What’s going on in Girl Land?

January 31, 2012

There’s a huge hoo-ha coming our way about girls and the internet. It’s generated by an American writer and journalist called Caitlin Flanagan who, I’m sure, is utterly delightful, but comes over like someone who is never happier than when stirring up tornados in teacups. One of her previous books was subtitled Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife, and was based around her premise that ‘women have a deeply-felt emotional connection to housekeeping.’

Well, I actually do have a deeply-felt emotional connection to housekeeping – but then, as my many friends will attest, I am a bit bonkers. And I am the ONLY person I know who gives a toss if their skirting boards are dusty. Most of my friends are way too busy to know they actually  have skirting boards, and I suspect even their cleaners have more of a life than to give them a passing thought.

Having annoyed everyone with the housekeeping book (and yes, that includes me – I fully uphold every woman’s right to be deeply uninterested in skirting boards), Flanagan is moving on to adolescent girls. Her theory seems to be that girls are damaged by the increasing sexualisation of our culture, and the Internet is making things worse. So far, so obvious, and I’m sure hardly anyone would disagree. Teeth will be ground, though, when Flanagan makes it clear that she believes girls are bound to be helpless victims, preyed on by boys, who are growing up cruder, more brutal and with even less idea of what real girls and women are like than ever before, thanks to surfing porn 24/7.

While it’s probably not the case that all boys are now Internet porn junkies (I said ‘probably’), it’s a bit of a shame that Flanagan doesn’t suggest, for a second, that anyone should stop boys from being boys in this way. All her suggestions focus on changing girls’ behaviour, not boys, even though it’s not the girls’ behaviour that is the problem.

Sigh. All a bit silly, really, and I wouldn’t give it a thought, except that I happened to see the list of one of my girls’ Facebook friends on the computer the other night. I didn’t pry, really I didn’t, but I was struck by how much effort these girls had put into their profile pictures. Careful make-up, alluring poses, dramatic outfits – from very young teens. It all looked a lot more like hard work than anything in my day. We didn’t have to present ourselves to the world in as attractive a manner as possible, in order to gain the maximum number of friends. Yes, granted, I did pose in front of the mirror with different hairstyles, and experiment with make-up, and try on every item in my wardrobe before even going to the corner shop, but that was only for an audience of about seven bored people. Girls now are out there, on the Internet, trying to look as old and as worldly-wise as Britney Spears (God forbid), in front of countless millions. It’s just sad.

I’m not going to stop my children going on Facebook – I do value my life – but it all makes me queasy. I’m feel I am almost on the point of agreeing with Caitlin Flanagan. And that’s very worrying indeed.


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  • Family Affairs February 1, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    It’s a scary brave new world out there and I’m not sure what I think. What I do know is that as bloggers ourselves we perhaps have a little more understanding of how it all works than others? I remember my children being horrified when I was meeting up with a blogger I”d never met – they thought I should be cautious and check to see if I was being groomed and walking into a trap. Ha ha. As if. Lx

    • Dulwich Divorcee February 2, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Oh that’s funny, mine were exactly the same – I’d invited the blogger (a woman) to our home and they were convinced I was going to be axe-murdered or worse! Needless to say we had a perfectly nice cup of tea and that was that 🙂

  • Naomi Richards February 2, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Girl land is a very scary place. It is hard to keep our girls young and indoors. They want to look older and are more focussed on their appearance. We have little control over our children nowadays – I sound old – but with social media it becomes harder to protect them.

    • Dulwich Divorcee February 8, 2012 at 10:57 am

      It’s really tough, isn’t it? I think I’ve been overprotective if anything, I now worry my girls won’t know what’s hit them when they finally escape to uni or wherever! Very hard to strike the right balance. I don’t want to send them off into the world too naive, or too knowing either ….. must get your book, I’m sure it’s got some great tips 🙂

  • Family Affairs February 3, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Cup of tea? How boring. No adventures? Poisoned lemon cake or anything like that? Lx

    • Dulwich Divorcee February 8, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Nope, not even a soggy biscuit …. but we did do an awful lot of chatting, still friends now – I last bumped into her by chance outside Selfridges but we didn’t have poisoned lemon cake that time either, I clearly don’t know how to live …. xx