In defense of children

Cross-posted at Feministe.

I was going to have a different post for you today but it’s been one of those days where I keep getting my Outrage Button jabbed so I’m going to have to write about child rights instead.

This morning I woke up to a three year old who had just brushed her teeth and gotten herself dressed and packed her own bag for creche (her father was up with her and had made her breakfast, but she did the other stuff herself because she wanted to.) She woke me with a kiss and a good morning mama and then I put the kettle on and opened up Twitter, where I was confronted by #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom in trending topics.

You can check out the thread yourself, but I will say that these tweets could be loosely categorised as Intended as Gentle Humour (‘#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom Twilight’); Outright Bigotry (#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom speaking/#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom any public places I can’t stand their screaming); Violence and Abuse (#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom Everywhere except the gallows/#youngkidshouldbebannedfrom anywhere except a rusty cage); Slut Shaming (#youngkidshouldbebannedfrom wearing makeup/dressing slutty); Disdain and Erasure (#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom the word love they don’t even know what it means/#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom thinking they are grown); Parent Blaming (#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom going outside until their parents teach them manners/going anywhere if their parents can’t control them) to what amounted to Rape Threats and ‘Jokes’ about Sexual Abuse (I won’t quote those).

Now, I included the little preamble about my daughter this morning here for a reason. My reality is that I live with a child. My reality is that I parent a child. My reality is that this week, when my husband is home from work and I have paid child care arranged for hours I’m actually not doing paid work is an anomaly. I’m the primary carer for a small person. Excluding her from places excludes me. Saying she is less than human in any way (incapable of real love, not deserving of rights) erases what I do and belittles me, as well as her.

I don’t care about questioning anti-child bigotry only because I am a parent (it is certainly true that plenty of parents don’t really recognise that children are people) but also because I am a feminist. Misogyny and child hate are bound so closely together (partly because most primary carers are women so in practical terms excluding or vilifying children means excluding or vilifying women) that they feed each other. If you’re all for calling out misogyny, then anti-child bigotry ought to be on your list too.

The #youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom hashtag genuinely upset me, and not only because it included some violent, triggery stuff (although, making jokes about child abuse is on the same level as making rape jokes: that is, scores about a billion on the douchebag metre). It upset me because the bigotry was so blatant and yet it exists in a world where so many continue to deny that anti-child bigotry is A Thing. Substitute any group of people for the words ‘young kids’ in that hashtag and then tell me it’s not bigotry. Read through how many of the responses sound like stuff you’ve heard said about children and parents, even stuff you’ve heard said about children and parents on Feministe or other feminist sites, and tell me we don’t have a problem.

One of the issues is that children are so often erased in our culture. There are places you expect to see children (schools, playgrounds, maybe the supermarket, children’s books, movies and televison) and places you don’t expect to see them (a lot of other public spaces, as well as books, movies and television made for adults). And this means that many non-parents (and some parents) lack reminders that children are diverse, well-rounded, fully realised (though still growing and developing) people.

I’ve recently watched Season Four of The Wire (yeah, I’m really slow) and I found it particularly compelling because, unlike just about every other television series I’ve watched lately, it treated children and teenagers as characters in their own right. I had some pretty big misgivings about the potential for stereotypes (particularly with the ‘white teacher saves children of colour in rough school’ narrative) and there were many problematic elements (the ‘good’ mothers are white, and almost all of the mothers are blame-worthy) but on balance I think the show did a pretty good job of illuminating ways that systems like schools, welfare and foster care let children down, often precisely because children have no voices. ‘Kids don’t vote.’ But I don’t think that the (perhaps heavy-handed) political message was the most important aspect of the season’s treatment of kids. What mattered to me as a viewer was that they were there. They were interesting, they had personalities and internal conflicts and they were given some screen time in their own right.

More depictions of children and teenagers as individual human beings in popular culture won’t solve systemic problems like child abuse and neglect. But it would help, I think, if more of us asked why we don’t see children and teenagers in positive or at least nuanced portrayals in media that is meant for adult audiences. Why don’t we consider children to be fully realised characters, or their stories to be compelling?

