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Paul Elam and his followers respond to Buzzfeed's devastating profile with evasion, excuses, and attacks on Elam's ex-wife.

AVFM circles the wagon.
AVFM circles the wagon.

A Voice for Men’s embattled Grand Wizard Paul Elam and his followers have responded to Buzzfeed’s devastating profile of him in some predictable ways, and in a few less predictable ones.

If you’re read the Buzzfeed piece – and if you haven’t, you really, really should – you know that it devoted a lot of time to the sad and sordid history of Elam’s three marriages and the even more sad and sordid story of the daughter he abandoned.

In a long and rambling post on Buzzfeed’s piece, Elam – all too predictably – goes after “Susan,” his first wife and the only one of his three ex-wives who was willing to talk on the record, trying his best to destroy her credibility by portraying her, essentially, as a lying slut.

Elam miraculously, and probably with considerable effort, managed to avoid the s-word – a favorite of writers on his site. But his attempts to slut-shame her are as transparent as glass.

Over the course of his post, he describes her as “very enthusiastic about sex,” “indeed very enthusiastic about sex,” and “a promiscuous wife.” He alleges that during their brief marriage “her sexual enthusiasm wasn’t limited to me,” and repeats the accusation that he leveled at her at the time – that she lied about being raped in order to cover up her own infidelity. He declares her to be a “habitual liar,” someone who “cheated and lied constantly.”

Elam also suggests that Buzzfeed paid his ex-wife and daughter to talk trash about him; and he makes several other serious allegations against his ex-wife that I won’t repeat. (EDIT: Buzzfeed’s Editorial Standards and Ethics policy forbids paying sources.]

A decade ago, you may recall from Buzzfeed’s piece, Elam reunited with the daughter he had abandoned as a baby, only to drive her away several years later after, she claims, spanking one of his grandsons for opening the refrigerator.

In his post, while referring to her as his daughter, he resurrects an old accusation, writing that “I need to point out that it has not been established that I actually have a daughter.”

Buzzfeed quotes what it says is an email Elam sent to his daughter in 2005, in which he apologized to her and to his brother. “I owe both of you a tremendous debt,” he wrote. “I just said some unflattering things involving [his ex-wife], but the more important truth here is that I failed both of you.”

In his post, though, Elam declares that “I did not, as alleged, tell Bonnie [his daughter] that I was sorry that I had failed her. I told her that I was sorry such misfortune had been her lot.”

If the email quoted by Buzzfeed is authentic, this is a blatant lie.

While the attacks on his ex (and his halfway renunciation of his daughter) are sadly predictable, Elam also resorts to a desperate if inventive diversionary tactic, suggesting that the art used to illustrate Buzzfeed’s post is somehow … anti-Semitic, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Uh, no. I’m pretty sure that one or both of the authors of the Buzzfeed article, Adam Serwer and Katie Baker, would have said something if this were even remotely the case; they’re both Jewish.

Judge for yourself. Here’s the picture AVFM used to illustrate Elam’s post:

One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things is not like the other.

In the comments to his post on AVFM, meanwhile, Elam’s supporters circle the wagons and lash out at pretty much anyone they can think of who’s ever said less-than-flattering things about their dear leader. They are considerably less careful with their language than Elam.

In the post’s “Featured Comment,” with close to 70 upvotes at the moment, AVFM contributor “Andybob” lashes out at Elam’s enemies:

A disgruntled ex from decades ago and a brainwashed daughter that probably isn’t his who were doubtlessly given some kind of monetary incentive to say that Paul Elam won’t be getting their votes for Man of the Year any time soon. After months of sleepless nights planning his cunning revenge, the best Serwer could come up with was to drag out this pair of bitter malcontents who were probably chomping on the bit to take a swipe a man who chose not to serve them in the ways to which they obviously feel entitled.

Suzie McCarley, AVFM’s “Assistant Managing Editor,” says of the Buzzfeed article that “it will be quoted by skanks and bitches of both sexes for years to come.” She snidely writes of Serwer that “I hope the blow job his ho Katie B. owes him in exchange for his credibility, is worth it.”

Several others cleverly refer to Serwer as “Sewer.”

Very few of the commenters deal with any of Buzzfeed’s specific allegations. Instead, they resort to evasive euphemism.

AVFM’s social media director, who writes under the name Janet Bloomfield, laments what she calls “the hysterical ad hominem attacks on a man who turns out to be ….SHOCK…. human.” “I’m shocked! Who would think that an ex-wife might have shit to talk about her ex? Amazeballz!” AVFM contributor Jason Gregory writes sarcastically. “Overlord Elam is a human man?” jokes someone called ComradePrescott. “I can’t serve any master that isn’t a reptilian monster!!!!”

