Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Unique Difficulty of Being a Girl Today

Eventually I am going to go into an electronics store or a music shop or whatever they are called today and buy an MP3 player. I think they are still called MP3 players. I am really out of touch, and I have no teenager at home to set me straight.

Auntie Seraphic: I would like to adopt a teenager, please.

Bernardos Lady: That's very unusual. Why a teenager?

Auntie Seraphic: I feel very much that B.A. and I can offer a teenager a lovely home and stable adoptive parents and he can enrich us with his own perspective.

Bernardos Lady (weeps): That's beautiful.

Auntie Seraphic: For example, how to get songs onto this little doohickey so I can listen to it at the gym instead of being tied to MTV.

For the past few days MTV has been broadcasting nothing but what it calls R&B, which I hate. I hate R&B. I want Euro Dance Party 2012 or whatever it is called. I want techno and whatever Alice DJ is. If Jean-Paul Sartre had said "Hell is other people's music", I would have gotten around to reading his novels.

Being stuck with MTV and R&B while I ran my little run on the treadmill, I was forced to watch a hideous video about a pretty American black girl sitting up in her boyfriend's room as he looked up a plastic surgery business on his computer. A computer graphic grew enormous breasts and it was obvious that the boyfriend thought his girlfriend should get some like that.

I began to feel rather ill. It had not occurred to me that the popularity of silicon implants had trickled down to the messy teenage bedrooms of the nation. Of course, I was never in teenage boys' bedroom when I was a teenager, so who knows what was going on in them in the 1980s. But whatever was going on, I am pretty sure the boys were not saying, "Hey, why don't you get plastic surgery!" Maybe a real jerk would have said, "Why didn't your parents get you braces?"

I am not so good with lyrics, but there were three women singers, so I am guessing they were singing about respect and being yourself, despite the fact that although they may not have had fake breasts, they almost certainly had fake hair. To get hair like the heroine of the video, I would have to spend three hours and at least $100 at ye olde Caribbean hairdresser in Toronto. (Alas, no-one in Edinburgh has ever done as good a job as Dionne. Only Dionne truly understood my white-hair-which-is-strangely-like-black-hair-only-ginger.)

Anyway, to my horror, as I ran nowhere, a captive audience, the heroine goes to the plastic surgery clinic, close to weeping and shielding her chest with her arms. She is so obviously not there of her own free will, it is amazing the clinicians didn't throw her out. However, instead of just sitting there shuddering on her hospital bed, she takes the initiative to prowl around and therefore sees another girl having her breasts sliced open (apparently without anaesthetic) and the implants taken out.

They showed this, right there, on MTV. Honestly. A breast sliced open and a silicon insert slipped out. All for your girl-power entertainment.

Fortunately, I did not throw up. Neither did the heroine of the video, who fled the hospital.

And I reflected that although most Catholic girls I knew generally avoided teenage boys' bedrooms (and later discovered with shock that those girls who frequented them were NOT necessarily RUINED FOR LIFE), those girls who did hang around to satisfy their teenage lusts sexual expressions were not pressured to get breast implants.

And I also reflected that when I was a teenager, there is no way--NO WAY--a rock video could feature a woman's breast being sliced open and her breast implant removed.

I am still in shock, actually. How do you girls cope? In some ways my mum's world was gentler than mine, although there was a lot more sexual harrassment, but in a lot of ways yours is way more... Well, I don't know what to call it. Violent, I think.

Sound off in the combox while I get my smelling salts.

14 comments:

Sinéad said...


That sounds like TLC singing "Unpretty", I remember that song well. They split up after one of the girls died in a crash. I loved that video and don't remember the breast on show which shows how desensitised I am. If you do buy an mp3 player please post on your selection because I'm 29, never had one and don't know where to start between that an ipod. I hate anything stuck in my ears, that's why I never bought one.

