Thought for the Day:
“Long lost innocence is treasured only in memories. For once you are broken, fixing is not a surity.”
Question for the Day:
What is our responsibility in maintaining our childrens’ innocence?
Okay, so I finally got around to watching Cuties on Netflix and despite all the shock and awe I was seeing on social media, it was pretty much what I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m the mother of teenagers and a counselor to some teenagers, but there was nothing in the movie that wasn’t completely relevant and timely in consideration of where we are as a society. I’m sure the movie played directly into the sick fantasies of the pedophiles of the world. Yet, what’s worse is that sexual acting out in real life amongst young girls is starting to become as American as apple pie. If you want to be outraged, be offended by the fact that what was depicted in Cuties is likely happening in your own backyard, and the children in our homes, schools, and neighborhoods are at real risk everyday because of it. You can refuse to watch the movie and boycott Netflix all day, but it won’t change the fact that reality is just as unpleasant.
Though we like to associate young girls twerking and sticking there tongues out provocatively with people from the “wrong side of the tracks,” don’t get it twisted. Karen’s daughter is posting the same stuff on her Snapchat story as well. To be real, I’m thinking that because the movie’s main character Amy was black, folks were much quicker to clutch their pearls. Yet, they forget that “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Dance Moms” have been exploiting little white girls for a combined total of 15 seasons. Where young scantily clad white children in excessive make-up are just expressing themselves creatively, young black girls are considered young jezebels who will grow up to be sex machines.
The truth is, all of it is inappropriate. There are perverts drooling over four year old girls caked in make-up in the same sick way they’re ogling the girls in Cuties. Though I find that very difficult to think about, it doesn’t change the fact that Cuties was attempting to draw attention to a very real issue that affects all of our communities. The fact that it might trigger pedophiles is horrible, but it’s still a distraction to a very critical message.
What I found very important is the movie’s attempt to pull the covers back on the reality that our image obsessed, hypersexual society is having an adverse affect on our children, and definitely our girls. I’ve written before about the exploitation of black women and how America has created a false narrative around African American females that paints us as insatiable sex fiends. W.A.P. (What about Pride?)
Though we can’t help what distorted perceptions are imposed upon us, we do have to own what part of that narrative we choose to endorse. Just like the main character in Cuties, Amy, got many of her ideas about what is sexy and attractive from images on the internet, we have to consider how the television shows, movies, and music we support affects our kids. In addition, we must model self-respect and be sure to carry ourselves in a manner that doesn’t plant seeds of dysfunction in our children. If our daughters are constantly watching the grown women in their lives jump from bed to bed or spend hours in front of the mirror trying to get the perfect butt selfie, they are bound to start believing that sexuality is a woman’s hottest commodity. Assed Out
Many times though, children who act out sexually are simply trying to get the attention, praise, and acknowledgement they’ve missed at home in the most readily available way possible. T & A never fails to reassure a girl with low self esteem that she still has something to offer. In a perfect world, it would be a girl’s intelligence, talents, and potential that would give her the validation she’s after, but alas, we live in a society that has made W.A.P. the new female national anthem. Our society’s sex culture clearly doesn’t seem to value many things more than the perfect (thirst trap) Instagram post.
As a therapist, I also know with certainty that children who have been sexually violated, raped or molested may be at higher risk for acting out sexually. Sexual abuse is one of the most devastating boundary violations a young child can experience. It teaches the child who is victimized that their body is not there own and that something must be wrong with them if someone could hurt them in that way. They often blame themselves and wonder what they did to deserve the abuse. They may have been shut down or told they were lying when they tried to tell someone, only further supporting the idea that they don’t matter. For many victims of childhood sexual abuse, having their bodies violated might have been the only attention they ever received from the people who were supposed to love and protect them the most. All of this can lead a child to decide that they are only good for sex and not worthy of attention or validation apart from allowing others access to their body. Though these children are often labeled as “fast” and adults in their life complain that they “think they grown,” it is likely just a reaction to being hurt, unheard, unsupported, ignored, and invalidated by the people closest to them.
We as women need to get better about taking responsibility for the guidance, correction and edification of our young queens. Instead of sitting around gossiping about them and making predictions about how soon they’re gonna get pregnant, how about we choose to take one of them under our wing and mentor them with affirming words and a positive example to follow. Contrary to what society would suggest, girls don’t come out of the womb twerking and simulating sex acts as they may not even be fully sexually developed until their early 20s. So, if a child is going around sucking their fingers, humping the ground, dressing like an exotic dancer and posting nude photos of herself online, the responsibility rests on every adult in that child’s life who has seen that behavior and judged it before even considering how to intervene. A young girl who acts this way is either hurting, angry, frustrated, or carrying feelings of shame and worthlessness. The last thing she needs is another person to just shake their head and thank God it’s not their daughter. A child like that needs help, and as elders, here are some ways we can intervene on her behalf.
–Talk to the child – Sometimes simply taking time to speak to a child and treat them like a human being with feelings can go a long way. Inquire about her life, show her that you care, and offer yourself up as a safe person with a listening ear that’s always available to her.
–Contact the authorities if you suspect abuse – If after talking to a child you suspect that there is abuse of any kind going on in their home, contact the police or your state’s child welfare agency. It might be that being removed from an unsafe environment might make all the difference in changing a troubled child’s outlook.
–Affirm the child in ways beyond looks – A child who is acting out sexually has probably not heard enough about how smart and talented she might be. Sometimes it helps to point out positive qualities in a child that they might not see in themselves. If a young girl is good at art, singing, rapping, math or putting her outfits together, we can be more intentional about noting those things so she can see potential in herself beyond just appealing to the opposite sex.
–Give a child something positive to do – Instead of shunning the “fast” girls in the neighborhood, try offering them an opportunity to assist you in something positive. Maybe they can help you around the house or be your assistant one day at work. Maybe you can give them a special job in church or teachers can single them out as class helpers. This will give them opportunities to recognize their own abilities and feel important and useful in ways beyond their sexuality.
–Stop gossiping and passing judgement – A child who is acting out in sexually inappropriate ways, likely already feels bad about herself. It will serve no purpose to cut her down, curse her out, call her names, and place all the blame for her behavior on her. The reality is, children are products of their upbringing and environment. As adults, we should be mature enough to understand that and commit to not causing further damage with insults and biting words. Instead of commenting around town about what that “little fast tail girl” did, how about trying to get down to the bottom of why.
Model healthy self-esteem and dignity – The best thing we can do as women is model for our daughters, neighborhood children, students, clients, and patients what dignity and self-respect looks like. If you’re personally obsessed with taking endless boob and butt shots to post on all your dating profiles instead of being the emotional support the girls in your life need, they will likely believe that who they are is less important than “getting a man.” Let’s teach our young queens values such as grace, elegance, and class and demonstrate for them that real beauty doesn’t need to be shown off because when it’s real, it’s already obvious.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.”