Others offer excuses, making clear that they would probably forgive Elam for anything short of mass murder:

 Reason • 2 days ago  I wonder how many of us can change the names in your story and call it their own. If there is indeed an "old boys club", being used and abused by a woman for paternity is it.

 smetana • 2 days ago  Wow. Seriously, even if the claim that Paul had beaten a kid were true, why should we care? I got beaten on a regular basis as a child, and it was the same thing for most of the people my age that I knew back then (90s). If I could have traded all of that for ONE beating by Paul, then I would have done so without hesitation. The ideological desperation here is really amazing.

In a separate post, AVFM’s Sage Gerard offers an even less coherent “rebuttal” to Buzzfeed’s post, filled with vague accusations against Buzzfeed and weirdly evasive defenses of Elam that if anything make him look worse.

Gerard declares that Buzzfeed’s

“evidence” is opinion carefully framed to manipulate, not persuade. This is David Futrelle’s style of toxic propoganda: Distort context until the target and all supporters appear inhuman.

It’s hard to tell what on earth Gerard even means by any of this, and of course he provides no examples.

He then goes on to offer this oddly backhanded defense of Elam’s terrible behavior:

In terms of his difficult decisions during his youth, Paul had to live with choices that only prove that he is human. Today, Paul faithfully operates within the boundaries of the law as an advocate.

Even more strangely, Gerard praises Elam for … not pocketing money from fundraisers intended for others.

Another money fact that keeps slipping by unreported is that Paul has allowed others to feed off his main revenue stream. Paul hosts fundraisers on this site where AVfM gains no money. I offered Paul a percentage in Zen Men’s last fundraiser, and he refused the money. He also gave Dean Esmay money for private dental work in public view. …

Between Dean and Zen Men, AVfM gave up access to over $10,000, which means Paul gave up more than AVfM itself raised in its last fundraiser. …

Greedy people out to exploit the masses don’t give away money.

Actually, lots of them do. Are you kidding?

If these are the best defenses that Elam and his allies can muster, he’s going to have a hard time rebounding from Buzzfeed’s report.

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seraph4377
6 years ago

Right. That was more violent than WHTM generally likes. Sorry. I think I shall step out now.

ceebarks
ceebarks
6 years ago

And for the record, my brother and his wife spank their kids. They’re quite proud of it, and they do it in a way that very few in the USA would consider child abuse. The kids are well-behaved and will almost certainly turn out okay. I love my brother and I quite like my sister-in-law.

And I wish more than almost anything that I had the guts to beat him into a wheelchair with a baseball bat the next time I see him do it.

Why? That seems excessive to me.

proxieme
proxieme
6 years ago

Lea & re: spanking/abuse in general: My Grandmother apparently did the same with her children, but with willow switches. They’d have to go pick their own switch. If it was too small, *she’d* go pick it (and none of them wanted that).

I can’t find it in myself to blame her too much, though. She was a single Mom to three boys with one year in age separating each (she kicked out her drunken husband when he moved from savagely beating her to savagely beating the kids), and from what I understand she only resorted to it when their actions (to each other) were about to result in a broken limb or neck.
My Dad says that the Vice Principal had a board with holes hanging up in his office that he’d use for formal punishments (in front of the your peers if it was bad enough), so it was a different time and mindset.

I got a handful of spankings in the 1980s, but remember thinking that they were weird more than anything else; and my grandparents /never/ spanked me, not even when I’d go to visit them for a week during the summer.
My elementary school had a form parents could sign authorizing corporal punishment by the principal (my parents did, but I was an annoyingly good kid and it never happened). [Note: Both my and my father’s experiences were in Virginia.]

My husband says that he had several teachers who’d routinely spank or even hit kids and one who’d twist your ear. [North Florida – which is really just southern Georgia – and North Carolina in the 1980s.]

But, then, my maternal Grandmother said that neither of her parents ever laid a hand (or anything else) on her (born in 1929 in Virginia). Her father was Blackfoot and Crow (maybe a mix, but could never grow a beard – it wasn’t really talked about since the marriage of he and my Great-Grandmother, a tiny little lady with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, was technically illegal in the state back then). She said that his irises would seem solid black when he was angry, but he’s just get very quiet and calm and explain his disappointment and hurt in his child’s actions. In those moments she’s wish for him to hit her like her friends’ dads would just to make the weight of it stop.

He explained to her when she was older that if you get angry with and yell at or hit a child, that fuels their outrage and they end up feeling justified in their behaviors; but if you remain quiet and calm with a child who’s misbehaved, you force them them to get quiet and to think about their actions and their impacts.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

I did not say that it wasn’t child abuse. I said that my parents would have that opinion. I think I also mentioned that I thought that was fucked up. I don’t think I communicated support of any sort of violence.

I’m afraid some folks here are so aghast that they are kind of taking an offensive posture. When I speak of my experiences and my culture and I say definitively that they are fucked up and deserve trigger warnings, I don’t think that suggests denial. I think it suggests a openness and trust in the people I’m having this discussion with. I almost said nothing, but I don’t like it when people start denying that hitting kids is uncommon. It isn’t. That and a whole lot worse are commonplace the world over. It is not just where I live. Here, people are just less careful about what they do in public. Just because you grew up unaware of people being abused, it doesn’t mean they weren’t being abused. I really do not want to be judged or reprimanded when talking about this from my personal point of view. It makes me feel very vulnerable.

