Hey teenage girls, it's been a while...

Over and over we wax and wane poetically about adolescence gone askew as Fox News sends out headline after headline crying the plight of our troubled youth. Fox News cannot save the next generation, and although, my beautiful teenage girls, you are frequently dismissed as superficial and inadequate, I do believe you can solve the problems of the future despite being pegged as one of the present.

"Our girls nowadays, oh no! They're dressing scandalously, they're scary skinny they have low self esteem. BACK IN MY DAY...." Back in your day women baked cupcakes, gave birth to beautiful children and... were generally not encouraged to be educated and frequently the victims of horrific violent actions then considered maybe not acceptable, but at least permissible.

My point is, no matter how far back you go, women have pretty much always been considered the weaker of the two genders. Blame society, blame anatomy, when the teenage girls of today look back for guidance they can only really seek it from a generation who has struggled some kind of sexist battle before. Nowadays it's different; to call everything fair would be blind, but it's not the same defined fight it was before. Feminists throughout changed laws, which are generally clear and well written out, but in the process they also changed the definition of a girl, and there will be no handbook provided for this.

It's healthy to have someone you can look up to and admire in times of moral crisis, but I frequently question the role models chosen by society for the young women of today. I don't even blame whoever is the current poster child of Disney for inevitably taking her clothes off any more, and have to laugh at those who are shocked by it.

"But MileyVanessaBrittneyInsertNameHere... my little darling looks up to her! She loves that show!"

So what? What does this starlet have to prove to your daughter? Who was the first person to say, "Oh you can act, you can sing, you are thus morally superior"? And why on earth did you fall for this person's grave mistake? In ancient Greece the philosophers and the actors were hardly in the same class, and we generally hold that society as a beacon of what is (primitively) rational and intelligent.

And yet we continue to hold mainly people who have a job in an industry known as entertainment up as pillars of ethics. Why can't we teach our girls that to like someone and to look up to someone is not the same thing? Even a few months ago I was under the delusion that this world lacked good female role models. I could not have been more mistaken. It may be hard to see the sun when there is smog in the air blocking the view, but the sun is still there, shining.

You can call me crazy for thinking every seven year old girl should learn at least some of the intricate, complex philosophical lessons of Simone de Beauvoir, but is it really more appalling then letting her sit mindlessly in front of stupid musical number after stupid musical number onscreen as the stars of it strip for magazines and comply to the desires of a perverted public thanks to a perverted corporation in their off hours? A girl will only produce results comparable to what she has been able to experience, so let her experience the genius of women at a young age. Don't sit her down with The Second Sex and ask her to let you know if she has any questions later... let her know who great women were, and what made them great. Take lessons, not quotations, and give them to her at a young age. Teach her that the definition of a woman is fluid, and "expressing urself!" is more than buying the right accessories.

This is not about being cultured, this is not about restricting her intake of a media you cannot keep her away from, this is laying the foundations of goodness and intelligent thinking so the next coked out starlet on the cover of The Inquirer is someone she thought was cool, not someone she thought was God. She might not understand those images when she sees them, and you might breath a sigh of relief when she forgets she asked "Mommy, what's a sex tape?" earlier, but you cannot pretend those misunderstood images did not make an impact on the shaping of her opinion and views on life.

It's much easier to slowly build a wall than to have to knock one down and start over again, so talk to her while she's young. Everyone makes different choices. You can make your own. Every human is relevant to society. You are a human. You are relevant. Those confusing thoughts and opinions you have, even when you role your eyes at me at call me lame, those are important, and I care about them. When you show that you are thinking for yourself and developing your own opinions, I see a light in your eyes that is incomparable to any other greatness, and I am truly proud of you.

I know it's hard to reach out and tell someone younger than you "this is what a woman isn't!" when you're hardly a woman, but displaying an affection and compassion to someone that you may have never shown yourself might just mean that you are that voice you needed but didn't have. If you don't teach the girls who matter to you how to think for themselves, some other outlet, possibly one much more sinister, will teach them how to think for it.
The greatest way to show you care is to care.
Go care today.

