Monday, April 10, 2006

I'm Venting, So The Clarity Here Is Lacking

Today's Oprah was about the epidemic of young girls buying into a culture that objectifies them. It made me sick to my stomach. Really.

I won't go into the details of the video montage at the beginning of today's show, but it was disgusting. Stuff from music videos that you couldn't have seen in an R-rated movie when I was growing up. Girls "dumbing down" around guys and imitating Paris Hilton when they go out with their friends. Girls who recruit other girls for videos that demean and exploit women. Girls who are proud of the fact that they won a thong contest. Girls who define themselves by what's on the outside, by the amount of attention they get from men, as opposed to the depth of their intelligence or substance of their character.

Before my rant continues, I need to backtrack for just a second.

About six weeks ago I was at church one afternoon, trying to get ready for an event that weekend. A teenage girl stopped by to ask me a question, and while we were talking one of the men who works at our church - a married man, mind you - walked up and joined our conversation. I have not been able to get out of my mind what happened next.

The teenage girl's voice went up about two octaves, and her posture changed completely. She became coy, flirtatious, and borderline seductive. I was horrified. Fortunately the man from church picked up on it, cut the conversation short, and got the heck out of dodge. Then the teenager resumed her conversation with me - in her normal tone of voice - like nothing had ever happened. I was so busy trying to process what I'd just witnessed that I didn't say anything, and I regret that now. I think there was an opportunity for me to "speak the truth in love" to that young girl because I do have a relationship with her, but I didn't. Shame on me for that.

Girls are following the culture's lead, and I fear the results will be disastrous. Well, the results already are disastrous. When sixteen and seventeen year old girls are having their chests "augmented"...when parents allow their daughters to go out in public in little more than their underwear...when fourteen year olds are taking their parents' credit cards into Victoria's Secret and buying push-up bras and thongs...when college-aged girls keep a running tally of their "hook-ups" and post their scorecards on the internet...then America, we have a problem.

I don't know how to solve it. But I do know this.

When I was growing up, I had an older sister who didn't hesitate to set me straight if I crossed the modesty line. I remember when I first started wearing make-up around 12 or 13 and went a little heavy on the eyeliner...Sister and Barry BOTH called me out on that one, and I never did it again. Mama always bought me beautiful clothes, but there was nothing provocative about them...Mama didn't even like for me to wear sleeveless stuff. And I don't know what Mama and Sister said or did to get this through my brain - and especially into my heart - but I really believed that I was supposed to be treasured by a man, not just tolerated, and certainly not objectified.

Maybe all of this stuff is a shock to me because I had wonderful, sweet friends in high school and college, and most of them stop by this blog every couple of days. The older I get, the more I realize how unusual we were and are in that we truly support each other. We don't always agree, of course, but woe be unto anyone who does harm to the others. I shudder to think what my life would have been like without them...they have held me accountable for my actions, encouraged me when I struggled, and been more loyal than I can ever make you understand. And more and more I realize that we are not the norm.

I hear so many stories of girls and women turning their backs on each other, dropping each other like a hot potato if a man enters the picture, saying horribly mean things behind their friends' backs, falling out with each other over something petty and inconsequential. As long as women make a habit of treating each other like that, there's not much hope for the girls who come behind us.

Part of me, as I watched today's Oprah, wanted to haul some of those 16 year old party girls into a woodshed and make them stay there until they learned their lesson. But this is not a behavioral problem. This problem can't be solved by locking a girl in her room, or taking away her car, or cutting off her cell phone.

It is a heart issue, plain and simple. Girls are trying to answer questions about themselves in a culture that has none of the right answers.

Someone told me one time that we're born with a God-sized hole in our heart, and only He can fill it. It seems to me that when people try to fill that hole with our culture, with the "things of the world," they can pour and pour and pour and pour - but they will never fill it up. Garbage in, garbage out, with girls going wild all the while.

What do we do?

Amended at 11:08 pm to add: I just got into bed and was telling D. about how FIRED UP I am by this whole issue, and he said something I thought I'd pass along:

When we were younger (back in da day), we were always threatened with the consequence of something going on our "permanent record." But these kids are creating their own. Can you imagine the repercussions down the road of what they're posting on their My Space accounts? Of what they're saying about other people on the internet? Of the pictures they're sharing online? I can't imagine that a graduate program / future employer / future spouse would look too favorably on those past behaviors.

D. contends that consumerism is a powerful force behind a lot of these girls having no idea who they really are. The mentality seems to be that what girls have defines them, not who they are - so they need those shoes and that bag and it has to be that brand - which is just more garbage in, more trying to fill up your life with flash and not substance. People chase the next magic something that will "change their lives" - the latest jeans, the latest jewelry, the latest make-up, etc...and then they're surprised when nothing is different, when they don't feel better.


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