Last Time About that Feministe Child-free Spaces Post

Okay, so, I admit it.  I’m still obsessing over that Feministe post about child-free spaces.  I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of not just continually writing about it on here.

I’m going to post one last time.  But this time, I’m going to mainly focus on other people’s words (of course, people who agree with me because this is my blog).  A final round-up on all that bullshit that went down and why anti-child comments are anti-woman comments.  And why “Feminists” need to work harder on being inclusive (I’m saying that to myself as much as anyone else – and let me reiterate that that is a goal of mine in life).

The huge thing I have learned about or am thinking more about is the idea of policing behavior in public and who it is in public that actually gets policed.  Because there were so many commenters who didn’t want anyone to bring race into the discussion when it was addressed (things are always easier when we don’t talk about systemic racism, aren’t they? Especially when that acknowledgment gets in the way of your privilege). But those people who can’t escape it (i.e. WOC) wanted it to be front and center.  And I am glad that they did.

Their comments really got me to recognize that there is a hierarchy in acceptable behavior that is going to, of course, be detrimental to people of color and to girls.  Girls, especially those of color, are going to be policed more and that’s that.  People who are thinking about the children who ruined their dinner, or their Target outing, or their ride on the bus, were probably thinking more about little girls or children of color.  Because we remember when those people act up, don’t we?  I think there’s a whole news organization dedicated to keeping tabs on that shit.

Maybe my son is allowed to act up more because people out in public see him as a boy and, you know, boys will be boys (though, side note, my son has long hair and is almost always assumed to be a girl (9 out of 10 times), even while wearing a shirt that says “Dude”.  We don’t correct people because we don’t care.  If we did, we’d cut his hair.  But it’s possible that when my son is acting up, people think that I am “allowing” a little girl to act up).  Whereas if a girl was doing the same thing (screaming, laughing, clapping, dancing, running around) it would be a much bigger deal to people, something they would remember and comment on later because some irresponsible parent was letting their – gasp! – daughter do those things that little girls shouldn’t do.  And, as we ALL know, girls are supposed to act in a very specific, quiet, still way.

Then, on top of that, you think about this in terms of race.  As a society we are already interested in policing the behavior of adults of color (I mean, literally, in some cases).  So for parents of children of color (and, of course, the children themselves) the scrutiny on them, their children’s behavior, and the reaction to their children’s behavior is going to be exponential.  Especially in comparison to someone like me, a white lady with a white husband and a white son.  And I know the heat I get for my child in public as it is.

For more on this, please read “What do you see when you see my child?” at Inconsequential Logic.

And my friend, Laurie, passed along this website to me after we had a discussion about this realization that I have had, about another aspect of my white privilege and my son’s gender privilege that allows us a smoother experience out there in the public sphere.  Love Isn’t Enough is a blog about parenting and race.  Go read through it.

So, even though I fucking hated those comments on that Feministe Child-free Spaces post that were so anti-woman, anti-child, etc., at least I have seriously learned something.  And I am going to hold onto that silver lining.  Because otherwise, I am just left with a terrible taste in my mouth and hurtful comments stewing in my brain.

And now for your reading pleasure, more people who thought those comments at Feministe were shit:

First up, from Womanist Musings’ response to the Feministe Child-Free Spaces post:

So once again I am forced into the position of telling these ignorant feminists, if you are anti-child, you are anti-woman.   Some of these children that you are showing disdain for are little girls and that means that in a few years they are going to be women.  Are you comfortable with teaching them that they should be invisible?  That is the message you send every single time you argue that they are not welcome.  Some of these children that you wish would disappear from sight, are caregivers to their differently abled parents, but hey — why care about the disabled, we are only another marginalized group.  And ALL of these children are human beings, but then hierarchy trumps human value every time doesn’t it?

Feminists tie themselves into a knot whenever women say that they are not a feminist, but rarely do they ever consider the various reasons they give women to ignore and or reject this label.   You want to politicize and reclaim things, how about starting with the premise that all people matter?  I know this might be a bit radical because you have White, heterosexual, able-bodied, cisgender privilege to maintain, but it just might make women a little more interested in hearing what you have to say.

