When my daughter obtained into Berenstain bears, it was all my fault. I remembered loving the collection, associating them with my old skool library and a selected consolation there. So I purchased her e-book after e-book when she was three. As I learn them together with her, she was fascinated. Right here had been books about actual struggles with household and pals. However I used to be horrified. I’m not the one one to precise the shock at how regressive these books learn (see Sara Petersen’s Washington Submit article about it) nowadays. And like others revisiting this childhood favourite, I too was capable of see little else in addition to the misogyny.
For these much less accustomed to the collection, right here’s a rundown: Mama Bear runs the home. Papa bear is totally inept as a guardian, oftentimes working in opposition to Mama Bear’s efforts to show the youngsters manners, or get them to cease consuming junk meals, or to chop again on TV. In reality, Papa Bear is commonly her largest problem. When she stops cleansing the home, fed up with nobody serving to her after which telling her she’s nagging them an excessive amount of, Papa Bear and the cubs let the home get so disgusting there are creepy crawlers within the bathtub and canine shit (“Little Girl’s Calling Playing cards”) in every single place. Don’t fear, all through this standoff, Mama Bear nonetheless vacuums “on occasion.”
In maybe what was an try and be progressive, the books make certain Mama has a job—however it solely lasts one e-book (operating a quilt store). She additionally runs for mayor, which additionally solely lasts one e-book. Each cases describe anxiousness and sacrifices on the a part of the household, which clearly they wouldn’t need to make if Mama stayed residence.
Not solely are the gender dynamics cringe-worthy, however there are different points to choose on too. Most of the books appear to worth conformity above all else. “The Berenstain Bears and The Messy Room” is an efficient instance of the tone of many of those books: a clear, well-behaved baby who will get good grades is extra necessary than the rest. And don’t even get me began on Too Tall, who my daughter had a hilarious crush on when she was three. He’s the “bully,” the dangerous child who additionally occurs to be clearly from a decrease socio-economic class—his household owns a junkyard.
And but regardless of all of those points, this collection was extensively standard in its day—and stays in our cultural creativeness. There’s even a reasonably substantial web conspiracy involving BerenstAin Bears and a hypothetical BerenstEin Bears as proof of a parallel realities and “The Mandela Impact,” (summarized effectively right here by Uncover Journal). And now, maybe unsurprisingly, there’s a meme on Reddit much more overtly racist than the e-book “The New Neighbors,” with the quilt edited in order that because the Bear household gazes at their new and completely different neighbors—a (cringe) panda household—on this model they put on masks. Whereas this meme is uncomfortable to say the least, I might be mendacity if I mentioned I hadn’t questioned what a Berenstain Bear e-book would appear to be in “these occasions,” as my daughter calls the times since we first went into lockdown for COVID-19.
The primary query I’ve questioned is, would Mama Bear need to persuade Papa Bear and the cubs to put on a masks? It’s doubtless that she wouldn’t. The values the e-book espoused are all about serving to your neighbor—”The Berenstain Bears Lend a Serving to Hand” options Mama Bear staying up late fretting concerning the cubs’ egocentric attitudes, to which Papa Bear snores in response and which ends in them serving to an aged neighbor clear her attic and host a storage sale. In “Berenstain Bears and The Hassle With Cash,” the cubs furiously earn cash and shock their Papa by giving it to him. Time and again the Bears be taught to place others and group first. So even when they aren’t progressive, I can’t imagine they’d be anti-maskers. So what would they be as much as?
My daughter, who’s now 5 and considerably an skilled within the Bears thinks that proper now “They’d simply quarantine within the tree home, order groceries and stuff.”
So let’s say she’s proper. Then “down a sunny dust highway, deep in bear nation,” Brother and Sister Bear are distant studying and Mama Bear is residence, reforming her children and Papa Bear, and naturally caring for Child Honey.
We are able to assume Papa Bear can be of no assist, in all probability telling the children they will skip distant studying, or turning the TV up in the course of their research.
We are able to additionally assume that she wouldn’t yell at her children to get on Zoom for sophistication, even when they had been crying as a result of they wished to do one thing else. They most probably wouldn’t cry anyway as a result of she would have taught them the enjoyment and worth of studying on-line. She would make certain her daughter was muted on Zoom earlier than she swore on the canine for the entire kindergarten to listen to. She wouldn’t burst into tears at digital Again-to-Faculty evening and need to cease her video for a minute as a result of She. Was. So. Overwhelmed.
She wouldn’t hoard bathroom paper, begin ingesting extra, or snarl at some “entitled prick” for parking in her driveway after which mansplaining her and not using a masks on.
However even good Mama Bear may get worn down. Absolutely, even Mama Bear has her limits (which in earlier books she has expressed via passive-aggression – like in “The Hassle with Chores”). She may begin grumbling. She may let the vacuuming go. Or retreat into her quilting.
As a result of the linchpin that might undo the white, center class, home bliss of the Berenstain Bears underneath the stress of those occasions is probably going the very factor that held them collectively: Mama Bear.
Girls have been disproportionately affected by COVID. And I’m not speaking concerning the virus, which truly barely favors males, however the giant wake the virus leaves in its path.
Girls misplaced virtually twice as many roles as males (1.eight occasions as doubtless as reported by the McKinsey International Institute).
The Washington Submit reviews that “[o]ne out of 4 ladies who reported changing into unemployed throughout the pandemic mentioned it was due to a scarcity of kid care — twice the speed amongst males.”
