What do you think the mothers of the future will be like? Picture this scenario: At a birthday party for a 14-year-old girl, her former boyfriend responds to the teasing of several girls to give a 12-year-old girl a kiss on the cheek. The birthday girl's mother is so immature that she takes offense at this, seeing it as the "betrayal" of her daughter. I know this will likely seem incredibly silly, but bear with me for a bit.
The mother takes her birthday girl aside and tells her to "handle her business." So the birthday girl attacks, not the boy, but the girl he kissed. The mother joins in, scratching, kicking and stomping the "offending" 12-year-old. Three other teen girls and the birthday girl's 19-year-old sister join in the assault, beating the 12-year-old into a coma, leaving her possibly brain-damaged for life.
You are likely thinking that I've dreamed up a truly lame and impossible image of the mother of the future. In fact, it isn't made up, and it isn't about the future. This ugly scene actually happened in Baltimore, Maryland, earlier this year.
What kind of mothers will the "tweens" (8- to 14-year-olds) in this story make a few years from now? What kind of mothers will Western culture produce?
Not mother material
Violence, real and imagined, is a part of the lives of many young girls today. Movies and video games, such as Tomb Raider, feature females in violent roles. Laura Croft, the main character (I can't truthfully say, "heroine") of Tomb Raider, brawls, battles and shoots her way through her adventures. She is pencil-thin, except for exaggerated curves in certain areas, and dresses in skin-tight outfits, conveying the idea that young women should be sexy and slim. Completing her wardrobe are two automatic pistols, one slung low on each hip.
There are a series of Laura Croft movies for girls to watch. She holds cult status with many of them. They can play several video games about her, surf countless Internet sites featuring chat rooms for fans and video clips, and play online Tomb Raider games.
What kind of mothers will Laura Croft inspire?
Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, although now in their 20s, continue to be role models for tween girls. Belly shirts and low-slung pants are common styles, seen even in dress-up situations like church services.
Madonna, the maven of modern female entertainment, is in the process of bringing standards of decency to even greater lows than she did last summer. Her "Re-Invention" tour opened in Los Angeles, California, in May, featuring "plenty of lesbian love," according to Fox News. She sings "Papa Don't Preach" in front of a chorus line of nearly nude, heavily pregnant women.
Americans will flock to see the million-dollar production. An estimated 750,000 will pay $65 to $930 apiece to fill their eyes, their ears and their minds with filth. Joe Levy of Rolling Stone tells us: "Madonna always has a message to put across. Some people get the message, others don't—but everyone gets a fair amount of value for their entertainment dollar" (Orla Healy, "Madonna's New Tour Is Most Shocking Yet," Fox News.com, May 21, 2004).
Some message. Some messenger. What kind of mothers will tweens who copy the dress, mannerisms, language and message of Madonna make a few years from now?
Real life, real pain
In real life, young girls are coping with homes broken by divorce, Mom's new boyfriend, as well as drug and other alcohol abuse in their home environments. How is all this affecting girls in Western society? U.S. Justice Department arrest and survey statistics of 25 or so years ago show that incidents of violence among young boys outnumbered those among young girls by a margin of 10 to 1. Today, violence is still more prevalent among boys, but only by a margin of 4 to 1. Clearly, there is a disturbing trend here.
Violence between young U.S. girls is so common today that virtually all school authorities have to be conscious of it and trained in how to respond to it. Bill Bond heads a project on school safety for the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In April of this year he said, "I've been to 17 Association meetings this year and the topic has been addressed at every meeting" (Wiley Hall, "Violence Among Girls Increasing in U.S.," AP, April 25, 2004).
By the time today's young girls become young mothers, they will bear many scars. You may be thinking of emotional and psychological scarring. To be sure, there will be an abundance of those types, but I'm thinking of literal, physical scars—and by their own hand. Joelle Babula of The Arizona Republic tells of a rash of girls burning, cutting and bruising themselves in Phoenix-area high schools ("Self-Injury Among Teens on the Rise," April 26, 2004). Mesa Public Schools has such a high incidence of self-inflicted injuries that they include specialized training in dealing with it for all of their counselors.
