The Trouble with Girls
Being a girl sucks—according to the media at least. There’s the thigh gap, Miley Cyrus, thehounding, the grooming, and the online abuse. Even Germaine Greer claimed recently that in the age of social media, women have it worse than they did in the 1970s.
But are things really that bad? In her new book, Girl Trouble, social historian and professor Carol Dyhouse argues that, although life’s always been pretty shitty for girls, it’s actually getting better. According to Dyhouse, without looking back at stereotypes and the way things were for women a century ago, it is impossible to understand the scope of the progress achieved by women’s liberation movements.
I caught up with Carol to talk about all the things that have made us the drinking, swearing, loose, career-driven women that we are.
VICE: Hi Carol, how did you get started with Girl Trouble?
Carol: I’ve had a very long career teaching and researching women’s history and I wanted to bring it all together. History hasn’t been kind to girls. They’ve been underestimated and misrepresented. It’s hard to find out what was happening to them and how they felt about it. There’s always been masses of people all too ready to speak for girls, but it’s harder to get young women speaking for themselves, especially as you go back in time to the late Victorian period or the early half of the 20th century.
So the problem is that the people who were recording history are mostly male?
Definitely. A good example is the British Medical Journal—you’d think this was quite a reputable source and yet what they say is quite shocking. They’re so quick to stereotype. In an article published in 1946, just after the war, one psychologist wrote; “They [good-time girls] spend a great deal of time on making up their faces and adorning themselves, although they do not trouble to wash and are sluttish about their undergarments. Their favorite reading matter consists of the weekly journals with the love lives of film stars and they live in a fantasy world of erotic glamor. Frequently, they’re a good deal more intelligent and sophisticated than their parents whom they outwit and despise.” It’s so negative and sexist. What were they so scared about? What I argue in that chapter is that there’s this category of female that was constructed out of male anxiety.
In Defense of the Basic Bitch
A culture war is raging in America, but not the one you see being waged on Fox News and MSNBC in prime time. That neverending conflict has an unintended casualty, a victim that neither side truly wants to champion. This much-maligned minority group needs our respect and our affection. Of course, I am talking about the infamous “Basic Bitch.”
The Basic Bitch is denigrated in music videos and hip-hop lyrics. They’re defamed on Twitter merely for requesting a simple kindness:
Urban Dictionary, the final arbiter of cultural relevancy, defines the Basic Bitch in a variety of ways. The most accurate explanation is as follows:
- Used to describe someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.
- Lacking intelligence and unable to socialize on even an elementary level.
- Annoyingly frustrating because of the above.
What specifically makes one Basic? Not understanding irony or sarcasm, constantly needing to be cloying and sincere, enjoying xoJane articles, reading books about Feng Shui, checking horoscopes, French tip fingernails, gladiator sandals, John Mayer, Gleereruns, and Michael Buble are all pretty Basic.
Only recently has being Basic become such a social faux pas that videos have to be made to shame them out of existence. It wasn’t always a crime to like fast food and How I Met Your Mother. It’s become a form of gag reflex to immediately trash those brave enough to be completely and hopelessly square, but American culture is littered with Basics. Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch was a massive Basic whose sole purpose on the show was to be a fucking nag. Dinah Shore found a way to make hosting a variety show Basic. If you can believe it, there was a time when Julia Roberts was the biggest movie star in the world, and she might as well have “Basic Bitch” tattooed on her forehead (backwards, so she can read it in the mirror, of course).
Miley Cyrus Needs to Take an African American Studies Class
Oh shit, I’ve done it now. I’ve fallen into the mental quicksand that is trying to analyze Miley Cyrus and what the fuck is happening in her latest video, ”We Can’t Stop." I would like to ignore it and shrug it off as old news and not worth talking about, since it came out a week ago and that’s like an eternity in internet time. But there seems to be no escaping Miley Cyrus 2.0, the former Disney starlet of Hannah Montana who’s transmogrified into a sexed-up, ganja puffing, white-washed Rihanna.
The video for “We Can’t Stop” just broke VEVO’s all-time record for views in 24 hours—even besting Justin Beiber, another child star getting ready to rebel against his child-friendly image. It’s on the lips of every obnoxious Jersey Shore casting reject at every club that used to be playing “Call Me Maybe” on repeat a year ago. It’s being discussed at length by bros who high five each other when they explain how much they want to fuck Miley now that they saw her half-naked on all fours (“She’s 100 percent legal, dude!”). It’s being praised by the ironic music nerds who see it as a triumph of pop culture and Tin Pan Alley–like tinkering. And it’s also beinglambasted for its treatment of blacks, who appear in the video like accessories meant to signify authenticity, just as her tight white pants are meant to represent sexiness. Not to mention the fact that the whole thing feels like a blatant example of gross cultural appropriation, akin to the Pat Boones and Elvises of yesteryear.
Important Questions Raised by Miley Cyrus’s New Video, “We Can’t Stop”
Making fun of Miley Cyrus is low-hanging fruit. Completely justified fruit, but low-hanging nonetheless. Because I’m occasionally clever (but mostly just mean), friends and coworkers have been sending me Miles’ new video, “We Can’t Stop,” with an eager “What do you think of this???” all day. But other than being akin to scrolling through your Tumblr dashboard while waiting for the semi-suicidal PCP comedown to subside, this video is so goddamn brain-busting that I cannot even begin to parse together an opinion on it. I only have questions. SO MANY QUESTIONS. Maybe you can help me answer some of them.
Here’s Why Taylor Swift Will Never Be Called a Whore
I know this puts me in the minority, but I’ve never been a huge Taylor Swift fan. It’s great that she’s the highest grossing pop star under the age of 30 and everything, and that she’s worth $56 million and everything, but her music is dog-doo awful town. And with great power comes great responsibility.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, Ken Baker of E! News tweeted the above image.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat here so I don’t have a bunch of fellow feminists jumping down my throat: Neither Taylor Swift nor Miley Cyrus are “sluts.” As Ryan O’Connell points out: “While it’s nice that people are starting to realize that calling Miley Cyrus a slut is bad news bears, that doesn’t mean we should deflect all of that sexist energy to Taylor Swift.” I agree completely! And what is a slut anyway? Especially with regard to giant pop stars? I’m pretty sure that being slutty or not slutty has nothing to do with a woman’s musical abilities. But that doesn’t stop us from judging a female musician on her neckline.
My problem with Taylor Swift is her lyrics. It’s not that she only writes about boys and love (even though I find this problematic and totally unprogressive).
It’s that Taylor Swift slut-shames other women constantly and no one says anything about it.
Here’s a fun little thought experiment. Try to think of a Taylor Swift song that isn’t about boys and boyfriends and lovey-dovey girl feelings. In her songs, romantic relationships usually end because of the actions of another woman.
Read the rest over at NOISEY.