While I acknowledge that memes are often used to spread misinformation and to reinforce preexisting (and often completely wrong) ideas, I also think that they are just as often used to spark new ideas and make people challenge their own preconceived notions.
Such a thing happened to me today when I came across this meme on facebook.
Hmm, I thought, that is very interesting. On the one hand, I can see how some people might scoff at this as being overly sensitive, libby, and feeding into this general notion that modern-day parents don’t know how to raise respectful and polite children. On the other hand, I remember being a shy child (despite having grown into a woman with no boundaries or problems with physical contact) and how much I hated feeling like I had no agency and no choice over my body, how I dressed, my hair style, or any such matter. I remember how being forced into physical contact when I didn’t want it only increased my surliness, and how my avoidance of strange adults stemmed from the pressure I felt to behave contrarily to how I felt. I can imagine how taking the pressure off would have relaxed me and made me far less shy in adult company.
This meme got me thinking about how forcing children to be physically affectionate is just one of the many ways that we attempt to “civilize” children, and the cultural expectations surrounding physical contact*. It prompted me to read the description beneath the post, which brought me to the article posted on CNN that inspired the meme titled I don’t own my child’s body.
*By the way, I have been meaning for months to address the cultural differences about physical contact, as it was suggested by a reader and an interesting topic of discussion. I haven’t done it until now because I was trying to unpack what I was going to say about it in my own mind. I have now, so I will have that post up soon.
The article starts with her explanation as to why she does not force her daughter to hug or kiss anyone she doesn’t want to.