As does my home being called hell or me being called evil for living in it.

proxieme
proxieme
6 years ago

^ None of the above’s meant to glorify memories of corporal punishment, but is in answer to questions about historical and locational context.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

It’s fucking creepy.

I agree. Humanity is like that. Life is way more David Lynch than Steven Spielberg.

I grew up, as I’m sure my parents and their parents on back through the years grew up, being told how easy I had it. Each generation tell their tales of walking to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. That’s all those stories are. One generation bragging to the next about how much better they are than their parents and how grateful their children should be.

proxieme
proxieme
6 years ago

Lea – I get where you were going (I started composing my post above before the other replies came in, though my clarification was typed after I saw those replies).

You can talk about corporal punishment – even its contexts and commonness – without condoning it and certainly without meaning to glorify or revel in it.

If nothing else, it’s part of understanding and processing your history, of reconciling the virtues of those you love (or don’t, as the case may be) and their understanding of their actions with your current understanding of and thoughts on their actions.

To say, “This was done and this was the context,” is to acknowledge that people’s perceptions and attitudes are shaped by their cultures, their environment, and their experiences, not to excuse them.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

proxieme,

So true. Kids mimic almost automatically. I was reading while 2 of my kids were playing a game and I overheard one of them say, “Dude, what are you thinking?”

It was like hearing an echo. That’s me. He’s picked that phrase up from me. It’s cute, but also intimidating. It reminds me that so much of what the kids learn happens while we are all unaware of it. That raises the hair on my neck, but its also really neat. Humans are neat.

Bina
Bina
6 years ago

Looks like spankings were indeed still very much a thing in the 1990s, at least in fundie communities. I found this. Apparently, the first edition of the vile pro-beating book To Train Up a Child was published in 1994. Ain’t nothin’ like some good ol’ religious justification for the unjustifiable, eh?

As for me, I was born in ’67, and yes, I got spanked sometimes. Not often, because I was basically quiet and well behaved anyway. The worst was getting it with the handle of a flyswatter. I put it down to being an immigrant’s kid, not to when I was born, though; I really have no frame of reference as to how many other kids’ parents did it when I was in school. Having German parents is no fun, BTW; they are strict as hell. And it sure did make us stick out like sore thumbs from the rest of the kids, who were almost all of Anglo-Irish-Scots descent — especially when we had to wear hand-me-downs from previous generations to school. I had the damnedest time of it convincing my folks to buy me jeans and stop making me wear those old-fashioned hand-knit sailor dresses, because I was being ostracized for it. (To this day I cringe whenever the “nautical look” comes back in fashion. Good times…good times.)

My grandparents? As far as I can recall, a light smack on the butt was the worst I got from them. They always were more lenient than my folks were, at least with us grandkids.

And for the “turned out all right” bit: Yes, I did. But I did so in spite of spankings, not BECAUSE of them. And I don’t believe in them, either. I find that the best way to teach my nieces and nephews* not to do stupid things, is to inform them of the consequences before they even try it. When they know that you’re not supposed to fiddle with knobs on the stove because you can burn yourself, they don’t NEED to be hit to drive it home. So my dad’s belief that spankings make kids “see clearly” just doesn’t hold water, and never did for me. They can see just fine when you take a moment to explain to them how things work.

I suspect that the threat of corporal punishment actually makes rebellious kids act worse; it certainly did with my dad’s two younger brothers, who were real little hellraisers back in Germany, and almost never did what they were told. One of them just HAD to touch a hot clothes-iron to find out that it really does burn; the other nearly drank undiluted vinegar (in Germany, before the war, they used to sell it concentrated, and dangerously so), and would have burned his gullet out if my grandpa hadn’t caught him and yanked the bottle away in time. Both of them got their butts blistered for it, but it didn’t stop them acting out in other ways. Sometimes I marvel that neither of them ever got killed in a brawl, or even a stupid accident caused by sheer spite, as an adult. Pure dumb luck that neither one did…but all the spankings in the world never taught them a damn thing. Except, maybe, to be more sneaky next time.

*I’m child-free by choice, but I still have plenty of contact with my sisters’ kids. And thus, plenty of opportunities to teach them a thing or two.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

This topic is just so dark. This is a comedy site, but the content is often very seriously sickeningly fucked up. It’s hard to find the balance between being off hand about a topic and serious about it. I know I err on the side of being glib and I shouldn’t. Its probably a coping mechanism gone awry. I’ll try to dial it back.

proxieme
proxieme
6 years ago

And *goes to get shovel to dig self deeper into a hole* honestly, I can’t even get chuffed at people who may fondly remember some forms of punishment as administered by a loved one.

I’ve had so many Hispanic friends laughingly and lovingly recount having shoes thrown at them by their Mothers and Grandmothers.
Do I get it?
No.
But these are their memories of their experiences with their loved ones.

