Much noise is being made today about Alana Thompson (a.k.a. Honey Boo Boo)’s family’s child rearing techniques. Specifically: the fact that Alana’s half-sister Lauryn (a.k.a. “Pumpkin“) was photographed giving her baby niece Kaitlyn a taste of Mountain Dew on her pacifier. This is obviously not what you’re supposed to do with a baby, but before you form a lynch mob outside her double wide, here are some things you might consider.
First of all, Pumpkin is 12 years old, and kind of a naughty little weirdo. 17-year-old Anna, the baby’s mom, is not the one who did it. Looking at the pictures, I’m not even sure she was aware it was happening at the time. Should she have handed the baby off to her 12-year-old sister? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s not like it was a grown up giving her the stuff.
That said, this family is hardly a paragon of health. “Mama” June Shannon is already infamous for giving Alana (age 6) a “go go juice” concoction to help pep her up for her pageant competitions. She obviously is not aware of the general medical consensus on the issue, which is that too much caffeine can give a child neurological or cardiovascular problems. Do you really think she’d do that to her kid on purpose? But if you’re going to get mad at this family for giving a baby a taste of Mountain Dew on a pacifier, or even some go go juice before a pageant, you’re kind of missing the point. Being raised on the Standard American Diet (SAD) of white carbs, fats, sugars, hormone-laden meat, and preservatives does far more harm to a child’s health than whatever microscopic amount of soda Kaitlyn ingested. But unlike some of my more conservative friends, I’m not willing to blame the family for this.
Like many mothers living somewhere near the poverty line, June Shannon is doing her best with limited resources. Her primary concern is making sure her kids don’t go hungry; health is secondary. Unfortunately, the way the system is currently set up, millions of dollars are spent each year by mega-corporations to make unhealthy foods artificially cheap and appealing to those most vulnerable to this type of economic coercion. Fresh fruits and veggies are not sold at the food auctions June goes to, nor are they the focus of the coupons she collects. Is it possible to feed a family healthily on the cheap? Sure, but it requires knowledge June probably lacks. And even once you gain that knowledge, it’s incredibly hard to break out of a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits when your tastebuds were trained, from a very young age, to want crap and only crap. Given all the other challenges facing poor families, “eating the healthiest food possible” is often viewed as the luxury it has become.
Of course, it’s hard to write about how this family is oppressed by poverty without sounding condescending (which is something I want to avoid). But the fact is, they are. It’s not because they’re not naturally smart or wonderful or loving people (i.e. what I focused on in my last post about them). It’s simply the culture they were raised in. Viewing their redneck lifestyle as a choice is an easy way to ignore the huge fucking problems caused by a system based on inequality and exploitation. Someone’s always going to get the short end of the stick.
In the end, I think it’s possible to be charmed by the way this family sticks together, makes the most of what they have, refuses to be ashamed, and generally has tons of fun at the same time that you hate the larger forces that gave them so little to begin with. If you’re upset about the poor eating habits of this family, take it to the streets, the voting booth, the volunteer program, or all of the above. But don’t get mad at a 12-year-old named Pumpkin unless you’re willing to arm her with age appropriate information and grocery money.
(Via The Daily Mail)