In twisted logic, teens, mostly girls, are hurting themselves physically as a means of coping with stress and relieving anxiety. These kids are cutting themselves with box cutters, broken glass and knives. Perhaps self-inflicted injury is a type of hurting they can control, in contrast to the emotional pain and stress put on them by others. One of the pressures they are trying to cope with is the media's message that they must be sexy and attractive. If they aren't genetically predisposed to reflect the image of today's pop culture queens, they try to make themselves ugly—to take themselves out of the running, so to speak.
Babula cites Andrew Levander, director of a self-inflicted injury treatment program in Los Angeles, who calls this "the fastest growing adolescent behavior problem of our time."
This horrible trend is so new that there are no national statistics on it yet. But there are indications of it all over the nation. At S.A.F.E., a self-inflicted injury treatment facility/program in Chicago, Karen Conterio has seen these types of incidents skyrocket from hundreds to thousands a month. If girls do not receive treatment, their self-inflictions will increase to breaking bones and infecting wounds with bacteria and filth—even self-injecting with HIV (ibid.).
This physical scarring will only add to the mental scarring already troubling tomorrow's mothers.
Why so many young women are exposing themselves
Conservative commentator and religion teacher Dennis Prager wrote a two-part series in early 2004 on why young women are exposing themselves in the way they dress. I would like to summarize some of the reasons he offered.
Sameness between men and women. With every aspect of society promoting the equality of the sexes, young women are announcing, "Hey, I am female," in one of the few ways that they can. Women used to be able to express their femininity by distinctively female dress, such as a skirt and blouse or a dress. Today, there isn't much clothing that is uniquely female. Women wear pants and pant suits, even mannish suits right down to the necktie. The modern young woman's confused sense of "feminine" is clothing that uncovers her femaleness.
To attract men. Prager writes that women who expose themselves are sexually attractive to him as a male, but at the same time offend him as a man. He adds that his grandmother, who never went to school, knows more about men than the average female college graduate today. Women expose themselves to exert power over and get their way from men, seemingly ignorant of the sexual overtones of their methods.
"What you so often call cute or attractive," he writes to young women, "men see only as a sexual come-on." Wanting love, women seek to attract it by exposing themselves. But, Prager counsels, "The more skin men see, the more they think sex, not love. And that includes guys your age, your male teachers, your clergyman, your mailman, and the old man next door."
Some are making good choices
Not surprisingly, teens are sexually active today. The Alan Guttmacher Institute published study results that show one half of all American youth will contract a sexually transmissible disease by age 25. Some of those STDs can cause infertility, which will deny some of today's tweens the blessing and privilege of giving birth altogether. However, there is some good news: The percentage of teens who are sexually active is down from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2003. But that's still nearly one half of all teens experiencing something for which their minds and spirits were designed to enjoy only in the context of marriage.
We hope that more and more teens will reject the tendency of their peers and the pressure of the world around to emphasize sexuality. There are signs of a healthy backlash against slut-slumming styles. Some teens reject the trend. They refer to the tweens caught up in piercing belly buttons, wearing belly shirts and off-the-hip pants as "prostitots"—a not-so-subtle declaration of their revulsion for the fashion.
One of the Bible's proverbs observes that a beautiful woman without good judgment is as attractive as a gold ring dangling from the nose of a pig (Proverbs 11:22)—not a very pleasant depiction, but it certainly gets the point across!
We sympathize with how truly hard it is for young women to know how to conduct themselves, how to dress and how to walk and talk today, with such great glorification of crude and coarse women like those mentioned above. But there are still some moms who are models of true beauty. We hope you have a mature eye and that you can spot this classiness.
One of the cartloads of so-called reality shows today is The Swan, in which physically unattractive women undergo a series of extensive cosmetic surgeries to remove this and augment that—conveying the message that beauty is on the outside. "If you can be beautiful outside and you can expose it in just the right tease, you will have made it." Will you? Oh, no, a hundred times, No! You will have "made it" when you are mature enough to realize that beauty is on the inside; that what is outside is of such little significance.
Another biblical proverb—this in the section about the true beauty of a woman, Proverbs 31:30-31—warns that the exterior charm and beauty of a woman fades ever so quickly, adding that what one sees on the outside pales into insignificance in comparison with a woman who is beautiful inside.
To you who are young teens: Are you honest? If so, you are beautiful! Are you morally clean? You are beautiful! Are you dressing in a feminine, as opposed to a female way? You are beautiful! Can you be what you want to be, regardless of what those about you say and do? Ah, you are a beauty indeed! And you have the potential to be a great mother. —WNP