So earlier this year, First Lady Melania Trump was publicly shamed by New York Times reporter, Jacob Bernstein.
Model/actress Emily Ratajkowski called him on it via Twitter:
Flashback to 1968 when Virginia Slims markets its cigarettes to women with the feminist slogan: YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY.
Cue the twenty-first century retort, “Don’t call me Baby.”
But nearly fifty years later, have we come a long way?” Slut-shaming” reporter Bernstein is under forty. He is the son of the late Nora Ephron and Carl Bernstein (the award-winning screenwriter /author/producer, etc. and the reporter who broke Watergate, respectively.)
WTH? Young Bernstein is of an age and pedigree of someone who should know better.
On the surface, this seems to be a case of “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” but is it?
In a recent post Gender Blenders: It May Be a 31 Flavors World, But You Must Choose Cone or Cup, I wrote,
“Back in the day, the Walk of Shame was something experienced by a woman coming home in the broad daylight of morning while wearing the same clothes from the previous night… Back then, sex between consenting adults was private. No one posted…”
So we didn’t exactly have a nun trailing us shouting, “Shame! Shame! Shame–” but pretty damn close, actually. That’s because many young women were raised with the following strictures in place:
- Sex was not discussed in polite company, which included any and all areas that any and all family members congregated at or within, and at all times, period.
- Daughters were expected to be virgins until married.
- In addition to maintaining one’s virginity, college graduation was expected and must precede marriage, making that whole 40 Year-Old Virgin-thing not that far-fetched.
- All of the above was okay, since everyone knew that the birth control pill was immoral and would give a woman the body hair of Rasputin.
A careful reader will note that nothing was mentioned as far as the parental expectations of the male progeny.
Having had no brothers, I cannot speak to my own experience, however, judging from the behavior of people I dated, males were not fitted with the same chastity belt.
Double-standard? You bet. But does the double-standard still exist?
Consider some of our revised societal norms:
- Mothers are getting their middle school daughters birth control and Victoria’s Secret lingerie–including thongs which have to be the most uncomfortable garment ever contrived and serve no purpose except to attract male attention as they peek over the top-rear of one’s waistband.
- Sleepovers have an entirely different meaning in some homes.
- Kim Kardashian is a (usually naked–always pretentious) role model and her younger sisters are getting about as freaky these days.
- Gen X and millenials think it’s okay to take and send naked pictures of themselves. Hell, post it to Snapchat–that shit disappears in six seconds, doesn’t it?
- Social media is the perfect place to show off every moment of drunken, stoned and/or sexual debauchery.
So are we better off? Or is this worse? And what could possibly go wrong?
Few can argue we are sexualizing our girls way too young. Provocative clothes. Permissive parents. An anything goes mentality.
Because these days, overt sexuality pays off. It gets attention. And a lavish lifestyle. And imitators. Because everybody wants some…
And yes, all joking aside, plenty can go wrong.
Teen pregnancy. STD’s. Peer pressure. Self-esteem issues. Cutting. Body dysmorphia. Drug use. Alcohol use. Cigarette smoking. And other various behaviors not conducive to the development of teens into young adults.
I mean, who would have ever guessed twenty years ago that this generation would be in crisis over heroin use, skyrocketing overdoses, and a rising death count courtesy of the needle.
It is a slippery slope out there–risky behavior usually escalates as one searches for the next thrill.
But back to double-standards and shaming.
Any kind of shaming is wrong–body shaming, slut shaming, walk of shame shaming.
But that doesn’t mean shame serves no purpose. With that being said, what’s up with the word slut becoming a badge of honor?
Slut has become like bitch in today’s vernacular. Now, there’s a certain swagger to embracing the label.
Now, it’s the shaming part that’s the problem, you intolerant, sexist, misogynistic bastards.
(FYI: This picture appeared in Seventeen Magazine after this shirt hit the retail stores–yeah, what parent wouldn’t be proud to watch their daughter go out the door in that walking-advertisement for ‘perfectly natural’ activity?)
So now it’s okay to be a slut. Just don’t call out another bitch for being a slut? Say what? Have we lost our minds, people?
Yes, every generation believes they invented sex, and that their parents… well, eeeeeewwwwwwww! Case in point–Walk of Shame Wanda:
So back in MY day, which is a lot more recent than Walk of Shame Wanda’s, the bar was set to a ridiculously high moral standard, but it didn’t keep us from doing an occasional little hurdle over it. We just kept it quiet. Because we had a healthy sense of shame.
We also didn’t have the technology to document every moment of our youthful indiscretion. And that’s probably a good thing.
From what I can see, Gen X and the millennials suffer from TMI-itis. And only time will tell, but there already is some indication that unflattering social media posts will work against them in the job market and even in romantic relationships.
Disagree? Two words: Revenge Porn.
Just look at what happened to Melania Trump. All those years ago, she probably had no idea that her naked, girl-on-girl photo-shoot would come back to haunt her. She probably never thought about the repercussions of it on her children of the future. Or on the nation for which she would become First Lady. And I bet if she had to do it all over again, she may have chosen differently.
There’s a reason Psalm 25 says, Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good. (v 7)
In closing, let’s be honest, if we had cell phones as twenty-something singles, we might have photo-documented ourselves, too, but I don’t believe we would have exposed ourselves to the exhibitionistic level that is commonplace to Gen X and the millennials.
Back then, shame was a real thing. It was real because we were raised to understand that some things were wrong. And sometimes, the bad decisions you made were, in fact, bad decisions. But you asked for forgiveness and moved on. Wiser for the experience. But not necessarily proud of it. And not marching in the streets demanding respect for it either.
Because you can’t demand respect. You can only earn it. Just saying.
Perhaps if the younger set had grown up having to shower in gym class en masse the way we did back in the day, everyone would equate naked with embarrassment and none of this would be an issue.
Keep it classy and don’t throw your pearls before swine,
Susan J. Anderson, Foxy Writer Chick