Wendy Shalit, author of the newly released Girls Gone Mild and the bestselling A Return to Modesty, spoke at an event last night in Pittsburgh that was totally worth the price of admission. I've long admired Wendy's frankness, and anyone who is unfamiliar with her work should start by checking out her blog, Girls Gone Mild. Her appeal rests largely on her seeming unwillingness to pull any punches, and the degree of common sense which every sentence, whether written or spoken, is punctuated with.
In an era infamous for polite, politically-correct verbal maneuvering, it is so refreshing to hear truth and be able to recognize it as such. Wendy does not come across as some feminist radical, nor as an overzealous religious fanatic with a salvation agenda to push; she's simply a woman who got sick and tired of the lack of options available in a society that worships the right to choose. Working within the existing framework of the jargon of "choice" and "options", she challenges women to examine all their choices before they fall neatly into line, caving to peer pressure or parental apathy and ignorance.
Wendy's books are tinder for the chastity movement, poised to explode into flame in this dry and barren cultural landscape which is thirsting for truth. Girls are reading these books and others like them (Dawn Eden's Thrill of the Chaste is a must read) and coming to the conclusion that there are alternatives to behaving and being regarded as prostitutes, to using their bodies to communicate their worth to a consumer-driven society which would use and discard their beauty.
The power of women standing up and demanding change is a force to be reckoned with, which is why Wendy and others like her face so much resistance and opposition. Where are the heralds of choice and personal freedom when an opposing viewpoint is being aired? What to make of a woman who simply won't fall in line, who isn't comfortable with her body being public domain, who believes there is a more perfect way for human beings to live and love? What is the message the editors of Cosmo and Glamour (and other bastions of feminine power) wish to send to this radical, vocal and prolific champion of authentic feminism and human rights?
Get in line.
You are free to choose, of course, provided your choice corresponds neatly with our political and economic agendas. But don't you dare step outside this box, the one bounded by chemical contraceptives and provocative clothing and promiscuous and deviant sexual practices... You have been given great freedom, great opportunities which women in the past only dreamt of...
You may sleep with whomever you choose, dispose of the unwanted "product of pregnancy" which might result from your chance sexual encounters with attractive and anonymous men, use your body as a bargaining chip to further advance your career and social standing, and strive daily for an impossible ideal of physical perfection which the right combination of drugs, dieting and surgery might yield. And if not, there's always airbrushing...
Thank God for choices, right?