Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Mother's Anguish

What’s a mother to do? Her experience is telling her one thing. The culture is insisting that she do something else.

A mother’s experience tells her, unambiguously, that her thirteen year-old daughter is too young to dress like a tart. The culture says that if she doesn’t allow her daughter to dress this way the girl will not have any friends.

A mother knows that the culture is preying on her daughter, preparing to turn her budding sexual longings into occasions for trauma and abuse. Yet, if she doesn't allow her daughter to participate she will make her into a maladjusted social outcast.

What’s a mother to do when the culture is leading her daughter in a direction that she knows is wrong and harmful?

If she’s Jennifer Moses, she can raise the issue in the Wall Street Journal. Link here.

Moses asks this rhetorical question: “What teenage girl doesn't want to be attractive, sought-after and popular? And what mom doesn't want to help that cause?”

The question implies that there is nothing a mother can do to shield her daughter from the culture.

She wants her daughter to be attractive, sought-after and popular, doesn’t she? Or does she? If she does, should she?

Does any mother want her thirteen-year-old daughter to advertise her sexuality?

The first time I read the question, I reflected for a few seconds and then recalled the one Mom who famously refused to sacrifice her daughters to the predations of American culture. That would be: the Tiger Mom.

For women who are rationalizing their behavior by telling themselves that the culture is too powerful, the Tiger Mom stands as a living reproach.

Tiger Mom was not thinking about how attractive and popular her daughters were. She was worried about how well they did in school and how well they played the piano and violin.

Does this make her a bad mother? Does this mean that she was abusing her daughters? Or does this tell women like Jennifer Moses that perhaps they, and their friends, have more power than they think.

Their anguish is sending them the same message.

Keep in mind that the Tiger Mom was excoriated, abused almost beyond endurance, by all of these caring mothers who allow their daughters to style themselves like aspiring prostitutes.

Now if all these mothers banded together and decided that they would exert more control over their daughters’ attire, might they not produce something of an effect? Where's the sisterhood when young girls need it so badly?

Instead of attacking the Tiger Mom, these mothers should have joined her cause.

For all the brouhaha about the Tiger Mom’s pedagogical technique, her work ethic, and her unyielding Confucianism… very few of those who railed against her bothered themselves with the fact that she was bringing up daughters, not sons.

For the record, this blogger was among the very few who emphasized that point, and that her techniques might well have been devised to protect her daughters from American culture.

For any mother, her daughter’s sexuality is a sacred trust. Mothers have considerable authority on the subject of female sexuality. Normally, they want their daughters to learn that their sexuality is something they should treat as sacred, not profane. They want their daughters to enjoy sex, but within a relationship that renders it a meaningful experience.

Moses explains that she and her friends grew up sexually liberated. Yet, their own experience taught them that feminism was wrong to equate male and female sexual experience.

She makes what I would consider a shocking statement: “Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd ‘experimented‘ more.”

Somehow, the sex-positive feminists missed out on this "lingering discomfort." Or else, they are simply falsifying their experience to serve an ideology. Stranger things have happened.

Let’s allow Jennifer Moses to explain her predicament: “Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we're being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?”

Of course, some mothers are happy to see their daughters become the essence of hotness. They feel that learning how to party is an important part of growing up… and being sexually liberated.

Moses begs to differ. She continues: “I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, ‘If I could do it again, I wouldn't even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?’

“We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn't have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that's certainly the norm among my peers.

“So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn't), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We're embarrassed, and we don't want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.”

Those are amazing statements.

Moses is saying that women have been dispossessed of their ability to trust their own judgment about what is best for their daughters, and that they do not know how to teach their children not to give away their bodies for free.

Only women who have remained anchored in strict religious traditions have been able to do what Moses wishes she could do for her daughter.

But, what does God have to do with this?

A great deal, as it happens.

Ask yourself whether feminine sexuality is a matter of nature or nurture? Is human nature a universal constant, subject to local variations? Or are there just local variations… that is, socially constructed sexual behaviors?

Because that was the wager that these mothers took when they followed the feminist siren song into the land of sexual liberation.

As they look back at those days, they all seem to have concluded that they were wrong, and that pretending to have sex like men was a bad idea.

So, they learned a lesson, and they learned it the hard way.

Yet, they cannot find a way to teach that same lesson to their daughters. They are letting their daughters make the same mistakes.

Doesn’t trial-and-error count for something? Doesn’t your personal experience have any authority at all? Doesn’t it allow you communicate the lessons you have learned to your children?

Apparently, not.

In a way that is the strangest part of the story. These women do not feel that they have any right to direct their daughters’ behavior. They are acting as though their own experience as women does not grant them any privileged knowledge about feminine sexuality. They are steeling themselves for the day when their daughters start hooking up and hope that these girls will get through it as they did.

Among the cultural values that these women have absorbed is this one: everyone has the right to make his or her own mistakes. It used to be called: reinventing the wheel.

This is an argument against authority. If experience does not grant authority, then perhaps these women still doubt the lessons of their own experiences. It is not that easy to shed the yoke of feminist ideology or to defy a culture‘s values, even when you know they're wrong.


Retriever said...