Always,
Mary

PS: This is totally inspired by Lee.

35 comments:

Audrey said...

Thank you, Mary, for such an insightful post. This is written wonderfully, and you have made a major point, and done it well. Thank you again!

Mary said...

Hey Audrey! Thanks, I needed that! I was feeling antsy about it and considered taking it down temporarily to be honest.

I appreciate your kind words.

jameson ruth said...

9 times out of 10, i could never read something this long. but when it's you talking, it's always so inspiring and intriguing that i make it through the whole thing, and want more. you're a brilliant writer and it's a pleasure to read your blog.

Emmy said...

How do you do it? Like, actually? Your writing is mind-blowingly inspirational at its worst and life-altering at its best. You talk about discovering amazing women in our society and little do you know that YOU are an amazing woman. Everyone should step into your shoes for a day, just to understand the wonderful way you perceive the world. This post has me tempted to print it out and years and years later dig it up, hand it to my daughter, and say "HERE. This is what being a great woman is all about."

Vanessa said...

You really are a great woman, Mary. Wonderful post.

infinite said...

a great post, Mary. the way you put forth what you want to say makes so much of a difference. everything affects little girls, and i hope that i'm the role model for my sisters that i wish i had.

the StReeT chanteuse said...

I love every word. and whole heartedly agree with the idea of informing these kids that Miley whats-her-face is in fact not god, and that its okay to have flaws.

as always an inspiration

xoxo The StReeT Chanteuse

jayne said...

very well written & amazing post! you speak the truth, Mary, if only more would listen!

If a mother is upset her child looks up to another partying starlette I would really ask the mother why she cannot seem to show her child positive role models?

I think entertainment is valuable in our crazy paranoid society, but obsession we have- Lindsay's lesbianism, Mary Kate's partying, Reese Witherspoons weight, etc is inappropriate. it even actually prohibits the entertainment industry from fully functioning if we know too much about celebs to the point where we can not watch their work without thinking of their own private lives. and you're right, actors were some of the least respected in Classic society, so what's the hype now?

iwanttheocean said...

Mary, you never fail to give me increased faith in my generation and my gender. Your blog is a joy!

Rebel Girl said...

Mary, I seriously love you for this. And (obviously) I agree, except that I couldn't word it half as well.
I really believe you're on to something genius with this, because it really is the media that influences how you feel about yourself, and that has to be changed. Portrayals of women in movies and magazines are never going to be kind to women, so women (especially girls and teens) need to learn that it's not what they watch, but what they do that makes them. Strong, intelligent women are everywhere, not just the handful in Hollywood. I think that the sort of self-less inspiration you get from seeing, for instance a passionate blogger, is far better than the kind you get from seeing a decadent movie star and thinking, "oh I have to be like THAT".

Oh and I showed my sister your blog and she LOVES it.

XO Lee

Annie said...

Mary, you are one in a million, I swear. Everything you said is beautiful and so, so true. Please, please, please never hesitate to share these kinds of things with us.

Amelia said...

I completely agree. Really every generation sees a lot of problems in the next generation (even though they had their own share) and it's terrible that they are so focused on the girls and in some ways blame them.

LeopardFreak said...

Wow. You're so... inspirational. I can't get over how well that was written. I truly do think you're one of a kind Mary and fantastic in many ways. I loved this piece. Please don't ever feel hesitant to post something like this again.

Malena said...

You're the best, seriously. This post was amazing and perfect, and I think everybody should read it and raise their children well.

joanne said...

wow, I think is one of your most powerful posts ever.

I understand what you are trying to say but what saddens me even more is that people our age or older than us still reckons women as second class gender.

Maud said...

oh mary. yes. just... yes. absolutely. completely. you're so right and articulate and reasonable. i love how you don't come across as ponderous or pompous, i love how you support your claims, i love how you allow girls to be girls and yet trust them enough to grow into women. i think that's part of the problem, isn't it? everyone pretty much knows how to be a girl, but who really knows how to be a woman anymore? all of these grown-up teenyboppers, vanessa and her ilk. they're in their 20s, but they act like children. i'm pretty sure girls think you're cool AND a role model (wait a sec... i'ma go grab my little sister and make her read this... hehehe).

