The Sexist

Why Are We Really Watching That “Single Ladies” Girls Video?

Broadsheet thinks that the collective outcry over the sexy dance moves of the "Single Ladies" girls has the power to restore one's "faith in humanity." "I dare say this is evidence of a vague cultural consensus: Girls deserve to at least have a childhood before being thrust into the unintentional burlesque that passes for adult sexuality," Tracy Clark-Flory writes in a post that's accompanied—naturally—by the latest unearthed oversexed routine from the troupe.

But isn't the impressive public concern over sexualizing young girls outweighed by the fact that most people seem to truly enjoy watching these videos until they go viral—even if they then turn around to condemn the inappropriateness?

As Sady Doyle wrote in this very space, on the Important Cultural Issue of How People Generally Regard Miley Cyrus:

A lot of it was just grown men (and women) being all, “I’m afraid this might turn me on! And I’m scared!” And, yeah, you ought notta be eroticizing the teenagers. But constantly monitoring this one specific female teenager to determine whether she’s inappropriately sexy is, like . . . Not that much less creepy?

I think young women’s sexuality is often put in that place of overtly well-meaning, covertly creepy monitoring. Like, we’re SO OBSESSED with young women not being sexual (which they really usually are) that we constantly evaluate how sexual they are. And then there’s all the teen-eroticizing that takes place ANYWAY, because it’s so taboo. And the result is Britney, America’s #1 Virgin, dancing in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit, and later sort of cracking under the weight of how VERY many contradictions she was expected to represent.

Of course, there's a world of difference between what's deemed culturally appropriate for 17-year-old Cyrus and these 7-year-old dancers. But the monitoring of these girls is no less creepy, and their young age actually makes the fervor over the display even more suspect.

At some point, the outrage over the suggestive costuming and dance moves is just a convenient narrative for us to facilitate the distribution of the video to more gawkers. Somehow, those who had a hand in making the video are either exploited (the dancers) or sick (the parents and choreographers), but everyone who keeps watching the video (and forwarding it, and re-posting it on their blogs) are—what? Performing the valuable service of informing the world what displays are appropriate and inappropriate for young girls to parrot? Please.

I'm not writing this to throw stones—I re-posted the "Single Ladies" video on this blog, and I've watched it more than once. I'm writing it because I know as well as anyone that as much as this is about taking a stand for our nation's girls, it's also about the spectacle of watching a group of 7-year-olds dancing sexy. Somehow, my faith in humanity has not been restored.

  • Kim Chi Ha

    my faith in humanity alters every other hour.

  • cora

    somebody finally gets it.

  • Eo

    She is talking about "Mary Whitehouse Syndrome" (and probably herself) - an addiction to being outraged, only certain personality types engage in it.

  • Eo

    PSYCHIATRISTS are to give official recognition to dozens of new mental disorders, including a condition nicknamed “Mary Whitehouse syndrome” — the thrill of being appalled by pornography and other obscenities. Absexuality appears to have been inspired by the zeal of Whitehouse, the campaigner who railed against smut on television.

    The condition is one of many mood disorders and personality traits that are likely to be added to the next edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists’ bible.

    h ttp://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article7026324.ece

  • ShawnDavis

    No. I have to disagree. As a man, I watched it and was horrified. I turned it off, and I'm willing to bet most people do not watch the full thing.

  • cora

    well everybody who watches television must have it because that stupid video was everywhere.

  • littleolme

    On the one hand, when I see 7-year-olds dancing this way, I know that they are (mostly) unconscious of the adult, sexual implications of their movements. They are playing dress up, dancing to fun music, and getting oh-so-much attention. But, having two hands, I can also see that their actions aren't going to be interpreted in the same naive way by viewers.

    Seeing dance sequences like these performed by children only reinforces, for me, what a strange performance 'femininity' truly is.

  • Kristina

    Eo, actually the traditional term for that is the defense mechanism called reaction formation. It's really unsurprising given all of the anti-porn, anti-prostitution, pro-family values politicians who seem to get caught with prostitutes, stashes of porn, other women, etc. Not everyone is guilty of it, as you posit, but a good deal of people are, especially those who campaign most strongly against something. See: "The lady [or man or whomever] dost protest too much, methinks".

  • CBMendez

    The video is simply the result of a series of bad decisions.

