Thank Heaven For Little Girls?

I find beauty pageants disgusting. I don’t care if it’s Miss America or Toddlers and Tiaras. It’s gross. To parade yourself around and call it anything other than narcissism is delusional.

The only saving grace the Miss America pageant has is these girls are making their own decision to participate. They are doing themselves up the same way they would if they were going to a club. This is their decision. It’s the baby pageants that really get me.

There is no reason a five year old little girl should be in a mini skirt, wearing red lipstick, false eyelashes, with her hair curled. None. Why would you ever sexualize your child like that? It’s not pretty. You’re not trying to make your little girl “pretty” you’re trying to make her sexy—at five years old. And for what? So someone (usually a grown man) will put a crown on her head and tell you, you have a very attractive child. Congrats!

I know that Europe is way ahead of America when it comes to good ideas and taking care of their citizens but can we please catch up to this new thing that France is doing? See, France is outlawing baby beauty pageants.

“Centrist Senator Chantal Jouanno, author of a report “Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight For Equality” proposed an amendment, banning the underage contests, which was backed by 196 senators, with 146 voting against it.
Tough sanctions will now be handed out to anyone flouting the law.
Under the new law, organizers of pageants under the age of 16 may now face up to two years in prison if they fail to comply with the ban and a fine of up to €30,000 ($40,000).”

This is brilliant. I whole heartedly support this measure. This is a way to teach young girls that they are more than their bodies. It’s also a way to put sickos, who want to see little girls paraded around like prostitutes, behind bars. Bravo France! Viva La France!



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What Happened To Dexter (And Other Shopping Horrors)

I’m uncertain as to how to properly trigger warn the story to which I refer in this post. Aggressive anti-gay sentiment and action on the part of a burly stranger against a toddler, and it could be so much worse but there is a hint of violence. I’m glad that I read it but I am seething and also going to take a clonazepam and fantasize about justified homicide for a bit. Sorry—I don’t like chocolate, so that’s how I make myself feel better.

I read this story, by Katie Vyktoriah. It is well-written, and describes her wonderful son, Dexter, and a frightening and haunting outing that they took just a few days ago.

I’m not going to go through the story itself because it is a good idea if you read it. There are wretched people in this world.

This story could be a lot worse. Most upsetting stores-and-children anecdotes involve a parent abusing a child or a situation in which the parent is clearly abusive. Those are the stories that reinforce the suspicions that plague me at all times. Those are the stories that keep me up at night because that child, and millions like him or her, are trapped in homes like that, in legal systems too restrained by the democratic process and sickening cowardice to do anything about it—or allow anyone to do anything about it.

I’ll be honest, one of the many reasons for which I hate going to stores such as grocery stores during the daylight is that there are children there. I don’t dislike children—I’m good with kids and I’ve worked with children. But I always suspect parents of being bad parents—and, specifically, abusive—until proven otherwise. Every time that I see a child with a parent, I’m (usually subconsciously) looking for sharp looks or frightened expressions that might be clues that domestic violence is a part of their life. It’s not like on television, where victims of domestic abuse have inexplicably broken arms and black eyes and have fathers who look like drill sergeants. For every scenario like that, there are countless more situations of domestic abuse in which marks are rarely, if ever, left on the victim. Monsters who rule their homes through terror and violence.

And I am never surprised by them. Ever.

Do you watch Game Of Thrones? During the tense moments when Sansa is at Joffrey’s mercy, do you find yourself tensing up, holding your breath, waiting for what cruel thing he will say or what capricious act of violence he will order?

I do, too. But I feel like that many, many other times.

That level of apprehension is how I feel when a parent whom I do not yet trust is interacting with a child. Always. I become incredibly anxious, to the point where I’ll avoid watching a television show. And to the point where that is one of the reasons for which I am more comfortable doing my grocery shopping as close to midnight as I can manage (though there are endless benefits to this).

When I have friends whose parents I know were never violent, that’s great. It’s a relief.

And then I have friends who had violent parents. And I know that there are millions more out there, as confirmed by surveys and common sense. In many of these cases, the abuse goes unnoticed or unreported. In so many others, people are uncertain if it was even a crime.

Most articles about child-abuse will get someone or another defending the abuser or the abuse itself, excuses ranging from “well she’d had a long day” or “that child needed discipline.” There are people out there who are willing to give a voice to defend this horrifying evil that has been a reality for billions of humans—likely for as long as humans have existed.

I know that not every child whom I see experiences some form of violence at home. There’s a chance that as many of half do not. I am well-aware that both my natural tendency to consider various possibilities and my PTSD are tremendous factors in how I experience the world. That does not make child-abuse any less evil, or any less a nightmarishly widespread part of reality.

I can honestly say that that story really struck a chord with me, because I am so accustomed to suspecting wrongdoing on the part of the parents (and so often that suspicion is reinforced by confirmation), one usually thinks of strangers as a threat for child-abduction.

I am pleased that Dexter has a mother who (from what I gather) is a good mother. She certainly acted appropriately in the situation that she describes in the article. Calling the police is something that I strongly recommend—if he could be identified from the security tapes at the store, he could at the very least have his life turned upside down for a while. He could be identified by the press. Most importantly, if that wretched creature has children of his own, charges of assault on a random toddler in a store should most certainly trigger an investigation.

