Girls, mild or wild
0 comment Saturday, November 8, 2014 |
'Good' is Not a Bad Word
by Chuck Colson - Breakpoint
Eight years ago, a young writer named Wendy Shalit took the culture by storm with a radical book called A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue. While many people embraced the idea of a return to modesty�especially the young women whose struggles and aspirations Shalit wrote about�others were appalled. "I knew that my arguments . . . might be challenged," Shalit recalls now, "but nothing prepared me for the tongue-lashings I would receive from my elders. . . . [Feminist writer] Katha Pollitt called me a 'twit.� . . . The Nation solemnly foretold that I would 'certainly be embarrassed� and regret my stance 'in a few years.�"
Well, it�s now been a few years, and Wendy regrets nothing. On the contrary, she has a new book out, Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It�s Not Bad to Be Good. As the title proclaims, Shalit is still convinced that true strength and happiness come not from deadening one�s emotions and having sex for fun, but from practicing modesty and self-restraint.
And guess who�s on her side?
As Shalit recounts, "To find out why modesty is more appealing to younger people, [feminist writer Katha] Pollitt might have talked to her own daughter, Sophie, who . . . was disgusted by contemporary sexual norms."
Colson's article then goes on to tell how some feminists' daughters, like the daughter of feminist writer Erica Jong, agree with Miss Shalit's point of view. It's obvious that the feminist ideology has not been a great success in achieving a better society in which women are 'freer' and safer and more 'autonomous', but instead, too often, young women feel more vulnerable and more distressed by the shabby state of male-female relationships, in which heartless, soulless 'hook-ups' often substitute for romance or loving companionship.
Shalit in her original book also made the point, a valid one, that many 'conservatives' who ought to have been on her side tended to dismiss some of her concerns as being feminist 'whining' and complaining. If she said that young women felt vulnerable or treated as objects, this was decried by many 'conservatives' as feminist victim rhetoric.
She said:
First, I want to invite conservatives to take the claims of the feminists seriously. That is, all of their claims, from the date-rape figures to anorexia to the shyness of teenage girls, even the number of women who say they feel 'objectified� by the male gaze. I want them to stop saying that this or that study was flawed; or that young women are exaggerating; or that it has been proven that at this or that university such-and-such a charge was made up. Because ultimately, it seems to me, it doesn�t really matter if one study is flawed or if one charge is false. When it comes down to it, the same vague yet unmistakable problem is still with us."
I think conservatives probably went too far in deriding some of the claims of young women about date-rape, for example, simply as an unthinking knee-jerk reaction against feminism. If feminists claimed that date rape occurred at a certain rate, then the 'conservatives' immediately rejected the claims as feminist propaganda, and tended to deny that rape was as common as feminists said -- just because feminists said it. Surely there is a better and more honest way: examine statistics, and pay attention to real-life anecdotes. We can't rely on anecdotes alone, but when you see patterns, those patterns are telling. I have heard stories from women and girls whose honesty is not in doubt; conservatives have been too quick to downplay and deny that women's rape claims are true.
I agree that false rape claims do happen; I believe that women sometimes do make false claims for vindictive reasons or for other reasons: to escape consequences for some bad judgment on their part, or to get attention and sympathy. But to acknowledge that false rape accusations are made (as with the Duke Lacrosse players) should not mean that we declare all rape claims to be lies or feminist whining.
A while back, when basketball player Kobe Bryant was accused of rape, I was staggered by the number of 'conservatives' who were quick to condemn the accuser as a liar and a 'gold-digger' or attention-seeker. I could not and cannot see how her claims would enrich her or bring her fame; instead, she was exposing herself to being called a liar and worse.
I think in an overreaction to feminist claims about rape, both 'date-rape' and forcible stranger rape, many 'conservatives' have dropped the traditional chivalrous protection of women and have been too quick to disbelieve women who have in fact been victims of rape or other sexual crimes.
Another recent case in which people, both men and women, have been quick to condemn a young woman was the Natalee Holloway case, in which the missing young woman was condemned as a slut, a whore, and worse, for having apparently left a club with a young man she just met. Yes, if that's the way it happened (and we have only the suspects' word for it) she certainly showed poor judgment, but did she deserve rape and/or death as a punishment?
I think conservatives have been too quick to adopt the harsh tone of lesbian libertarian writer Camille Paglia, who tends to blame young women for their poor choices. Paglia somehow has been established as a 'conservative' when she is simply anti-liberal (and often anti-traditional, hence anti-conservative). And she is a feminist, for Pete's sake, yet she has many ardent 'conservative' admirers. Conservatives are all too often easily pleased; anybody who insults liberals is taken to the hearts of these 'conservatives' as being on our side. Paglia is not on the side of traditional values, in any way. In her own words:
I'm someone who is on the record as being pro-pornography--all the way through kiddie porn and snuff films. I'm pro-prostitution--I mean really pro, not just pro-prostitute and against prostitution. I'm pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, pro-drag queens, pro-legalization of drugs.''
Some 'conservative'. Some advocate of women.
More from the same piece
Like when this huge, nasty expose I wrote for Arion at Boston University came out, and the San Francisco Examiner magazine made it its cover story this summer. They asked me, by the way, "Would you pose as Madonna for our pages?" And I said, "No, but I'll do something just as good." So I posed in a purple miniskirt with a whip and chains in front of a porn store. I thought for San Francisco I should do that--make an extra effort!
