Friday, February 29, 2008

On definitions and synonyms...

I know I stepped in this before, but my opinion hasn't changed.

According to dictionary.com:
Child - noun, plural chil·dren
1. a person between birth and full growth; a boy or girl: books for children.

According to American Heritage Dictionary:

n. pl. chil·dren
1. a. A person between birth and puberty.
b. A person who has not attained maturity or the age of legal majority.

According to WordNet 3.0

noun
1. a young person of either sex; "she writes books for children"

The defining trait of all children is age. Child does not, however, mean a loud, irrational, destructive person with poor communication skills.

If you use "child" as a synonym for the above, you're using it incorrectly. Just as a misogynist who uses "woman" to mean something other than "an adult female person" is wrong.

EG is a fucking champ in that thread, btw.
You're uncomfortable around children? Fine. Own that. It's about you and whatever issues/perspectives you have. Making it about some supposedly "objective" assessment of children's behavior turns it into "children deserve my dislike--it's not me, it's them." And the assessments used are almost always assessments that can equally apply to adults.


Exactly right.

6 comments:

Cara said...

I'm actually about 10 million times more offended by the arguments over who should and shouldn't be allowed to have kids. The fact that people just can't see the inherent racism, classism and misogyny in those kind of remarks is just astonishing to me -- well, at least when it comes from someone who claims some sort of feminist views. I think that this is a big part of the reason why reproductive rights activists are moving away form the rhetoric of "choice." One big reason is that it apparently does not appeal to women of color to anywhere near the extent that it appeals to white women. That's a good reason all on its own. But the fact that people who supposedly agree with reproductive rights just don't understand the concept behind the "choice" rhetoric is another really good reason.

I did see that you commented on this aspect in the thread as well, for the record. I'm just ranting.

roses said...

I'm actually about 10 million times more offended by the arguments over who should and shouldn't be allowed to have kids.

Seconded. EG did a really great job of arguing against those people though. (I thought about wading in, but wasn't sure what to say other than obviously you can't take away somebody's right to have children just because they're ppoor).

Jessica said...

Thanks for that, Roy - I actually gave up on that thread because the constant "kids suck" refrain eventually makes my blood boil. That, and "parents are just jealous of us child free folks". No one would ever openly say, "I just don't like black people. I'd like my life to be free of them." Children are a part of society, folks, and a necessary part, despite our amazing attempts to isolate and quarantine them in schools where most of us never see them or speak to them. You don't have to have them, (in fact, great1 please don't!) but you don't get to have a child-free life, either.

EG said...

Thanks so much. That thread...I really am appalled and, perhaps naively, shocked.

When I was in college, some of the first major feminist work I got into on my own was organizing around the destruction of AFDC and move to workfare. Since then, and because I grew up with leftist feminists, I've always assumed that feminists, especially contemporary feminists who should damn well know about how and why feminism is regarded as suspect by working-class women and others, were aware of how class issues intersect with sexism and would obviously be advocates for the rights of poor women.

Obviously not.

And, as you say, the vitriol directed at children, a group of people who are entirely in the power of those bigger and stronger than they are and who can't kick back against this kind of thing, is disgusting.

I must say, that thread has exhausted me.

Autumnal Harvest said...

The actual post you link to doesn't strike me as unreasonable (I didn't venture far into the 298 comments). The poster is saying that she doesn't want kids, and will be happier without them. That seems pretty reasonable. She also says that you should have babies is you want them. That seems pretty reasonable too. She points out, via the Simpsons, that kids are a lot of work, and cost a lot of money. That's pretty clearly true. And for the record, I like children and want to have then.

Saying that making blanket descriptions about what children are like is like making blanket statements about women, or blacks, seems pretty far off. You have to expect pretty different behavior from an infant or young child than you do from an adult. When I go out to eat with a young child, I expect them to be fairly self-centered, perhaps bursting out into tears or shouting for little discernable reason, and possibly dumping their food on the floor. As a general rule, I don't mind that. I expect that, because they're, well a "child." (And also, it's balanced out by the fact that they do lots of things that I find endearing and adorable.) But obviously, if I went out to dinner with an adult woman or black man, I wouldn't put up with that. If someone else notices that such behaviors are overwhelmingly common with even well-behaved young children, and decides that he/she doesn't like that, that seems fine with me.

Again, I'm just commenting on the post that you linked to. I didn't get very far into the 298 comments.

EG said...

The post itself was not what Roy or I or any of the others found obnoxious and offensive. The comments were.

The blanket statements made about children were unreasonable--they were just as, if not more, likely to apply to adults as to kids. But in my experience, children do not burst into tears or shout for little discernible reason. They always have reasons, and there's almost always ample warning that they're about to do so.