Most pundits and citizens agree that American youth are ignorant and/or apathetic about politics. However, nowhere is the trend more startling than with young girls. The phenomena began when grown females began talking like valley girls. You'll know valley talk when you hear it: the sentences all go up at the end, as if the subject is trapped in a constant state of inquiry, and statements are riddled with "like ... um ... " and "y'know ... " Talking like a vapid airhead meant adopting the culture of the airhead, as well. Girls were taught to shop, gossip, and flirt. Even Barbie got in on the action when her talking model proudly declared: Math is tough! When women began talking like idiots and Barbie condemned arithmetic, little girls stopped paying attention to the world around them. Though People magazine sometimes includes blurbs about politicians, you are not political by default for reading it.
The sad truth is: young women are not interested in the world around them. But is it entirely the woman's fault for her invisibility in the international policies arena? We can't possibly condemn an entire generation of young ladies. Something must have inspired this plague of apathy. As it turns out, the blame rests with the media, parents, and private corporations.
The Soulless World of Politics
The American people and the political/judiciary rings are stuck in a sad truce: We won't raise hell because we know you'll get away with it. Why do citizens need to waste their energy on petitions and protests when the government elite do whatever the hell they want, whenever they want? And no electorate is more disempowered than women. Why should young women concern themselves with a broken political/judiciary system where the only person held accountable for their misdeeds is Paris Hilton? It seems the country only perks up when some good-looking girl goes to court because, hey, at least you can fantasize about her naked.
Before Paris, the only political women in the news were Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Plane, and Monica Lewinsky. How sad is that statement? The first two were labeled lesbians, the first because she supported her gay constituents in San Francisco, and the second because she's a lesbian (kidding). The CIA spy, Valerie Plame's status was reduced to that of a mere groupie by the GOP when she was outted (by, surprise, the GOP), and the last was known as a beret-wearing target for Bill Clinton's projectile splooge.
The message from D.C and the media is clear: Shut up, sweet heart, unless you're getting fucked literally, or figuratively, by a man. Maybe if Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff looked like gaunt Barbie dolls, the country would pay attention when they did something wrong.
My Mother Ruined my Life
To the glee of most children and therapists I say: Blame your mother. Seriously. Without a strong, female role model, what hope is there for little girls? Harriet Homemaker will say, 'Feminism works both ways, Allison! I have the right to stay home and raise my children, just as you have the right to become CEO of a corporation!' Very true, though women have had the right to be house-moms since the beginning of time, and at last check, it seems like there are still only a handful of female CEOs, so that feminism-works-both-ways thing seems less than balanced. Are women complacent in their inferior roles, or are they trapped in a perpetual cycle of exploitation? Are women more preoccupied with fashion and landing a husband than global warming? Do we really just want to stay at home and rear children, or is this the only option offered to us by superficial soccer moms who care more about botoxing and over-medicating than asking for paper over plastic at the grocery stores?
We Are PHARM-ly
Did you know there is now medicine for your feet falling asleep? The familiar sensation of pins and needles has the name of a serious-sounding disorder: Restless Leg Syndrome. This is a proud moment for the United States of America. First Viagra and now Mirapex. Finally, we can officially tell the rest of the world: Fuck off. We care more about the limp dicks and tingly legs of our white, upper-class citizens than we do about your AIDS-ridden, starving black people.
Here at home, the pharmaceutical industry's exploitation of women is nothing new. They began their fear-mongering back when they convinced women that menopause is a disease, rather than a natural part of a woman's physiology. Next, they came up with sexual stimulus in pill-form. You're the reason sex isn't working, and it has nothing to do with the fact that your husband gives lousy head. In America, private corporations, which include pharmaceutical giants, have no civic responsibilities. If women have symptoms that little pills can stop, this equals profits. Whether the symptoms were ever indicative of real medical problems, or if the long-term benefits of the drugs are permanent, or even fully understood, are inconsequential. Profit = YAY! MORE PILLS!
However, recently the PHARM business finally did something right. Merck came out with a vaccine for a virus that can lead to cervical cancer. But here in America, if one branch of the money machine does something good, another agent comes along to fuck up everything. This time, blame the Christians.
Feeling Icky from your Cancer? Better hope you're a congressmen or CEO! Because if you're poor or have a uterus, you're out of luck. The far right and the seriously misguided don't want young girls to be vaccinated from HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Since HPV is primarily spread through sexual
contact, parents are concerned that their daughters will feel inspired to engage in sexual intercourse once they receive the vaccine (Gardasil). This is like saying Polio vaccinations will make our daughters want to run triathlons. The two things don't necessarily enjoy a causal relationship, you see.
