Sunday, July 22, 2007

MySpace Girls

I have been reading Candice Kelsey's Generation MySpace with mounting trepidation. Ever since J was born, I've had it in mind to take a long break from work at the end of her last year at elementary school. The idea (which may be completely impractical and hair brained) is to combine travel with homeschooling until the hormones have had a chance to stabilize and J has had opportunity to see how underprivileged kids live elsewhere in the world. The Buddhists have a practice I really like - that of sending their youngsters to the Sangha for a year. This would be my version of the idea - if a Sangha would accept her, I would love nothing better.

We have been aware for sometime of the hugely lucrative consumer pool that the online tweens and teens present. It comes as no surprise then that products acquire personalities on MySpace and can be "friended" like they were a real person. The polls and quizzes trying to elicit honest responses from kids on taste, style, likes and dislikes is a massive data mining exercise by marketer researchers for consumer goods and services. While the messaging is a lot more invasive and personalized, it is not radically different from what has happened for years preceding through television ads. Kids have survived for the most part.

The book highlights a problem far more serious than Victoria's Secret trying to peddle push-up bras or Coke its new drink to teens. The medium makes possible the sexualization of young girls on a frightening scale. Not to mention, this works like a magnet for pedophiles.

In her interview with Melanie C. Klein, professor of Sociology at California State, Northridge, Kelsey asks some very important questions about what it means to be the MySpace girl. One of them is about identifying the real culprit - the out of control girls who will do the most undignified things to get male attention, MySpace or someone else. Is there another culprit ?

MK : Absolutely, there is another culprit. This behavior is merely a symptom of our schizophrenic culture where women are considered either a whore or a mother (and as a teenager, the choice of motherhood is not too appealing). Simply put, the MySpace girl is the product of a culture that teaches girls to be available and disposable.

I could not agree more with that assessment. There is another side to this story though. That of the boys who are partaking of this feast of "available and disposable" girls who are constantly upping the ante on flamboyantly promiscuous behavior to get male attention. They are growing up without developing any ability to form meaningful relationships with women. When it comes time to transit from the whore to find a mother for future kids, the whole pool of prospects looks dubious and tainted. Along comes commitment phobia, series of failed relationships and inability to forge an enduring emotional bond.

This book is a must read for every parent. Even if MySpace goes out of circulation by when the child turns tween or teen, most of the ideas will transfer quite well.

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