Tweens and Values

I always say that the moment you experience the need to dump on the younger generation, you need to know: this is the day when you have become hopelessly, irredeemably old. If you feel like harping on the horrible values of today’s kids and keep comparing them to how much better your values were when you were their age, congratulations! You are now completely ready to be carted of to the dungheap of existence. It doesn’t matter how old you really are. A visceral dislike of younger people makes you old even if you are 25.

Here is a post I just found that perfectly exemplifies the attitude I’m talking about:

One study analyzed the values expressed on the most popular television shows among so-called tweens (children ages 9-11) every decade from 1967 to 2007. . .

The results revealed little change in values presented on the shows between 1967 and 1997, during which time, the five most expressed values were Community Feeling, Benevolence, Image, Tradition, and Popularity (three out of the five would generally be considered healthy). The five least expressed values were Fame, Physical Fitness, Hedonism, Spiritualism, and Financial Success (three out of five would generally be considered unhealthy).

Only during the most recent decade did a dramatic shift in values occur. The new top-five values were Fame, Achievement, Popularity, Image, and Financial Success (with Self-Centered and Power close behind). Related values that also became more prominent included Ambition, Comparison to Others, Attention Seeking, Conceitedness, Glamour, and Materialism. The latest bottom-five values were Spiritualism, Tradition, Security, Conformity, and Benevolence (with Community Feeling to follow). I don’t think the so-called values voters of today (or anyone else, for that matter) would have a hard time judging which would be considered healthy values and which wouldn’t be.

Sorry for the long quote but this piece of old-age insanity has to be experienced in full.

First of all, let me point out that each of us has our own perception of and reaction to any given TV show, book, or film. If it weren’t so, my entire profession would not exist. This is why trying to interpret which “values” a collection of TV shows (especially one selected by a person with an obvious political agenda) transmits to everybody is stupid. Meaning that the study quoted here is a piece of pseudo-scientific junk.

Let’s leave that aside for a while, though, and pretend that this analysis of values implicit in TV shows does have some meaning. What are the values that the author of this piece classifies as good and which ones does he see as negative? The “good” values are  Community Feeling, Benevolence, Image, Tradition,  Spiritualism, Security, Conformity, and Popularity (these capital letters make me think of the precious writing style of XIXth century damsels locked up in boarding schools who capitalized words like Love, Friendship, and Betrayal in letters to their imaginary lovers. Bleh.) The “bad” or “unhealthy” values are Ambition, Comparison to Others, Attention Seeking, Conceitedness, Glamour, Fame, Physical Fitness, Hedonism,  Financial Success, and Materialism.

Now, a question for everybody. What is the main difference between these two groups of values? To me, the answer is obvious. The good values are the ones that are likely to be experienced by people who live to serve their group. People who privilege such values are usually most comfortable in heavily patriarchal societies where an individual’s interests don’t matter a whole lot because the individual belongs to his or her group (family, clan, community.)

The bad values, however, are the ones that characterize modernized societies where an individual pursues his or her own interests and does not abdicate them in order to belong. Where the first group of values insists on conformity, the second one praises comparison to others, uniqueness, personal ambition. When you stop being a slave to tradition, you can concentrate on looking for your own ways to enjoy life (hedonism), take care of your body, and be successful.

If there had, indeed, been a shift in values that is described in the post I quoted and this shift occurred along the lines of moving away from communitarian, patriarchal values to more individualistic and personal ones, then that is great news, indeed. And if you disagree with me that such shift is a positive phenomenon, ask yourself how ready you are to have your parents decide what profession you choose, whom you marry, when and if you have children, etc.

Is Insecurity a Turn Off?

Reader Liz shared a link to an article that says:


I think this is an interesting question. Is insecurity a turn off?

In my opinion, people who are turned off by the insecurities of others are usually very insecure themselves. When they see their partner doubt his or her own attractiveness, they become worried. “Have I chosen the wrong person?” they think. “If s/he thinks s/he is not that great, maybe s/he is right. Am I being a loser for sticking with this person?”

