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Jul 02 2007

Kid stuff

In yesterday’s brief essay I alluded to a news story about a women-only beach on the Adriatic. Almost as an afterthought I included the detail that the children as well as men are banned from this beach.

Because I just fell off the turnip truck yesterday, I had not expected this seemingly minor point to ignite a referendum on children. But naturally it did, because kids, whether by design or by unavoidable circumstance, are pretty much the exclusive purview of women, and patriarchy blamers, whatever else they may be, are women.

With opinions.

For the radical feminist, this discussion is lousy — if a facet can be said to daunt — with daunting facets. Such as:

Is it useful to demand a woman-only venue? Is it antifeminist to ban kids from a women-only venue? Is it antifeminist to expect that women have a duty to mind the young’uns at all times? Oughtn’t a woman to have considered the impending culturally- and legally- mandated dissolution of her human rights before she decided to reproduce? Is it antifeminist to argue that women-and-children are designed by nature as an indissoluble amalgam? Is there some kind of metaphysical fusion between women and their children creating a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts which, having so fused, thereafter supersedes any claim to individual sovereignty its previously (and biologically) discrete parties might subsequently make? Or is this fusion, if it exists, merely the unnatural result of relentless external patriarchal pressure? Is it an act of domination — and therefore antifeminist — to reduce kids to a class without rights or recourse upon which there operates social strictures and persecutions — such as their thralldom to one or two ‘guardians’ selected, cosmically speaking, more or less at random — that do not apply to other classes?

Or how about this: can apartheid — whether based on sex or juvenescence or skin color — adequately address, either as a temporary stopgap or as a permanent social policy, the myriad insults visited by a given oppressor upon the oppressed? This is the question that must be asked by those victims of oppression seeking immediate relief from intolerable conditions.

Or this: will the overthrow of patriarchy result in a world order that obviates the perceived need for apartheid? This is the question for intellectual spinster aunts whose obstreperal lobes are as sponges soaking in pungent vats of viscous utopian theory.

For my part, I have stated on numerous occasions (following the materialization in my personal sphere of a pair of nieces), children are an oppressed class. Their universal and legitimately reviled unruliness is not natural. It is a product of neurosis generated by patriarchy’s two main replicatory units: the nuclear family, which directly supports male dominance, and the single mother household, which indirectly supports male dominance a) by acting as an underclass dependent for its survival on paternalism and b) by incubating a ready supply of disadvantaged candidates for membership in the all-important working and military classes.

Of course kids are obstreperous hellions. They dislike oppression as much as the next guy.

It is my firm belief that although children are not born with an innate sense of propriety and obeisance to the bizarro social order currently imposed, neither is there inherent in the human species a biological imperative to behave neurotically, except when neurosis is imposed by crippling external forces. Which it is.

In other words, we may blame the patriarchy for obnoxious kids. Just as we blame it for rape, marriage, FGM, and God.

Look here. Male dominant culture so alienates women from the fully-realized default human experience that we end up arguing on honky American feminist blogs, not just the merits of some penny-ante old woman-only beach in Italy, but whether children, the only life form lower than we are, are human. Faugh.

Meanwhile, once again I am pressed for time; I would be obliged if the incorrigibly cerebral commentariat would condescend to enbiggen the discourse by addressing some of the above questions.

332 comments

1 ping

  1. Sean

    Maybe the Italians could split the beach in half: on one side, children would be allowed, on the other they wouldn’t. Then, women who for one reason or other (either another guardian couldn’t be found, the household is “traditional” ie. the father works and the mother does unpaid labour at home, the mother wanted to bring her kids, etc.) bring kids to the beach are not automatically reduced to objects of the Lacanian male gaze. Also, women who maybe don’t find there kids adorable all the time and can find another guardian can take a much deserved break. Italy should maybe also consider adding a day-care service at the beach.

    You know, the more I think about this, the more it simply sounds like what feminists are pushing for in the “real” world, that is, basic structures allowing women to participate in the world as humans.

  2. Sean

    And sorry for all the “maybe also’s” up there.

  3. Sean

    And an ugly “there” where it should read “their.” Gah! Sorry for taking up two spaces with editing.

  4. rachel

    “Or how about this: can apartheid — whether based on sex or juvenescence or skin color — adequately address, either as a temporary stopgap or as a permanent social policy, the myriad insults visited by a given oppressor upon the oppressed?”

    To this I think the answer is ‘no.’ Because apartheid is structurally a system of exclusivity, its apparent advantages (freedom from oppressive gazes/harrassment, from annoyances/inconvenience, etc) it is foundationally predicated on making a set of things temporarily invisible. There is relief in this when those things are patriarchal oppression. But it is a fiction of relief, not only because those things still pervade outside of the quarantined sector, but also because it assumes the possibility of quarantine, which is not truly realizable. Many of the women on this beach with me are perhaps endorses of the patriarchal male gaze; they are perhaps sizing up my physical insufficiencies, commenting or snickering on my cellulite. Has the gaze really been eliminated? No.

    Further, and as was my original objections, when children are among the ‘things’ excluded, women are more disproportionately effected/de facto excluded. I realize this is a product of a patriarchal system we would do well to subvert, but the very fact of a segregated beach is a product of the self-same system. In other words, to say the inconveniencing of women is a lame excuse because it is predicated on patriarchy is to say that the beach itself is a lame idea since it is predicated on patriarchy.

  5. Nervine

    A New London School Where Boys Can Be Boys And Girls Can Be Girls:
    Middle school classes, where boys and girls will get targeted instruction, and boys will find that sitting is optional.

    New federal regulations in effect since November are providing more freedom for public schools to offer single-sex classes. Bennie Dover is one of several schools trying single-sex classrooms as a way of providing more opportunities within public schools and narrowing the achievement gap between boys and girls.

    Since I’m not all that clever, I’d like you folks to critically assess this school segregation plan. I feel it is a huge step in the wrong direction for a host of reasons. What do you think?
    Hope I’m not out of line here. Please accept my apologies if I shouldn’t post like this. Though I would really want you people’s insights.

    I provided this link:
    http://www.theday.com/re_print.aspx?re=1e41ec96-ea3f-4e2e-bec5-8f896b986fbb

  6. Jezebella

    What about the inconvenience of those of us who wish to be in a quiet adult space from time to time? Do our opinions and preferences not matter because we aren’t mothers? Hardly fair.

    Not that long ago I watched as a 50-ish waitress nearly broke her arm falling over a toddler who had been let run loose all over the restaurant. She had a tray full of food – heavy dishes, coffee, breakfast food – and nearly broke her neck trying not to land on the child itself. That kid had been running wild for a solid thirty minutes, and the parents acted like the waitress was at fault. They never even inquired whether she was okay, even though she was clearly in pain and in tears when she left the room. I’m thinking that waitress might enjoy going somewhere without screaming toddlers on her day off. Just a guess.

  7. bethany

    “will the overthrow of patriarchy result in a world order that obviates the perceived need for apartheid?”

    Certainly, as men are not inherently obnoxious leering self-important pricks – that is a product of the patriarchy. If one takes away their power and their cultural impetus to perform power, won’t they learn to behave nicely on the beach and everywhere else?

  8. rachel

    “What about the inconvenience of those of us who wish to be in a quiet adult space from time to time? Do our opinions and preferences not matter because we aren’t mothers? Hardly fair.”

    Give me a fucking break. A) because as you have demonstrated in the previous thread, you are aware of many child-free venue; presumably, your very own home is a quiet adult space that you can go to from time to time, B) because the equalizing or inconvenience that you are doing here is flawed. You may be inconvenienced by badly behaved children at eateries or beaches, etc, but I doubt you are often told you *can’t* go somewhere because you don’t have a kid in tow, C) I am not able to construe your subjection to the presence of children as a legitimate feminist complaint. I am, however, able to construe the segregation of the childfree from the mothers and children as a feminist matter.

  9. leen

    Or this: will the overthrow of patriarchy result in a world order that obviates the perceived need for apartheid? This is the question for intellectual spinster aunts whose obstreperal lobes are as sponges soaking in pungent vats of viscous utopian theory.

    As far as utoptian theories go, I’d like to think that post-patriarchy it would not be such a loaded and potentially dangerous act to ask someone to change their behavior, and so some of those apartheids could be avoided by simple communication of needs and wants.

    Jezebella, isn’t that exactly Twisty’s point? The patriarchy oppresses children, and they act out because they’re in pain. Where might the waitress go to escape the entire patriarchy?