And Womanist Musings, “My Child Takes Up Space” (from May 2010 – a response to an earlier Feministe post on child-hating, see below in quote to get link, if you can stomach it):

What I don’t have time for are people that seem to see him as some sort of inconvenience or burden that I must suffer with. It’s easy to focus on the wonky things he has done, like dipping his penis in rice just cause, or clogging the toilet by flushing his fathers cologne, or the times when he is over tired and has had enough — and proceeds to full out tantrum mode; however, recognizing what he adds to the world is something that easily gets over looked. He has good days and bad days because he is a person and not because he is a spoiled child. […]

Recently there was a child hate fest on Feministe [a different one, yeah], that I simply had to withdraw commenting on because of all of the adult privilege. What really needs to be recognized about children is that they don’t have the capacity to act in the same way that adults do. This does not make them lesser beings and we need to find a way to accommodate them, even when they make drinking a latte a less then comfortable thing. There seems to be this belief that if a parent does not act the moment a child starts to have a tantrum, that they are a terrible parent. People have different ways of parenting and if it does not conform to your method, it does not necessarily make it wrong. As long as the child is no immediate danger, quite frankly it is not your business and I don’t care how much you spent on a meal at a restaurant. My children are not going to grow up with the idea that going to McDonalds is eating out because you think that their presence detracts from the ambiance.

From Women’s Glib (response to Feministe Child-Free Spaces post):

You don’t have a right to demand a public space without kids anymore than I have a right to demand a public space without women. Or people of color. Or trans* people. Or…anyone. I would think that as social justice minded individuals we would collectively realize how seriously screwed up the notion that we can exclude a group of people from the public sphere is.

You know what else you don’t have a right to? You don’t have a right to demand parents to “control” children in public, as if they are animals or objects. You don’t get to police parenting techniques, and you don’t get to demand that kids don’t demonstrate age-appropriate behavior.

If you are going to call out misogynists, racists, ableists, trans/fat/lesbo/bi/homophobes or anyone else contributing to the kyriarchy, but you are completely open about the fact that you just hate children, you are a hypocrite.

From O Filthy Grandeur (response to first Feministe child-hating post, the one Womanist Musings mentioned above):

I know that when I have children, I will lose touch with several of my friends who not only choose not to have children, but cannot stand it when people they know get married and have babies.  I do not plan to censor my conversations because my single friends don’t want to hear about my baby.  Like it or not, children are people, and they mean something to their parents.  Nothing can be gained by exclusion, nor by hostility towards children and mothers, who have the audacity to appear in public.

From Kittywampus (response to Feministe Child-free Spaces post):

Feministe commenters pissed and moaned about kids making noise in Target and supermarkets. I mean, really – supermarkets? Who has the cash to hire a babysitter while we buy the food we need to survive??! And does this mean Target’s now off bounds for me, but Wal-Mart is okay?

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12 thoughts on “Last Time About that Feministe Child-free Spaces Post

  1. Thank you so much for this. I’m writing a post at my own site (Underbellie) and I’m going to dig deep in this and link back. I’m hoping to get that “silver lining” out of all this anti-kid hate, because it drags me down (and I’m a Nice White Lady with [often-culturally-allocated-as-such] “good” kids so I’m not even getting it as bad as many others do!).

  2. Thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to reading your post on Underbellie. I’ll keep a look out.

  3. Actually how race impacts depends on where you live.

    Where I live? The expectations are totally different to what you and other posters describe because minorities are pretty much a protected class. We’ve had cases where a group of minority students threatened to throw a non-minority student down a flight of stairs because of the latter students skin colour and the non-minority student got suspended for racism for reporting it.

    Each country, each town, each city, each area, differs vastly in their expectations. In an area where any group is a majority, the actions of the children of other groups may be judged differently to the actions of the children who are part of their group.