The Nationwide Bureau of Financial Analysis predicts a widening gender wage hole, favoring males, as an enduring impression of COVID-19.
Girls are additionally extra doubtless than males to be shouldering the burden of homeschooling and childcare. And plenty of are nonetheless working full time and attempting to assist youngsters be taught on-line. Which, talking from expertise, is a bit of like attempting to concurrently prepare dinner risotto and paint an actual copy of the Mona Lisa whereas additionally attempting to not sound like an fool on the cellphone to your colleagues.
So let’s think about a model of coronavirus Mama Bear, the place she stored her quilting enterprise up after “Mama’s New Job.” Maybe she needed to shut up store for 1 / 4 of the yr whereas nonetheless paying hire, or cut back her hours/clients to suit social distancing tips. She’s confused concerning the enterprise surviving.
Greatest case situation, she’s moved her quilting enterprise on-line and it’s booming as a result of we’re all caught at residence and crafting extra, so she is attempting to maintain up and work remotely, with Papa Bear hammering away within the storage at carpentry, additionally his home-based enterprise, and Honey Bear needing a snack, and Brother Bear needing assist as a result of he by chance closed the Seesaw app and may’t keep in mind his password, and Sister Bear crying as a result of she misses her pals and her trainer “muted me for no motive,” (actually, Sister, are you certain it wasn’t since you had been attempting to do present and inform along with your banjo in the course of math?), and now Papa is both shouting within the background or is asking for Mama Bear to come back and make him lunch as a result of he can’t keep in mind the place the kitchen is (actually fathers ought to in all probability be extra offended by Papa Bear than I’m by Mama Bear—he’s not even actually a functioning grownup), and What! Right here’s one other one in all Little Girl’s “calling playing cards.” Greatest case situation.
So yeah, I’m fairly certain whereas stay-at-home Mama Bear can be sad, working Mama Bear would lose her shit. And I’m not speaking “The Berenstain Bears and The Slumber Social gathering” lose her shit, whereby she lays into Sister for disrespecting Lizzie’s home by becoming a member of different cubs in a “popcorn-throwing, soda-squirting” wild celebration, I’m speaking burn-down-the- treehouse lose her shit.
And whereas it’s overdue and I need it for Mama Bear, this redemptive second, it additionally implies that on the Berenstain Bears household politic barometer, ladies are extra in bother than ever. And it’s the stress that worries me. I went to donate blood just lately and my blood strain, normally low, was up 30 factors. Whether or not Mama Bear is working or not, whether or not she’s misplaced her enterprise or attempting to make it work, whether or not she’s simply taking extra-long on that grocery choose as much as sneak a cigarette or she’s fully come undone, she’s underneath extra stress than she’s ever been underneath. As a result of whereas all ladies are reporting extra stress than males associated to coronavirus: “57% of moms vs. 32% of fathers say their psychological well being has gotten worse due to the pandemic.”
As a result of even earlier than the pandemic, we already knew Mama Bear was extra typical than not in how a lot of the home workload she shoulders, no matter her employment standing. (And maybe that’s why she’s so irritating, it feels near residence. Typically, actually, I ponder if the strain to be an ideal housewife is known as a relic of the 1950s, or if it’s simply moved to Pinterest.) Even earlier than COVID, ladies took on 3 times as a lot of the home workload, in line with the United Nations. Add to that worrying about your youngsters’s well being, schooling, and the long-term results of a drive-through celebration the place all of the mothers are crying—to not point out our personal well being and isolation in addition to that of our extra susceptible family members.
It’s so much. And it makes one surprise: Will probably be years earlier than all of the damaging results of this pandemic, financial and emotional, shake out, however the place will ladies be on the opposite facet of that? Apart from imagining a thicker glass ceiling as COVID will increase gender disparity within the office, we’re additionally trying on the damaging well being and social impacts of stress. And whereas Mama Bear and her cubs have all the time gave the impression to be lower of the “resilience” fabric, she’s by no means been via something like this earlier than.
None of us have.
So what ought to we do? Can we do something? Will Mama Bear survive?
I do need her to, I do. She tells us so much about ourselves, in any case. The place we’re going, and the place we’ve got been. However I believe if she’s going to make it she has to undertake some changes. So that is what I need to occur in “Berenstain Bears and The Coronavirus: Hassle within the Treehouse,” in plot abstract type:
After setting the sofa on hearth in a match of rage, Mama Bear decides it’s okay throughout a pandemic to let the rooms get messy, let the children’ grades slip, and for as soon as not fear about who’s studying what lesson. She and the cubs get a bit of foolish, they’ve tickle wars and purchase one thing impractical like a foosball desk. Mama Bear begins on-line yoga courses, and lets the cubs keep up a bit of later. She forgives herself for letting her children distant college of their pajamas. She asks Lizzie Bruin’s mother to fulfill for a espresso exterior, six ft aside, and lets herself cry in entrance of another person. She lastly says to the cubs: Let’s simply get via this. No must faux we’re good anymore. And he or she lastly, lastly takes that bonnet off. On this pleasant story about deciding to not give a fuck about Each. Single. Factor within the face of adversity, Mama lastly quits attempting to show somebody a lesson, and learns a lesson herself.
(Be aware: Papa Bear just isn’t on this one as a result of he virtually belongs in assisted dwelling. Mama Bear wants a associate she will depend on proper now, and “feigned incompetence” simply isn’t going to chop it in 2020.)
Now that’s a e-book I’d learn aloud to my daughter. Particularly in “these occasions.”
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