OK, so I’m going to hell. Not the traditional fire-and-brimstone gig, but the more modern, more frightening one populated by dead Daily Mail readers, though thinking about it I suppose they’re pretty much the same thing. I don’t want to say why, but there’s no getting around it.
I stumbled across The Male the other day – for research purposes only, you understand – and quickly took the necessary precautions; reading Femail is a dangerous activity not to be undertaken lightly. I put on my lead-lined gloves, placed the bumper pack of Rennie on my desk and locked all the knifes in the cupboard with the child-proof lock – just in case the realisation that millions of people read this shit and believe it became too much and I decided to commit hari-kari. It has happened before, so I take no chances.
Properly prepared, I returned to my desk and steeled myself for the worst. However, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
I came across an article I agreed with. Let’s just think about that for a minute and be glad that I’m not on any prescription medication. Yet.
Well, I agreed with some of it anyway – I’m just going to ignore the added-on feminist bashing because I think that’s just like the Daily Mail footer or something which just gets taken off articles which tell us how much more confident this week’s boob job recipient is since she had them done for herself. OK, so it was only a book review but, I cannot hide: The Male reviewed it favourably.
The book in question ‘Nurtureshock’ by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman posits, according to The Male anyway, the theory that ‘progressive’ parenting is shit and is responsible for all society’s ills (we can take it that by ‘progressive parenting’, we could equally read ‘feminism’). I paraphrase but you get the point. More precisely, such parenting, holds the belief that high self-esteem must be instilled in your child at all costs and, to that end, praises children constantly and indiscriminately, producing ‘praise-junky’ brats.
And I can’t argue with any of that last sentence. Naturally, I agree with the concept of self-esteem being of paramount importance; actually, I think that it a parent’s single most important job, aside from the obvious one of keeping your children safe. Show me a woman who was taught from birth to value herself and I’ll show you a woman who will never be in an abusive relationship. If Boogie ever brings home an arse kicking male, I will cry like a good ‘un, because I will have failed her so profoundly that words will fail me and the knowledge that the arse kicking male is the least of her problems will probably kill me off. So I also agree that it should be installed ‘at all costs’, but that phrase is meaningless in and of itself, because it ignores the fact that such self-esteem can only survive once they go out into the big, wide world if it co-exists within an overall character that understands that life is not fair. Shit will happen, disappointments will occur, people will try and crap on you from a great height. Real self-esteem will help you ride these things out – and rise above them – with the smile on your face still intact. Self-esteem based on the false belief that you are the only important person in the universe will shrivel and die at the first hurdle. So, I will teach Boogie that the world will try and treat her like shit but that her job is not to let it. And for that, she’ll need real self-esteem, not the pretend self-esteem that The Male is, rightly, so dismissive of.
General indiscriminate, over-enthusiastic praise has always struck me as suspect and I’ve never thought that my child couldn’t sniff out such obvious bullshit equally well. Boogie certainly seems to have a fully-functioning bullshit detector about everything else. It’s like when you get a new hair cut and somebody looks at it and goes, ‘Oh, fabulous!’ in a high-pitched voice that reeks of insincerity and then noticeably fails to expand on precisely what is so fabulous about it. Hell, you know they’re lying. And you hate them for being so false and thereby telegraphing to you that you look like Brian May after a blow dry. Or at least I do – hate them I mean, not look like Brian May; my hair just won’t curl no matter what I do. I fully suspect that kids feel the same when they present you with multi-coloured squiggles for the millionth time and get, ‘Wow, that’s amazing!’ in that same high-pitched tone that forces nearby dogs to seriously consider coming running. I mean, I’m not a monster – the first 100 times I get the multi-coloured squiggle, I admire it in appropriate tones, but then I start to want to know what it is. I read in some touchy-feely parenting book that you should never ask this question of your child; I forget why exactly but it was something to do with the fact that you shouldn’t pressure your child into thinking a drawing had to be anything – i.e. multi-coloured squiggles were an end in themselves. Huh? Even Jackson Pollock learned to draw properly before he managed to validate that kind of thinking. Apart from the obvious – that unless you are Jackson Pollock this isn’t actually true – where’s the motivation to develop and draw actual, recognisable stuff? And no, monsters which consist of circular multi-coloured squiggles and naught else do not count, Ms. Boogie. It seems obvious enough to me.