  10. Catherine Martell

    Is it actually apartheid if, as an oppressed class, you decide to create a delineated recreational space into which the oppressor may not bumble? Apartheid worked the other way round, and rather more seriously. The use of the word here somewhat demeans the struggle of black South Africans for many horrific years by comparing them to some Italian men who aren’t allowed to ogle the bella signorinas on a specific and short stretch of coastline.

    Anyway, yes, separatism has its limits. But, Rachel, I don’t think anyone imagines that the segregated beach will eliminate the male gaze in a wider sense or change society. It’s just a place for a little time off.

    As for the question of kids, I agree with Twisty and Shulamith Firestone on this one. In a post-patriarchal society, there would be no need to separate kids from women because the former wouldn’t be half so irritating. Of course, in a post-patriarchal society, there would also be no need to segregate, or even distinguish, women from men.

    So the beach is a stopgap, and one that only exists as a coping strategy within patriarchy. Perhaps it’s a retrograde one, perhaps it’s an ideologically unsound one; but I bet loads of women love it. And if it’s just about making women’s lives easier for right now and giving them a space to be left alone, I would have thought a bit of time off from being a serf in the womenandchildren caste would be part of the attraction.

    Why not also have a family beach just out of earshot, predicated on the basis of no entry for adults without a child? That would exclude a good proportion of the leering pervs and paedophiles, and would allow anyone who has found themselves in the position of nuclear parent to let the little monsters off the leash for a bit in relative safety. I don’t see any reason to exclude bona fide dads or other male carers from a child-friendly beach.

  11. Panic

    That kid had been running wild for a solid thirty minutes, and the parents acted like the waitress was at fault. They never even inquired whether she was okay
    This, I think, has far more to do with the bullshit permissive parenting that’s far too common these days. Every action junior makes is just an expression of hir unique and precious snowflake-ness. Setting healthy boundaries has all of a sudden become a major roadblock in early childhood development. Ick.
    FYI, I quite like toddlers. They’re totally tactless, there’s no predicting them, their sense of fun is totally whacked, they say hilarious stuff. Of course these are all the reasons that they can be a total pain to other people too, so I appreciate it when parents actually, you know, parent.

  12. Zora

    “It is my firm belief that although children are not born with an innate sense of propriety and obeisance to the bizarro social order currently imposed, neither is there inherent in the human species a biological imperative to behave neurotically, except when neurosis is imposed by crippling external forces. Which it is.”

    Twisty, THIS is why I love you so much! It is not only that I agree whole-heartedly, but that you explain it so succinctly. I have tried time and time again to explain to folks that children are, in fact, people and deserve to be treated thusly. However they always seem to feel that one is not fully human until they have learned to sublimate their anger at their own oppression. Lipstick and high heels, anybody?

  13. Crissy

    “So the beach is a stopgap, and one that only exists as a coping strategy within patriarchy. Perhaps it’s a retrograde one, perhaps it’s an ideologically unsound one; but I bet loads of women love it. And if it’s just about making women’s lives easier for right now and giving them a space to be left alone, I would have thought a bit of time off from being a serf in the womenandchildren caste would be part of the attraction.”

    I agree with this, but I would argue that it’s potentially more than just a stopgap. Don’t you think that the very experience of being at a women-only beach, of enjoying the sun and waves without constantly being reminded of one’s sex-class status, might be politicizing? Cause I’m thinking a lot of women might never have experienced such a thing, and might not recognize how empowerful it could make them feel. Sorry if I’m repeating from the last thread, which I haven’t yet read.

  14. CafeSiren

    I’m in complete agreement with Rachel’s first comment, about segregated spaces producing only an illusion of freedom from oppression, whether it be patriarchal or otherwise.

    Furthermore, I think they may lead to a dangerous outcome, where the victim is blamed for any harassment that ensues when she leaves the designated oppression-free apartheid zone. (“Well, she was on the mixed-sex subway car/not wearing her veil/wearing a bikini on the mixed-sex beach… what did she expect?”)

    On the other hand, what if we imagined a situation where there were enough of these patriarchy-free venues for women to spend enough consecutive time there that they could actually begin to believe that freedom from harassment ought to be the default condition? What if they then took this new knowledge of themselves as fully human back into the wider world, and demanded changes, under the threat of secession? Sure, the Patriarchy would do like any other regime under threat would do: clamp down quickly and brutally.

    But… what if the revolution were armed?

  15. chingona

    In my albeit limited experience, children in traditional societies are much better behaved than American children. They probably are significantly less neurotic for not living in nuclear families and not being the center of attention, but I would not say that they are any less oppressed.

    I found the children I knew in Paraguay to be an absolute delight. They were very well behaved, yet still curious and engaged. I would love for my child to behave the way those children did. But I couldn’t treat my child the way they treat their children. And I wouldn’t want him to grow up to be as subservient and risk averse as many of those children (in a poor, rural village) did.

    I don’t really know what the answer is. We claim that in a post patriarchal world children would not be the holy terrors some of them can be some of the time. But we also blame permissive parenting for such behavior. Wouldn’t a world in which children aren’t oppressed have to be a permissive world for those children?

    I am not advocating the oppression of children. I just don’t know what this future world would look like. My son is still quite young, so I don’t know yet how this will play out in our lives.

  16. kiki

    I live in a world of women and many have children. Some are lesbians that did AI, some are women who used to be married but have abandoned that life and now live happily as lesbians and raise their children from the previous relationships together. Some are single mothers, some are still married, while others are still young and bucking the traditions of my culture, have chosen to either postpone or completely forgo motherhood. A few are just crusty, kick ass women who would sooner wear a big ol flowered bonnet that be pregnant. Some are white although most are not. Most of us had our children young and many of us because of cultural differences were not really exposed to feminism until later in life. But here we are, with children, trying to find our way. I admit that my response on the other thread was based in my experience of white women often being repulsed by women of color with our children and they seem quick (as one poster on the other thread) to provide a definition of “feminism” that excludes women unlike themselves. White women wielding their privilege are annoying at best but blindly destructive at their worst. Their sense of entitlement is amazing and although it may provide an ersatz feeling of power and liberation I truly believe that none is free until all are free and their actions at the expense of women (especially women of color) and children, while providing a self-deluding medicated state, does nothing to bring about real change. To flippantly state that having kids is a choice so suck it up completely ignores the reality of many less privileged women who desperately need feminism. There are many people who choose to sequester themselves from lives they find distasteful but just like blacks at the lunch counter, children in the pool or on the beach need to be seen and tolerated even if they exhibit manners that make you uncomfortable. Yours is not the standard to which all must conform. Yours is not the definition we must all embrace. There has to be room for other voices and other lives. To embrace prejudice as a means to an end makes me wonder what kind of end that path will create.

  17. Repenting

    Children are probably banned from the beach to prevent the inevitable legal issues that would follow if unaccompanied minors were to visit the beach without permission, or to prevent minors from being exposed to nudity for some religious reason that a country with a Roman Catholic majority might be more inclined to put into law than say, the USA. The only nude beach I know of in my state (Mass) allows families and singles, which means children and adults who might be sexual predators are mixed. Perhaps Italy has the right idea after all?

  18. Repenting

    Actually, I spoke too quickly. At an all female beach, allowing children would not endanger the children to the high percentage that allowing children at a mixed-gender beach would. Basically, the profile sexual predator is a single adult male. There would be none of those at the all-female beach. I think YOUNG children should be allowed, because their mothers should not be excluded from the beach on the basis of having children. To assume that all women can materialize some sort of child-sitting service whenever they want to go to the beach is inane. Those young children should simply have to follow the rules of behavior like all the other beach residents.

  19. Kali

    “Why not also have a family beach just out of earshot, predicated on the basis of no entry for adults without a child? That would exclude a good proportion of the leering pervs and paedophiles”

    Most pedophiles are married men with kids.

  20. delphyne

    Didn’t this all get thrashed out in the last round of feminism, with the upshot being that discrimination against children was acknowledged to be discrimination against mothers and thus sexist? So feminist conferences all provided creches and political discussion continued.

    Women-only, women-run space is a powerful tool for women to reclaim our power from men. There is a huge taboo in patriarchy for women to separate ourselves from men as male supremacy is built on stolen female energy and men need constant contact to maintain their supply. I don’t suppose this particular beach will be that subversive as it is owned by a man but it must give Italian women a nice rest from the constant ogling from Italian men.

    Hampstead women’s pond sounds much more fun:

    http://www.charlottecooper.net/docs/pool/pool_hampstead.htm

  21. Catherine Martell

    Kali said:

    Most pedophiles are married men with kids.

