Ramona Quimby Is Not A Role Model

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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31 Responses

  1. Dark Matter says:

    CS Lewis cutting the eldest Pevensie, Susan, out of heaven for liking lipsticks and nylons,

    Yeah, I didn’t like that either.

    Those books haven’t aged well for me. The first time I read them I was young enough that I didn’t catch the religious aspects but now they grate on me.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Dark Matter says:

      For a counterpoint, see here. It’s still a Christian allegory, of course, but the message here is much more complex than “If you like makeup you can’t go to heaven.”Report

      • His story The Shoddy Lands, which drags a woman who wears makeup and has a suntan (complete with tan lines) as superficial and awful, argues for the simpler interpretation.Report

      • Yeah, I’m aware it’s more complicated in Narnia, that was a shorthand way of addressing that theme present in a lot of things by giving the most well-known example.

        It was that it was presented as UNFORGIVABLE. They just are like “welp, moving on, too bad about Susan, anyhoo”. Edmund betrayed them because he wanted some candy and attention, ended up getting Aslan killed, etc and he was worthy of redemption. Susan? Susan who?Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    I’m not necessarily a born rule follower, although I’m pretty far from a rebel to, but I generally can’t stand how society praises the proudly dysfunctional while also expecting people just going about their lives quiety and trying to do their best to come and help them with perfect charity when they wild mess things up. They might have made your life miserable and snickered and sneered at you for not being a rebel like they were but they cry loudly to come out and help them when they mess up. Meanwhile, you scream at in pain and they snicker and sneer at your misfortune. God damn them.Report

  3. InMD says:

    It’s always interesting which books stick with us from childhood. I know I read Henry Huggins and generally recall reading several Ramona books and the Mouse and the Motorcycle at school but have no recollection of the plots of any of them.

    Regarding the way others look back on these things I’m always hesitant to be too judgmental. After all no one really knows what aspect of some piece of art moved another. But I also hear you on the projection of present culture into the past. No matter how important something from the 3rd grade reading list was to a child (and they may well have been very, very important!) I find it hard to believe they perceived the book the way a politically loaded adult retrospective suggests they did. Kids just aren’t like that.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to InMD says:

      I think it comes from a steady diet of “YA literature” that’s more like “adult literature written childishly”, where no character is *just* a character but is instead a metaphorical construct meant to communicate whatever idea the author thinks is important…Report

      • InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Agreed and I certainly have my thoughts on the shoehorning of ‘adult’ ideas into the framework of childrens’ stories. I think it ends up being lost on the kids and patronizing to the adults. But there are bazillions of dollars and a seemingly endless supply of people rabidly into it so what do I know?Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

      None of the Cleary books stuck with me, but The Outsiders did. And Jane Yolan’s Pit Dragon books did.Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    I remember how when Ramona showed up in the other characters’ books she was just a straight-up brat, and there was no sympathy in her portrayal.

    I also remember that I read “Harriet The Spy” and “Sport” about the same time as I was reading the Ramona books and Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing, and my confused kid brain decided that they were all part of the same “series”. Probably because the other big thing for readers of that age is ghostwritten pulp series, and so that was my only concept of how fiction worked.Report

  5. fillyjonk says:

    maybe THAT’S why I preferred the Mouse and the Motorcycle books to the Ramona books? I was DEFINITELY a rule follower (and a teacher’s pet, though I would argue now that was self defense: the other kids were going to hate me anyway so I needed SOMEONE at school who seemed to be on my side).

    But yeah, I get a bit weary of “rebellion for the sake of rebellion.” There are times when rules are unjust and you should either try to work within the system to change them (my preference) or flout them if you have to, but being anti-rules as a reflexive position…..well, it’s like that guy who’s ALWAYS a “contrarian” online, you (me) just get tired of interacting with him and put him on mute.

    And also what Lee said about the frustration with the rule-breakers when things go badly for them, and they come running to those of us still working within the system to fix their screw ups. I’ve seen that too.

    Funny, I remember LOVING “My Side of the Mountain” as a kid, and that was pretty much one long rule-break. So I don’t know. Then again I may have loved that book because it was someone being purely independent and getting away from other people who told him he could not do the thing he knew he could?Report

  6. Rufus F. says:

    Ramona wasn’t really my jam either, but I loved anything to do with Ralph S. Mouse and thought the Ramona books were entertaining enough. I think what really works with Beverly Cleary books is the children’s books that came before her tend to read like adults writing the ideal child as a good example for young readers. Hence, they’re treacly and syrupy and ever so good! Blech!

