Words Matter


Libby Anne has a great post on spanking. It deals with the idea of defending the practice and how problematic that can be. I highly recommend you read it; it’s a great post.

But it shouldn’t be a debate at all because it’s founded on a weak argument. We have science proving that spanking isn’t productive or helpful. Then there’s the cognitive dissonance end of it. As Libby Anne puts it:

The truth is that there is no one agreed-upon definition for spanking. Everyone means something slightly different, and that lack of clarity is dangerous.

The term is nebulous at best and at worst, you start thinking that this sort of abuse is absolutely normal. Remember: I was 14 and I was choked by my mother. When I heard, over a decade later, that a woman in Wisconsin was going to jail for child abuse because she had choked her own child, I was stunned. I didn’t see it as abuse. Prime had to tell me that yes, being choked was abusive behavior.

Consider a child who is beaten regularly, but their parents use the term “spank” to describe the punishment. When that child hears other children say that they are spanked too, or hears an adult say that spanking is legal, what are they to think?

They will think that this is normal, that this is present in every household in America. They simply won’t see it as being abused. I know this through personal experience.

I saw being choked by a parent as normal. Think about that for a good, long moment. I was outright assaulted, but I didn’t see it as assault. Even worse? If I confronted my mother about this, I know she’d either deny it or downplay it. She didn’t actually hurt me, she would say. It was just discipline gone wrong. It couldn’t be abuse, because she wasn’t abusive; she actually loved me.

But every abuser “loves” their victim. No abuser sees what they are doing as abuse. They will defend their actions, because they see nothing wrong with them, because something similar happened to them but they turned out all right. Or to put it a better way:

I’ve often heard advocates of corporal punishment say that beating a child is wrong, but spanking is good and productive. When one parent’s beating is another parent’s spanking, this is unhelpful. Until we find a way to better define the term—and more universally define it—any defense of “spanking” has the potential to create serious collateral damage.

You may know what you mean when you say “spank.” But does everyone else?

Words matter. Definitions matter. Remember that.

About Silverwynde

I'm a Transformers fan, Pokémon player, Brewers fan and all-out general nerd. I rescue abandoned Golett, collect as many Bumblebee decoys and figures as I can find and I've attended every BotCon--official and non--since 1999. I'm also happily married to a fellow Transfan named Prime and we were both owned by a very intelligent half-Siamese cat, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge on June 16, 2018. We still miss him. But we're now the acting staff of a Maine Coon kitty named Lulu, who pretty much rules the house. Not that we're complaining about that.
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