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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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115 Responses

  1. sara
    sara November 20, 2005 at 1:00 pm |

    Hmmm.

    A lot of what the author says is over the top, but I see her point on some levels.

    Every time I walk by Vicky’s I see 13-yr-olds inside buying sexy little bras. And, I’m sorry, seeing a thong sticking out of some 8th-grade girl’s jeans is just trashy.

    I mean, I have to agree on some levels that I can’t believe some of these parents are letting these girls leave the house like this. After a year of teaching middle school and a year of watching a lot of pre-pubescent girls dress like something that they didn’t fully understand I don’t know who else to blame.

    I’m not saying go back to the days of fully covered no expression. I don’t know if I really know where the line is either.

    All I do know is I was shocked on a daily basis by how my students dressed, and I’m hardly a prude.

  2. jodi
    jodi November 20, 2005 at 2:01 pm |

    Nobody ever asks how parents can let their sons leave the house with their too-big jeans pulled down below their arse and their jockey shorts sticking out the top, but I don’t really see much difference between that and an exposed thong. Where’s the outcry over parents who let their sons wear “wife beater” shirts? (that people think it’s funny to call them that grosses me out beyond belief). It’s okay for boys to dress like a stereotype of a guy who pushes “his woman” around, but not okay for girls to dress like a stereotype of a woman who likes to be sexy. Right. The utopia is clearly here.

  3. Julia
    Julia November 20, 2005 at 2:03 pm |

    I agree with your critisims of the article’s author’s conclusions.

    However, you are missing the bigger picture. The problem is not “should girls dress more/less provacatively?”. The problem is “why do girls WANT to dress as eye candy?” From observing my daughter and her friends, want is the wrong word. NEED is more accurate.

    Is this really why we fought for sexual equality?

    I’ll probably link to your post, because I have more to say on this issue, but too much for a comment.

  4. Joel Sax
    Joel Sax November 20, 2005 at 2:50 pm |

    Maybe the dressing is not voluntary? What kind of mother is it to put a tank top/wife beater that says “Slut” over her child?

    Sounds like child molestor bait to me.

  5. Sally
    Sally November 20, 2005 at 2:56 pm |

    What kind of mother is it to put a tank top/wife beater that says “Slut” over her child?

    This is a slightly telling way of framing it, don’t you think? I take it that fathers are too busy off slaying wild beasts to take an interest in what their kids wear.

  6. EricP
    EricP November 20, 2005 at 3:00 pm |

    I think that on the individual level, the “why” is very simple. Everying else is doing it and when you are a teenager, you dress like your friends to identify with the group. As to why, it is available in stores, stores carry what is bought. The more innovative designers take what is popular now, make alterations see if it sells. If it doesn’t, they drop it, if it does, everyone copies it.

    Most teenagers don’t want to be “conservative” like their parents (I’m not talking politics here). They want to be cutting edge. When I was growing up all the girls wore tight clothing but overall it didn’t show a lot of skin. Those girls are now mothers and their daughters want to be less “conservative” than them.

    I’m sure some people can come up with an overall theory that involves the patriarchy but I think the answer is probably pretty simple. It is an evolution of what was worn before and older people simply forget what is like to be a teenager.

    I think that the best thing that parents can do is teach their kids to be confident and assertive and not to tollerate disrespect. If a parent has done that, who cares what they wear.

  7. EricP
    EricP November 20, 2005 at 3:06 pm |

    I don’t want to derail the conversation talking about the man’s side (Robert gets enough shit for that;-)). However if you want an example of teenagers dress in certain ways just because their friends do it, look at the boys. At least the girls for the most part are wearing nice looking clothes, the guys look like shit. I’m sure that the more self-aware among them know it. They dress like their friends to identify with their friends not because it looks the least bit good.

  8. Kelseigh
    Kelseigh November 20, 2005 at 3:30 pm |

    Am I the only one disturbed by the “I know teenage boys — I was one!” response? To my ears, it sounds downright creepy, dad all but explicitly saying “I’m taking the time to see you as a sexual object in just the same way, so I know what I’m talking about”. Fact is, in a case like this Dad’s running through all these perverse scenarios on his own, in a way he’d never do with his son.

  9. aldahlia
    aldahlia November 20, 2005 at 4:40 pm |

    A Letter to Ms. Dalton

    I read this.

    So…

    I wrote this:

    Ms. Dalton-

    I’m confused, mostly because your Washington Post piece didn’t make any kind of sense.

    1.) The clothes you’re complaining about are clothes for adolescents…

  10. EricP
    EricP November 20, 2005 at 4:42 pm |

    Am I the only one disturbed by the “I know teenage boys — I was one!” response? To my ears, it sounds downright creepy, dad all but explicitly saying “I’m taking the time to see you as a sexual object in just the same way, so I know what I’m talking about”. Fact is, in a case like this Dad’s running through all these perverse scenarios on his own, in a way he’d never do with his son.

    When my mother gave advice on how to deal with girls and how to treat them, that was disturbing. After all putting herself in the shoes of a girl the same age as I was at the time was creepy (what if she was having dirty thoughts). I remember how she told me I was a good looking buy, wow isn’t that fucked up. When my mother told that there was nothing embarassing about waking up with an erection (a started really young and she noticed that was walking around hunched over in the morning), that was completely inappropriate.

    Give me a break, just because a parent has a penis, doesn’t mean that they can’t talk to their daughters about sexual matters or sexuality. Just because a parent has a vagina doesn’t mean that they can’t talk to their sons about sexual matters or sexuality.

  11. aldahlia
    aldahlia November 20, 2005 at 4:49 pm |

    EricP–LMAO.

    There’s a scene in Clueless where Alicia Silverstone complains about “High School Boys clothes” which was just dead-on ten years ago. Honestly, they dress pretty much the same now (baggy pants, ratty shirt, clodhopping shoes), only with Horrible Hair. What is up with the HAIR! Every 15 year old guy I’ve run across in the last 2 years looks like the pictures of my Dad in the mid-70s that I made fun of as a teen.

  12. Kat
    Kat November 20, 2005 at 4:54 pm |

    My thing is, while I don’t agree with the sexualization of younger teens, I know it’s going to happen anyway. Why do they do it? Rebellion, the feeling of ‘coolness’, of liberation. I’m a freshman in college; eighth grade was not that long ago for me. I wasn’t one of the girls who dressed that way, being a non-entity and liking it that way — not to mention the body image issues that I am still not entirely rid of — but sometimes I wish I had been confident to have been those girls instead of the one hiding in the corner who rebelled by screaming at her parents and hiding in her room a lot.

    Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter what parents do, and what these people want to do. Teenage girls will dress (and act) “slutty” regardless. Fourteen is just That Age.

  13. Kyra
    Kyra November 20, 2005 at 5:23 pm |

    Women once complained about being reduced to sex objects. Now, their daughters are volunteering to be sex objects.

    No, they’re volunteering to be sexual beings.

    Objectification is what someone else does to you. But dressing a certain way because it makes you feel powerful and confident is not objectification. Certainly you’re still open to objectification by other people, but what others think of you does not matter as much as what you think of yourself. If you dress in a certain way to gain others’ approval, despite being uncomfortable with it or feeling dowdy or exposed or anything else unpleasant, that is sort of objectifying yourself—making yourself into something less than what you could be in order to please others, which is not so different from them mentally making you into something less in order to please themselves.

  14. Robert
    Robert November 20, 2005 at 6:06 pm |

    But dressing a certain way because it makes you feel powerful and confident is not objectification

    Right. Wearing “sperm dumpster” in glitter across your tits comes right after “win scholarship to Yale” in the how-to-empower-yourself handbook.

    This is peer pressure oriented around making sure that girls see themselves as sexual creatures, primarily for the benefit of men.

    Men create and enforce expectations of precocious and promiscuous sexual availability against a vulnerable class of women/girls – usually girls without access to non-sexualized approval from positive male role models within their own families – and those females in turn exert peer pressure against their sisters.

    The message to girls is very clear: you aren’t worth any attention for your brain, for your personality, for anything other than the sexual services you can provide, so get on the whore train. And don’t you dare try to be “better” than the rest of us – don’t you dare identify as smart or kind or hard-working or any other virtuous concept – slut it up, or be a pariah.

    And corporations like Abercrombie & Fitch are just happy to take their cut.

  15. Amy
    Amy November 20, 2005 at 6:18 pm |

    AMEN! This reminds me of a conversation I had a couple years ago with my cousin, who was maybe 8 or 9 at the time. We were in a clothing store and he picked up a midriff bearing shirt, mentioning that a girl in his class wore them to school all the time. I was shocked because I attended the same school a few years earlier, there’s no AC and it’s always 100 degrees in Sept and June, and we weren’t even allowed to wear shorts (the boys were–welcome to 1990’s rural public school hell). But my cousin mistook my amazement for disapproval, and he gave me the cutest little lecture about how if she wants to wear it, she can, and it’s nobody’s business. I was SOOOO proud of that little boy!

    I don’t think that it’s a good thing that we’re constantly encouraged to size each other up and scrutenize each other’s clothes and feel like we have the right to judge each other over it. I can tell, you, too, that most of the times I’ve been screamed at out of cars, and the ONLY times I’ve been cornered in the school hallway by a bunch of guys, I’ve basically been dressed more “modestly” than a nun. Which to me is all part of the same problem, sure, our society encourages young girls to dress in a very “sexy” way, but at the same time, trust me, one way or another you’ll face social sanction for either being “too sexy” or “not sexy enough,” it’s like female sexuality is only “allowed” to be expressed in a way that’s subject to male approval and control, or something, not owned by the woman herself. :) I wouldn’t love it if I had a daughter and she wanted to wear shirts with stripper slogans (well, to be honest, part of me would be very proud if my daughter, regardless of her body type, had enough confidence to walk down the street in something like that and take all the shit she’d inevitably get from strangers, because I’d never dare), but I’d be a lot happier if kids would respect each other and if older people would just laugh at some of the stupid teenage fashions instead of trying to invest them with all the power and significance that makes the poor kids “trash,” “sluts,” and “Lolitas.”

  16. EricP
    EricP November 20, 2005 at 7:17 pm |

    The message to girls is very clear: you aren’t worth any attention for your brain, for your personality, for anything other than the sexual services you can provide, so get on the whore train. And don’t you dare try to be “better” than the rest of us – don’t you dare identify as smart or kind or hard-working or any other virtuous concept – slut it up, or be a pariah.

    Every company out there is out to get the innocent little girls. The other girls that the innocent one is emulating are part of the conspiracy too. They are all out to get the last little “virgin” girl and turn her into a slut. It is like Invasion Of The Body Snatcher but with clothes. If a girl shows some chest, arm or leg, her brain will fall out. She’ll become some sort of mutant, man-pleasing slut.

    Give me a freaken break!

  17. heydt
    heydt November 20, 2005 at 7:30 pm |

    To be fair, I just came across an article a few weeks ago (sloppy poster that I am, I have no link for y’all) where a school was trying to ban a certain item of boy’s fashion… but to bring it full circle, the item in question was low-cut girls’ jeans…

  18. Lauren
    Lauren November 20, 2005 at 7:59 pm |

    a certain item of boy’s fashion… but to bring it full circle, the item in question was low-cut girls’ jeans…

    GIRL PANTS! They’re trying to ban boys from wearing “girl pants” at the school I student teach in. I actually have a massive post in the works about this exact thing. Keep an eye out.

