I have been thinking about this for a long time. On the one hand, boys and young men are falling behind so rapidly that I have been blogging about "save the males." On the other hand, I have also been blogging about how heterosexuality, which is the overwhelming sexual identity and behavior, then translates into even the loser guys having an easier time in contrast to young women--who have to now fiercely compete for their man.
Girl power seems to be increasingly measured in terms of sexuality.
American girls may appear to be “among the most privileged and successful girls in the world,” she writes, but thanks to the many hours they spend each day in an online culture that treats them—and teaches them to treat themselves—as sexual objects, they are no more, and perhaps rather less, “empowered” in their personal lives than their mothers were thirty years ago.This has been my worry too. Even on campuses and in public social spaces, young women seem to be hypersexualized than ever before. The weather warms up and the skimpiest of hotpants are de rigueur, it seems.
Even in the Olympics, which I did not watch--of course--I did notice in the sports pages that while male track and field athletes wear shorts and vests that are tight and long covering most of their bodies that we relate to sexuality, many of the female athletes are covered with gear that is only a little more than a two-piece bikini. Apparently the female beach volleyball team even voted to wear only the skimpiest minimum--even though the bikini is not a requirement!
If everywhere we turn it is the sexualized image of women, then?
The unsparing gaze that social media train on girls’ sexuality—the supreme value that they place on being sexually appealing—engenders a widespread female anxiety about physical appearance that is highly conducive to “self-objectification,” Sales claims. All of her interview subjects agree that on sites like Instagram and Facebook, female popularity (as quantified by the number of “likes” a girl’s photos receive) depends on being deemed “hot.” “You have to have a perfect body and big butt,” a fifteen-year-old from the Bronx observes grimly. “For a girl, you have to be that certain way to get the boys’ attention.”Teenage biology points to the direction of sex. In this, I am not sure whether young women today are better off than those in the past:
Some of the misery of teenage girls’ sexual experiences is attributable, Orenstein contends, to the “hookup culture” in which sex, “rather than being a product of intimacy…has become its precursor, or sometimes its replacement.” (Rates of female orgasm are much lower for casual encounters, she notes, than for sex that takes place within committed relationships.) Another contributing factor, she suggests, is the part that pornography now plays in determining normative standards of teenage sexual behavior.The pressure that girls and young women must feel to look good 24x7, day after day means that they are continuing to respond to the male-defined world even though boys and young men are rapidly falling behind when it comes to successful schooling and other responsibilities of that age? Will the young women really feel confident to say no when the situation warrants it, or will they say yes only because of the intensity of the pressure and the competition?
In such a context, it does not help when the presidential candidate of the "family values" party loudly says things that are outrightly misogynistic but which get him loud applause and cheers from his adoring millions of supporters. After all, if the overwhelming majority do not think for themselves, then they will only imitate the behavior and thinking of "leaders," right?
I suppose I should be relieved that I do not have a young girl to raise and worry about!