Friday, February 23, 2007

In response to the APA's report on the sexualization of young girls

If you haven't read it, it's here.

One thing that has always struck me as interesting, is the profound difference between girls right around my age- who went to middle school and early highschool in the days of Sassy Magazine and the Riot Grrrl movement, compared with girls just a bit younger- by one or two years, even, who went through those days with Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. It was especially obvious in highschool- I remember we'd be sitting in the cafeteria looking at the underclassmen being weirded out that some of the girls were actually cheerleaders- which we kind of regarded as something of a throwback. Especially because they only cheered for the boys teams. I also remember the first time I saw a Britney Spears video and thought "Oh man, this has to be a joke. No one would actually take this seriously! We make fun of this stuff now!" I was shocked when "Princess" shirts came out and women actually wore them without a hint of irony.

I have to wonder- would I be the same person I am now if I had been born a few years later? I mean, my mother was and is a very strong feminist role model- but without the culture to back me up, who knows where I'd be. I mean- there has to be a difference, culturally. I mean- you've got the girls that read Sassy, which was all about empowerment, and activism, and making skirts out of ties... and then you've got these girls who only had YM- which was all about being embarassed about your period and getting the guy who sits in front of you in Math class to notice you. You've got Kathleen Hanna telling you to get angry at sexism and rape culture, and then Britney saying "Hit me baby one more time." Something happened.

We've all discussed a billion times how riot grrrl got turned into the more marketable "Girl Power" movement. All of a sudden, women playing guitar turned into women prancing around in hot pants. It was no longer about doing, but being. Women like Roseanne were replaced on television by the ditzy Friends.

It was a small window in time. Maybe only about 4 years or so. I think it's possible that we, as women, have let the younger generations down- we didn't keep it going. We can't blame it all on marketing- because we could have been working harder to keep the grass-roots movements going that were actually having a pervasive effect on society as a whole. It's up to women to empower eachother, because clearly, we can see what happens when the corporate machine is given free reign.

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