Decked out in flashy burlesque costumes, five dancers mouth sexually suggestive lyrics as they writhe and shimmy across the stage. The audience hoots and hollers as they gyrate to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
If you’ve seen the viral video then you already know: these YouTube sensations are just eight and nine years old.
The sight of a talented youth troupe thrusting their hips in shiny red hot pants prompted many commentators to condemn the parents and teachers involved. But not everyone was on board. In a Salon column last week, an infuriated Ada Calhoun ripped into critics for their “hysteria” and “moral panic” over the YouTube clip. And the icing on her lily white cake of predictability? If you criticize the video, you’re a racist.
But let’s start with Calhoun’s first beef with those of us who find the video disturbing. “Can we stop yelling at young women to put their clothes back on?” she asks.
These aren’t “young women.” They’re little girls who need to have their talent nurtured by responsible adults willing to set boundaries. Instead, they’re being exploited by people catering to some Mohammedan fantasy.
No serious commentator yelled at the kids “to put their clothes back on.” The criticisms were directed at parents, choreographers, and anyone else who pretends that young talent can’t be nourished without rummaging through Dita von Teese’s wardrobe.
Calhoun’s next argument is that you should shut your hysterical neo-Victorian trap if all you can do is whine about kids today boppin’ to their doggone rock and roll records. “In every era, there are moral panics about girls; they all project the same tone of hysteria and the same cultural amnesia,” she writes.
Hysteria? This isn’t some town fight between the Squares and the Drapes or a moral panic about the “sinful gyrations” of Elvis Presley. The outrage is that parents and teachers are coaching eight-year-olds to mimic sex acts for an audience of cheering adults. In an era when thong panties come in tween sizes and condoms are handed out at school, there’s nothing prudish or panicky about encouraging kids to be kids.
But even that’s a problem for Calhoun who complains that “almost every article” included the line “Can’t we just let little girls be little girls?” Is it really beyond the pale to suggest that parents shouldn’t rush their kids through childhood? Isn’t that Good Parenting 101?
Not in Calhoun’s eyes. She wrote an entire book on her parenting philosophy called Instinctive Parenting: Trusting Ourselves to Raise Good Kids. One Amazon reviewer called it “an entire book of excuses for being a bad parent.”
Now let’s return to Calhoun’s delightful charges of racism, quoted at length because laughter is good for the soul:
Why are there no Op-Eds when black girls dress or dance this way? If the problem is really with girls wearing these outfits, or dancing in this manner, why is it that the hundreds of YouTube videos of black 8- and 9-year-old girls doing their best “Single Ladies” (I just watched a bunch, some from dance competitions and some to the very same song) aren’t cause for alarm? Why aren’t their parents called to the carpet on morning television? Are they not relevant to the discussion for some reason I don’t understand?
And I’m no cultural studies expert, but the indignation over how (white) kids today like to dance (too much gyrating!) sounds an awful lot like the outrage over the effect “black music” had on white America in the 1950s. There is a lot of fear in the discussion of these dance competition girls: fear of sexuality, sure, but also, I think, fear of how diverse pop culture has become.
This could easily be a parody of Greg Gutfeld’s “Gregalogue” commentaries on “Red Eye”: “If you disagree with me, you’re probably a racist homophobe who eats unicorns.” Incidentally, you know who else cries racism when you object to the exploitation of children? Pedophile activists. Is that who Ada Calhoun really wants to ally herself with?
After smearing everyone who objects to the early sexualization of children as racist, Calhoun demands to know why no one appreciates the girls’ for their talent. I wonder how she reconciles that with her earlier observation that most writing on this issue includes the “grudging admission that ‘the girls were spectacular dancers.’”
Calhoun finishes her piece by reminding us that we’re all hysterical prudish scolds.
Of course, when these girls are parents themselves, they will be just as horrified by something their daughters are doing — hyper-driving their space-cars in foil miniskirts, say.
It’s just how we are, how we’ve always been, and probably always will be with girls: judgmental, scolding and afraid.
And that, not five young girls’ choreography, is the real shame.
But it isn’t just the choreography, it’s the entire performance. It’s the skimpy costumes designed to give the illusion of curves where children have none. It’s the sight of children undulating in distinctly un-childlike ways while mouthing lyrics about what men need to do to get laid. What kind of lesson is it to girls that the skimpiest, thrustiest routine wins?
If Ada Calhoun can’t understand the problem, it’s time for her to turn in her feminist card.
(Originally posted at David Horowitz’s NewsReal Blog)