Two weeks ago, an Atlantic Beach theatre company received a complaint about their marquee. Seems they were playing "The Vagina Monologues", and some mom drove by with her ten-year-old, who asked, "Mom, what's a 'vagina'?" The mom, righteously indignant, called and complained.
The theatre company, in a fit of sardonic amusement, immediately changed the marquee to read "The Hoohaa Monologues".
(They did change it back a few days later, having made their point.)
Segue into the most recent news. The American Library Association's listserv has been plunged into ripe controversy. A discussion of the "10 most banned books"? Complaints about parental interference? Gossip about what happened at the Library Association meeting?
No. Librarians taking a stand. A strong, uncompromising stand. Against a book.
We can't have a child's book that mentions "scrotum" on the first page!
O, the horror!
OmegaDotter, cover your shell-like eyeballs, for fear that you will be corrupted by the eeeevul influences of the wuuurld!
Kozmik All forbid that your innocent child should be subjected to the word "vagina" while driving down the road. Or "scrotum" when opening the latest Newberry Award winning book.
Is "uterus" okay? I've been telling OD that babies grow in mommies' uteruses (uteri?). We do use play words--"dangly bits" are for boys, for instance. But we've slipped a "penis" in here and there. I'm afraid she's ruined for life now.
One of the things that bothers me most about this is that some librarians--those keepers of the gates against censorship--are refusing to buy this book (when librarians typically automatically order two copies of any Newberry book) for fear of complaints from parents. Because of one word. The story itself doesn't seem to be about anything too terribly controversial--a young girl is growing up and figuring out how to face the world. But these staunch preservers of liberty of the written word are flinching from hordes of imaginary angry parents before they even manifest themselves.
This is sad.
Are they worn down, tired of fighting? Are they just afraid? Will they refuse to answer a kid who comes up to the reference desk and asks about the word "scrotum"? What about "breast"?
And those angry parents--who, I am sure, will appear--Does having a knowledge of certain words act like gateway drugs? Knowing the word "scrotum" is going to lead, inevitably, to horrendous things like (gasp!) teh sex? Is there a magic age at which it's okay to know the word "scrotum"?
The funny thing is that, in context, I know exactly what this author is talking about:
“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”
It does sound medical...and secret...and important. It's not a sound that you encounter in the English language very often, which makes it even more interesting. It's just a neat word, plain and simple.
But, obviously, it's terribly, terribly dangerous in the hands of 10-year-olds.