I don't do pubs/nightclubs and was shocked at work recently listening to colleagues in their twenties discussing a night out and what men expect women to do in the club in the dark. I won't go into detail but suffice it to say this is a matter of routine apparently, they didn't register any disgust at all. This is rural Ireland by the way. I wanted to wail. How on earth does one even start to engage with men who are used to seeing that sort of thing on a night out? It is a crude crude world.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I wasn't allowed to watch MTV, and actually, my mom was paranoid about creating arguments over music in the car, so we only had classical, talk radio, and the Irish hit parade (weekends), plus any cassettes (Irish, religious, classical). When my sister started driving us to high school, I put country on the radio because I figured it'd be safe (which it usually is). As a result, I have no idea about the vast majority of music my peers grew up with, and have made an effort over the last couple years. I haven't ever really watched MTV (aside from a few minutes when a roommate had Jersey Shore on - which I didn't stick around for much of), and don't see myself starting to.

For MP3 players, the various iPods are the most popular for good reasons although at this point most smart phones also have this capability. I dislike earphones myself but in the library I don't have much of a choice. You can also talk to someone at the store and explain what you need - Apple has a bunch of different ones, and a tech store with multiple brands should be able to help you out.

~Nzie

MaryJane said...

I have a feeling also that the bedrooms of the 1980s may have been filled with sexual tension, or pressure, but probably not the pressure for oral s*x which is apparently now standard in middle-schools. If you are a girl and you don't want to risk pregnancy or just don't want the headache of the "real thing", you just pacify him with the substitute. "Making out" is child's play now (literally). There was a whole CBS special with Katie Couric on the rise of oral s*x a few years ago. Really horrible. I can't imagine having to cope with that and pretend (or believe?) that it is no big deal. It seems like in a lot of ways every successive generation is having to deal with more and more.

I'm not that young, and don't have any real coping strategies other than to avoid it, personally, and try to do outreach to those who are stuck in it.

{Incidentally, I think situations like this are why "Theology of the Body" is so popular among the younger generation.)

sciencegirl said...

Ugh, situations like this are also why I'm grateful for Christopher West, though I don't personally like his writing that much, and think the critics of his candor are unhelpful (critics of his theology may be right, for all I know). When middle-school children are telling each other that oral sex isn't REALLY sex, so it's okay, but that it's sex enough to be a requirement, someone needs to be giving the Catholic Church's true teachings, euphemism-free.

I also have to say that sometimes I think rural places, particularly rural bars, are a lot sleazier than city bars. I grew up in a small town, and the people involved in the bar scene were not just out for a pleasant drink with company! There was a shockingly high rate of STDs and teen pregnancy. In some ways, people in cities may be able to better insulate themselves from sexual demands.

Andrea said...

I have recently had the personal conviction that I will not tolerate crass sexual displays in my life in any way, be it movies, magazines or music videos. It comes to me not from some legalism, but from the very personal reminder I just got that satan prowls and lurks to distort what truly loving relationships are, and we must fight that. I am very concerned about the pornification of regular life and it seems to me that I've been complicit in it to this point. No more. I wonder whether I would have had the courage to try to change the channel were I you jogging nowhere at your gym. I think I've just hit a point where I would try.

Jam said...

When I used to work out at my university gym, there was a bank of tv's tuned to the national networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox. A friend of mine knew which channel had Jeopardy on and at what time, and she scheduled her work outs accordingly. I've always thought that was very clever. If I were at a gym faced with nasty programming I would figure out what in that time slot I would want to watch and then ask the floor steward if s/he could put it on for me. "But I never miss Wheel of Fortune!" I suppose it depends on whether all the TVs have to be tuned to the same thing, whether the steward can change the channel or the manager has to do it, etc; but I would think at a gym this would be something they deal with fairly regularly.