    Allow my 5 year old to wear outfits with messages printed on the backside, for the pleasure of the neighborhood sex offenders - CHECK

    Allow my 8 year old to attend dance classes that I never stick around long enough to find out what they are learning - CHECK

    Write a check for a dance costume, sight unseen - CHECK

    Never question why my 8-yearold's costume vaguely resembles a burlesque costume right down to red panties, thigh highs and black lace - CHECK

    Attend my kids dance competition, have someone post the video on YT, and appear a morning news program claiming the performance was never meant for the prying eyes of millions of outsiders - CHECK

    Not take responsibility for rarely using the word 'No' when it comes to my kids - CHECK

    Sit beside my confirmed BRAT of a kid, when she and her entitled friends start stealing stuff from their friend's homes and are forced to plead 'No Contest" under threat of witness testimony - CHECK

    The outrage is not about sex. Sex is simply the easy conversation that fits into the 3.5-minute news feature or the 200-word opinion piece. It is about invertebrate parenting and how to build a brat in 13 years or less.

  • kza

    I've yet to see this video. I did see the end of Little Miss Sunshine and my monocle didn't fall into my drink.

  • Maggie

    I, for one, haven't watched the damn video cause hearing it was about small children dancing in a possibly sexy manner while wearing stockings was enough to tell me I really didn't need to. I guess not so much for others?

  • Carpetbagger

    I have a now-12 year old daughter who thought it was cute to do a dance where she bent over and smacked her own butt...while smiling. It's been 7 or 8 years, since I explained to her that her behavior was inappropriate. What did I tell her? I said that some women dance like she did...and they received lots of negative attention from men and other women. In the beginning of our chat, I told her that some people called the dancers nasty names. I went on to explain that some guys use that kind of dancing as an excuse to do other, mean and hurtful things to women and young girls, even though you can't excuse one person intentionally hurting another person.

    Since the child was 4 or 5 at the time, I didn't want to tell her that some males use sexy dancing as an excuse to sexually harass or assault women and girls. I stuck to the lesson about appropriate vs. inappropriate touching. When my daughter was older, I explained why it was still not OK for her to repeat the latest moves from BET and MTV that her classmates displayed at a school dance.

    It seems like everybody is passing the video around like high school kids passing around a naked picture of a classmate--that she did not personally send to them. This is not Erykah Badu's "Window Seat" video; those are nieces, sisters, daughters, and cousins.

    One noted difference...when I saw my niece dancing like these little girls ONCE, I brought it to my sister's attention and my niece's "dancing" became one of the reasons why my sister ditched cable and adjusted the parental controls on her computer. It's not just BET or MTV anymore.

    As this article so deftly illustrates, now that my niece is old enough to read, she can go to any search engine, pull up an artist and check out the latest and greatest "dance" videos.

  • Mike

    I haven't seen the video, have no intention of seeing it, and hadn't heard of it until I read a earlier post. I mostly watch PBS in the evening, and I get most of my news not from CNN or MSNBC, but from whatreallyhappened.com, and antiwar.com. Which I believe have not linked the video.

  • Eo

    Kristina

    If the women that are outraged and circulating this film are doing so out of reaction formation as you say, are you suggesting that they approve or want to approve of the little girls actin like this?

    I think its more a case of being addicted to outrage. gossip and passing judgment. A spectical.

  • noodlez

    MS MANDY, GAWKERS INTRIGUE ASIDE THE DANCE ROUTINE WAS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR THAT AGE GROUP.

    THE COSTUMES ARE "R" RATED ALSO!

  • Saurs

    I'm fairly agnostic about humanity, but I would be ecstatic if even a tenth of the public hand-wringing directed at these children and their parents and their schools and their town were re-directed to the much more marginalized adults who have to do this, or much worse, for a living. Would that all sexual objectification be taken so seriously. I expect the real reason most regular folk are scandalized is not because they disapprove of objects being treated like women (or the opposite, I forget), but because they know, deep down, little girls only have a very short grace period in which they're treated almost like humans before they inevitably must "blossom" into public hate and sex receptacles, who for some reason, maybe 'cos they're naturally masochists, chicks? just love to walk around vulnerable, half-naked, and uncomfortable. Boggles the mind the way adult dudes get upset about female children performing the exact same kind of femininity they expect, desire, and demand from female adults.

  • Saurs

    Also, sorry to double comment, but this:

    "At some point, the outrage over the suggestive costuming and dance moves is just a convenient narrative for us to facilitate the distribution of the video to more gawkers."

    is it exactly. Another fantastic post.

