My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


I Don't Agree With Tina Griego Very Often

So I have to make a point of publicly pointing out when I do. And today, Tina Griego wrote a very good piece about a subject near and dear to my heart: raising girls.

The sexualization of girls has been in the news lately with the release of the American Psychological Association's report on the subject. Women dressed as girls, girls dressed as women, the reduction of femininity to sexuality, the psychological and emotional damage this causes. None of this is new, but it is more ubiquitous, going mainstream, entering a store, a magazine, a song, a television show near you. It will require me to return a pair of pants to Target because what looked good on the hanger - appropriate for an 8-year-old - clung to my daughter in a most inappropriate way. My husband and I consider ourselves lucky she is something of a tomboy. . . .

As noxious as the business of reducing women and girls to their navels, boobs and butts is, it is also never far from my mind that my husband and I are my daughter's first teachers. Right now, I am her most influential female role model. To that end, Judith Warner, in a guest column for The New York Times, raised pertinent questions last weekend when she asked: "How can we (mothers) expect our daughters to navigate the cultural rapids of becoming sexual beings when we ourselves are flying blind?"

"How can we teach them to inhabit their bodies with grace and pleasure if we spend our own lives locked in hateful battles of control, mastery and self-improvement?" . . .

am the mother of a daughter who soon enough will become a young woman and I hope to teach her that her body is both functional - we use proper names in our house - and sacred. That she is as she was meant to be, born with many gifts of the mind and spirit, which she will discover and share because that is how we honor ourselves and others.

I absolutely love the idea behind Ms. Griego's prose. As a teacher and as a father, I am continually disturbed and disgusted by the messages girls get in today's culture. They are taught that they have to look like a Pussycat Doll, that they have to move like Christina Aguilera, and that their most important asset in the world is their body. NOT as an instrument of beauty and a means of expressing love, but as a way to manipulate the world to get what they want.

And, oh yeah, they're taught that what they should want is STUFF and the "hottest" male available.

The lines of defense that have to get thrown up around young girls in today's society need to be 30 feet tall, have mines in the ground in front of them, barbed wire on top of them, surveillance cameras and blocking software at every entry point, and a platoon of Marines walking the wall. In my house, we refer to that defense as "Dad".

And even that is no defense against one classmate who has a mom working on her fourth marriage.

I believe Ms. Griego loves her daughter very much; I believe she wants to see her grow up healthy and wise; and I applaud her that she includes her husband in the discussion of what is best for their daughter.

But, knowing a little about her from her previous writings, I don't think she's completely serious. I wonder if she's willing, for instance, to criticize this:

A federal judge in Philadelphia yesterday struck down a 1998 law that made it a crime for Web sites to allow children to gain access to material deemed “harmful.” . . .

“Despite my personal regret at having to set aside yet another attempt to protect our children from harmful material,” Judge Reed wrote, he said he was blocking the law out of concern that “perhaps we do the minors of this country harm if First Amendment protections, which they will with age inherit fully, are chipped away in the name of their protection.”

Or I wonder if Ms. Griego thinks this is a good thing--or, more to the point, whether she is willing to confront the community bluntly to address this:

More than 40 percent of Black children live with a single mother, compared with one-fifth of Hispanic children and about 12 percent of White children. [this data is slightly out-dated; I believe the current numbers are even higher, with more black children being born to unwed mothers than being born into a family]

Or, for another instance, how did Ms. Griego feel about the state legislature attempting to MANDATE that her daughter would have to be inocculated against a disease that she could only contract through sexual contact. When she was 11 years old.

I think this points out an important difference between liberals and conservatives. While both sides abhor the smuttiness of society (at least, rhetorically), only one side is willing to confront it. Liberals hide behind the ACLU and decry efforts to rein in pornography, limit the language used on television, and have dress codes in public schools. They point out the awfulness while constantly refusing to do anything about it--even empowering it.

On the other hand, the libertarian wing of Conservatism is much the same way, feeling that the government should not be empowered to affect such choices, and believing that the open market place will find a way to sort itself out. And, I guess, it's not just the libertarian wing.

And when the Cultural Conservatives try to take a stand for anything, they get compared to the Taliban and dismissed--even mocked--by Republicans, who should be their natural allies.

The problem is that we've built ourselves up to a point in society where neither side is willing or capable of doing anything politically to improve society . . .

and our girls are suffering.

Do girls suffer disproportionately to boys? I would argue that yes, they do. But that is another discussion for another day.

I guess my point is that Tina Griego and I have common ground on this point, and that is reassuring. Perhaps that ground could be tilled to find a solution amenable to both of us that would protect more of the girls in the world. I, for one, would want my daughter to hang out with a girl raised in the way Ms. Griego describes her house.

Because the alternative is a taller wall, and a deeply disturbed generation of girls on the other side.


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