Tag Archives: anti-child hate

Heroes, bumblers, abandoners, and patriarchs: Fatherhood on Doctor Who

I have a new piece up at Global Comment: Heroes, bumblers, abandoners, and patriarchs: Fatherhood on Doctor Who (don’t be scared by the title, my non-geekling friends; it should be entirely1 accessible to those who have thus far avoided sullying their gaze with my dorky obsession):

Fatherhood strode from the sidewings to center stage in the form of the Lone Centurion (aka Rory Pond, nee Williams) in “A Good Man Goes to War,” and continued in “Night Terrors” and “Closing Time”. In these episodes, we see first a portrayal and then subversion of the most common tropes of fatherhood; respectively, the Hero (the aforementioned centurion-slash-nurse Rory), the Abandoner (Alex), and the Bumbler (Craig). Assisting each we have, of course, the Doctor — a man who, 10 incarnations and nearly 50 boringly linear human years ago, was himself a grandfather. Although most versions of the show between 1963 and now have glossed over the central character’s implied fatherhood, here he is portrayed in full Wise Patriarch mode, taking these three men — and the viewer — on a transformative journey that amounts to a guide to Moffat’s vision of Enlightened Fatherhood.

Finish reading at GC, because it’s good and because I managed to write it with a newborn — often one handed — so click over if only to be amazed that I formed cohesive sentences and semi2-cogent arguments.

Speaking of, one day I will write a memoir, and in it will be a piece about sitting in the living room holding a sleeping baby over the potty with one hand (because she fell asleep immediately upon finishing her business and if I moved her she might wake up again and that would just be unacceptable), breast hanging out of the nursing tank, laptop balanced on the arm of the chair, typing with the other hand because I was In the Middle of a Thought and also On Deadline. Because if there is a more perfect metaphor-and-example of balancing parenting and paid employment, I haven’t heard it.

  1. My editor says semi.
  2. My editor says entirely.

For your edification and edjumacation

Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiinks!1

In case yesterday’s overextended metaphor wasn’t enough for you, check out this piece on the dog and the gecko, an amazing metaphor for privilege. If you haven’t figured out what I mean by “privilege” yet, read this.

And then there’re dogs and smurfs: why women writers and stories about women are taken less seriously (don’t worry, it’s not a metaphor — or rather, interrogates a trope we take as metaphor).

If you’ve ever asked yourself “Why does she stay with that jerk?” here are twenty answers. None of them is “she’s stupid” or “she deserves it”.

Filed under further rhetorical questions, would B. Manning be treated the same if out as a trans woman? As Emily says, not bloody likely.

Of course, being trans doesn’t mean Manning is, therefore, a woman — and being nonbinary doesn’t mean one is genderfluid, either.

Elizabeth of Spilt Milk is blogging at Feministe, and I couldn’t be happier. Check out especially Feminist mothers (you, being here, don’t need to be exhorted to read women who are parents and writing about feminism, but DO check out the other recommendations at the end of her post) and In defense of children.

Further to meta discussions of feminists, read this long and wholly worthwhile piece on white privilege in feminist organizations, especially those seeking “diversity”.

Race and gender are hardly the only axes (for lack of a better term) of privilege/marginalization, as you can read about in The Mental Burden of a Lower-Class Background.

But speaking of race and gender, do yourself a favor and watch Random Black Girl. (Lyrics, and a bunch of blather, here.)

This is, though rather male-centric, more or less how my mind works regarding writing.

Finally, this post is being pre-written and scheduled, because by the time you read this, I will have seen the final Harry Potter film installment, with the awesome Amy of Anktangle. But oh, do I wish we could have seen Joanne Rowling’s Hermione Granger series instead…

  1. For I am the zombie of the blogosphere, and posts are your brains. Tasty, intelligent brains.

Dancing between the tables: on the personhood of children

I recently ran across a piece of child-hate (no, I’m not telling you where) that said, in part, “Sure, I think children are people, but their parents need to make sure they act like it in public! People in restaurants don’t crawl on the floor or dance between the tables!” Really? Because I’m pretty sure what you were talking about just then was a person who was, in fact, dancing between the empty tables.

This is but one example of the widespread phenomenon of child-hate disguised as simply a “concerned citizen”: children are OK in public, as long as they don’t in any way attract an adult’s attention. It usually comes with a hefty dose of mother-blame (which is a type of misogyny, remember), in the form of “she should control her kids, or keep them at home!”

