The wilding of women: why the media should ease up on girls

Women should be allowed to have fun, without the media judging them. AAP/Jack Tran

Wilding, a word seldom used outside of sociology, describes compounded acts of immorality. Of teenagers, apparently, running amok. In packs usually, with rage and ribaldry in their eyes.

I was thinking about wilding while reading the recent Sydney Morning Herald report on rompin’, drinkin’, screwin’, Facebook documentin’ teenage girls.

Of all the research on wilding, the most interesting contends that reports on the phenomenon are mere moral panic. Are exaggeration. Are concocted catastrophe when no real calamity exists. The exact same thing plays out in this report.

Worse than mere moral panic however, is the gender double standards apparent when journalists hand-wring and bemoan that girls have gone wild.

Drinking, drug use, promiscuous sex and partying are hardly contemporary problems. The story is an oldie, not really a goodie, and this time it’s simply been repackaged with a social media angle.

The most ongoing, blatant, ear-worming harassment women get is from the media. Messages about them being too thin, too fat, having sex too young, stalking footballers, being stalked by footballers, wearing dresses cut too low.

Such messages are persistent, perplexing and most problematically focus the message _entirely _on women’s bodies.

This message, conveyed in a thousand different ways and using any number of social maladies and pop culture crazes, makes one very simple and sexist point: that the sum worth of a woman is her body. How it looks, how she uses it and who touches it. That nothing is more important.

This is a story, a mantra, a demand, that’s as old as time.

If any debate has come to dominate the feminist agenda in recent years, it’s the supposed sexualisation of girls.

Advertising, Lady Gaga and plastic dolls with heavy eyeliner are constantly waved around as “evidence” that today’s women are more wanton, more brazen, more promiscuous than ever before.

MTV gets blamed, sportsmen get blamed, department stores and Kanye West get blamed.

Conservatives, deceptively pretending to be acting on behalf of women, call for product boycotts, censorship and social media sanctions to apparently protect girls. Pretending, curiously, that their agenda is somehow more egalitarian than mere insistence that ladies keep their knees together and knickers clean.

In all this talk of women’s bodies, how egregious it is that ignored is the thinking woman being talked about as though she’s not in the room.

Pointing to video clips and explicit song lyrics and implying that any woman exposed is absorbing them passively, ShamWow-like, neglects media literacy, overlooks media savviness and completely ignores the ability of women to reject media messages as expertly as they may choose to accept them.

Allowing the antics of a boozy Saturday night or the latest drunken Facebook snapshots determine not only a woman’s identity but to pretend as though it speaks on behalf of her gender and generation is troublesome and unspeakably offensive.

Women testing the limits of their bodies, of challenging of authority, of thumbing their noses at social mores and antiquated judgments is nothing new.

Facebook merely provides journos with new images to pad out a very worn story.

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