    Hmm. Good point. But most married (or unmarried) men with kids aren’t paedophiles.

    CafeSiren said:

    Furthermore, I think they may lead to a dangerous outcome, where the victim is blamed for any harassment that ensues when she leaves the designated oppression-free apartheid zone. (”Well, she was on the mixed-sex subway car/not wearing her veil/wearing a bikini on the mixed-sex beach… what did she expect?”)

    Also a good point. OK, I’m now reconsidering my previous notions of harmless all-women beachside bliss.

  22. Dawn Coyote

    Speaking only for myself, I’m lazy and selfish, and the idea that I might not at any moment throughout my day have a space that is perfectly adjusted to my needs is vexing for me. It’s all about me and what I want, after all.

    I think the problem is one of entitlement, certainly, but also of independance as a worthy goal, because it’s my independance, my autonomy, my right to the free enjoyment of my own pursuits in any space I occupy that has given me the idea that children are a nuisance. If I had more of a sense of responsibility to my fellow humans, be they big or little, I would not so cavalierly wish them into the cornfield.

    Perhaps we could expand the IBTP Foundation’s mission from activism to the formation of an enclave for women and children where everyone takes some responsibility for each other’s comfort, safety and well-being? Perhaps we could do this at Twisty’s house, because I, for one, would love to meet her.

  23. Jezebella

    Let me clarify: in the aforementioned toddler-tripping-waitress incident, I do not blame the child. I blame the parents for letting him run loose, unsupervised, in a crowded restaurant.

    Kids will be kids; they get rowdy sometimes. I like them fine in small groups. I get along with children better than adults, most of the time. However, I do NOT like being around children whose parents have no intention of reining them in appropriately, or who expect them to sit still and be quiet in boring adult spaces while boring adults ignore them. I just think it’s civilized to yank the kids up, get your food to go, and hit the road if your kid has lost her patience and needs to run around.

    I am sure all of you have perfect, darling angel children who never do anything annoying at all. It’s all of those OTHER children I would prefer not to be seated next to.

    The thing is, post-patriarcy, non-oppressed, non-neurotic children will still be little bundles of energy and will need to just run around in circles now and again. And in that same culture, there will be cranky middle-aged women who want a little peace and quiet now and again.

    Somebody suggested that I was free to stay home if I didn’t want to be around kids. Nope. I have new next-door neighbors who house anywhere from 6-10 hollerin’ children on any given day. These kids are barely, if at all, supervised. They stand in the yard and have screaming contests, these toddlers. They make a LOT OF FUCKING NOISE. ALL DAY LONG. RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW. So you can see, I’m a leetle bit sensitive on this topic right now.

  24. Marcy

    Yeah, I agree that children are an oppressed class. After all, they are below women on the patriarchy hierarchy. Men-> fetuses-> women-> children-> animals-> plants-> earth (air, soil, and water).

    I am very attuned to the mistreatment on non-human animals. I love them. I mourn for them. All our society can do is eat the tasty ones, kill the vicious ones, corral up the ones who are too stupid to be afraid of us, and tax the ones who live in our homes. I think that birds and squirrels and alley cats that roam around the streets are my neighbors. I’ve always been very sensitive to animals and their plight. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s okey dokey for a dog to be left out all night to bark and keep up every neighbor within a two block radius. Sure, animals are oppressed, and I love animals, but I want some peace and quiet, and I would have no compunction about taking someone to court over a nuisance animal.

    I am very sensitive to noise. I don’t like crowds of people for that reason (among others). I even requested permission from my boss to show up for work 15 minutes late during the school year, b/c the bus I took to work was the one the highschoolers rode. It would be standing room only, and no matter whether there were elderly people on the bus or a woman with small children, these teenagers would say the most vile disgusting things. By the time I got to work, I was stressed out.

    I’m noticing in just my lifetime (I’m 37) a lowering of my quality of life when it comes to the public sphere. There are 6 billion humans on the planet, about 300 million of which are in the U.S. People can only really relate on a meaningful level with 150 people. Coincidentally, primitive tribes operate around that number, give or take. We’re living in completely unnatural circumstances. People gripe about the isolation of modern life, but it’s a defense mechanism against the constant barrage of strangers. If I were a primitive human living in a tribe, I could walk for miles and only see fellow tribespeople or kin. Now, I walk from my apartment to the busstop and see a dozen complete strangers, some of whom may actually wish to do me harm. It’s not natural to be living this way, but this is what we have to deal with.

    I stopped going to the library on Sundays b/c EVERYONE goes there on Sundays. When I was growing up, I was taught to be QUIET in the library, but apparently that’s not enforced anymore. I’ve had to stop going b/c even the ADULTS were driving me crazy. There was the old man with the phlegm, the one guy who kept sighing every 30 seconds. I go to the library for peace and quiet, and if I’m the least bit cranky, I can be driven batty. So, I avoid the library on Sundays.

    When it comes to the public sphere, there are two parts. One part is that we need to remember that it’s impossible to be in public without someone doing something that we might find offensive. So, we need to work at being less offended. The second part is that we need to try not to offend people as much as possible. Some possible offensive behaviors are smoking upwind of someone, cussing and swearing, being overly loud, doing rude things like cutting in line, etc. I agree that children are oppressed and that it takes time for them to learn to behave in public, and we should try to overlook things. But it’s also the responsibility of the parent or caretaker to reign in as much as possible behavior that may disturb others.

  25. Jezebella

    Marcy, I’m sensitive to noise, too. I have to wear my mp3 player to the store or I get all hinky about the hideous beeping, booping, hollering, and whining. Give it a try. Better your own soundtrack than the one that’s making you crazy.

  26. Dawn Coyote

    Marcy and Jezebella – me, too, on the sensetivity to noise. I wear my mp3 player in noisy and annoying public spaces, often with something like Rage Against the Machine playing. For some reason, this makes me feel calm and happy.

  27. Dawn Coyote

    “sensitivity” – you know I even looked at it before I posted and decided I’d spelled it right. It must be brain damage from all that loud music.

  28. rootlesscosmo

    If I ever open a store selling severely Modernist, hard-to-use plumbing fixtures it will be called Daunting Faucets.

  29. roamaround

    When a puppy leaps all over my female dog and gets annoying she gives a growl, and a nip if need be. Young ones have tons of energy, and they should run, jump and play, but it can be irritating to adults. In a cooperative society, everyone should be tolerant of different ages and needs, but we need age appropriate time too.

    I would argue that the pressure on women to like and tolerate children is part of the patriarchal expectation that women accommodate everything all the time and never make any demands of their own.

    And speaking of being antifeminist, the shared loathing of the (white, yuppy) mothers and the male staff at my pool toward the single (white, nerdy) women who dared to object to the new Kid’s Swim is patriarchy in action. They might as well be chanting “burn the witch.”

    It’s not about objecting to the children’s existence. The kids take over four of the six lanes previously reserved for lap swim and jump all over making waves and throwing balls on your head. It’s pretty much a nightmare for us serious swimmers, most of whom are women.

    If there is a class and/or entitlement issue, it’s the yuppy mothers who are the ones who seem to me to feel entitled in this case. They don’t want to take their kids to the Y with all the riff raff, so of course we should all be thrilled with Johnny’s bomb dive.

    Also, teachers don’t necessarily hate kids just because we need a break. I happen to enjoy children more than anyone I know, but hasn’t anyone ever heard of a busman’s holiday?

    There sure is a lot of emotion around all this. It’s dismaying to me that we can’t seem to put ourselves in other women’s predicaments and meet somewhere in the middle. Meanwhile the men lounge by the pool reading the paper or ogling the eye candy.

  30. rachel

    I don’t feel at all confused about why some people don’t like to be around children – they are noisy, you are sensitive to noise; they do a lot of running around, they make spaces feel frenetic; etc. Continual justifications as to how your personal space/life is affected, thereby justifying your desire to exempt yourself from exposure to kids are, to my mind, entirely beside the point of “embiggening” the discussion, as Twisty put it.

    And one aspect of said point is not that you shouldn’t feel annoyed by kids, but that the patriarchal system in which we live essentially mandates that you feel annoyed by them. This mandation is enforced by a societal structure that 1) does not supporting a culture that allows children to grow up free from unnecessary neurosis 2) denies children a well-developed relationship with adult units or “culture” at large beyond their than parental units 3) does not afford parental units adequate social support such that they can pursue fully realized lives beyond parenting, thus rendering them better exampels for children 4) does not romanticize childhood to the effect of voiding it of any and all intellectually engaging experience, 5) does not support spaces (public, retail, governmental, etc) that are kid friendly beyond those space that are kid-exclusive (amusement parks, etc) and therefore marginal 6) insists that any inconvenience children manifest is the fault of the parents (by which we nearly always tacitly mean mother) for not “parenting” properly without indicting the non-intuitive system to which the child is asked to adapt.

