Why Little Girls Shouldn't Be Single - The Jose Vilson

Why Little Girls Shouldn’t Be Single

May 17, 2010

Teaching middle school has taught me at least two things about the thought process of children under 15: they believe they’re too old to be chastised by anyone but their parents (and in some cases, no one at all) and they have control over their own bodies. Part of that is developmental and evolutionary; we look to grow into ourselves, finding the rapid changes disturbing and replying by controlling the smaller parts that haven’t changed. Adolescence is scary, and not enough people know how to handle it delicately.

I do, however, have serious trouble looking at the above video and simply let that go. Many of you have seen this video and probably thought, “Why did this happen? Why do I feel strange about this? What makes this video so different from the other YouTube videos of gyration and bouncy baseline? The dancers are talented, surely, the uniforms look well done, and the replication of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is also remarkable. The energy on the stage seemed as infectious for the audience as for the hundreds of viewers and commenters to this exhibition.

That’s the most interesting thing about infections. People who have infections often jump up in excitement, preoccupied with the curiosity of this infection, but it’s still an infection, in need of a cure. The central point of intrigue is that the video isn’t showing grown women well in control of their sexuality or their lives; it’s showing little girls imitating such women. It’s not only distressing, but also indicative of the values our society holds (or doesn’t) for our young girls and boys.

Pardon me in my conservatism here, but shouldn’t we teach children how to be children until they getting closer to adulthood? For many of our children growing up in hardship, we find their parents groom them into young men and women well before they’re ready, and it often leads to children thinking they’re too grown for reproach or critique in their daily lives. They learn the harshest parts of adulthood without understanding the emotional and the genteel. They curse without understanding who they’ve damned, and retaliate without feeling consequence. They kiss and they’re immediately told they’re no longer “single.”

Children shouldn’t have such the burden of anything above a friendship. That’s where the issues of relationships start.

Furthermore, we see a dose of the sexualization of little girls, whose dance moves and dress emulates full grown women, but they can’t handle such a responsibility. Do they understand what Beyonce means when she asks a suitor to put a ring on it? When she tells her former man, who after several years never asked for any real commitment from her, to go away? In what club will the young ladies in the video pretend to be besides the Boys and Girls Club? Do tea parties and jumping jacks no longer exist for little girls to entertain themselves? Will their parents, who clearly didn’t think these ramifications through, have to pack them a lunch before they get into the club?

Children under a certain age shouldn’t be allowed to bestow titles meant for grown-ups upon themselves. That’s a roll call too many of us can agree with.

Jose, who, according to Mr. McLeod, deserves a bigger audience. Clap for him.

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth May 17, 2010 at 5:58 pm

When I saw this video last week, it made me nauseous. This is an excellent response.

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TheGilch May 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Very insightful, thank you. I like when you said, “They curse without understanding who they’ve damned, and retaliate without feeling consequence.” This is very indicative of my experience with high school aged children. But, even moreso, I am reading this in contrast to the article I read immediately before it, “A Teacher’s Guide to Generation X Parents” from Edutopia. http://www.edutopia.org/generation-x-parents-relationships-guide
What you’ve said here, in comparison to the thoughts of the author of the above-mentioned article, put a lot of things into perspective.

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David B. Cohen May 17, 2010 at 10:22 pm

If your response makes you conservative, mine would make me ultra-conservative. It’s shocking to me how many adults must have thought this was okay.

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Saida M Latigue May 18, 2010 at 7:05 am

I love to dance, have taken dance classes, been in recitals, my daughter dances as well, however, this dance group, I felt very confused watching them. Like it was some sort of soft porn on USA network & I was NOT turned on by it, more like wanted to regurgitate.
Beyonce and her dancers in the video for the song were more modestly dressed than these girls in the “bordello bikini wear”. UGH. I felt some sort of way, none of it positive.

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Jose May 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Thank you all for commenting.

David, I’m usually pretty liberal, but we have to draw the line, and this went far and beyond my own line. It seems all the adults who watched, coached, and videotaped this consented, and that’s far too many.

Saida, you’re right about this. I can see some elements of good dancing here, but Beyonce, as you mentioned, was more conservative in her dress. I tried to be objective, but my sanity took over.

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Jonathan May 18, 2010 at 9:35 pm

They yanked the video.

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Jade May 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm

This video is distrubing. I have a young daughter and she’s ONLY allowed to listen to Kids Tunes. It is a parent’s responsibility to let their children be children. Had the danced to an age appropriate song and covered their middles and behinds, actually had their parents, the dance could have been deemed cute. They have talent.
I am one of the younger staff members in the school I work in and we are putting on a talent show for the middle schoolers. The older satff have let songs and certain dance moves be approved. They don’t know that Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” is inappropriate. While parents may let their children sing and dance to certain songs, it isn’t until they see it on stage or youtube, that they open their eyes.

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Jose May 19, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Jonathan, I only saw that now. Did you want a link or will the outrage suffice?

Jade, thanks for dropping by. I don’t know how I feel about many of the songs we have our children listening to and dancing too either. Certainly, the children have talent, and you’re right about that. I feel like I’m pulling out a mental rubric and thinking “there’s too many things I just don’t see here. Or see too much.”

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Jenny Kanevsky May 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Jose,
Thanks for taking on this issue. I completely agree that these girls are playing with fire taking on adult themes, behavior, dress, etc. The adolescent mind and heart cannot handle this stuff. Hell, many adults can’t handle “adult” themes like relationships, whether there’s a “ring on it” or not. And I would posit (without proof but a gut feel) that many adults who can’t handle adult relationships, resonsibility, appropriateness, may have been those same kids who were forced to grow up too quickly. I don’t find your view conservative, I find it realistic and age-appropriate. These are girls. Girls, not women. Great blog post, again.
Jenny

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