I don’t think teenagers reading literature need to see a world they know; I think they need to see a world they know isn’t bullshit.
The reason that I get grouchy is that I hate how the risks that we’re concerned about are shaped by the fears of privileged parents, not the risks of those who are already under constant surveillance, those who are economically disadvantaged, and those who are in the school-prison pipeline.
The only adults I know who write—and in a way, read—poetry are poets. It kind of narrows down to the people where that is actually their style of writing and their medium. When you’re a teenager, it’s easier to dabble more. … Also, in a way, you’re protected. When I think about the poetry I wrote in high school, I felt protected because I felt like I was taking on a tone and an understood amount of drama as opposed to when I was just trying to write a personal essay, and it was straightforward. To use certain writing devices that I had used in poetry seemed melodramatic.
I’m currently reading a lot about the way teenagers use social media, partly for my thesis, and partly based on fascination. One of the aspects that interest me in this context is the connection of speech/voice and space in relation to the new possibilities of the internet.
I just finished danah boyd’s great new book It’s Complicated, an in-depth study of kids’ social media use.Teenagers are increasingly isolated by “overprotecting” parents. As danah boyd argues, a result is that physical space where young people can just hang out with peers is vanishing, and the social media platforms give them an alternate space to socialize.
There is also an argument to be made that thanks to social media, “youth as a protected space” is evaporating, it is changing everyone’s self-consciousness. Sady Doyle discusses this aspect in a recent article at In These Times, and points out that young women aren’t “unarmed” in the “social media wars.” Young women are often uniquely equipped to handle the different pressures; for them, the Internet is home turf, they don’t know a world without it. Social media does have good things to offer, creating pro-girl resources like Rookie Mag, Scarleteen, and numerous tumblrs.
danah boyd published an interesting post on the value of Snapchat:
In a digital world where everyone’s flicking through headshots, images, and text without processing any of it, Snapchat asks you to stand still and pay attention to the gift that someone in your network just gave you. As a result, I watch teens choose not to open a Snap the moment they get it because they want to wait for the moment when they can appreciate whatever is behind that closed door. And when they do, I watch them tune out everything else and just concentrate on what’s in front of them. Rather than serving as yet-another distraction, Snapchat invites focus.
Snapchat is one of those elements of the Internet that has the possibility of fundamentally changing the way we communicate. I’m personally not a user of Snapchat nor a big selfie guy. As someone who feels better communicating through text than through pictures, I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with that, but it is fascinating..
Anyway, a majority of our communication, especially on social media, is still text based. Snapchat – or the gif answers so loved on tumblr, other image-based communication tools – expand the possibilities of communication again.
Image-based communication might also create a more inclusive form of communication, as it gives people who can’t read and write well more options to express themselves in a creative, unique manner. It’s certainly interesting how Snapchat, Instagram, and (other) selfies reintroduce a corporeality, for better and worse, into Internet-based communication, an area that before detached human communication from the human body.
I don’t find it surprising that it’s kids, teenagers, who drive the rise of Snapchat. Not only do younger people historically always adapt earlier to media trends, kids today (the “digital natives”) grew up in a digital multi-media world, whereas people my age and older were mostly socialized with text and broadcast media.
A passage in Between Voice and Silence: Women and Girls, Race and Relationships, a socio-psychological study of at-risk, poor, working-class teenage girls, struck me yesterday:
“Michelle Fine points out that girls’ sexual desire is frequently missing from discourse about adolescent sexuality and sex education is schools. As Deborah Tolman observes, when sexual desire is reinterpreted as girls’ desire for relationship, which sexual intimacy will enhance and strengthen, girls then have no language – and no safe space – to speak about sexuality as such, and they may consequently become disconnected from their "bodily knowledge.” This disconnection, in the form of dissociation, puts girls in serious danger, as they can be mistreated and abused without acknowledging to themselves the extent of their hurt and loss through violation.“ (emphasis mine)Taylor, Jill McLean. Between Voice and Silence: Women and Girls, Race and Relationship. Harvard University Press, 1997. p. 101
Either that, OR Justin Bieber is a teenager, doing teenager stuff. Like Trayvon Martin, Justin Bieber might get high. He might get drunk. He might swear and threaten people. He has tattoos and posts pictures of himself trying to look tough. Justin Bieber probably makes a lot of bad choices, because that is what teenagers do. This is not to be dismissive or to say that the choices teenagers make, especially in terms of substance abuse and violence, can’t have dire consequences. Some teens have serious problems that stretch far beyond rebellion and curiosity. But, it seems that a lot of what’s being said about Trayvon Martin could easily be said about the majority of teenagers in the U.S., who somehow don’t get characterized as pathological degenerates.
