Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Sex, Care Bear Thongs, Third Wave Feminists! Oh My
My take on Wendy Shalit's Girls Gone Mild is now up over at The American Prospect Online. A teaser:
"Unrequited Love: Musings on Girls Gone Mild"
Author Wendy Shalit wrongly blames lenient baby-boomer parents and third-wave feminists for the hyper-sexual culture that surrounds young women, and in doing so loses potential allies in her nascent "modesty movement."
Had Wendy Shalit not adopted the tone of a beleaguered conservative, blaming feminism for turning young women into sluts, I could have gone with her all the way. She's not like those modesty-advocates of yore who fretted that women's liberation would result in coed bathrooms, and then went on to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment. She's different from the rest....
...As the American Psychological Association notes in a May 2007 report, there's a paucity of research on the sexualization of girls, and there's certainly a need for more. Shalit's reliance on the experiences of those who email her is beyond questionable, but she nonetheless peppers her prose with some solid statistics that make you want to run to your local toy manufacturer and stop them before they put Slutty Elmo on the shelves. She emphasizes girls' agency and activism. Among the book's heroes are the girls from Pittsburgh who orchestrated a successful "girlcott" of offensive t-shirts sold by Abercrombie and Fitch with catchphrases such as "Who Needs Brains When You Have These?". Shalit's desire to incite positive social change is admirable -- and genuine.
But Shalit giveth, then taketh away. Her tactics are gratuitously divisive. After celebrating said young activists, for instance, who were hailed by third wave feminists as inspirational, she uses these girls to trump up the so-called intergenerational divide on modesty. She also loses progressive allies in the fight against the pornification of the girls' toy aisle by giving a free pass to advertisers and corporations. And she loses feminists young and old by conflating the inappropriate, premature sexualization of girls under age 18 with the entire project of sexual revolution....
For more, click here.