Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What are we teaching the next generation?

I love the fact that so many companies are using ad campaigns to try and change the way society looks at, and thinks about, beauty. So many young girls develop self esteem issues partly due to the images of women that we see in magazines and tv and in the movies. I know there has been a lot of talk about ways that society can encourage girls to have higher self esteem, to accept themselves for who they are and to love themselves. When my second grade and kindergarten boys had their school pictures taken I was appalled to see that they offer airbrushing and touch-ups! For elementary school pictures? Really?? We hear about designers focusing more on "real" sizes instead of the ultra thin girls. Some runway shows wont even use the incredibly slim models because they are trying to emphasize that most girls/women are not a size 0 or smaller. There are many celebrities that have done photo shoots without makeup to show girls that they shouldn't expect to naturally look like what they see in the media. That's great! But are there other things and attitudes in society that also teach us to think less of ourselves?

When a girl has a low self esteem issue she doesn't just wake up one morning as an adult and all of those issues are gone. On the contrary those feelings last far longer into womanhood than any of us would care to admit, and they often get worse with age. I think that most women would even agree that we are harder on ourselves and on other women than we would ever be on a man. And there is absolutely no doubt that women are allowed to be more critical and harsher on another woman than a man would ever be allowed to be!

Most of the media attention that we see regarding self esteem is focused on changing our perception of outer beauty. But I don't think that is the only place where we hurt ourselves, and the next generation. I think there are a couple of attitudes that are prevalent in society which are harder to recognize but are just as destructive. Over the past several weeks I have heard some conversations that have really bothered me and I've been thinking about them a lot. In fact, I've written and re-written this post so many times that I've lost count. I want to express my opinion in a way that doesn't just sound like a rant, but I'm having a difficult time doing that, so hear me out with an open mind please.

A couple of weeks ago I overheard a conversation between some teenagers. There was a girl who was very upset because her boyfriend had cheated on her. He slept with someone else and she found out about it.  She was complaining to another guy about this situation and his response was: "you have to understand. For us guys one vagina gets really old". Blah blah blah. I have heard this excuse many times so I wasn't so surprised to hear him claim that it's impossible for guys/men to be faithful. What really surprised me, and actually disgusted me, was her response to that. She actually said: "Well then don't tell someone you are going to be faithful to them. Just be honest that it's just sex. Don't have a relationship with a girl". WHAT?? Why do we just accept that males are incapable of controlling their hormones? Do we truly believe that it's harder for guys to keep their pants on than it is for girls? I don't believe that for a moment! Not only do adult women accept, and even expect, this of adult men but as a society we have taught our daughters that they shouldn't expect guys to be able to control themselves. Society expects everyone to have control over their actions...but we believe that males don't have the ability to control their sexual urges? If they physically or mentally are incapable of controlling their sexual urges then why are rape and molestation a crime? Isn't that just more proof that males are not capable of controlling their urges?

The next conversation I heard was on tv and they were discussing a case where a woman has been "outed" as a Madam. The discussion was centered on whether or not the client list should be released also. There were opinions on both sides. One person said that they thought it was a great idea that the list be released because for years the women have been embarrassed and the "Johns" have gotten off scott free. The opposing view is what grabbed my attention, and quite frankly it made me sick. This is what was said: "The reason I disagree is that we don't really know what is going on in these men's homes. We don't know if they're not getting any sex, we don't know if they're unmarried, we don't know if they have trouble at home... And there are some states where prostitution is legal, so I'm not sure that to release these names and cause that kind of pain and hurt and divorce and shame is a good thing". (I actually paused the show and typed it word for word just to make sure I got it correct)

WHAT??? Are you kidding? This is not a teenager talking either. This is a prominent woman, older than I am, who is now not only giving "Johns" a pass for breaking the law (where prostitution is illegal) but she is implying that their wives/girlfriends, whoever, could be partly to blame for their criminal act! That is why their names are going to be released. Not because someone has said this is morally wrong and you should be embarrassed or shamed. But because it is ILLEGAL. Someone who is arrested often gets their name in the newspaper. There is a section of most newspapers where you can read a list of arrests and those arrests can occur for breaking traffic laws clear up to murder. So do men who break the law and hire a prostitute deserve, need to be protected from public scrutiny? What about the woman who everyone now knows is a Madam? What if she was having trouble at home and needed money to support her family and this is how she chose to handle that? What if her husband isn't satisfying her sexually? What if she is trying to provide for a terminally ill family member? What about the pain and hurt and shame that this brings on her and her family? Maybe no criminal behavior should ever be reported for fear of the pain and hurt it might bring on the family of the criminal.

Will there really be more pain and hurt caused by releasing the names of these clients than there is when the name of a serial rapist or serial killer is released? Or how about the names of the shooters at Columbine or the theater in Colorado. What about the man or woman who embezzles money from the company they work for or own? What about the pain and hurt and embarrassment and shame that their parents, siblings, spouses, children, other family members and friends felt?

Both these conversations made me feel like we still put a man's wants, desires and pride ahead of a woman's. We allow society to blame and punish women for men's actions. It's just like blaming a rape victim for the rape. Why don't we stop accepting and promoting this attitude? Why don't we teach our daughters to expect more of males? Why don't we hold guys to the same standard we hold girls in regards to self control? If girls are sleeping around they are called tramps or whores or sluts, to name just a few. Derogatory terms are not used in connection with a guy who is sleeping around. This is not new. This has been the attitude for generations. Women are strong enough to stand up and say we want equal job opportunities, we want equal pay, but we can't demand the same standards in personal behavior from men?

These are not the attitudes that I want my daughter raised with. This is not what is acceptable in my home. The women I hear promoting these attitudes on tv and in the media are self proclaimed feminists. Am I totally off or does this fly in the face of feminism? Why are we still teaching girls that "boys will be boys" and to just live with it and accept it and expect it?

I wanted so badly to run over to the teenage girl and say "Don't devalue yourself so much. Do not accept that he is incapable of being faithful but he expects you to remain faithful to him. He needs to treat you with respect and you need to demand that respect." I wanted to call in to the woman on tv excusing the "Johns" and say "Hey, he broke the law just like she did. He deserves to be treated just like she is treated. If you don't want his name released then don't be releasing her name either!" So many women have eating disorders and weight problems because of low self esteem and we are adding to that problem by placing ourselves as second class citizens, at the mercy of a man's urges and desires. I feel so strongly that we need to stand up and say no! I will not accept that a male is incapable of using the brain in his head to make his decisions. I will not accept that he cannot control his hormones. I do not accept that male hormones create stronger urges than female hormones. If I can control myself then so can you!

Obviously I am passionate about this and I'm sorry for a rant but this hits very close to home for me. This attitude of "boys will be boys" had so much to do with my personal weight gain (if you missed that entry you can read it Here) and I personally know other woman who have been affected the same way so it really irritates me to hear women making the excuses for men. They don't even have to attempt to have self control unless it could be considered rape or sexual harassment or molestation. We don't expect it out of them and we don't even make them come up with their own excuses, we provide the excuses for them.

What do you think? Am I over sensitive? Or do these attitudes and excuses hurt us and the future generation?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post! You are so right that in our society there is not only too much focus on outer beauty, but also the attitude that men shouldn't be held to the same standard as women.

    I too have tried really hard to raise my daughters and sons to have positive self-images and be accountable for their actions.