Lazy Green-Haired Hippie!

Before I begin ranting, let me wish you a sincere “Happy Earth Day” (even though it will probably be over by the time you read this). Here’s hoping you are  environmentally responsible in some area (hopefully, more than one area) of your life.

For many people, Earth Day is a time to reflect on being better stewards of resources, reducing our environmental footprint, cleaning up trash, and other responsible acts and desires. For people like Rush Limbaugh, it’s a time claim that environmentalists are like terrorists who are going to ruin the planet because the most important thing for the planet is rampant consumption and the pursuit of wealth.

Clearly, that’s what evolution and/or God had in mind.

For my daughter, however, today means this:


That’s because The Cartoon Network’s Boomerang channel on cable runs a “Captain Planet” marathon every Earth Day. And given that I’ve never been able to find the series on DVD or streaming at Netflix, this is the only day of the year the show is on during a time my little goddess daughter is awake and home to watch.

That’s cool, she likes the show. I support this. However, while there’s a lot of merit in her loving the show for its positive messages, I do feel obliged to point out some issues I have:

  • Why is Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, housed in a the body of a white woman with Whoopi Goldberg’s voice (at least during the first half of the series’ run; Margot Kidder took over the last couple years). I mean, why does she have a body at all? Why does she have a place to live if she’s a spirit and why does she need to sleep so damn much? Hell, why does she sleep at all?
  • Who gives five powerful magical rings (controlling, respectively: fire, water, air, earth and heart…and what the hell is “heart” anyway…that’s not an element!) to five teen-agers? Humans who are inherently prone to be impetuous, don’t really have a wealth of experience and context, and would probably trade their rings to get backstage passes for a really cool concert or something. I mean, cool, let’s be inclusive and have one or two youth involved. But all five rings in the hands of people who are hormonally imbalanced most days of the month? If this is a sign of Gaia’s judgment skills, it’s no wonder the Earth is in such dire straits.
  • The theme song of this show says, in part: “Captain Planet, he’s our hero, Gonna take pollution down to zero”…well, if that’s his mission statement, why does he wait until those five teen-agers get into some jam they can’t fix and summon him with their rings? If he wants pollution down to zero, he needs to at *least* work a full eight-hour day, five days a week.

Freaking green-haired, mullet-wearing hippie with no get up and go…

Current Events and Future Outlook

As I look at some of the headlines and Twitter topics the past few days, I am left with the following thoughts:

  • While I hope my daughter never follows in the ideological footsteps of Margaret Thatcher, I hope she leaves as big a footprint by the time she reaches the end of her life.
  • I hope that my daughter ends up with a life partner who loves her as much as the late Roger Ebert apparently loved his wife, Chaz.
  • I would not be bothered if my daughter were to be called the “best looking” high-ranking person in a government post by the president. Mainly because I assume she had to have talent to have gotten there in the first place and the president already knows that. (I jest a bit on this one, as I might be a little miffed at first, but really, I think the comment was a bit overreacted to)
  • I pray that my daughter never hates (nor is hated with) the white-hot crazy rancor that Kim Jung Un has for most of the rest of the world.

Lashing Out at Twerking

Well, there are certainly some things I have to hold against the dad who whipped his teen daughters with a cable (If you have the stomach for watching real-life violence so that you have an accurate context, here’s one place you can find the video).

First, his actions forced me to actually look up what twerking is and to watch some videos of it; I had hoped to avoid finding out what twerking was for at least as long as I avoided finding out what gangnam style was. If you are ignorant like I once blissfully was, twerking means to dance in a way where you shake your hips and ass like a stripper who’s hopped up on a whole lot of Red Bull or triple espressos. It first gained traction among young black women, who tend to have more ample derrieres than most women in the United States.

Second, because this is a blog about my daughter and my parenting and because I address social issues and current events at times here, his actions forced me to watch a video of him lashing out (literally) against his daughters, and hearing their screams and watching them curl up into fetal positions to try to avoid being literally whipped.