  19. Julie
    Julie November 20, 2005 at 8:09 pm |

    I think the thong hanging out of your jeans look is really unattractive, personally. I sincerely doubt I would allow my daughter to wear that. To be fair, if I had a son, the chances of him getting out of the house with his pants hanging off his ass and his boxers hanging out are slim.
    I don’t know… I have always been a fairly conservative dresser. My parents are very strict and honestly, I never would’ve been allowed out of the house in 99% of today’s fashions. It stuck with me after I left, because the “worst” I’ll wear is a short skirt, and I can’t tell you the last time I did that. I don’t wear halters, tank tops, strapless shirts, midriff bearing shirts or tight clothing. I simply don’t, and never had, a figure where I could pull it off and look attractive.
    As far as the artcile, I do find it disturbing that children are dressing as eye candy. I am all for children learning about sexuality and having a healthy view of sex, but I don’t think my five year old needs to be experimenting with sex or trying to express her sexuality. There really needs a time for children to just kids, playing on the playground, watching cartoons, worrying about their ten minutes of homework and wondering if the opposite sex has cooties. They have their whole adult life to experience sex and all it’s wonders, they should be able to spend their childhoods just being kids. But that’s just my opinion.

  20. Amy
    Amy November 20, 2005 at 8:15 pm |

    Yes, Robert, because being a slut, ie having sex, is the worst thing on earth that you can be. You can’t possibly have normal sexual feelings (no such thing) and be kind or smart or hard working or, obviously, virtuous. (Well, if you’re female, that is.) Personality and brains are irrelevant. Your sexual activites define you absolutely; you’re a damn whore, not a reinvented Madonna. You’re just worthless and evil, evil to the core. And for those who degrade you and try to turn you into a pariah, hey, they’re not vicious and awful people, they’re just “better” people who embody the virtues of kindness, goodness, and decency.

  21. Robert
    Robert November 20, 2005 at 8:21 pm |

    Amy – Didn’t say that, don’t think it.

    Why is it so threatening that there are people who think that 5-year-olds dressing like pole dancers is inappropriate?

  22. Chris Clarke
    Chris Clarke November 20, 2005 at 8:27 pm |

    Keep an eye out.

    Lauren, I’m ashamed of you. That sort of language is offensive to people who actually have an eye out.

  23. EricP
    EricP November 20, 2005 at 8:57 pm |

    Why is it so threatening that there are people who think that 5-year-olds dressing like pole dancers is inappropriate?

    Show me a 5-year-old dressing like pole dancer. From what I can tell, no one is talking about 5 year olds or even 6,7 or even 10 year olds.

  24. NBarnes
    NBarnes November 20, 2005 at 9:00 pm |

    Robert: Why is it so threatening to you that young women are being taught that their sexuality is valuable, beautiful, and that they own it entirely and do as they please with it?

    Mind you, that statement is a massive gloss over the extremely complex issues that encrust the issue of sex, power, and culture, and for myself, I don’t feel like passing judgement on someone who dresses demurely or revealingly. There are good, powerful reasons to do either of those and weak, insecure reasons to do either. The important issue isn’t how you dress, but why you dress the way you do. Is the girl being taught that she is strong, powerful, beautiful, that her sexuality is valuable to her and to be shared with people that meet her high standards? Is she being taught that she is weak and her entire value comes from being sexually available to people smaller and weaker than she is herself? You can learn either of those lessons from a culture in burkas or a culture in thongs.

    Robert, certain modes of dress clearly have very strong values and ideas attached to them for you. But I suggest that that’s something that’s happening inside your head, not something that’s intrinsic to the clothing.

  25. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz November 20, 2005 at 9:02 pm |

    But dressing a certain way because it makes you feel powerful and confident is not objectification.

    Sure, but I’m not necessarily persuaded that’s what the 11-year-old buying a thong at A&F is thinking. What bothers me about the hand-wringing and “these kids these days are a scandal!” comments is that they fail to address the real problem: it’s not that they’re wearing “provocative” clothing, but that they’re wearing it without an understanding about what it means to feel powerful and confident in those choices.

  26. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz November 20, 2005 at 9:05 pm |

    addendum: and why aren’t we teaching that?

  27. Amy
    Amy November 20, 2005 at 9:05 pm |

    The message to girls is very clear: you aren’t worth any attention for your brain, for your personality, for anything other than the sexual services you can provide, so get on the whore train. And don’t you dare try to be “better” than the rest of us – don’t you dare identify as smart or kind or hard-working or any other virtuous concept – slut it up, or be a pariah.

    Well, that’s what you said, so I guess you can interpret it as you will.

    Yes, as a college aged virgin who dresses like a nun (and no, I’m not overweight/ugly/a lesbian, if that’s where you’re going to go, I just make my own decisions and allow everyone else to make theirs), it’s super “threatening” to me that 5 year olds don’t dress like pole dancers. Why is it so hard to not view children sexually, regardless of how they’re dressed? Children run around naked, girls wear halters. If nobody has a problem with high school boys walking around wearing no shirts when they’re not wearing shirts with sexist slogans, I’m not going to throw rocks at young girls who wear stupid and inappropriate shirts, either. They’re stupid fashion trends, not relections of moral worth. If we didn’t invest them with such moral significance, they wouldn’t have any.

    Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve had some scary encounters with strangers, (boys, not the other evil girls who are always trying to make me “whore it up”) for not dressing the way they want me to dress, just like my sisters (figurative sisters, that is) who dress more revealingly. (I live in the Deliverance-red part of a very blue state.) If we’re both getting negative sexual attention from men at young ages over our clothes, then I have a hard time seeing girls who don’t dress conservatively as molestor bait (as I read on another blog) or figuring out why I should waste any more time trying to figure out how I can figure out the magic dressing bullet that will allow my to walk around my hometown in peace and be left alone. Why TF is it up to us to determine how perverts are going to react, and try (and I stress TRY, cuz trust me, it won’t necessarily work) to arrange our behavior accordingly?

  28. sara
    sara November 20, 2005 at 10:33 pm |

    I I’m thinking that this behavior endangers the kids; if the parents (and some commenters) can’t see this, they live in some ultra-sanitized suburban gated community where the kids are shepherded from one place to another in SUVs and the teens drive their own cars.

    They do not live on the edge of Harlem in New York City and travel on the subway or on foot. If I lived on 110th St. and Broadway I wouldn’t let my daughter dress like that; I wouldn’t dress that way myself (and didn’t; I attended Columbia)

    Sexual harassment and rape are not minor problems; if you are so libertarian as to assert that a woman has the right to walk down Broadway at 10 p.m. wearing a bikini and heels, she must also have the right to walk down Broadway in this outfit carrying a gun (where she’d conceal a gun is another matter)

    If the girl is so skinny (at 10, 14, or 18) that her skimpy outfit conforms to high fashion but offers no temptation whatever to yoo-hooing day laborers (anorexia is a solution often adopted by girls and women to protect themselves from sexuality) that’s a different problem.

    Sorry, I just don’t see reality in the assertion that pre-teen or teenage girls are “asserting their sexuality” by dressing in near-pornographic clothes in dangerous urban (or suburban) neighborhoods. I thought that feminists taught us not to objectify ourselves.

  29. maurinsky
    maurinsky November 20, 2005 at 10:48 pm |

    I’m a gen-xer with a teenage daughter. I went swimming almost every day this summer, and I saw so many girls with different types of bodies walking around in bikinis. And I just kept wondering where they had the confidence, because when I was a teenager, no one wore a bikini unless they had a perfect body.

    I don’t see too many girls dressed inappropriately. Ironically, I think it is the girls who have low self-confidence who are shopping at A&F and Hollister – the popular girls – they don’t have the confidence to find their own style.

    Just because a young woman looks hot doesn’t mean she is on display for the men of the world, btw. God, the entitlement of men – they think everything women do is for them.

  30. kate
    kate November 20, 2005 at 11:50 pm |

    I recommend the book “Female Chauvinist Pigs” by Ariel Levy, which addresses this very issue – btw although she’s horrified by the raunch culture phenomenon she comes from a liberal feminist perspective. I’ll paraphrase her argument here, that many girls who dress sexy are trying to be “sexy” but not “sexual”. That they are trying to emulate prostitutes, strippers, porn stars and glamour models, who fake it for a living. Think of Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears who dressed up in provocative clothing and sang about sex, but coyly professed their virginity; or Paris Hilton who said something like people are surprised by how unsexual she is, due to her image as a wild party girl. This image of female sexuality is all about “performance” and how a woman/girl looks and not about her sexual feelings (physical, mental, otherwise).

    I think a lot of the low respect for sexual women that our culture has stems from this meme, that our model of female sexuality is basically a one dimensional tarted up mannequin.

    On a sort of unrelated note, a lot of “sexy” female fashion is rather impractical. It can be uncomfortable (too-tight jeans, miniskirts that are impossible to sit in, poky push-up bras) and all of the wispy little tops and skirts (I had to scour the whole mall for clothes that didn’t require hand washing or dry cleaning) are delicate and a pain in the ass to take care of. Thongs can cause vaginal infections and I’ve heard that synthetic, non-breathable materials (of which many thongs and g-strings are made of) aren’t terribly healthy either. Thongs are basically not underwear – and we wear underwear for a reason, so we can rewear our pants and still be hygienic. Prolonged wearing of high heels especially the pointy toed four inch stilettos are hell on your legs and back, especially if you walk for long distances in them or carry backpacks at the same time.

  31. Ian
    Ian November 21, 2005 at 12:02 am |

    This sort of “these kids today!” alarmism is common. You are right.

    But there is space for genuine, fair-minded concern that young women are having their identities shaped at younger and younger ages by commercial media intent not on a healthy view of one’s own body and sexuality, but with the opposite: promotion of inadequacy and insecurity in order to fuel the wheels of commerce. I might be getting a little too Marxist in this concern, even for my own taste, but the trend is absolutely undeniable.

    Kate’s points are very well-taken, at least by me. There is a bizarre, almost sadist character to a lot of modern women’s fashion. I have no objection to women who wish to voluntarily subject themselves to it–it is no business of mine–but children are a rather different matter. It is extraordinarily difficult to cultivate gender and sex consciousness (in the way that, again, a classical Marxist might use the phrase “class consciousness”) when the …

    Oh, crap. They’re closing the library.

    Let me just say this:

    I have no disagreement with the idea that young women (and young men) should understand their sexuality as good, innate, beautiful, and positive. They should also understand it as theirs, and not simply as a variant of whatever in-vogue capitalist image currently fixated upon by People Magazine.

  32. Hello Bitchy!
    Hello Bitchy! November 21, 2005 at 12:04 am |

    Performance?

    So, I have some deeply rooted sexuality that exists beneath my perfomance of it? Who knew?

    I guess I’m thoroughly incensed by the classism and racism in this discussion here and elsewhere.. It is divisive — defining a certain kind of sexuality for a certain kind of woman — the ones who have a natural substrate of sexuality — and the rest who are unnatural, warped by culture, too stupid to resist it, and just…well…a tarted up mannequin.

    Tart. Trollop. Whore. Slut. Trash. These are racist/classist expressions that emanated from a world where Victorian Womahood was defined. They exist today, the ghost of the sexism we’re trying to undermine is haunting us. We need to exorcise it.

  33. kate
    kate November 21, 2005 at 12:51 am |

    HelloBitchy! –
    I didn’t say that *I* thought that sexual women are tarted-up mannequins. I said that’s a cultural stereotype that causes many people to think that women who are assertive/expressive about their sexuality are sluts, etc.

    As for performance, what Ms. Levy was talking about was a woman – like I mentioned, a stripper, prostitute or porn star – who is paid to act sexy for the pleasure of men, but whose own pleasure is irrelevant. Or the examples I gave of Britney Spears or Paris Hilton who look sexually attractive for an audience but constantly deny being/feeling sexual. I hardly think that putting on a facade to please others and ignoring one’s own sexual desires is female empowerment.

    Plus I don’t understand how race/racism has factored explicitly into this discussion.

  34. Hello Bitchy!
    Hello Bitchy! November 21, 2005 at 1:17 am |

    Susie Bright interviewed Levy. That might help.