I wasn’t there, I wasn’t a part of that cultural and familial context, and they’re not my experiences to process.

Octo
Octo
6 years ago

Oddly, I don’t feel any particular need to defend my parents, or the practice of spanking, or to argue “I turned out all right” like that’s some kind of defense. Most people do turn out all right.

Indeed. That argument is completely empty for the reason you say. It also shows what I think is a really wrong attitude to take towards the issue of raising children: That *all* that matters is their success and status in life once they’re adults… and not you know, their current (or also future) happiness. Which is not to say kids should be spoiled, just that they have a life right at the moment as children. Their life doesn’t only start when they move out of the house. So, really, “turned out all right” is also an insufficient argument.

Those who were beaten as children (or who have stories about their parents and grandparents) get all…nostalgic about it. It’s fucking creepy.

The thing is, those stories are connected to childhood. People often go nostalgic about childhood, and the good aspects blur out the bad ones. And as long as we’re “only” talking about light corporal punishment and misguided but still loving parents, that really was just *one* aspect about the childhood, hardly the entirety of it all. Basically just one drawback among a pile of good stuff. Corporal punishment still shouldn’t happen, but I can see why people would be vexing nostalgic.

My parents, one of whom remembers getting the razor strop, would have laughed at calling getting hit with a spoon child abuse. I didn’t think of a smack on the butt as the same as a smack on the face. Not only because it does not hurt nearly as much but because I was inculturated to see it as normal, attentive parenting.

I did receive smacks on the face as child, but was never spanked. I would probably have thought the latter to be much worse than a quick smack, and I still kinda do. Not that I’d defend any of it, but to my personal sensibilities, any form spanking that is not just a quick hit on the butt has this weird ritualistic element that pushes it deeper into abuse territory. So, yeah, what I’m saying is, attitudes about these matters, what is thought acceptable and what not, are definitely culturally ingrained and hence often a local matter.

As it stands, purely legally, corporal punishment is outlawed in Germany, and I’m quite content with that. However, IIRC, there has been a single actual prosecution about this so far, and to a degree that is also the intent: More to set a legal guideline, and for the youth welfare service to intervene if need be, then a tool to prosecute people with. OTOH, according to surveys, a majority of people still agrees with light corporal punishments in child rearing, so hmpf.

proxieme
proxieme
6 years ago

Lea re: mimicry –

This was our 2 1/2 year-old this past weekend (faces blurred for privacy):

http://imgur.com/slMxn1q

Sometimes they’re just little mirrors.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

Also, I am nostalgic over some pretty creepy things now that I think about it. Alot of my fond memories are also somewhat twisted, as I am somewhat twisted and I’m sure plenty of people find that repulsive.

I’m OK with that. I think that’s fair.

ceebarks
ceebarks
6 years ago

I still have a hard time thinking corporal punishment is inherently, in all forms and circumstances, abusive.

I mean, I’ve heard it said that it damages people emotionally, which I– having actually been spanked– really kind of scoff at (…no, I do not think I would have been better off if someone had put my mom in a wheelchair, what the heck is that?! ha!) Today she and and I have a mutually respectful, loving relationship: she does not try to tell me what to do, we disagree openly on a lot of topics, etc. Same with my husband and his parents.

And I’ve also been told that it is the same thing as partner violence, which I can’t take seriously either.

I mean, what if a man told you he was grounding his wife and banning her from social media because she’d sent a really nasty email to someone at work? That would be completely bizarre and abusive in a partner context… but normal and responsible in a parenting context.

You aren’t responsible for what your partner does or doesn’t do, or for teaching them life lessons, or for knowing their whereabouts, but you ARE responsible for almost everything your kids do. You can break up with your partner, too, but… not really with your kids. (unless you’re Paul Elam, ‘course.) Neh?

Dodom
Dodom
6 years ago

I was spanked as a kid, and after the age of four the pain stops meaning anything, it’s just the feeling of NEVER being safe that got to me. When I heard of that “picking your own stick” thing, I dreamed that my mother would do that to me, so I’d bring her the biggest rock I could carry, so that she would crush my skull, and all of it would finally be over.

katz
6 years ago

I was also spanked a few times in the 90’s, but didn’t Elam hit the kid in 2008? Hardly what you’d call a different era.

Octo
Octo
6 years ago

I still have a hard time thinking corporal punishment is inherently, in all forms and circumstances, abusive.

It teaches that violence is okay, and that is not something that should be taught. Sure, you need some forceful measures in raising a child, as you can’t completely go without punishments. But force in its more general meaning is something used every day in society, while physical force is still seen as something apart from that, something that must not be done. So why should this be different in regards to children? And really, IMO, no non-violent form of force demonstrates “I’m the boss, and you have to put up with me” like physical force, and ingraining such attitudes (acceptance of schemes of dominance and subservience) into our children is, I think, also not something we want.