I am of a lot of thoughts about this whole situation, and my first attempt to post about it was a huge ramble. This attempt, I’m going to try to be more focused.

I don’t like how the father approached this. On the other hand, I also don’t know what kind of past behavior the daughters have displayed and whether beatings like this are common in that household and, if they are, whether they come packaged with any more reasoned lecturing and discussion of the issue. My wife grew up in a home where corporal punishment was the norm, but I don’t think that she would characterize her father as abusive; there was a spectrum to discipline he meted out and sometimes he used violence to cement a point, but it wasn’t his only tool or his only approach.

Knowing this from my wife, and knowing that she doesn’t resent his approach to her when she was younger, I hesitate to demonize the father who whipped his daughters. I think that act shown on video was brutal and seems unnecessarily harsh, but I can’t judge him in general without a lot more information, and I can’t even gauge how harsh his punishment was without some context of how his daughters behave or how they react to non-physical discipline and guidance.

There were a couple occasions when the little goddess was young when my frustrations were particularly high and I gave her a quick whack to the thigh. Not something I’m proud of, but also not a regular feature of discipline around here, and she hasn’t had anything remotely resembling an actual spanking, beating or anything like that. I do raise my voice quite loudly at times, and I’m not averse to swearing, but at the same time, most of my discipline with her is to take away privileges, or reduce her allowance or find some other non-violent way to render consequences. When I do yell, it’s because it’s the only way to get her attention and drive home how serious the situation is, and I don’t do personal attacks on her by calling her names or demeaning and degrading her.

I know there are parents and child advocates out there that would say even my approach is too harsh and only “natural consequences” should occur; never manufactured ones from a parent. Those people also happen to be out of their minds and I shudder to think how some of the kids being raised with no firm rules and disciplinary measures at all are going to turn out in life. I don’t believe in abuse, but neither do I think we do our children any good by not setting boundaries and not checking their behavior from time to time.

On the face of it, at first glance, the father who whipped his teens seems extreme to me, and my gut reaction is that once he is identified and located, he will probably go to jail and that may very well be what he deserves (not only for the violence of whipping a minor but also the stupidity of posting a video of himself beating his children after getting mad at them for posting sexually provocative videos of themselves online; this man needs an education in irony and perspective). But I don’t have all the facts.

There’s also a good chance that Mr. Cable-Wielding Dad failed even before that beating by not giving his daughters much guidance about Internet usage. Certainly, when the time comes that my little goddess is able to be online and interact with others, she’s going to get a laundry list of what she can and cannot do, most notably never sharing her last name, phone number, email, address, city, or even state with anyone she doesn’t know in person already pretty damn well. Likely this dad didn’t do things like that, which is probably why his daughters didn’t even consider the fact that they were way too young to be posting twerking videos.

What I do know, however, is if my daughter ever did what those two teens did, her ears would be bleeding from the volume of my shouts. It is highly unlikely I’d give her a beating or even a slap, but there is no doubt I’d be angry and lose my cool.

Posting a video of yourself on the Internet doing something highly sexualized when you are a minor is not only tacky but also dangerous; that’s the kind of video you leave on your phone and only show to friends and acquaintances one-to-one. A video like that online is the kind of thing that fuels and feeds the sick desires of people who like to sexually abuse minors, and it opens you up to being identified by someone with the ability and desire to stalk you and put both you and your family in danger. Also, stuff on the Internet really never goes away, and I wonder if the twerking video might come back to haunt these teens if they have the chance to apply to a good school or a good job one day.

Some would argue that the two teens were simply exploring their sexuality in a perfectly natural and understandable way. But sharing sexualized behavior with the entire world isn’t natural; even animals in heat would know better than to post to YouTube…assuming they had opposable thumbs and camera phones. Some would say the girls were just dancing; that’s also nonsense. Twerking is an invitation to view oneself as a sexual object in the same way as grabbing one’s breasts and bouncing them up and down is, even with a shirt covering them. If you think that’s healthy expressive behavior for a minor and think it’s healthy to put that out for millions of people to view, your idea of healthy expression is pretty sick.