    Etc. All this is to say, the issue isn’t to explain why you rather avoid kids, or to necessarily force yourself into more exposure. This issue is recognizing that the very fact that you don’t want to be around kids is the product of the patriarchy.

  31. rachel

    My #4 above (and I do love lists) should read: “romanticizes childhood to the effect of voiding it of any and all intellectually engaging experience,”

    I got a little carried away with the “does not”s

  32. CafeSiren

    Addendum: I just realized that I used the forbidden elipses. Sorry. Just trying for some drama, I guess.

  33. Frumious B

    Oughtn’t a woman to have considered the impending culturally- and legally- mandated dissolution of her human rights before she decided to reproduce?

    No. Because reproduction is no more a choice than sex or marriage is. Anyway, we need the next generation. Well, I do, even though I dislike the larval stage.

    presumably, your very own home is a quiet adult space that you can go to from time to time,

    The childless don’t want to be housebound, either.

  34. Patti

    There’s just too much wide-brush kind of shit going on here. And way too much “I just hate kids” whining, without real thought about it in the context of the patriarchy. I’ve been at this too long, I guess, I’m feeling utterly intolerant of ignorance, and the thought of having to try to educate ya’ll is just exhausting. I see some really good analysis, and then it’s just ignored and tromped over with reactionary crap that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear from MEN.

  35. Hattie

    Now you wouldn’t want to deprive the little lads of their first lessons in female anatomy, would you? Nothing irritates me more than little boys gazing their fill in the woman’s locker room. Or even little girls, to tell you the truth. Most mothers teach their children to be discreet, but some don’t. Some have this odd belief that the whole world is a “learning experience” for their kids. Mothers of sons are the major offenders along those lines.
    I think a woman’s only beach is a great idea. Just because it’s outdoors should make no difference.

  36. rachel

    Hattie, nothing bothers you more than little boys and girls looking at bodies in the locker room? Firstly, this is an nenviable set of irks you have. Secondly, is it at all possible that children can look innocently, like actually look, at bodies, because they are there and without the all the trappings of the gaze? Does forbidding children from looking at bodies do *anything* to naturalize them or suggest they are anything other than tittilating objects?

  37. Patti

    “Little boys gazing their fill”??!!! “Mothers of sons are the major offenders”????!!!! What the hell.

  38. Jezebella

    Patti, if you don’t think a ten-year-old boy has been exposed enough to patriarchy to be ogling in the locker room, you’ve got another think coming. I can’t say there is a firm line where boys shouldn’t be in locker rooms, but, you know: eeww. I don’t want a pre-teen boy looking at me naked. I just don’t. I realize no mother of a boy wants to think he’s ogling (Not My Nigelito?), but they do.

    I think little girls probably would benefit from seeing the variety of possibilities of the adult female body, so that she doesn’t think all women have to look like the semi-naked ones she sees in the media.

  39. Angry Young Femme

    Catherine Martell: “Apartheid worked the other way round, and rather more seriously. The use of the word here somewhat demeans the struggle of black South Africans for many horrific years by comparing them to some Italian men who aren’t allowed to ogle the bella signorinas on a specific and short stretch of coastline.”

    While I somewhat agree with you on the implications, the word ‘apartheid’ is actually Afrikaans, and in that language literally means “separate/apart”. So the use of the word here is appropriate, I think, in the same way that the use of other words from other languages, vis-à-vis (ha) French, etc are in everyday speech.

    I also think the implications are correct and do not demean the South African (it was not only the blacks who fought or suffered, but minority Indian and Coloured populations as well), but, in fact, highlight it as a shining example of what people can achieve in the face of oppression. And, as we are talking about exclusivity and separatism in a radical feminist light, I find it to be highly appropriate.

  40. Antelope

    I think it’s pretty ridiculous for anyone to say that they like, or don’t like, kids as a class.

    To me, kids are people, and that means that I like a few of them, but mostly not, as with most categories of people. I don’t think that’s because I’m exceptionally cranky, just willing to admit to some of my prejudices. I like people that are reflective and authentic, two things most people are very afraid to be. And most afraid of all during the school years, for reasons Twisty has pointed out.

    As someone said in different words upthread, toddlers are often reflective, authentic, and utterly unpredictable, and can be the very best of company at times – but it seem like most kids start clamping down on that type of behavior somewhere in the 5, 6 or 7 neighborhood. Maybe it has something to do with starting “real” school around then, as opposed to pre-school?

    As for the Italian beach, my thought is that maybe they need some kid-free days and some women-and-children days, or times of day, with the kids that can go being six and under. I know it’s not working so well for the lap swimmers at roamaround’s pool, but I think at a beach most women, moms or not, would be okay with not going every day, so maybe it could work.

  41. thebewilderness

    Most of the time when someone refers to permissive parenting I think that what they are seeing is neglect. It is easier to let children do whatever they want than it is to teach them what they need to know. It is easier to give a child whatever they want than it is to teach them to negotiate or make informed choices. Most children act out because it is their needs, not their wants, that are not being met.

  42. Tupe

    “There’s just too much wide-brush kind of shit going on here. And way too much “I just hate kids” whining, without real thought about it in the context of the patriarchy.”

    Damn right. Feminists without children getting all defensive about their awful, terrible, annoyance-filled lives due to the bad parenting, imposing needs, irresponsible attitudes of other mothers and the atrocious behavior of their children — which they insist on carting around everywhere! Even the pool! — sound far too much like the assholes out there who complain about how many parking spaces are given to handicapped vehicles or, for that matter, the white and male folks who complain about the preferential treatment being given to women and people of color. Perhaps we need a new term? “Child-free privilege” sounds about right to me. Once those of us who have it start owning it maybe we can actually get some work done.

  43. Angry Young Femme

    It’s actually funny now, because I realize that in your own post, Catherine Martell, you used the Italian “bella signorinas” in an english language context. The same goes for the word “aparthied”, only, it just happens to be more politically weighted than “bella signorinas”.

    I also meant to refer to the South African struggle, not just ‘South African’.

  44. Silence

    Actually Frumious B brought up an interesting point. Do we need the next generation? I mean, do we really expect the human race to go on and on forever? Because I sure as shit don’t. Perhaps we’d all be better off if everyone in the world made very deliberate attempts to limit themselves to one or two children. Especially the way we’re mucking up the environment right now. (And now I’m flashing back to ‘Children of Men.’Good movie, by the way.)

    Perhaps marriage and sex and children aren’t a choice for everyone. That’s a damn shame, because they should be, and we know what to blame if they’re not.The question here is, as things stand now, do we shoot for the ideal and say everyone should be welcome to the beach because we’re all human? Kids should be allowed because they’re an oppressed class too? Only women because women have the right to go someplace without their kids screaming at them for attention for twenty-four hours solid?

    Which brings me to my next comment — why is it that kids scream for their MAMA’s attention twenty-four hours a day? Would women need beaches where kids weren’t allowed if the men who sired the little dears were more involved in their lives? Or if society had advanced to the point where kids didn’t have to be neurotic balls of neediness?

    My opinion is that in the world we inhabit today there is no ideal compromise. In our society, women are expected to have children, to love them, and to bury their own desires for the sake of their children’s needs. (And I’m not even getting into their husband’s needs here!) These expectations are not made of men. If they were, this wouldn’t be a feminist issue. So let women have a child-free beach, preferably with a supervised child beach nearby where they can drop off their young ones if they have no one to watch them for an hour or two. Because although we all want to think that children are wonderful, the truth is, the way they’re socialized now, they can quickly become insufferable with their screaming and running. Blame the patriarchy, but in the meantime, let women get a little rest.

    Personally, I like kids the same way I like everybody else. That is, some are simply delightful and others I’d just as soon drop-kick into the nearest river.

  45. rachel

    “Which brings me to my next comment — why is it that kids scream for their MAMA’s attention twenty-four hours a day? ”

    I swear to god, if I made this sort of crass generalization, even in the service of an ideological point, about any other group in society I would get flamed out of the blogs I read.

  46. CoolAunt

    Rachel posted this:
    “Which brings me to my next comment — why is it that kids scream for their MAMA’s attention twenty-four hours a day? ”

    I swear to god, if I made this sort of crass generalization, even in the service of an ideological point, about any other group in society I would get flamed out of the blogs I read.