    You can’t bring racism into the discussion at an international level because how it impacts is on a local level which will vary. It’s like the weather, different for each location.

    Personally I don’t think very many people are anti-child, they’re mostly anti-bad parenting and anti-parent entitlement.

    Parents like everyone else have to -share- the public spaces with others and apply common sense to it. A mosque is a public space but I wouldn’t wander into one without respecting the rules of that space and the comfort of the people who that space is created for.

    That’s the difference, children are welcome in public spaces but they and their parents are not entitled to re-write the social rules for spaces that we all either share or spaces that are not intended for children.

  4. Thanks for reading and for commenting.

    I think that you are right that the impact of race probably does matter very much on where you live. And I was never suggesting that it has to be static on the international level. But I stand by the assertion that it does matter. It does play a role in how we judge and police the behavior of other people in our community and the society at large.

    And my issue in all of this is that people are assuming all this stuff about parents, which, in most cases, means moms. In your comment, you are assuming that parents feel entitled, that they don’t share public spaces, that they don’t apply common sense, that they expect to re-write social rules. I get that a lot of people feel like that and I imagine a lot of it stems from the fact that our society (and when I write about this stuff, I am talking about the US, the place I know and I live) expect women and their children to act certain ways in public spaces, but I just didn’t expect that from what I assumed was a feminist community over at Feministe.

    I get what people are saying are saying about parents. I understand the argument. I just think it is laced with a lot of assumptions about women and mothers that are unfair, condescending, and need to be questioned, especially by people who say they have an interest in the way women are treated in society.

  5. The problem was some posters were trying to polarise it as always a minority problem. Whereas someone like me knows that it’s not just a minority problem, and that minority depends on where you live.

    That’s why it should be left out, not because it can’t play a part in judgements but because some people try to bandwagon it without considering the larger picture.

    There’s no assuming going on, our local buses have four spaces on them, they can carry a total of four normal sized strollers, or three and a wheelchair. They can only hold two strollers total though if the strollers are the huge ones.

    I’ve been bawled out by enough parents for the apparently unspeakable crime of daring to be in a wheelchair and having a legal right to the wheelchair spot on buses. Apparently plenty of parents both men and women believe that their self perceived right to take up two spots with a mammoth stroller trumps my right to access and I’m imposing a horrible burden on them by asking them to fold their oversized buggy so I can travel on the bus. One couple even made a huge fuss about simply moving their giant stoller into the second bay so I could get to the wheelchair spot in the bay they were in.

    Unfortunately there are plenty of parents of both sexs who believe the proof that their genitals function elevates them to a special protected status and permits them to behave selfishly.

    I’ve had parents ram into me and scream at me for being in their way when they’re the ones treating their buggy as a ram and just blindly bulldozing through foot traffic and expecting people to leap out of the way, wheelchairs don’t turn on a dime and they don’t jump out of the way.

    I’ve had parents point at me and tell their kids that if they don’t eat their greens, they’ll grow up to be like me, as if I have ceased to be a person with feelings of my own.

    I’ve had parents let their kid run riot, the kid has bolted in front of me, I’ve stopped swiftly and hurt myself doing it only to get screamed at that I should look where I’m going because their golden sprog could have been hurt.

    So no, no assumptions that there are parents who feel that a basic procedure half the animal kingdom is capable of entitles them to special treatment, just plenty of years of dealing with parents who think the fact that they got impregnanted or impregnanted someone means everyone else is a second class citizen.

    Personally I am a feminist but I don’t believe that another woman’s decision to have a child means her wants take precendence over my needs.

    Not to mention there’s things like:

    Women/men with kids are less likely to be let go from jobs even though there is more help available to them. So if there’s a choice in laying off a childless/childfree person and a person with kids? Guess who usually goes? It’s usually not the latter even though the latter is likely to get way more help than the former.

    I could go on but you get the picture, while the burden of childcare does fall unfairly on women and I personally would like to see that change, I think we could also do with less problem parents who cause problems for the good parents and generally are horrible to the rest of us.