Let's strike the heart of the real issue: women's bodies are, once again, the playground of governmental bureaucracy. The Supreme Court just issued a ruling that puts the health of a fetus over the health of a grown human being. Now, the right shows they would rather women dead than horny. I think I remember something like this happening in Salem once, except back then girls were burned for being good at math.
Vaccinations don't cause promiscuity and abortions don't cause increases in teen pregnancy, but oppressive regimes, coupled with abstinence-only programs do. Why should young women engage in a government that shows such clear disdain for their very existence? When you're shown you aren't an equal through unfair wages, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation on television, music, and advertising, it isn't a huge shock for young girls to learn their uteruses don't count either. I don't blame them for not engaging in a government that has done everything in its power to keep them repressed and disenfranchised.
Thus far, we've seen that the media, pharmaceutical companies, the government, and the Supreme court have all told young women they don't matter. But who else is to blame? How about the president?
During a time of war and national crisis, the president asked us to shop rather than reduce our carbon emissions. Can you name one positive thing the president asked us to do in the face of global terrorism? Me neither! All I know is I'm supposed to rat on my neighbors if they're doing something suspicious and avoid interacting with people of Middle Eastern descent. Also, I've been told pot-smoking and celebrating Cinco de Mayo fund terrorism.
When Suzy's mom is telling her to look pretty and get a rich husband, and the president of the United States tells her to shop more, what is a rich, white, upper-class girl supposed to do? Grab a credit card and start racking up some debt, is what! As far as I know, there is no program in place at the high school level that requires students perform community service with AmeriCorps or the Red Cross. Some societies believe a large part of a student's education involves serving others and participating in global affairs. They're right, but our country has become such a xenophobic, self-centered, materialistic wasteland that we would rather stick our young girls in front of MTV to watch My Super Sweet Sixteen than send them out into impoverished areas to help the homeless and needy. Oh, but I forgot: homeless people are, like, so totally gross!
It's not that I blame young girls. As mentioned, the media has done one hell of a job brainwashing them into forgetting we're at war. During Vietnam, our citizens saw footage of combat and viewed photos of dead, United States soldiers. A massive, public movement lead to the end of the war. However, the media failed its citizens this time around, though who can blame them? Anna Nicole Smith's jiggling, heaving bosom is far more interesting that sectarian warfare.
I don't think young women are cruel. I truly believe that if they saw pictures of dead Iraqi children, dead United States and Iraqi soldiers, and saw the horrible consequences of cluster bombs and U.S.-imposed sanctions, this war would end. Not only that, if the media did its job and showed all consequences of war, war itself would end.
Women are too empathetic and nurturing to let humankind fall to such a horrid fate as unending war. Though war is profitable (and we know it's profitable because of the military-industrial complex), a movement of conscientious women scientists, entrepreneurs, and politicians could make peace profitable, too. We need only see the goal and move toward it resolutely and rapidly. Peace is not just ideal; it's essential. Pissing contests with nuclear weapons are unacceptable, and the boys have played their war games long enough. Women need to be present for grown-up time.
But the War is SO Four Year Ago
Suggestion for the media: it's pretty easy to link any story to Iraq and make it topical again. Example: the tornados in Kansas. Know why it took so darn long to look for bodies through all the rubble? The National Guard sent most of its equipment to Iraq, so we don't have enough supplies for domestic problems! If the Kansas story doesn't have enough casualties for your taste, I suggest you revisit the debacle with New Orleans and FEMA.
Save the World
Men know we're dangerous. We are great communicators (Ronald Regan looks like a deaf mute by comparison,) we are compassionate, brilliant, but we lack leadership and motivation. Without female role models, girls are reduced to blathering idiots, preoccupied with their appearance, Lindsay Lohan, and male approval. The fate of the world relies on the education of women. Now, more than ever, we need women who are willing to extend the olive branch to other nations. We don't need military strategists. We need communicators who can heal relations.
Though the administration seems preoccupied with a modern crusade, it doesn't seem to understand the teachings of its own prophet. Jesus healed people, he didn't firebomb entire families while they slept. Women are the modern world's healers, but we need to work with our brains and morality, instead of with what we're told is our real value: our looks.
The truth is the sexy cheerleader will never be the one who saves us. It will be the well-educated, strong, determined, moral women who lead this world and save the men from themselves.
Follow Allison Kilkenny on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allisonkilkenny