, because that, at least, will keep her from holding herself to any standard but her own.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:30 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rustic Etruscan: "rebent, the [sic] is there because "like there's" should read "as though there were.""

That's what my partner and I thought. God, that type of bullshit pisses me off.
posted by rebent at 5:33 PM on October 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wonder whether this stuff will be better when those of us who (sort of) grew up with social media have teens.

I tend to think that quite a few adults with teenage kids don't have a clue about the stuff that goes on in the dark corners of the internet (mefite parents excluded, of course). Kids need boundaries on the internet just like everywhere else, and I think that many people 40+ aren't equipped to set those boundaries.
posted by murfed13 at 5:33 PM on October 23, 2012


In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure.

Yes. In the '70s and '80s, sex was all about trying to give each other pleasure. *rolleyes*

I have a hard time jumping on the "pity the modern teen girl" bandwagon here. My wife an I are bringing up a 17 year old girl and a 15 year old boy. They're growing into some amazing people right before our eyes, and we don't even have to raise them in Amish mode. Both of us are constantly amazed and envious at what a better world they're growing up in, especially compared with the world where we did our growing up. Whatever perils that that lie out there are easily matched by the opportunities unique to this modern world.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:34 PM on October 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


I feel for the shit girls go through.

But the internet is an amazing thing. Yes outcasts may be bullied, but they also get to see there's a world of opportunity and like-minded people out there beyond their shitty hometown. Not to mention all the info about sex and such they can google, instead of having to go on schoolyard gossip.

If I had to put a number on it, I'd say the good of kids having the internet outweighs the bad by something like 50:1. But that's never going to sell as well as "Trouble in River City" narratives.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:13 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Just because your kid is not considering suicide does not mean that they are not being impacted by the negative aspects of the internet era (regardless of how positive that era may be in the broad sense of things).
posted by sendai sleep master at 6:17 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


There is a growing body of research that participation in sports helps girls and women value their bodies for what they can do rather than what others think of them (or could potentially do to them). Granted, the Tucker Center is the only place doing the work but many of their presentations have been posted as videos available to the public.
posted by Doctor Force at 6:36 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I had to put a number on it, I'd say the good of kids having the internet outweighs the bad by something like 50:1. But that's never going to sell as well as "Trouble in River City" narratives.

None of the pieces linked or quoted in this post suggest rejecting the internet as a whole, at least as far as I can see. The fact that plenty of good things can come of growing up in the internet age doesn't negate the fact that it opens the door to a lot of ugly stuff too, particularly for teenage girls.
posted by jess at 6:37 PM on October 23, 2012


My 16 year old daughter seems to have avoided this by just refusing to participate. No Facebook, no Twitter, no IM, rarely uses her phone, etc. The only boy whose opinion of her matters has 4 legs, weighs about 1000 pounds, and answers to Skip. Not that I'm suggesting everybody should buy their daughter a horse, but it does seem that teens that have something healthy to focus on (sports, academics, dance, knitting, whatever) have less issues with self-esteem than the kids whose interests are primarily what everybody else is thinking or doing. But you can't wait until they are 14.

As the father of a ten-year-old, I tend to agree with you. I really wonder where Amanda Todd's parents were during all of this. Instead of "victim blaming", it's really a matter of parents being somewhat aware of the power of social media, and also helping channel adolescent energies in proactive ways.

I'm not going to naively say that parents of teens are going to know what their kids are up to, but there has got to be a way to manage social media use, or give kids the tools they need to proactively avoid dangerous situations like Amanda Todd, whether that be fostering self-esteem, or teaching strategies for dealing with online predators (it seems that Todd was encouraged to show her breasts by an older man).

Bullying is such a tough subject for parents, I think. I myself was bullied mercilessly in the 8th Grade. I was, literally, the lowest of the low, was beaten up and harassed, and nearly severaly beaten by a group of classmates.

I managed to transfer to a different school, and had a great experience for the next two years, until being forced to go back to high school with the same thugs from my first school.

The anti-bullying stuff spouted by politicians and, to some extent, teachers really misses the mark - adults are clueless.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:00 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I recently found some diaries I kept as a teenager -- as messed up as my life and personal relations were then, I can't imagine what it would have been like of all that had happened in public, with photos. I don't have kids, but I do worry about the future. For me, my teenagehood happened in private and is now long forgotten, not preserved in public forever.
posted by jb at 7:01 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm so fucking glad I'm too old to have had the Internet in high school.
posted by braksandwich at 7:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you aren't directly connected with the lives of teens, please take these breathless tales of Internet horror with a grain of salt. Scaring adults about vulnerable or delinquent teens is a tradition that goes back to the Greeks. There were many more frightening articles from the 1960s about OMG! Hippies with their marijuana corrupting teenage girls! And before that Beatniks with their marijuana and heroin corrupting teenage girls! And flappers OMG!

