Friday, June 22, 2012

And he kicked me down the stairs

I learn many things from working with elementary school aged children.

Today, I learned that band-aids are like gold to some children. They will not stop shrieking until you give them one, even if they're not bleeding and have been screaming for close to an hour. She must have been absorbing drugs through her skin by band-aid and I just didn't know it. I also learned that kids realize when other kids are being crazy and will be disappointed in you when you give in and give the banshee a band-aid.

But most of all, I learned that kids are just as clueless as adults.

When I went into work today, I sat down at a table with my clipboard to see who I would have. Four or five girls were sitting and standing near me. They were older than the kids in my group-- they were in 5th or 6th grade. A couple were playing some kind of hand-clap game that I didn't pay much attention to until I heard

then he kicked me down the stairs.

Excuse me?

I was shocked. Loudly, I said,"Woah! What are you saying?" The girls repeated it for me, and I wish I could repeat it here, but unfortunately I don't remember all of it. However, the most important part has stayed with me. Here's a stanza from a similar one I found on the googs.

My boyfriend gave me an apple
my boyfriend gave me a pear
my boyfriend gave me a kiss on the lips
and threw me down the stairs

I remember most of the premise of the rhyme. The girl's mother took her to the grocery store where she met a blond haired, blue eyed boy who she fell in love with. Then he kicked her down the stairs.

Whatever way you spin it, the girls were singing about and normalizing domestic violence. I made the girls stop. I know many people, perhaps the other adults in the room, disagree/d with me. Whatever, it's just a game! Lighten up, Becky!

Many people think that a subtle presence like a clapping rhyme does no damage. You don't really internalize that stuff, right? It's like when people talk about advertising... I'm smarter than that. Seeing that on tv didn't make me go out and buy it. I have free will! But before you know it, you're disappointed that the gadget you just chucked your paycheck into doesn't make you feel or look as cool as you thought it would.

I will not passively allow the girls around me to internalize oppression. They do, whether or not you want to recognize it. A seven year old was very upset the other day. She told me she's 80 pounds and that she really needed to start exercising before she got any fatter. (Needless to say, we had a long talk that day about being healthy vs. being skinny.) The fact that the girls today were playing a domestic violence hand game shows us how numb and passive we have become to male hegemony.

This is an ad from a society where a woman is battered every 15 seconds.

One in four women from that society are battered.

This society says "stay out of his way" rather than "don't beat her."

This society shames women for being victims  AND for returning to their abusers.

I live in a town where 11 domestic violence murders have occurred in 3 years.

This is the kind of society we live in.


  1. Seems my comment has been deleted. Any particular reason?

  2. You go girl! You may have been the only influence on those little girls lives that stand up against domestic violence. I've learned and seen too much about DV, to make that rhyme just make me angry that society is teaching this to our little girls. Not okay.

  3. Dear BC Echoes,
    Here's your comment reposted.

    The credibility of this blog is lost immediately when you inadvertently teach the girl at a young age that her rights can easily be stripped from her, even though this is something fundamentally scorned in modern women's rights movements.

    By taking something away from her that only you seem to find necessary (others in the room must have disagreed with you, otherwise you wouldn't have mentioned it), whether it was because your ready-to-judge attitude mistook the connotation or not, in a sense, YOU are the abusive husband who strips his wife's rights from her because you believe what you are doing is right, despite the fact that the rest of the world disagrees.

    You taught the little girl a lesson today, that's for sure. But more than likely the wrong one.

  4. False. Women are (or should be) aware that their rights are stripped of them. That's why there are women's rights movements. A fundamental piece of the feminist movement is the recognition that rights are easily compromised.

    I asked the girls to stop repeating the sexist rhyme because they didn't understand the impact of their words. I wanted to make them aware. Young girls were chanting an abusive rhyme. This shows us that violence and sexism is so engrained in our society that young children repeat something destructive without even realizing it. It's a matter of normalization.

    The rest of the world does not disagree with me. Domestic violence IS normalized and it DOES exist. I gave you the statistics. You are turning a blind eye to something lethal that exists in your community, that people you know have to deal with.

    As a childcare provider, it is my job to monitor and correct children's behavior. I do not tolerate cursing, and I do not tolerate violence. Why would I tolerate violent talk?