    The only group who demands mama’s attention as much or more than children are Teh Menz and you can post your blame of the patriarchy that Teh Menz never grow up and out of being attention whores here 24/7.

  47. wiggles

    I don’t see the point of banning kids from the women’s beach. Unless the kids in question are adolescent or teenage boys, who can be champion oglers if they’re not properly trained. I’m sure mothers of young children would like access to an ogle/body-judgment-free beach too. Besides, I’ve always felt kids and dogs made beaches more fun. Who wants to just lie there in the sun or wade in the waves? When I go to the beach, I want to see kids and dogs getting rowdy.
    As far as women-only spaces, obviously we shouldn’t need them, but until dudes learn to behave themselves, it’s good to have places where you can get a break from their bullshit. I’ve never been to Italy, but from what I hear it’s notorious for ogling and groping. Just setting places aside like this might make the point to them that when we say we don’t enjoy being leered at, we actually mean it. Maybe at long last they’ll finally start to get it through their thick heads.
    The camera operator sure had a thing for that brunette, did he? It might be wrong to presume the camera operator was a he, but I can’t imagine a woman repeatedly going back to one subject like that.

  48. Carol

    I don’t have a problem with children per se. I deal with children well and talk to them like people. What I find really annoying are the people that immediately start screaming “what about the CHILDREN?” every time something goes wrong. The oil refinery has a toxic spill “what about the children living downwind?”, the public park gets closed for maintenance “What about the children?” An ice cream shop proprietor posted a small sign asking that children “Please use your inside voice” was pilloried. Give me a break. Yes, children are people too. No argument. But I am supposed to be well behaved. So can they. It can be taught. It should be taught. By BOTH parents. A child-free zone on a beach is not the problem. The assumption that children who have not been taught the basic politeness that the rest of us have should have the right to run roughshod over us polite people is ridiculous. If a child kicks sand on me and I ask little Johnny to please go over their and kick, I should be able to expect that Johnny will not start screaming at me and kick more sand on me and THEN have mother-hen mommy telling me I am a bad woman becasue I don’t think her kid is the cat’s meow!

  49. Patti

    “Mother-hen mommy”. What is up with the language people feel so free to use about all this???? Of course he shouldn’t kick sand on you!!! Quit mother-bashing!!!!

  50. roamaround

    Rachel: “And one aspect of said point is not that you shouldn’t feel annoyed by kids, but that the patriarchal system in which we live essentially mandates that you feel annoyed by them.”

    In my neck of the patriarchy, the system mandates that I fawn over children and wait on them. Not doing so marks me as a deviant female. My emphasis in this discussion is on the antifeminist dictate that women’s natural role is to want and care for children, which is another point brought up by Twisty:

    “Is it antifeminist to argue that women-and-children are designed by nature as an indissoluble amalgam?”

    I agree that children are oppressed as a class and that society forces them, and thus adults, into neuroses. We’re arguing different things.

  51. Catherine Martell

    Angry Young Femme: I’m aware of the derivation of the word ‘apartheid’, but I think the understanding of it in its political context is more significant than its literal meaning. Though, also, I was teasing. Not that this was necessarily obvious, but I believe Twisty was deliberately stirring the pot – one of the many things I love her for doing on a regular basis – and I trust that she is more than able to cope with me poking her in the ribs for doing so.

    And yes, mi dispiace: I shamelessly Anglicised the Italian. But you’ve already noted how that doesn’t matter because it was a linguistic joke rather than the reassignment of a loaded political concept. Also, my Italian is appalling.

    I also think the implications are correct and do not demean the South African (it was not only the blacks who fought or suffered, but minority Indian and Coloured populations as well),

    Point taken, though I could go on for some time about the complex racial tensions inherent in the Indian struggle in South Africa if I wanted to make everyone never read one of my posts again.

    but, in fact, highlight it as a shining example of what people can achieve in the face of oppression. And, as we are talking about exclusivity and separatism in a radical feminist light, I find it to be highly appropriate.

    Yes, except for what you seem to have missed (apologies if I’m mistaken) is that we’re not talking about the struggle of women against patriarchy. The apartheid in question is about barring men from the beaches. The comparison that is being made is not, therefore, between women’s struggle to be seen as human and non-white South Africans’ struggles to be seen as human – that comparison I might well have gone along with. The comparison is being made between apartheid – the deliberate separation and subjugation of non-white peoples – and the exclusion from Italian beaches of men.

    If you think that the Italian men’s struggle to be fully and freely included in the beaches is a shining example of a fight against oppression and directly comparable to the struggle of non-white South Africans against apartheid, then you’re quite right that the use of the word is appropriate. Naturally, I think the complainants in the beach case are a bunch of whining ninnies. And, if you have chosen to interpret Twisty as meaning that the women in question are going in for some form of voluntary apartheid, then I would jump up and down shouting a lot about the concept of voluntary apartheid being a different kettle of fish altogether from enforced apartheid. It’s called separatism, and it is just dandy if you choose it.

    Anyway, I would stick a giant winky emoticon on the end of this post if I didn’t know that Twisty would eviscerate me for doing so. I do love getting my inner pedant out for a quick once around the block of an evening. Thank you for the challenge!

    On another note, I have a lot of sympathy with Antelope’s and Silence’s points above, and I think by saying that kids scream for mama’s attention 24 hours a day Silence was indicating a widespread trend that many children have been deliberately socialised to perpetuate, rather than blaming this behaviour on inherent child dreadfulness. In fact, I think s/he was at pains to point out that kids vary between delightful and dreadful just like all other people. Apologies if I’m speaking out of turn here: I’m sure Silence can defend him/herself, but that was just how I read it.

  52. Frigga's Own

    I would argue that the pressure on women to like and tolerate children is part of the patriarchal expectation that women accommodate everything all the time and never make any demands of their own.

    I think roamaround has a point here. I don’t hate children, but I’m not keen on the idea that I’m expected to always like them either. Like isn’t a strong enough word, I’m expected to coo and make a big fuss over them, and gush about how many I want to have some day. Once they reach an age where I can understand what they’re trying to say to me, and we can talk about books, games or dinosaurs, I get along great with them, but until then they just make me uncomfortable. My husband gets along with all kids, but nobody expects anything of him, me they treat like a monster if I don’t automatically start acting “maternal”.

    I’ve got rather unique problems, I get migraines so easily that I have to avoid going out anywhere where there might be a child who could scream. No movies, no restaurants, no shopping except after midnight, no cookouts, no beach, no park, no library, no job, my life has shrunk to the four walls of my apartment because if there are childfree spaces, I haven’t found any yet. I’m not advocating for the complete removal of children and mothers from the public sphere, but it would be nice if there were a few places to go have some quiet adult time. Surely even parents can get behind the idea of having a place that’s available where they can get away from kids for a bit. I don’t think having one childfree space out of thousands is going to hurt anyone.

    As to the women-only beach, I don’t know. I think being in a man-free space wouldn’t protect me from having people call me a fat cow and yell at me for daring to appear in public. Just because you can’t see men leering at you doesn’t mean it’s an patriarchy-free space. I’m sure there’s the same amount of fertilizer being shoveled, it’s just in the form of gossip about fashion and adherence to femininity. There’s nowhere on Earth where one can take a vacation from the patriarchy.

  53. PhysioProf

    Apropos of this topic, here is an excerpt from the comedian George Carlin’s “You Are All Diseased”:

    “”And what’s with all this talk about children? Save the children, help the children, what about the children…well, you know what I say? Fuck the children! Fuck ‘em, they’re getting entirely too much attention already!”

  54. Sean

    thebewilderness said, “It is easier to let children do whatever they want than it is to teach them what they need to know. It is easier to give a child whatever they want than it is to teach them to negotiate or make informed choices.”

    I’m not so sure about this one. I think part of the problem of parenting is that society places such a huge onus on parents as pedegogical tools. I think psychoanalysis is pretty much right in this case–after-the-fact, we can go back and analyze why something happened, but it’s never predictable. In the same way, I don’t think anyone can predict the effect of “teaching” a child something upon that child. Patriarchy doesn’t work because we were “taught” it. It works by means of force, ie., oppression. Society is not simply a “good teacher” of patriarchy, and individuals as students do not learn in that way. Instead, individuals are forced to exist as best they can in a system based upon dominance.

  55. Ta

    Really, why are people reactionary to women wanting a few acres of nude beach to themselves?