You realize the irony here, right? The reason everyone knows about isolated horrible cases like Amanda Todd's is that they are widely shared on FaceBook and other social media, and heavily discussed in the traditional press whose butt is being kicked by social media. Articles written by people our age who didn't grow up with the Internet and can't imagine.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of kids are growing up with this stuff in a healthy way and they can imagine how it works. This is the ocean they swim in and the get it, intuitively. My daughters both Facebook and play video games but they know they need to be cagey about what they share. Hell, my older daughter is reading Reddit, equal parts cute fuzzy animals and boys slightly older than her at their worst behavior. Frankly I feel a lot better with her having that direct peek into the dark side of male behavior than the old days of predators no one talked about and confused rumors whispered in the girls' bathroom about bad things that happened to friends.
posted by msalt at 7:59 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Facebook is a vast and sinister engine primarily devoted to the creation, perpetuation and monetization of human misery.

I think we can do our kids a service by encouraging them to consider the self-serving bullshit and/or ill-considered personal attacks they know they post on it personally, to reflect on the fact that most of their peers are doing exactly the same thing, and to learn to treat Facebook as the grotesquely distorted misrepresentation of real life that it actually is.

Nothing on Facebook has anything to do with you. Even if - especially if - it's got your photo in it and seems to have been written by your personal friends.

Facebook is a hideous experiment in participatory performance art, and confusing it with real life is a terrible mistake that's unfortunately far too easy to make.
posted by flabdablet at 8:02 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


But.... but.... funny videos!
posted by msalt at 8:07 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm finding the anecdata from parents of teens, here, really comforting and reassuring to me as a concerned adult. I thing part of it is that I look back and think about ways that unpleasant things I went thru as a kid would be changed with facebook etc. I'm sure I'm missing a lot of ways in which I would have had a much better time of things if I were going through it today. (I suspect there would be a lot of ways to fight some of the isolation I felt at the time, for instance.) I've got some relatives who have young kids - still under 10 - and I'm trying to keep an eye on ways to be an awesome older relative for them.

(on the other other hand, I think about being my teenaged self but in the present and I'm just really *really* glad that most of my utterly stupid things I've said on the internet have aged out beyond even the reach of deja news. Mostly.)
posted by rmd1023 at 8:10 PM on October 23, 2012


After reading this, sometimes I think the scariest, bravest thing in the world is to be a teenage girl in the 21st century.

The most terrifying thing about this is that these girls have it better than most earlier generations did, as well as most women outside the developed world (some rare exceptions of female-friendly traditional societies aside). It highlights how fucking far we still have to go, despite how far we've come.

The Internet is not the problem. The prevailing Internet culture which has grown up around it (encouraging and even mandating constant exposure and the eradication of private space), and the way that that culture ties into the broader worlds that teenagers, especially girls, inhabit - that's the problem. This sort of shit was going on when my parents and grandparents were going through secondary school, it was just in a narrower context. Where they were bullied and constrained by a few hundred (at most) peers, only a few dozen of whom they would have come into contact regularly with, the Internet allows for greater reach.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:10 PM on October 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is the ocean they swim in and the get it, intuitively. My daughters both Facebook and play video games but they know they need to be cagey about what they share. Hell, my older daughter is reading Reddit, equal parts cute fuzzy animals and boys slightly older than her at their worst behavior. Frankly I feel a lot better with her having that direct peek into the dark side of male behavior than the old days of predators no one talked about and confused rumors whispered in the girls' bathroom about bad things that happened to friends.

I get where you're coming from, but how far can you extrapolate your children's experience (which is partly rooted in your parenting, I imagine), to high schoolers as a whole? I mean, granted, most of them aren't committing suicide, but in most cases of bullying, the victims stay silent, hunch their shoulders and get on with their lives as much as possible. And there are plenty of people who aren't being bullied but who are, I think, developing some pretty dangerously naive views about information online and how relationships work based off of their high school experiences.

I mean, I glad that your girls have their shit together (and it speaks well of your attentive parenting that they do). But does your anecdata beat the other anecdata in this thread? Because I do think that while bullying isn't new, Internet culture is, and some elements of it are deeply distorting and even predatory. And the Facebook/data mining/high exposure aspect is one of them.

*I love that word. I don't even know if it is a word. Anec-da-TAAAAA....
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:20 PM on October 23, 2012


"Certainly women have been made to feel as though their only option is to consent to the characterization of their sexuality as a commodity for a very long time, yes."

I'm not confident the overwhelming majority women are 'made to feel' this way at all or ever were. I figure 75,000 years ago women were as adept at using sexuality as they are today and the idea that they were 'made to feel' anything seems a bit of a reach. Just does not seem like the stuff of the Savanna. And I'm not convinced human nature went through a shift somewhere along the years, where men decided to take up the manipulation of feelings (not the historical strong suit of team XY) instead of just letting women play variations on the age old game of 'I'm in need of a defender; let's see you and him fight'. I would not blame women for the rules of the game; who is responsible for your feelings?
posted by relish at 8:36 PM on October 23, 2012


But does your anecdata beat the other anecdata in this thread?

Yes, because my anecdata has real live Courtney Love in it, and celebrity trumps all!
I think I've told this story before, but Love once pissed off a much-feared punk girl known as Fat Michelle, who promised to kick her ass. Love replied "Well, take a number and get in line!" Maybe not the most original line ever, except to 15 year olds, but if you knew Fat Michelle you would know why Love got a lot of grudging respect for having the ovaries to say that.

