Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

30 August 2013

When Feminists Attack...Each Other (Yes, another post kinda about Miley Cyrus)

I seriously wanted to ignore the Miley Cyrus VMA thing. But no, my good friend, Joanne Bamberger had to go and write a piece connecting the sexualization of girls to rape culture and then to the horrifying 30-day sentence for that rapist teacher in Montana. That's what friends do, read their friends' writing.

I then shared it on Facebook (more what friends do) and one friend made an excellent point. Joanne had stretched just a bit too far (my FB friend thought, really far) by using Miley as an example of the sexualization of girls. See, I totally followed Joanne's logic as stated here:

Even though she is 20, many of us still see her as the tween/teen star of Disney's Hannah Montana, and maintain a mental image of her as that more wholesome child, even as she struts on stage today, inviting sexual attention.
Yes, Miley is 20, but the collective we still do see her as a child. That could be one reason why she's trying too damn hard to be "sexy" and "edgy," to cast off the Disney-child-actor image. And let's remember that while 20-year-old Miley twerked, 17-year-old Miley danced on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards. She's been trying to de-Disney-fy herself for years. Joanne then goes on to cite research that says, Yes, girls in the media are increasingly sexualized:
The increased media sexualization of young girls isn't just anecdotal. A recent study by The Parents Television Council found a "very real problem" of teen girls being shown in sexually exploitive ways that are often presented as humorous.
My 10-year-old watched Hannah Montana on occasion, so I don't know if Hannah was ever shown in sexually exploitive way. And if the fact that the PTC is a conservative group makes you question their finding, you can look at the work of the American Psychological Association's report on the sexualization of girls. They pretty much say the same thing -- girls in the media are increasingly being sexualized. I know there are those who would immediately dismiss anything that cites the PTC.

Joanne then goes on to cite the sad stats on rape:
Whether there is a connection between these images and teen sexual abuse isn't clear, but according to the Department of Justice, one-third of sexual assaults victims are ages 12-17, and those ages 16-19 are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted or become victims of rape than the general population.
 She is not saying that because girls are wearing short skirts, wearing make-up or anything like that and thus getting raped. She is merely stating the facts about the rate of rape.

She ends by asking us to consider the possibility that the fact that girls are highly sexualized in the media could be seeping into the judgement of authority figures like the judge in Montana:
In light of these statistics and the Parents Television Council's study, it doesn't seem to be a huge leap to suggest that with young girls increasingly sexualized in the media, teen victims of sexual assault may be judged more harshly because too many see a child as being "in control."
Let's recap...Joanne points to Miley Cyrus' poor sexy dance as evidence of the sexualization of girls in mass media...Coupled with the fact that teens are raped and then asks us to consider how media is impacting our decision making (NYTimes blaming an 11-year-old girl for her rape, a judge in Montana saying a 14-year-old was older than her chronological age, etc) when it comes to who to blame for a teen's rape.
I wondered: have today's sexually-charged images of young girls and women warped how judges, and others, view real life victims of rape and sexual assault?
No where do I see Joanne blaming teens for wearing sexy outfits, trying on sexy personas. Somehow Amanda Marcotte has interpreted Joanne's op-ed as blaming Miley for rape. She first puts Joanne in the same pot with the NYTimes blaming an 11-year-old by stating, "Look, teenage girls are going to experiment with trying on a bunch of sexual persona to figure out what works for them." Again, I want to point out that Joanne's op-ed is NOT about girls, but about how our media is warping how we see girls.

Amanda goes on to further misread Joanne's piece by stating:
As Bamberger notes, a huge percentage of rape victims, about one-third, are under 17 at the time of the crime. The reason for this isn't because teenage girls are awkwardly trying to see if they can work a miniskirt or are imitating their favorite pop stars' sexualized dance moves. It is because younger women are more pliable and therefore more easily victimized. 
 HUH? No where does Joanne link the rape statistics with girls, miniskirts or imitating pop stars. She does link the stats to MEDIA IMAGES. If we can "blame" advertisers for glorifying violence against women without blaming the models, but the advertisers/brands/photographers, why can't we critique the machines that are sexualizing childhood?

As I said at the start, (waaaay up there^) Joanne's op-ed would be better suited for post-stripper pole Miley than twerking Miley due to her age. But her main point is to ask us to consider how media is warping the way we see teen girls, especially teen girls who have been sexually abused or raped. It is this view of teen girls that leads others to judge that they "dress too skanky," "asked for it," "knew what she was doing," on and on. Where does that view come from? Many places, including media's depiction of girls.

And if you want something smart to read on the Miley thing, go read "How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke."

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