    Why NOT an adult only beach?

    Hey, you guys, support diversity! Some women want a childfree environment that is not a smoky bar, which seems to be your only opinion these days. In fact, sometimes I say I want to sit in the smoking section just so I don’t have to sit with kids. I don’t smoke. I just crave adults only from time to time.

    Patriarchy has nothing to do with the craving for adult-only environments where I can be rebellous if I want and talk with adults with adult things without spelling.

    Stop your demands that I be the same as you. But I will say it is good for women from time to time to be in a child free zone, so they don’t have to mother their own or other people’s kids. So they can cut themselves free of that constant monitoring they have to do with kids around – that divided attention wondering if little Jeffery will stab himself in the eye, are they hungry, are they bored, are they stimulated, are they too stimulated, are they annoying the woman with the one breast at the nude beach…women take responsibility for everything with kids around. Give us a few acres of childfree from time to time.

    Even the old matriarchy cultures had women only retreats, for if nothing else, spiritual renewal.

    If you want to be with kids…fine, allow us that want a childfree zone a few acres. Allow that diversity in the world.

  56. thebewilderness

    Well Sean, there’s an old saying that children learn what they live. My experience, and what I see happening around me, is the managing of children in service to the parents needs.
    Children begin learning the dominance/submission lesson of the patriarchy the day they are born.

  57. Sean

    They absolutely learn the lessons of the patriarchy as soon as they come into the world, but the patriarchy is not an individual. Parents, however, are individuals, and as much as anyone would like their children to be “good,” this is not something over which they have direct control. The incredible variety of input along with the mysteries of the individual psyche prevent any parent from effectively predicting his/her child’s personality at “maturity.” Anyway, after “maturity,” the individual can still change and change, beyond whatever the parent raised them to be.

  58. Mar Iguana

    “But… what if the revolution were armed?” – CafeSiren

    Surely you jest.

  59. thebewilderness

    Sean:Parents, however, are individuals, and as much as anyone would like their children to be “good,” this is not something over which they have direct control.

    You seem to be saying that you can teach a child to eat with a fork, but you cannot teach them not to stab you with it. The nature/nurture argument.
    Parents have almost exclusive control over the experiences of their children for the first few years of their lives. During that time children learn from their parents how to think about things. Not necessarily what to think, but how to approach thinking. Children are dismissed, persistently, and consistently, by their parents and other adults. Not surprisingly, most people are very dismissive of each other, and have to work hard at not being ‘instinctively’ dismissive. This and the previous thread are full of examples. I don’t think there is anything instinctive about it, it is, rather, one of our earliest learning experiences.

  60. thebewilderness

    Patriarchy doesn’t work because we were “taught” it. It works by means of force, ie., oppression. Society is not simply a “good teacher” of patriarchy, and individuals as students do not learn in that way. Instead, individuals are forced to exist as best they can in a system based upon dominance.
    said Sean

    I think it does. Submit, or die. That is the lesson of the patriarchy. Sez I

  61. Patti

    Just took me having a second child to make me throw that tabula rasa thing out the window. Mine were different from the day they were born.

  62. V.

    I have to wonder about all this contempt of children, no matter how artfully veiled.

    When one is victimized and oppressed, unless the nature of the oppression is brought to light,and fully understood by the victim, the natural tendency is for the once-oppressed to perpetrate the same oppression in order to consolidate the illusion of ‘power.’

    That’s a complicated way of saying we remember the oppression we were subjected to as children, and as soon as we gain any distance or sense of power, re-enact what we were subjected to.

    That’s either by parenting in a similarly repressive manner,by parenting froma powerless perspective, or by taking the stereotypical ‘child-free’ stance.

    There’s no getting away from this without some serious insight and soul-searching.

    Hate kids? Well, most of ‘em? It reflects the degree of oppression, overt and covert, you were subjected to as a kid.
    Who in her right mind wants to be that powerless ( and slammed into submission) ever again? Let’s stay far, far away!

    Hold moms and parenting in thinly-veiled contempt? Guess whose mother was subjected to societal contempt and restriction even more strongly? Guess who looked at this and decided it looked bad, but without larger context, ended up blaming the victim/s ?

    Child-free beaches are trivial in the face of all of this.

    I will say that for many, many women, acess to childcare is a luxury. So an ‘adult-women only’ space smack in the middle of what is typically women and children’s space strikes me as rubbing one’s socioeconomic status into the stinging eyes of one’s less well-off sisters.

    Unless you really want to say “No-one currently mothering allowed. Unless she’s well-supported.”

    Which kind of blows the argument about women-only spaces being nurturing safe havens for all women right out of the water for me.

    I’ll re-edit this and try to clarify my points when I’m not quite so exhausted.

    Go rachel! by the way.

  63. Becker

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: don’t get me started on the grownupiarchy.

  64. pheeno

    A split beach would be better. That way, when I want to get away from kids (mine included) I can and I dont have to listen to someone elses screaming brat on the very very few occasions I cant actually have time to myself. Im dirt ass poor and child care, hah. Unless its free, Im shit out of luck. So when I DO actually get to get away for awhile, and adult woman only beach would be the only slice of heaven Id get in the midst of struggling to keep the electrity on and a roof over our heads. Im not child free, but damn, sometimes its nice. And no, it doesnt just stop at my kid not being around.

  65. dairon

    “children are an oppressed class. Their universal and legitimately reviled unruliness is not natural.”

    Deepest apologies if anyone finds this off-topic, but the post brought it to mind and I found it incredibly apropos. Now, I just hope the darn link works.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqlutnHRA3I

    (If it doesn’t, then just go onto youtube and search “Neil Gaiman.” The thing I’m trying to link to is his reading of “Babycakes.” It tends to be one of the first things whenever I search his name on that site.) The story in question encapsulates so many horrific underlying ideas about social hierarchy and what can and can’t be human or worthwhile so incredibly well. I always find the growing sound of silence as he continues reading and the audience figures out that he’s serious quite amusing…in a very disturbing way.

  66. Hattie

    Well, I am a mother of two kids and a grandmother, so you could hardly describe me as childless. But I still don’t like strange kids staring at me in locker rooms. I was not put on this earth to provide anatomy lessons to random young humans.
    I don’t mind little toddlers, but when they get to be over six, they can wait outside.
    To anyone who objects, I wish you a good stare down from a six to eight year old boy when you are 68 years old.

  67. Lisa

    So about all this gym locker room business, let me tell you how my gym does it. No kids are allowed in either the mens or women’s locker rooms until they are, I think, 16 years old. No kid can participate in the gym unless they are 16 and have taken a class on safety and ettiquette.

    However, the gym provides 5 generously sized “family” bathrooms that include accessible shower, private toilet stall, sinks, towels what have you. This is not only great for moms with kids but is also great for my partner who is quadriplegic and needs extra help and time. The whole mom with sons awkwardness is taken care of, and by the time those sons are able to go into the regular locker rooms, they go to the men’s.

    The gym also provides a nice childcare facility on site for reasonable rates, as well as classes specifically designed for families and children. Since I can’t afford a lot of childcare, this has been the main way I get to have a bit of alone time, not to mention take a nice private shower, albeit in a room full of other women. Other classes and lap times are designed specifically for adults.

    I bring this up to show that accommodating adults who would like some non-kid time and adults and kids who want to spend time together is not all that hard or unimaginable. The thing that my gym does right is to actually disallow kids from certain areas and activities BY PROVIDING SUITABLE ALTERNATIVES. This is the key to respecting the comfort levels of various people while still respecting the needs of kids and their (most of the time) mothers. Why is that hard?

    Also, I said on the previous posts that while I’m a parent, I do understand the need for some adult only time. But I am rather dismayed at all the kid bashing, here. I am not going to restaurants being targeting by prepubescent food fights. I am not constantly getting sand thrown in my purse. Have I witnessed some very irritating behavior from children? Yes, from time to time. But I have also been irritated from time to time by some woman’s gross perfume or obnoxious giggling or some man’s loud misogynistic diatribes or even a crotch-sniffing dog or two. Kids don’t have the corner on these kinds of minor irritating behaviors.

    I often take my kids to restaurants. I take them to more casual, kid friendly places. I expect them to sit in their chair and treat the wait staff and other customers with respect. But they are preschool age and this takes time. Some of you act like you can just talk to a 3 year old once and lay down the law and they are actually going to instantly comply with your wishes. Learning respectful behavior in public takes time and only can be practiced in public. I have taken my kids to restaurants countless times, and can only think of two incidences where they were so awful I had to remove them, pack it up and go home. So one for each kid over a course of years is not bad, I don’t think. Although when I listen to some of the comments here, I am sure that there were people in those restuarants that probably thought my kids were rotten to the core, I was a horrible parent who did not raise my kids right, and they shouldn’t be allowed to exist. Kids are not all good or all bad. Neither are parents or anyone. Kids and parents have bad days. Condemning the whole kid or mom or all children in general is being very prejudicial.