    Sorry for confusing what you said. I ‘ve written some extended comments on the difference between being paid to bake fabulous apple pies and being paid to bake fabulous hummers at my blog. I’ve also responded to this debate, though I seriously doubt anyone wants to read it. I’m sure what some will take a way is that I’m trashy. But, hey, search on thongs and see what I think about them.

    :)

    Love,

    Slutty, trashy, bitchy, raunchy.

    p.s. I’d love to get into the whole “Are strippers and porn stars really experiencing no sexuality thing, but frankly this has been done to death. If we’re still making these easy generalizations and are unaware of a much more complicated way of looking at it after years of theorizing, researching, conferencing, and debating,… I don’t even know where to begin.

  35. JM
    JM November 21, 2005 at 1:32 am |

    sara,

    I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying. I just don’t.

    What behavior endangers the kids? You mean how they dress? Sure, walking down Broadway at midnight is dangerous, but do you believe that it’s less dangerous if you’re wearing a chador rather than a bikini? I don’t believe that men are just walking along minding their own business when a flash of leg provokes them into an uncontrollable frenzy that causes them to attack a woman. I also don’t believe that a rapist is hiding behind a bush and decides to let the first girl who walks down the street go because she’s all covered up and that makes her a good girl with a pleasing sense of decorum, he’ll wait till a more slutty dresser comes or call it a night. Since I don’t believe either of those things, I don’t see where the safety issue arises.

    I also don’t think we should have to resort to anorexia and veiling to protect ourselves from sexuality. Ever since Eve allegedly bit that apple, there’s been a hysterical strain of Western Civilization devoted to scarlet A style slut shaming and obsessively delineating proper behavior and dress for a woman, and I don’t think that tradition has gone away. So I can’t really see it as an advance for civilization or some kind of radical counterculture meme if it’s suggested we have to dress and act a certain way if we want to be safe and respected, and if we don’t, we’re trashy putting ourselves in danger, or mindless robots who think we bought that shirt because we liked how we looked in the mirror but really we’re being brainwashed into becoming objectified tarted up mannequins, resulting in our society’s lack of respect for sexual women.

    Even many secular leftists in Iran, women too, started out on the mullahs’ side, the chador was going to end the exploitation of women and give them a safe, secure realm to exist in free from the objectification and fetishization of their physical attributes society imposed on them. Let’s ask the first woman to be raped because a flash of her neck showed how well that worked out.

  36. Amy
    Amy November 21, 2005 at 2:13 am |

    I thought that feminists taught us not to objectify ourselves.

    Semantically, is it even possible to objectify ourselves? Isn’t objectification something that’s imposed from outside? We walk around not thinking of ourselves as objects but grappling with our hopes and fears, someone else sees us and like maurinsky says, thinks we wore the I Love Strippers shirts to send a signal to him and decides he knows exactly who we are and what we want–that’s objectification, yes?

  37. MJ
    MJ November 21, 2005 at 3:15 am |

    I had seen kids in pre-school dancing to Mariah Carey’s shaking butt & slapping the hip provocatively in public performances. My cousin has a son in pre-school & she said the other female classmates of her son actually volunteered & organized practice outside classroom hours to perform belly dancing! Isn’t that too young to be dancing like a sexually matured adult? Where’s the childhood?

  38. Anna in Cairo
    Anna in Cairo November 21, 2005 at 4:55 am |

    I thought when I was a kid that peer pressure was really hard to deal with. I dealt with it by not being very popular. And I still think it’s a hard thign to deal with. And I think consumerism really encourages it and that it is at the root of what horrifies us in whatever is the latest trend in kids’ or teenagers’ dress. Not that the dress itself is shocking or whatever. But in that the people are mindlessly following a herd to do something that is in the end self-damaging.

    But, I think it is very important to be able to discuss the negative effects of peer pressure without going all paternalistic and doing the “kids these days!” tape over and over again. I agree that this is pointless and more importantly, it will do nothing to help kids grow and become stronger and more independent, it just will make them resent parents on top of t rying to deal with peer pressure by caving to it and stopping having any individual preferences that are different than whatever the madison avenue is telling kids these days.

    Personally I think a lot of the ad campaigns targeted to kids that seem to tell them it is OK to mock others or to “beat” others and to be super competitive and super into buying expensive stuff so you can be better than other people, are arguably more damaging that some adult’s idea of a young girl wearing a halter top being “degrading” or “slutty” or something like that.

    If this subject would be seriously discussed, and the kids would be partners in the discussion instead of being treated as slates upon which we parents/elders write, I bet everyone would be better off.

  39. That Girl
    That Girl November 21, 2005 at 9:33 am |

    I would love to see the studies that show how dressing provocitivly leads to rape or molestation or child rape. I would guess that there is no correlation since rape is an expression of power rather than sexuality and molestation is hardly caused by provocative clothing (your honor, it was those white lace ruffled, over the diaper panties, she brought it on herself).
    This dress makes you a victim is just an excuse for sick men to get away with behaving badly.
    Where it may in fact be dangerous is in allowing a younger girl to pass herself off as older, which puts her in situations she is too immature to handle and possibly makes her partner an unwitting criminal. But I hardly think one could mistake most 14 year olds, however dressed, for 20 year olds.

  40. kate
    kate November 21, 2005 at 9:45 am |

    HelloBitchy! –
    Actually Ms. Levy addresses in her book that some women undoubtedly are aroused by getting Brazilian bikini waxes and pole-dancing – but she argued that by establishing this dominant paradigm of female sexuality, it ignores women who are turned on by other things.

    That Girl –
    I graduated from high school last year and some of the 14-15 year old freshmen I mistook for 18 year old seniors, because they wore a lot of makeup and emphasized their womanly figures.

  41. another lynne
    another lynne November 21, 2005 at 9:55 am |

    Here’s the problem (as I see it anyway). Culturally, the message we receive is that we (women) should be sexualized, but not sexual. From many of our feminist sisters the message we get is the reverse. The bottom line is (imho of course) that we are sexual beings, from a young age. The way we express that changes with time and experience. Sometimes we dress trashy because it gives us a feeling of power, sometimes we dress trashy because we are looking for approval. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Sexual expression isn’t a static thing, and can’t really be addressed as such. When we get into these arguments about the way young girls dress, or the way they dance, so often we wind up still buying into the patriarchal bullshit, even as we try and disguise it.

  42. Laurie
    Laurie November 21, 2005 at 11:18 am |

    MJ:

    Whoah!! Gotta step in on the belly dancing comment here:

    Belly dance, aka Middle Eastern Dance, is a subject very near and dear to my heart, as I’ve studied it for damn near eleven years (and show no signs of stopping). It is DANCE — pure and simple — unless someone is selling it as otherwise. It just happens to be a dance form that is torso intenstive instead of limb intensive, so it has gathered all sorts of connotations over the years. It IS the “social dance” form of the Middle East — NOT something that is just done to be sexually provocative. The “harem fantasies” of the West are just that — fantasies. Seriously — everyone in the Middle East uses the same “sexually mature” movements of the hips and torso, because that’s just how dance evolved there. Women, men, grannies, toddlers — they all use the same vocabulary. And frankly, done well, belly dance is SO much more than simply sexual! I have to wonder if you have ever seen a good professional dancer, or are simply relying on images from movies and TV. No slam intended there; what gets portrayed in the media is not the whole picture. You have to see a REAL dancer, a professional who has dedicated a lot of time and sweat to her art, to really get the beauty and power of bellydance.

    Now, if someone is teaching youngsters to dance the “dance of the 7 veils” (also a myth, btw), to be sexy for their boyfriends/men in general, yeah — I’d have a problem with that. If they are being taught **belly dance**, as in the dance form that has existed for almost 5000 years in the Middle East and is an integral part of the cultures there, than I’d have to say FANTASTIC!! I only wish I could have started learning this dance form as a kidlet.

    My apologies if I’ve jumped all over you unnecessarily, but your post above seemed to indicate that you were horrified that this dance was being taught to kids. Honestly, it’s an incredibly female friendly dance form at its core. It has, however, been slanted at times to portray the dance as something it really isn’t.

    Please feel free to e-mail me directly if you’d like more info. I don’t want to derail the thread any more than I just did. :)

  43. softdog
    softdog November 21, 2005 at 11:55 am |

    As a male who hangs with a lot of political, feminist adult women who sometimes choose to dress in provocative ways- skin or slogans -they seem able to do so without abandoning their beliefs, autonomy or right to tell predators to fuck off. Their point, and I’ll admit this is my interpretation, the idea that doing or saying x invalidates feminism or validates patriarchy comes from a false orthodoxy which exists mostly in the backlash, seeks to dismiss feminists with the contradictory putdowns as sexually wonton yet humorless prudes. The point, as I see it, is women’s rights includes the right to have gray areas – or as one woman said to a creep who saw her bright little dress as an open invitation, “Just because I’m dressed loud doesn’t mean I’m talking to you.”

    I cannot say if the same thing applies to teens and younger sets, but I have to question the idea of of women as mindless drones who are helpless in the face of peer pressure until they hit 20. Again this is only the kids I know, but most of them don’t wear such stuff until they’re in college, and it’s far more often as an act of conscious shock and rebellion and an image of tough indifference than surrender to patriarchy.

    I mean, there’s also an upswell of racist, facist and gross imagery on t-shirts as well as shocking lefty humor. I for one am disturbed by the general trend to amoral apolitical shock jock fashion, which seems to this oldster as a rebellion against having any beliefs, but I realize I’m speaking from a different perspective.

    I also see, and this may be living in Chicago, a lot of teen girls and young women embracing an electroclash/punk androgyny and an upswell of goths, yet an article about girls rejecting their sexuality or becoming more morbid would be laughed at – it’s only when the meme is “good lord, women are becoming blindly hypersexualized” that these generalizations get through, or get book deals.

  44. softdog
    softdog November 21, 2005 at 12:04 pm |

    I should add I’m firmly in the commie leftist feminist realm and I do not think sexual expression exists in some magic void beyond negative pressures and consequences and a need for guidance.

    I just think sweeping proclimations of simplified morality are in many situations, a right wing method, as shown by the essay quoted above.

  45. other Ryan
    other Ryan November 21, 2005 at 1:07 pm |

    Laurie-

    I’ve heard Belly dance also played some role in natural childbirth? Also a myth?

  46. Therese Norén
    Therese Norén November 21, 2005 at 1:11 pm |

    Julie:

    but I don’t think my five year old needs to be experimenting with sex or trying to express her sexuality.

    She probably is already, unless you stop her from masturbating.

  47. Amy
    Amy November 21, 2005 at 1:12 pm |

    (your honor, it was those white lace ruffled, over the diaper panties, she brought it on herself).

    That Girl, don’t laugh! There’s something in Katha Pollitt’s first collection of essays about how a judge dismissed rape charges because he believed the three year old victim “acted provocatively.” If it happened once, it probably happened a thousand times. We’ll be arresting three year olds for doing cartwheels on the beach next, “Not only are they inflaming with their nakedness, they’re performing sexual gyrations!”

  48. KMarissa
    KMarissa November 21, 2005 at 1:28 pm |

    Thanks Laurie, I get SO SICK of the raised eyebrows and even joking references to stripping that often accompany any mention of belly dancing. I find myself arranging sentences so that I don’t have to explicitly state that, for example, the class I have tonight is a belly dancing class, but then of course I feel cowardly.

    Other Ryan, I came across this article a while ago, and I found it very interesting, although I can’t vouch for its factual veracity at all. Maybe Laurie can tell us a bit more about what she knows.

