Saturday, June 6, 2015
Yeah, yeah, I get it. Its supposed to be cute. Its supposed to be clever. "What new parent hasn't wished that their tiny bundle of a baby came with an instruction manual along with the enormity of responsibility?" asks the marketing assistant. Its a sentiment repeated on mommy blogs and social media. It in itself is a symptom of a culture that has devalued intrinsic wisdom and the intuition we all have access to and has chosen instead to rely on the outside authority of 'experts' in nearly every field including, perhaps unsurprisingly, child rearing. Baby knows what baby needs, and so does Mom if she listens, so does Dad if he listens. But that's a whole 'nother conversation.
What got my goat, what made me gasp in outrage when I saw it on the shelf, what got me to whip out my cameraphone and snap a photo to post in rage to social media is the title and all the (unexamined - I will charitably assume this of the author who seems to be a well educated woman) assumptions that underpin the title.
You don't own your baby. You don't own your child. They are autonomous humans entrusted to your care.
But more than that?
A GIRL'S BODY IS NOT CHATTEL. A woman's body is her own. It does not magically become her own at the stroke of midnight when she turns 18. It is her own as a teen, as a girl, as a baby. It is hers. It does not belong to the scary man in the alley, it does not belong to her soccer coach or her pastor or her teacher. It does not belong to the guy she went out for drinks with. (Pardon, the guy with whom she went out for drinks.) It does not belong to her boyfriend. It does not belong to her husband. It does not belong to People magazine or the paparazzi. It does not belong to her mom. It does not belong to her dad. It belongs to her.
"Baby Girls : an owner's manual." That is not clever. That is not cute. That is sick. It is sad.
My inner snark had hoped to get even more righteously indignant over the fact there was no boy baby book with a parallel title. But there is. By the same author. I don't know if that ameliorates the issue or makes it worse.
If we intend to teach our children that no means no, that yes means yes, that they don't have to accept abuse, that they have no right to abuse or force themselves on another person; if we intend to heal a culture - a world - that has become inured to interpersonal violence and sexual harassment and assault... it has to start with the children. We have to raise children who believe, who know, that they belong to themselves. That their mind is their own, their feelings are their own, and that their body is their own.