What would also help make the world a better place for children (and ultimately adults) is if more people took it upon themselves to push against this insidious form of bigotry. You don’t have to be a parent to know that prejudice, hateful language, physical and sexual abuse and discrimination is not okay. And you don’t have to live with a three year old, as I do, to know that children are people. Those of us who care for children and practise feminist parenting could do with a little help on this one.

But the first step to dealing with a problem is acknowledging that you have one, right?

Take a step.

Further Reading:
Television’s Kid Problem by s.e. smith at this ain’t livin
Adult Privilege Checklist by anji at Mothers For Women’s Lib
The radical notion that children are people by me at Spilt Milk

(Comments closed for now at Feministe. Those of you who’ve seen past threads on this stuff know why. I’ll keep them open here though because I know some regular readers might have something to say.)

30 Comments

Filed under Feminism, Motherhood and Parenting

30 responses to “In defense of children

  1. Becki

    I’m not sure if I’m capable of being articulate about this subject at this late hour (almost 2am) but somewhere floating in my brain is a funny connection between this and the dismissal of YA and children’s books as not “real” literature and adults who read and appreciate YA and children’s books maybe being able to empathize with children better. I’m going to bookmark this to try and revisit tomorrow.

    In the meantime, as the aunt and secondary caregiver of an amazing, hilarious, smart 4 year old person, I appreciate you giving voice to my frustration over the dismissal of children and their need to interact with adult humans in all kinds of settings to learn things like limits and appropriate behaviors. We can’t hide children in a nursery until they finish puberty and then expect them to go forth into the world as well-rounded, competent individuals.

  2. T.A.

    Oh, Bravo, Spilt Milk!

    I got a bit depressed yesterday reading the comments on your previous post at Feministe, regarding the sidetracking that happened on the topic of banning kids from restaurants. What you’ve said above covers the problem nicely.

    I firmly believe that children are the most discriminated against group in our society. Even in the places where you expect to find small children; have you ever noticed how the majority of playgrounds (if they have toilets) have disabled toilets, but no toddler toilets? Now compare how often you see an adult in a wheelchair playing in the playground to how often you see a 1-4 year old playing in the playground, and explain to me why councils don’t think children’s loos are necessary?!

    But most importantly from the feminist perspective, as you said above, when you discriminate against children, you discriminate against their primary caregivers, who are almost always women.

    The commenters over at Feministe who thought it was okay to ban kids from restaurants seemed to essentially be saying that some parents think the world revolves around their child. To them I say, not at all. What we parents think is that it would be great to have a nice meal that we didn’t have to cook ourselves once in a while. As we can’t leave small children at home alone, that’s only possible if the kids go where we go! (Unless of course, we add $50-$100 or so to the cost of our meal by hiring a babysitter, which is unaffordable). Thus, if you ban the kids, you also ban the parents.

    • Azalea

      I was one of those posters from Feministe and I really hope this post goes through so that I may reply in defense of myself.

      I am a mother, a mother who ltierally almost died during pregnancya nd childbirth. My uterus has been recommended for hysterectomy as a result o me not aborting my pregnancies so that I can have those children. They literally mean more to me than anything or anyone else in this world.

      However, my point in that post was to say that when I go out (and as a primary caregiver it is RARE) without my childrne because I have carefully planend or negotiated a babysitter, I prefer to be able to spend adult time as the bulk of my time is mommy time. Someone commented about how being a parent means you NEVER EVER EVER get to go out and just be a woman without having the children right there by your side. When people say things like they MUST bring their child everywhere with them, well it kind of fuels that stereotype that parents “live,eat and breathe” their children.

      I adore my children I’d die for them but I’d also like to be able to eat a meal once in a while without them right there by my side but knowing they are ok and being taken care of by family or very very close friends. I am not saying if you can’t babysitter don’t go out but what is the point n taking a child to a restaurant that has no children’s menu, a dress code, strict rules on noise levels and is relatively expensive? What does your child learn from that, it is obviously a place that is adult oriented and will probably end your dinner before the meal gets out if common things occur lie your child getting restless or antsy or loud or excited and getting loud or tired and getting cranky.

