Full disclosure before we start in case Mom is reading this; my parents almost never spanked us.
I find it interesting that, in the USA at least, I can use the term “Demolition Derby” and be incredibly confident that my audience will know exactly what I’m talking about. And I can credit Garry Marshall, creator of Happy Days. Despite completely whitewashing anything remotely controversial about the ’50s and contributing to the slang lexicon the phrase “Jumping the Shark”, Happy Days was one of the most popular situation comedies of our childhoods. And thanks to the seminal 2 part episode “Fonzie Loves Pinkie” in which the Fonz and love interest
Pinkie Tuscadero compete in the big demolition derby against the hated Malachi Brothers (I finally learned how to spell that), and their dreaded “Malachi Crunch” double team maneuver, most of us are familiar with the basic idea, even if we grew up far away from the flyover country fairgrounds where the sport is practiced.
Well this edition’s meme is the Malachi Brothers of the Internet Meme world. It is scary, violent and quite possibly after poor Pinky. It is literally all over the place, as some form of this meme has been popping up on my Facebook feed on a monthly basis.
My parents spanked me as a child
As a result I now suffer from a psychological condition known as
“Respect for Others”
“Share if you Agree! So true! Sharing!”, say various members of your extended family who you will have to have civil conversations with at the next family reunion. Possibly whilst holding a softball bat, or perhaps a Jart.
Interestingly, in the almost 300 Grounded Parents blog posts that have been crafted as of this writing, exactly two of them even mention the word “spanking”. Is this some sort of oversight? Why haven’t any of the thirty Grounded Parents bloggers felt the need to address in depth the subject of corporal punishment? Whilst the motives of our diverse and cantankerous collective may be difficult to divine, this blogger can at least provide mine own reasoning on the subject.
Isn’t the case closed?
Seriously, in the twenty first fucking century it’s still considered not only OK, but somehow necessary to hit you kids as part of a proper upbringing? And we’re not just talking a quick corrective swat to get them out of reach of the hot stove. Or even the regretful smack of a parent at their wits end with an incorrigible toddler tantrum on hand and a temper temporarily misplaced. We are talking about “spanking”. Sitting down and administering a deliberate corporal punishment to a child via the application of open handed strikes to the bare posterior.
I mean less than 30 seconds of Googling found me this March 25, 2014 report from CBS News bearing the headline “Spanking triggers vicious cycle, study finds”.
“You can think of it as an escalating arms race, where the parent gets more coercive and the child gets more aggressive, and they get locked into this cycle,” MacKenzie said. “These processes can get started really early, and when they do there’s a lot of continuity over time.” said study author Michael MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City.
What does the American Academy of Pediatrics say? You know, the people in our society who have trained specifically to deal with children’s medical issues.
The use of physical punishment to discipline children has been linked to a range of mental health problems and is strongly opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Seems pretty straightforward. Anyone else want to chime in?
The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA) condemns the use of physical punishment (corporal punishment) in the discipline of children and recommends alternative methods that enhance children’s capacities to develop healthy emotional lives, tolerate frustration, regulate internal tensions, and behave in socially acceptable ways.
So, if the experts are fairly unified n the subject, why the popularity of this meme? And make no mistake it’s a popular sentiment, look at this screenshot of a Google image search for the simple white on black statement I picked as an example.
(Note, the tab marked “Sexy Time” is for my friends band “Sexy Time Live Band Karaoke”, so get your minds out of the gutter. Although the band would gladly join you there.)
Very popular on Pinterest for some reason.
I think you can divide the people most likely to share this meme into four groups.
- Bible Believing Evangelical Christians (or similarly motivated believers of other religions) who take that “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” mandate super seriously. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism has written extensively about the authoritarian style of parenting espoused by Michael and Debi Pearl, including a page by page fisking of their child raising manual “To Train Up A Child”, and I recommend reading her work because she has personal experience with such methods.
- Conservatives: To some people authoritarianism just comes naturally. There are some people who think that we would all be better off if our childhood resembled the basic training segment of Full Metal Jacket. They want obedience and they aren’t too concerned with how they get it. They also have a marked tendency to dismiss scientific evidence that doesn’t conform to their preferred notions. There is certainly a lot of overlap between these folks and the first group.
- Well meaning folk who were spanked as children and don’t feel like they were harmed by it: These people are for the most part ok. They don’t start smacking their kids in the high chair like the Mom at 4 little Fergusons from our previous Derby smash hit “Dear Mom on the iPhone”, as part of a decade long plan to turn their children into immediately responsive show ponies. These folks are just typical Americans. They share the common belief held by every generation of parents that the current generation of children are coming to no good whatsoever and somebody aught to teach kids these days some respect etc. etc. etc. And their parents dealt with that situation with some trips to the woodshed. And they love their parents. They don’t want to think that their parents may have screwed them up somehow, thinking things like may lead to painful cognitive dissonance. So, likely unaware of the prevailing notions of the pediatric medical community, they perpetuate the cycle. These are the people we can most likely reach with some patient education on the subject.
- Assholes: Some fuckers are just assholes. Their Venn Diagram may overlap with the other three categories, but it’s not necessary. Patient education will not work with these people because they don’t really care about anyone but themselves. The meme tickled their diseased little funny bone so they passed it along. You should seriously consider unfriending these people. Or stop being one of these people.
Don’t even get me started on how disrespectful this meme is to people whose actual and serious psychological conditions are mocked and minimized to form the punchline for your shitty joke. As one of those people, let me just add a personal “Fuck you and the horse you Rode in on,” to the creators and purveyors of this meme.
Respect for others is a complicated thing to learn. Some of us still have a lot to learn, despite the fact that we are legally adults. And some of the people that we need to have more respect for are CHILDREN. The idea that we can “beat some sense” into kids has been thoroughly debunked. Try something else folks. Look on the internet, there’s lots of good advice.
I think we can all do a better job confronting this meme when we see it in the wild. And you don’t even have to have the obvious comedic talents of a former amateur stand up comedian who blogs for free. You can strike back with a meme of your own that harnesses the words of one of the premier American comedians of the 21st Century, Louis CK. Here’s an example.
Have you come across an Internet Meme about parenting that you think needs to be demolished? Share it in the comments or tweet a link to @blotzphoto or @GroundedParents and we’ll do horrible things to it!
Featured Image Credit: Dave Willett of Canandaigua and the 2001 Ontario County Fair
Louis CK Meme image credit: Who knows, it’s a big internet, I hope Louis is OK with it 😉