According to the authors, praise has to be specific and genuine, that is, it has to be earned. I am totally at one with that idea. How else is a kid to understand when they’re busy doing something amazing and when they’re just marking time? I’ve read all this stuff before in one place or another, so why this is such a big deal now, I’ve no idea, but I suspect parents could do worse than take a gander at the book. Especially those parents who negotiate with a two year old about whether they will go out today (what is that about?). Having yet to actually read the book, it may be full of crap, but I suspect not because then The Male would’ve gone into a lot more detail in its review. And sell it at a discount for three tokens.
The review also mentions that old chestnut beloved of more woolly-minded people, the non-competitive sports day. Now, I understand that competition can be bad, bad, bad; competition for natural resources, competition for all-too-scarce jobs and such, and I get that capitalism is based on competition. I get it, I do. But try as I might, I cannot bring myself to see a quick run down a sports field with a bunch of other kids as the thin end of the patriarchal capitalist wedge. To the losers say ‘it doesn’t matter’. Because it doesn’t matter, you can’t be the best at everything, unless of course it does matter to you, in which case try harder. Practice, take it seriously if it’s serious to you, give it your all and don’t ever be ashamed to admit it. And if you still fail next year, be commiserated by the knowledge that you did your best. Hell, quote Samuel Beckett if you want: ‘No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ Possibly the best quote in the history of humankind. I say possibly because, obviously Martha Gellhorn is also in the running for the top spot with this little gem, ‘You can do anything you like if you are willing to pay the full price for it.’ Although, having just searched for this on t’Net, I can’t find any reference to it, so maybe I made it up, in which case I rock.
I know I said I was going to ignore the feminist bashing but I can’t resist. Because apparently one of the main causes of today’s society-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket mêlée is ‘progressive’ fathers – by which I think they mean fathers who actually have some desire be involved in their spawn’s upbringing – who are ‘weaker at setting and enforcing family rules.’ The bastards, eh? And you just know that the next sentence wasn’t something to the effect of ‘so dads really need to bone up on what makes kids tick and learn to get some fucking backbone and not be so needy as to as to want to be their child’s ‘friend’ rather than its parent.’ Noooo. This calamity befalls us because these people ‘have no truck with traditional gender roles.’ And we all know who they’re talking to there, don’t we? So yah boo sucks, feminazis! Note that these ‘progressive’ fathers do such unworldly things as ‘wash and dress their child’. Gadzooks! What is especially lovely about this little nugget that ‘progressive’ fathers suck is that the following paragraph is – and I quote because it’s too delicious -
‘As a result, the children of progressive fathers who are proud to be hands-on are almost as aggressive and badly behaved at school as the children of fathers who are either absent from the home, or play very little part in their children’s lives.’
Emphasis mine! Well, you can bet yer botty it wasn’t The Male’s cos – yep, you read it right – despite progressive fathers being the faecal-licking lapdogs of the feminazery, their children are still actually nicer than those with every other type of father! That The Male attempts to portray this as a negative is an example of non-logic only matched in recent memory by its interview with Erin Pizzey who went on at length about how crappy her childhood was due to both her mother and father having fairly horrible personalities and how her only happy period was that which she spent at a boarding school away from them both, and then said, apropos of nothing I could see, that feminism was truly evil incarnate because it sought to deprive children of the one thing they needed most, viz both of their parents under the same roof with them! Hilarious! There really is too much fun in the world!
The best comment on the Nurtureshock piece was from some wit in Chelsea who said, ‘Bring back the cane – it works!’ Well, of course it does, moron! It’s a stick powered by a hand. It doesn’t even have an on/off switch, never mind an instruction manual – what could possibly go wrong with it? One can only imagine the trouble she has programming her video.
Too. Much. Fun.