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

@ceebarks great distinction between what’s appropriate for a adult and a child. It’s why I get so creeped out and concerned when MRAs say that women are like children – that mindset turns into justification for controlling us. And some pretty awful treatment of whoever is unlucky enough to fall into a relationship with them, ESPECIALLY if they follow Elam’s footsteps in thinking that “justified” partner violence is okay. “Justification”, of course, being entirely subjective to the abuser and his whims.

To throw my childhood story into the mix, me and my brother only got spanked if we had such huge tantrums that my parents couldn’t think of any other way to get a hold of things. It didn’t happen often and we were no longer spanked after age 6. Discipline was usually verbal or being sent to time out, or having a privilege revoked for a while, like TV.

ceebarks
ceebarks
6 years ago

@katz, 2011, and for opening a fridge door. That really is ridiculous. With, presumably, the child’s parents present; it’s not like they’d gone off and left Elam in charge for a month (thank heavens.)

If his precious fridge was that important, he should have talked to the parents and let them deal with it. That’s a pretty major boundary violation.

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

To clarify – when I say spanked I mean once, on the butt/upper leg, and then done.

Also I think it was more age 4/5 it stopped, I can’t remember.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

I still have a hard time thinking corporal punishment is inherently, in all forms and circumstances, abusive.

I don’t think it is, but I don’t want to argue about gray areas etc. about something so potentially hurtful and dismissive.

dhag85
6 years ago

It might not be the best idea to scoff at people who claim to have been damaged emotionally from being physically abused by their parents. (Hope that doesn’t start a shitstorm.)

Lolaphilologist
Lolaphilologist
6 years ago

I’ve never commented (that I can recall) but I’ve been reading this site for months. I think I almost have a unique perspective on spanking: I’m from a spanking culture: I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in Texas. My father had been literally scarred by the strap his father used, and so he had sworn he would never discipline us with violence. My parents divorced when I was 4, and my mom’s house was a spanking house and my dad’s was a “talking” house.

I was much, much better behaved for my father than my mother.

Also, my grandmother switched me once, but she was so upset about having to do it she cried and begged me not to be naughty any more because it broke her heart to “have to” hit me. I was way more upset that she was crying, and I behaved for her after that, too.

Obviously, I’m not spanking my son. I’m going to give him the same boring lectures my dad did.

Spindrift
Spindrift
6 years ago

@Bina
I remember seeing that “to train up a child” book on http://theworstthingsforsale.com/ a while ago, and scrolling through the reviews on amazon. Pretty disturbing stuff.

ceebarks
ceebarks
6 years ago

It might not be the best idea to scoff at people who claim to have been damaged emotionally from being physically abused by their parents.

I’m not. What I am scoffing at is that idea that corporal punishment is inherently, in every form and every circumstance, abusive and damaging. That I am emotionally damaged (and presumably too stupid or damaged to know it…)

I am not claiming that this is what anyone here is saying, but I’ve heard this argument more than once elsewhere and continue to find it unconvincing. When people say “I was spanked and turned out fine” I think that is what they mean.

I’d never argue it can’t be part of an abusive environment. Clearly, it can. But so can a lot of things.

ikanreed
ikanreed
6 years ago

There’s no way to phrase this and not sound like a concern troll, but I’ve been here long enough that I hope people can believe I’m sincere.

I don’t think it’s fair to condemn the MRAs for Elam’s past. Or to blow it up as a big enough deal to seem like it’s a reason we’re condemning them. One person, no matter how important, doesn’t make a movement.

I do think it’s fair to condemn MRAs for the things they argue quite consistently.

AltoFronto
AltoFronto
6 years ago

My English teacher once told us that he’d had a schoolmaster who would make a boy stand at the end of the blackboard, bowed so that his face was level with the shelf that catches the chalk-dust. The boy would be made to open his eyes and mouth as wide as possible and the master would blow the chalk dust into his face. (I think this was the 1960s, England).
I think that any place where corporal punishment is the norm, there will be sadists taking full advantage of that culture.

Anyway, to relate this thread to my own childhood (1990s, England)…

I was probably only spanked twice as a kid, by my mum, with an open hand on my buttocks and on one occasion, the back of my legs. I don’t think I’ve been damaged by it, but I think it’s a weak form of parenting.

It’s weak to use physical aggression against a child. It’s weak to send a message of “Do as I say, or else”, rather than “This is what I expect of you, and why”. I’m not saying I hadn’t done anything worthy of correction, or punishment when I was spanked, but my mum only ever hit me when she had already lost her temper. And I think it’s really wrong to lash out in anger. It breaks the trust that the child has in the parent and creates fear.

I was mostly a good kid, and intelligent enough. The only times I’d been punished as a child had been either unfairly (I was once put in time-out by staff at an after-school club for yelling at a bully to leave me alone while the bully went unpunished) or too severely (spanked when a simple talking-to and a time-out would have sufficed; or the whole school once had to sit in silence throughout assembly instead of hearing a story because 3 of us had been chattering after the bell rang for the end of lunch). So mostly my attitude towards punishment has always been one of resentment and defiance.

