Where did we go wrong? What happened in society that showing the human body in a children's book is suddenly being equated with pornography? In a children's book the image is simply being presented as a body, but in porn, the images are highly sexualized and portray adults in sexual acts or posed to invite a sexual gaze. In The Dirty Cowboy, a children's picture book by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex, a cowboy takes a bath (something that usually involves the removal of clothing, if I'm remembering correctly) and his dog, who no longer recognizes his smell, refuses to return his clothes. The book, therefore, contains images of a cowboy with no clothes on, though with his genitals and bum always covered by various objects, and is in no way sexualized. How these images are pornographic is beyond me! How did the human body become so disgusting to some parents? Are they trying to teach their kids that their bodies are something to be ashamed of? *sigh*
Because one parent felt that the book was inappropriate for her child, and because this parent decided the images were somehow pornographic in nature, the book was banned from two elementary schools in the Annville-Cleona School District. A recent article in the Lebanon Daily News had this to say:
The Annville-Cleona School Board's decision to remove an award-winning children's book from the district's elementary schools is "ridiculous," the book's author said.
Amy Timberlake, author of the "The Dirty Cowboy," said in a phone interview Friday that she was saddened to hear that her book was essentially banned from the district's two elementary schools.
"I just think it's ridiculous," Timberlake said. "It's sad that now if a child wants to check that book out, they're going to have to go ask their parents for their permission, which is going to involve the parents explaining why they have to get permission to read a story about a bath.
"They all take baths," she added. "They all remove their clothes to take baths. They're making a situation out of something that isn't really a situation."
Amy continues on her Blog:
Okay, so what if a parent doesn't think this book/this story is appropriate for their child? That's fine. Truly fine. I mean, the parent is the one that is raising the child. They're the one that knows the child and what that child can handle. If they can't handle it, don't let them check it out. Return the book. Whatever.
But banning a book about a bath gone awry? That's odd. But to call The Dirty Cowboy 'pornographic' is just downright wrong. It's a misapplication of verbiage. Does the library patron have access to a dictionary? Or has that been 'banned' too? (I gotta say I've never been so happy with the way those dictionary companies add new-fangled terminology willy-nilly.)
In a slightly more harsh, but also very true commentary on the situation, the Rogue Librarian Blog has this to say:
I pity the librarian. She gave the student the book because “the little guy is a cowboy fan, and I have provided him with other cowboy books in the library.” She did what librarians are supposed to do—connect readers with books they will enjoy. She praised the boy’s parents for taking an interest in what their son reads, but cautioned that their discomfort with the illustrations did not warrant removal of the book from the library. She spoke publicly that she opposed the challenge to the book. When the board voted unanimously to ban the book from the library, she walked out of the meeting room in protest. What the school board did with their unanimous decision is not just ban a book; they stripped the librarian of her professional authority. The board’s decision told parents that they are better qualified than a licensed professional to decide what should be in the library for their children to read. The school board effectively nullified the librarian’s professional education and experience.Even with all of this controversy (and actually, probably because of the controversy), the Lebanon Daily News notes that "Amazon.com sales of the book have shot up in the past 48 hours," since April 20, 2012.
I am disappointed, frustrated, and upset with the decision of the school board. What do they think they are trying to accomplish by taking this book out of the hands of children in their elementary schools? Do they seriously think children are so dumb that they would view this book as pornography? Or that they would somehow sexualize the story, and therefore make it something dirtier (excuse the pun) than it was meant to be? Do the parents of this child seriously believe that a book about a bath and some rather humorous consequences will actually negatively affect the development of their son? Let me just say this: Argh!!
Thanks for reading, and as always, please feel free to comment.