Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My first cross post... posted second...

Note: This was my first post on feministe- I forgot to cross-post it here, but I thought I'd fix that mistake now. I had no idea, when I posted this there, that it would explode as big as it did. I actually thought I was coming out of the gate with a pretty harmless sort of post, just to get my feet wet. It's over 500 responses, and growing, now.

Hello everyone!
Roy here, starting my first day guest blogging. I thought I'd start my first guest-blog here by saying thanks to my gracious hosts for inviting me for the week, and by introducing myself to everyone. The bloggers here at feministe were awesome enough to extend me an invitation to guest-blog for the week, and I can't say how excited I am to be here. They set the bar pretty high, but I'm up to the challange challenge (edited 9:05 pm- thanks Bracken), I think.

My first post is actually something that's been rolling around in my mind for about the last month. See, last month, in two seperate posts- one here at feministe and one over at feministing, people indulged in rants about how much they hate children. The complaints ranged from how annoying loud children are in movie theaters, to how children run through stores, to how obnoxious children are when they kick the seat on an airplane. The animosity towards children extended to their parents as well, but the bulk of the real venom was directed towards the children. This anger towards children is hardly reserved to these sites, but I was particularly surprised to see it on sites like these, given how much time we spend here discussing ways to end bigotry and fight things like sexism or homophobia.

One of the things that really hit me at the time was how openly these commenters were expressing their hatred of children- one commenter called children "crotch droppings," for gods sakes (but later apologized and admitted it was wrong). It wasn't just the animosity, though, it was the lack of outrage that followed it. Can any of us imagine someone posting "I hate women. How is it disrespectful that I don't find bitches awesome?" and there being less than serious outrage over it? Replace "women" with any number of other groups, and I think that the result is the same. Children, though, are generally seen as a group that it's okay to hate, in some ways.

I've been trying to figure out why that is. Why is it that people feel comfortable saying, to total strangers on the street, "I hate children"? Why do people think it's okay to consistently refer to children as "brats" or worse? Why do people think it's okay to hate all children based on one or two bad experiences at a restaurant? What is it about children that we tolerate so much bigotry towards them?

EG, in the thread at feministing, summed up my feelings quite well:

Children are the most radically disempowered group of human beings in the world. Cross-culturally, they have no political power, their daily lives are completely out of their control, they are surrounded by beings three times their size and strength who rule every aspect of their lives, unlike any group of adults in this culture, they can be legally struck, and any possible redress they have against abuse requires them to find an adult who will help them. Would any reasonable human being not throw the occasional temper tantrum in such a situation?

Calling children "radically disempowered" is almost an understatement. Pretty much from the moment they're born, children are subject to a world that treats them as much like property as like people. Children grow up in a world with no voice. There are countless rules and regulations controlling their daily lives, and they have absolutely no say in any of those rules. They are subject to the whims of the people around them- people who may or may not have their best interests in mind. Children have no privacy and no right to a fair trial when an adult (parent) accuses the child of wrong doing. Their entire lives are at the whims of people who control what clothes they wear, whether they have a roof over their heads, whether they even eat.

Being a child isn't easy. Very little in your life is under your own control, and you're also subject to your body's whims. Children are still growing and developing, and they don't always even understand how or why they feel certain ways. They may not know why they're tired or cranky at any particular moment. And, as someone else pointed out, even if they do know, they're still subject to other people's whims. An adult who isn't feeling well can call in sick and avoid interacting with other people, in many cases. Children don't have that option.

And this is the group that some people have decided that they hate?

When I was working on this post, I started doing research into the lives of children. The situation is a lot worse than I originally thought. You see, it's not just that children make easy targets for people to hate because of the noise they make in a diner. Children also suffer tremendously in other ways, which makes it sting even worse when people talk about hating children.

According to UNICEF, there are about 2.2 billion children living in the world right now. Of those, 1 billion live in poverty. That's 1 out of every 2 children. In addition, 1.9 billion of those 2.2 billion live in developing nations. 1 in 3 of them (that's 640 million) live without adequate shelter. 1 in 5 don't have access to safe water. 1 in 7 don't have access to any health services. Almost 30,000 children die every day before the age of 5. There are 15 million HIV/AIDS orphans living in the world today, and growing- that's more children than currently live in the United Kingdom. And that barely scratches the surface of the Unicef report.

Children are one of the most easily victimized groups on the planet. They're targeted for rape/sexual abuse, kidnapping, forced prostitution, slave labor... and they have little to no means of fighting back or escaping from these situations. Millions upon millions of children go without any health insurance in the United States, through circumstances completely beyond their control.

I could go on, but you get the idea.
It's depressing. Page after page that I looked at contained information that clearly illustrated what I've already noticed- all over the world and in our own countries, children are routinely treated like property. They're exploited and abused and sold and hit and murdered and raped and starved... and their voices continue to go unheard.

Which is why I feel particularly incensed when I see people attacking children on here or on other blogs. When someone says that they hate children, I see a person attacking a group of people who are essentially helpless. A group of people who are already kicked and beaten by many of the societies they live in, with no real way of fighting back. Children can't help being children, and in a world that sends a very clear message that children don't count and don't matter, it's infuriating to see someone pile more hate on top of all that. .

Ultimately, bigotry is bigotry. I don't think it's acceptable to hate a group of people based on their race, sex, gender, sexual orientation... and I don't think it's acceptable to hate a group of people because they're children, either. Talking about children as "brats" or "crotch droppings" is absolutely the same as talking about women as "bitches" or homosexuals as "fags." We don't accept it if someone says "I hate women."
We don't accept that, and we shouldn't accept it when it's aimed at children, either.


Moody said...

I like kids. My SO used dislike kids, but recently has had a change of heart.

Jessica B. Burstrem said...

I love it. I'm sending it to my husband to read. You're from Michigan, but you look familiar. You weren't in a grad program with me in Florida? There's a great game studies group there, so that might be part of it too. Anyway, thanks for posting the links on Feministing. I enjoyed both of them. My blog is at:

Please stop by. Comments welcome, of course. :)

Roy said...

Jessica: I'm glad you enjoyed the post- it got a lot stronger reactions than I expected, but I'm glad that so many people seemed to appreciate it.

I think I have one of those faces that people are always reminded of someone else, because I get that a lot. Which is to say that I've never actually been in a grad program in Florida (I'd have loved to take a game studies class). Now that I'm thinking about it... I used to know a girl who was dating a guy from Florida that she claimed looked a lot like me. Maybe he was at school with you?

Anyway, thanks for the praise. I'll definitely be checking out your blog, too. =)

Anonymous said...

The reason some people may find it acceptable to acknowledge their irritation and express their rage towards children is probably related to the fact that childhood is a transitory stage that ALL adults have been through and therefore feel some entitlement to comment upon. Resenting people who've "had it better" than you is not uncommon and most anger seems to e that some kids get away with what we didn't "in our day". Clearly hating people is destructive, bt being irritated with someone who has not been socialised and who gets to be demanding and rude and still tolerated is perhaps a human reaction...