I’m not ignorant of the fact that youth will employ sexual innuendo within their circles, engage in sexual behaviors and all that. I’m not so foolish as to assume my daughter won’t do things far earlier in life than I think she should. But that doesn’t mean I will side with the two teen girls on their choice to do that video and post it. They were wrong and needed correction; it’s simply a matter of the fact the correction they received might have been abusive rather than helpful.

My daughter discovered her body years ago. Details need not be shared here. But when it was clear to me that the path toward self-discovery had begun, I let her know there’s nothing wrong with enjoying our own bodies. However, one does not do it in front of other people when one is a child and one does not go talking about it to others when one is a child.

I don’t believe in shame for natural feelings and exploration.

But I believe in privacy and decorum.

So, I doubt my daughter will do something quite so brazenly stupid or inappropriate as what those two teens did…because I plan to keep talking to her about what’s wise and unwise in life and why. And for that same reason, I doubt I will ever have to be tempted to do something as violent and degrading as what that father did to his two teens.

Better Watch What You Call *MY* Daughter


I was thinking something along the lines of a nice, light, funny, heartwarming post to launch this blog on parenthood and raising a really wonderful yet challenging daughter. And then the Oscars had to go and muck that all up by bringing out my raging inner daddy bear when a few people decided it was open season on a damned 9-year-old girl. (I’m sure it has something to do with the fact my little girl is just two years younger and has roughly the same shade of skin—a color that will to make her an easy target of the ignorant.)

If you haven’t been trapped under a boulder in a remote desert landscape today, you likely know at least some of the hubbub around Best Actress contender Quvenzhané Wallis. Let’s start with the big one, when someone at satirical/humor publication The Onion posted on the @TheOnion Twitter account on the night of the Academy Awards:

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?

QuvenzhaneWallisFolks at The Onion did take the tweet down after about an hour, clearly feeling the heat and/or realizing a line had been crossed, though it took them until around noon the next day to manage to issue the apology.

But that wasn’t the only indignity the girl had to endure. Because then there was the reporter who didn’t know how to pronounce Quvenzhané’s name and, instead of asking how to pronounce it or saying Miss Wallis instead, called her by the name Annie (a role the young actress will play in a remake of the musical “Annie” soon).

Oh, and then the Seth MacFarlane joke that either said Quvenzhané will officially be too old for George Clooney in 16 years or that she’ll be too old for him when she’s 16 (I’ve heard conflicting versions, but both are disgusting in the context of a 9-year-old girl).

As if those three things weren’t already enough, how about the Academy voter who gave this quote (anonymously) to The Hollywood Reporter?

“I also don’t vote for anyone whose name I can’t pronounce. Quvez—? Quzen—? Quyzenay? Her parents really put her in a hole by giving her that name — Alphabet Wallis. The truth is, it’s a very sweet but immature performance from a 9-year-old. I’ve directed children. They probably did a thousand takes and put the best ones together.”

I’m going to work backwards from my list, because it’s that “cunt” tweet that’s really in my craw and I need to rev up for that.

So, Anonymous Academy Voter won’t vote for a person whose name he can’t pronounce? I wonder if, when another young actor, white girl Dakota Fanning got a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award at age eight in 2002, making her the youngest nominee in history, he would have said, “I can’t vote for someone named after a couple states…and not very good ones at that.” Doubt it. Look, he could have simply said Quvenzhané’s performance didn’t do it for him. But he went the extra mile or two on that 9-year-old to make fun of her name and suggest and assume that the performance he thought was “just OK” must have needed tons and tons of takes to get to that point, meaning he assumes she sucks as an actor, really. Not that he was there to know that a thousand takes were needed or anything.

