Left: Billie Eilish age 17, right: Billie Eilish for Vogue interview age 19
I like to think that back in the day, before the industrial revolution, when an infected tooth could kill us cause we didn’t have antibiotics yet, ritual was a more explicit and clear part of our lives. If you’re into anthropology, ethnography or even sociology, you might have read about all the different rites that announce a life, demark childhood from adulthood, how care of elders differs from other types of care, how death can be accepted and processed in many different ways – and us witches maintain that how we do any and all of these things has a big impact on the quality of our earthly lives.
Take Billie Eilish, for example. She is a 19 year old ridiculously talented musician who became absurdly famous as a teenager – read, as a child. Being a public persona, all her fans and the media follow her every move, and she chose a baggy clothing style as her trademark so people wouldn’t comment on her body or give her shit of any type. This is both brilliant on her part, and demoralizing and depressing that she had to hide her body as defense from nameless assholes who feel entitled to having opinions about women’s bodies.
Anyway, she grew up in the public eye and just this month she is on the cover of Vogue magazine in what are considered traditionally super sexy and provocative clothes: lingerie, corsets, high heels, stockings, the works. Most of her fans love the look, a few feel she “sold out”, most people aware of such celebrity comings and going have an opinion.
My opinion is this: I love that this 19 year old young woman chose to scream to the world, with her look and style, “I’m a sexy grown-ass woman”, and that she didn’t do it at 17. I think she probably would have done it at 18 but the pandemic and all, so who knows. Her Vogue cover leaves no doubt about the fact that she is choosing a very specific look, with very specific connotations, that are appropriate for an adult and not a child.
And while the difference between 17 and 18 may not be that much, and it may be that at those ages humans are already mostly grown, and probably super sexually charged, it is important that we draw the line somewhere. Why? Because we can’t be protecting young ones from older predators on an individual basis. While sexual consent is a whole nother topic, it is important that as a society we agree that it is not available until children are grown ups, and that the limit of childhood, the boundary of adulthood, occurs at 18 years of age.
This doesn’t mean that you are fully grown and won’t continue to mature after 18, it just means that before then, you are a kid, and you deserve our love and care and protection as a child. And that after 18, you are free to run wild and trash your life or thrive, as you see fit.
My gut reaction to Billie Eilish’s new look was that of “OK, she gets to do whatever the hell she wants now that she is a woman. Glad that she shared with the world such an explicit memo”. When younger media personalities are sexualized, it’s confusing and dangerous for all involved. I super apprecite the clarity of the boundary this photo shoot as rite of passage communicates. It is now clear to all that Billie Eilish is no longer a child, and this has been communicated at an appropriate time. How refreshing! May we all find the rites of passage we need for all stages of our lives.