Edit, 4th July 2010. Hello everyone dropping by from CF Hardcore, which I understand was created when the usual LiveJournal Childfree community just wasn’t hardcore enough in its hating of children (“crotch droppings” I understand is a phrase some of you like to use for children, people like you used to be). I understand one of your own members was so upset about the hatred of children within your community that they donated a toy to a children’s charity for every hateful thing you said about children, back in 2005. Must have been a lot of toys! Just to clarify matters for you, as you seem not to want to read the post in its entirety before you comment. No one wants you to have children when you clearly don’t want to. We just want our children, and all children, to be respected fully as people. Thanks.
Sorry, no children allowed.
How often have you seen a sign like this? No children allowed. I’ve written before that not only does this discriminate against children (obviously) but also has a knock on effect in discriminating against the carers of children, who by and large are female.
It’s interesting to me as a feminist that many of the reasons given in support of child free spaces are very similar to the reasons given for excluding women from male spaces which, even until very, very recently, were totally legal.
Men spend all day with women; they need somewhere they can go and relax away from women at the end of the day
A lot of the language used in these places isn’t suitable for a woman anyway
Why would a woman want to come into these places in the first place? It would be very boring for them!
Listen, I don’t like women. In fact I chose not to marry or partner with a woman. So why do I have to have women shoved in my face?
These kind of places are dangerous for women. Plus we’d have to install another toilet and we just can’t afford that!
And so on. The more militant child free would tell you “but there IS a difference! It is acceptable to discriminate against children in this way because, unlike women and men, who people only thought were different, children actually are different than adults and do display some annoying characteristics that I want to get away from!”
It’s this reasoning that is used to justify all discrimination against children. Children are different than adults.
Over time this has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination against children. From sending children out to wet nurses (and no, these aren’t the milk producing angels you might have in your mind; wet nurses were very poor women who often had far more children than they could ever produce milk for; the children were often not nursed at all but were fed pap and gruel and swaddled and put on pegs for hours on end) which was often a death sentence, to justifying the regular beating of children (which tradition still continues today in that it’s perfectly legal here in the UK to smack a child).
The history of child rearing is one massive train wreck and although we have improving, here in the UK, there are still many throwbacks to the days when children were almost another species, not quite human.
I’ve mentioned the smacking, which is a major thing. Also, we still see it as acceptable to shut children out of many public places. We still see it as acceptable to force a baby to cry unattended for up to hours at a time so we can get some sleep. We still see it as acceptable – even, a good thing – that children who attend school must stay there at all times and be accountable for. If they are not interested in a subject they must still learn it. It’s good for them. If they would prefer, for example, to get a job, that option is not open to them. If their learning style is different from the mainstream – it’s tough. It is acceptable to talk down to them; their attempts at learning are often mocked and derided; shouting at them, tutting at their normal behaviour, glaring at their parents, saying “no” to all their requests without actually considering whether or not their reasonable…
This is all acceptable.
Now, before I carry on, I do want to make something clear. Often, I’ve heard discrimination against children couched in the following terms:
“You wouldn’t say that about a black person”
For a start, I’m a white woman, so even if that was the case, it wouldn’t be my place to say it. But secondly (and Renee says it so well here) this kind of sentence assumes that there is No More Racism. Which plainly is a nonesense. So in order to explain how children experience discrimination, we have to do it without further marginalising other groups that experience oppression in their daily lives.
So why am I using the comparison with women, as above? Well, I am a woman, and although there is still a hell of a lot of discrimination against women (some groups much more than others) I feel that it is something that society is at least aware of. I feel that we’re gradually working towards an awareness of sexism and misogyny and how if affects our daily lives, even if we’re still not completely sure what to do to combat it.
I also feel that it is my place to make this particular comparison. I am not downplaying the discrimination that I, as a woman, face; rather I’m using it, as it exists, to show you how the ways that children are treated are in fact discriminatory.
So, with that cleared up, what is the justification for the anti-child bias?
It appears to be, as I mentioned earlier, that they are different. But also, there is a part of it which is this: “I was a child and I experienced this, therefore it is not discrimination, otherwise that would mean I’d have to accept that I was discriminated against, and that might make me angry.”
Children are different. But they are also not one big homogeneous group. It is a continuum from baby to young adulthood. Essentially, all children are adults in learning. Strangely enough though, all adults are – to some extent- adults in learning, too; we never stop learning, it is just that the rate of it slows down as we get older. We develop more in the period birth-one year than we do in the period 30-35, for example. All people are people in learning, just different stages of knowledge accumulation. It really isn’t “them and us”. They are us. Some people may require more care and attention, especially early on in their lives, but they are people still, and should be treated with no less respect than others our own age.
Which brings me to the title of this post.
I’ll be honest. I don’t like the phrase “child free” one jot. But I understand wh it was coined; a swift “fuck you” to the legions of people who insisted that the only way to be fulfilled was to have a child or children, and those without, the “childless” were slightly pathetic and incomplete in some way.
“Childless” implies that the state of having children is one which is the norm, and to not have children is a kind of “loss”. However, “child free” does the exact opposite; implies children are some kind of a dreadful burden and in doing so discriminates against them.
And here’s the thing; you’ll never truly be child free. Because children are everywhere. As they should be. As people in learning, they have as much right to exist as anyone else. But it’s not just that. There’s an old truism that you should be kind to the people you meet on the way up, because you’ll see them again on the way back down. Or the oft-quoted phrase, “be nice to kids; they’ll be wiping your arse in the nursing home one day.” Cliches, maybe, but there is a lot of truth in them.
You’ll never truly be child free because learner people are all our responsibilities. I’m sorry, but they are. Because nursing home staff or not, the children of today are the adults of tomorrow. If you shut them out, you are training them up to shut others out.
Children will treat the world how they are treated. What you model towards them, they will model towards the world. This is not just parents; parents and guardians have a huge influence, but the world at large also dictates to our children how they behave in future. If they grow up in a world where it is perfectly reasonable to hit a person in learning, to shut them out, to ignore their cries, to talk down to them, to shout at them, to force them into institutions where they just do not want to be…
… then this is the kind of world they will create for you, once they get in charge.