I don’t know about you, but I was an idiot as a teen. I was intelligent. I was knowledgeable. I was talented. However, looking back at the basic person I was, I can come to no other conclusion than that I was an idiot. Smarts and wisdom just aren’t the same thing. And when you are looking for advice, you want wisdom.
Part of the reason why I feel like I can say this is because just about every American teen is remarkably silly. The combination of entitlement, privilege, cluelessness, and relative wealth make for youth who are, generally, much less mature than they think they are and not nearly as smart. Nor is this just a North American phenomenon. The Bildungsroman has been around since at least Young Werther [note correction in comment #2 below] and the protagonists haven’t really changed all that much. The burden of thinking you know more than you know and facing a public rather skeptical of that has been the burden of the relatively well-off young for centuries.
I’m bringing all this up now because of a phenomenon that I find objectionable in how some of our church’s Young Women are being taught about themselves. Initially, I noticed it in the form of young, clean-cut boys lip-syncing dance numbers to tweeny pop songs. Here is a link to one of the relevant videos. German law prevents me from embedding it (this is not a joke).
Silly, but I let it go without public comment because my cup of irritation was not yet full. But it has been filled to the brim. Yea verily, and now we’ll drink it down to the dregs.
Here is the thing. When you are trying to tell Young Women what kind of qualities they should have, you shouldn’t hold up teenage boys as the folks whose ideals they should aspire to. At best, any given teenage boy is mildly (occasionally) sociopathic. I don’t believe that LDS boys are any exception to this. The kids in these videos aren’t evil or conniving (at least not moreso than normal). They’re just boys. They (like all youth) have great potential for good and ill, but I’m skeptical that they are that different than I was and I was a mess. Heck, I’m still a mess, but I’m at least aware that I can’t sit here and opine on the motives behind clothing choices.
Let’s be clear. Most of the boys who participated in this video have seen naked women. They know enough to express appreciation for the Madonna half of the complex, but they are familiar with the other half as well. They know what they are supposed to say in this video. And they say it, because they care what the Young Women think of them. This, like the videos before it, is more about trying to make Young Men appealing to Young Women than about teaching Young Women how to better appeal to Young Men.
And, the thing is, Young Women want to believe this stuff. They want to believe that the Young Men are actually like the guys they see and hear in the videos. Frankly, Young Women care an awful lot about what Young Men think (as do the Young Men the Young Women). I have a hard time fathoming why it is an improvement to have a young girl determining the length of her skirt by calibrating it to the desires of the Young Men around her, whether or not I think the length achieved is appropriate. So, giving the Young Men the opportunity to talk at length about their ideal hottest/modest and pure girl isn’t that different from what the World tells us should be desirable. The stuff about hot girls being for fun and sweet girls for marrying is just as present, even if we aren’t actively encouraging fun with the hot girl.
Not that I think the Young Women should listen to me or anyone else regarding how they dress. Because we’re all like the boys in the video. There is no commodity as precious to the World as a virginal girl and everyone is ready and willing to tell that girl how to maintain her value. At best, what we can do is tell her to Look to God and Live. It is possible that maybe she’ll work out her worth before God and men without our influence after all.