I was watching “Hard Time”, NatGeo’s exploration of the Ohio penitentiary system, with my roomates this morning. I’d given some thought already to why it is that we like to watch prison reality shows. I used to watch alot of “Locked Up:life behind bars” at my old place and the fascination seems rooted in it being a glimpse into a very different world, one we know otherwise little about. It’s thrilling, and it makes us feel powerful to be able to observe without participating. We can judge from afar.
Today one of the segments was about a program in which mothers who come into the system pregnant can keep their infants with them in a segregated nursery ward. Before my roomates had a chance to comment I announced how happy I was to see this happening. They seemed surprised, their instinct that it was awful to be born behind bars and even worse to be kept there. It is true that the babies suffer the consequences of a crime they did not commit, and yet that would be the case regardless of whether they are with their mothers behind bars. The punishment outside would just be different, a sentence in the foster care system. I have long wanted to be a foster parent but not because I believe in the system’s efficacy. In fact it is the opposite. Much in the way that I am a free range cattle rancher and vegetarian because I believe in reforming from the inside, I want to be a foster parent because the current version is largely evil and unacceptable.
In many countries women are allowed to keep their children with them while they serve their time in prison. The Indian prison system lets women keep their children with them for the first five years. Since the women in India’s prisons are largely from the lowest castes, keeping their children with them could be preventing their starving on the streets. Indeed the life availbale to them inside may be preferable. It’s an imperfect solution to an unideal situation in any case but my sense is that it is better for the attachment needs of the child than seperating them from their mothers. Here in the States, Prison Nursery programs tend to feature resources and support for the mothers that can help prevent their recidivism and promote good parenting. I believe more resources should be put to early childhood concerns in general, behind bars and in the world at large.
The Quakers have created a comprehensive report on children in prison worldwide that examines all sides of the issue, if you can handle the twenty two pages….
As I have previously mentioned herein, one of my personal heroes, the late great Magda Gerber, founder of the RIE approach to childcare, said that Babies are Peacemakers. Well, the NY Times just keeps on backing that up. In another article they show how babies help us treat one another better. An amazing Canadian program called Roots, uses classroom visits by a mother and infant to help children develop empathy. Having the baby around had a marked effect on bullies, who perhaps had a chance to leave that role behind and be gentle momentarily. Check it out at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/08/fighting-bullying-with-babies/
Because she knows I care about this sort of thing a former collegue of mine forwarded me the link to this insane article about a doctor at Cornell slicing off little girls clitorises and then testing them years later with vibrators while their parents watched. Talk about something that could mess a child up, lord almighty.
In another indication of the fucked up modern age my first reaction was OMG!, not “oh my god” but the literal letters, perhaps spurned by the medium by which I received this horrific news. I could not believe the ivy league was sponsoring this child molestation/mutilation and only felt better when I saw in the comments the amount of people pledging to do something about it and the contact info for the Doctor who’s doing all this. I’d hate to be his email inbox this monday morning. Jeez Louise and big apologies to the poor young ladies affected by all this…
In vaguely lighter news, I am amused by the upcoming reality series ” The Real L Word”. Another show about lesbians with no real butch characters. In this batch the butchest of the ladies looks about as butch as Jodie Foster, who kinda tries to pretend she’s straight. She’s rocking a shaggy bob with highlights and works in fashion. They couldn’t do better than that- for “Real” Lesbians? It’s silly. If I made a show about Lezzies i’d call it the B word and have it be all about Butch women for once. I’m a primarily straight girl but if I were to date a woman i’d want her to be a hot butch woman, not any of those ladies.
There are a million hot young urban lesbians in Los Angeles who could provide plenty of drama for the cameras, (i saw them at pride, loving and fighting both and was admittedly tempted) but this show isn’t that, it looks much more santa monica/malibu than downtown LA. It’s too bad really and i’m wondering who the target demographic for the show is- I never watched the first L Word because if I want to watch Lesbians all I need to do is go home and visit my family- no need for television- but since I plan to pitch something to LOGO evenetually about lesbians I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that meeting. “We need lots of real live lesbians from los angeles, but only hot femme ones that like other hot femme ones…yeah…but not like a porno right?”
“No, No not like a porno…”
They should have gone the direction of “Kim” from ANTM or skater chicks or something….
While chilling with one of my charges at the park, another nanny and I struck up a conversation. We’d met before and I knew she was studying to be a yoga teacher. I asked her how it was going. In her answer she mentioned an interaction between two new heores of mine; Margaret Mead and Moshe Feldenkrais. They are both very crush worthy individuals, if unfortunately dead. When the two of them met it was said that Mead observed to Feldenkrais that Balinese men “do all manner of complicated folk dancing, but cannot be taught or induced to hop from one leg to the other.”
Fendenkrais replied, “It sounds as if they are missing the stage of creeping.” At that point Meade metaphorically slapped her forehead: “Of course – no Balinese baby is allowed to touch the ground for the first ‘rice year’ (seven months), so they never have the opportunity to creep.”
It delighted me, this anecdote, because it combines ethnopediatrics, my obsession of the moment with Developmental Movement. The latter being the sequence of movement patterns that take a child from immobile to walking around. I spent many hours rolling around on the floor as part of my theater training in college. We progressed with excruciating slowness from the creeping stage to walking. Though moving through the evolutionary phases of movement (crawl like a lizard, now like a cat…) seemed at the time disconnected from the craft of acting and a waste of my and my folks hard earned cash, since then I have come to appreciate it. Perhaps it is due to the many hours I have spent observing the process in infants between then and now. One of my colleagues, at the Monessori program I worked at, left to work with people suffering from head traumas and emotional disturbances through developmental movement. The theory is that some of those traumas etc can be healed through resequencing folks through those early movement patterns. It’s called Developmental Movement Therapy. You can check it out at http://nwneuro.info
It’s pretty far out stuff. I think for now I will stick to nannying.
Working with babies is about the only practical blue collar thing that the experimental theater wing prepared me for. They love the weird faces and sounds I make and they remind me to keep in the moment, helping me simultaneously with my acting. It’s a great exchange. I sure do love when my quadrants of interest collide- Babies and Acting- Yay!!
I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again- no bodyguard like a baby. No seriously, and this time the New York Times agrees with me. In their recent article, check it out http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/03/science/03angi.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=babies&st=cse , they talk all about how babies bring out people’s best and best behaved sides. I know this is true because when I used to work as a nanny for a family of missionaries that had chosen to live amongst their flock in the ghetto of Oakland, CA, I found that having a baby with me made me feel much safer. It lessened the aggression of the men my age. The baby inspired positive interactions between myself and neighbors of all ages. People smile at you more when you have a baby. They assume there is no need to harass you or sell you drugs. The fact that the baby I had with me was of mixed race was even handier. It was like a bridge between me and the people of color around me at the time, like- hey she’s white but she can’t be all bad- she’s got a mixed baby with her. I personally totally recommend babies as bodyguards myself. Babies making the world safer. I am concerned however after reading that the cooperative mode of parenting is what distinguishes us from chimps that we are regressing. It basically says that trust is what modern society’s sucess is based in and we are losing it big time . People are getting way greedy with their babies, not letting other people even so much as look at them. I’ve worked for people who don’t even trust their family members as caregivers. I used to see this as an extension of the whole overprotective disaster minded parent but now I can tie it to de-evolution. Whoah… scary…. people share your babies please before its too late !!!! Also check out where I got the whole idea of peacemaking babies at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magda_Gerber