    • Azalea, I don’t care whether you take YOUR kids to restaurants or not. For the record, I also enjoy a (very rare) meal out with other adults.

      If other people take their children, though? That’s their prerogative. If you can hear other children in public you are not automatically ‘parenting’. This is not the same as being on duty with your child day in, day out. Sometimes I need a break from my kid, or from the responsibilities of parenting. This does not entitle me to a break from the existence of children!

  3. Sonia

    A great post.

    I have a recent example of my 4 year old child being treated as a second-class citizen. I was dropping him off with his siblings at the local tennis club for the children’s holiday camp and he had the misfortune of standing in the doorway of the clubhouse just as a particularly aggresive woman, aged in her 70s, approached and slammed the sliding door into his body and then proceeded to yell “get out of the way!” at him. Needless to say, I took issue with her and got into quite an argument, during which she made it quite clear that children at the club were a jolly nuisance.

    It was a terrible thing to do to a child, but even worse because I was standing right there! She basically negated my right to be at the club too.

    I think ultimately it is an issue of tolerance (and bullying). Kids are not able to defend themselves against such attitudes and are receiving very bad examples of what it is to live in a community.

  4. Thank you for this. I surfed on over from feministe, because I was so happy to see your posts there. I will read your blog from now on! Now, to catch up on the archives …

  5. T.A. While I absolutely agree that children are discriminated against, your remarks about them being “the most discriminated against group in our society” are unsupportable. When was the last time I saw an adult on wheels in a playground? It’s every single time I accompany my kid to the playground, actually, on account of I use wheels – and very, very, very few playgrounds are actually accessible, with many having no paved paths, and almost none having a fall surface other than deep soft sand. Many supposedly “disabled toilets” are inaccessible to a variety of wheelchair users, and when was the last time you saw a change table that accommodates a person larger than toddler size? How many toddlers are excluded from shops and schools because they have “just one step”? I can’t even GET into my kid’s classroom on my wheels.

    Please learn a bit more about inaccessibility and disability discrimination before using us as your handy example of a group whose problems are all solved now.

  6. “Misogyny and child hate are bound so closely together (partly because most primary carers are women so in practical terms excluding or vilifying children means excluding or vilifying women) that they feed each other”

    In my opinion, misogyny and child hate are so closely together not because of what you wrote (ie: women), but because they are the results of the same authoritarian, hierarchical, patronizing, dismissive viewpoint that also incorporates other forms of prejudice and dehumanization. And this also answers your question:

    “More depictions of children and teenagers as individual human beings in popular culture won’t solve systemic problems like child abuse and neglect. But it would help, I think, if more of us asked why we don’t see children and teenagers in positive or at least nuanced portrayals in media that is meant for adult audiences. Why don’t we consider children to be fully realised characters, or their stories to be compelling?”

    “Substitute any group of people for the words ‘young kids’ in that hashtag and then tell me it’s not bigotry.”

    But, but. children are not adults, and so they have different rights, therefore it’s not bigotry to say they need “structure and discipline”. At least that’s what i read on last thread on feministe.

    Thanks for the article. I as kind of disappointed with the clusterfuck that the spanking thread was so i’m happy to see this on feministe.

  7. T.A.

    Lauredhel, I’m sorry if you feel somehow marginalised by my comment. However, I stand by what I said. Where I live, adults in wheelchairs are accommodated in playgrounds in so far as disabled toilet facilities are provided (where toilet facilities are provided at all). Child sized toilets are simply not. I am not suggesting that the disabled toilets should be removed, merely that it is amazing that children’s toilets are not provided. The fact that the disabled toilet facilities may be poorly designed for their purpose, or that the playground is difficult to access in a wheelchair doesn’t alter the fact that the basic needs of the little kids who are the primary users of the playground are not catered for. At all. Surely a poor attempt to cater for a group is less discriminating than no attempt to cater whatsoever.