I would turn your question around. Why does anecdata that appears on Jezebel or in print publications trump mine? I've been around enough journalism to know that a high percentage of trend articles are based one one or two people the writer knows and extrapolates from, especially if there is a scare angle involve sex and teenage girls (and, ideally, some new drug you can make up a slang word for).

Thank you for the compliment about parenting, but my daughters (children of divorce) go to schools with thousands of students and have friends at other, even bigger schools. Everyone is on Facebook, but these are just not big problems in their universe. The schools, however, have anti-bullying programs about every three weeks, not just an assembly but big, day-long events with mandatory participation. Remember, Facebook bullying is also public and easily traced and punished.

One obvious massive improvement is for gay students, the targets of the worst bullying in my day, but much more accepted (and protected) now.
posted by msalt at 9:12 PM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu: "there has got to be a way to manage social media use"

Computer in living room. "X in living room" is a huge cure for many problems, actually. XBox in living room. Television in living room. Homework in living room.
posted by Bugbread at 9:51 PM on October 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


> ..In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure.

Oh for fuck's sake. Sure, that's exactly what we learned from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Risky Business and Three's Company and the way we were expected to understand the dirty jokes and figure out how to be desirable to boys while understanding that the girls from working class neighborhoods with their blue eyeshadow and cigarettes were slutty. Sure, sex was only about intimacy and pleasure, nothing about commodity and objectification and threat of shame.

It is okay to acknowledge the shifting way the sexism and objectification game is played without resorting to this ludicrous and disingenuous romanticizing of the recent past.
posted by desuetude at 9:58 PM on October 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


1) I agree that his idea "sex was about intimacy" as if all the other sexism problems didn't exist at that time doesn't jive;
2) I think he was coming from the idea that teenage sexual activity in the '70s and '80s was, from his (older white male) POV, based more on exploration than transaction - I read it as a position of evolution from a more straight-laced time through the "free love" and "liberation" movements, that girls and women were more free to explore their desires with less pressure than previously, but that it's reverted since;
3) I left it in the pull quote to help establish his context for the following thoughts he offers;
4) I don't think the flaws inherent in that particular thought of his automatically invalidates the other thoughts he offers up in that interview.
posted by flex at 10:11 PM on October 23, 2012


I must say that growing up in the 70s and 80s I felt much more sexually empowered than is the case for modern girls. My attitude at the time was that any man who was fortunate enough to have sex with me should be glad for it and enjoy it (I know, that attitude is considered horrible nowadays, but that was what it was like for us). The power was with me, and I called the shots.

The thought of worrying whether I was attractive *enough* for the man - or the idea that I had to put on a show to please him - didn't make any sense to me then, and looking at the lovely young girls we see all around us, it doesn't make sense now. It's a massive trick on young girls which is quite a new thing, or an old thing come back. I'll give you an example - we didn't shave our legs or wear high heels. If anyone complained - too bad, there are a dozen more men like you who will be only too glad of my time.

And we - in bovver boots and unkempt hair - did not get any less sex than girls nowadays. I certainly never got less than I wanted with as many people as I wanted, but on my own terms. When I decided I wanted to marry and have kids, there was more than one option. Modern beauty regimes are not necessary in order for a girl to be beautiful. Nature gives it.

What I am saying is that at base women have a lot of power, and somehow our modern system alienates young girls from their own power.
posted by communicator at 11:04 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


You’re wearing a mask, and when you take off the mask, there’s not a face there.

This rings horribly true.

self-objectification doesn't seem like a thing. it's sounds more like what you call whatever you don't like.

What?

... men decided to take up the manipulation of feelings (not the historical strong suit of team XY)... instead of just letting women play variations on the age old game of 'I'm in need of a defender; let's see you and him fight'...

Men can be master manipulators. Just as good at emotional manipulation as any woman-- read about male spousal abuse for awhile and revel in it. Teenage boys who want to wheedle sex out of a girl or humiliate her sexually are great at the same manipulative tactics. This is really my least favorite stereotype about men and women.

Women's sexuality is used against us in humiliating and lethal ways all the time. Read about upskirt photography. Read about Amanda Todd. Read about cases of rape where women's claims were discounted due to past promiscuity (or prostitution). Read about sex trafficking, read about unscrupulous pornographers. Women are often horribly unable to control the way their sexualities are characterized and exploited. Pretending like women wield their sexuality as a mighty weapon without a shred of pressure from the outside world or media is bullshit. I love my sexuality and sexuality in general but I don't enjoy reflecting upon times where I've felt like I capitalized on it to make the best of a shitty, exploitative situation.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:34 PM on October 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


One of the things my husband and I have discussed is the feeling that through the '70s, '80s, and early '90s (when we were teenagers) it seemed like there was more of a movement towards displaying equality between boys and girls - then sometime in the mid-'90s or so it seemed to start sliding back into much more visibly separate roles (maybe when "girl power" became a lot more about sexiness?).