And a joke that sexualizes a girl not even in double-digits yet, who’s just entering into the limelight thanks to the film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”…really? What the hell is wrong with you, Seth? I don’t recall Kirsten Dunst…another former child actress who was white instead…getting called a slut or ending up the butt of a bunch of bawdy jokes when she did her breakthrough role at 10 as a vampire trapped for centuries in the same childish body she was when she became a vampire. A role in which she had to act like a grown and sexual being at a certain point in the film. A role in which she kissed Brad Pitt, 18 years her senior. That was a role that involved, by necessity, sexualization, and didn’t get her made fun of. Yet we get a strong young black girl in a movie, and we make bawdy jokes about her?

And as if it wasn’t bad enough the reporter decided Quvenzhané’s name was too challenging and used an entirely different one, people were getting on the little girl’s case for correcting that reporter, as if she were making an impertinent reprimand of an adult she shouldn’t dare to challenge. How do you think you’d like it if someone made up a name for you instead of simply asking how to pronounce your given one?

And so we come back to the “cunt” tweet from The Onion. OK, perhaps it was in reference to Quvenzhané correcting the reporter. Maybe that was the inspiration. And you wanted an absurd tweet. So, you couldn’t say something along the lines of “Quvenzhané given a time out backstage at Oscars after talking back to nice reporter” or “Quvenzhané forced to write ‘I won’t correct an adult until I’m 13′ on the red carpet 100 times” or something funnier along such lines? You have to apply “cunt”…a word that should rarely be applied to an adult woman…to a girl of 9? I bet no one called Jodie Foster a cunt in public when she was a child actor. Oh, yeah…another white child actor.

Aiming such a tweet at a sweet-natured, never-done-wrong adult actress might have given it a level of absurd humor. In this context, it was a random insult hurled at a child who came to the Oscars with a puppy purse. That’s something my own girl would do!

And the thing is—and let’s just get this out now early in the blog because I’m the father of two biracial kids, one of them grown now, and racial issues will arise here—that shit I’ve described was racial. As I’ve already hinted by pointing out the white child actors who never got ridiculed and humiliated in public to this degree on the nights they were out at award ceremonies that might honor them with a highly valued statuette.

Did all four events arise from racism? Maybe not. Any one of those four humiliations Quvenzhané endured could have been chalked up to random stupidity or a misstep in the heat of the moment. That is, if any one of them existed alone and in isolation. But four on the same night? The difference between Quvenzhané and other child actors before her at award shows who were treated with respect is that she’s black. Plain and simple.

Too often, we are quick to minimize the accomplishments of black kids. Oh, she got a minority scholarship, not a merit-based one (as if minority scholarships are handed out to all kids of color without a thought as to their potential or grades). Oh, I wonder how many white students weren’t able to come to this school so that the college could get a few colored kids in to meet a quota (as if that handful of white kids were forced to go to vocational school instead). Oh, he’s so well-spoken! (as if being black automatically means you talk jive, funk or ebonics). And so on and so on.

So, a little girl makes a splash in the film world with a role that most people saw as deep, moving, honest and a breakthrough. Whether she’ll be a long-term success, who knows, but she clearly made a mark.

And yet, in the end, this little brown-skinned girl doesn’t get the respect or deference those white actresses got before her. Instead, Quvenzhané becomes Annie the talentless cunt who will be sleeping with George Clooney soon.

I’m disgusted, because my daughter is bright, eager, artistic and brown-skinned, and only two years younger than Quvenzhané…

…and when Hollywood is this ignorant to one of their own in this way, I have all the proof I need that we’re far from post-racial in this country.

And my daughter may need me a lot in the future. Because I guarantee, you call my daughter a cunt, and your crotch (assuming you’re a man) will look like one after I rip off your junk and cram it in your mouth.

OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s see if I can switch to sweet and funny mode tomorrow around here.