Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Who is colonizing whom?

In a recent issue of New York Review of Books, Zoe Heller discusses books by Nancy Jo Sales and Peggy Orenstein.  Heller's wording strikes me as good, cautious, open-minded stuff.  Both books are about the current lives of American girls, ages about 13 to 18 or so. By the standards of my parents, grandparents and me, current ideas and current language are looser and less restricted than they were.  Sales' book is explicitly about social media, such as Facebook, and what girls experience there and say there.  And, yes, post there.

Boys currently seem to be as interested in girls' bodies as any previous generation has been.  Girls seem to be as interested in attracting male attention as they ever were.  But both of those sentences can stand many qualifications and conditions.  Just as such sentences needed reining in when applied to previous generations.

I read some of Heller's review to Lynn who is a greatgrandmother and a woman who knows the world.  As Heller quoted wails by Sales and Orenstein about girls allowing themselves to engage in sexual acts and working to rate many "Likes" on Facebook, Lynn said it could be said that the girls are objectifying the boys.  I thought that was a brilliant and useful thing to say, especially coming from a woman who loves freedom, authenticity and truth.  As a boy and as a man, I have felt that it is fairly easy to turn me into a slavering, drooling robot bewitched by a body, some skin, some hair and a voice.

Heller wisely cautions that every generation felt it was the first to experience the twists and turns of attraction and sex and life while becoming convinced that the generation or two after were on the slippery slope to complete chaos.  Both Sales and Orenstein try the independent model, based on good old American "stand on your own two feet" theme, and bewail what looks to them like girls are selling themselves out just to be approved.  I was recently reminded of my own lack of independence when a character in the show "Blue Murder" needed to quickly cover up the fact that he was secretly a police officer, in prison in the hope of hearing rumors and information as to who dunit.  When listeners approached as he was talking to fellow officers back in the office, he changed his conversation to pretend he was talking to a girl friend.  In order to sound like every other guy, he began describing how she should be dressed and not dressed on her next prison visit.  He described exactly what I have long thought as the best outfit for minimum coverage and maximum access.  I could tell that I am just a robot and have a very standard program.

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