Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Friday, October 19, 2007

Orsen Scott Card, Toddler Reverence, and Gender Stereotyping

(cross posted at Exponentblog)
Our Sacrament Meetings have been pretty noisy lately. With 42 babies under two in the ward, that's to be expected. Our bishop has recently come into RS and EQ to talk about the noise level and how he wants people to start taking their children out more quickly. After he made this request, I actually thought things were getting better, but today the plot thickened.

This morning, our bishopric sent out a mass email to all its ward members entitled " Tips on How We Can Help Keep Our Meetings Reverent." The email linked to this Meridian article, written by Orsen Scott Card.

There are probably some very good tips in there. Maybe some of you with older children can weigh in on that. But.... wow. That's some strict parenting. My little toddler is 14 months now, and those tips - nominally for toddlers - could not possibly work for him. No food or drink? No interaction (does that include eye contact?) with people on other benches? I don't think so. But perhaps with two or three year olds these could work....?

In the article, the consequence of violating any of the rules is confinement. And this is the most questionable part for me. Card recommends that the FATHER take the child out and confine the child on his lap because

"The fact is that children respond differently to fathers. I don't know a mother who hasn't had the frustrating experience of pleading, arguing, yelling, begging, threatening, even bribing to get a child to do something, only to have the father come in, speak once, and immediately get the obedience that the mother could not get no matter what she did.

The youngest infants respond differently to their father's voice. They turn to their mother for comfort. What they crave from their father is judgment. They fear their father's disapproval; they long for their father's praise. This means that an ounce of discipline from the father can be more effective than pounds of it from the mother, though this varies from child to child. "

Whoa there! What just happened here? Does anyone know if there's any recent research to support claims like this?

I'm uncomfortable by the way he's playing into gender stereotypes. The picture he's painting of the stern, no nonsense, dad and the frantic ineffective mom is pretty extreme. I also question the idea that infants invariably turn to their mothers for comfort and their dads for judgment. And of course, I have problems with the idea that just because I'm a woman my pounds of discipline are going to be negligible compared to Mike's masculine ounce.

But I do freely admit that I my issues with Card's family portrait are based more on principle than experience. I never had a dad growing up, and E's too little to discipline yet.... So I'd love to know how you all feel about his reverence tips and about his stereotypical description of men and women as parents. Does this description ring true to you? How do the discipline dynamics work in your family?


Blogger alise said...

Unbelievable. I am particularly angry about how woman and men are stereotyped. Really, unnecessarily cruel. I can just see the guilt sweeping over the young mothers in the ward--again, they are failing! Father's, time to take charge! It's not necessarily the steps that Card wants to take with his children to enforce "reverence," that are disturbing. But the self-righteous tone and assertion that this is how everyone should handle the situation. Funny that Card gives a list that must be strictly adhered to, but then says "I let my three-year-old daughter pull my beard and play with my tie, which other families might regard as disorderly or disrespectful behavior. I see such familiarities as a necessary counterpoint to my sternness when teaching her discipline. As long as she is not distracting other children or making noise, the particular rules are up to us." Hmmm. So, are the list of rules arbitrary, then!? There are some good "tips" in the article. Which is how I think the "problem" should be handled. Lovingly, guilt free, with some suggestions that might help keep the reverence. Wow. I almost don't know what to say...It makes me sad. BTW, our bishop would probably never send out something like this, because his kids are REALLY wild (4 boys) and I love it!!

10/19/2007 7:51 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

Yeah. I'm seething about the gender stereotyping as well. And I think some of the ideas are good suggestions for older kids, but not toddlers. Personally, I think Card is from such a different generation that I can't really take the article too seriously. But I really like _Ender's Game_.

10/19/2007 5:38 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Alise and Brooke,
I'm glad to know I'm not the only one that was creeped out by this article.:)

10/19/2007 10:52 PM  
Blogger Seymour Glass said...

disturbing stuff indeed. i can't imagine Scott did that sort of thing with his son Charlie Ben who had cerebral palsy.

10/22/2007 11:36 PM  

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