  49. Laurie
    Laurie November 21, 2005 at 1:45 pm |

    OtherRyan:

    Check out the link that KMarissa posted; the author is Morocco, a highly respected dancer and researcher on Middle Eastern Dance. She has been all over the Middle East, researching with the real cultures (as opposed to what the countries’ cultural ministries like to show us) for *decades*, and has a real, live, honest-to-goodness clue about what’s for real and what’s for fake/fantasy.

    In the meantime, I believe that there are some rituals in SOME cultures that mimic the movements of childbirth, possibly to help the laboring woman concentrate, etc., but it’s been a LOOOOONG time since I read the article and can’t remember. :) For the most part, it’s just that the dance movements, done correctly and practiced over a fairly long period of time, do an awesome job of strengthening all of the abdominal and core muscles of the torso, which helps with the whole pushing part of the labor. Assuming, of course, that there aren’t other complications.

    KMarissa:
    Try telling folks that you have a dance class. Period. When they ask what, tell them it’s Middle Eastern Dance. When they look blank, THEN pull out the “it’s commonly known here as belly dance, but it’s really a more sophisticated development of the ethnic/folk dances of the Middle East” card, and then still be prepared to explain that it’s NOT anything to do with stripping. Sigh. Look bored.

    For the really, really persistent and obnoxious types, you might try *teaching* (not just showing) them some movements. Correctly. And correct them — posture, stance (legs not so far apart! ;), where the movement originates from, etc…. That actually hammers it home for some. For the rest — eh! Ignore them. They are obviously ignorant and don’t WANT to learn differently.

    BTW — it wasn’t until just this last Christmas, when I gave my parents a DVD of my performances, that my (step) mother finally GOT that this was a legitimate dance form, with a step vocabulary, etc. Prior to that, she called it my “wiggling”. *sigh* Perseverance and a WAD of information to throw at the ignorant massess….

  50. vicki
    vicki November 21, 2005 at 2:20 pm |

    I read the article on the post as well as the live discussion with great interest. This is such a touchy subject because there are so many versions of whats “right”…this is a very to-each-his-own subject.
    I read (somewhere else) recently that it’s becoming more important to be identifiable than to be interesting. It’s more crucial for those around you to see you as a “good girl” or a “bad girl” or whatever as long as you are one-dimensional and quickly categorized.

    I think whats missing, anyway you look at it, is parental guidances: limits discussion, fights even. Isn’t that how we form the facets of our personalities and opinions? Isn’t this how we learn to think about how others might percieve us and how we may be biased in our perception of others, how we learn to look past what sits on the surface?

  51. BlackFlame
    BlackFlame November 21, 2005 at 2:37 pm |

    One thing I think this article –REALLY– misses– there are very large differences between teenage culture these days and teenage culture those days. I’m not talking Britney Spears or any of the pop culture detrius the author of the article talks about, either.

    What I think the author misses, even though she includes an example that might have shown her it, is that these days, espeacially in teenage america, the balance of power when it comes to sexuality is about equal– or, if anything, has switched the other direction.

    These girls aren’t dressing in provocative fashion because they’re volunteering to be sexual objects, as the author of the article suggests. The author here makes the crucial mistake of assuming high school hallways haven’t changed at all in the past 20 or 30 years.

    They’re dressing up in this way because it in a very real /empowers/ them. And it does. That’s because sex isn’t where everything ends, it’s not the measurement by which the power of one gender over another is measured. These girls dress this way because it often gets them what they want– and usually it doesn’t even involve one of them sleeping with anyone. They’ve learned Madonna started teaching all those years ago– sexuality (not neccesarily the act itself) is power.

    Now it might be alarming to some that more teenagers are learning this lesson than in days past, but there has been a large culture shift in general since then. Gone are the days when you could assume a girl who got herself into a situation involving sex was being ‘victimized’ or ‘taken advantage of.’

    In the past, maybe it was just assumed that in a gender equal society, things would work out so that sex really would become a non-issue, something that happened along some prim and proper ideal born in the 50s. It seems that some point it was assumed that girls didn’t really want to have sex, except in the context of a ‘loving relationship’ etc.

    What we’ve discovered since is that was that where the real gender inequality in the sexuality department was turns out to have been was that in past, women were discouraged to express thier sexuality, while men were encouraged to express it. The result of our steady march towards gender equality is that women are less discouraged to express thier sexuality, and so it should be no surprise that more of them embrace it at an earlier and earlier age.

    Which I guess is what I find kind of funny. ‘Cause it seems that people like the author of this article never really paid attention to what they themselves were saying all those years ago– that there weren’t any real differences between the sexes beyond the physiological, and that the commonly perceived differences were the result of socialization. Yet they seem to be surprised and outraged when teenage girls start acting more like teenage boys as the mechanisms of gender socialization are broken down. Classic.

    BlackFlame

  52. BoDiddly
    BoDiddly November 21, 2005 at 2:39 pm |

    I don’t think that anyone can honestly argue that the style of dress prevalent amongst adolescents (and preadolescents, as well) is not related directly to problems with STDs and unwanted pregnancies amongst those age groups. The problem with a lot of people who notice the relationship is that they generally point to the clothing as a causative factor, rather than recognizing it as indicative of society’s attitude towards sex and sexuality.

    I agree that it’s important for children entering adolescence to be aware of their sexuality, but I fear we send the wrong message when we fail to teach them to not only understand, but also to respect their sexuality. We typically don’t provide them with an understanding of the differences between positive and negative attention, and attracting the attention of the opposite sex through the use of overt sexuality is rarely conducive to a positive outcome.

    We also fail to instill in our children a sense of individuality that would allow them to be more capable of defining their own sense of morals and decency, rather than allowing their peer group to set their personal boundaries.

    I don’t , however, think the problem stems from the abandonment of Victorian principles (although many of the problems faced by teens today were virtually nonexistent in that culture), but I do think it has is tangentally related to the move away from those principles. When the shift from single-income homes to double-income homes came about, the children began to be whisked away to child-care centers and preschools at a much younger age. In that environment, influence that would have come from parents a generation or two before began to fall upon those in the children’s own age group. I think the young age at which that peer group’s influence currently develops in most children has everything to do with why peer pressure seems to be so much stronger in today’s society, and why parents have a much harder time connecting emotionally with their children.

    There are also messages that get to our children through the media, that contribute to this phenomenon. Rarely are parents in the entertainment industry portrayed as much more than buffoons. Typically, the father figure is the worst, portrayed as utterly clueless. Mom is a little smarter, but suffers from a lack of understanding of what’s “really” important. The children, however, are the ones who are genuinely “in the know.” The kids’ way of doing things usually doesn’t work out just right, but it wakes the parents up, and when the parents finally get tuned in to the kids’ wavelength, the show ends, and everyone lives happily ever after.

    Before I draw too much fire from the regulars here, I only attribute about 10% of the problem to feminism (even that must be qualified by stating that the problems come from only the most radical feminists), and the remainder to an obsession with materialism that has prevailed since World War II. Without the materialism factor, we’d still have predominatly single-income households, with nearly equal distribution between male-breadwinner and female-breadwinner households. Children would still have one parent or the other at home, and would likely hold parental guidance with much higher esteem, rather than being so inextricably bound to the influence of other teens and societal fads.

  53. mythago
    mythago November 21, 2005 at 3:03 pm |

    I don’t think that anyone can honestly argue that the style of dress prevalent amongst adolescents (and preadolescents, as well) is not related directly to problems with STDs and unwanted pregnancies amongst those age groups

    Teenage pregnancies are at an all-time low.

    You do know that the Victorians thought ‘whisking away’ children to boarding schools, putting them in the care of paid nannies, and sending orphans to group care facilities was A-OK, right?

  54. zuzu
    zuzu November 21, 2005 at 3:15 pm |

    Gee, who knew crop tops caused chlamydia?

    Sara, what is it about Harlem that would make it more dangerous for a girl to walk around there?

  55. Tanooki Joe
    Tanooki Joe November 21, 2005 at 3:39 pm |

    I don’t think that anyone can honestly argue that the style of dress prevalent amongst adolescents (and preadolescents, as well) is not related directly to problems with STDs and unwanted pregnancies amongst those age groups.

    I presume it’s also the reason for high prevalence of STD’s in retirement homes, as well? I mean, can you believe what seniors go out in these days?

  56. JennaJ
    JennaJ November 21, 2005 at 4:01 pm |

    BoDiddly–

    attracting the attention of the opposite sex through the use of overt sexuality is rarely conducive to a positive outcome

    What makes you think that’s what’s happening? Why do you assume that young girls are dressing for anyone but themselves, or maybe their female friends? Does it have anything to do with some men’s sense of entitlement, where they think anything a girl does is because of them? Oh sure, that woman I’m watching looks like she doesn’t know I’m alive, but I just know that every fiber of her being is about me and she knows the effect she’s having on me. How’s a girl supposed to avoid attracting attention from the opposite sex, anyway? And not just boys, ever heard a bunch of practically elderly male educators drooling over high school girls? I have. If she looks cute, she’ll attract attention, whether she’s wearing something tight and short or long and flowy. If she doesn’t look so cute, she’ll also attract attention, called ugly, pig, dyke. When was the last time you were around teenagers?

    You think we need to teach teenage girls to respect their sexuality, I think we need to teach teenage boys, girls, and adults to respect teenage girls. You know, every day a bunch of little boys gather outside my stoop and do hip hop dance moves they copied off the TV. They’re amazingly talented, and I never thought about regarding the moves to see if they’re sexual and condeming them for losing their childhoods. But now that I know little girls who dance by copying Mariah Carey videos are wannabe sexpots and not just moving and copying some adult they admire but concerning themselves with getting a rise out of spectators, I wonder. Why do we want to make little girls feel bad about their bodies and about themselves? It doesn’t matter what you wear so much as what outside observers think they can assume about you because of it. I ask you, what’s sexy about a 15 year old in a thong? Nothing. So why the hysteria?

    Victorian principles (although many of the problems faced by teens today were virtually nonexistent in that culture

    Yeah, Victorian times were great for girls. Unless you were one of the lower class girls who had to go work in the factory. Not being a gentlewoman, you’d have a hard time fending off your boss, but that’s okay. Factory girls couldn’t afford elaborate gowns, so they dressed kind of…you know. Rape didn’t exist because they were asking for it. But of course, gentlewoman were fine. They had no power, but their male counterparts promised tro keep them safe, and I’m sure they kept that promise. Although, with no way to enforce it and no sanctions if they didn’t…

    And just curious, but have you ever stayed at home with a child? I haven’t, but I am the daughter with a SAHM, and I can tell you with no hesitation (I don’t want to get into specifics) that not everyone is cut out for full time childcare. In fact, I’ve thought about this so often, and I’m convinced that very, very few are tempramentally suited. Put someone who isn’t cut out for that type of life into a high stress environment with a lot of demands, a lot of hard, frequently unrewarding work, and a lot of social isolation, oh and a bunch of vulnerable dependents and it’s a recipe for disaster. I think it’s pretty obvious that not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer, it takes a special kind of outgoing, kind, patient person to enter a caring profession like nursing or nursing home care, why do we assume that everyone is cut out for full time parenting and guilting them into it against their better judgment is the best thing we can do? There’s no one size fits all formula for life, sorry. There are befits and drawbacks to every choice, and we’re all just trying to figure things out the best we can

    Materialism, yeah. If you’re one of those Americans who’s more than two paychecks or a medical emergency away from disaster, good for you. Maybe you’re living the high life, but many of us are just trying to keep our heads above water.

  57. zuzu
    zuzu November 21, 2005 at 5:11 pm |

    attracting the attention of the opposite sex through the use of overt sexuality is rarely conducive to a positive outcome

    That all depends on your definition of a positive outcome.