  6. My immediate reaction to this is simply say that I am sorry about all the shit that people have put your through due to your disability. I certainly don’t condone any of that and am sickened to learn of it all.

    But I’m sure it’s not just parents who are total assholes. I’m sure there are singletons or child-free people or parents sans kids who are just as big a jerk as people who have their kids in tow. And THAT overall behavior of condescension and derision towards people with disabilities (I’m not sure that’s the right word, you can let me know) needs to be fixed. That burden shouldn’t fall to people with children alone but should be something we are trying to work on across our society with all kinds of people.

    Also, I’d like to know if you have any evidence to back up the “who gets fired” thing. Because I actually know plenty of women who are let go the minute they return from maternity leave. Having a child is often a sign to employers that their lady workers aren’t serious about their jobs and are, therefore, expendable (especially the married ones). I’m sure that there have been cases where someone’s childfree status has caused them to lose their job instead of a person with a kid, but an anecdote doesn’t make something true (it’s like finding that one black mom who is on welfare and who will say on camera that she only has kids to collect more money – those people exist somewhere but that doesn’t make the myth of welfare moms true).

    In the end, we could do with less problem people who cause problems for the good ones and are generally horrible to the rest of us. I’m not sure why this has to be about parents specifically (because, again, I think that means we are mainly talking about mothers).

    Again, thank you for letting me know about your experiences as they are really enlightening for me. They will certainly make me more aware of how I act towards people in wheelchairs and how my son acts.

    And, just so you know, those people with those giant strollers – I’m no fan either.

  7. Oh certainly there are assholes in every group, but parents seem to have a subset who just take it out the other side if you know what I mean.

    In fact it’s often singles and childless/childfree individuals that are nicer to me than most parents.

    It happened to friends of mine and to me, literally we’ve been told that the reason the slacker with kids in the next office hasn’t been let go and we’re being let go despite having a better word record is that he or she “has a family to support”.

    Who would have known that our loved ones aren’t a family? I’m sure a lot of discrimination does go on, especially against pregnant women but then that’s largely spurred on by the ones who take a cake with it, I’ve known women who were pretty much permanently on maternity leave.

    The original post was about parents so really that’s why it’s about parents and it was a very demanding post, that’s what put people’s backs up. Asking for people to be more understanding? I think everyone can get behind that, mai’a demanding that people act a certain way? Yeah, people are going to balk at that one.

    Parents are also a much larger group than those without children, so we’re more likely to run into the problem parents unfortunately.

    Hell I’ve seen articles where parents have railed against disabled provisions demanding them for themselves because whatever it is isn’t being used “enough” by disabled people. One charming article was an interview of some parent who wanted all disabled spaces converted into mother and child spaces and sod the disabled.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1252452/Revealed-Why-disabled-bays-stay-empty.html

    Considering often the local supermarket here has full disabled bays and half empty child and parent ones because they have more than twice as many of the latter.

    Unfortunately it seems far too often to come down to disabled people against parents and all to often over our needs verses their wants.

    Personally I never got the fad of huge strollers, a baby is an eighth of my size, those strollers are twice as big as my wheelchair. Why do people even think they need a super sized stroller? I definitely appreciate parents who buy something big enough to do the job but not so big that it should by rights require a license to drive.

  8. Thank you so much for the linkage. what you wrote reminded me of some things i’d apparently buried pyschologically.

    There have been numerous occasions where my son and i have been out at public places and strangers, usually middled aged to older white people, would walk over and compliment me on how well-behaved he was. Or after engaging in a conversation with him, their comment would be how “articulate” or “bright” or “mannerable” he was.

    I always say thank you (that’s just me). But i fume on the inside.

    Is he not supposed to be all these things just because you see his adorable black face? Did you expect that he would speak anything other than correct grammar just because you see his adorable black face?

    This world never ceases to amaze.

    And if memories serves me correctly. THIS IS YOUR BLOG – OBSESS ALL YOU WANT! (smile)

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