Published:


Marcus CatherineCatherine Marcus is a writer.

Growing up
is always hard. Growing up today is infinitely more so.

Part
of growing up is about learning to deal with the bad stuff. It’s about having
chips knocked off you and learning to defend yourself and others when the need
arises. There is no way of waving a magic wand, in order to make child’s
development as pain-free as possible, and nor should there be, for with pain
comes wisdom. Those who are protected from the bumps that come with growing up
only postpone learning the lesson that accompanies those scrapes, and the
brutal reality is that people are more patient and give young people more
leeway, so best get mistakes out of the way then.

I
was a teenager, not too long ago. I look back on those years through
interlocked fingers, aghast at the litany of misadventures occasioned by a
basic lack of common sense, gaucheness and bizarre fashion sense,
amplified by faux bravado. I sank gratefully into my twenties, cringing at
the humiliations visited by an uncooperative and unfamiliar world,
embarrassments keenly through the thinnest of skin, and it is only now, as I
approach a birthday that leaves adolescence a faded and distant, if still
somewhat awkward, memory, that wisdom and experience accrued over these many
years has yielded one of its great and simple truths: it wasn’t just me.


Far
from being the most spotty, gangly, clumsy, tongue-tied, fundamentally weird
teenager out there, I was probably just in the middle range of awkward
teenagedom. There were some unfortunate souls who had it worse and there were
the lucky few who glided through the halls of Sixth Form College with the grace
of the gods, but I would hazard a guess that all, including the lucky gilded
few, were gripped with the same paralysing insecurity and self-consciousness.
 
This
is why I am somewhat surprised to read Chloe
Williams’

contention in the Guardian that the recent outcry sexualisation of children is
overdone, and simply a Trojan horse for a return to good old-fashioned (read
‘conservative’) family values. It pits the purity of ideology against a painful
reality, much like the idea that true feminists shouldn’t
protest against the higher rate of abortion in female foetuses
, in case this is seen as a valid
argument against moral case for termination. 

The
last ten years has seen an explosion in mobile technology that means school
kids can access porn at the touch of a button, young girls report the need to shave ‘down
there’ in order to conform to the pornographic ideal of feminity, and doctors
are reporting an unprecedented rise in the number of young girls seeking
counselling due to raised anxiety levels
and depression
.
This is not illusory manipulation of statistics, put forward to propagate a
conservative agenda, but real, recorded, alarming reports that we need to
acknowledge and consider, in light of our brave new dawn.

It
is not anti-feminist to be concerned about the effects of pornography on young
teenagers, any more than it is adhering to the Conservative Party-line to be
concerned about the effects of growing up in a single parent home, when all
research points to the fact that this can have a detrimental
impact
.

Being
a feminist is not about defending the against the invading barbarians of conservative
thought, it’s about having the courage to speak up when you think women are
being humiliated. I applaud Diane Abbott for having the guts to speak up
about something that might chime uncomfortable with her party.

It
is brave and right that she should acknowledge a reality that we are all waking
up to, so that measures can be put in place to protect teenage girls during a
difficult period of their development.

In
doing so, she has proven to be the true feminist.

Comments are closed.