We dressed more alike then, we played with more of the same toys. When I watch old Sesame Street shows (the ones I watched as a child) the kids are often dressed pretty similarly, in bright shirts and corduroys; they have similar haircuts. In the '70s teenage boys and girls wore both wore tight shirts, tight flares - when I look at images of the men they seem, to my eye, to be dressed quite emphatically sexually and in a primped way we're more likely to associate with women - men these days seem to be more sexually de-emphasized in their clothes (if they aren't, it's "metrosexual"). In the '80s they had the same fluffy perms and "new wave" clothes, lots of layers and accessories; in the early '90s, as my husband puts it, we wore "the same flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and combat boots", and I wore hippie skirts which again is not "sexy" dressing. I mean, obviously this is all generalizing and there was still plenty of gendered dressing and styles, but it seemed there was (deliberately) much less emphasis on delineating male from female appearance from childhood on, and I don't see that anymore - female appearance now seems highly focused on "pretty" and "sexy".

And I have to say, my childhood/teenage years were fairly crappy overall but definitely my experience of teenage sexuality was that I did feel quite empowered in that particular area, I did feel (for the most part) I was pursuing what *I* wanted, and the guys I experimented with acted (for the most part) appreciative and not entitled or bullying about it. I never really tried to pretty myself up and I didn't often feel pressure to do so. It wasn't until I was somewhat older that I realized the way I thought it worked, the way I was sort of implicitly told it worked - that I was on a level playing field with the guys - wasn't really true.
posted by flex at 11:50 PM on October 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


This evil contains the seeds of its own destruction, for the power to attack young girls and women by armies of misogynist trolls can be fought by equally powerful armies of like-minded women.

I imagine a SomethingAwesome.com with older feminists introducing girls to another way of seeing the pressures they are under to startegies for coping and attacking. Eventually forming groups for an insurgency to wrest power for the aggressors. Forum invasions where hundreds of girls attack PuA or Men's Rights groups flooding them with links to Separatist Lesbian fanzines and pictures of hairy armpits. Where Facebook avatars are changed from the camera held above myspace angle to a single image of Hilary Clinton's Blackberry or some shit.

Yeah, ok so sometimes I dream like my daughter can be raised by the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, but still. All is not lost and the greater sharing of information that Facebook and the like forces us to undergo also leads us closer to the day when we no longer are constrained by the idea that everyone else thinks the way it is now is the way it should be, only those who benefit think that and there's more of us than there are of them.
posted by fullerine at 2:26 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


(so as not to abuse the edit function...)
..In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure.
You know that laugh Kathleen Turner does in Peggy Sue Got Married when she sees her father buy an Edsel? Yeah that.
posted by fullerine at 2:30 AM on October 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Timely on CNN - kudos to this school administration for being apparently proactive and open.
posted by maniabug at 5:52 AM on October 24, 2012


Men can be master manipulators.

Thanks for those comments, very helpful over here in terms of revving my rusty engines.

Men can be manipulative, some are certainly better at it than your average woman, but it's cliché that indirection is the way women go about getting what they want. From around 200,000 years ago until maybe 150 years ago men basically solved the most significant intractable differences between them through unsubtle violence. Big issues ended in fighting. Looking at this history, it does not appear 'manipulation' is naturally male. Want to win a point? Clubbing someone over the head seems so much more efficient and direct. 'Lethal' is the stuff of guys, men always have been more likely to die of physical trauma, way more likely than women.

For better or worse, I have limited experience with many of the things you mention above. I have been around and can assure you that men 'are often horribly unable to control the way their sexualities are characterized and exploited'. Somehow, we keep on. Women are not a tabula rasa where men do all the painting. That's just silly. As I see it your points are more of the old narrative I expressed above - you are underscoring weakness, you pressed by these vulgar, criminal thugs and the implication (for most guys) is you need protection.

Also, I was not characterizing women's sexuality as 'a mighty weapon' (or something to 'capitalize' on, although you can imagine where I might take that word). In my opinion, it's certainly a powerful, engulfing thing, more elemental than something thrust about. At any rate, I think my 'made to feel' comment still stands - who is the hero of your life? Who is responsible for your feelings?
posted by relish at 7:38 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the ’70s and ’80s, sex was about intimacy, trying to give each other pleasure.

This person who was a teen in the seventies can only shake his grey old head at this remark. Believe me, teenage sexual behaviour back then was every bit as hormone-fuelled, confusing, embarrassing, tragic, irresponsible, self-loathing and pain-inducing as I suspect it is now. Except without the added dimension of easy public humiliation via internet.
posted by Decani at 7:45 AM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


From around 200,000 years ago until maybe 150 years ago men basically solved the most significant intractable differences between them through unsubtle violence. Big issues ended in fighting. Looking at this history, it does not appear 'manipulation' is naturally male.

This seems an overly simplistic view of history. I think that manipulative chick Machiavelli would agree with me.

History is rife with intrigue, deception, and manipulation by men as well as women. I think claiming that manipulation is somehow linked to two X chromosomes is both a disservice to men and willful blindness to human history.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:18 AM on October 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


relish: "At any rate, I think my 'made to feel' comment still stands - who is the hero of your life? Who is responsible for your feelings?"

Nobody grows up in a vacuum, to the extent that they have full agency over their own development. Your development is shaped by your elders, your teachers, and your peers. Did you grow up getting clothes and books and toys that proclaim your beauty over your intelligence, reading children's books in which most of the characters are male, reading classical literature in which the woman's role is little more than a foil and an object of desire to the man, hanging out with boys who think that pursuits that girls excel at are not worth their time? Are you overrun with sexual harassment the moment you step foot into an online gaming setting? Are there movies about women that talk about anything other than their status in relation to a man? How many of your male friends feared being associated with anything that was considered "girly"?