    Professionally I work with developmentally disabled kids. Sometimes they don’t act appropriate in public. Some of them never will. It really makes you think about how “appropriateness” is decided and by whom. People often treat the disabled kids and adults I go to public places with as if they shouldn’t be there, they are an incredible annoyance, and have no right to exist because they aren’t up on perfect-by some arbitrary standards-ettiquette. And I just want to say, suck it up. They deal with more disrespect and annoying behaviors from the public than you’ll ever know. To some extent, kids do to.

    Yes, kids need to learn to be respectful. Yes, it is okay to have adults only activities as long as their are suitable alternatives for parents with kids. And, yes, I agree with some of the commenters, and I believe, Twisty herself that find some of these blanket “I hate all children” statements to be extremely prejudicial. Blaming overpopulation, effects of the patriarchy on mothers and children, lack of adequate childcare, or whatever else on the current children right in front of you really is blaming the victim instead of the perpetrators of the oppression. And guess who that blame should fall squarely onto? IBTP

  68. thisisendless

    Love that Neil Gaiman story. Thanks for that.

  69. Spit The Dummy

    Carol said: What I find really annoying are the people that immediately start screaming “what about the CHILDREN?” every time something goes wrong. The oil refinery has a toxic spill “what about the children living downwind?”, the public park gets closed for maintenance “What about the children?”

    Yeah, but “children” includes boys.

  70. dr.sue

    From the time he started kindergarten, my kid, who is generally well behaved at home and in public spaces, became a “problem” at school. He talked out of turn. He couldn’t sit still. He made inappropriate jokes during quiet time. I dreaded parent-teacher conferences and even listening to my phone messages. I clamped down on him to the point where he dreaded listening to me. We were all miserable.

    Finally one night when he was 10, and I was once again enumerating all the charges against him, he forced me to listen to him. He explained that school felt like jail. Somebody was always yelling at him to do something he didn’t even know he was supposed to do. He wasn’t allowed to talk without permission, and adults talked so much he couldn’t even think. He said, “If it was up to me I’d never go back there. I’d just learn how to do a job, then I could do the job and talk and go to the bathroom when I needed to.”

    I know this can be read as the plaint of an entitled little Nigelo and/or a “boys will be boys” argument, but I think it illustrates Twisty’s point about induced neurosis. The patriarchy is set up to punish and repress the weak. Even many institutions “for” children aren’t “child-friendly”–they exist for purposes of indoctrination and control. Of course kids will react to that. I don’t think the choice is between “permissiveness” and repression, but between treating children as fully human beings who need to learn social skills and treating them as monsters who need to be controlled or banished.

    Of course kids shouldn’t be allowed to run wild in restaurants. In a post-patriarchal society, someone besides the parental unit could have intervened before the situation got out of hand, because the parents wouldn’t be considered the “owners” of the child.

    I keep thinking about Twisty’s proposed binary restroom system, one for neat elilminators and the other for sprinklers and litterers. Maybe the (again, post-patriarchal) solution would be to have “quiet beaches” and “running-around” beaches; “lap swim times” and “play swim times,” and so on. It’s the exclusion of an entire class of humans as unworthy to socialize with us civilized folk that’s problematic, I think.

  71. Silence

    Thank you, Catherine Martell. You hit it exactly correctly. (And yes, I’m a she.)

    Frankly Rachel, I think you’re being a little too defensive. No one here is bashing you or any woman because you’re a mother. We’re here because we blame the patriarchy, not your personal choices. So kindly don’t jump down my throat or assume I’m an evil, child-hating bitch.

    My emphasis was on ‘mama’ because I read the article and one of the women was quoted as saying that the beach was a place she could go without having her child scream ‘mama mama!’ at her for hours on end.

    And I don’t know you or your child personally, but I have been to many public places where I have heard children doing just that. In fact, this weekend in New York, I was trying to enjoy a pastry in a cafe with my sister and the child at the other table was doing just that. His poor mother was trying to hold a conversation with a friend and her child kept screaming for attention, over and over. I’m sure she loved her son, but I also dead certain that at that moment she wished she were in an adult-only space where she could enjoy her coffee and conversation for a time. I say, until society improves and children are socialized in a way that is better and more understanding for them, we need to give women their private space just so they can relax. It’s a baby step, but damn, why does it have to be such a huge issue? Why do we have to raise such a fuss over the idea that women may want a break from children as well as from men?

    Oh, right, because society says women aren’t complete until we have children, and that we have the natural instinct to nurture and console wee ones. If you’re sensing any hostility towards children in my posts, it’s directed towards that assumption, not towards the children themselves.

    I love talking with children — the friendly, imaginative ones anyway. They often have such fresh insights into life and quirky ways of speaking. A month ago I was at a party and this eight-year-old girl with an absolute bush of red hair plopped herself down next to me and announced: “I have ham, I have bread. This is great!”

    How can you not love a child like that?

    On the other hand, I was ready to strangle the ‘mama mama’ kid at the cafe. I don’t think it’s oppressing children to expect them to mind their manners in certain public spaces. There should just be an equal number of spaces where they’re allowed to go and muck about without adult interference as well. If all people were valued equally, we’d either be able to stay in each others’ presence without pissing each other off, or we’d all have our own spaces to retreat to when we wanted peace. But the world belongs to men and we have to squabble over the scraps. That’s the bottom line. If men were expected to invest as much time in child care as women are, women wouldn’t need a child free beach because they would only be in charge of the child half the time.

    And kids would be just as likely to yell ‘papa, papa’ as ‘mama, mama.’

  72. Silence

    That is, (continuing the thought from above)if they had to scream for attention at all. Maybe in an ideal world, children would feel safe enough and loved enough that they wouldn’t seek constant affirmation that they’re not going to be abandoned at any moment.

    I really can’t say. The atmosphere we all breathe is so poisonous for children — for all of us — that it is almost impossible to tell what life would be like for children if the big P went down. Ditch the schools for a start, and those ghastly banal TV shows. But what then? Personally, I’d like a society where everyone has a hand in raising children and they don’t belong to their parental units. This idea that a family ‘owns’ a child really creeps me out. It gives parents the right to dress their baby up as a sunflower or a bumblebee and have people take pictures of it and sell them as postcards. Because it’s so ‘cute.’

    I shudder when I see those babies-in-fuzzy-costume cards and other such trash, because folks, that’s the face of oppression. No one should force another human being to dance around on television in a diaper or dress up like a chicken for another person’s entertainment. Never mind that the human being is pre-vocal; it’s still an act of contempt towards their rights and dignity.

    And sorry, I veered off the topic a little there. But yes, I’m angry at the way children get belittled in this society. I just don’t think women should automatically be the ones who have to suffer in silence for the sins of the patriarchy. Let’s put the blame squarely where it belongs.

  73. Flash

    Three cheers for the Italians.

    However, it seems we’re only talking about the indulged, pampered children of the developed world here. In undeveloped countries, childhood doesn’t last long. Children learn what constitutes acceptable behaviour from being with their families or the wider community. They have responsibilities and learn skills that affluent American and European children don’t. We should expect more of children, and they’ll mostly respond to those expectations.

    Meanwhile, women-only areas are a great idea. It’s complete nonsense that women should tolerate other people’s children just because we’re women. They are, after all, just immature people.

  74. rachel

    Here’s the thing, Silence: when you ask about children screaming for mama “24/7,” I understand that you intend to indict a system that makes children too dependent on their mamas, the the exclusion of their papas. I further understand that this is a hyperbolic generalization that draws on sitcom-level sophistication in its representation of children. That is my objection.

    I am incredibly defensive, it’s true. These threads have pissed me off.

    No doubt the woman you describe at the coffee shop would have been happy to have a conversation with her friend without interruption. Do you get that if the coffee shop were to ban children, that wouldn’t automatically mean the woman benefited? Do you get that she might not have been there at all? Private businesses can do whatever they want, of course, such is the iron rule of capitalism. I’ve no doubt many on this thread would pay extra for plane tickets if they were guaranteed children-free flights. Here in the south, the more exclusive and expensive golf clubs do a very good job of quietly keeping minorities out. There is always a way to make sure your sensibilities are as little offended as possible.

