Friday, August 13, 2010

"Keeping Up With The Girls" A Guest Post on Chicago Tribune website

The below article caught my attention. I have pasted some of the more interesting portions or the article below, but you can read the full article (here).

August 13, 2010 Chicago Tribune on-line by Meghan Daum

Are girls growing up too fast? And will the trend toward precocious sexual development be the final nail in the coffin of male domination?...

...Or so it may seem to an ordinary 8-year-old boy, who may view these girls not only in the way boys traditionally have — as bossy, slightly alien carriers of cooties — but as something even more terrifying: women. Or at least women-in-the-making.

In case you didn't know, the culture has found itself in the throes of a terrible scourge: the "masculinity crisis." Perhaps first identified a decade ago in Susan Faludi's book, "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man," and since then reinforced by writers such as David Brooks and Christina Hoff Sommers (who identified a sub-scourge she calls the war on boys), this "crisis" stems largely from changes brought on by the global economy. In the post-Industrial Age, traditionally male skills like operating heavy machinery have been all but usurped by traditionally female skills like communicating; hence, more men have lost jobs in the current recession. In a recent Atlantic magazine article called "The End of Men," Hanna Rosin noted that women now earn 60 percent of all bachelor's and master's degrees. There's even evidence, Rosin wrote, that U.S. couples seeking sex selection for their children show a preference for girls.

Will that change when would-be parents realize they might be contending with an unwieldy mix of hormones before their princess has grown out of "My Little Pony"? Probably not. It's probably also a stretch to draw too close a connection between premature sexual development in girls and what some people (generally using Judd Apatow movies as Exhibit A) maintain is an epidemic of arrested development in boys and men. After all, girls have always matured faster than boys, and until very recently, males were able to catch up quite nicely.

But as we go about the essential business of dealing with this situation for girls, and how to stop it, perhaps it's worth extending some sympathy toward boys. In a world in which it's already so easy to feel diminished by the achievements of girls, this widening gulf in physical maturity just might have the effect of kicking them while they're down.
Alvy Singer would sympathize.
Los Angeles Times

Meghan Daum is an essayist and novelist in Los Angeles.

I think there a few aspects being discussed within Ms. Daum's article. I appreciate her discussion of looking at this research on the sexual and physical development of girls and not only how it may affect young girls but also their male peers. Let me first say to my Lesbian sisters this post is important to me because I do believe as woman we need to understand not only each other, and to quote Turtle Woman, the incredible sisterhood we need to continue to build, but also the way in which we teach and include our male peers.

First, the very obvious is what affect will early development have on our young girls. I told Andrew once that when/if we have children I want for them to live in their "child imaginary" worlds for as long as we can protect that time in their lives. My father didn't exactly have the most ideal childhood and because of that felt that it was vital that we (his children) were able to discover everything there was about being kids. He loved, and still does, everything Disney because with it came the magic of being children.

I feel as a society we have asked our children to grow up and be independent. To fit into adult life and take on the complexity of our grown up baggage sooner then children are ready. We have stopped encouraging what it means to be children, to dream, imagine, believe, pretend, and day dream. With all of that said if our young girls are now developing earlier and being thrust into our over sexualized world sooner then they are ready to handle with all of the confusion and maturity that must accompany sex in general, then I ask what are we to do as a society and especially as women? I do not have children and I do not know the appropriate times to have certain discussions, but what I can say from my own experiences is that we need to open the discussion but in the same place I believe as a society we also need to allow children to be children. Young girls will eventually be women sooner then later and will have to face everything that comes with being a woman. How do we talk about her body, expectations, and imagination because according to the article she is only 7 or 8?

Secondly for young men, as women I do believe we must begin to lead by example, teach, challenge, and speak to young men on what it means to be a partner in this life with other women and with each other. We in our fight for equality can not take away what it means to be men and the importance of who God intended for men to be. There needs to be an understanding and encouragement on our parts to uplift this next generation of men to be just as strong as we are asking our your women to also be. Perhaps we have a great opportunity to understand the variances between men and women and truly begin to shape how they work within balance to one another.

Perhaps feminism is not only the fight for equality for women, but eventually a fight for balance as well. A fight to celebrate in what makes us different and how each gender is as significant to this world as the other whether that is within corporations, home, communities, and/or church.