  58. Amy
    Amy November 21, 2005 at 5:23 pm |

    BoDiddly, you might want to look at the book Something From the Oven by Laura Shapiro. She contends that this idea that women only began to work outside the home after WWII is a myth, or more specifically a continuation of trends that began much earlier. First of all, what we think of as the Rosie the Riveter returns to the factory phenomenon is always conceptualized in terms of white middle class women. Among poorer women and African American women with children, paid work had almost always been part of many of their lives. Moreover, even middle class white women with very young children were also gradually moving into the workforce long before the war. The rise of the convenience food industry combined with more jobs overall and better paying jobs for women after the war helped this trend along, but many middle class women with young children had already been expressing a desire to work outside the home, and many did have jobs. Once more desirable jobs were available, women jumped at them. They wanted other options and didn’t think that made them bad mothers or materialists.

    If you were really serious about wanting more children at least have the option of being raised in single earner homes, you wouldn’t be railing against the materialism of selfish parents, you’d be concerned about employers’ lack of flexibility in providing options beyond the traditional 40 to 80 hour workweek, and the lack of support from government in terms of healthcare, child care, college tuition, and general social services. Especially important individual since earning power has been on the decline for decades and real wages have fallen, in 1960 a high school graduate with a C average could make enough to support a family, now there are many fewer viable options for that person. Nothing about our economy is exactly geared to allowing us to make the best possible free choices.

  59. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 5:43 pm |

    in 1960 a high school graduate with a C average could make enough to support a family, now there are many fewer viable options for that person

    Well, he can become President. Ba dum bump!

    What needs to happen to make people’s childrearing choices more flexible is simply this:

    Decouple benefits and preferred tax status from having a particular form of paid employment. There is no reason to encourage people to take unproductive jobs at inefficient mega-corporations when the economy would be much better served by “an army of Davids”. Make it easier for people to work 20, 30, or 80 hours a week on their own terms, and let folks work out their own family/day-care arrangements.

  60. aldahlia
    aldahlia November 21, 2005 at 6:04 pm |

    Thank you, Softdog! The same moves used in Belly Dancing are used by 80-year-old Grandmothers at weddings, for crying out loud…

  61. Thomas
    Thomas November 21, 2005 at 6:08 pm |

    Robert, this is OT, but how do you deal with the adverse selection problem in healthcare? I’m guessing you’re not for single-payer. Do you avoid the creaming by voiding the existing arrangements people have, so they’re back in the private pool? That would upset lots of settled expectations.

  62. mythago
    mythago November 21, 2005 at 6:28 pm |

    Make it easier for people to work 20, 30, or 80 hours a week on their own terms, and let folks work out their own family/day-care arrangements.

    In other words, make it easier for people to have to work 80 hours a week, and let the devil take the hindmost.

  63. EricP
    EricP November 21, 2005 at 6:45 pm |

    I have to wonder how teenage girls’ fashions really affect the boys they go to school with. The assumption so far in this thread is that dressing “slutty” will lead to extra attention from boys and that may not be a good thing. Or that dress in this way may be an attempt by girls to attract boys at the expensive of developing themselves as people or developing their own sexuality without needing to please boys. BUT, if most girls dress this way, won’t it become a situation of “been there seen that”? Teenage boys are going to be attracted to teenage girls no matter what. If these fashions are the norm, don’t the fashions begin to blend into the background?

  64. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 6:49 pm |

    Thomas –

    Adverse selection ought to be taken care of by private charity (or public charity if private charity fails to the extent of arousing public outrage). To expand:

    I distinguish between health insurance and health coverage. Health insurance ought to be oriented towards healthy people who wish to hedge against a catastrophic, but unexpected, event. Health insurance that covers flu shots is conceptually retarded; it would be like buying “food insurance” and submitting a claim every time you go for a meal.

    Health coverage is something that most people are going to have to pay for out of pocket, and the level of health care spending ought to be what most people are willing to pay for health care.

    The people who fall through the holes in this model are the poor, whose economic productivity does not generate enough surplus for them to buy meaningful health care in the market (thus imposing a public health burden), and the very high-risk, who may have high productivity but who cannot be expected to handle fifteen outbreaks of cancer, financially speaking.

    For humanitarian reasons, the poor ought to have their catastrophic insurance premiums covered by the rest of us through taxation, and their routine care covered by private charity. (Private is to be preferred to public because in a world where most folks pay their own freight, there will be a strong temptation to poor-mouth and head down to St. Benedict’s for some freebies; private concerns are better able to screen out such parasites.) We might have to have some public charity too, but I doubt it.

    The high-risk are a much more problematic group. They can’t be insured with anything like an economically feasible premium, and the administrative overhead would make the enterprise a waste of time anyway (since it’s pretty much a given that they’re going to get sick, the only question is when). Their needs are going to have to be met by their own resources, followed by private charity, followed by public charity to fill in the holes.

    The advantages of this approach are that it

    (a) eliminates moral hazard

    and

    (b) clearly labels subsidies and charities as such, so that it is manifestly clear who is paying for what, and why.

  65. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 6:53 pm |

    Mythago, not sure what point you’re trying to make. Increasing flexibility is likely to benefit the hardest-working the most (whether that work is paid labor or childrearing); I’m not sure, conceptually, how to arrange things so that people who don’t work much are as well off as people who work a lot.

  66. La Lubu
    La Lubu November 21, 2005 at 6:57 pm |

    Bo Diddley,

    Please feel free to drop some statistics here that show that young women who attended daycare as children are more likely to be pregnant and/or promiscous as teenagers than those who had home care with a parent. Also, feel free to drop some statistics that show that young women who wear “revealing” clothing are more likely to end up as pregnant and/or promiscous teens than those who stick to boy-style t-shirts and blue jeans.

    Methinks there isn’t any daycare or clothing correlation.

  67. Antigone
    Antigone November 21, 2005 at 9:19 pm |

    I’m glad to see that making sure “parasites” who don’t work “hard enough” not getting health care is “eliminating moral hazards”.

    *rolls eyes*

  68. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 9:41 pm |

    Antigone, the people I characterized as “parasites” are those who would be able to afford their own health care, but pretend poverty so as to gain access to private charity. Perhaps you have a different term of art for such folk; mine appears descriptive and fair.

    Nowhere did I use terminology indicating a failure to work hard enough. The economic productivity of individuals varies, for a wide range of reasons. Low productivity individuals will not be able to pay for many of their own needs, regardless of the cause of the low productivity.

    “Moral hazard” is the condition caused when a subsidy or guarantee causes an able-bodied person to forego individual effort because the subsidy or guarantee will cover their needs. The system I sketched out ensures that everyone will receive care without generating this hazard for those folk able to care for themselves; your snark does not cohere.

    Health care discussions tend to be fairly technical and often quite emotional. If you are unable to read a proposal the politics of which do not mesh with your own without misrepresenting what is said, I would just as soon you forego entering the discussion. Misrepresentation borne out of either incomprehension or malice contributes nothing.

  69. Thomas
    Thomas November 21, 2005 at 9:54 pm |

    Robert, your proposal replicates the Gilded Age, red in tooth and claw, only with more advanced technology.

    Saying that “charity” will take care of something is like saying that “providence” will take care of it: a faith-based solution in the pejorative sense. When you say your solution “ensures” anything, you are being materially false and misleading. Your system presumes that charity will take care of those folks who cannot take care of themselves. It would be more honest for you to say, “screw the poor and the high risk. If you want to subsidize them, that’s your problem.”

  70. Sally
    Sally November 21, 2005 at 10:00 pm |

    I think it’s a mistake to assume there are “high risk” and “low risk” people. Ultimately, most people will end up “high risk.” “High risk” and “low risk” are usually stages of life, rather than distinct categories of folks. As the population ages, a higher percentage are going to be in the “high risk” part of their lives. I don’t see any reason to think that private charity will be able to deal with that, especially since private charity is not picking up the slack now, before the baby boomers have hit old age.

    I don’t think that insurance is really a workable model, in the long-term, for anyone. And I really can’t see any way other than a big, state-sponsored program with some manditory wealth redistribution, to make sure that everyone gets the care that he or she needs.

  71. Chris Clarke
    Chris Clarke November 21, 2005 at 10:04 pm |

    Nowhere did I use terminology indicating a failure to work hard enough.

    In Robert’s defense, he is exactly right here. Under his terminology, a woman who works two five-hour shifts at fast food places and then heads home to cook, clean, and help her kid with homework would be classed as a “low-productivity” person, while some silver-spooned nimrod who did nothing but clip inherited coupons all day in between rounds of golf would be considered “high-productivity.”

    However, for purposes of clarity, I prefer the Anglo-Saxon terminology “rich” and “not rich.”

  72. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 10:06 pm |

    Right, Thomas. During the Gilded Age, governments spent hundreds of billions providing subsidized health care to the poor.

    Charity in the US is an enormous resource. It is not unreasonable to expect that private charity will continue to do what it is doing right now in massive quantities.

    My proposal does not assume that charity will take care of those who cannot care for themselves. For one set of the relatively disadvantaged, the government will be the primary source of the funds necessary for their care, their catastrophic premiums. (Which will amount to many hundreds of dollars per month for most families.) This expenditure dwarfs the amount that would be needed to do the flu shots and suchlike that I leave to the private charities.

    The other set, those with severe health concerns that make them uninsurable, is a relatively small group. And I specifically note that it will likely be necessary for the private charity to be backstopped by government funds.

  73. Amy
    Amy November 21, 2005 at 10:10 pm |

    the people I characterized as “parasites” are those who would be able to afford their own health care, but pretend poverty so as to gain access to private charity. Perhaps you have a different term of art for such folk

    How about, “Wealthy Republicans.”

    Which points up a flaw in your system. The only ones who can truly afford their own medical care, the Sam Waltons of the world, are going to be too busy trying to get a handout to bother with private charity for those whom, in any case, they consider inferior and undeserving. Which, as ever, leaves the poor to take care of their own, and while poverty is up 13% since Bush too office, no matter how generously they all give, well, 30% of $10,000 a year only adds up to $3,000, any way you slice it.

  74. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 10:12 pm |

    The only ones who can truly afford their own medical care, the Sam Waltons of the world

    If this is actually the case, then no health care system, whether privately-organized or government run, will be able to provide adequate care. Your rhetoric is at odds with what I presume is your goal.

  75. Sally
    Sally November 21, 2005 at 10:16 pm |

    It is not unreasonable to expect that private charity will continue to do what it is doing right now in massive quantities.

    Are you seriously arguing that private charity is handling the problem now?

    The other set, those with severe health concerns that make them uninsurable, is a relatively small group.

    No, they’re really not. If you count people who are on Medicare and would otherwise be uninsurable, you’ve got a whole lot of people. And it’s about to be a whole lot more.

  76. Amy
    Amy November 21, 2005 at 10:18 pm |

    Robert, get a sense of humor or I’m going to send a bunch of 5 year olds dressed in custom made “sperm dumpster” tees and matching thongs to lead you down the path to perdition. :)

  77. Liss
    Liss November 21, 2005 at 10:28 pm |

    Did anyone read the live chat transcript that followed the article?

    Alexandria, Va.: I enjoyed your article a lot, Pat. I’m a man, and not a young one, and see lots of these outfits at the local shopping center. I always feel a bit guilty looking at these young women as sex objects, though it is hard to resist I must admit. Of course if someone dresses provocatively it is not MY fault, I’m not rude or overt while looking, but it can be a dilemma for even a male person.

    Pat Dalton: My husband says this all the time. You can’t not look at what you see in front of you. And men are highly visual, moreso than women when it comes to sex. And again, the responsibility falls more on the person dressing like this than the person who sees her!

    This just made me feel very tired, all of a sudden.

  78. Robert
    Robert November 21, 2005 at 10:28 pm |

    Sally, I’m seriously arguing that private charity is capable of making a huge contribution to the situation. Look around your city, and see who built the hospitals. By and large, it wasn’t for-profit entities, or governments.