How many of your male friends were ashamed of even nominally enjoying a romantic comedy because it's a girly movie? How often have you heard the phrase "I'm not like other girls, I'm cool" coming from one of your female friends because to buy into mainstream heteronormative geek culture oftentimes is to denounce your femininity? How much sexualized advertising in which women were either haranguing mothers or sex kittens did you absorb into your daily life? How much bro-culture of scorekeeping the women you sleep with, of women as decorations and party favours, is considered mainstream?

Do you really expect a child to know how to critically assess all of these messages that are bombarding her every day, and then to say, without any assistance from the adults in her life, that she is above all of that? If she has been groomed to think that beauty is paramount and that the approval of a man is paramount and that getting married and having children is paramount to her identity as a woman (lest she become one of those mean feminist mommies), can you say, with a straight face, that she is solely responsible for her feelings and she has not been made to feel anything, that if she feels sexualized and commoditized, it is no fault of the fucked up social dynamics that we all swim in?

Sure, traditionally the physical advantages and risks that men have had over women have given them an edge in ruling society - in fighting, going to war, conquering lands, and taking brides. One of the only power that women have had was in their sexuality and whether to give it up. Sexual access was a route to a secure provider and a stable life. What else could you do but hitch your wagon to a good horse, if you could not own land, or vote, or were considered less than a full human being, because you happened to have less testosterone?

That is no longer the case, at least within the kind of society I would like to live in. Clearly we recognize, today, that women are just as capable in men in all the ways that matter; that they may not have the sheer brute force on an aggregate average, but that they are human beings deserving of equal treatment and respect. But if so many women today still feel like they are defined by their fuckability rating more than by their successes and accomplishments, and if so many girls feel pressured to grow up too fast and assume the role of a sexual object that is expected of them, can you really say with a straight face that they should have been able to withstand social pressure because they are the "heroes of their own lives"?

My sister is 12. Her friends have already gone through several phases of dieting. She hasn't, yet, but she sees the way my parents criticize my weight and look askance at photos of Adele, an accomplished and successful singer, because she does not conform to the current size-0-supermodel standard. She worries that the boy she has a crush on won't like her because she's not into make-up the way other girls are. Where do you think those feelings comes from? Did they spring fully formed from the depths of their manipulative cerebral cortices? Were these kids merely too weak to recognize the bodyshaming that permeates mainstream media for the misogynist bullshit it is and thus responsible for their own feelings of inadequacies

Or maybe we, as the adults in their lives, can take up the mantle and try to look at how these sorts of harmful messages get perpetuated and figure out how to make it better and make the world a friendlier place, instead of just sitting back and saying "well, them's the breaks".
posted by Phire at 8:58 AM on October 24, 2012 [27 favorites]



This seems an overly simplistic view of history. I think that manipulative chick Machiavelli would agree with me.

In my simple historical imagination, Machiavelli would challenge you to a duel if you had publically characterized him as a 'manipulative chick'. That certainly would settle the matter, one way or another. He did think Italians, at the time, were particularly good duelists and likely would have relished the opportunity to dispatch you, or at least die trying.

You injected a straw man that last bit and I'm confident you can see it, but, yes, generally one of my points is the roots run deep in differences between men and women.
posted by relish at 9:25 AM on October 24, 2012


I'm so glad I'm not a teenager growing up under the microscope of the internet.

Yes, teens aren't different today than they were decades ago -- but they are certainly facing different challenges, particularly in technology. It is our duty as adults to study those challenges and help them evolve.

I was an early 'evangelist for the internet' - but have since recanted. I sent this email to my teen granddaughter last week.
This researcher in this radio interview, Shirley Turkle, was one of the main sources for my grad work in 'cyberrelationships' in '92 -- I've always found her work fascinating (and I was on the same track). I especially like what she mentions here about no longer seeing the internet as the 'playful' place of exploring one's identity. Sad - I've been feeling that for years.

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/18/163098594/in-constant-digital-contact-we-feel-alone-together

"On the Internet, we are disinhibited from taking into full account that we are in the presence of another human being." - Turkle
posted by Surfurrus at 10:53 AM on October 24, 2012


This whole situation breaks my heart. My thirteen year old daughter professes not even to be interested in boys right now, but she's terribly self concious about her appearance. She'll take care with her dress and hair style and then berate herself as ugly. And her mother and I have spent her whole life telling hr how beautiful she is.

I don't think it's even any one person in particular giving her those ideas about herself. If it was someone, we could have words with them, but it seems to be so pervasive as to be almost invisible. I confess I don't know what to do -- though I would trade places with her if I could, if only to spare her the anguish.
posted by Gelatin at 11:00 AM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The world we have created seems to be toxic for girls/young women. As an old guy I only occasionally get a glimpse of the treacherous seas they attempt to navigate, and it scares me.

In my youth we needed to dodge the bullet of drug problems. It seems today there is that, and so very much more to be felled by.

And, sexist though it may be to say so, I believe the price paid by young women who misstep is much grater than it is for boys, or we in the past.

Good luck girls. I wish you peace.
posted by cccorlew at 11:50 AM on October 24, 2012


who is the hero of your life? Who is responsible for your feelings?

