The other week I attended three events and each of them left me in a very different mental state. The first was a Bay Area regional dance competition for children featuring most of the leading local dance studios, and styles ranging from hip-hop to ballet and everything in between. Most of the children had trained hard and I enjoyed the performances and colorful costumes. However, I was left feeling cold and uncomfortable by one group of prepubescent girls dressed in black ‘sexy’ costumes and gyrating in cages and on poles in a futile attempt to mimic a risqué nightclub performance. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude, at least not much of one, but there was definitely something disturbing about this performance. For example, I’m quite certain that the parents of these young dancers would not have been happy to see their children watching an adult version of this performance, whether live or on TV.
What was particularly jarring was the thought that this display was taking place just a few days after the announcement of a new and breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that virtually guarantees to make every college and university student a harasser. According to the new policy sexual harassment now takes place if the listener takes offense to sexually related speech for any reason no matter how irrational or unreasonable. So, on the one hand we are claiming to be so protective of young women that if they are upset by anything someone says, society will punish the perpetrator, but on the other hand, we think it OK for children to perform lewd dances in public in the name of art. Is there something wrong here or is it just me?
The second event was a school meeting to discuss a proposed service trip to a country in Central America. Parents were given to understand that the purpose of the trip was to help a local school and give students the experience of a total immersion in a foreign culture. However, much of the evening was spent attempting to calm parent’s fears about bugs, poverty, disease and crime. I understand the need to take prudent precautions but if you want to immerse students in a foreign culture the trick is to manage risk, not to eliminate it, otherwise what’s the point of going there? Is it just me?
Finally, I attended an evening of solo recitals by a group of talented young female vocalists. Each of these young women sang their heart out in an unforgettable performance. No discord or dissonance there, just heavenly voices. I was in rapture, and it wasn’t just me.
“I don’t want to live. I want to love first, and live incidentally.” Zelda Fitzgerald