Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dear Prudence's Bad Advice

A while back Slate's advice columnist, Dear Prudence, gave some advice to a woman who was concerned about her baby niece living next to a pit bull. Prudie agreed that the situation sounded pretty unsafe to her, but then had to throw in a little gratitious slut-shaming.

SHe's just written a year-end column about the letters that got the most response...not that she was owning up to changing her mind about anything just that "isn't it interesting" that some of her columns riled people up.

Naturally I wasn't the only one who got upset about her response to the pit bull letter. She actually quoted my email to her, at least part of it.

Everyone got mad at me for my answer to Uneasy. She was writing because her 20-year-old sister—a single mother with a toddler—just moved in with a roommate who had a nervous pit bull. I said both baby and dog must be intensely supervised when together and otherwise separated to avert a tragedy. Pit-bull lovers said my answer maligned their loyal, loving breed. Pit-bull haters said I exonerated these malevolent dogs and sent me articles from around the country on pit-bull maulings. Single mothers and others were outraged by what they felt was a gratuitous slap when I said that since the mother of the toddler had her while still a teenager, that indicated she lacked an ability to understand the consequences of her actions. "The fact that she is 20 and a new mother and single is why she's not able to clearly see the danger. But you lost me the minute you basically called her a slut," one reader bristled. "Two years ago, the woman had sex. God forbid! If you ever have pre-marital sex, you could end up with an unexpected pregnancy. So what?" asked another.

No, I did not call her a "slut," and, yes, I agree she is too young to be a mother. The "So what?" is that it's a tragedy that so many young women with no education, prospects, or partner are raising children alone.
Prudie then and in her response to me at the time kept talking about "the consequences of [young women's] behavior" but never really spells out which is the behavior that needs watching. Is it having sex out of wedlock that is the sticky wicket or just getting pregnant? Here's the full part of the email I sent to Prudie.
It sounds to me the fact that she *is* 20 and a new mother and single is why she's not able to clearly see the danger. Maybe she's happy in the living situation and doesn't want to face up to the fact that she'd have to move because of the dog. There's a lot of "maybe's" and it's easy to see why a young, new mother might justify the dog saying "I don't see it as a problem." Especially if up until this point, it hasn't been. (I'm with you however, on the issue that she needs to move her child away from the dog. Other dogs can bite but pit bulls' bites are known as especially dangerous.)

But you lost me the minute you basically called her a slut in not-so-many-veiled words. Tsk, tsk, you young woman for having sex.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I have to side with Prudie on this- it's ridiculous that so many women throw their lives away just to have babies they don't even want. Not shame on her for having sex as a teenager, shame on her for not having an abortion, or if that is too "morally wrong" for them, giving it up for adoption.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes Prude CAN come off a bit judgmental without cause, but I am thoroughly grateful she takes a more opinionated stance on this topic. Women are destroying their lives (and the lives of the baby's father, who get's no say in an abortion) because they can't bear the thought of an abortion clinic.