Thug Life or Teen Life?: Justin Bieber vs Trayvon Martin by Sarah Florini
The entire article, on the difference of treatment Justin Bieber and Trayvon Martin receive by the media, is well worth a read.
Dear Tumblr, you’ve got a problem. A problem with 12-year-olds.
The problem is not the amount of 12-year-olds on Tumblr, how mature or immature 12-year-olds on Tumblr act or what they generally do with their life. Your problem is that you act as if it is was any of your fucking business. Your problem is that you are using the comparison to 12-year-olds as an insult. The problem is that even the parts of you that engage in activism don’t recognize one of their privileges: adulthood.
The discrimination you are engaging in is called “adultism”. Wanna know some adult privileges? Here you go:
- You can sign contracts.
- You are allowed to chose where you live and with whom.
- People will not dismiss what you say based on your age.
- You are allowed to vote.
- You decide what happens to your body.
It’s only a short list. As always, several of these privileges can be withheld from you even if you are an adult, e.g. if you are a person with disabilities. But you probably know about the concept of intersectionality and will not try to tell me that this changes that adultism is a real thing.
And if you are adult and want to fight me on this, don’t. Just unfollow me. I’ve heard your arguments before, trust me, and they make me sick.
I basically agree.
It might be an issue what kind of content very young people are exposed to on Tumblr, but that’s true for the entire Internet – and more an issue for the children and their parents.
I also don’t personally follow anyone underage (with few exceptions) because I thinks it’s could be creepy for an almost 30-year old man to follow a teenager who posts selfies and whatnot. (Not that I lust after teenagers, but it might feel/be creepy for the underage user and odd-awkward for me.) But let the 12-year olds have their own corner for tumblr, you don’t necessarily have to engage with it.
God we fuck up teenagers’ heads. We tell them that biological conditions are moral punishments and then we get all shocked when they don’t practice rational risk management of biological conditions. We teach them “sex is super desirable and all the cool kids do it, and it’s hideously shameful and will destroy your life” and we wonder why they act an eensy bit neurotic about it. If you tried to design a system for making sexually active kids confused and unsafe, you couldn’t do much better than the American media and school system.
Beantown Mom, a blogger over at Daily Kos, tells the harrowing story of how her 16-year old daughter was slut-shamed for simply being on the pill. High school kids have always been mean and used excuses to pick on ‘weaker’ kids, and there has pretty much always been slut-shaming, but in this case the harassing girls specifically mentioned Rush Limbaugh’s “women who are on birth control are sluts”-comments that they and their mothers apparently believe.
This is just so, so wrong. Not only is slut-shaming wrong in general – it is here specifically caused by a powerful male commentator who has nothing to do with raising a teenage girl that took a low level birth control pill to ease her significant health problems.
Plus, I think a rational approach to birth control is such an important aspect of good sex education that keeps women and girls* from exactly what these ultraconservative commentators also shame: Being pregnant too early. Even if many parents don’t want their teenagers to be sexually active – many are, or at least want to, when they’re around 16. I think it’s important – and from my experience it’s quite common in Germany – that when parents (mothers) have ‘the talk’ with their daughters* that it includes safe sex measures and (hormonal) birth control. Mothers convincing their daughters that girls who use birth control are ‘sluts’ (read as: bad) – that’s just wrong and, in my opinion, dangerous.
I’m not saying that every 16-year old has or wants sex or that every teenage girl should be on the pill, but it should be a viable option. I also don’t think that having sex (or kids) at a young age is inherently wrong – but it can be problematic.. And if you add the virgin/whore dichotomy, societal pressure to both be ‘sexy’ and innocent plus general and individual boys pressure to have sex as a sign of ‘loving’ to the mix, it’s almost a lose/lose situation for young women* (especially when they don’t have good support from their mothers/other important people in their lives.)
Now how perfidious it is that people like Limbaugh not only shame girls for taking care of themselves but also are against comprehensive sex education, access to safe abortions and support (welfare or otherwise) for young mothers/parents, that requires another post.
[*And other people who can get pregnant. I write mainly about mothers/daughters because I think this is a special mother/daughter thing – at least in my experience and from what I read in the text. But most of it also applies to other genders/- combinations]