Earlier this year, Marie Claire magazine interviewed author of Girl Land Caitlin Flanagan about America’s War on Girls. While I don’t normally jive with MC’s articles on sexuality, this article rang to true to much of what we talk about on this blog, so I thought I would share a few excerpts from what Caitlin Flanagan shared, and I would love to get your feedback.
We’ve never had a culture that’s more predatory toward or more contemptuous of girls. [The culture says] “We’re going to empower you, but we’re also going to have songs on the radio about how we’re on your knees servicing men.” The more we protect girls from this pornography-drenched culture, the better off they’ll be as women. [When asked about Rihanna and Beyonce, she said], “I don’t see anything negative about Beyonce. I loved “Single Ladies”. She sort of sang, “Marry Me.” I thought that was a sexy way of giving a conservative message. But Rihanna kind of disturbs me. Her song with Eminem, “Love the Way You Lie,” suggests that there’s something romantic about a man trying to restrain his physical passion—in a sense—from beating her—and I don’t think that’s good.
When asked about whether girls are more control of their sexuality now than in the past, Flanagan said, “Take the Bristol Palin example. A girl can get pregnant, and if she doesn’t have an abortion, she doesn’t have to be sent to a home for wayward girls. But I think girls are making decisions without much guidance. They know more about putting on a condom at age 12 than grown women do, but they’re not morally or emotionally guided… Girls could use more supervision from parents. We owe them that”.
On social media, Flanagan suggests that parents should not allow their kids to have Internet connections or be online and tech-connected when they are in their rooms, explaining “With Facebook and Twitter, girls have to deal with unrelenting social lives. In 11th grade, I had the goofiest bright-green sweat suit and would zip myself into it when I came home. I could have a snack and sit in my room for two hours and be totally comfortable and not have to be Cait Flanagan. [Today, kids] come home to iChat, and it never ends. They need a social break.”
I agree that we are forcing our girls (and boys) to grow up too fast—introducing mature themes, content and behaviors into their lives, and their brains are simply not mature enough to keep up. Additionally, parents are either disengaged or uninformed when it comes to protecting their kids from online content, like pornography, and from the general sexualization of the culture. So many parents assume that their kids can figure it out on their own, and as a result, our young girls and boys are engaging in a lot of risky behavior and risky sexual practices. Parents must help their kids navigate both the online and offline world, and it’s up to us to protect them from the content that they aren’t ready to handle. Start a conversation today with your son or daughter about healthy sexuality. Also, consider using parental controls (especially a filter, we recommend SafeEyes or our X3watchPRO) to help protect your kids online from content like pornography. Finally, keep all Internet access and media-time out in the open, in the family room or kitchen, and when sexual content or mature themes come up, use the invasion as a teachable moment and an opportunity for continued dialogue.