Tiens, voilà une baffe

September 2001

Tiens, voilà une baffe. Maintenant tu sais pourquoi tu pleures,” more than one exasperated French mother has been known to say, as she slaps her whining child. “Here, now you’ve been slapped and know why you’re crying.” (In the United States we have expressions like, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”) If the slap is given, however, like as not what the child experiences—humiliation—has nothing to do with why he was crying in the first place and nothing to do with what he soon comes to feel: that he was hit much harder than he actually was; an exaggerated awareness of the surface of his body where he was struck; the nourishment of self-pity. In any case, the child neither has nor had any interest in why he was crying. This was the mother’s concern.

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