Monday, September 20, 2010

What is the Opposite of Clean? Part II

You've probably heard that Laurie Halse Anderson's groundbreaking, life-saving book SPEAK is under attack again by a man who claims the content is pornographic because apparently all sex, even if its rape, is.

And you've probably read lots of blog entries defending Laurie's book and all books that deal with rape and other realities Mr. Wesley Scroggins would like us to pretend don't exist.

These entries have all been incredibly moving. But the one that is pressing most against my heart is Sandra Mitchel's post in which she heartbreakenly explains:

"And as I walked home, I cried- not because this man had just raped me. I cried because I was embarrassed, because I knew better than to talk to strangers, because it was my fault he did this dirty thing to me. I wasn’t going to tell my mother."

Can you imagine how a seven-year old girl came to the conclusion that what happened to her was dirty?

Ask Mr. Wesley Scroggins.

Ask the book banners.

Instead of thinking what happened to her was an act of horrific violence, her thought was that it was dirty. And she wasn't going to tell her parents it happened.

Three years ago, I wrote a post here called, What is the Opposite of Clean?" There was a great discussion in the comments.

I wonder if it's time to have it again.

I know the people who make "CLEAN BOOKS" lists are well intentioned. This is not an attack or accusation. It's a plea for all of us to think about the potential power of our words.

Couldn't we think of a better, more accurate term to describe books that don't contain sex or swears? Because I am very worried that the message, whether intended or not, is that any book that does not fall in this category contains something dirty. So it must be bad. It must be wrong.

And I wonder how that makes the 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 who have been sexually assaulted* and see these classifications in her school or public library feel about the secret she's keeping right now.

The opposite of clean is dirty.

When we hold books up because they are "clean" we're implying that there must be something wrong with or bad about the other books. And what does that tell these girls? There must be something wrong with or bad about you.

Words are powerful. Mr. Scroggins shows us that. Laurie Halse Anderson shows us that. And Sandra Mitchell shows us that.

Why can't we just call these books "sex-free" or "swear-free"?

Why can't we just be honest?

Thanks for listening.


Monday Morning Warm-Up: Speak

*Statistics gathered from

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