What happens when you take one delusional nostalgia-peddler in a twinset, one accomplished young female journalist, and one public radio host, mix in a few splashes of princess culture, a liberal application of slut-shaming, a twist of incoherence, and a backhanded, condescending ad hominem attack? You get a matronly lecture from the fuzzy mind of Caitlin Flanagan, who warns radio listeners that unless they're careful parents, their daughters might end up like Salon writer Irin Carmon.
Flanagan appeared on NPR's On Point yesterday to shill her new book "Girl Land." In the book, Flanagan argues that thanks to the internet (and probably liberals), girls are being robbed of their precious fluffy girlishness, and that in order to keep girl children— our soft, Comic Sans angels who need to be protected and sheltered from the terrible world of men— we must shelter them. Parents need to keep the internet out of kids' bedrooms, because otherwise the kids will learn about porn and everything will be ruined. Dads need to get involved in their daughters' dating lives— because every man in the world is out there to rape ladies, except for Dads. Protecting girls will prepare them for a life of subservient, husband-obeying Caitlin Flanagan-hood. And is there anything better than growing up to be exactly like Caitlin Flanagan?
Carmon was understandably skeptical of this assertion, arguing on On Point that the "kids these days" problem isn't one that will be solved by protecting girls from the awful, awful world, but by reexamining how boys are raised and preparing women for impending adult reality with accurate, honest information. Girls should be informed and empowered, not sheltered and coddled.
Seems reasonable, right? If you want to go camping, before you set out into the wilderness, make sure you have the tools, equipment, and expertise you need in order to avoid being eaten by a bear or sleeping in a collapsed tent in the rain. If you want your daughter to live as a fully realized, in-control adult, maybe help her build strength and capacity to remain self-actualized in the face of social forces that may seek to tear her down or reduce her. No one fetishizes the innocence of pre-camping, but once there's a hymen involved, everybody freak out!
Flanagan didn't respond well to Carmon's challenge, asking her if she had ever dated in high school. When Carmon was cut off after saying that some of the guys she went out with in high school weren't nice, Flanagan seized on that fact, holding Carmon up as an example of What Can Happen to Girls if we Arm Them With Knowledge Before Heading Out Into The World. Carmon's was a cautionary tale of girlhood innocence robbed! Flanagan appealed to Carmon, asking what "we" could have done better, as parents, to make Carmon's childhood somehow less awful and damaging.
Irin Carmon, by the way, is a graduate of Harvard, a well-traveled and respected writer, an alumna of this very website. But heaven forbid our little girls turn out like her. Let's aim to turn them into little princesses, so that they too may one day grow up to be outshone in a debate by someone young enough to be their daughter.