It’s not just about what is used as a punishment – it’s also about how it’s delivered, and it’s not often that I’ve seen an adult punish a child constructively. TLDR; Respects is earn.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

We definitely live in a society that seems to have very little room for children to be children in it. I think we are all rushed too much and since poop rolls downhill, kids and the elderly get the worst of it. (I have strong opinions about nursing homes and elder care.) Kids are almost always kept on lock down and their behavior directed or controlled by adults. Adults often don’t give children choices because it is inconvenient. We keep them under lock and key for the same reason we do women: We accept that the world is not safe for them. We change their participation and remove their freedom because bad men might do bad things to them. Stranger Danger has changed the way kids play. School shootings (mostly perpetrated by angry white dudes) are making schools more and more like prisons and the link between our schools and our prisons is well known. There is an armed guard at the high school. That bothers me. Alot.

The patriarchy is all about control through the threat of violence.

I am kind of a hippie, but I think you teach kids to be considerate by being patient with them (and yourself). I think you teach them to respect your boundaries more easily when you respect theirs. You teach them to take time out when they are grouchy by taking them when you are grouchy. I know people who do those things and sometimes spank. They also use things like writing as a punishment. I think that makes kids hate writing, but that’s just me. Intent isn’t magic, but I think they are good parents.

I wish I could say I learned to be patient and positive that from my mom, but I didn’t. I learned it from big stray dogs who didn’t trust people. When you get in front and call, they follow. When you get behind and push, they bite* (because that scares the beejesus out of them). I learned to be consistent from them to. Routines will save you so much time and keep your brains from turning to pudding.

Or maybe that’s just my personal opinion too. I just know that there are so many things I’d rather do than get nasty with a kid. Here are some books I like. They aren’t perfect, but I like parts of them.

http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/1451663889

http://www.amazon.com/The-Teenage-Liberation-Handbook-Education/dp/096295917

This makes me cry:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Big-Box-Toni-Morrison/dp/0786812915

I also like to watch this once a year:

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/touchofgreatness/teacher.html

*That said, I have smacked a dog on the nose a few times. I don’t consider that animal abuse. I don’t mind if other people do.

Anarchonist
Anarchonist
6 years ago

Boring, pointless, painful personal story re: corporal punishment, scroll to skip:

I remember a particular spanking from my early childhood. I had just had a pretty bad argument with my parents – over what, I cannot remember, probably some stupid kid stuff I wasn’t allowed to do – and stormed into my room. I slammed the door shut behind me, only to hear a cry of pain behind me as my little brother, a toddler back then, had tried to follow me and stuck his fingers between the slamming door and the frame. He didn’t get seriously injured, but all the same, my parents seemed to interpret it as having been done deliberately.

I tried to explain that it had been an accident, that I hadn’t realised that my brother had been right behind me, but it was useless. I can’t remember if the spanking itself hurt that bad, actually. What I do remember is how unfair it felt. I’m not sure if I would be a different person today had it not been for that specific incident, but I think it shaped some of my beliefs about the world.

Since nothing was ever explained to me, I took away the lesson that I should never communicate my negative emotions to the outside world in any visible manner, and should instead bottle it all up inside me, just like my mom had the habit of doing. That is something that has caused me a lot of grief over the years. To this day, I cannot say what the real lesson was supposed to be. That I should be more careful is the best I’ve come up with, though if that was it, it was something I figured out by myself maybe 20 years after the fact, so lesson averted, I suppose. It is entirely possible that there was no lesson, and I wasted countless sleepless nights wondering what my crime had been.

I resent it when people talk about spanking as if it was something beneficial in itself. Corporal punishment or not, I think communicating to the kid exactly what they did wrong is the key. Too often I hear clueless people say that children know what they’re doing, and that spanking discourages them from doing the bad things, when many times I doubt the kid really understands that they’re doing something wrong in the first place. I certainly was a stupid kid, but I wasn’t mean. Why would I purposely hurt my brother, who had done nothing to me and hadn’t been involved in the fight between me and my parents in any way?

I wonder if Elam tried to explain to his grandchild why opening the refrigerator was a big no-no?

dhag85
6 years ago

@ceebarks

What I am scoffing at is that idea that corporal punishment is inherently, in every form and every circumstance, abusive and damaging. That I am emotionally damaged (and presumably too stupid or damaged to know it…)

OK, thank you for the clarification. I completely agree with what you said in this quote, but in my defence this is very different from what you said in the previous comment. Thanks for clearing up the confusion.

dhag85
6 years ago

Um, scratch that. I do not completely agree with everything in that quote, but I don’t disagree strongly enough to keep poking at it.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

“They did it on purpose”

Yep. Children do not have an inherent since of flawless morality. They are literally new. They don’t even have a very good grasp of reality and how the material world works. They aren’t always angels with dirty faces. They’re people figuring themselves out and feeling things like jealousy, greed, anger etc. for the first time. Two year olds look like cherubs, but they can be jerks. My kids have occasionally made me feel like we were playing a game where their goal was to get themselves maimed or killed and mine was to keep them unharmed. I’m so glad we are past that age.