I don’t really want to get into a discussion of what level of behavior is appropriate to allow children in public, though: what I want to talk about is the message behind these kinds of statements (and the fact that the discussion is about allowing in the first place).

When the parent-blaming child-shaming folk say “I treat kids like people by expecting them to act like it” what they’re really saying is “I expect kids to act like adults”, which boils down to the belief that only adults are people. Because if you actually recognize that children are in fact persons, then you would be able to see that yes, actually, people do do those things in public, and the proof is dancing right in front of you.

This argument is common among so-called “allies” in many fields of anti-oppression work: “Of course I don’t have a problem with [women/gays/immigrants/people with disabilities/people of color/trans persons] — when they act just like me. As long as they [act like men/couple and get married/learn English/act able/act white/are straight and gender normative], of course they should have rights!” It is a fundamentally flawed position, whose bigotry I trust is self-apparent, and serves only to reify the hierarchies it purports to reject.

This is just as true when it comes to children as for any other oppressed group, but with the complication that children will, should all go minimally well, eventually turn into adults; no other group can be said to be reasonably certain to transition from oppressed to privileged. This does not mean that how we treat them doesn’t matter, however, or somehow negate their oppression; rather, it means that however we treat them now, while they are powerless, is how they will learn to treat those they have power over by “right” of unearned privilege.

You might doubt the status of children as an oppressed class. There is much I can use to support this assertion, but simplest and most starkly is this: in the United States of America, and in too many other countries (any would be too many), physical assault on a child is considered a parent’s legally-protected right, often explicitly granted. You might quibble about whether any given act of violence is “assault”, that it’s not really “abuse” unless it leaves a mark for more than a day, or breaks the skin, or breaks a bone, or whatever line you wish you use to delineate “acceptable” from “abusive”, but the fact remains that it is legal for an adult to hit a child against their will, and it is not legal to hit another adult the same way. Physical violence enacted on children’s bodies to “discipline” them is a mark of their status as not-persons, as things, in culture’s conception.

(What, you may argue, of those children who are not hit? Those who are “spoiled” with toys and sweets and activities galore? Surely they are not oppressed! To which I say: that we treat some children as prized possessions does not make acceptable their status as property; that some individual parents choose not to exert their right to hit their children does not offset the injustice that it is their right to exert or not in the first place; that some nations have even removed that “right” and granted children special protections doesn’t mean children as a class are not still oppressed, still considered “ours” to do with what we will or nill.)

I use the example of legally sanctioned violence rather than any of the plethora of other rights denied to children (including other violations of their bodily domain) because I am not arguing that the personhood of children demands they be granted all adult legal rights: that is merely, once again, equating personhood with adulthood. There are many things that are appropriate for adults to do which are not appropriate for children, and there are many times that they do not have the capacity to make choices for themselves (though, as with the delineation between “male” and “female” activities, allowing certain rights based on ability rather than arbitrary age would be a more reasonable, if more complicated, policy). Children are not adults — and they shouldn’t have to be, nor to act like it, in order for their personhood to be honored.

What does it mean, exactly, to honor their personhood? It means simply that we start with the radical idea that children are people: that they have the right to bodily integrity; that their needs are no less important than ours, that their desires are no less worthy than ours; that their feelings matter, that their ideas matter, that they matter; that they should be respected for who they are, not just valued (or devalued) for what they do for us.

From here, many things become obvious: we do not hit children, because we do not hit people. We do not cut their genitals, because we do not perform unnecessary and harmful amputation on people without their consent. We do not shun them and segregate them away from us, because separate is not equal. We do not expect them to act like adults, because they have the right to act like children.

So that child, dancing in the aisle while you are dining? Their personhood means they have just as much right to be there as you do. If they are unreasonably blocking the way, or damaging property, or causing such a commotion that no other patron is able to also be comfortable in that space — in other words, if they are actually doing something objectively objectionable — then of course you have a cause to complain. And perhaps that was the case in the original screed I read: I cannot know. But regardless, if in the course of your complaint, no matter how legitimate, you state that children need to act like adults (especially using the code word “people”) or not be allowed out in public? If your objection is, at its base, that they are a child in public, daring to act like a child? Then you are an anti-child bigot, and you are the problem in that restaurant that needs to be sent home until you can act like a person.

