Wednesday, October 25, 2017

5 Excuses White Parents Give for Cultural Appropriation in Halloween Costumes--And Why They're Wrong

It happens every year. Parents' online groups erupt in controversy over Halloween costumes. On one side are people of color and their allies, pleading with white parents to please not dress their kids in black face, please not turn someone else's race or culture into a farce, and please listen to those of us trying to teach our kids to respect other cultures. On the other side are parents who insist that telling their kid not to dress like Moana, an Indian, or a black person will ruin their childhood.

Halloween is supposed to be fun. I understand why white parents want to avoid thinking about thorny cultural issues. In a sexist society, most mothers already shoulder a massive burden of parenting labor. So the burden of assessing whether a costume is appropriate can feel like one more unreasonable demand. If you've already selected the costume, hearing that it's offensive and wrong can be a demoralizing addition to an already crushing to-do list.

Parenting is hard. It demands that we reach beyond the easy choice to make decisions that help our kids become excellent people. It's easy to let a child wear a culturally appropriative costume--just as it's easy to feed them a diet of candy, park them in front of the television all day, and give in every time they throw a tantrum.

But it's not right.

We need to dispense, once and for all, with these weak excuses for letting our kids dress in ways that hurt others.

Friday, October 6, 2017

5 Reasons Princess Culture is Toxic to Girls

It began before I had even evicted her from my body. Loved ones sent us shirts emblazoned with the term "princess." Family members referred to her as such. Books featuring Snow White and Cinderella and scepters began trickling in. By the time our daughter was born, the trickle turned into something akin to a volcanic eruption.

Now that our daughter is a year old, I joke that I spend half of my parenting time beating back princess culture.

Like most parents who opt to avoid the cult of princesses, we've found the people in our lives remarkably resistant. They think it's harmless, or cute, or that we are depriving her of something "natural." After all, as everyone knows, in tribal societies across the globe and across time, princess gowns magically appear on a girl's first birthday.

Except they don't.

Participation in princess culture is a choice. Parents have the right to determine what comes into their home, and we have elected not to allow the cult of Disney princesses to become a part of our lives. We might eventually find this impossible. Parenting is, after all, a long journey of humility during which one is repeatedly reminded how very very very wrong they are. For now, though, we are electing to protect our daughter from something toxic.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

10 Questions Liberals Need to Answer About Gun Control if They're Really Serious About Saving Lives

We've returned yet again to the post-mass shooting ritual. People grieved for about three seconds. Then they patted themselves on the back for their righteous beliefs, shared memes about those beliefs, fought with people on social media about gun control, mocked their friends and family, and did absolutely nothing to stem the tide of violence in this nation. Conservatives insisted that the problem isn't guns; it's violence, culture, or something else. Liberals demanded to know what it will take before conservatives will accept some minimal gun control.

They're right to ask. Make no mistake: the NRA and its ilk are selling human lives for profit. Republican lawmakers are letting people die so they can get more donations. It's despicable, and our side is right to condemn extremists for the monsters they are.

The NRA has spent more than $300,000 on my senator, and more than $1.5 million to prevent his opponents from being elected. More than 400 people have been killed in mass shootings since Sandy Hook. These 400 lives are worth less to Senator David Perdue (contact him here) than money.

Sociopaths like David Perdue who do no more than offer "thoughts and prayers" sicken me. But here's where I diverge from most of my liberal friends: I am equally disgusted by liberals who reflexively call for gun control, but who are unprepared to answer conservatives' tough questions. 

I hate guns. Guns have killed people I love. I've written about the correlation between gun ownership rates and murders of women, the link between high gun ownership and police officer deaths, about research-supported policies to reduce gun violence, and the correlation between gun ownership and mass shootings.

The problem is that what we are doing isn't working. Memes about how stupid and evil Republicans are make us feel good. They don't change minds. They may turn moderates into zealots. They make everyone more entrenched. 

If we really want to see things change in this country, if we really want to end gun violence, then we have to address the other side's concerns about gun control. Sure, a small fraction of gun collectors are unreachable. They'll oppose gun control no matter what. A much larger percentage are reasonable. They have valid concerns about how to draft gun legislation in a way that's not racist, needlessly restrictive, or intrusive. 

You don't have to like guns. You don't have to agree with the other side, or relish the fact that they make some good points. But if you are serious about preventing gun violence, you do have to engage. Otherwise "we need gun control now" is no better than "thoughts and prayers." It's empty. Its only purpose is to make liberals feel good about themselves. 

Liberal friends, we have two choices: we can retire to our liberal enclaves, smug and satisfied that we are right, and unwilling to meaningfully engage with the other side. If we do that, we get to feel superior. We also get to watch people continue to die. Or we can consider the very legitimate questions that Second Amendment defenders raise, find solutions together, and solve this problem once and for all. 

If you're not willing to consider the other side, then you're willing to sacrifice human lives at the altar of your own smug sense of superiority. That makes you no better than the NRA you condemn. Before you make your next Twitter or Facebook post calling for gun control, consider addressing one of these issues instead: 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Welcome to Parenthood: Advice for New Parents That Might Actually Help

People love giving parenting advice. Those of us who are parents know how profoundly difficult nurturing, raising, and caring for a human being is. We want to help, even when our advice is condescending or misses the mark. Non-parents want to help, too, but tend to greatly underestimate how difficult parenting is.

The result is an onslaught of useless parenting advice that, at best, wastes our time. At worst, this parenting advice makes us feel shamed, incompetent, and alone.

We've now made it through a year of parenthood. Most of what I've learned has been through trial and error. Much of it is highly specific. What works for us won't work for someone else. That's true for all parents.

A few things remain constant. Here's what I've learned about parenting that, I think, is applicable to most parents.