Phire's said it better than I could, but just to address the above: it is the rare person who can keep their feelings, opinions, and self-esteem consistent in a social environment rife with messages to the contrary. For years and years.

It's a tall enough order to ask of an adult. It's a nearly impossible feat for a middle schooler, whose mind is still growing, whose life experience is limited, who's been thrust into an environment where fitting in and being liked are paramount, and who can't leave. People tend to forget that. If you don't fit in at work, you can find another job; if your roommate hates you, you can move out. Kids don't have that sort of agency. Spend several years among a large group with its own social hierarchy and rules, with no chance for escape and little to no opportunities to talk with people outside of the group, and you're very likely to end up absorbing some of the herd mentality.

We often give ourselves too much credit for being tough and independent. Nearly everything we believe to be true, about ourselves and about the world, has been reinforced at some point by someone else. Whether you believe we have total control over our own feelings or that they're influenced by our environments, and whatever you believe about men and women, you were probably introduced to the idea by someone else, and you've probably met, heard, or read others who agree. I'm fortunate to have had enough people affirm my worth - both my gender's worth and my worth as an individual - that I can believe it despite the messages telling me otherwise. Had I been born in another time or place, I might not be so lucky. Some young people, both girls and boys, grow up completely surrounded by those negative messages, and it's not fair or reasonable to expect them to continue to believe in something that no one else seems to believe in.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:02 PM on October 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Computer in living room. "X in living room" is a huge cure for many problems, actually. XBox in living room. Television in living room. Homework in living room.

My mother has custody of my niece, and that's been her approach - she knows what my niece is doing on the internet, who she's talking to, and when she's on it (which is also an issue).

also, it would get away from the problem I noticed a few years ago, where movies replace books. I was trying to get a 9-year old excited about reading, and so I was all like, "it's like a movie that you can take anywhere, even in your room!" (this being a big deal to me when I was 9). She looked at me like I was crazy, and said, "I have a portable DVD player."
posted by jb at 1:09 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


My thirteen year old daughter professes not even to be interested in boys right now, but she's terribly self concious about her appearance.

And this never happened with thirteen year old girls until the Internet, right?
posted by msalt at 1:10 PM on October 24, 2012


I can't find it online, but Aline Kominsky-Crumb had a wonderful (and heartbreaking) comic about what it was like to grow up as a girl in the early 1960s, how horribly oppressive the standards of beauty and conformism were (big chests, straight tall hair, etc.), and how wonderful it was when the hippie thing came around and you could wear different clothes that fit different body types, have kinky hair, etc.
posted by msalt at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, teens aren't different today than they were decades ago -- but they are certainly facing different challenges, particularly in technology. It is our duty as adults to study those challenges and help them evolve.

Absolutely. And the number one Internet era rule to pass on is, no sexy images. Ever. No photos, no videos. No matter how much you are in love, or trust him. Even if you're married. Never.
posted by msalt at 1:34 PM on October 24, 2012


I am so glad I'm not a parent.
posted by deborah at 1:35 PM on October 24, 2012


Phire, your post could have been written 30+ years ago, sans the online reference, and would have been just as applicable. Only moreso.

There's no doubt that being a teen is difficult. While this is a truism, saying it's worse than in the past appears to be an instance of filtered memory "good ole days", if the holder of this opinion was even alive at all.

I don't think it diminishes the plight of the confused teen to acknowledge that the good ole days are right now. Many young people face challenges unique to the internet age, but to insist on a pessimistic view of today's world ranges from a "kids these days" attitude, to what looks like nurturing a perverse comfort zone to reinforce a gloomy narrative.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:09 PM on October 24, 2012


I totally acknowledge that being a teenager has always sucked in some way, and some of the strictures they face today also existed decades, century, and millennia ago, while other things have truly improved. I wasn't sold into marriage a a preteen, so there's that, but I absolutely believe that the media we consume now plays a far bigger role than it did in the past, and that it is far more explicitly sexual.

My point is that our reaction to lots of teenage girls today who are confused and hurt and scared and bewildered by the always-perfoming nature of social media and the seeming inability to escape their peers' constant judgment should not be "well, it was shitty 30 years ago, too", but rather "how is social media changing how girls are pressured to conform, and how can we teach girls to protect themselves from being harmed by this new thing?" (The rest of the post was a response to why telling girls to "take responsibility for their feelings" might not be the most optimal answer to that question.)

Just because it has been bad in the past, too, doesn't mean we have to accept the status quo as being immutable. We've made some things better in the past; we can do it again.
posted by Phire at 3:38 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


our reaction to lots of teenage girls today who are confused and hurt and scared and bewildered by the always-perfoming nature of social media and the seeming inability to escape their peers' constant judgment should not be "well, it was shitty 30 years ago, too"

But this gets back to the original question -- what is the evidence that things are so terrible for teenage girls today? We have this one individual case, and several inflammatory trend pieces on websites and in newspapers -- none based on anything other than a handful of examples.

Look at it this way -- a huge percentage of teens are on social media, I'd estimate 70% in the US. All this angst revolves around 2 or 3 admittedly terrible examples. Out of what, 20-30 million teenagers?
posted by msalt at 5:17 PM on October 24, 2012


Phire. Thanks for the response; useful here.

