Perhaps, like Australian parenting guru Steve Biddulph you will discover how to bring up girls. Biddulph’s latest book Parenting Girls has been received by the BBC’s Women’s Hour and the Telegraph with a gusto that suggests girls have been roaming our homes and streets, feral. Sexting boys with abandon and marking their territory with fake tan prints.
The Pink Stinks campaign and other feminist organisations might feel they had already said that. Probably because they have, repeatedly over the years, so why has the problem seemingly only got worse? Biddulph cracks out the statistics: “One in five will experience a serious psychological disorder before reaching adulthood. They are a lot more anxious, they are more likely to self-harm, they are more prone to bullying, they are binge drinking and they are more likely to be at risk of promiscuous sexual behaviour. Girls are more stressed and depressed than they've ever been before.” How much of it is simple media hysterics and how much of it is a real problem?
Yesterday in The Independent Grace Dent applauded Diane Abbott’s decision to bring up the subject of sexting. It’s odd, the timing I mean, because we’ve had sexting since circa 2006. But Dent is right when she says: “it is bloody embarrassing, which is why we fail our children – boys and girls – in looking the other way”
I don’t want to get into the realms of slutshaming,the meaning has changed since the Daily Mail and the PTA heard about it anyway
We do, Dent’s advice for teenagers: “Girls, believe me, holding back, listening to the quiet voice in your head, and saying ‘No, I will not give you pictures or videos of me to masturbate over’ is QUITE the power-move” is true. If you want to be in control of your image it’s probably best to keep your image to yourself. Until of course a Professional Photographer like Terry Richardson offers to photograph you in your 18th birthday suit.
In discussion about bringing up girls BBC Woman’s Hour the 18 year old voice of the younger generation evidently felt it very important that the absence of consent as a subject in her SRE at school. She brought it up numerous times and numerous times she was kind of ignored. What is the point of getting a teenager to talk to you if you aren’t going to listen? This girl is telling us she needs permission from us to say no!
Dent mentioned that she was “enjoying C4’s documentary series What Happens in Kavos…, not just for the rampant STIs, bisexual orgies and kids suffering E. coli from urinating on each other…” Platforms such as this and the BBC 3 series Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents in which teens go on holiday with their friends, get drunk, vomit and flash on camera thinking their parents will never know (unless of course they tune into BBC 3. Or are spying on them. Which they are)(seriously I think teenagers don’t watch TV anymore because I refuse to believe so many teenagers would be unaware of this show) show us two things about our teenagers. Firstly they have it confirmed the way to get our attention is to abuse their bodies through drugs, alcohol and sunburn. Secondly, in order to do that to yourself? You must really not like you*.
This is the infuriating thing, we know it’s a case of esteem. In his book Biddulph provides helpful suggestions such as encouraging your daughter in her interests outside of her looks. Praise her for her cleverness, dress her in gender neutral clothing. Slap ourselves for every misery memoir we allow that bases all the writer’s issues on the line: ‘Daddy never told me I was beautiful’. (He doesn’t say that).
I don’t particularly want to get into the realms of slutshaming, I think the meaning has slightly changed since the Daily Mail and the PTA heard about it anyway. There’s always been disapproval from fellow girls at how short Cassie in form 4A rolls up her school skirt, or who’s shown Brian in maths their bum. No, that will always have happened. But we don’t have to go the freak on about it. We just have to be clear ‘did you want to show Brian in maths your bum? Then fine, that’s the end of that chapter,’ or the bottom line, if you will. SORRY. Although, stop showing Brian (who I made up) your bum, it’s over inflating his self-esteem.
There is a difference between being indulgent and allowing young people to run wild and being generous and saying you can start again. You are worth a second chance. You are worth 10 of Brian in maths not that it’s a competition or that he is real. It think rather than reading a book by a man who has, to my knowledge, never been a teenage girl parents might find encouraging their daughters to upload some interesting Plath and Atwood to their Kindle and some Hanna and Gordon to their iPod. Also please refer any questions to Amy Poehler.
*I know this is the kind of thing that in conversation often gets me flamed, I’m not saying promiscuity is BAD, I am saying not looking after yourself – consistently drinking until you puke and cry, unprotected sex, unprotected sunbathing (really big on the SPF over here) demonstrates a disregard for the self that’s heartbreaking.