    • T.A I have to say I agree with lauredhel. Parents, as well as children, are the primary users of public play spaces and disabled parents (and adults and children who use the space) need to be catered for. ‘Accommodations’ that can’t be used by disabled people are worse than useless. And lauredhel has made it pretty clear that accessibility problems are everywhere, even if it may appear that provisions have been made. Also, the last huge Feministe thread on children in restaurants, about a year ago, contained some pretty awful comments about people with disabilities in public spaces too, so I actually think there are some links between the failure to accommodate children and people with disabilities so it makes sense to address both of these forms of discrimination.

      I don’t think we need either/or here, there is no oppression Olympics.

    • T.A.

      Nowhere in my comments have I suggested that discrimination against disabled people does not exist, or should not be addressed. Of course it should! It was also never my intention to enter into an “opression olympics” as you call it.

      However, while there are loads of trolls in internet land who write horrible things, hate speech against disabled people is widely condemned by mainstream society. This is not the case for hate speech against children:

      “Children should be seen and not heard.”
      “Children should be banned from restaurants.”
      “Families with small children should be segregated on aeroplanes/banned from flying.”
      “If parents can’t control their children, they shouldn’t bring them out in public/be allowed to have them.”

      These sorts of comments are regularly made by mainstream commenters about children, and are considered acceptable. If you replace the word “children” in those sentences with any other group, you get a sentence that most decent civilised people would never consider uttering.

      People in wheelchairs definitely face a high level of passive discrimination in society in terms of efforts to cater to their needs being missing or inadequate. This problem also exists for children (sure they might be able to climb a step into a shop, but do they get special child sized cutlery, appropriate sized toilets, bathroom basins at the right height, supermarket/shop aisles wide enough for a pram, etc.), and I agree it’s probably pointless to argue who has it worse from that perspective, but I do think that the lack of appropriate child facilities in public places is more likely to go unnoticed.

      In addition to this, children are subject to overt mainstream bigotry and publicly acceptable hate speech. They can’t vote, and they have very little say, let alone control over what happens to them in their daily lives. I reiterate again, thankyou for your post, S.M.; I thought you covered the issue with great clarity. Hopefully you opened a few feminist eyes regarding why defence of women’s rights necessitates the defence of children as well.

  8. I know that kids rights activists – not unlike disability activists, actually – often face such an uphill battle when they suggest that they’re a marginalized group that it’s easy to wind up in oppression olympics territory. But I don’t there’s any way to win if we start suggesting or arguing about whose marginalization is worse. I think we can all agree that both disabled folks and young folks (and young and disabled folks!) are marginalized. There are so many transferable experiences across both being a kid and being physically disabled – such as other people feeling like it’s in your best interest if you have zero autonomy over your own body – or between being a kid and being psychiatrically disabled – such as other people feeling like it’s “responsible” to prevent your access to various parts of life, or like you’re incapable or undeserving of holding space on the same plane as everyone else, and they have no moral imperative to make it more accessible for you…anyway, I feel like the oppression olympics are a competition where we all lose.

    In other news, I’m so glad you’re writing about child & parent rights at Feministe, and I’m SO GLAD you are trying to prevent an offensive child-hating and mami-hating shitstorm like the one that was inflicted on Maia. (I do want to honour what she did in opening that door at Feministe and for being an early voice in bringing child and mami rights to a mainstream feminist venue like Feministe.)

  9. Matilda

    Thank you for your excellent posts as always! I really love to read your writing.

    I watch a lot of tv, too much probably. Mostly bad tv because there just isn’t that much “good” tv when you’re a feminist. And the lack of representation of children, not only as fully realised individuals, but also present in every aspect of the parent’s lives, is one of my regular rants.

    One show that I think did this well, as a pulpy mainstream show, was Medium (with Patricia Arquette). The children were just seemlessly part of the whole storyline and characters in their own right. I only watched intermittently but my favourite episode was the whole sub plot around the middle daughter Bridgette and the wearing of a bicycle helmet to photo day.

    I also think Parenthood does an okay job on the integration of children into all aspects – but then that is the whole premise of that show.

    Brothers and Sisters drives me batty though. We rarely see Calista Flockhart’s character’s child, even when she is at home as a single parent and, although a nanny has been alluded to, we never see that person at all.

    And then I watch a show like Mad Men in which young children are present and engaged in their own complex storylines.

