Thursday, July 06, 2006

What are we teaching our young girls?

I don't know why, but this whole evening I've had the lyrics to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" running through my head.

I'll be the first to admit it: it's a fun song. It's catchy, upbeat, and (from what I understand) the favorite at karaoke. However, just think of what this song reveals about the hopes, dreams, and stereotypes of young women. The verse that really bothers me is the second one:

The phone rings in the middle of the night,
My father yells "What you gonna do with your life?"
Oh, daddy, dear, you know you're still number one,
But girls, they wanna have fu-un.

I remember first hearing this song (at least a version thereof) on Sesame Street, where young puppets danced around...having fun. Just plain ol' fun. Kids don't think anything of it. Having fun means playing outdoors, racing toy cars, playing with dolls or blocks. Nothing "sketchy" about it.

Fastforward a few years, and there's a drastic shift in meaning. "Fun" begins to be associated with the opposite sex. And this song reinforces this by equating "fun" with "staying out all night and being with boys." And, according to this song, this is all that girls really want.

This is a value that is screamed to young girls through the media culture. Especially MTV, with the dating shows that say, "Hi, I'm Rachel, I love shopping and talking on my phone and flirting with hot guys" as if there was nothing more to the female existence. It's portrayed through television commercials that show women all over guys with six-packs. It's in magazines that say, "10 Sizzling Tricks to Make Him Burn for You." Females aren't taught to want anything more out of life other than a guy that looks good.

Oh, wait. Yes they are. They're taught that motherhood is the other option. Or that if they're going to be a career woman, they have to be good-looking and wear sexy business suits. But really...girls don't want these things, as if they had no value at all. We just want to have fun. That's all we really want. To heck with careers or family or meaningful relationships. Women really don't want to be their own persons, to be beautiful on the inside, or to walk in the sunlight of independence. We don't care for learning new things or for bettering ourselves. After all, we just want to have fun.

And yet, something in this song touches women everywhere, some rather profoundly. It's a song with a terrible, awful, message. But I think it's true that we want to have fun. We want to be like those puppets on Sesame Street, innocently playing and...having fun. No pressures, no expectations, no...boys, at least of the sort that has only one thing on their minds. We want that freedom that seems to happen only in childhood. Where having fun is just that, and not some sort of double entendre.

The really difficult part of it is: we need to free ourselves.


Sally said...

this is a powerful post, and speaks right into the dilema many youg women find themselves in. My eldest daughter has just graduated with a good music degree, she is going to take that study further and plans to perform and to teach, she was under tremendous pressure right through University to get herself a man!!! Even though they were studying many of ems friends felt incomplete unless they had a boyfriend, and often weren't fussy about who- so long as he looked good- result lots of broken hearts, and feelings of worthlessness!
Thanks for tackling this!

Melissa said...

What I'm surprised by is how many well-adjusted, confident, and intelligent females can feel this way! There's definitely more to life!