I never let my daughters dress like sluts. I didn't care if it isolated them from their peers. They never wanted to dress that way (thank God). But if they had, I would not have let them. Perhaps my fuddy duddy expectations psychologically scarred and isolated them?

Now, obviously, you can't stop them unbuttoning blouses or rolling waistbands of skirts to make them shorter or buying what I call hooker shoes with earnings from after school jobs. But you can do a few things to limit it. For one thing, you can limit work to 4-6 hours a week (as we did) in a place locally that they had to walk to so that a) work didn't cut into studying time and b) didn't expose them to things in the mall that they'd want to waste their money on.

It really doesn't matter how the parents behaved (or did not) in their youth. They are the parents, and they should determine the standards for their kids. If a child wants to be sent to college at vast expense, they have to abide by the parents' rules. End of story. Popularity is BS.

My kids took on their peer group's standards in college, when I expected them to, but by that time they were mature enough not to dress like floozies. By 18 or 19 they just reject your politics, religion and other values and you almost wish they would dress like sluts--which would be a relatively minor form of rebellion by comparison...:)

All kinds of parents did all kinds of dumb or sleazy things when younger (whether it was drive too fast, drink too much, smoke weed, cheat on schoolwork, lie on job applications, slough off on the job, sleep with people on the first date, cheat on a loved one, betray a confidence, try LSD, go on crazy fad diets, become insider traders, become scummy hedge fund managers who pillage the life savings of their fellow Americans). In general, those same people want their children to grow up to be honest, faithful, kind, disciplined, self-controlled and able to delay gratification, law-abiding, and not substance abusers...And they are perfectly entitled to insist on those things when raising their children. Civilization depends on a certain degree of hypocrisy as all of us are fallible.

My generation has often lacked the courage of its convictions because we hesitate to expect much of our kids, guiltily remembering our own failings in youth. But it's better to expect too much than too little, that way, when people fall short, they have still tried to aim higher.

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Heh

What’s a mother to do when the culture is leading her daughter in a direction that she knows is wrong and harmful? -- Stuart Schneiderman

What's THIS?!?!?!???

Did she forget what HER mother told HER....

If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, will you do it too?


[Truisms are not necessarily 'false' because they are 'old'.]

Anonymous said...

P.S. What have I said in the past on this blog about women and....

herd mentality?

Anonymous said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman, et al.
RE: More on 'Herd Mentality'

Thinking further on this, I believe that both men and women are subject to this sort of 'group non-think' of 'follow the leader', whomever the leader may be.

However, I suspect that men are less susceptible to this form of get-along-to-go-along. Men tend to be more likely to think/act for themselves. From thence came the likes of the Vikings, Columbus, mountain men, pioneers, great inventors, great out-of-the-box philosphers, etc., etc., etc.....

So we allowed women to 'take charge' of US. And what has it got US?

• Greater debt than any nation in history has experienced.
• The suppression of industry and the advancement of knowledge for the sake of political correctness.
• A new war that has been instigated with less justification than Bush's wars against Iraq and Afghanistan....not to forget that Obama didn't even bother to ask Congress about it.

I could go on and on, but why waste my 'breath'. The useful fools who put Obama into office won't listen in the first place and those who recognized the 'threat' when he showed up in 2007 for what he was are fully aware already.

But back on my point, not ALL women nor ALL men are 'herd mentality' thinkers-actors. Rather, it is highly more likely than women are than men.


[In unanimity there is cowardice and uncritical thinking.]

Anonymous said...

Stuart -

the self-directed charge of "hypocrisy" shows a (crippling)confusion on the part of Ms Moses w/regard to her parental role.

your comments about Moses' "confusion in her heart",
and Retriever's excellent,parallel comments about hypocrisy, show how much moral-relativity has damaged adult judgment.

I'm reminded of the idea that it's wise to learn from your mistakes, but wiser to learn from the mistakes of others.

Ms Moses can't seem to acknowledge that she'd like to put this principle to work for her daughter's advantage and well-being. The parental roles of guidance and responsibility should over-rule "worries about

"He doesn't demonstrate good judgement".

"She doesn't demonstrate good judgement".

These phrases illustrate a daily thought that must pass through the minds of intelligent, modern adults, despite the fact that
they can't say it out loud,in public. And despite the fact that
people like "Morning Gloria" are in full-time "activist" mode, devoted to demonstrating its opposite.

If you were seeking to hire an employee (high-school-age, college-age or beyond) can you say the two phrases above wouldn't enter your deliberations?

"Destroy the family, and you destroy society."
- (V. I. Lenin)

- shoe

Therapy Culture said...

"For all the brouhaha about the Tiger Mom’s pedagogical technique, her work ethic, and her unyielding Confucianism… very few of those who railed against her bothered themselves with the fact that she was bringing up daughters, not sons.

For the record, this blogger was among the very few who emphasized that point, and that her techniques might well have been devised to protect her daughters from American culture."

It has nothing to do with sons or daughters. Asian parents are the same across the board.

Asian parents don't care about their kids having a "social life".

They want them to "succeed" in academics and professional life more than anything else.

For getting laid - they can have an arranged or assisted marriage when they grow up.