[guest post by Dana]
Just a reminder that the scolding nannies are alive and well, and wreaking a particularly annoying kind of havoc because they are so determined to help us become our best selves.
First, from an article titled “Why the way we teach kids table manners is actually kind of racist,” we immediately learn two things: we are eating our food incorrectly, and the word “racist” no longer has any meaning:
The message that eating food with your hands is unmannered is dripping with the control and shame of colonization — and we need to rethink our idea of “good manners,” says chef and food activist Joshna Maharaj.
Maharaj, who was born in South Africa to an Indian family, relates how her father taught her how to eat certain ethnic foods using their hands, while focusing on tidiness and efficiency. He also taught his children how to eat other foods using cutlery. She grew up believing that food eaten with one’s hands tasted better. In a multi-cultural family where different ethnic dishes are represented, this all makes perfect sense. However, Maharaj loses me when she gets out her judgey broad brush:
Recently, I chatted with someone who told me a story about her young niece, who goes to a prestigious preschool and was eating rice with her hands at lunchtime. The feedback her parents received was that this child needed to work on her table manners and use proper cutlery to eat. I immediately felt a rush of anger bubble up inside me when I heard this. The message that eating food with your hands is an unmannered way to eat is a real problem for me because it is dripping with the control and shame of colonization, which is particularly dangerous in an educational context. Suggesting that a child who eats with her hands has no manners is an echo of European colonial powers looking to tame the wildness out of the people they controlled. These European table manners were imposed on conquered people in an attempt to “civilize” them. It’s a damaging message about right and wrong ways to do things. It positions the technique as superior and the people who practise it as setters of the standard, leaving those with a different approach to eating with a status of inferiority. The idea of a single standard of acceptable table manners is just one of a host of strategies used to grow and promote racism. It’s a subtle message but one that is reinforced three times a day, every day, which makes it quite powerful.
God almighty, I just want to eat my waffle in peace!
Next, a judgy scold penalized the winner of a swim competition because, to the imbecile’s surprise and nobody else’s, the school-issued bathing suit exposed more of the swimmer’s curvier figure than the bodies of the leaner swimmers wearing the same regulated suit:
A 17-year-old swimmer from Anchorage, Alaska, was disqualified from a race that she won on Friday, because of what officials called a “uniform violation.” Though the teen wore a suit issued by her team at Dimond High School, in accordance with uniform regulations, and it matched the styles worn by her competitors, she was the only athlete who was disqualified. Why, you may ask? Because she was targeted for the way the suit fit her curvier, fuller-figured body.
The incident, which is currently under investigation, comes after more than a year of tensions over the fit of suits worn by athletes at youth swim meets in the state of Alaska.
While there are Federation guidelines concerning the styling of bathing suits worn during competition, they are clearly going to fit different body types differently. Welcome to Girl 101. This isn’t rocket science, especially as the rules are not evenly applied to all swimmers:
Although the swimsuit regulations are derived from guidelines written by the National Federation of State High School Associations, the way rules are enforced is determined by state-level sports association. The Federation’s uniform rules say that girls’ swimsuits should “cover the buttocks and breasts,” and presents a diagram that shows “appropriate and inappropriate” swimsuit coverage. (The Federation also issued a memorandum on swimsuits in August, which said that there was a “trend” of female swimmers wearing their suits inappropriately.)
However, some say that these rules are unclear, and that many female swimmers have at least part of their buttocks exposed. Swim team parents also argue it doesn’t make sense to penalize athletes (let alone inconsistently) when their uniforms shift as they are competing.
A swim coach at another school within the district that regularly competes with Diamond High, pointed out the obvious:
These young swimmers aren’t being punished for wearing their suits in scandalous or provocative ways, but rather, because their ample hips, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates. Some will argue this scandal has nothing to do with race. But the issue becomes glaring when officials are overheard acknowledging that white athletes are baring too much skin as well, yet they’ve never been disqualified for a similar violation.
It gets much worse for the young high school senior whose victory was stolen from her last week. This same girl was the subject of one rogue team parent’s photography project last season, in which they took graphic photos of her backside in her swimsuit — without her knowledge or consent — and circulated the images via email as evidence that her attire is immoral. She is a minor — that parent should be arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography.
Thankfully, smarter heads prevailed, and the Anchorage School District announced Tuesday that it is overturning the disqualification and reinstating the team’s lost points. The district has also removed the official’s certification, and will suspend the swimsuit coverage rule moving forward.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)