    If the quantity of persons who are not able to meet their own health care expenses is enormous, then there is no systemic solution. All systems other than self-pay involve a subsidy or transfer. “Make someone else pay for it” works just fine for 1 person in 100. For 50 persons in 100, no go. If the entire Boomer generation needs $1 million a year in medical care and doesn’t have it in their own bank accounts, they aren’t going to get the care.

  79. Liss
    Liss November 21, 2005 at 10:33 pm |

    Sorry for the deluge of quotes – I’m starting to feel slightly hysterical.

    RE: Sexy in the workplace: About men telling women their dress is inappropriate….I have a friend who was told by her (male) boss that her workproduct was exceptionel, but that the partners did not take her seriously b.c she looked too sexy (not necessarily dressed to sexy). her problem is hiding a DD chest on a tiny figure. She wears appropriate clothing (everything down to the knee and from places like Ann Taylor…) What’s a girl to do!

    Pat Dalton: That is a dilemma, because her physical dimensions are a given. I had a couple patients who had reduction mammoplasty because they were so tired of the unwanted attention and comments about their breast size. (There are also physical problems (back and neck strain, postural problems) that the surgery helped.

    So, it’s not enough for Dr(?) Dalton that women should change their clothes to avoid male attention. If men comment on your large breasts, or refuse you promotion because of them, just have an invasive operation! Life is so simple.

  80. Julie
    Julie November 21, 2005 at 10:43 pm |

    Julie:

    but I don’t think my five year old needs to be experimenting with sex or trying to express her sexuality.

    She probably is already, unless you stop her from masturbating.

    My apologies for not being more specific. A) I actually don’t have a five year old, I was being theoretical. My daughter is, in fact, all of 19 months old. B) I meant with someone else… my daughter has indeed discovered her genitals and we really don’t discourage it, nor do we encourage it. We just sort of accept it and move on. Although, I’ll be quite honest, I don’t remember early, early childhood but I have no memories of ever masturbating as a child. Seriously, none. To this day, I wouldn’t have the first clue as to how to go about it and would feel very uncomfortable doing it. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but really not all kids are masturbating. I did use to pose my barbies in sexually provocative positions though, so I wasn’t too sheltered.

    Along the lines of the post, though, I mean they even make provocative clothing for children my daughter’s age. Now I certainly don’t think that dressing her in a mini skirt and midriff baring shirt is inviting molestation, or any nonsense like that, but I seriously just don’t understand the reason behind it. Women dressing in sexually revealing clothing as a means of empowerment or expressing their sexuality I can understand. I don’t have the confidence to pull it off, but I understand it. My not even two year old? I don’t see the need to teach her that women must dress this way to be accepted. I would rather let her develop her own style, that compliments her body and makes her feel good about herself.

  81. Sally
    Sally November 21, 2005 at 10:48 pm |

    Sally, I’m seriously arguing that private charity is capable of making a huge contribution to the situation.

    Yeah, you know, the hospital I go to was started by a university, which is non-profit and lovely and great. They still charge me $5000 for an MRI.

    There is nothing to stop private charity from covering the uninsured and underinsured now, and they haven’t solved the problem. They haven’t solved the problem even though I truly believe that they would love to do so. I can only conclude that haven’t solved the problem, not because the people who run charities are lazy or selfish or stupid, but because private charity can’t handle it.

    If the quantity of persons who are not able to meet their own health care expenses is enormous, then there is no systemic solution.

    Sure there is. Luckily, there are a lot of people who can meet their health care expenses and still have some left over to help meet other people’s. If we spread the burden across society, rather than dumping it all on the people who happen to need expensive care, then we’ll be able to meet everyone’s needs. It’s been tried with great success in many other countries. What you really mean is that there’s no solution that your ideology will allow.

  82. JM
    JM November 21, 2005 at 11:27 pm |

    If the quantity of persons who are not able to meet their own health care expenses is enormous, then there is no systemic solution.

    Remind me again Robert, is it 10% of the US population controlling 90% of the total wealth, or only 70 or 80%? I can never keep that straight.

    If this is actually the case,then no health care system, whether privately-organized or government run, will be able to provide adequate care.

    Well, we know that just about every other “first world” country (plus Cuba!) is able to provide adequate care through a government-run system, BTW generally, if not invariably, spending a lower percentage of GDP on health care than we do, so I guess we can conclude that “this” is NOT actually the case! Woo hoo! Go team!

  83. JM
    JM November 21, 2005 at 11:29 pm |

    If the quantity of persons who are not able to meet their own health care expenses is enormous, then there is no systemic solution.

    Remind me again Robert, is it 10% of the US population controlling 90% of the total wealth, or only 70 or 80%? I can never keep that straight.

    If this is actually the case,then no health care system, whether privately-organized or government run, will be able to provide adequate care.

    Well, we know that just about every other “first world” country (plus Cuba!) is able to provide adequate care through a government-run system, BTW generally, if not invariably, spending a lower percentage of GDP on health care than we do, so I guess we can conclude that “this” is NOT actually the case! Woo hoo! Go team!

  84. BoDiddly
    BoDiddly November 21, 2005 at 11:43 pm |

    Whew, I’ve got a lot to answer, I suppose.

    mythago, you were first:
    Saying that teen pregnancy is at an “all time low” is misleading, because statistics have only been kept since 1976, when they were in an upward swing. Overall, about 40% of all females will become pregnant before they reach 20.

    Jill:
    Please give my first paragraph a re-read. I was saying in fact that the clothing did NOT lead to disease, pregnancy, etc., but that many who comment upon the current trends in teen fashion tend to hint towards that. My observation is that the clothing is a reflection of our society’s views on sex and sexuality, not a causative factor. Perhaps saying it was “related” was misleading.

    JennaJ:
    I have a really hard time believing that wearing revealing clothing (whether the wearer is male or female) is for any purpose other than presenting one’s self as sexually attractive. The rest of your comment is so disjointed, it really doesn’t deserve much of an answer. You accuse me of supporting the Victorian way of life, directly ignoring the point I made when bringing up that era, you go off on a tangent about childcare (and I do about 60% of the parenting for my five children), and you close by twisting my point regarding materialism.

    Amy:
    You, too, miss my point about materialism and the two-income household. I wasn’t saying the trend towards daycare-raised children stemmed from women working, nearly so much as it stemmed from couples wanting more and more money to get more and more stuff (admittedly, stuff for their kids initially). And much of the “stuff” that parents work for now are superfluous and superficial, not the necessities. I don’t mean to pimp my own blog here, but I wrote a piece a week or two ago called “A Villiage of Voyeurs” in which I addressed the vicarious enjoyment of affluence that drives our current society.

    LaLubu:
    Statistics aren’t hard to come by, though they don’t address the particular situation of day-care. All you need to do, however, is look at the when teen pregnancy rates rose and when daycare rates rose. It’s a societal correlation. And, again, I never said that there was a causational relationship from clothing to pregnancy.

    Jill, Lauren, thanks for the forum!

  85. Arwen
    Arwen November 22, 2005 at 12:26 am |

    I have a friend who made a very good point about teenage fashions: Clothing choice doesn’t mean to the kids what it means to us.

    If some Witty European Designer is making some clothing that hints at fetish wear or seventies porn styles and sells it, the kids buying it most often don’t get (or care about) the reference. I remember being a kid: we referred to and about each other.

    I was part of the goth scene, which was quite into gender-bending. I absolutely know that what we wore and evaluated each other on had nothing whatsoever to do with what the external, “adult” world was evaluating us on.

    What’s sexy is so bloody relative – look at the lip stretching of other cultures, or the ear gates and piercing of my generation – skin can be in but not SEXY. What’s sexy in high school probably hasn’t changed much. Generally, attitude trumps accessories, and owning the right style won’t necessarily buy you ‘in’ to any particular group. You had to ‘get’ it, not just ‘wear’ it.

    However, It’s an older generation, with a different take on things, that markets the clothing: and it is then the older generation that gets upset at what the clothes say in our cultural context. It’s a little sick that there are designers out there who are putting little girls into clothes that culturally say ‘porn’ to older men. The bottom line is the dollar, though, and teens will buy what pisses their parents off.

    If we weren’t pissed off, they probably wouldn’t be wearing these clothes. I think they’re wearing our patriarchy only because we’re still processing it in our adult culture. It’s a smart move, cuz it pisses off two different elements of society in one move – conservatives, and liberal feminists. Both! At once! That’s freaky good synergy. Whether it’s their patriarchy is up to the teenage girls to analyze.

    I imagine there’s some break about who you’re copying, though. Brittany is all about being sexy not sexual: Christina is about being sexual even if it makes her not particularly sexy (by the standards of the day), and then there’s Missy…

    But here’s the thing. Unless any of us are in those clothes and also happen to be teenagers, our analysis is necessarily flawed. In order to help the next generation of girls grow up confident in their sexualities, I’d err on the side of not sitting around wagging fingers and calling them trashy, though. So they’re wearing pants that say Juicy across the ass? Whatever. It’s not much weirder than what we were doing.

  86. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 12:51 am |

    I guess we can conclude that “this” is NOT actually the case!

    Hooray. So the point about there being too many people who need assistance for private charity plus government aid to handle is acknowledged as being incorrect, I take it.

    Remind me again Robert, is it 10% of the US population controlling 90% of the total wealth, or only 70 or 80%

    It’s around 70% last I checked. So?

    We don’t generally spend wealth to purchase health care; we spend income.

    If you’d like to suggest that we confiscate wealth to pay for current expenses, go right ahead. I’ll hold your hat.

  87. JM
    JM November 22, 2005 at 1:14 am |

    Julie,

    I don’t mean this as a snarky question, I swear, but what is sexually provocative clothing for children your daughter’s age? If we’re talking about thongs and strippers do it with poles tees, I agree. But my parents are as conservative as anyone’s about things like dressing, peer pressure, and fashion, but when I look at pictures of myself as a very young child, I basically seem to spend most of my time in Daisy Dukes, with either no shirt or classic Daisy Mae type halters with the knot and the little string. And you know what? Nobody thought anything of it.

    If my parents saw me wearing those clothes at 13, 16, 18, today, they’d freak out. But at 2, 3, 4, 5 they went into the stores, those were the clothes there (20 years ago), they didn’t think they were sexual, I didn’t think they were sexual (I did feel sexy in one item of clothing I played dress up in as a very young child, a long silky satin nightgown with just a tiny little slit down the side that belonged to my grandmother), nobody in the world thought they were sexual, including my cranky old religious Republican relatives, who bought me mini skirts and bikinis. During the summer, I whined a lot about the heat, and if I had to wear anything at all heavy or confining, it was worse. If we had to go someplace somewhat fancy, they put me in a skirt, but it was on short enough so I could still move my legs and run around. If anybody had suggested there was any sexual connotation in the clothes of a toddler, we would all have been dumbfounded. I’m sure the clothes of the time for babbies and slightly older kids reflected general fashions in some way (baby sister gets to wear same outfit as much older sister and feel happy), but everybody kind of felt that what’s sexy on an adult doesn’t mean anything sexual on a little, little girl.

    I just wonder if we’re not starting to regard everything relating to women and girls of all ages in a hypersexualized way and reading things into them a little bit. My friends and I rocked out to Flashdance, but even if some of the moves in the video were sexy, we didn’t get it, it meant nothing to us, that’s not why we were doing it. Yeah, in some ways we dressed a little bit like Madonna, but at that age there was nothing sexual about it, and it sure as hell wasn’t to attract attention from boys. I was trying to think of an analogy about boys, but really there’s almost nothing any little boy, older boy, or adult man could wear that would be considered “sexually provocative dressing.” The closest thing I can come up with is that nobody would think it was provocative or sexual if a two year old boy didn’t wear a shirt. Though, to be honest, back in the day really little girls sometimes went shirtless, too, and it wasn’t a big deal.

