mercredi, mars 26, 2008
My piece from the Inquirer today
Lots of helping hands needed
The culture makes it hard for a girl to grow into a woman.
> A few days ago, I made a reconnaissance mission through the living room to check out what my daughter was doing on our family computer.
> I stole up behind her chair and looked over her shoulder.
> Scanning the minuscule blue shorts and matching top that barely covered her virtual form on a Web site in which she was engrossed, I told my parochial school seventh grader to change the outfit immediately or delete the Web site.
> Upon closer inspection, I discovered that what I thought was an innocent fashion-oriented Web site was also a rendezvous point for male icons with names like "Screw-your-mother."
> It was a moment of truth for both of us.
> From the sexual opportunism of a rap songs (Ludacris' ditty "Money Maker," popular a few years ago, still gives me the creeps) to the more recent news that 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears was pregnant by her older boyfriend, girls are overwhelmed with negative messages about what it means to be young, American and female.
> As the mother of a girl on the cusp of what may be her most vulnerable years, I am dismayed that we haven't made more progress in creating a healthy social environment for our daughters.
> Instead, many parents seem to have bought into the hyper-sexualized media culture - or thrown up their hands and abandoned the arena.
> When I spoke to my daughter about the Spears family melodrama, she made an astute comment. "You don't hear much about Jamie's parents, Mom - except that her sister, Britney, thinks her mom slept with her boyfriend."
> To be candid, I wish I didn't feel the need to have conversations about good choices, chastity and autonomy every other week. But as long as my daughter is willing to engage in them as an equal (or almost equal) partner, we're going to continue to have them.
> Given the plethora of bad examples out there, we have no shortage of material.
> In the recent sex-for-hire scandal involving Eliot Spitzer, then governor of New York, and 22-year-old Ashley Alexandra Dupre, one has to ask: Who was the real victim?
> Was it the wealthy man who was outed by a newspaper and forced to resign? Or was it the young woman who says she escaped a broken home, experienced drug addiction and homelessness, and turned to prostitution to pay the rent?
> Across college campuses, many young female students from relatively affluent middle-class families are being confronted with a "hook-up" culture that demands that they participate in casual sex if they are going to be popular.
> The damage being done to our kids crosses socioeconomic lines. I have listened to tales of sexual abuse, child abandonment and feuding parents from young stylists at the hair salon that almost moved me to tears.
> As parents, we need to be much bolder in holding our media and schools accountable in promoting healthy values - and we also have to take a long, honest look at our own choices.
> What do you watch? What kind of company do you keep? How do you act?
> Don't worry that showing persistent interest and setting rules makes you persona non grata with your daughter; it won't. Sometimes we also have to admit we are clueless and need help.
> I have found Dr. Walt Mueller's Center for ParentYouth Understanding (www.cpyu.org) to be an invaluable resource in educating me about movies, music and other media that are part of the youth culture.
> When my artsy daughter yearns for the Abercrombie & Fitch outfits and persona that she thinks would make her instantly chic, I tell her that she will never simply be an "Abercrombie girl."
> I have to trust that in time, she will learn from her parents, her friends and her church that it is a wonderful blessing to be strong and confident, creative and opinionated.
> It is my responsibility to help her claim her gifts, but it is also my great privilege.
Elizabeth lives and writes in Glenmoore.