Friday, June 11, 2010

A kid pro quo

Hungry like the wolf by Pants

Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times of nasty goings-on at an elite Washington boys' school. The charming young scions of American power and industry have apparently created a whole new approach to dating. In the spirit of comradeship, they've hit upon a unique method of maximising their collective chances of scoring a fresher-week legover using scientific method.

Eschewing that crusty old tradition of asking a fellow human that you quite fancy to accompany you on a pleasant evening of fun and precocious revelry in accordance with your mutual tastes, these bastions of decency decided it would be much more productive to pool the girls whom they would first grade and then select after the fashion of an NFL draft. Ms Dowd takes up the story,

Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an “opening day party,” complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.

“They evidently got points for first, second and third base,” said one outraged father of a drafted girl. “They were going to have parties and tally up the points, and money was going to be exchanged at the end of the season.” He said that the boys would also have earned points for “schmoozing with the parents.”

His daughter, he said, “was very upset about it. She thought these guys were her friends. This is the way we teach boys to treat women, young ladies?”

I don't know, Dad from DC. Who do you suppose this 'we' who is assigned to teach boys how to treat women and young ladies is, exactly?

Ms Dowd expands,

Landon is where the sons of many prominent members of the community are sent to learn “the code of character,” where “a Landon man” is part of a “true Brotherhood” and is known for his good word, respect and honesty. The school’s Web site boasts about the Landon Civility Code; boys are expected to “work together to eliminate all forms of disrespect” and “respect one another and our surroundings in our decorum, appearance, (sic) and interactions.”

To 'work together to eliminate all forms of disrespect'? What's that about? Are we to assume that a culture of 'disrespect' is the status quo? A default position for the high-born perhaps? That disrespect, in its presumably many forms, exists in nature in order to be eliminated by the fine young bucks of the US of A? What?

And what are we to make of disrespect's converse 'respect' being limited to the brotherhood's 'one another and our surroundings in decorum, appearance and interactions'?

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, this sort of thing didn't happen when boys and girls dressed in the same clothes. Yes, back in the seventies, the decade that style apparently forgot, we hated sport and advertising and corsetry. Those were the things our parents valued. We all* wore the same baggy bell-bottomed trousers and cheesecloth shirts and had Neil from The Young Ones hair. Then, in 1976 we all* miraculously did a straight swap for black pants, ripped shirts and Vyvyan from The Young Ones hair. No one clocked what anyone else was wearing, much less thought it a factor in fanciability. We used our imaginations, because we still had them then. Life and sex were so much more liberated in those days - for both genders.

Even with the mounting body of evidence that the power dynamic between men and women is backpedalling faster than a politician en route to an election, few make the obvious connections. Mystified Dad from DC, unless he is in fact the Dalai Lama, is part of the problem. Maybe he doesn't have sons to whom he ought to be giving the 'how not to be a total cunt' speech. But he could at least mentor his daughter. He could convey to her that she is not an amalgam of products culminating in a package. And, that she is emphatically not the freshman version of a swap option.

The imprint of the marketing culture is now causing collateral damage. I'd always scoffed at my parents and what I thought of as their very 1950s concern for appearances. Sis Pants and I did really quite a good job of trashing all over that. We certainly broke out, but not at the expense of our morality. The posturing that we railed so strongly against was just superstructure and today we both enjoy an excellent relationship with our surviving parent. Underneath the fripperies of right suburb/right car etc. lay a very strong foundation of understanding of what it means to be a free person with both a right and a responsibility to self-determination. We learn how to be decent human beings from our parents.

You can't order it from Amazon, Dad from DC. Pick up the bat, man...

*By 'all' I do mean my personal cohort obviously but certainly at my secondary school and then university of 20,000 students, everyone did pretty much dress the same.