I challenge this – On banned books and women’s roles.

I saw this book cover the other day. It is in the “young adult” section.

misbehavingYA

Sure, it is Banned Books Week – so I should celebrate that people have the right to read whatever they want. While I’m OK with choices, I’m still going to question them.

It is the same issue I have with buffets. People can choose vegetables or fried meat. They can choose to eat only one plate of food, or fourteen. But we pay for our choices. And ultimately, society pays for people’s bad choices. My health insurance rates go up every year because people refuse to take care of themselves. Their health gets worse, so the costs go up, so it has to be paid for – by me. Meanwhile, I take care to eat well and exercise. I should not have to pay for their bad decisions, but I do.

We say we are all about free choice, but in some ways we aren’t. Notice light bulbs. We can’t buy regular incandescent bulbs anymore. They aren’t “environmentally correct”. Fluorescent bulbs last five times longer than incandescents. But – they can’t be disposed of in a “green” way. You can’t throw them away legally. You have to take them to a hazardous waste center because of the mercury in them. You can’t even recycle them. So in a way they are better, but in another way they are worse. The strange thing is that we don’t have a choice about it anymore – if we want light bulbs, they are fluorescent.

I’d think that if the government was really concerned about our well-being, they’d ban cigarettes for starters. Then, they’d make sure that all food was healthy – no additives or preservatives. Nothing would have extra sugar in it. We’d have mandatory exercise time during the work day too.

I don’t see any of this happening.

But back to the book cover. I am opposed to this book for several reasons. I’m not going to “challenge” it officially. I’m not going to try to get it banned. But I will bring up questions about it, and wonder why authors and publishers provide this kind of book. I will suggest how this kind of book affects us all.

This book is geared towards teenage girls. Do they really need to be indoctrinated to the idea that they have to be sexual beings? Do they need to be taught that they have to have a boy in their lives to feel complete? Is this a healthy message we need to be promoting as a society?

The “need” to have a mate distracts women from being full people. They spend their energy and money on attracting and keeping a boyfriend to the exclusion of anything else. Perhaps this is part of why women don’t go into science or politics nearly as often as men do. They don’t have the energy for it. They’ve given it all away to the goal of becoming a girlfriend or wife or mother.

Plus, do we really need to get young girls all steamy? They can’t handle the responsibility that comes with sex. Why have books that are explicitly sexual geared to this age group?

We don’t give full driving privileges to young drivers. They have graduated driving licenses. There are certain hours they can and can’t drive, and certain limitations as to who can be with them in the car. They don’t have the maturity to be able to handle the full responsibility of driving when they get their license, so we control it for them.

Sadly, sex isn’t that way. Once you figure out how it works, you can do anything, and anything can happen. Sadly, young people are still growing up themselves, and are almost never mature enough to handle the overwhelming responsibility involved in being a parent.

Sex is like playing Russian roulette with your life.

With this kind of book we are handing young girls a gun and telling them to put it to their heads. Either way, their own life will end. They’ll either get pregnant or distracted. Their energy will go into being a mother or a girlfriend. Their energy will be in relation to someone else. They won’t be their own people – strong, independent.

We all pay for this. We pay for it in teenage girls who get pregnant, who become single mothers and can’t afford to take care of themselves. So they get government assistance – which we pay for. Our taxes go up because of other people’s bad decisions, just like with health insurance. We pay for it in women who have spent their lives taking care of a house and home rather than fulfilling their dreams of being engineers or astrophysicists or diplomats.

How much have we lost as a nation, as a world, because we keep teaching young girls that their only value is to be found in their bodies, and not in their minds? We are prostituting our girls. We are selling them as surely as if we put them on the street.

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Kindergarten 11-6-13 Tattoos, and being “in”

One of my students was out sick today. I had V and J. It is a beautiful fall day and they were more interested in going outside to play than working. To be honest, so was I. Sometimes the playground is a better place to learn the real lessons.

The teacher left me a note that V had told her Mom that she didn’t want to come to school anymore because it is too hard. The teacher is traumatized by this. What do you do to engage a child who wants to be anywhere but there?

And then I looked around at the classroom. The two girls who had cried the first week that they didn’t want to be there, that they missed their Mom, they were still there. May be they had forgotten their anxiety. May be they had gotten distracted. Maybe it had gotten better.

Being a kindergartner is a bit like being a mental patient. You say you want to leave, and sure, you can, but it isn’t easy. It is hard to remember whatever you want to do for very long. Your mind flits around quite a bit.

Leaving school is completely the wrong thing for her. Since her home life is so messed up right now with her Mom in rehab, staying home would be impossible. She doesn’t know yet that education is her only way out of that hole. If you can read and you are curious, you can escape the terrible situation you were born into. It doesn’t even matter what you are taught at school – you have access to libraries so you can self-teach.

But, we are here, in this moment, and the teacher and I are trying to get her to just stay with us for now. Just stay, and try. Hopefully we can inspire her to “get” school. Hopefully we can engage her just long enough for her to work up a head of steam to see that school is the cure, not the problem.

We played the Dora alphabet game. It was fun! I love board games, so I’m glad I could play this with her. It teaches colors and counting and the alphabet and vocabulary. She did very well. There was another tutor nearby (a friend of mine) and she was encouraging her student. We could hear her say “I’m so proud of you” to her student and V. whipped her head around towards her words. It is obvious she is hungry for affirmation. I praise her, but is it ever enough?

She had drawings on her arm. I asked if she had done that and she said that her Dad did. She said that he made tattoos. To give a show of solidarity I showed her the tattoos I have in my leg. I knew I wore a skirt for a reason today. Usually I wear pants or a really long skirt so they don’t see my tattoos. Tattoos aren’t as taboo as they were, but they still have some stigma. She saw my tattoos and I was “in.” We are part of the same tribe.

J still doesn’t know the alphabet. Still. There are four different people working with him. I’m starting to think that he can do better but he likes the attention. I’m just not sure what tool is required to get into his head. He has to do better. There are certainly impulse and anger issues. I suspect his parents don’t work with him at home either.

I get so frustrated with how many children are seen as an afterthought. It isn’t their fault that they were conceived. There has to be a better way of getting young people to understand the huge responsibility that is being a parent – before they can become parents. No child should be unwanted or unloved.