"Girls today are growing up in an atmosphere of unapologetic crudity," notes Guardian writer Amelia Hill, who argues that the oversexualization of society has had an incredibly negative impact on the lives of teenage girls.
Hill's piece, titled "After Feminism: What Are Girls Supposed To Do?" focuses on the increasingly difficult lives of teenage girls, and how hard it's become to navigate those tricky years thanks to societal pressures regarding success, sexuality, and intelligence. The consistently mixed messages being sent to young girls, Hill notes, have lead to an increase in eating disorders, behavioral problems, and "risky behaviors" amongst the already vulnerable population: "Who, after all, wouldn't feel confused and unhappy being raised in this brave new world that demands super-skinny, super-sexy and super-brainy all at the same time?"
It's hard not to be slightly disturbed by Hill's piece: even if your initial reaction to most "will somebody please think of the children?!" type articles falls somewhere along the "calm down" or "no shit, Sherlock" scale, Hill's piece reminds the reader that the rapid changes in technology, sex becoming incredibly mainstream, and the celebrity-inspired narcissism leading many to become increasingly concerned about status and fame, have come together to create a perfect storm of teenage confusion as far as asserting one's identity goes.
While my reaction to many "teen panic!" type articles is to recall the media freakouts of my own teenage years (we were all having sex parties in the late 90s, apparently?) and give young women the benefit of the doubt as far as being able to sort out such mixed messages goes, it is difficult to deny that girls today face an incredibly different world, one obsessed with the idea that everyone has to be a rock star and a porn star and a movie star all at once, all in their everyday lives. Attempting to find a sense of self within a culture that consistently pushes women to try to be someone else must be incredibly frustrating.
However, the one component missing from Hill's article seems to be teenage boys: surely, these boys are receiving the same mixed messages, and focusing on the impact said messages have on girls most likely won't be effective unless their male peers are also given healthier views on sexuality, beauty, and societal pressures. "The message is that for modern teenage girls the encouragement to do better, look better and have more has become almost unbearable," Hill writes. "They need help and they need it urgently – not only for themselves but for the next generation, whose mothers they will be." It wouldn't be a terrible thing if the next generation's fathers had a healthier perspective as well, no?
While Hill ends her piece noting that teenage girls "need help," she provides little information as to what that "help" might actually entail. I'm not sure "help" can be delivered to teenage girls in particular until the adults in today's society stop for a second and consider the messages our consumerist culture is sending: but sex sells, and fame is a global obsession, and women are still being placed into highly marketable boxes in order to push skewed ideas as well as products. Until society in general refocuses its priorities, it seems as though teenage girls will continue to face increasing pressures and terribly mixed messages. What do you think, commenters? What is the best way to reach out to teenage girls? And how do we, as society, continue challenging the mixed messages being sent to women of all ages?
After Feminism: What Are Girls Supposed To Do? [The Guardian]
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