Hi! I’m Not Alice, But Maybe You’ll Like This Anyway
Due to the fact that this week Alice’s eyes are dried up like bloodshot little cranberries, I — and by that I mean me, who occasionally goes by the name “Mrs. Kennedy” — am going to do my best to fill in for her today in Wonderland. Please keep in mind that the only newspaper I read is the colorful one that shows up on my stoop every Sunday morning and the rest of the time I’m a headline-skimmer who’s barely qualified to tell a five-year-old the difference between the president and a kumquat. So here’s some stuff that happened! Maybe together we can give it the weight it deserves.
So, have you heard the one about the California legislator who’s working on a bill that would make spanking children under the age of three illegal?
Some groups seem upset that a liberal Democrat non-mother, Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, would have the government tell parents how to discipline their kids. “Sally Lieber mistakenly believes that parents who infrequently spank their children should be arrested, and she wrongly guesses that children who were spanked will respond by committing crimes,” states the president of Campaign for Children and Families, who advocates not reading bills very closely and following the Biblical “He that spareth his rod hateth his son” proverb.
Defenders of the proposed bill respond that it is not a “home-invasion” bill that will lead to police with flashlights patrolling our nation’s back porches. They argue that its implementation (which I guess would enlist stout-hearted bystanders, pediatricians, and day care providers) is designed to make “perpetual users of physical discipline” who regularly “beat their children black and blue” easier to prosecute. And in order to do that, according to Lieber, responsible parents must agree to give up what some believe is an inviolable parenting tool: slapping/swatting/spanking very small, impulsive people to teach them not to touch the stove/run out into traffic/push all the buttons on the remote while daddy’s watching the playoffs.
Interviewed by Madeleine Brand on NPR’s All Things Considered, Lieber explained at length where she’s coming from. “This issue is at the same place that domestic violence was 20 or 30 years ago, when that was considered to be something that was private, within a marriage, between a husband and a wife and not something that government should play a role in or that people should be aware of. . . this is a very reasonable way to have a less violent society, to try to have more use of conflict resolution, and hopefully to have a more peaceful future.”
It’s interesting to note that immediately after Lieber’s interview NPR aired an opinion piece by conservative Christian parent Caroline Langston, who uses time outs to teach her young son to calm himself as well as to give herself a moment to find a place of peace in her own heart; together they’re teaching him to discipline himself rather than always expect his limits to come from others. It’s worth a listen. Personally, I find that the threat of spanking works as well or maybe better than the actual punishment, but my son does have the vivid memory of a red-hot bottom to keep him (relatively) law-abiding.
Meanwhile, in the Colorado state senate, lawmakers are considering requiring girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated against the viruses that cause cervical cancer. A three-dose shot that can prevent a devastating and reproductive organ-ruining cancer? Who could possibly be against that? Quite a few people, as it turns out.
Parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are fighting the bill, but I don’t really know if they’re getting up on their soapboxes about it because as usual they’ll be allowed to opt out. But other groups fear that vaccinating girls to protect them from two sexually transmitted strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) will send the message to underage, unmarried female children that it’s okay for them to have unprotected heterosexual sex. Actually, I don’t think they’re specifying “heterosexual,” I just threw that in there because I don’t think girls can get HPV by masturbating or sharing sleeping bags at slumber parties.
Now, having grown up in a household where, if my mother had even tried to talk to me about sex OMG I WOULD HAVE DIED, I know how gruesome it can be for an adult to address a girl’s sexuality, and I have no advice about how to approach that. But in all honesty, I think denying girls protection from a hideous disease is dehumanizing. It holds cancer over girls’ and women’s heads as a punishment for having received a virus from a male carrier, because the bill certainly doesn’t take into account all the married or unmarried penises out there forcibly, lovingly, or ignorantly spreading HPV. One answer to that may be abstinence, yes, and then marriage to a person who’s never had sex with anyone else and is devoted to you and you alone for life. And I don’t want to be cynical or flippant about that, but that’s a tough row to hoe and a lot of kids start out with all the best intentions and a signed virginity pledge that before long isn’t worth the parchment it’s written on. I’m just saying. These girls are going to grow up to be thinking, feeling, sex-having human beings. Let them have the damn shot.
Happy Groundhog Day!