Super Spy For Jesus said...

My 8 year old has a third grade teacher this year that actually really fosters her students being kids. I was just telling my hubby yesterday how much I appreciate that. They are silly and sing silly songs and they don't have to wear shoes in their classroom. My favorite teacher of all time was my fifth grade teacher who taught me how to do research reports and at the same time have an imagination. We wrote and illustrated a children's book that year. Mine was about a kids who went down the drain in the bathtub and found a whole other world underneath. I think I love Disney for the same reasons exactly that your Dad does. I lived like a little grown up during my growing up years.

So all of this to say that I think building strong daughters should not come at the expense of growing strong sons. My son is always wanting to really understand - even at nine, what it means to be a "man." Does it mean you drive a car someday? Do you have a family and be a Dad?

We were meant to live in the tension. We were meant in the garden to be two halves of a whole. Both sexes needed and desired to accomplish what God needed us to. Both living as a reflection of our Creator.

We have lost that through the years and instead have lived in a power struggle. One trying to "outdo" the other. I think we need in Christ to figure our way back. Back to a place where we understand that we were each created unique with a purpose and a plan. All of us are needed as different pieces of the puzzle.

Believe me the conversations start on their own. Your kids ask questions and you can choose to ignore them. But, if you do then they will ask someone else.

I may not have all the answers- but I do know that I would like to be the one who tries and tries to let them hear the truth.

Turtle Woman said...

Hanah Rosen's article in the Atlantic has been thoroughally discredited on a lot of feminist websites Brenda.

The change in graduate degrees and advanced degrees somehow doesn't translate into women flooding into tenured teaching positions at major universities. While women may be under the illusion that an advanced degree will... well advance you, men still control the jobs, the access, the grants and the endowments.

As for feminism, I don't meet men who are up on feminism or even mildly well read in the subject. I don't do 101 classes anymore, and really enjoy women's groups. I'm not really interested in the welfare of men or boys, I am concerned about the full citizenship of women, and the building of lesbian nation. Those are my two top concerns.

Even most straight women I know are so relieved to be out of male spaces, so that they are free to network, and free of the sexism men bring everywhere with them. I'm often surprised that the straight women's groups are far more feminist and woman centric than even lesbian groups these days. And straight women are far more outraged about sexism, sexual harassment and pornography too. Since I live a pretty male free existence, and love this life, it doesn't surprise me that those who are exposed to the problem day in and day out would be more outraged.

The biggest slight of hand of male supremacy, is to convince women to not work for our own interests as a number one priority. They always want to steal our energy, and that is just not what I want in my life.

Look to the jobs as the bottom line. Even in liberal seminaries, where women are the preponderance of students, you don't see the equivalent numbers of women getting top slots at major Episcopal churches, for example. I've been trying to get actual numbers out of the Episcopalians as to total number of women vs. men in pastor positions for years, and the won't release this information. I wonder why.

Follow the jobs, follow the money, as Woodward and Berstein famously said about Watergate. Hey, I quoted two men! Better hide from the lesbian police :-)

Brenda S. Marin said...

Super Spy for Jesus - Thank you as always for sharing your heart, wisdom and life stories with us. They are greatly appreciated.

Turtle women - I respect and appreciate all that you also bring to this discussion. Although I recognize that many jobs in the executive levels and those especially in the tenured teaching positions are disproportionate to males I see slow shifts all around me. I was discussing with my husband that after this generation of my parents is no longer in power or a majority I wonder what this world will look like. Trust me as you know I have higher education and I am finding it has done little for me as I know I am still looked down upon for being female. I feel it in every interview especially in this bad economy. It exists from men but sadly from women as well.

Perhaps the woman quoted in this article has been discredited by many feminists, but the point at least to me remains the same and is based on many observations with in my life that young men are being left behind and not shown a good example as to what is expected of them and how they need to treat women especially in the broader Christian Evangelical world.

As a straight Christian feminist woman I am responsible not only for the females in my life, but also those males that I have intimate relationships with and believe they too should be successful. I cannot live in an only female world because that is not me. I want to change the world that I am a part of and know that I can learn so much from all the women who have come before me.

Not only am I fighting for equality today, but for balance tomorrow.