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flanagan continued

“Tipper Gore’s heroic campaign to get explicit music rated and labeled was born after she decided to do something few parents had even attempted: actually listen to the albums her kids had bought. She was ridiculed by many factions, including those forces on the American left who cry censorship whenever anyone attempts to protect the public, including children, from smut (and in the case of rap, smut emanating from a source the left valorizes: black urban America).”

But the specificity of Flanagan’s “I” at least serves as a journalist’s full disclosure; it accounts for early impressions that her agenda is different from mine, from the agenda I would expect from this kind of book, when I come on it in a relatively-protected liberal urban enclave. Parenthood makes us conservative, I understand this; I’m not sure, though, that I’m ready to make the leap into this argument (especially without unpacking it rather more than is done so here). Flanagan moves, really very quickly, from an argument that defines and sets aside an imaginative space, to a hard-edged cultural crusade that’s long since been lost:

“I believe we are raising our children in a kind of postapocalyptic landscape in which no forces beyond individual households — individual mothers and fathers — are protecting children from pornography and violent entertainment.”



January 15, 2012, 11:00am   Comments

» Though Flanagan does attempt an idiosyncratic and spotty cultural history, she seems to be stuck primarily in her own adolescent years. (We are talking about someone who claims that Are You There God It’s Me Margaret was the most influential book she ever read in her whole life.) But it is precisely this stuckness, this sentimental cherishing of girls, this looking backward, that defines the larger movement of girlhood romantics who have always framed the conversation about girls and sex.

So, I was perhaps not aware of Ms. Flanagan’s particular place in the cultural conversation, or that she lined up so well opposite Katie Roiphe, but that does explain a number of things, only slightly further illuminated by this here piece in (ack) Slate.

(Oh, and two other little things: This is one of three reviews of this book that have used the “girl land: population one” crack, which might be irresistible, but even so; and, because this kind of book is not my usual cup of tea, and is in fact the kind of thing I’ll ordinarily just read the occasional review of, I’m surprised at how very thin Girl Land is for the amount of press it’s able to get. Man.)



January 14, 2012, 4:39pm  Comments

caitlin flanagan, girl land

“That a sexually budding adolescent girl becomes the sudden object of predatory male attention has been the cause of parental anxiety down through the ages. When I was a young teenager in 1973, the horror movie The Exorcist took America by storm. It was a supernatural tale of the occult, but it also had within it a central idea that was at once culturally relevant and deeply terrifying: that as soon as a young girl came of sexual age, she became vulnerable to a new class of danger.”

This is Flanagan’s stock move — the turn in the story that hinges on “when I was” (or honestly perhaps just “I”). The editor in me wants to cut it out — it’s hardly essential to understand Flanagan (or, rather, to calculate her age periodically, by cultural signifier) to get her point, nor is it necessary to pull in The Exorcist as an example (even a good example, really) of the perceived danger of innocence threatened by sexual maturity.

Regan Arthur 01.11.12



January 14, 2012, 11:00am   Comments