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Leave it to Beaver
2004.12.04 (Sat) 12:12
A recent post by PZ Meyers entitled What women are supposed to want got us thinking about something we've touched on before — the apparent agenda of the Religious Right, and the Bush Administration, to return America to a perceived circa-1950s social structure. As PZ states:
You see, the Bush administration has been peddling this thing called SPRANS (Special Programs of Regional and National Significance Community-Based Abstinence Education), which dispenses $170 million/year to promote abstinence-only education—health education that specifically and intentionally omits any mention of basic facts about sex and contraception other than "don't do it." As it turns out, though, there's more to them than just federally mandated lacunae: they also are rife with errors, outrageously misleading falsehoods, and a kind of 1950s mentality that treats women as little helpmeets to their hardworkin' men. Download and read Henry Waxman's The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs (pdf) to see even more details.
It seems that abstinence isn't the only thing that these so-called absintence programs teach, though. The curriculums in question cover other semi-related topics — such as gender roles and sexual behavior — that are being taught in public schools in some parts of the country. Some choice excerpts include this entry taken from a high school textbook that the Bush Administration stands behind:
Just as a woman needs to feel a man's devotion to her, a man has a primary need to feel a woman's admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and approval. A man feels admired when his unique characteristics and talents happily amaze her.
While it's not rabidly sexist, it certainly paints a picture of a strong man and a doting wife — a stereotype that should not be perpetuated to our children. Another high school text tells a story about gender roles:
One book in the "Choosing the Best" series presents a story about a knight who saves a princess from a dragon. The next time the dragon arrives, the princess advises the knight to kill the dragon with a noose, and the following time with poison, both of which work but leave the knight feeling "ashamed." The knight eventually decides to marry a village maiden, but did so "only after making sure she knew nothing about nooses or poison." The curriculum concludes:
Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess.
Yikes! It seems to us that the Princess had some effective advice on how to solve a potentially dangerous problem and she shared it with her knight-friend. Is he grateful for the advice? No — he sees her as pushy and goes off to bang a nubile maiden from town. Hell, the moral clearly says to be seen and not heard. Very progressive.
The texts also cover birth control and abortion as follows, per PZ:
They claim that 5-10% of women getting abortions will be sterile; that abortions lead to increased risk of mental retardation in subsequent births; that abortions increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies; that women who abort are more prone to suicide. They also promote the silly "life begins at conception" idea.
Basically, this is a litany of psuedo-scientific scare tactics presented as scientific facts which are meant to frighten children into proper Christian behavior. Oh, and it's being taught in some public schools with the backing of the White House.
Taken all together, it is clear that the agenda being pushed isn't as simple as banning gay marriage, or criminalizing abortion, or pushing the Christian idea of proper sexual bahviors — it goes far beyond that. What the Bush Administration is peddling here is a return to what the Religious Right sees as a 1950s era simplicity in all aspects of life. They are trying to turn back the clock to a time when we were all Ward and June Cleaver. The problem here, aside from the obvious fact that not everyone would want this, is that the image they have of life back then is just plain wrong.
The Kinsey Reports, published in 1948 and 1953, showed us that, unbeknownst to us, June may have been banging the quarterback in high school, and Ward may have been pulling the milkman's pud while June was out getting the groceries. An article by John Green on Kinsey's research shows the following:
Kinsey's data indicated that 92% of males reported having masturbated, as opposed to 62% of females. Kinsey also noted that "Masturbation was the most important sexual outlet for single females and the second most important sexual outlet for married females, providing 7-10% of orgasms for those 16-40." Kinsey also noted that "In males, masturbation after marriage occurred with reduced frequency." Other statistics indicated 68% of males and 50% of females had engaged in premarital sex. 37% of males and 13% of females had instances of at least one homosexual experience that resulted in orgasm. It's no wonder the Kinsey Report was controversial in the late '40s — and it continues to engender discussion even today.
So — June really was worrying about the beaver.
Seriously, the fact is that beneath the surface of every "civilized" society in the history of our world, there has been a frothing foam of fun and fetish. The prim and pristine appearance in such eras as the 1950s has never been more than a façade — and there's nothing wrong with that. We've said it before, we'll say it many times to come: do what you want, as long as you're not interfering with someone else's ability to do what they want. Considering the innumerable sexual scandals that have haunted so many of the very people who are pushing this bullshit repression — frankly, who the fuck do they think they are, deciding for us what the "appropriate" behaviors may be between two or more consenting adults? (And for those without such skeletons in their closets, the same admonishment still applies. If we're not fucking with you — figuratively or literally — then our preferences and hobbies are our own business.)
So let's recap. As we said in a previous rant, abstinence-only programs are ineffective and they endanger children. In addition, the ideal that is being pushed is really a load of crap and never existed. Our tax dollars are being spent to push this agenda by framing bullshit as scientific fact, and the Bush administration is firmly behind this push. As usual, the Religious Right is trying to force their view of a perfect world on everybody else. This is unacceptable and unjust.
As Bill Maher said last night at Carnegie Hall:
I don't hate America, I'm just embarrassed by the people controlling it right now. When I travel, I tell people that I'm Swiss.
Right on, Bill. Au revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, and arrivederci.
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[ Filed under: % Bush Watch % Civil Liberties % Government & Politics % Greatest Hits % Religion ]
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