Me, I always seemed to be at the gym when the Jerry Springer knock offs were on. At the risk of sounding very mousy, those shows are so sad. These poor people making a mess of their lives with no idea of anything better. Once I was on the treadmill when some kind of Doctor Oz show was on and just about vomited when they showed (off) a woman with a tumor growing -- very visibly let's say. Medical voyeurism! Of course I have a low tolerance for medical dramas anyway.

Lena said...

Dear Seraphic:

I too need a teen-ager to help me with my iPod. I don't understand it. I weep.

It's taken me a LONG time to develop self-confidence, but I glad I finally have enough gumption to say no when I need to protect myself against whatever. That's a blessing of being my age.

Scarlet said...

This is one of those points on which orthodox Catholics and radical feminists agree: the "R&B" (rap) industry profits on lyrics that normalize sexual violence. In high school I was desensitized to it, but now I can't listen to that stuff.

Seraphic said...

The whole idea of girls feeling like they have to perform some sexual acts to make up for not performing other sexual acts makes me wonder if some middle schools and co-ed high schools aren't akin to badly-run maximum security prisons where the strongest and most violent exploit the weak.

I imagine quite a few pre-teen and teenage boys are actually quite amazed at the things they can make girls do, if they get a hold of the right girl. Never mind the sex stuff, and who will do what how fast, some guys can get girls to undergo invasive surgery! Wow, now that's a challenge. And boys that age looooove challenges.

Well, those are good ideas for avoiding MTV. I need music, though, so I will soon go downtown to find a super-cheap MP3, one that works with Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

If you're looking for a recommendation, the Sansa Fuze has worked well for me. I've had mine for 2-3 years, and am still quite happy with it.

ladywisdom

Claire Christina said...

I agree with Sinéad: that sounds very much like TLC's "Unpretty." Upon rereading the lyrics (http://www.metrolyrics.com/unpretty-lyrics-tlc.html), they're not so profound as I remember them, having been in middle school when the song came out... The song and video always struck me as a sort of authentic feminism encouraging women not to let society or their boyfriends change them, because they were beautiful just as they are.

You may not have noticed it due to the graphic nature of the scene, but the girl leaves without getting the implants, and goes back to stand up to her boyfriend. Wikipedia actually has a decent summary of the "plot" of the video: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unpretty#Music_video

Anyway, it is graphic, but it certainly doesn't glorify that lifestyle. Quite the opposite, actually.

Urszula said...

How do we cope? Hard to say... we grit our teeth and hope not everybody buys into the messages pop culture is sending.

I for one don't have a TV. Grew up without one in the home and have never felt the need to have one - anything I want to watch is usually on Netflix on my computer.

I have a theory that pop music went downhill quality-wise (never mind morality-wise) when MTV became popular and looks/stages-of-undressing became more important than the tone of a singer’s voice or the quality of instrumentation. That’s not to say I don’t listen to pop music – I just never watch music videos. The last time I was trying to find some catchy pop songs on youtube to prep myself to dance the night away at a New Year’s Eve party, I was utterly horrified that the songs bouncing around my head were labeled ‘explicit’ on youtube. These are top hits from the past few months…

For working out at the gym, somehow the gym I went to always had the Food Network. Maybe counterproductive, but oh so delightful to watch.

MaryJane said...

I forgot to say that the few times I frequented the gym, "Biggest Looser" was on. Most definitely a weird kind of voyeurism, but really, really motivating!

(She types while finishing off a bag of potato chips...)

Meaghen said...

To answer the question "How do you girls cope?" I wanted to say that - for me at least - the most difficult thing is trust. Objectified sex and objectified persons are everywhere. Pornography statistics are staggering. Not just oral, but anal sex is normal and expected - but at the same time often crudely ridiculed. And yet people go to work, go to school, live normal lives. It's like as a culture, we have a split personality: totally normal people on the one hand...and twisted sexual deviants on the other. This is the hard thing to deal with. When the objectification and disrespect - the USE of other human beings - is so chronic in our culture...it's just difficult to feel safe. And it's overwhelmingly sad.