I wanted to showcase a new generation of role models beyond Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, to get people thinking about--and talking about--girls who represent something deeper. There are so many amazing young women out there, but all you usually see in the media is the exhibitionists.
Well, people tend to think goodness is boring, they misunderstand what the good girl is about. So I wanted to challenge people's preconceptions about the good girl and say: "She's not who you assume." The girls I profile in this book are very outspoken; they're not demure or mild at all. Society assumes they are but in fact, as their individual stories show, these girls are the real rebels.
Some of my best friends are exhibitionists, actually. This book is definitely not meant to be a personal attack on them. The problem is that if we only focus on one narrow notion of empowerment--taking your clothes off in public, being casual about sex, that sort of wildness--then girls don't have real choices. We have to allow for another idea of empowerment, and I wanted to detail what that looks like, so girls would have an alternative ideal to aspire to.
If an adult pats a girl on the head and says, "There, there--you don't have to have sex if you're immature and you're not ready yet," that's not a viable alternative. That's an insult.
First we have to collapse this false dichotomy we've set up, between the sexually experienced girl who has feelings, and the inexperienced girl who is a prude and repressed. This dichotomy doesn't capture the experience of most young women--nor men for that matter. We have to allow for young people who are mature, have feelings, and yet want to wait until marriage and find that one special person to bond with and commit to.
Well, there are pockets of resistance, but I wouldn't call them insignificant. In fact, I found that there is actually a relationship between the public display of sexuality, and young people seeking an alternative. The more crude things get, the more obvious it is that there is a defect in our current philosophy of empowerment. When you start talking about pressure on gradeschoolers to look "hot," it's pretty clear that something has gone very wrong. And the thing is, this is obvious to the young people themselves. You can't dip your toe into mature waters when you're already swimming in a triple-X lake to begin with. They're sick of this stuff being pushed on them.
"Wendy Shalit’s first book, A Return to Modesty. . . created a storm when it was published nine years ago but whose influence can be detected in today’s campus chastity clubs, including here at Harvard. As a veteran of pro-sex feminism who still endorses pornography and prostitution, I say more power to all these chaste young women who are defending their individuality and defying groupthink and social convention. That is true feminism!"
— Camille Paglia, Harvard Feminism Conference Keynote, April 10 2008