Magazine article Insight on the News

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Magazine article Insight on the News

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

Article excerpt

As more men behave ever more beastly, are women becoming girlish again, in a hip update of Little Red Riding Hood for the nineties? Surely it was no coincidence that at the end of the year the New York Times featured back-to-back dispatches about men slouching toward Gomorrah and women behaving like "girls."

Cataloging the big bad boys is easy. They include Marv Albert for biting his lady love's back, Tasos Michael for jilting his fiancee at the altar and flying off to Tahiti by himself (since he had the airline ticket in hand anyway) and the stereotypical corporate cads in the movie In the Company of Men. These cads captured the masculine zeitgeist, seducing a deaf girl and then abandoning her.

Women, who have given up their broad-shouldered suits and stiletto heels, are fighting back with the regressive femininity of girlhood. Makeup giant Revlon caught the mood by naming a watermelon-pink nail polish "Girly." The Spice Girls sing about "girl power," which feminists of yesteryear might have called an oxymoron. The new spring catalog for Barney's, with its eye for expensive soft-sell chic, portrays models in girlish celebration of fantasy tiaras, reflecting the pleasure of being prom queens and princesses, virgins rather than vixens.

Is this merely a tongue-in-cheeky communication or a boudoir backlash? Are women making fun of macho polymorphous perversity or are they trying to regain the power of passionate passivity?

Surely a one-size explanation will not fit all, but cascades of books about adolescent girls detail how their happiness ended with puberty. There's more than a little suggestion that women want to rediscover their innocence by turning back the clock, metaphorically if not actually. That's why growing numbers of young women like to describe themselves as recycled virgins -- in behavior if not in fact.

The sexual revolution simply didn't live up to its promise. Naomi Wolf, who argues in her new book Promiscuities that there are "no good girls; we are all bad girls in the best sense of the word," nevertheless betrays a poignancy at having lost her virginity at the age of 15 without a hint of the delicious romance that is the due of every girl on giving that up. …

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