What on earth are we teaching our little girls?

Somewhat surprisingly and entirely sweetly, Stumps’ favorite book is currently the Bible. Specifically a version she received as a gift called The Children’s Discovery Bible. She asks us to read stories from her Bible every night, and we are happy to do so.

I have blogged about this before, but for a little bit of background, I was raised by a Methodist-turned-atheist and a nonpracticing-Jew. When I fill out standardized forms, I am always slightly disappointed that there is no Religious Denomination checkbox for “Confused & Skeptical, but Optimistic.” I pray all the time; I believe in a benevolent Creator that loves all of us entirely flawed individuals like His or Her children… but beyond that I really have no clue. And I am okay with that.

Husband was raised Southern Baptist. Incidentally he is completely obsessed with the show “Ancient Aliens”, and says that he is pretty certain Jesus was one of our (apparently in Husband’s opinion, many) visitors from other galaxies. I am not entirely certain that he is kidding, either.

Anyway, all of that to say, we do whatever we can to support and indulge Stumps’ budding faith, in hopes that she will grow up to become at least slightly less jaded and cynical than we both apparently are.

Tonight, one of the Bible stories she chose was called “Esther Saves Her People”. The story, which I was mostly unfamiliar with before storytime this evening, tells the tale of a kind and beautiful young woman, Esther, who is pursued by and eventually married to an older King. Fair enough.

A murderer is on the loose in the kingdom and is intent on killing all of the nearby Jews. Genocide for a four year old? I am skeptical of what Stumps’ takeaways may be, but continue the story. Esther is tasked with informing the King, her husband, that the people are in danger. From this point, here is an excerpt of how the story progresses:

“Esther was afraid. She knew that even the queen couldn’t see the king whenever she wanted to. It was against the law for anyone to see the king without being invited. If he was unhappy that Esther came, the king could have her put to death.”

Wait a minute. What?

“Esther fixed her hair and put on her best dress. Then she headed off to see her husband, the king. King Xerxes was surprised to see his wife. ‘Esther looks lovely’, the king said to himself. ‘But why would she risk her life by coming to see me without being called?'”

Now I realize that I don’t know Aramaic. And I realize that this is is a story that has been translated countless times throughout the past two or three millenia, and then reworded for a children’s book. But what messages are we sending our little girls?!? That if you speak to your spouse out of turn, even if you fix your hair and makeup and ensure that you look attractive, pretty, and presentable as is a {insert very blatant eyeroll here} woman’s duty, he will have to use every ounce of his self-control not to kill you??

I just don’t think I can keep reading Stumps stories like this in clear conscience. My inner-feminist died a bit inside tonight while I finished the chapter. Tomorrow at bedtime we will read Maya Angelou poems, watch Oprah reruns, and learn about Hillary Clinton instead.

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2 thoughts on “What on earth are we teaching our little girls?

  1. I think you have to remember that the story took place in a different time and in a different historical context. That’s not the type of context a preschooler can really understand, If you actually look at a lot of the stuff in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, there’s all kinds of really sketchy stuff. Abraham being ready to kill his son because God tells him to? Not cool! “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands.” Ugh. Maybe the best thing you can do is follow up the story of Esther with this: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175742

  2. Yes I think the part that was hard for me to reconcile is how this is a Bible intended for 3-6 year olds, and they can’t possibly have a way to grasp the context of that time to understand much other than husbands can kill wives who think for themselves. It seems that it could be a little dangerous for such young girls to internallize such a story, but I do like hearing the other viewpoints on these stories and the messages that little children may take away from hearing them.

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