Split Crotch Pants: China’s Environmentally Friendly Non-Diaper
About halfway into my long sojourn here in China, I met an ebullient young man who was on his second week. He kept telling me how great everything was in China, and this in the middle of a drawn out China Blues period for me, and it took everything I had not to “destroy something beautiful” just because I could. Instead, he turned me on to the light,
“Chinese are so plucky,” he said and I knew exactly what he meant by that. He reminded me of my first days here, before I heard the bitter sermons of long-time expats and disgusted Peace Corps volunteers. Before I endured day after day of trolling in a vast chat room I could never log out of. I never forgot what that red headed curly bearded hippy said before he took off for Yunnan, and I try to remember that initial feeling of wonder whenever I get trolled out here.
So it was with great pleasure that I received a request to write about Split Crotch Pants, a pretty common phenomenon in China, and one that every foreigner points out within a few weeks of being here. For those of you who do not know, Split Crotch Pants are what babies here wear – a pair of pants with a slit in them, so their little booties hang out – in place of (or in addition to) diapers.
Known as Kai Dang Ku (开裆裤), Split Crotch Pants- or Open Butt Pants, or Split Butt Pants, or Crotchless Pants – is an old style of potty training. Or just nonchalant ballz-out attire for the youngster on the go. I believe it works, both ways. There is science behind it, as well as a movement of sorts, Elimination Communication refers to the cues, or whistles, that help a baby realize that it’s time to go potty; and Diaper Free is a movement based on the idea that diapers are bad for the environment. Open Butt Pants fit into the Diaper Free movement as both an alternative to diapers, and an opportunity to practice Elimination Communication.
As a potty training device, I have seen it used thusly:
A toddler wobbles about with an older female relative hovering close by. The older relative keeps a sharp eye out for penis-tugging, butt cheek squeezing, or general finger-to-genitalia action. When spotted, the relative grabs the baby and pops a squat, with the babies chubby little legs resting on the relative’s thighs. The relative whistles. The baby squirms, whines a bit, and then pisses all over a lamp post, fire hydrant, or subway seat. Or all over Hong Kong.
Most of the time, in my observations, the relative will instigate peeing or pooping, by grabbing the toddler, popping the squat, and whistling or Ssssssing softly. It is a well-known fact all across China that whistling/Ssssssing can cause bladder convulsions, which help babies urinate. This is totally true, and I urge you to ask the nearest Chinese person for confirmation. Or better yet, whistle around your Chinese buddy, and see what happens. The tone of the whistle is actually important: high pitched, constant, slight rise.
tweeeeeet tweeeeeeeeeeeet TWEEEEEEEEEEEEEET! (repeat as necessary)
It seems to me that Split Crotch Pants and whistling go hand in hand.
The upwardly mobile are a little bit embarrassed of Split Crotch Pants, but most people in China still use them. As long as the older generation is around, we will be seeing baby butts and baby poo all over our fair city’s parks and grassy knolls. Diapers are a lot more prevalent than they used to be, but I personally think that diapers are grubby and dirty. My boys wore diapers for the first two years, and it wasn’t horrible – in fact extremely convenient and not that nasty to clean up really – but I am glad that’s over. Kids should be free balling at all times.
I am in favor of Split Crotch Pants, but with reservations.
Here are the common criticisms:
1) Dirty. Kids squat in dirt, and get mud and garbage and what not all up in their private parts. Nothing good about this that anyone can think of, especially for girls.
2) Dirty. Kids drop pee and poop pretty much wherever (and whenever) they please, because they can. Mainland Chinese are starting to sneer at this practice, but it’s still very common. Hell, my boys piss on trees and the backs of park benches all the time. They’re kids.
3) Psychologically suspect. Kids who have their genitalia bared for the world to see may develop some weird side effects mentally. I have done zero research on this idea, and I believe the people who bring this up haven’t either. It’s just adults projecting.
4) Backwards. I hear some people just grumble about the practice because it’s associated with the older generation, and all of their ideas about upbringing, which are under a bit of an assault among certain circles of society.
But in general, I see a lot of babies under two wearing Split Crotch Pants. It’s considered convenient and healthy for boys (free balling = good; tightey-whiteys = bad). Most Ayis will know all about the whistling and the squat position with a baby on the thighs, and I have to say, babies with Split Crotch Pants seem to understand the idea of pissing and pooping a little better than diaper babies. This is due, in my opinion, to a conscious recognition of the act, reinforced by a standard position and procedure, whereas diaper babies are encouraged in a way to just let loose whenever.
Ironic, in a way, because Split Crotch Pants detractors sometimes say that babies with their butt hanging out in the wind are encouraged to do the same thing. In my experience, babies don’t need any encouragement to drop some poop or pee.
What do you think? Are Open Butt Pants dirty or awesome? Let us know in the comments below.