    But I am also conflicted about this as I think the welfare of the child actors is also complex and difficult to balance. Should children be placed in this position of participating in sometimes confronting scenes for our entertainment?

  10. Thank you for a great post. It’s so awesome to see someone write so well, as you have been for some time, on these issues.

    Thanks also for pointing out the false rhetoric that this is a PARENT vs. NON-PARENT issue. Yeah, right. Plenty of parents enact our kyriarchal schema against children (their own and others’ children). Plenty of those without children have great ideas how to be inclusive, advocates, and to do the right thing. There’s a lot of ignorance and poor practices by all kinds of grownups, sadly.

    I think if anything parents are most likely to be the sole personages enacting oppressive institutions and behaviors, with regularity, upon children, and continuing the cycle (the fact most parents really do love their children does not negate these realities). I don’t especially blame the parents. In the so-called developed world these parent/carers are told their children are THEIR problem (as opposed to gifts, and our responsibility, to nurture – for all of us to nurture) and many parents will enact the same stuff they were raised with – or twisted permutations of the same. For me at least, it has taken a lot of work to start shedding this crap (if one wants to read way too much of what Kelly Hogaboom thinks and how it’s gone down for her, here’s Part 1 and a href=”http://underbellie.com/culture/part-2-tenderness/”>Part 2 – I will point out the links therein are great and if nothing else are worth investigation).

    Thanks so much for your writings.

    @Matilda
    Your expressed concerns are good ones; however a child raised and nurtured well who’s given agency and decision regarding acting will do beautifully. Don’t believe me, read Dakota Fanning’s own words with regards in participation of the 2007 film Hounddog.

    • I think if anything parents are most likely to be the sole personages enacting oppressive institutions and behaviors, with regularity, upon children,

      +1

      It’s parents who make financial decisions for the household without children’s input. It’s parents who decide a child will be raised in our outside a certain religious tradition without children’s input. It’s parents who beat children. It’s parents who try to control their children’s relationships and sexuality. It’s parents who imprison children.

      Sure, parents may be supported in all of the above violations of children’s rights by society at large, but that doesn’t mean parents aren’t performing the grunt work of oppression. Not all parents, obviously, and Spilt Milk is an honourable exception. But where children are being oppressed most of their parents are part of that oppression.

  11. I had a friend who didn’t have kids. She said she’d gone through a phase of wanting them but as her mid 30′s came and went, and no suitable partner arrived, she was without kids and happy with this decision. She was nice to my kids but she was very vocal about her own situation and how she didn’t want to be around kids. In our local cafe on a Saturday morning she would huff and puff when children were around and once, when a little boy barely bumped her as he ran past our table, she became visibly angry. Throughout our friendship she stated “I hate children” on several occassions and in the end, our friendship ended. I understand and support a person’s right to choose whether or not to have children, but I cannot support that kind of nastiness, especially not when I have children myself. What amazes me is that the people who can be so hateful about children seem to completely forget that they were once children too.

  12. I admit I went with that hash tag. I said, “#youngkidsshouldbebannedfrom working in coal mines; sexual situations in ads; seeing what jackholes grownup can be when they are elected to public office; etc …

  13. maja

    It is really sad that there are so many adults out there who resent children for acting like children. I see a lot of people who make more allowances for other adults acting out in the same way that kids do.

  14. I’m not going to be very articulate here, but simply need to say how completely you hit the nail on the head (again!) for me.

    My three children, like ALL children, are people. Not people in the making, or potential people, but people RIGHT NOW. Their lack of full physical and psychosocial maturity means that there are things they are still learning. It also means they do not behave as (some) adults behave in all circumstances. This does not, ipso facto, make their behaviour wrong or inappropriate; and where it does, it is my job as their parent to help them see where they need to adapt.

    Hashtags like this just make me sick to my stomach with the casual denigration and in some cases hatred of children and parents they convey.

  15. Pingback: Sharing the love « The Lady Garden

  16. > Why don’t we consider children to be fully realised
    > characters, or their stories to be compelling?