A very secure, confident person will not mind being with somebody who is not very secure. Such a person knows his or her own mind and could care less about what anybody thinks about his or her choices. If my partner thinks he is fat and ugly (which he very often does), this doesn’t influence my feelings for him because I know that he is neither.

“But an insecure person might start getting clingy,” people will say.

I can’t say that I see this as a huge problem because I’m very confident that I can protect my personal space and that I will never allow myself to be manipulated into doing anything I don’t want to do by somebody’s clinginess.

Different people are attracted by different things. It’s perfectly OK to see somebody’s insecurities as unacceptable in a partner. And it’s also perfectly OK not to mind if one’s partner is insecure.

Dating Scripts: A Personal Story

Miriam, who keeps churning out brilliant posts, just wrote an article on whether it makes sense to follow traditional dating scripts:

Conventional dating scripts are being challenged all the time, but they still cling to life in the form of movies, TV shows, Cosmo, and many other bits of culture. They also continue to drive the actions and desires of many people, albeit not of me and the people I hang out with.

Part of the reason for this, I think, is that they make things so deceptively easy. Dating outside of the conventions seems riskier, scarier. But in reality, it’s not. There’s so much joy and freedom in writing your own rules, or forgetting rules altogether. It opens up the possibility of meeting someone who likes to play by the same rules, or lack thereof, as you do.

I agree with Miriam completely and I wanted to share a personal story demonstrating why what she says makes a lot of sense.

N. and I met when he came to New Haven for a summer job. I had been planning to move to Canada for my last year of grad school, so we knew from the start that I would be moving to another country within three weeks. N. couldn’t (and still can’t) leave the US because of his visa issues, which we also knew from the start.

From the moment we met, we were so much into each other that we start living together on our second date. Now what you have to know about me is that I prefer to initiate everything during the dating process. I like to be the one who invites the man on a first date, initiates the first kiss and the first sexual contact, etc. That’s just who I am. It makes me happy. I’m a total find for a shy guy who is afraid of rejection and doesn’t know how to go about such things. N. is the perfect partner for me because he is precisely such a guy.

So I got the chance to initiate everything and we were both happy as clams. Then, the moment came for me to move to Canada. Since the relationship was going so well, I really wanted to move my stuff to Montreal and then come back to New Haven and stay with N. while he kept working his summer job.

Here, however, I decided to adopt the traditional female role of sitting there like a patient little wallflower and waiting to be invited to come back to New Haven. I didn’t do it because I enjoy this role. I actually hate it. And I didn’t do it because N. had given me any indication that he wanted me to be this way. He obviously doesn’t, or we wouldn’t be together still. So I waited to be asked. And he was waiting for me to show that I wanted to come back.

And then we waited some more. And some more.

Finally, when all of my stuff had been packed into the mini-van and I was on the doorstep, resigned to leaving and never seeing him again, N. blurted out:

“But don’t you want to come back and continue being together??”

Of course, I did come back and we hope to remain together forever.

It really scares me to consider that I almost lost the opportunity to be with somebody who was very obviously made for me because at a ripe old age of 31 I suddenly decided to fake being all passive and traditionally feminine. I was afraid that I’d scare N. away by being all pushy, in spite of how clear it had become that he liked my pushiness, which is an integral part of my personality.

So I agree with Miriam: all of these traditional behaviors and dating scripts are bunk. It makes no sense to force oneself into a role that one doesn’t enjoy. And what’s the point of attracting a partner by acting fake? It isn’t like one’s true nature won’t come out eventually.

The Future of Political Activism

Within the last few weeks, bloggers, twitterers and social network users have defeated SOPA / PIPA and brought down the Komen people. Do you now realize what a huge force we have become and why all traditional media journalists hate us so much?

