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Hi! I’m Not Alice, But Maybe You’ll Like This Anyway

By Alice Bradley

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!

Published February 2, 2007. Last updated May 10, 2010.
Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • braine

    February 2, 2007 at 11:43 am

    Well, okay, well said, but who is this?
    [Editor: we wanted you to guess. OKay, not true, we have now fixed the mistake. The lovely Mrs. Kennedy is the author]

  • Jane

    February 2, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    I keep thinking that the weak point in the anti-HPV vaccination argument is the assumption that kids would have even an inkling what it was for. I don’t know how someone contracts any of the diseases for which I was vaccinated as a child. Why would this one be any different?

  • Shal

    February 2, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    I think the Gardisal (sp?) shot would be a good idea, except that the drug company who makes it is the one who’s pushing the bill, and they stand to make billions of dollars if even a few more states follow suit with mandatory shots. It puts me a little ill at ease that they, and not the public, are the ones who are advocating it; it would make more sense for this company to spend money and time on speeding up the generic form of the shot so it’s cheaper and more widely available (because they have these girls’ best interests at heart, right? ha!) . So, as weird as it is for me, I’m in the anti-HPV shot camp, even though if I had a daughter, I’d probably make her have the shot.

  • cagey

    February 2, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Regarding the vaccines, the same folks against these are probably the same ostriches against kids getting a hold of condoms and for that matter, kids getting sex education in school. Quite sad, really.

  • Dana

    February 2, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I have to confess: When my son is really, horrible misbehaved, I swat him on the lightly on the rear to get his attention.
    I really hate those week moments. I don’t know if it’s because my parents spanked us when we were extremely naughty. But it’s true, it’s not right and I shouldn’t do it.

  • jenB

    February 2, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Nothing chicken little about this piece Mrs. K. YOu have a knack for writing, so I wasn’t worried. Well done. I will add an extra candle to my Alice and Eden shrine tonight.

  • corley

    February 2, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    1) My parents had sworn they would never spank until they met my younger sister. Her tantrums continued whether you gave her what she wanted or not – until she was given a spanking. Once the spanking was over she magically calmed down and all was right with the world.
    2) Personally, I believe all young girls should be vaccinated unless opted out by parents. It might save those girls whose parents don’t care enough either way – to go and get it during a physical, or to ask that it not be administered. I think that these are the same parents who fail to give any sort of direction about sex, which leads to an even more volatile situation. If you want to get super-technical a girl could contract any of the strains of HPV while still honoring her ‘abstinence contract.’ It is highly contagious and can be contracted through ANY contact with infected skin. To make things worse, there are no symptoms to the cancer causing strains except the cancer.
    (I’ll get off of my soapbox now. I apologize; I just recently finished an adolescent psychology class that basically taught me more about how much damage parents can do than how kids’ minds work.)
    I’m getting the vaccination later this month, just in case I haven’t unknowingly contracted the cancer causing strains yet.
    *Fingers Crossed*

  • Badger

    February 2, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I have a 9 year old daughter and was planning to get the shot for her anyway, but now that the governor of Texas has decided I HAVE TO get it for her — the same governor who has great big bunches of political/economic ties to Merck, the company that makes Gardasil — well, I’m irked. Maybe I just have a problem with authority.
    Even though I KNOW cancer = bad and as I said, I would have gotten her the shot anyway, part of me is all paranoid that this is just another attempt by the government to meddle in the affairs of women’s hoo-hahs. And I personally don’t want Rick Perry anywhere near my hoo-hah. I don’t care how good his hair is.

  • jess

    February 2, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    You definitely didn’t sound like a chicken here. I haven’t heard of this vaccine in canada, but wouldn’t hesitate.
    Doing it during the routine grade six immunizations seems timely and perfect.
    I think the assumption that providing protection is akin to saying that teen sex is okay is ludicrous. But then, i had sex as a teenager and am more than prepared for my daughters to as well, no matter how much i would prefer if they wait.

  • Melanie

    February 2, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    #1 – I think the spanking thing is kind of off-putting, particularly comparing it to domestic violence. I’d compare child abuse to domestic violence, not spanking. If it’s about child abuse, then make it about child abuse — which is completely different from spanking. I don’t spank (well, I have once or twice, but now I just threaten and it works perfectly for us!), but I don’t hate on moms who use spanking. It’s a technique that can definitely work well in moderation, and it’s not, not, not child abuse. Not. Is that enough nots to get my point across that somebody’s wires are a bit crossed here?
    #2 – I’m all for the vaccine (I have a strain of HPV and it’s scary having to worry about normal paps and all that good stuff), but I also agree that it’s yucky having to think about the drug companies pushing it. Because then it’s so obviously being pushed for the $$, not for girls’ health. Personally, I think all required vaccines should be free, no co-pays even for the office visit. But I’m all weird and “what about universal health care, wouldn’t that be swell?” like that, and really now I’m totally off topic. Vaccine = a good idea is basically what I mean. While drug companies = piggies.