    Actually, I think we do. Some examples: Stand By Me, Sixth Sense, Harry Potter, Buffy or even E.T., and then there’s all the Disney fare that is meant to appeal to families. Perhaps the question is alternatively put – why do so few popular stories contain fully realized child characters?

    I wonder if it is more than children’s lives have less opportunity for the sort of drama that appeals to adults. This may explain why many of the examples above are from the fantasy/sci-fi genre where the everyday realities of children’s lives do not need to be a restriction.

  17. This is a topic that I think is so good, I have to comment twice.

    While you are principally discussing young children, it is a real injustice that all children are denied the ability to participate fully in our society. And further, that who is or is not a child is not an absolute, but is defined based on the location of the piece of dirt that a person happens to be standing on.

    In Australia, people (yes, people) who happen to be younger than 18 are denied the ability to vote, hold a driving license (in many states), take out a lease, buy a home, or have a minimum wage the same as an adult. It can be hardly argued that this is for their own good. It is clearly for the good of others, i.e. adults. I see arguments for maintaining the status quo here to be examples of anti-child bigotry.

    However, there are now economic and political interests that are best served by marginalizing children, and I wish I knew what simple steps I could take to help fix this. I’ve already written to my political representatives, but clearly that’s not enough.

  18. 11

    BRA-fucking-VO!
    Very well said. The hate and scorn that is directed against children is frightening and ugly. I have tried to wrap my mind around it, and write about it, but I continue to have a really difficult time even understanding how it perpetuates itself.
    There’s a project in here somewhere entitled “Children are Ruining My Life” wherein someone with more time than I can actually compile the multiple repetitive themes that people so relish chorusing on: loud children ruined my expensive dinner, the enormous stroller ruined my walk down the sidewalk, the brat behind me on the airplane ruined my flight…you know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever read the comments after any blog entry or article on parenting. It’s such a tired jukebox of issues that sometimes I think people are making it up and repeating something they’ve heard elsewhere verbatim, just to (finally!) be able to socially vent upon an acceptable group of underlings.
    Be all that as it may, what I tend to take personally is feminists behaving this way towards children. It strikes me as silly and ignorant to actually blame children for the predicament of women. Or to not want to associate with children or their issues because it is somehow “less feminist”. Why should intolerance towards children be some sort of feminist value?

  19. T.A. Your argument is coming across increasingly unsupportable and downright ignorant. You think that all “accessible” bathrooms actually are? That shop aisles accommodate PWD? I was in an “accessible” bathroom _this week_ that had a huge stand of toiletries sitting right next to the toilet, in the space where a wheelchair would need to be. I was in one shortly after with a sanitary napkin disposable device in the same place (now with bonus hip-pressing-up-against-it.) There are many restaurants with no accessible bathrooms at all. This is legal, and I see no outcry about that. I’m not just talking about a big toilet that needs parental assistance to use, as a toddler might encounter – I’m talking about tiny toilets up two flights of stairs.

    Aisles inaccesible to prams? I was in three or four shops YESTERDAY that I couldn’t get around without knocking over displays, and another – the most accessible bookshop in the centre – that required a five- or seven-point turn at every corner. I couldn’t wait in the hairdresser for my kid to get a haircut without obstructing the movement of the staff. Two shops I just had to nose into and holler for help – there was no way I could browse the shelves at all. The kerb ramp I need to go over is nowhere near code and has damaged my scooter repeatedly. This is the most accessible shopping centre for miles. My local post office is completely inaccessible. My local voting booth is inaccessible. My child’s classroom is inaccessible. And no one gives a crap about any of this.

    If you want to talk hate speech and abuse? Go read some of the archives at disabledfeminists.com. And get back to me. You _really_ need to educate yourself before saying that that sort of thing isn’t considered “acceptable”.

    And seriously, a lack of child-sized cutlery proves that child discrimination is acceptable where disability discrimination isn’t? When was the last time you ever, EVER saw adaptive cutlery for PWD in a restaurant? You think PWD aren’t excluded from flying? Have you read the news lately?

    Please educate yourself before handwaving about disability discrimination and accessibility. Please. Stop using our bodies and lives as your rhetorical device.

