WRITTEN BY CHARLES CALOIA
Queens-based columnist/humorist Lenore Skenazy spoke at St. Francis January 26th, the first speaker of SFC’s Spring ’16 Lecture Series.
Skenazy had gained considerable notoriety in recent years over an incident in allowing her then 9-year-old son to ride the subway alone in 2008. After being publicized by outlets including NBC’s Today and the NY Daily News as “America’s Worst Mom,” she led multiple initiatives in youth rights and modern parenthood.
Some of these initiatives include her book and blog, both entitled Free-Range Kids, Brooklyn Paper editorial column “Rhymes With Crazy”, Discovery Life reality show World’s Worst Mom, and multiple publicity stunts.
Having previously spoken at SFC in September 2014, this lecture covered her opinions of modern parenting and the media’s influence: looking to the “Stranger Danger” phenomenon of recent decades, relating to the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz and 1981 murder of Adam Walsh.
On the matter, she said that “The working assumption back [in the late 70’s] was that it was some lovelorn lady…took [a child] to raise as her own. That’s how far we were from thinking of things in terms of an abduction.” She added that “the first time people heard the idea of a ‘predator,’ it was like a match to a gas tank.”
Through her Free-Range Kids blog, Skenazy noted how blogging can “Become a gathering place for your movement…everyone who is interested in the topic of overprotection…has a place to come.”
Alongside her blogging and journalism, Skenazy’s publicity stunts are intended to be “Fun. I think it should be something immediately understandable to the public and just…amuse the press.”
Some of her stunts included “Take Your Children To The Park And Leave Them There Day,” and a $350 after school class near the Central Park playgrounds “I Won’t Supervise Your Kids.” The latter gained considerable attention to outlets as far away as Australia. She stated that “The point is that it’s a little bit of a wacky idea, and that’s what intrigued the press.”
One outlet she recalled was with Dr. Drew Pinsky of CNN’s Headline News (HLN); “Every time I’m on Dr. Drew, it’s always ‘Lenore and the mother of a murdered child.’ You can be like Lenore, and have your child murdered, or not…”
These views on children also lend themselves to modern feminism; in being asked her views of the idiom “women and children first,” saying that “While the men were out fighting [the Second World War, women] were ‘Rosie The Riveter,’… we were running the factories. Then, suddenly, we’re ‘incapable’ of that, and it’s ‘too dangerous’ and ‘too harsh’.”
She invokes a similar view in children’s treatment today: “You were outside? Looking for your friends in the park? Was your mother always with you? [to resounding ‘no’s’] Somehow it was fine for that generation, but this generation can’t do it: ‘it’s too dangerous’, it’s too much for them,’ ‘there’s predators,’ ‘they might be bullied,’ ‘their feelings might be hurt.’ So, I feel it’s the same load of shit being told to kids that used to be told to women.”