Tragically, current US law will not allow for this man to be fed to sharks (even though Shark Week is only a few days away). But the toddler in question, Dexter, is not trapped at home with this man. Dexter’s story is distressing, but will not haunt my thoughts like so many other stories do.



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Do Parents Have the Right to Impose Their Values on Everyone Else’s Kids?

My daughter has been going to the same summer day camp since kindergarten.  She loves it, particularly the two field trips per week, but the highlight has always been “Harry Potter Week”.

Evidently adolescent wizards are no longer cool, because the week of Hogwarts-themed activities (including each camper being sorted into a house, Quidditch tournaments, and viewings of the first two films) have been replaced by … The Hunger Games.

As soon as I saw the summer calendar activities, I realized that the camp was setting itself up for potential trouble.  In other words, they were either very brave or very stupid.

Why?  Because there is a contingency of parents–a vocal minority that I fear is, unfortunately, growing–with the notion that imposing their own morals on the greater community is perfectly okay.

My daughter was strongly discouraged from reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for her free read book in her third grade class.  Teachers have been censured for leading students in games like Mafia.  Books ranging from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye to Lois Lowry’s dystopian Young Adult masterpiece The Giver have been banned from school libraries, never mind classrooms.

I once had a fairly lengthy debate with a parent who was concerned by the use of the word “ni****” in To Kill a Mockingbird.  This was an intelligent city woman, the last parent I expected to have an issue with her child reading the book in English class.  In a nutshell, she didn’t want her child exposed to such a terrible word.  I get that, I totally do.  I am, after all, a mother before I’m a teacher, and both of my daughters have told me on numerous occasions that I have issues with being overprotective.  What I finally told the parent–a woman I like and admire very much, I might add–is that pretending the word, not to mention the hate behind it, never existed was doing a disservice not just to her child but to a classroom full of them.  I think To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important books ever written, and the message that words of hate were once commonplace–and not too long ago, when you stop and think about it–is one that everyone can learn from.  She ended up totally cool with it (I gave her my lesson plans in advance), and life went on.

But The Hunger Games at a summer day camp may be somewhat different …

I want to make very clear that I personally do not have a problem with The Hunger Games.  My nine-year-old has seen the movie numerous times and is reading the book as I write this (of course, she’s also seen Mean Girls…her older sister thought it was totally fine to watch while babysitting one day).  We’ve talked about it at length, the emphasis of our chats being on the dystopian factor.  In other words, this is why we have to be careful in how we live our lives and what we let our society become.

There are already rumbles of discontent from some of the camp parents.  They are not happy that this terrible book where kids kill each other to win lots of money, bragging rights, and lifelong comfort is being forced upon their little campers.

To me, this is just another example of some parents trying to make judgments based on their own opinions, and I have a real problem with that.

Of course, if I ran a camp, I wouldn’t have touched The Hunger Games with a ten-foot pole for precisely this reason.  It’s not a can of worms I would want to go anywhere near.

In the name of full disclosure, we are going to be in New York City during “Hunger Games Week”.  I will miss the fallout, whatever it is.

I find this something of a relief, to be completely honest with you.



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McDonald’s Is Not Sue’s Salads

Please watch this video (or, rather, listen to the audio). The following is my response. I’m fine with people eating fruits and even vegetables, either for health reasons or because they genuinely find them delicious. I’m partial to a number of delicious fruits myself.

But I don’t want them from McDonald’s. I certainly don’t want to force them upon other customers.

So, my response to the video:

I only rarely got fast food when I was growing up. A toy or a cartoon character is nice but, even as a preschooler, I wanted to eat their food because it is DELICIOUS.

I’m not angry with the nine-year-old. I’m angry at the mentality of adults who should know better who want to ruin everyone else’s happiness.

I’m so grateful that I had long outgrown Happy Meals before they began putting fruits, vegetables, and other food that my food eats in Happy Meals instead of the delicious food. You can eat fruit and vegetables at home—it is not McDonald’s responsibility to have every food that you might ever want to give to your children. You don’t yell at a hot dog vendor for not serving salads. It’s not McDonald’s job to have every food—just whatever delicious food that we want to eat and that they want to serve us that will make money for them and their stockholders.

My answer probably would have been along the lines of: “Well, it’s the job of our advertising department to attract customers of all ages to eat at McDonald’s. It’s the job of many other parts of this corporation to make sure that everything about your experience when you visit a McDonald’s makes you happy and want to come back again–which means making the food delicious but also providing healthy options. It’s my job to make sure that the different parts of this company work together as well as possible. And it’s the job of the consumers–consumers like your parents–to look at our advertising and everything about us, and decide if McDonald’s is a place where you want to go. We don’t want to trick children–or adults–into visiting, because we want you to be happy with what you find when you get here and want to come back.”
But obviously people would raise hell that that was too complex to say to a child or that that was too blunt of an answer to give in front of cameras because parents are the ones with money to spend and they don’t want to be told that they have responsibilities.



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