The idea that your parents are judgmental about your body is outside my experience (or my sisters experience), frankly, it's a little depressing and shocking to me. It strikes me as a difficult situation for you - well beyond whatever compounding external pressures you've faced. But at the same time you don't come across as a defeated spirit. You strike me as being quite the strong in conviction, you would have a hard time convincing me you have been 'made to feel' anything. Hate to seem lazy, but you are making part of my argument for me.

Nobody grows up in a vacuum

Just generally. This is part of the reason I have gone back as far as I have in my posts. For your post, you are focused on things like movies (which have been around for one hundred years) and books (which have been around longer, but going back 200 years illiteracy was common and all the more so as you move further back) and sexualized advertising (which seems sort of a subjective expression, but I'm guessing it does not predate the automobile in any meaningful way). And the thread is about the Internet. Basically, my point above is you and your sister would still be concerned about looks even if removed from all the stuff of 21st century living and Western culture. It does not matter where you were born or when, there is something fundamental and biological, you can fill up your cerebral cortex with whatever you want, ultimately biology is going to pull at you.

It does surprise me that there seems to a uniform idea that here that female sex roles are entirely a male creation.

How many of your male friends were ashamed of even nominally enjoying a romantic comedy because it's a girly movie?

Sorry. On many of those points the answer is no. My closest friends don't spend much time with pop culture. I've never heard a women denounce her femininity. No scorekeeping. No decorations; I do have some art work from girlfriends around; I don't expect that counts. If I find a woman sexy, does that make her a sex kitten? I did not realize there was going to be an inquisition.

Do you really expect a child to know how to critically assess all of these messages that are bombarding her every day, and then to say, without any assistance from the adults in her life, that she is above all of that?

I was not suggesting we set all the village children out on a life raft alone, in order to see if they will survive. It would be an easy row if that was the argument I was making. It's odd how I'm expected to defend points I don't make. Perhaps a little akin to harassment in gaming rooms? Would not know. But yes, I do expect your sister to become an adult and her own person. If she can pull that off with some generosity toward men writ large, more power to her.
posted by relish at 5:25 PM on October 24, 2012


This is part of the reason I have gone back as far as I have in my posts.

Interested in any research you have available to you that might dispel the idea that you're not just making shit up to suit the purpose of your argument.
posted by flabdablet at 5:57 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


making shit up
A pop introduction try ~ The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley
posted by relish at 7:21 PM on October 24, 2012


And this never happened with thirteen year old girls until the Internet, right?

I never said it had anything in particular to do with the Internet. I said it's pervasive, by which I mean including but far from limited to the Internet.
posted by Gelatin at 5:52 AM on October 25, 2012


Wow, it's impressive that relish is able to ignore all of human history's cultural oppression towards women. I would say more, but I feel we're being trolled, or else he has one of the biggest privilege backpacks I've ever seen...
posted by agregoli at 10:07 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


ignore all of human history
Let's suggest you are right, I'm ignorant and trollish and privileged, it does not change the point - convince me that there is no interplay between bees and flowers; it's all about the bee deciding the flowers sexuality - can you offer anything on that?
posted by relish at 10:46 AM on October 25, 2012


me: >> And this never happened with thirteen year old girls until the Internet, right?
Gelatin: >I never said it had anything in particular to do with the Internet. I said it's pervasive, by which I mean including but far from limited to the Internet.

I apologize. I was probably conflating you with the original article, and many comments here along the lines of "I'm so glad I'm not a teen today" and "new never-before faced Internet body-image pressures".
posted by msalt at 3:16 PM on October 25, 2012


relish, bell hooks would agree with you that women just like adornment, or what have you. I like adornment. I make no bones about it. (I also don't claim that it's innate, or really care.) But you're really missing the point that women have been physically and socially dominated by men with close to no options for most of recorded history. Plus, enjoying adornment and starving yourself to look like the women you see literally everywhere, who are inhumanly perfect (thanks to makeup, lighting, and Photoshop), are two different things. Sure, it's possible to grow out of those expectations, but we are discussing teenage girls.

The fact that men were able to club other men over the head is completely immaterial in a discussion about manipulation as it's used by men and women in the current day. If throughout time, women have been oppressed and constrained in the material conditions of society, of course some would try to use manipulation to its fullest extent, lacking other forms of power. That has nothing to do with whether it's innate or not.

but it's cliché that indirection is the way women go about getting what they want

Well then, if it's a cliche. I suppose other bigoted cliches about disenfranchised groups are unquestionable, too? I mean, my mom beats around the bush trying to get what she wants, and it annoys the fuck out of me, but I also know she lived with an abusive husband for ten years and was raised with brothers and a father would would beat her when she stepped out of line, so I don't really care to blame her for developing a survival tactic. Of course, no one would blame her when it's formulated like that. But that's the way our culture is. I've known a lot of young men who grew up with bad or abusive parents who developed their own manipulation tactics to get themselves out of situations they couldn't control.