Ashley said...

yes yes yes yes!!!!! I agree with you 500% on the idolizing actors/singers phenomenon of today's society. It doesn't make sense. They're not helping anyone.

http://fashionroadkill-halifax.blogspot.com

Katie said...

Absolutely Wonderful! Your an inspiring writer and woman. I have been lucky to be taught about great role models by my mother as when I was a baby she would put pictures of inspiring women in front of my jolly jumper and talk to me. I hope that a billion people mothers sisters friends read this and have a conversation about the super valid point you bring up.
Thank You!

Claire said...

I don't think I"ve ever come across such an insightful post. How can people look up to people in the media when role models can be found amongst your friends and family?

millie said...

You are absolutely inspiring Mary!! Thank you, for actually making sense. ;)

Isabel said...

Preach it, woman!

We talked about this in Women's Studies last year, about how women in the popular music industry are awful role models to young girls. One girl even went as far as to suggest censoring kids from watching shit like the Pussycat Dolls, but I disagreed, arguing that all we have to do is present alternative female role models and girls should gravitate to who they prefer. Why censor musics when there are amazing women out there, like PJ Harvey and Kathleen Hanna?

Grandma said...

What a lovely post Mary! I completely agree with you. I wrote a final paper last semester in English about television programming for children, and covered a few of the same ideas you wrote here. People laugh at me because I lead my life a certain way (hence the nickname), but its because I have dozens of little girls looking up to me! My dance students, a dozen cousins, and other younger dancers. Its really important for us as young women to take charge of our own lives.

Great post, very inspirational. I am sure I will keep this in mind for as long as I possibly can. <3

Grandma said...

My mom's idol is Princess Di, so I was fortunate in that way. Hopefully I do the same in the future!

dearilou said...

Amazing post. Really. Very inspiring. My favorite line is: "This is not about being cultured, this is not about restricting her intake of a media you cannot keep her away from, this is laying the foundations of goodness and intelligent thinking so the next coked out starlet on the cover of The Inquirer is someone she thought was cool, not someone she thought was God." You are a good writer.

Twobreadsplease said...

This is beautiful and so thoughtful, it was so brilliant to read. You put your thoughts across so clearly and eloquently. x

lydia said...

wonderful words. i agree completely with your view on all the disney stars gone "astray". i really think we, as women, need to tell this to girls. we should point them to better role models than stars they see on tv, and make sure they know no one is perfect.

Sadie said...

This was really good! Honestly. I come from a culture where women are only to take care of home, so I loved it... I'm so gonna translate this post to my mother, because she'll love it even more! When I was younger I couldn't understand it but now I thank my mother for giving me books instead of hours of tv...

Thank you!!

this wheel's on fire said...

Mary, thank you for such a wonderful, wonderful post! You are the queen of these beautiful write-ups :)

And if I could marry 500 Days of Summer, I would. Truly. :D

Lots of love xo

Sophia said...

Oh, what an excellent post! I love that your blog is so much more than just a superficial fashion blog. It kills me to see young girls try to "follow in the footsteps" of people like Britney Spears and Miley.

Thanks for spreading the word.

Talon said...

bravo.
i think it takes a younger person to explain the youth. so thanks for this great explanation!

beverley said...

WOW, this was amazing and insightful. Thank you very much Mary for being great role model :)

Little Clementine said...

Thank you. I agree completely and beyond.

Raigan said...

Goodness you're inspirational. I actually have this saved in several places now because i know that i'll need to refer to it someday when i'm babysitting or have a kid of my own someday!

Sometimes i wish i could've been your little sister :)

-Raigan

Shelby said...

your blog posts are always so wonderful. inspirational, infact.

Joanne said...

Such a wonderful post! I really like the part about thinking for yourself and how the sun is still shining! :)