  • Kristina

    Eo, that's not what I said. Please learn a little about the defense mechanism before attempting to apply it to this case. Reaction formation is when people channel unacceptable feelings into the exact opposite of those feelings. Expressing well-placed and well-founded (to the individual) outrage is not the opposite of secretly enjoying this video for its sexuality, nor is passing it around. Attempting to have it banned from the internet, lambasting those who do find this funny or endearing, or positing that these children somehow understand that they are doing something other than entertaining a bunch of people and getting attention doing so are examples.

    (not directed at anyone:) That said, these girls have a marketable skill they are developing. Saying they shouldn't dance like that because it is inappropriate is pretty invalid at this point in their lives. Their bodies are gender neutral, and I'm willing to place a bet that they have zero idea what their dancing implies. They are enjoying the dancing and the attention. I don't view that as unfortunate. I view that as business smarts if the girls actually enjoy what they're doing and are winning competitions that way. And this is not a private video. This is very clearly a championship type of situation. Attempting to slut shame an individual for how she dances is pretty wrong. If I want to dance sexily, it doesn't mean I'm fucking around. It means I want to dance sexily and can do so. I have a right to. Clearly, as a child's parent one can tell his or her child that this kind of dancing is wrong. But perhaps a child should be allowed to do silly things like this and win awards and enjoy the non-sexuality that they have for a little while longer.

    Saurs: I really feel like saying "who have to do this, or worse, for a living" kind of further marginalizes sex workers. Some of whom LIKE doing what they are doing. Some of them don't want to be spoken down to and have it assumed they have no other options in life. That's just another version of slut-shaming.

  • Saurs

    Kristina, I don't subscribe to "choice" feminism in which agency is inferred because women are making the best decisions for themselves out of a handful of limited options. Women who enjoy stripping and prostitution are the minority, and their experiences do not invalidate the very obvious fact that choosing "sex work" and falling into it are separate class markers. I can acknowledge that some escorts have fun having sex for money and have never been abused while defending those women, men, and children who are forced into prostitution for lack of other resources and because of their class and skin color, and who are more likely, statistically, to be the object of assault, rape, and murder than their (frankly) middle-class and white compatriots. Slut-shaming is a neat and useful phrase, but that's not what I'm doing, nor am I marginalizing anyone by acknowledging the reality that "sex work" is a feminist issue and a humanity issue. If you disagree, that's fine, but favoring the experiences of a small minority who own the privilege of choosing to enter into and leave "sex work" whenever they like ignores victims of rape, murder, and trafficking. Feminism is a broad church, and radfems are capable of acknowledging that women can occupy contradictory positions in this here patriarchy. Yeah?

  • Saurs

    * humanist issue

    Also, I'm hardly condescending to women who enjoy "sex work." They exist, their experiences are valid, and I've no qualms with them. Treating children who perform a dance as though they are victims of overt sexual objectification while ignoring masses of voiceless adults who engage in same activities unwillingly or unhappily is cause for concern and is a common enough example of hypocrisy that it should be voiced clearly and concisely. Recognizing that the tribulations of some people are largely invisible to regular folk does not constitute "shaming" anyone else.

  • PD

    I sometimes ask my husband why he frequents certain sites, sites that inevitably infuriate him and make him come home and yell about it to me, and his response is usually "I enjoy the anger." I do think at least part of the reason we share things like this with other people is because it allows us to feel justified in our rage. Since watching the video and passing it on would be, yes, facilitating the exploitation of these girls, I'm not going to do it. I am curious, though, why we love this dichotomy. Why do we insist our young girls perform femininity rather than just allowing them to be kids, then turn around and act outraged? Make up your mind, America.

  • Kristina

    Saurs, I'm really sorry if it seemed like I was trying to be rude. I wasn't. I'm slightly on edge because Eo keeps bugging out because I'm clearly a bigot. I'm just saying there are some women who like stripping, dancing like that, what have you. I meant no harm or rudeness, and I'm sorry it came off that way.

  • Kristina

    Saurs, I'm really sorry that came off as rude? I keep getting shut down for saying really simple things by the trolls on here, (because I'm a bigot and I hate men, duh), so I'm kind of on the defensive. That said, I agree with what you said. Ignoring the plight of adults who are forcibly sexualized is a great deal worse than what these kids are doing. But, you know, zomg secksy children! Clearly, there's some issues with focusing on that...

  • Saurs

    Kristina, you didn't appear rude. I just wanted to clarify what I meant in the phrase you quoted from. I think we're in agreement.

  • Saurs

    Also, I'm a bigot and I hate men, too. Liberating, isn't it?

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