I wish more people came to terms with that before they had kids. The idea that you will produce a child and then “nature” will guide you in your parenting is a myth. I know I found that to be a harsh reality both times I was a new mom. (They came over a decade apart. I think I forgot how quick the little ones are. Two of mine were climbers.)

BritterSweet
6 years ago

Re: spanking. I was spanked as a child, though only on the clothed butt and never with an object. I was shocked to hear some of my classmates tell me they were spanked on the bare bottom. It stopped when I was older, about 10 I think, when just my mom saying “Do you want a slap?” was enough to stop me from making a scene. Then that stopped too once I got better at impulse control. And I admit, in this discussion I probably would have been one of those “I turned out fine” people, because I don’t believe (or want to believe) this means my parents abused me. They were otherwise very supportive and loving.

Re: Elam. Predictable. Just so effing predictable. Is there a single word for “disgusted but not surprised?”

AltoFronto
AltoFronto
6 years ago

Since nothing was ever explained to me, I took away the lesson…

Anarchonist – this is exactly why I think explaining what the kid did wrong should be done first and foremost, before (and in most situations instead of) any other kind of punishment.
Most kids, if they know they did something to upset someone, will want to make amends, and might even decide that they deserve a spanking. But punishment is worse than useless if it’s not understood why it’s being meted out.

I hope if I ever have children, I’ll always discipline them fairly.

suffrajitsu
suffrajitsu
6 years ago

Not gonna weigh in on the spanking/child abuse debate, but I gotta say, I find it kind of laughable when people complain about the modern unpopularity of corporal punishment because “kids these days getting soft”. Why would anyone want people to be as “hardened” as previous generations? In the ‘good old days’ two strangers killing each other over a lady was considered a ‘gentlemanly’ way to resolve conflicts and mass rapes of the ‘enemy’s’ women during wars fought entirely for greed were not only normal but perfectly honorable (as Cracked’s Luke McKinney put it: ‘hitting differently colored men until they died, and women slightly less.)’ I’d say it’s a damned good thing if we’re ‘getting soft’.

I’ll admit the charges against us Millennials about narcissism and such hold water, but then again…http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/2/6/college-freshmen-drink-less-and-worry-more.html

maistrechat
6 years ago

@dhag85
Might want to check out Fantasy Life. There’s no farming but it’s definitely got some similarities with Rune Factory. It’s also possible to complete the game completely nonviolently*.

*As in, violence against living things. There are a couple of situations where it’s necessary to smash a rock.

suffrajitsu
suffrajitsu
6 years ago

Oy, sorry if that was kind OT. I just find it funny when people grumble about teachers not being able to spank kids because ‘kids back in the day were more responsible’, when studies show it might actually be the opposite.

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

suffrajitsu,
YES! Those same people are the people who will tell you that kids should endure bullying because it makes them tough.

What the hell? How is that even supposed to work?

Lea
Lea
6 years ago

suffrajitsu,

They sound like this to me:
comment image

dhag85
6 years ago

@maistrechat

Thanks! This game has definitely been on my radar before, but I’m happy you reminded me. I’m still not done with the games from Christmas 2013 so it’s gonna have to wait for a bit 🙂

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

@Lea
@Anarchronist

I totally understand what you guys are saying and can really relate to you, Anarchronist. Though my parents rarely spanked and their discipline was mostly verbal, they tended to over react to small things that I did, things that I did mostly because I was just a young child. Many many of said things led to chastisement and they have since admitted that they were trying way too hard to shape me into a “perfect child”, which was at my expense. I now struggle with stubbornly low self esteem/self confidence and a difficulty in being deep down positive. They would be visibly annoyed with me for doing things like tripping when running (small kids do it all the time because poor motor skills), losing things (five year olds tend to put things down and forget where they are), dropping things or, like you Anarch, coming to them with a problem. Children can pick up on people’s tone of voice and their moods like experts, just because they don’t communicate like an adult doesn’t mean they don’t see that you’re displeased with them. THEY UNDERSTAND SO MUCH. I was a smart kid and gained an idea of what was right and wrong, fair and unfair, pretty early on, so when they would criticise for something that was just a mistake one part of me absorbed it and took another hit to my confidence, another part felt shocked and upset that they were doing it over something small.

I have a distinct memory of my dad blowing his lid at me when I was about three: I wandered into the bathroom where he was fixing the towel rail, picked up a glass bottle of something and dropped it. It didn’t break so I thought everything was okay but he spun round and yelled at me with such rage it helped to embed in me that even the slightest mistake from me can likely lead to the people I’ve slighted coming down on me like a ton of bricks. It’s a fear and paranoia I still carry today – that one slip up will lead to terrible consequences. I am getting better at it but it’s still a burden.

