In any story, whether we read it or see it on film or in a store window, we have to know who is speaking. Whose voice is telling us what story? Whose point of view is it? A great story at the moment, spoken by the Census, is about women’s increased power. Women are now the majority of the workforce; the majority of managers; the majority earners of undergraduate and graduate degrees; the majority owners of wealth.
So, who is narrating the story of this photo in Victoria’s Secret window in Fairfield, Ct.? (We added the type to illustrate where it might have been more appropriately shown) Odd that the moment when women are powering ahead, storefronts and magazine covers feature skinny young girls not only made up to look like fashionable adults, but posing in a way that clearly suggests subjugation—as does the girl above. Whose viewpoint is this, do you think? Who’s telling girls about to inherit a legacy of unprecedented power that their REAL power lies not in their education and their upcoming careers, but rather, in looking like baby hookers, pouting and bruised and with their arms up in their air as if in chains? Are storeowners telling this story so they can sell underwear? Perhaps. Photographers, who want to make their mark? Maybe.
But come on, folks, it’s endemic. Who’s so scared of women’s power that all they can do is send messages to young girls that say, Forget about it, girls: What you’re good for is sex. JC Penney and Forever 21 are right now offering them tshirts that say, “I’m Allergic to Algebra” and “I’m Too Pretty to do Homework.” Cute? Innocent? Not when you remember who is coming home with more bachelors and masters degrees. Not when you know who is the majority of the workforce. Ask yourself, Who doesn’t like those facts?
If we’re not interested in who is urging this role on girls, who is urging them to be anorexic and provocative and passive, we shouldn’t be surprised that even the youngest teenagers are gaining popularity by giving fellatio at parties to as many boys as possible. (Have you heard the new one? It’s called “Pterodactyling,” and, like its sad little cousin, Rainbowing, young girls do it to get “street cred.”)
When girls are afraid to be round, as women really are, they’re also afraid to be women; they’re afraid to be imperfect; they’re afraid grow up. So who’s teaching them to back off from being round, powerful, assertive women? Who’s telling them to shut up and back off? Who’s urging them to become underweight and ill and to think of themselves as nothing other than–oh how tired and tiring this is–sex objects? And—really, please, ask yourself not only who, but WHY?