Pregnant with a girl? Allow me to introduce your new friend/tormentor: Peggy Orenstein, writer, mother, and master of the “Why Being a Girl Sucks” beat at the New York Times. Orenstein has a girl herself, and her articles delve into the kinds of things that keep mothers of daughters up at night (even before the daughters are born). Sometimes she succeeds in talking herself down, taking us all down with her: Her piece on the Princess phenomenon left me feeling way less stressed about the inevitable onslaught. But yesterday’s essay on the ever-lowering age of sexualized girlhood was not quite so calming.
Inspired by the recent distribution of a certain video of young girls in wildly inappropriate attire apparently imitating strippers (er, exotic dancers) without poles, Orenstein takes on the new too-young sexuality, which has been demoted from teenhood to tweenhood. The most concerning part of her essay was the idea that this early bumping and grinding causes a disconnect between the motion and the connotation. It’s all fine and fun until someone loses the ability to connect swiveling hips with actual sexual feelings, and starts thinking being perceived as sexy is all there is.
It would be one (sad) thing if everyone was breaking this link. But while these moves are losing their sexual connotation for the girls dancing them, what’s happening to the boys (and, lord help us, the men) watching them? I did not take my child to the recent Chipmunks movie for many reasons—partly because the sound of those sped up voices makes me want to claw my face off— but also because I couldn’t bear to see those baby chipmunk girls wagging their tails to Beyoncé. People argued that the imitation was all cute and funsy, but the preview seemed to indicate a certain appreciation from Alvin and Friends. And I suspect it might be touching some testosteroney button in our boys as well.
Gestation is a long way from gyrating grade schoolers. But for lots of women, bringing a girl into this situation is scary stuff. And given a little inspiration, we can all spin out. If the culture is getting desensitized to sexualized seven year olds, where will we be by the time our baby daughters are seven?