On parenting advice and the idiocy thereof

A couple weeks ago, I was accosted on Twitter by a Twit without children on the topic of parenting and how I wuz doin it rong. I wrote a long (and witty, if I do say so myself) ranty blog post, which will never see the light of day (or the pixels of publishing), even though I loathe wasting a fully-written piece, because it just wasn’t sitting right with me. It’s too easy, when preached at by non-parents, to say “Just wait. Just you wait, and you’ll sing a different tune, and you’ll be schooled, and you’ll be humbled, and karma will bite you in the ass. Just wait, because right now you know nuthin’ about nuthin’.”

Which might actually turn out true. So many of us do change our tune: way back when, I had no clue about elimination communication, I thought everyone used cribs, hell, I thought homebirth was a little too out there (I’d take a freestanding birth center, thank you very much) — and all this was after the biggest about face of all, when I went from “No kids no how no way, certainly not without a practical uterine replicator no thank you!” [really!] to “Maybe…” to “Baby baby BABY!”

But then I spent years in a parenting and natural living community before getting pregnant (before even deciding to try), so I also know the sting of being dismissed simply for not having had kids yet. I know how much it hurts — and how wrong it is — to tell someone they can’t possibly know anything about children just for not having their own yet. And after I spent a couple years spending much of my time around other parents, reading parenting books, studying midwifery and everything baby-related (you should see my book collection!), and my parenting ideas gelled? They didn’t change when I had the Boychick. People told me “you’ll get a stroller, you’ll learn to love disposable diapers, you’ll let him cry — just wait, and you’ll sing a different tune.” And they were, simply, wrong.

I do think I gained some nuance after birth — after all, there’s nothing like having a baby to give one opportunities to practice breathing, and going with the flow, and accepting the unique differences of another’s personality and situation. And nuance is what was missing in the rant-that-you’ll-never-see, and it’s why you’ll never see it.

Because while yes, a lot of non-parents will change their tune, especially those who think it’s so damn easy to control kids in public (and thus engage in mother-blaming, as the Twit did to me), to “make them behave”, that particular infection is all too extant in the parents population as well. A recent dust-up on I Blame the Mother provides a disturbingly excellent illustration of this.

It is easy to dismiss the child-less as knowing nothing — but it’s quite likely to be wrong (I knew more about breastfeeding and birth and the benefits of babywearing before having the Boychick than too many parents do after). And it’s easy to say “no one who has kids would be so cruel to another parent” — but it’s quite likely to be wrong; witness the mother-blame in the aforementioned IBTM comments.

It all comes down to nuance, and to recognizing that no group of persons can ever be homogeneous. Some people without kids are clueless, cruel, ignorant, and ill-willed; so are some people with kids. Some people without kids know much of the difficulties of parenting, of unconditionality, of birth and breastfeeding and the vagaries of babies’ sleep; so do only some people with kids. Some of us learn to be kind; some of us learn to look past the checklists; some of us live by the checklists; some of us become more entrenched in our ways. It would be awfully nice to be able to say “Just wait, you’ll learn to support nursing in public, to welcome children in public, to smile supportively at a tantrum in public.” But the evidence says it just isn’t so.

The Twit on Twitter wasn’t wrong because she had no kids — she was just wrong. The mother-blamer on I Blame the Mother wasn’t right just because she had kids — she was wrong nonetheless. There are things that can unite us as parents, there are commonalities that can be found with almost any other person who has experienced the terrors and trials and joys of raising a child, but it is too simple, and too often wrong, to divide the world in to “those with kids” and assume they think like you, and “those without” and assume they don’t.

To the Twitterer who harassed me: I am sorry I ever derided and dismissed you, even in the rant-that-never-was, for the non-crime of not having children. That had nothing to do with why you were wrong for telling me I was wrong.

You were just a Twit.

Public Service Announcement

Do not ever read the comment section on posts about parents or children on a feminist blog that is not explicitly a feminist parenting blog. That shit is scary misogynistic bad. I’m usually good and pulling myself away from the worst of the web (a la goatse et al) but this particular brand of ugliness pulls me in like nothing else.

So, lesson learned: fight for the rights of women, unless they happen to be mothers, unless they are mothers who hate their kids and can afford a live in crew of nannies so they never take them out of the house until and unless they are Perfect Robotic Angels. Right. Glad we got that cleared up.

I need a shower. Is bleach anti-hate? It’ll only sting for a little while, and if it erased the contact soul defilement, it might be worth it…

(And no, I’m not giving you a link or telling you where to look. I won’t come over to your house when I have the flu, and I’m not tarnishing your soul with a link.)