Billy Goes Hunting. Suzy Does Not. In this case, score one for Suzy.
I’ve got a big post planned for y’all this week. About this story. This story involves greeting cards, the NAACP, offensive talk radio hosts, FOXNews, and at least SIX of the points from Derailing for Dummies. I am very excited about this post. However, as it turns out, this is kind of a difficult issue to write about. I am nowhere near as close to finished with this post as I’d hoped I’d be today. So, to tide you over, I bring you an entirely unrelated post about the incredible power of cognitive dissonance. I bring you a lighthearted post, one in which I mock various elements of manliness. Mandles, Pt. 2, you might call it. (Mandles: The Reconing?) Because if you’re going to be prepared to enter my wrathful maw when I finally get the Greeting Card Industry Racism post up, I figure you deserve some lighthearted warm-up time.
In that spirit, I bring you the klassy children’s book Billy Goes Hunting.
According to the book’s website:
The children of avid hunters routinely face questions and criticism about the hunting lifestyle they cherish. Billy Goes Hunting is the story of a young boy whose hunting beliefs have been challenged by his peers. In response to those challenges, on a trip to visit Grandfather’s farm, Billy asks the question – “Why do we hunt?” – and his Grandfather explains the many reasons behind the heritage, sport and tradition of the hunting lifestyle. Reading this book to your children will allow you as a parent to explain all of these reasons in detail and provide a great platform to discuss any other questions your children might have.
I had no idea this was a problem, you guys! I had no idea that the children of hunters faced such closed-minded discrimination! We must rescue them RIGHT NOW from the clutches of the evil non-hunters who will forever scar them with their taunts and questions! Questions like, “When you got hunting, do you get to shoot your friends in the face? Like Dick Cheney did?”*
Hey, you know who else sometimes faces discrimination and taunting from peers? The kids of LGBT parents, or kids who are LGBT-identified themselves. Also, children from other countries. Also, children who aren’t Christian. Also, fat kids. Also, basically any children who are not white hetero cis (and probably male) children**.
When those kids get picked on, you know what people usually say?
Nothing. And they CERTAINLY don’t go creating coloring books about it. In fact, sometimes people encourage children to pick on one another. And sometimes childhood teasing is used as an excuse to continue discrimination rather than stop it. Countless times we’ve heard the homophobic argument that gay parents shouldn’t be allowed to adopt because the discrimination their children would face in school could be irreversibly scarring. I wonder if the same is true for the children of hunters? Those poor kids! We should totally stop letting hunters adopt.
Also, please note that there is no such book as “Suzy Goes Hunting.” The whole point of this venture is to teach kids that hunting is a respectable pastime. We don’t want to go around having our respectable pastimes soiled by girls, do we?
I didn’t think so.
Unfortunately, the website doesn’t allow me to read the entire book. But from the set of printable coloring pages, it looks to me as though the text is geared towards justifying hunting as a part of the natural cycle of life. There are pictures of Billy and Grandpa fishing, of Billy milking a cow. There’s a picture of a beaver, and one of some stereotypical Native Americans (the ones from the past. Not those pesky present-day ones, who actually have the gall to be real individuals with specific needs and desires, who resist characterization as an empty symbol for “nature.”) There’s also a mysterious picture of some deer hanging out in the trees in what looks like Central Park. I’m not sure what this one is supposed to indicate. Maybe the deer have learned to assimilate with humans and are planning a trip to Saks? Whatever the case may be, there are NO pictures of Billy and Grandpa actually hunting. No fanciful coloring pages of Billy having to slit a deer’s throat, or break its neck, when a shot doesn’t go off right and the poor thing limps through the wilderness for mile.
The place where I REALLY get lost in the Forest of Cognitive Dissonance, though, is on the page dedicated to “Teaching the Youth.” This page lists the ten things a parent can do in order to help his (NOT HER) children develop an interest in hunting. Step 9 teaches the reader that one major way to get a child involved in hunting is through manipulation. Oh no, wait. I mean “compromise”:
Be willing to do something that interests your child in exchange.
If hunting is not at the top of your child’s list of things to do, you may have to resort to a compromise. This could include being willing to do something that interests your child in exchange. My daughters loved playing all the games little girls normally loved to play when they were growing up. I wasn’t always excited to play some of these but I did.
(Do you think he gets bonus points for that extra dig at girlie activities? Also, I thought this book was about BILLY. What’s with all this business about daughters?)
Immediately following step number 9, we are introduced to step number 10 (obviously), which recommends that you “Never Force Hunting on a Child:”
This will do more damage than good.
Our children have their own agency and the right to choose. If your children do not show interest in hunting, it is not a rejection of you or necessarily of hunting. It might just be that their interest lies elsewhere at the time. A loving, supportive, understanding approach works best. By leaving the door open, compromising on other important issues, and tailoring the type of hunting you are willing to do, you will provide an opportunity for a child to take interest in hunting later. The alternative is for a child to have a negative impression associated with hunting and close the door on it forever. [emphasis mine, as always]
So for most of the rest of this section, we’ve learned how to manipulate a child into “enjoying” hunting. But according to step 10, manipulation is NOT THE SAME THING as force. According to step 10, kids have autonomy!
I wonder if it’s the same kind of autonomy women have – the kind where you DON’T have it, really – the kind where people just fool you into THINKING that you have autonomy until you do something they don’t like.
Seriously, though – consider this part 2 of our lesson about how Words Mean Things. It’s not enough just to SAY that someone has autonomy and freedom of choice. Having autonomy isn’t good for much unless the people around you recognize and respect that autonomy. Encouraging parents to essentially manipulate their children into an enjoyment of hunting*** is not an acknowledgement of autonomy. It’s a master plan for Getting Your Way and Controlling Your Child.
Also, did I mention that this book is endorsed by Ted Nugent? Fun Times!
*Yes, this is a low blow. So sue me.
**Yes, I realize white hetero cis male children also get picked on. But you know who usually does the picking, in those circumstances? OTHER white hetero cis male children. Yeah.
***For those who would argue that the “Teaching the Youth” section isn’t manipulative: check out steps 1-3. ALL of these steps involve essentially altering the experience to convince the child to enjoy it more. But there’s a clear undertone here suggesting that, even though you’re BEHAVING as though killing an animal isn’t the most important thing, that’s just a facade. Focus remains on the child until the child is convinced to enjoy the sport. Then, suddenly, the focus reverts back to “bagging the buck of your dreams.”