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

My dad also had this hang up believing that “there’s no such thing as accidents, only deliberate carelessness” which was a big reason why he would huff at little Sunny for doing kid things like tripping over or dropping stuff. My mother argued with him every time he said that and I’m glad she did, because if I’d fully absorbed his attitude then on top of everything else I would have grown up thinking that every tiny error I made was not a result of me being human but me being a deeply, naturally and irreversibly flawed individual. Even though she tended to over criticise as well she wasn’t as bad as my father, who like I said seemed to be grumpy with me and my brother all the time.

(Nowadays he’s a very sweet, patient, positive and loving man for the record.)

Bina
Bina
6 years ago

Those same people are the people who will tell you that kids should endure bullying because it makes them tough.

What the hell? How is that even supposed to work?

Unless they mean “might cause them to turn around and become bullies themselves”, it makes no sense at all. I endured bullying, and all it made me is angry and resentful that the bullies were allowed to get away with the vast majority of it.

ceebarks
ceebarks
6 years ago

My dad also had this hang up believing that “there’s no such thing as accidents, only deliberate carelessness” which was a big reason why he would huff at little Sunny for doing kid things like tripping over or dropping stuff.

well, that’s just age-inappropriate. Little kids have underdeveloped motor skills– not much to be done about that except put away the breakables and/or accept some breakage and loss as part of the business cost of raising a family. It is still annoying, but if you are aware of it, it’s less aggravating than if you expect perfection and let yourself get worked up about anything less.

I haven’t always been thrilled with every aspect of my childhood, but my folks were just ordinary, flawed, complicated human beings doing, for the most part, the best they could on the limited resources at their disposal. Having kids of my own put them in a kinder light, as it tends to do. (“Damn, this shit is HARD!)

Sure, my mom wasn’t Mary Poppins, and my dad wasn’t Atticus Finch, but again, expecting perfection out of mortals is a good way to go through life disappointed. What they DID do was hang in there, day after day after mindnumbing, exasperating day. 😉

My mom tried to apologize for some of it awhile ago but I wouldn’t hear it. We had a tough run at times, but we all made it. And I was a pain in the ass sometimes, too. (I know, who’d ever believe it now?! 😉 )

sunnysombrera
6 years ago

@ceebarks My parents and I have talked about what happened, they’ve admitted wrongdoing but I also accept that, as they said, they were dealing with heavy issues of their own at that time and simply weren’t well equipped for dealing with two small children (I have a younger brother). My dad, I think, accepts that he WAS being age inappropriate when he criticised us for the kid things, but he hasn’t quite renounced that hang up of his.

GrumpyOldMan
6 years ago

“Obviously, I’m not spanking my son. I’m going to give him the same boring lectures my dad did.”

I have four children, all grown, and I spanked once — my oldest son, when he was about five, for getting into a forbidden area too close to the river we lived next to. My theory was that spanking should be restricted to situations where a child is at risk of serious harm but too young to have the risk adequately explained. Otherwise I used lectures which became notorious as probably more painful than a spanking. I used to get “You don’t need to lecture me, Dad, I won’t do it again.” I have to say that my children only very rarely did anything worthy of serious corrective measures — I’ve always said that they spoiled me rotten.
From the teen years, I have one story to illustrate how easy I had it. When my older daughter (who was not sexually active at the time) found out that one of her friends had become sexually active, she went out and bought a package of condoms and gave them to her, telling her “Make him use these.”

I think the rejection of corporal punishment began after World War II with the permissive style of child-rearing promoted by Dr. Benjamin Spock in his book “Baby and Child Care,” which was the bible of post-war parenting. Unfortunately, to some extent it has been a matter of social/educational level with the result that many well-educated parents who have adopted the no-spanking model look down at the less-well-educated parents who live in cultural regions — such as Lea describes — where corporal punishment is more or less baked into the notions of proper child-rearing. And the tendency to avoid corporal punishment has become steadily stronger, particularly — again — among well-educated people, making another issue where there are strongly conflicting social views. On one side many people will label even very mild forms of corporal punishment as child abuse, and on the other side people will claim that permissiveness, including failure to apply corporal punishment, is ruining society. Dr. Spock was blamed by many on the right for the resistance to the Vietnam War — in fact he was put on trial for counseling young men to refuse the draft.
I once skimmed through a book on parenting that was fanatically anti-spanking but advocated techniques (specifically that the parent should become emotionally distant for a period that would seem like forever to a small child) that I thought would be much more painful and emotionally (though not physically) damaging than a few whacks on the bottom. I think it all comes down to whether the children feel loved — they will survive and forgive parental mistakes if they are loved.
Paul Elam, as I see it, would like to have a child who attractively accesorizes his life but he has no capacity to love.

Spindrift
Spindrift
6 years ago

I think Paul Elam has got the capacity to love…himself.

genedaniell3
genedaniell3
6 years ago

Actually, I think he hates himself. He reeks of self-loathing and the desire to pull everyone else down into the sewer with him.

Spindrift
Spindrift
6 years ago

He may not notice on a concious level as long as he has enough people to hate on though.