    Clearly showed how kids struggle to grow up and fit in and it’s not always easy. So, naturally, we loved her books and never got through the ones that tried to make us ever so good.Report

  7. I know I read Beverly Cleary as a child, because the names all ring a bell, but I don’t remember anything about her books. (I was going to say “except for The Four-Story Mistake, but it turns out that wasn’t hers.)Report

  8. Pat says:

    “Some girls are some things inherently, and it’s a shame that we cannot celebrate the Ramonas of the world without tearing down a different subset of girls instead. Because the world is a lot more beautiful a place with every flower blooming in its own unique way.”

    This is true, and yet it is also true that we seemingly cannot celebrate the Beezus without tearing down the Ramonas.Report

    • Kristin Devine in reply to Pat says:

      No, I don’t think so. I don’t believe that. I know that’s the official story, but the reality was different. We had decades, decades of culture where there were elegant graceful women, and scrappy brave women, and tomboyish girls who could handle themselves, and saucy MaeWestian women, and the existence of one of them didn’t negate the others. These avatars were able to mutually coexist in relative harmony.

      History did not start in 1950 or 1960 or 1970. It simply didn’t, and it’s a lie told by people who have some ulterior motive I can’t begin to guess at, but it involves imposing this one right way to being a human being that is far more heavy handed than the Christian busybodies at their worst.Report

      • North in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        Not to poke too much fun but I don’t think any of the waves of feminism nor any of the woketariate have managed to organize a witch burning/drowning/etc nor have they launched any actual inquisitions (though admissibly if they did no-one would expect it).Report

        • Kristin Devine in reply to North says:

          Please stop going back to the Middle Ages to find damning evidence to mock and dismiss me, when I am writing about pop culture that transpired in the 20th century. The Middle Ages sucked across all the cultures of the world for reasons that have nothing to do with fiction in the here and ow. It’s intellectually dishonest and is basically a “you beat your wife, don’t you” type of argument.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I’m pretty sure that Disney Princess culture (TM) is celebrating the Beezus of the world. At least in part since the gorgeous princess dresses are part of Disney Princess culture even if they are less girlishly elegant than past models.

        This might be one of the things that are just an internet problem that normal people really don’t deal with. You have lots of different people with some really contradictory ideas on a bunch of different subjects, in this conversation the relative merits of the girly girl and the tomboy and whether one or both are products of the Patriarchy (TM), and a lot of heat. Since the debate is entirely unresolvable because you aren’t going to get billions of women to do the same thing than the fight goes on.

        A similar fight is how heterosexual teenage sexuality is treated in girls in my side of the aisle at times. You both have outrage that girls are required to cover themselves up, which I think is more of relic of past outrages that just exists in undead format, as a sort of Patriarchal repression, and a seeming dread of teenage girls wasting their time with teenage boys rather than doing something ambitious.Report

        • Kristin Devine in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Lee, if you’ll reread my comment above I said “in relative harmony”. Always, society is trying to impose rules on people. It is thus and ever more shall be. That this happened in the past doesn’t justify doing it now.

          You coming up with one piece of evidence that purports to prove something (Disney princesses across the decades are far more complicated than you appear to realize, for a start) does not negate my overall point, which was to point out that actually, there used to be a lot of different types of girls in children’s literature and that has gone away in favor of morality plays that in their own way are just as limiting a vision as anything that came before. We’re STILL imposing a top down vision of how little girls should behave. It’s still not great for anyone who doesn’t fit in that category.Report

  9. JS says:

    On a tangent: I don’t think either tattoos or blue hair are signs of “rebellion” anymore. Or piercings either.

    They’re just… a style. I mean sure it used to be punk or goth or super rebellious to have unnatural hair colors and tats and piercings anywhere but your earlobes (and then only for women) but now it’s….anyone.

    I mean I see grandma’s with pink hair and I watched a pair of 60+s get a tattoo with their best friends to commemorate 20+ years as trainers in a particularly difficult little area. I see guys with full sleeves and ear gauges teaching public school, and my boomer father-in-law is contemplating tattoos as cover-ups for his knee replacements.

    Tattoos which, ten years ago, he’d have rather died than get as he was almost morally opposed to it.

    I’m in my 40s. I’ve got a Master’s degree, pierced ears, painted nails, and considering bright green for my hair. I work for a sedate engineering firm. They don’t care, and I wouldn’t be the only one. I even interface directly with customers, and they don’t care either.

    I’m not rebelling against anything, except maybe mild boredom.Report