Monday, June 14, 2004

Fuck you, Montel.

OK, I admit it. I like Montel Williams. Sometimes I'll tune in for the 9:00 airing of his show, which I believe is always a rerun. This morning it was a show I've seen before, and it pissed me off just as much today as the first time. The guests were all parents who'd made controversial decisions and were being criticized by friends and/or family. Most of what passes these days as controversial parenting is ideas that have been around forever but have shifted out of the "norm" in western cultures. You know, whacky ideas like breast-feeding and limiting television. Oh, and let's not forget paying attention and treating your children like human beings. Montel had three guests (plus their critics), and only one of them was employing what I would personally consider weird parenting - she had forbidden her children to date until age 18 (not so weird) and interrogated all of their friends as to their sexual activity (rude), wishing to keep her children from having non-virgin friends (understandable in a way as they were 13 and 14, but awfully difficult to monitor). I'm not really going to discuss her, because I tend to agree that privacy shouldn't be invaded, even if it is your child. There is a line and I think this woman crossed it.

The other two guests, though. Montel has me hopping mad. The issues themselves are indeed controversial, but only, as I said, in recent years. One woman said that she and her husband still sleep with their 8-year-old son, the other had refused to inoculate her baby. Perhaps I am biased as my family had a family bed and I received no vaccines until I was 12. However, I have also read up on both topics and the arguments on both sides of the issues are compelling. The real problem, I think, was with Montel's choice of guests. The woman who slept with her son was about the most over-protective ninny I've ever heard of (she wouldn't let her son use public men's rest rooms, forcing him to accompany her into the ladies') and the girl who wouldn't get her baby's shots was a teen mother and about as white trash as they come. Way to promote stereotypes, Montel! Jerk. That would be like having a show about homeschooling and only have religious fanatics as your guests. Oh, wait. Every talk show that has ever addressed homeschooling has treated it as something only crazy people do. (By the way, I was homeschooled.)

So the guests' arguments were far from compelling, because neither of them was able to prove that they had thought their parenting choices through. They seemed like crazy reactionaries who simply would not listen to reason. How are people going to be educated on alternative choices when the people promoting them are idiots?

I thought you were better than that, Montel.

It doesn't really surprise me when the average American thinks that measles, mumps and rubella is a serious threat, that family beds are weird, and that homeschooling is only for problem children (or problem parents). But most of the people I've encountered with these views - particularly those with a poor impression of homeschooling - have been willing to listen with an open mind to my views. My own partner has gone from thinking that school is the only way to get an education and babies sleep in cribs to being the first to defend our choice to keep our kids as far away from school as possible (he goes back and forth on the family bed, but I am 99% certain that he just wants his space while he sleeps). I may have first leaned toward these choices because of my own upbringing, but I also did my research. I haven't said anything about inoculating our babies because I am just not sure yet what I think about it.