  88. mythago
    mythago November 22, 2005 at 1:20 am |

    BoDiddly, I don’t know where you get the idea that we cannot guess at teen pregnancy rates before 1976. They are certainly at an all-time low over the last thirty years.

    And much of the “stuff” that parents work for now are superfluous and superficial, not the necessities.

    Like housing, dental work, medical bills, insurance….such fripperies.

  89. Anna in Cairo
    Anna in Cairo November 22, 2005 at 1:44 am |

    Geeze. Why don’t we stop talking to each other and go see from the girls what they think about it. After all we are talking about 11 and older. Presumably they can talk. Throughout this whole conv it has disturbed me that the original article writer and a lot of the people who responded to her are discussing these girls and their motivations without making the girls part of the procedure.

  90. Amy
    Amy November 22, 2005 at 2:01 am |

    Amy:
    You, too, miss my point about materialism and the two-income household. I wasn’t saying the trend towards daycare-raised children stemmed from women working, nearly so much as it stemmed from couples wanting more and more money to get more and more stuff (admittedly, stuff for their kids initially). And much of the “stuff” that parents work for now are superfluous and superficial, not the necessities. .

    I realize that that’s what you’re saying, BoDiddly, but IMO saying that if we weren’t a nation of materialists who want more and more stuff that we don’t need we’d be a nation of single earner homes is kind of like saying “women who have abortions are careless, selfish twits who are just doing it on a whim so they can spend more time shopping,” or “women who have children and choose to have paid jobs when they don’t absolutely have to, and I know that in 95% of cases, they don’t, are selfish and bad, neglectful mothers” or “mothers who don’t have paid jobs are lazy bon bon eaters who aren’t smart or interesting and can’t compete.” You’re making an assumption about a large group of people that isn’t proveable, and I don’t see any real reason to believe it’s true.My point is that there were many social (feeling unsatisfied at home and simply wanting to get out for a while, enjoying their careers) and economic factors that contributed to the two earner household trend in an era of declining real wages and rising poverty and complete lack of social supports for parents, and, frankly, citizens in general.

    Sure, you didn’t exactly say that women working resulted in two-income households, you tried to keep it a bit more gender neutral, but the fact remains that most men have had paid jobs over our history, while there was a time long ago when many, many women didn’t. So the rise of the daycare-raised children is kind of inseperable from the fact that more and more women have gone out to work over time. My point about the historical trends is that women didn’t necessarily just rise up in the postwar consumer era declaring, “I want 4 cars and a house in the Hamptons, I’m going to work,” and I don’t really see why we should believe that that’s what’s motivating working parents now. BTW, I don’t see how childcare is tangential to the discussion about daycare when you’re saying that daycare is bad for children while full time parental care is good, but I’m not going back and reading over all the posts in this thread. :)

  91. JM
    JM November 22, 2005 at 2:53 am |

    Exactly, Robert! We can acknowledge that the point that there are too many people who need health care for the government to handle is utterly incorrect! Our government can provide for the health care needs of our entire population! Hooray! Now don’t you feel better? Was that so hard? I’m so glad that’s settled, I could cry.

    I’ll hold your hat.

    Oh, no sir! For your own good, I could never let you so much as touch a garment as sexy as my hat, especially when there could be children about. If you don’t care about your immortal soul, I sure do! Sexy hat touching discussions tend to be fairly technical and often quite emotional. If you’re going to be such a silly rabbit, I would just as soon you forego entering the discussion. Such foolishness contributes nothing. Oh, and we’re not going to confiscate ALL the wealth! The portion of it that’s used to generate income (“you need money to make money,” after all!) can stay, and somehow, some way, our good old fashioned American ingenuity will do the rest! What have all those poorer countries with more equitable income distribution got that we haven’t, anyway! If they can manage, we can!

  92. BoDiddly
    BoDiddly November 22, 2005 at 9:46 am |

    Amy,

    I wasn’t saying that any of the things you cite were conscious decisions, but we as a society are bombarded with messages that say essentially that “you’re not successful yet if you don’t have ‘item x'”, and “item x” has gone up in price drastically over the last 40 years. I personally remember where spending over $10K on a car or over $50K on a house was pretty rare. Now, the numbers are more like $50K for the car and $300K for the house (much more, if the house is in the “right” place).

    People don’t sit and decide to neglect their kids so they can have nice things, they rather have been convinced that unless they’re in posession of many of those things and are bestowing upon their kids the very best things they are neglecting their kids.

    I remember a phrase I heard a long time ago. “Nobody ever stood by their parents’ grave and said, ‘I wish mom and dad had spent more time at the office.'” That kinda sums up my perspective. In our quest to give our kids “stuff” we don’t think it’s important to give them of ourselves, and quality doesn’t make up for quantity in that area. Many couples are saddled with financial obligations to the point that they simply must both work, and frequently those obligations are for things that are far above simply “sufficient.”

    The reference to childcare to which you refer was a response to a rant from someone else about whether I had ever been a full-time parent, and how some people aren’t “cut out” for it. No direct reference to the daycare situation. Hope that saves you some reading. :-)

  93. mythago
    mythago November 22, 2005 at 10:47 am |

    I personally remember where spending over $10K on a car or over $50K on a house was pretty rare.

    Me too. Of course, I also remember when paperbacks cost $1.95.

    Many couples are saddled with financial obligations to the point that they simply must both work, and frequently those obligations are for things that are far above simply “sufficient.”

    The nice thing about works like “sufficient” and “optional” is that, being nice and vague, you can always criticize people for the choices they make. After all, you could live in a yurt and grow your own crops, so any household where Mom has a paid job just like Dad can be scolded for Putting Material Things Above The Children’s Needs.

    If the quantity of persons who are not able to meet their own health care expenses is enormous, then there is no systemic solution.

    As you say, we have a skewed market because “health insurance” does not cover the extremes–the prices are set so that it is required to cover the basics. It would be as if a bag of sugar cost $200, and you might not even be allowed in Safeway if you didn’t have food insurance, but you could get food insurance through your employer that let you pay $5 a bag.

  94. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 12:26 pm |

    What have all those poorer countries with more equitable income distribution got that we haven’t, anyway!

    20 percent unemployment rates.

  95. JennaJ
    JennaJ November 22, 2005 at 12:54 pm |

    I have a really hard time believing that wearing revealing clothing (whether the wearer is male or female) is for any purpose other than presenting one’s self as sexually attractive.

    Yes, clearly. It is so cute how you think you understand the motivations of others better than they do. “Don’t tell ME what you’re doing, I KNOW what you’re doing!” I can’t speak for the world, but I have been a teenage girl and I have this weird tendency to talk to teenage girls and ask them their opinions before I make sweeping categorical generalizations about them. And I know that there may be, quite simply, about a thousand reasons for wearing whatever it is that you’re wearing. Attracting attention, sexual and generalized, would certainly be among them, but you’re not justified in just assuming that that’s any given individual’s motivation at any given time. I don’t know what you consider to be revealing, but I suspect you’d feel that my wardrobe, then and now, would qualify, and I can state with total honesty that attracting sexual attention never really motivated me. I can also state that when I encourage my younger sister (in college) to try on clothes that are a little bit cuter and more fashionable and more common among her age group than our grandma’s, it’s not because I want her to attract sexual attention, but because I want her to be content when she looks in the mirror instead of cringing and avoiding them. Oh, and just to reiterate, there is no freaking way for most teenage girls to avoid sexual attention, regardless of what they wear. Know any female teenagers who are goth/androgynous/prefer an oversized, wrinkled sloppy look? Ask them how often they receive sexual attention and how often they’re called sluts, you’ll be astonished.

    The rest of your comment is so disjointed, it really doesn’t deserve much of an answer.

    Your regard means everything to me. lol

    You accuse me of supporting the Victorian way of life, directly ignoring the point I made when bringing up that era

    Hoo boy. What is the point you make about that era that I ignore? Because as far as I can see, and I don’t think I’m the only one, there were other comments, you make an utterly inane point about the Victorian Era and then don’t even bother to attempt to justify it. I am really fascinated to hear about how and why the problems faced by teens today were virtually non existant in that culture. What problems would those be? Teen pregnancy, which sprang fully formed upon the Earth when the first daycare centered opened, maybe abortion, which obviously didn’t exist before 1973? I’m really curious about what problems that exist today didn’t exist then (when, by the way, teens, all females and many males, really did face certain problems that have improved today, such as a complete lack of legal status). I’m not accusing you of supporting the Victorian way of life so much as of romanticizing the past in a way that’s counterfactual.

    you go off on a tangent about childcare (and I do about 60% of the parenting for my five children)

    Yeah, I’m sorry about that. I can see now that when you’re making sweeping generalizations about the pernicious influence of daycare and how children would be better off at home with a parent, then the fact that a lot of parents simply aren’t suited for full time childcare and many families/parents are deeply screwed up and daycare can be not only the best but safest part of the day for a child is completely off topic. I should have followed your lead and discussed what profound implications the fact that the father in “A Goofy Tale” is portrayed as a complete buffoon has for our culture.

    and you close by twisting my point regarding materialism.

    I don’t think that pointing out that you don’t seem to care how many people live is twisting your point. This is an old, old song, I am good and virtuous and frugal but everyone who isn’t me is motivated by greed, much like the people who believe that the lazy shiftless parasites on welfare are living the high life, swilling down lobster and champagne and lapping up undeserved free healthcare. In your world, maybe people can’t just be content with the indoor pool and tennis court but want the horse and private park, but if you look around, you might find that there are a lot of people out there working three jobs to spend money frivolously on such fripperies as rent, food, health care, medicine, heat, and gas, and barely getting by. You know, “the working poor”? 25% of the homeless working full time jobs? I’m very lucky, in that my parents are comfortable, their lifestyle isn’t lavish in any way but they do have enough disposable income to take care of necessities and still have enough to adjust to vagaries like the exploding cost of heating oil. But I’m non-clueless enough to be able to see that an awful lot of people out there aren’t so lucky. $50,000 cars, $300,000 house the norm? Right. I don’t know anyone in a low income bracket, nobody with kids, and very few people who aren’t retired after working their whole lives, who have even a $10,000 car, and as for a house? Yeah. There’s a big difference between going back to the land and making tofu mayonaise because you have the luxury of being in a financial situation where you can afford to choose and “simplifying” because you don’t have a damn dime to spend. By the way, since a significant proportion of households are now headed by single parents, any ideas on how we encourage them to abandon their jobs so that their kids won’t become the next daycare statistics? We can encourage them to scale down their lavish lifestyles, sure, but it does seem that some level of public subsidy may be indicated with no income coming in, I hope you’re okay with that. Saying that parents are forced to work because “they’re saddled with financial oblications” for non necessities is no different from saying that most personal bankruptcies are filed not primarily because of medical expenses, death or divorce, but because irresponsible people go on spending sprees and then walk out on the bill like thieves. It’s easy to say, but that doesn’t make it true.

  96. JennaJ
    JennaJ November 22, 2005 at 1:03 pm |

    20 percent unemployment rates.

    Funny how the lack of employment seems easier to take when it doesn’t mean losing your healthcare, not being able to afford your child’s medicine or basic necessities. In France, you can even visit tons of beautiful free attractions and get a cultural stipend so you don’t miss out on theatre and cinema. I wonder how appealing that all seems to an unemployed person in the US, or someone who’s got a job or two or three but is homeless and destitute? Probably very communistic and scary.

  97. Amy
    Amy November 22, 2005 at 3:00 pm |

    BoDiddly, I’m not trying to say our society isn’t materialistic. I watch reality TV or hear about some crazy thing that some celebrity spent $30 million on, and I’m horrified like anyone else. I agree that it’s crazy to spend $50,000 on a car as a status symbol. Have you seen those stupid scaled down Humvees? Why would a civilian need a Hummer?