At an anti-Putin protest in Moscow yesterday, a young man was making fun of Putin's suggestion that all Russian protesters work for Hillary Clinton. More photos of the protests here:

The future of political activism is online, people. Those who can get the greatest number of people to reblog, retweet, repost and facebook will end up defeating those who can invest the greatest amount of money and bring the greatest number of people to a protest.

Two days ago, a scandal broke in Russia where hackers accessed information proving that some of the most popular bloggers and Twitterers in the country had been receiving money from the government to mention Putin in a positive context or include heart-warming pictures of him (holding babies and practicing martial arts, the usual stuff) in their posts. Truly huge amounts of money have been paid out to counterbalance the negative publicity that honest bloggers have been creating for Putin.

The Russians are, as usual, ahead of everybody. Those in power in that country have realized that you now need to have the blogosphere on your side if you want to achieve anything. I predict that this trend will grow in the future and the blogs, the tweets and the social media will play a hugely important role in politics and activism in the near future.

Teresa Pla Meseguer, Part II

A group of policemen (called Civil Guards) stopped Teresa once and forced her to strip naked. They had heard that her genitals were “weird” and wanted to see for themselves. It is needless to say that Teresa was traumatized by this horrible violation. She had been trying so hard to fit into what a woman was supposed to be like. She had even bought a red dress, curled her hair, and started attending dancing fetes. And now, she was forced to undress and reveal her body to drunken Civil Guards.


This was when Teresa decided to stop pretending. She joined the Republican guerrilla fighters and started living her life as a man, Florencio. The guerrilla fighters were more open-minded than the villagers. They easily accepted Florencio as a man and never questioned his identity. They helped him to achieve his greatest dream, which was learning to read.

Unfortunately, the Republican guerrilla movement was administered by the Soviets. Stalin was the person who decided what they were supposed to do, when, and how. For Stalin, purges were an integral part of ruling the Communist allies all over the world. Florencio’s closest friend among the guerrilla fighters, Francisco, was accused by a Stalin’s emissary of treason. Francisco decided to escape in order to avoid being killed by his own comrades. As a good friend, Florencio joined him and the two men formed a rogue guerrilla unit.

Florencio and Francisco survived for a while in the forest until Francisco was killed. After that, Florencio remained hiding in the forest on his own. He knew the terrain so well that he managed to avoid capture for years.

At that time, the Republican guerrilleros had already withdrawn from Spain on Stalin’s orders. Florencio was left completely alone. The Civil Guards hunted him and the newspapers published articles describing Florencio as “a wild beast,” “a woman with entrails of stone” (yes, they were shitty writers, what can I say?), “a blood-thirsty hyena”, etc. The authorities were especially bothered by rumors that Florencio was living his life as a man. This gender-switching made him even more suspect in their eyes.

In 1960, Florencio was captured by the Civil Guards. He was given the capital penalty for 29 murders that were erroneously attributed to him. Florencio, however, always denied killing anybody and the authorities never managed to prove that he was guilty of murder.

At first, the authorities tried to place Florencio in a women’s jail. They dressed him in a mini-skirt and a blouse that was so tight he could barely breathe. Florencio was a man, however, and nobody could pretend he wasn’t. In the first part of the post, you have a photo of how Florencio looked right after he was captured. It soon became obvious that keeping him in a jail for female prisoners would not do.

A group of military doctors studied Florencio for a while and arrived at a unanimous conclusion that he was a man. From then on, he was placed in a men’s jail and his gender was never again disputed.

In 1977, Florencio was released from jail. In 1980, he finally managed to get the authorities to recognize him legally as a man. Florencio Pla Meseguer died in 2004 at the age of 87. He had survived the dictator Francisco Franco by 29 years and had witnessed Spain’s transition to democracy.



If you don’t read in Spanish, there are no good sources for this information. At least, not until my article is finished and comes out. 🙂

If you do read in Spanish, I recommend the following books:

Calvo Segarra, José. La Pastora. Del monte al mito. Vinarós: Antinea, 2009.

Giménez Bartlett, Alicia. Donde nadie te encuentre. Barcelona: Destino, 2011.