  20. Sorry, meant to add a bit: you also need to sit down and have a long hard think about intersectionality. For every issue you mention, the issue is compounded (sometimes insurmountably) if the child or parent of the child has a disability. Able-bodied parent encounters place they can’t get a pram into? They either pick the child up and move around the place freely, or they put the pram and child in sight and transact their business. If the parents cannot lift the child, or see the child, this problem becomes far larger; if the child is an unliftable large child with a disability, again, what happens? Places with aisles that are large enough for a pram – are they large enough for a child’s wheelchair (or a pram) with a service dog alongside?

    Are small toilets that are supposedly designed for children designed for all children – are they placed with space and handrails suitable for a child who uses a wheelchair to transfer and do their business? Eating places which do have child cutlery – and I’ve been to quite a few – do these places provide child-sized adaptive cutlery for children whose hands work differently?

    And people who think that children are “ok” so long as they’re quiet and “well-behaved” – have you ever got them talking about the issue of non-neurotypical children in public? How about on the issue of non-neurotypical _parents_? You’ll get yourself some handy hate speech then.

  21. T.A. – the similarities between the way children are excluded and dehumanised and the way people with disabilities are excluded and dehumanised are many, why are you invested in pitting the two groups against one another? There is enough shitty stuff going on to go around for everyone.

    • Absolutely, blue milk, I agree.

      T.A. I think that it’s really important to listen to and validate people’s lived experiences, and lauredhel has shared some of hers here.

      What has been extremely frustrating to me when trying to talk about the issue of child rights in feminist spaces is the way that some (by no means all) people without children are very dismissive of the barriers and difficulties that parents and their kids can face out and about in the world. They simply don’t even believe it matters. I sense your utter frustration with facing what is, in a sense, a loss of privilege, at least in the public sphere. (I think often it isn’t until you have a child that you realise how much mothers need feminism to be for us, too!). But it’s important to remember that many people have other reasons to be frustrated — and some, like lauredhel, experience more than one of these types of discrimination.

      I’m obviously completely on board with your assertion that feminists need to care — and care a LOT — about discrimination against children, for sure! (And I thank you for your support of my blog, too). But I also know from the time I’ve spent around the blogosphere that there are plenty of feminists who need to learn more about discrimination against people with disabilities (and fat people, and et cetera) as well. I don’t think it’s necessary for anyone to ‘win’ the prize for getting the shittiest treatment — I suspect you’ve invoked the analogy of disability with only good intentions but it’s not really an appropriate one.

      One thing that I find really useful about validating the lived experience of others is that it opens up new spaces for solidarity. Saying ‘that’s so shitty, and I know it’s shitty because I have an experience of shitty which, though different, helps me to know what shitty can feel like’ is an approach I try to take. It’s about building community and supporting others in their activism, which is important to me, personally, in terms of my feminism.

      I’m really aware that despite all the crap thrown my way as a mother, I have a lot of privilege too — I’m white, I’m able-bodied, I’m married, I have economic security etc. Not being able to take my child to a cafe without risking stares and ill-treatment or even being asked to leave is awful, and I hate it. But it’s possibly less awful than the issues I’d face as a single mum working a minimum wage job. This isn’t to say that the former isn’t important, it is — it all works on a continuum of oppression, stemming basically from a similar root cause. Working together to chip away the root makes more sense to me than muscling each other out of the way to get at it.

  22. I absolutely cannot stand the attitude that children are any less people than anyone else. When my son was born, this was a shocking realization: that this sleepy bundle of newborn sweetness was a real live person, just as completely real and human and deserving of respect as anyone else on the planet. His wants, needs, and opinions–even at just a few hours old–were just as real and important as mine.

    Some people don’t like kids or don’t like being around kids. Tough cookies. Some folks don’t like being around black folks, disabled folks, or gay folks. Discrimination is discrimination and I expect folks to keep their bigotry to themselves.

    And so very few people realize that if my kids can’t go somewhere, then neither can I. So few institutions (like my local HOA) realize or care that childearing is a non-negotiable part of life for many women.

  23. Love your blog.

    You really know how to spill it!

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