    The thing is, though, while an impractical expensive car is not a necessity, a car may be. I don’t know about not being successful if you don’t have item x, if you live where I do, you’re not employable if you don’t. I live in a very rural part of a very blue, high tech and industrial state, nothing is in walking distance even when there’s not a lot of snow and ice on the ground, there’s no public transportation within twenty or thirty miles. If you don’t have access to a car, you can’t work, go to school, grocery shop. You can buy the cheapest used car you can find, but if that’s more than you can afford (I’m 17 and I don’t have a car, so I can’t really say how much cars typically cost, but I hear a lot of complaining about it being way too much and more than someone can afford. I get by because I’m from a pretty large family, my siblings and parents are all either teachers or students, so their schedules are more open than 9 to 5, leaving me with car access a lot of the time if I work around everone’s schedule) then you don’t have much choice except to go into debt, and that’s if you have credit, if you don’t what are you going to do? Used cars break down a lot and you have to pay for a tow and a part or something, then there’s also the gas issue, $40 for a tank of gas becomes a really big issue if you didn’t have that much money to start out with.

    I don’t know of any married couples around this area who are both high powered professionals, like investment bankers who are putting stuff like private school tuition ahead of spending time with their kids. Like I said, we’re rural, and we’re not a bedroom community to a city or anything, doctors and lawyers aren’t exactly breaking down the doors. It’s a little cheaper to live here than it is in most other places in the state, but rents are still high and mortgage payments are still big. I know a few couples with kids who are grad students with two $10,000 a year stipends, with half of that going to rent, and one of them has a son with asthma and the university wants grad students to start paying more for their health care and access to the school daycare center. And yeah, you can say that they’ll be making money after they graduate, but that’s not something you can count on, a lot of colleges are transitioning to basically using temps instead of putting anyone on salary, and that’s also when their student loans are going to come due. And yes, I guess they could drop out of school and find something that pays better, I’m just not sure what, the job market is pretty depressed around here, we have a lot of college graduates and starting salaries aren’t very high. And that’s for grad students, forget high school grads. And honestly, a lot of parents feel guilty because they can’t give their children all these nice things. They’d like to, but it’s just not possible. So i can kind of see how they’d go a little overboard if they were in a better financial situation, but I’d like to think that would wear off eventually, I don’t know.

    Neglect is a really strong word. It is sad when material goods are more important than family, but you’re painting with a pretty broad brush here.

  98. zuzu
    zuzu November 22, 2005 at 4:10 pm |

    “Moral hazard” is the condition caused when a subsidy or guarantee causes an able-bodied person to forego individual effort because the subsidy or guarantee will cover their needs. The system I sketched out ensures that everyone will receive care without generating this hazard for those folk able to care for themselves; your snark does not cohere.

    Except the moral hazard problem in health care is a myth.

  99. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 4:48 pm |

    In France, you can even visit tons of beautiful free attractions

    “Monique, is not the pile of burning cars romantique? See how the Peugeots dance and spark in the flame.”

    “Oui, Jacques, quelle romantique.”

    “My passion is moved by the site of the flaming wreckage…I must have you now, Monique!”

    “Take me, Jacques…for the state will pay either for the abortion or for the baby, whichever we decide! And, we will get more cultural stipends!”

  100. La Lubu
    La Lubu November 22, 2005 at 7:18 pm |

    BoDiddley,

    Are you claiming that there was a rise in teenage pregnancy that coincided with a rise in the use of daycare by mothers? If so, please provide a link to these statistics. The statistics I’ve found on the internet all show a higher teen pregnancy rate in the past, when fewer mothers were using daycare. Now, teen pregnancy rates (as well as teen abortion rates) are at an all-time low, while daycare is at an all-time high.

    I’m not aware of any study that shows that teenagers who attended daycare as children are more likely to have sex than teenagers of homemakers, but like I said, you’re more than welcome to provide the link. Of all the risk factors I’ve seen listed for early sexual activity in teens, “working (outside the home) mother” was never one of them, even in the most right-wing sites.

  101. Lauren
    Lauren November 22, 2005 at 8:35 pm |

    “Take me, Jacques…for the state will pay either for the abortion or for the baby, whichever we decide! And, we will get more cultural stipends!”

    Robert, whatever gets you off…

  102. Arwen
    Arwen November 22, 2005 at 8:41 pm |

    “Take me, Jacques…for the state will pay either for the abortion or for the baby, whichever we decide! And, we will get more cultural stipends!”

    Making sure that each person gets the full force of their parents lack or excess and every decision they make and every bad luck draw that comes to them is really important, eh?

    Are there no fekkin’ workhouses?

    You know, systems that help those with bad luck and poor decisions do so *for the sake of the whole community*, not just for those who need the help.

  103. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 8:48 pm |

    I’m all over helping those with bad luck.

    Why on earth would we want to subsidize poor decisionmaking, however? It is axiomatic that the behaviors that we subsidize, we get more of. Bad luck isn’t a behavior; dumb decisions are.

    Are you suggesting that it is good for the community to make sure that people who make bad decisions don’t suffer for them?

  104. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 8:50 pm |

    Robert, whatever gets you off…

    Awesome! I’ll put the French maid outfit, the broodingly handsome Albanian coachman, the handcuffs, and the digital camera in the mail first thing tomorrow.

    (Feel free to wait until you’re not sick any more, of course. The whole face-of-agony thing just does not mesh well with the French maid theme.)

  105. Lauren
    Lauren November 22, 2005 at 9:47 pm |

    Why on earth would we want to subsidize poor decisionmaking, however?

    Because bad decision makers are potential tax payers, social security contributors, voters, et cetera. If you won’t take “for the good of humanity”, how about “for the good of the state”?

  106. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 10:17 pm |

    Because bad decision makers are potential tax payers, social security contributors, voters, et cetera. If you won’t take “for the good of humanity”, how about “for the good of the state”?

    Screw the state, and the man-on-horseback it rode in on. You’d be better off appealing to the good of humanity.

    Incentive structures affect human behavior. If you cushion life so that bad decisions lead to good outcomes, you remove the incentive to THINK. “Why bother about finishing school…my decision will never come back to bite me on the ass.”

    Aren’t there enough morons out there without encouraging the creation of more?

  107. Lauren
    Lauren November 22, 2005 at 10:41 pm |

    Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. Which one is always more successful?

  108. Robert
    Robert November 22, 2005 at 11:14 pm |

    Neither is a trump card.

    I like to work; my intrinsic motivator means I’ll always be doing something. The tax structure of the economy might well decide what I do – whether I work for pay somewhere, or do volunteer work. I could be incented to act in an intrinsically stupid way, if the external motivator were sufficiently powerful; give me a 100x salary match if I shovel shit back and forth between two piles, and by George I’ll probably shovel shit.

    Expecting intrinsic motivations to prevent societal incentives from operating is akin to the old belief that blind people get more sensitive with their other abilities. Just because it would be nice if that were true, doesn’t make it true.

  109. Arwen
    Arwen November 22, 2005 at 11:28 pm |

    Why subsidise poor decision making?

    Because not all poor decisions are created equal. You, in your obvious wisdom, and world understanding, might very well have all that it takes to make wise decisions. your situation is substantively different than the situation of an illiterate, pregnant, fourteen-year-old couple.
    Because poor decisions are more often made in times and places of desperation, of poverty, of lack of eduction, of lack of information, of superstition.
    Because some “poor decisions” (not seeing a Doctor when the problem first begins, not getting regular mammograms, not seeing a dentist for cleanings) are in fact the only decisions available.
    Because some “poor decisions” are not their won, but are their parents': bad nutrition, lack of education, lack of discipline, lack of time, lack of parental resource.
    Because some “poor decisions” happen in an instant but their consequences last a lifetime.
    Because your solution, a punitive one, doesn’t help prevent any of these “poor decisions.” At most, your solution will prevent a few middle-class white kids from slumming.

    I’ve made some poor decisions, haven’t you? I’m lucky, though. I’ve had the resources to recover form the consequences.

    A society that doesn’t understand the context around poor decision making is doomed to have it continue. The ghettos will continue. They will, in fact, grow. And eventually, the people in them are gonna come looking for you. Because they’re not substantively different from you. No slower. No dumber. They just have fewer choices. They also understand that their collective lack helps create wealth: they’re making a thousand a month so that the CEOs and the shareholders retire wealthy.

    Have you not noted the lack of class mobility in the States? Did you believe it was because your genes were better? How rigorous is your thinking?

    But sure, Monsieur, let them eat cake.

  110. mythago
    mythago November 23, 2005 at 11:58 am |

    give me a 100x salary match if I shovel shit back and forth between two piles, and by George I’ll probably shovel shit

    No, you probably wouldn’t. The idea that people are purely motivated by money is one that even U of Chicago economist are admitting is overblown.

  111. badgerbag
    badgerbag November 24, 2005 at 12:30 pm |

    Quit with the slut-bashing. Slutty 14 year old girls who have sex aren’t any more dupes of the patriarchy then adult women who enter into heterosexual marriage. We’re all in the same system, okay?

    *sigh*

  112. Lisa
    Lisa November 25, 2005 at 10:02 am |

    You may appreciate the book “Born to Buy” which is about corporations’ mostly successful attempt to turn young children, male and female, into consumers. Their major marketing tactic is to set up the product (or the company) as partners with child against the “not cool”, overly restrictive parent. I think kids are responding to the “cool” message of the advertising and are only vaguely aware of the sexual overtones of the clothing. They don’t have access to social history or know anything about oppression, sexual liberation, or gender politics. (Though it’s always disheartening to see the gender assumptions they’ve internalized at very young ages — I am constantly fighting battles with my students about certain subjects/topics/interests being “for boys” or “for girls”).

    I think it’s up to us to tell marketers to stop directing pervasive, insidious messages to kids that encourage them to pair up with corporations against authority figures. If they want to rebel, as every generation does, let it at least come from them — it’s not true “rebellion” if Abercrombie and Fitch, or McDonald’s, is encouraging it and then profiting from it. And who rebels at age 6? They don’t even know what they’re rebelling against! Let them stay children long enough to find out what they really stand for, and what’s out there, before they start being so image-conscious.

    This issue bugs me a bit because I see mostly social conservatives on this bandwagon, and I think they ARE interested in having reduced roles for women in society and teaching little girls to be chaste and modest while little boys are excused. I am a secular liberal who wants more regulation of the corporations that prey on our children. I don’t think “modesty” has very much to do with it – I think it’s all about the money.

  113. JW
    JW November 27, 2005 at 12:29 pm |

    I’ve noticed most every one stampeding around outward symptoms. Cut to the core. The images in advertisements, on TV, in movies, and emeshed in every vestige of our external lives portrays senarios to drive basic emotions. These emotions, relate to basic instincts of safety and survival, as well as greed and power. We are bombarded with information at a rate that vastly overwhelms any message of sensible content. Sensible doesn’t sell especially season after season. As in the old cliche ‘where’s the cash?’ there is money to be made in exploitation. The majority of us have an underlying need to belong; historically not to belong means outcast, stranger, enemy or at least someone to be rejected from present company. Great selling point in advertising.

    Quite engenious, our socioeconomic engine, the same people who fund the avdvertising fund the special interest groups that protest; have bought the politicians, employ armies of lobbyists; and generally keep the whole process in such a swirl that no one truly looks at the money makers. In our capitalistic society capitalists are sacred cows and oddly enough are often nurtured and protected by big religion as examples of the righteous path to the American way.

    Can we really talk about the ills of fashion in society knowledgebly if we never look at the flow of money? What distracts us?

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