Where do you think stereotypes about slaves came from? (Hint: projections.) Where do you think stereotypes about ethnic minorities in America came from? Stereotypes about gay men and lesbians? Projections are all about making the dominant class seem like rational, responsible, natural leaders, and allowing them to brutalize and control others, perpetrating crimes against an underclass and blaming them for not rising above it. Direct forms of control are increasingly criminalized, but as long as we have the kind of rape culture that exists in the current day, women will continue to feel powerless in their own lives-- because often they are. Bad shit happens-- but worse than bad shit, people refuse to believe them about bad shit that happens, and they are repeatedly invalidated and told their experience is a lie. They are continually told they're lesser than men until they themselves believe it. It fucks up any child to be told continually that they're lesser, stupider and more frivolous, less essential to others and society than anyone else. Why wouldn't that damage women?

I certainly think female sexuality is elemental and powerful, I don't think it's a tabula rasa. But it can be horribly censured, twisted, and repressed. It's exploited in ways that sorry, men do not usually deal with, or deal with on the same scale. Until you understand or experience the extent to which rape occurs in women's intimate relationships, it's hard to understand the fear and self-preservation that many women develop to protect themselves from literal violence. Physical violation.

Somehow, we keep on.

Do women not? I mean, here I am. And no, we are not crying out for protection, except where the law has in fact failed to protect us from violent crime on a massive scale. We're saying that fucked-up shit is happening and repeating it over and over because we're being told by a million voices (men, other women, doctors, teachers, police, authorities in general) that we're lying, or to forget about it, or that it's our fault. Dismissing women as self-victimizing is really ignoring a culture of effectively unpunished violence. Even when we haven't experienced it, we fear it. And cultural voices are constantly telling young women that their bodies are the property of other men, and that they're properly objects, and their desires have very little to do with sex in general. Which is really just a message that legitimizes and normalizes rape-- which again, happens and goes unpunished.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:07 PM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


stoneandstar thoughtful, personal and deliberate considerations.

missing the point that women have been physically and socially dominated by men with close to no options for most of recorded history

It seems to me, there seems to be an expectation to sign on to some kind of "men have oppressed women for all of known history and it's only become worse with the advent of more pervasive technology" commitment. I can't post a comment without first signing the "I'm a sensitive, retiring male" pledge?

Let's sweep across history - the overwhelming majority of men have physically and socially dominated by other men with close to no options for most of recorded history. Despite your perspective, you would not swap lives with the average man of one hundred years or more ago, excepting perhaps an exceptional urge to be a man and fight in the trenches at Verdun.

immaterial in a discussion about manipulation as it's used by men and women in the current day

That's true in a few ways.

However, if you are arguing this is all net new I'm not as sure. For instance, Phire above uses "fuckability" - to me that's a new vulgarity and rubs against my upbringing, it seems new, but does it actually mean anything new? Is it unique to the current day? I think the idea has been around for a long time. Some people are more desirable than others and that has been the case for a long time. If I tell a friend I want to sleep with a woman it's a confidence, if I blurt it out to the community it's vulgarity. Those ideas predate the internet and, probably, history and culture.

If you are saying the technology introduced some dynamic, something without echos in time, again, I'm not so positive.

beats around the bush

Many of the most manipulative people get worked up when being accused of being what they are, indirect methods enjoy subtlety.

I never suggested men were not manipulative. I said they were generally and naturally more aggressive than women (although I know plenty of women who are more aggressive than me) and I suggested that goes back tens of thousands of years. To me, it's obvious aggressive people are generally poor at working people. It's not something new. People here don't seem to have an issue with the idea that men are naturally aggressive, but there does seem to be resistance to the idea that women might have evolved strategies for dealing with male aggressiveness that precede history.

It would be absurd to blame your mom for behaving the way she does. I can only second your thoughts there.

stereotypes

I don't think you would appreciate my full thinking. It's hard enough trying to make the most obvious points on this forum, I'm not going to wade into my swampy history of making generalizations about people. Suffice to say, you need to make some generalizations in this world to survive, but you can't assume that just because the attractive seemingly-single women has invited you to dinner after a pleasant conversation, that she is unmarried and available.

You would think she would sport a ring, though, maybe volunteer the word 'husband' somewhere in the preliminaries.

Anyway, I'm fairly liquid in the generalizations I've made above. Lots of words like 'may' and 'generally' and 'fairly' - you can see a couple of the responses where people don't even read what I've said without pounding their own narrative on top of it.

I don't think it's a tabula rasa

That is what I was saying.

I understand with these posts, sometimes people have some things they feel very strongly about, that they want to express, and it's sort of irrelevant whatever the other person has posted. Sometimes posts move toward polemics but it's really ridiculous to suggest I'm "dismissing women as self-victimizing". Honestly, that just seems a little off to me, since I started off talking about tens of thousands of years of male aggressiveness.
posted by relish at 1:15 PM on October 27, 2012


[Perhaps people might consider getting back to the actual posted topic, which is actually fairly specific? Relish, moderator here. Your remarks in this thread have been basically amiably opaque derailery, and I'm not sure why – but your dinner hostess doesn't really have anything to do with the topic, nor do bees and flowers, or men clubbing each other over the head, or just about anything you've introduced here. If you haven't read the posted articles yet, that might help get you on track if this is something you honestly want to discuss. If not, there are a lot of other posts on the site that might appeal more.]
posted by taz at 4:38 AM on October 28, 2012


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