My television show, which tapes tonight, is all about the weird messages the culture is sending young girls. I thought I was maybe one of three people or so who were on a tear about the continuing pressure on young girls to be so skinny their ribs and hipbones show (The Victoria’s Secret store in Fairfield, Connecticut, took down a photo of one emaciated girl, one that was entitled title “Hipbones,” because people were outraged.) I’ve been writing about the reasons for girls’ eating disorders for years (it’s not JUST to be thin, as most of you know; it’s also to avoid becoming those powerless women in the culture who, because they’re round and full-bodied adults, give off a scare signal to these girls, who then opt instead to look like boys).
In any story we read or see in a store window, we have to know who is speaking. Who’s telling what story? A great story now is women’s increased power in this culture: women are the majority of the workforce; the majority earners of both undergraduate and graduate degrees; the majority owners of wealth. So you have to wonder how it is that just at the very moment when women are powering ahead, store fronts and magazine covers feature skinny young girls (aged ten, on the cover of French Vogue in July) not only made up to look like fashionable adults, but in sexual poses that clearly suggest subjugation. Stores like J.C. Penney and Forever 21 feature girls in t-shirts that say “Allergic to Algebra” and “I’m Too Pretty for Homework.” Whose viewpoint is this, do you think? Who’s telling our young girls, about to step into this new legacy of unprecedented power, that their REAL power lies not in their brains and their potential careers, not their agency in the world, but in looking like dumb, baby hookers, pouting and bruised and with their arms up in their air as if in chains? Who’s telling girls to shut up, stay home, and get back into bed?
Is it storeowners, so they can sell tshirts and underwear ? Perhaps. Photographers, who want to be provocative in order to make their mark? Maybe. But come on, folks: Who’s so scared of women’s power that all they can do is send messages to young girls that say, Fuggeddaboutit. You’re dumb and nothing more than a pleasure-giver.
Teenage girls ARE getting the message that giving pleasure to boys is all they’re good for, and the best way to become popular. They’re giving fellatio at parties (have you heard the new one? It’s called “Pterodactyling”, and, as with it’s cousin, “Rainbowing,” young girls give pleasure to several boys at once and get street cred for it.
J.K. Rowling, who knows a thing or two about girls and boys, is obsessed too, at least with the skinniness part of all this. She wrote in her blog that she was reading a magazine in which a young girl looked “either seriously ill or has an eating disroder (which is, of course, the same thing.,” And then added, “This girl needs help, but, the world being what it is, they’re sticking her on magazine covers instead.”
When girls are afraid to be round, like women actually are, they’re also afraid to be women. So, back to my story of women’s increased success. Why would girls be afraid of such a wonderful thing? Who’s getting in there early and recalculating their route, telling them, in effect, to shut up and back off? Who’s urging them to become emaciated and ill? And—really, ask yourself not only who, but more important, WHY?