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Judy Blume: A Necessary Presence in Young Women’s Lives

May 13, 2009

Judy Blume

Yesterday I had the misfortune of reading “Blume 101,” an attack on Judy Blume and Planned Parenthood (PP) from the conservative site National Review Online. As a lifetime fan of Judy Blume and an advocate of PP, I decided it’d be best to cool down before attempting to write about it. But it’s a day later, and I’m still irritated.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, who penned this  rant about Judy Blume, the beloved author of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, Superfudge, Just as Long as We’re Together, and many more fantastic books, refers to Blume as an “unnecessary presence in children’s lives, as a substitute parent and cheerleader of that sex-ed-crazed culture that she served as a trailblazer of”—and is angry that in honor of Mother’s Day, Blume wrote a fundraising letter for PP. Lopez calls this “insulting.”

Lopez writes:

“I’m grateful for the Blume fundraising letter, though, because it highlights something busy parents and teachers all too often don’t realize: That book your child is reading is imparting values, and they might not be your own. ‘I first heard about sex from Judy Blume,’ a fortysomething mother of six told me immediately after I mentioned Blume’s name to her. Today, perhaps, that’s not the situation — Blume’s not the first time — our culture being as oversexualized as it is. But Blume remains an unnecessary presence in children’s lives, as a substitute parent and cheerleader of that sex-ed-crazed culture that she served as a trailblazer of. And a presence trusted adults put in children’s lives, as if issuing an Imprimatur, a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Though frequently thought of as the harmless author of Superfudge, that description fudges the reality of Judy Blume. Her books are hormone cheerleaders — as if adolescents’ bodies needed the help. In Forever, Blume is right where she was in her fundraising letter, praising a progressive grandmother whose only fault seems to be that she is so devoted to Planned Parenthood rallies that she doesn’t have time to help her granddaughter get contraception from that organization. Planned Parenthood does provide young Katherine the Pill, making a graphic first-time scene possible.

Next time you’re just happy your daughter or son is reading, consider that your child may be reading, “Can you spread your legs some more . . . and maybe raise them a little?” That’s in Forever, which is clearly a pre-teen or teen book (if that makes it better — I’m not so sure). Deenie, however, is for children on a fourth-grade reading level. Would you knowingly hand your third or fourth grader a guide to self-arousal? You are when you hand him Deenie.”

First off, I’m so tired of people misconstruing PP’s mission. Yes, it is an abortion provider, but if you think that’s entirely what PP is about, it’s time to educate yourself.

Has Lopez ever been to a PP clinic, I wonder? I highly doubt it. I went to PP for several years, and my wonderful mother, the same one who put fantastic books such as Deenie, Are You There God?, and Just as Long as We’re Together in my hands, was the one who brought me there for my first visit. And thank God she did, because there I was able to ask the questions about my sexual health that I was too embarrassed to discuss with her, learn about proper uses of birth control, and get good, important health care—without any judgment, ever.

PP also cares about women’s emotional health and overall well-being, providing  patients with information about abusive relationships and phone numbers for counseling centers and crisis lines if they suspect a patient is having problems. I know this from my personal experiences at PP—something Lopez clearly has no knowledge of, since she reduces the organization to simply an abortion provider. She writes, “But a Mother’s Day fundraiser for the single biggest abortion provider in the United States (subsidized by your tax dollars) is insulting, most especially to the women who are suffering because they rejected motherhood and know they ended a life in the process.”

She really doesn’t get it. PP celebrates motherhood—and a young woman’s ability to have the knowledge needed to plan being a mother, safely, intelligently, and when she is ready.

It’s because of PP and books like Judy Blume’s that countless young women have learned to be comfortable with their bodies, that their feelings are normal, and that they have every right to access health care and education about their sexuality—no matter if they are poor, rich, white, black, 16-years-old or 45-years-old.

To call Blume’s books “hormone cheerleaders” is the insult, not Blume’s support of an important organization such as PP. And how dare you call Deenie merely a “guide to self-arousal,” Ms. Lopez? HAVE YOU EVEN READ IT? Well, I have, multiple times, and what I took from that book had nothing to do with self-arousal. Deenie is the story of a beautiful 13-year-old girl whose mother is pushing her toward a modeling career—until she is diagnosed with scoliosis, and has to wear a back brace for the next four years. Reading Deenie reinforced the values that my parents had already instilled in me—that there was more to a person than his or her outward appearance, and that the right kind of people would like me for my brain and my personality, not for my looks. THAT is what stuck with me from Deenie.

So back off, Lopez. And while you’re at it, why don’t you actually do some research and visit PP’s website? You’ll see that the home page features a link to information about Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, which includes information about safe sex, birth control, masturbation, and, yes, abstinence. It’s not a giant cheer for abortion. I think you need to read this, since you obviously are as misinformed as the teenagers who have been taught abstinence-only sexual education and that masturbating is dirty.

Better yet: Go to the library. Check out Judy Blume’s books. Read them.

  1. alsimoni permalink
    May 14, 2009 8:02 pm

    This is a fantastic post. Thank you – for reminding me of my days reading Judy Blume and for making a compelling, articulate argument on behalf of her, PP and all young women.

  2. Emily permalink*
    May 15, 2009 11:05 am

    Yeah I think I’ve read almost every Judy Blume book and this brings back memories of silent reading hour in lower school. I am proud that Blume spoke for Planned Parenthood and am insulted by Lopez’s post.

  3. Megan permalink
    May 19, 2009 5:07 am

    At the age of 27, the lessons I remember learning most from Judy Blume were things like not to be scared of getting your period, that it was normal and something to celebrate; and besides that, a good look at the insanity that can go on in preteen and teen girl relationships a couple years before I was in those situations myself. Sure I read her more sexual books as well, but the things she passes to girls (and in my case, prompted me to ask my mother questions so I was able to head into adolescence prepared) are far more important than worrying about your 10-year-old reading a sex scene.

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