  • Gleth

    February 3, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Well, hmph, since I haven’t been able to comment on Fussy for months due to BlogSpot weirdness: very savvy, Writer Formerly Known as Mrs. Kennedy. Having survived a whopping and very painful case of PID contracted through chlamydia that I had for a year without knowing it, thereby screwing up my fertility, I am all for the vaccination. Bring it on. For free.
    As to the spanking law, if it’s designed to get those scary scary right-wing rod-toters (you can BUY those things!), I might be for it. But I agree, just call it abuse.
    OK, small biting monster clamoring for my attention.

  • dawn

    February 4, 2007 at 9:55 am

    Listen, not everyone opposed to these forced vaccinations is right-wing, anti-sex. It’s about forcing children to get a vaccine that has only been FDA approved since June. I don’t trust Merck. They said Vioxx was a safe drug, too. Now it’s blamed for more than 27,000 heart attacks and sudden cardiac death cases. So now they want me to believe that their new vaccine is safe to force on my child? No. Just no.
    If a pediatrician I trust to have her best interests at heart recommends the vaccine, I would agree.
    But I don’t want Merck and Rick Perry making that decision for me.

  • velocibadgergirl

    February 4, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Not bad at all, for a chicken! Thanks mucho for your take on the HPV thing. I don’t know yet how I feel about making it mandatory, but I know how I feel about people trumpeting that it “encourages” sex. Ugh. I feel a blog entry coming on…

  • vanessa

    February 4, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Spanking SHOULD be illegal. It is never, ever okay–for about a gazillion reasons–to hit a child. Never. Ever.
    And the cervical cancer vaccine seems amazing to me. That we can give girls a SHOT that will prevent the most common STD in the country, not to mention cancer? Thats just incredible.

  • MJ

    February 5, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Let me get this straight, Mrs. K — are you saying there is, or may be, a difference between our president and a kumquat?

  • epoh

    February 5, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    1- Anyone who is totally anti-spanking in all cases needs to spend a day with my son. They will be cured of this opinion.
    2- I’m not really too upset about Merck wanting to make money off the vaccine. They did spend well over a decade and untold millions (billions?) of dollars researching, developing, testing and producing the thing. They totally deserve to make their money back and then some. If they aren’t allowed to make a profit, how are they going to come up with the next drug/vaccine?

  • Heidicindy

    February 5, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    I have had cervical cancer. I had to have a radical hysterectomy… and all the fun stuff that goes with, at age 30. Not fun!
    I have 2 daughers, and I don’t want either one to have to go through this!
    I do not agree with the shot. There have not been enough long term effect studies done. It is a drug in it’s infancy, and it scares me that everyone is blindly going out with their daughers and having this shot. Like Dawn, I don’t trust MERCK- they are making a lot of money off Texas, after 2 other states refused to do this required vaccine. I will not blindly trust a pharm company. Show me the results.

  • EG

    February 6, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I myself am a bit skeptical about the vaccine because it may end the practice of regular pap smears because HMO’s wont want to cover them if a person is vaccinated. And you really need long-term monitoring of these new drugs to see if they actually work.
    At the age of 22 I had an irregular pap which turned out to be pre-cancerous, likely from HPV (though the test swab came back negative which is often the case as the virus can be hard to detect). I had cryosurgery (not fun!) and have had normal paps for 7 years. My boyfriend also had an HPV test which came back negative. He was my only sex partner.
    So either I didnt have HPV (so a vaccine wouldnt have mattered) and the pap saved my life, or I got HPV from some other contact (?)
    Anyway, universally vaccinating girls against HPV may not eliminate the need for a pap, but many would believe that the uncomfortable procedure is unnecessary.
    This reminds me of the wave of circumcisions happening in Africa. It has been shown to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV, so adult men get circumcised and continue to have unsafe sex thinking they are immune. dangerous!

  • Kait

    February 6, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    I used to have HPV, but it seems to have “gone away”, although I am still very careful and specific about getting my pap’s once a year. I think that by the time my child is ready to be vaccinated, I will want her to be (if they’re doing it in grade 6, that’ll be about 11 or 12 years from now)… as I assume that it will be fully tested and such.
    I hope that along with the vaccine they plan on continuing to promote safe sex and regular pap smears. People shouldn’t look at this as an excuse not to take care of themselves.

  • Trisha

    September 19, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Gardasil cervical vaccine has caused deaths.When are people going to learn that the FDA’s interests are to make Big Pharma money,not to care about deaths and safety of medicines.