Letter Box


’Why make it
a gender thing?’

Editor of the Reformer:

Rain was coming down in buckets. My newborn baby was snoozing happily in the car seat beside my 5-year-old son. In addition to being convenient, a Happy Meal (my son’s first) seemed like a fun treat for such a dreary day. We pulled into the drive-through and heard the familiar "... May I take your order?" I ordered a cheeseburger Happy Meal and scanned the menu, contemplating chicken or beef options for myself. The speaker croaked, "Is the Happy Meal for a boy or a girl?"

I bristled. I believe dividing toys into boys’ and girls’ teaches sexism, and the natural progression of this idea is that there are also boys’ or girls’ jobs, roles, etc. -- not to mention how hurtful it can be to kids who don’t fit neatly into traditional gender stereotypes. But, to be fair, my son has nearly always gravitated toward the toys one would expect a little boy to play with. I silently talked myself down -- don’t get all huffy, this is a special treat and I don’t need to spoil it by lecturing a speaker. A line was forming behind me.

"Boy," I said. As that happy-shaped box passed through the window, my son saw the pictures on the side and exclaimed, "My Little Pony! YES!" I felt that sick feeling in my stomach well up again.

"Umm, hon, I don’t think it is going to have a My Little Pony in it."

"What?! Why?!"

Silence as I thought about how to tactfully handle this.

"It’s because you said ‘boy,’ isn’t it?" he said quietly.

"I’ll take it back. I’m sure they’d be happy to swap it for the other toy."

"That’s OK," he sighed. "It’s a robot thingy; not as good as a My Little Pony, but it’s still OK ... That is weird that McDonald’s thinks boys can’t play with My Little Ponies."

"Yeah, it is weird ... I’m sorry I just said ‘boy.’"

"It’s OK."

McDonald’s, I’m disappointed. Sure, my son goes to public school and is exposed to mainstream media; I’m not naïve enough to think that he doesn’t get this message elsewhere. But does it have to come from you, too? It wouldn’t take that much effort to simply ask if we’d prefer the Skylander or My Little Pony toy. Why make it a gender thing?

This is an open letter because although it can feel impossible to please everyone with so many "politically incorrect" hot-button topics, I hope that we can all keep trying. I hope that if more people feel encouraged to speak up -- or at least give some thought to your own words -- we can work together to make our community a more inclusive environment for everyone.

Lindsey Weaver,

Brattleboro, May 20

Student sounds off
on smoking

Editor of the Reformer:

As a concerned student, I feel smoking is really bad. I picked this topic because my mom, stepdad, brother, and a lot of other people in my family smoke, and I wanted to tell them why it’s bad.

According to Be Tobacco Free, "Smoking can harm nearly every organ in your body." This means smoking can harm most of the organs in your body. The chemicals in tobacco harm your blood cells and function of your heart." That means tobacco has a lot of chemicals that can damage your body. Smoking causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is a lung disease. Smoking can make it hard to breathe, and it’s very bad for your lungs.

According to Tri-County Cessation Center, "There are 4,000 chemicals and poisons in cigarettes." You would not eat anything that has 4,000 chemicals and poisons in it would you? So why would you smoke cigarettes? "Some chemicals in cigarettes are paint, ammonia, lighter fluid, rocket fuel, poisons, methane, and candle wax."

According to The Lung Association, "Nicotine is one of the main ingredients in tobacco." Nicotine is a powerful drug that speeds up the brain and central nervous system. Nicotine is what people get addicted to in cigarettes.

There are a lot of ways to quit smoking. According to HelpGuide," One of the best thing you can do to help yourself quit is to identify the things that make you want to smoke, including specific situations, activities, feelings, and people." According to Mayo Clinic, "Physical activities can help distract you from tobacco cravings, and reduce the intensity of cravings ... Take the edge off stress by practicing relaxation techniques. These include deep breathing, exercise, muscle relaxation, yoga, visualization, and massage ...."

A lot of people would say smoking is bad, but a lot also say it’s fine. According to Ash, "Over 25 percent of all deaths in the U.S. are from tobacco. ... One person dies dies every six seconds from a tobacco related disease, 10 people per minute." That means there are 1,440 deaths per day from people who smoke. According to Ash," more than 600,000 nonsmokers die each year from second-hand smoke worldwide."

One big problem about smoking is second-hand smoke. What you can do to stop second-hand smoke is don’t allow smoke in your home and car. If you are with someone who smokes, be as far away as possible. If you are going to a restaurant, or somewhere else, see if it’s smoke free.

In New York they raised the age to 21 to be able to buy cigarettes. I think every state should do that or make the age to buy cigarettes higher.

Tripling the tobacco tax globally could prevent 2,000,000 deaths each year.

I believe that people will start to get involved, and not smoke so we can prevent thousands of deaths each year. Thanks for reading my letter I really hope you take what i said into consideration and help people to stop smoking.

Tanner Root,

Academy School, April 21


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