So at any rate I got these wonderful moving letters from San Francisco and from the Bay Area--people who said that they were weeping, crying as they read my piece. They said that "for twenty years I've seen our Sixties ideals seem to be betrayed--I felt lost and uncentered--and when I read your piece I remember again the fire that we felt in the Sixties, I remember again what we were working for in the Sixties." Okay, so this is what I'm doing. I'm trying to bring back out of the woodwork all these Sixties people. Come out, come out, wherever you are!''
Paglia occasionally says a true thing, but she is no conservative, and should not be a darling of unthinking conservatives just because she insults their enemies occasionally. I see the same phenomenon with figures like Christopher Hitchins and Andrew Sullivan, neither of them conservative, yet they are still fawned over by conservatives because they aim barbs at favorite targets of many on the right, and they do so with verbal skill or eloquence. Yet they should not be mistaken for conservatives.
So Paglia is right to an extent; she is right that feminism has tended to infantilize women, a point which I have made myself on occasion. We might expect liberal feminists to adopt an infantilized victim image of women, but when conservative women embrace that image of women and defend women who ought not to be defended, on the basis of their helplessness, this is distressing. Women are not helpless and are not exempt from responsibility.
Infantilizing women, and inculcating them with the idea of their helplessness and lack of accountability is not the traditional way; women may have been 'second-class citizens' by our modern liberal standards in the old days, but they were brought up to believe that they were responsible for the choices they made, and they were taught that they had better choose rightly or there would be consequences. Hence young women, in the unenlightened pre-feminist days, were taught that public drunkenness, or even private drunkenness, was a bad and immoral choice, and that it left them very vulnerable to any number of possible fates, none of them good. Rape or worse would be a potential fate of a young woman who got falling-down drunk, or allowed herself to be alone with a strange male. Young women understood that, and behaved accordingly, and those who did not, were at the very least, likely to have their reputation diminished, and to find themselves gossiped about and sometimes shunned. Was this cruel? Maybe; but it brought many a young woman back in line, or deterred her from getting out of line in the first place. Better to be shunned or chastised and to avoid the wrong path than to become a drunk and a promiscuous slattern. And nowadays, drunkenness and sluttish behaviors are the norm for many young women, not the exception.
So was Natalee Holloway to blame, as many conservatives assert, for whatever sad fate overtook her? In some sense, maybe, but does her irresponsibility absolve the guilt of whoever abducted and/or killed her? Hardly.
The young woman who accused Kobe Bryant of rape seems to have been less to blame, considering that her job brought her into contact with Bryant, and she may have been alone with him in the context of her job. So was she irresponsible? Most of us can't decide that because we don't know the facts. She may have been star-struck; some young people rashly believe that celebrities are not capable of criminal behavior.
But these young women are all in a sense victims, although I hate to use that odiously overused word, of our current society's libertine norms. In a world in which many young people have a careless and callous attitude towards sex, regarding it as a mere animal act, it's not surprising that 'hook-ups' are the norm and promiscuity no longer scandalous. And in such a degraded atmosphere, there will be more sexual advantage taken: drunk young women are vulnerable. And the dropping of social censure for drunkenness is a contributing factor. It used to be that drunkenness, or alcohol use in general, was considered 'unladylike'. Nice girls did not get drunk. But with the triumph of feminism, with women vying to outdo males in excesses like social drinking and promiscuity, being 'ladylike' was declared to be oppressive for women. It was male chauvinism that invented the image of the 'lady', so the feminists said, so the ladylike ideal must go. The word 'lady' became a fighting word, a grave insult, for feminists. Women must never be called 'girls' or 'gals' or 'chicks', and worst of all was the word 'lady'. because the 'lady' was a prisoner of the patriarchy, with censorious males telling her not to do this and not to do that; her freedom demanded the discarding of all rules of ladylike behavior. Women were thus encouraged to curse and swear like sailors, drink heavily like men, go everywhere unescorted, including into bars (remember ladies could not enter some bars unescorted in the old days). Women suddenly adopted a number of other risky behaviors like hitchhiking alone, often with bad consequences. And the feminists refused to see that their reckless casting off of old taboos and social roles made women immensely more vulnerable to the predators who unquestionably exist out there.
Feminists did women no favors, though they claimed to be 'liberating' women.
But Wendy Shalit is right; conservatives have overreacted against feminists and have thus turned against women in a sense.
Feminists may have exaggerated the victimization of women, and diminished their responsibility for the misfortunes that followed feminist 'liberation', but the fact is, women ARE vulnerable, if only by virtue of the fact that women are not the physical equals of men. And the 'conservative' women who believe the feminist nonsense about women being the equals of men in the military and in police work are as much fools as the liberal feminists on this score. Women, aside from the occasional -type, are simply not a match for men in size and strength. Women and girls are more at risk out there in a world with too many predators and deviants, Paglia and her ilk notwithstanding. Shalit tried to make that point: women are vulnerable, and we have to re-instill in our girls the need for greater vigilance and 'ladylike behavior' so as to minimize the risks. Yes, we can teach our girls to defend themselves as best they can, but to teach them that a few martial arts lessons will make them invulnerable while walking the streets at 2 A.M. is to delude them. And yes they should be taught to use firearms, but we should also teach them that it's still better to live a life which does not expose them to needless risks, and that the old-fashioned ways and norms were much healthier and safer for women than this egalitarian jungle in which foolish and reckless and misguided young women are exposed to dangers their grandmothers would never have imagined.
We do need a return to modesty and to some kind of sanity regarding sexuality and the balance between the sexes. Clearly the 'new' ways pushed on us by the left since the 1960s are not working; they are destroying the very basis of our society.

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