  75. fishboots

    This topic has got me to thinking. I have many children and I spend most of my waking moments with one or all of them. When out I am forever riding them to BE QUIET! and BE STILL! and BE NICE! I am very concerned that other people might be put out by the walking circus that is my family. I tell them not to BOTHER people. To RESPECT others. To WAIT until other people go, because we don’t want to make them wait for us. I come home from the grocery store exhausted with the constant monitoring of whether or not my children have impacted someone else’s life in any way. And the children are tired too, I mean, who wants constant instruction on PROPER BEHAVIOR? I am aware of people looking down on me and mine because, well, if I can’t keep
    them corralled I shouldn’t of had them. I automatically take second best because I have children with me and people shouldn’t have to suffer having to spend time with my reproductive choices.

    I have a hard time seperating women from children, in that taking care of them usually falls to the female, even if its the hired help. Someone has to raise them. And I think that as long as children are considered not fit for public consumption the women taking care of the children will be shun worthy as well. I find it odd that the next generation aren’t considered palatable until they have accepted their place in society. A place that is well beneath those that were born before them. Trust me, training kids not to demand what they want, when they want it takes years, and sometimes even then it doesn’t stick.

    This is not to say that I don’t believe that there are certain places children, and the impulse control problem that travels with, should not be. But the Beach? The friggin’ beach?

    I also wanted to point out that women are constantly under the microscope for their parenting technique. Are you too permissive? Are you too controling? Is a swat on the behind abusive? How about sending them to bed without dinner? Is sarcasm a useful parenting tool? What are you really teaching them? Is it because the kids are going to be members of society that people feel they get to judge your progress without having the bother of actual responsibilty? I don’t understand it. I try to leave as small a “footprint” as I can when out, but when people don’t want the irritation that having kids around entails, short of gagging and binding them, there isn’t alot I can do. And get off my back already, cause I got enough fuckin’ problems. Ahem. Not that I’m personalizing this or anything.

  76. rachel

    “However, it seems we’re only talking about the indulged, pampered children of the developed world here. In undeveloped countries, childhood doesn’t last long. Children learn what constitutes acceptable behaviour from being with their families or the wider community. They have responsibilities and learn skills that affluent American and European children don’t. We should expect more of children, and they’ll mostly respond to those expectations.”

    If you want to start talking about all those children in China who were just rescued from the brick making factories they were kidnapped to keep running, I’m happy to. Their childhood didn’t last long. And it’s true that American and European children don’t know much about brick-making. But I don’t think this is what you meant. Which “undeveloped” countries and which skills in particular are you talking about?

  77. delphyne

    This is an excellent resource for people who don’t hate children or for people who are thinking about changing their child-hatin’ ways:

    http://www.naturalchild.org/

    “Our vision is a world in which all children are treated with dignity, respect, understanding, and compassion. In such a world, every child can grow into adulthood with a generous capacity for love and trust. Our society has no more urgent task.”

    I’d also recommend all of Alice Miller’s books.

    In a world where so many children are abused and mistreated, including in the affluent West (although that affluence is restricted to certain sections of society) it’s disconcerting to hear such hatred and contempt being expressed towards children. Picking on people smaller than you is never good.

  78. Panic

    My experience, and what I see happening around me, is the managing of children in service to the parents needs.
    Sorry, are parents not allowed to have needs anymore, once they become parents? What I see, is mothers becoming (or being asked to become) only mothers, and no longer women of agency.

  79. Vera

    Allow me to present my credentials: I do not believe that children are automatically lovable. I love my own (grown) daughters, but I steer away from other people’s children and always have. I feel awkward and bored if I’m put in a situation where I have to “play” with a kid. I secretly fear that my daughters will have kids and ask me to babysit. (Guess it’s not a secret anymore!) As a teenager, I eschewed baby-sitting and would sooner have cleaned those toilets people were writing about a few threads back.

    I just returned from spending the weekend with a couple of friends. Their son is one of those misbehaving types: loud, demanding attention, acting out inappropriately in public places. Everywhere they go with this kid–shopping, vacation, dining–he creates a fuss and disturbs people.

    People give my friends more stink-eyed stares than I’ve ever seen. It’s embarrassing. I’ve witnessed strangers coming right up to the mother and dressing her down for tolerating the kid’s behavior. When my friends are out of earshot, I’ve heard discourses on what a lousy job they’re doing as parents, and just what should be done with this kid to make him into a better citizen.

    My friends adopted this boy the day he was born to a drug-addicted teenager. He has more developmental problems than the day is long. If he had not been adopted, he would be living in an institution, and someone, somewhere would be complaining about the amount of public funds required to maintain him.

    If only he could be friendly and imaginative, with a bush of red hair! If only he could have bright, charming insights! My friends would be the first to sign up for this, on his behalf. But they, and he, are stuck with what they’ve got.

    My friends are heroes. Give them a fucking break.

    The kid-bashing in these comments is making me cringe. Much of the complaints made about kids–in particular, that they make too much noise and need to be taught to be quiet and respectful–sound eerily familiar. Isn’t that what the patriarchy requires of women?

    Blaming kids, blaming parents, blaming mothers. What’s wrong with this picture?

  80. Patti

    Yeah, I’m basically being told on the forums (where I’m Medusa) to shut up with the talking about my sons (actually, part of the comment was “Why on earth can’t you put your emotions aside for one lousy second” – I’m expected to police myself accordingly), and that as a radical feminist, I should be refusing to nurse male neonates if it’s not possible to abort them outright.

  81. stacy

    I’d like to see way more men-only spaces where they can go and get out of my hair. Huge stadiums, large wooded areas – gather them all together and lock the gates. And leave the world to us. hell yeah.
    But seriously, the world actually belongs to the children and we adults are the interlopers. We should be asking children for permission to occupy their space!

  82. Patti

    So I’m told talking about my son is not-my-Nigeling.Jr. Am I supposed to closet myself? I have to hide a very important part of my life to be here?

    It’s interesting. I’ve been around a while. Since before sexual harassment was a term. When it was still legal to use a raped woman’s previous sexual behavior in court as evidence against her. It was legal to keep girls out of wood shop and auto shop in high school – both of which I wanted to do, and went on to be very good at, AFTER high school. Back when the SDS told us women that the only place for us was on our backs. I put myself out there a LOT, I spoke up when there wasn’t a movement yet, and it’s very weird to feel so unwelcome here now. It makes me really sad. Which I guess is verboten, as I’m still not putting my feelings aside.

  83. Blandina

    I blame the patriarchy for a discussion about a women only beach devolving into infighting about parenting and children. In regards to the original devolved argument, why are people fighting about whether children should be allowed on a women only beach? Can no one concede that whether childless or mother, no woman needs or wants to spend every blessed hour of every day of the beach going season on the beach? Why are people fighting about the morsels the patriarchy coughs up? Alternate days for the children and the childless. I blame the patriarchy for anything more complicated than that being made of it. No matter how annoyed I get at a kid falling out in public and a mom not handling it well, I CHOOSE to give her slack. I save my outrage for patriarchal reverend who raped me when I was the annoying kid and for the misogynistic, narcissistic father who told me I was a valueless thing and not a human being (echoes of which I’m hearing in these posts). Someday we’ll learn to have each others’ backs and we’ll learn fuck the fucking patriarchy good, hard, and sideways instead of each other.

  84. TP

    I’m so glad to read all of the comments defending children. I’m the father of a 3 year old girl and I can also testify to the self-evident truth that we are not born with the innate knowledge of how our behavior impacts others. Only social exposure can teach us what effect our behavior has on others.

    In defense of the child-haters, I would like to remind us of the undisguised child-bashing a similar thread would engender on a typical male-liberal blog. I’m sure the level of hyperbole would ascend to death squads and compulsory prison for children, if not sexual slavery, which is where all too many pornsick men would love to see our kids.

    I do blame the patriarchy for our feelings towards the disruption that being in the same space as a toddler inevitably inflicts. I feel like the floodgates of love that my daughter has opened for me have enlarged my heart to include newfound empathy for all women and children that was beneath the surface before. Before, I used to harden my heart when I saw a child coming, now it opens.

    I identify the child mind with a post-patriarchal society. I think that if we eliminate sexual urges from the cultural mandates we get to be more like children. The sexuality of children is tenuous and in the process of being taught to them; the sexuality of all of us grownups was burned into our souls by patriarchal standards during the trauma of our adolescent awakenings.

    I was always excited by any example of female nudity from the earliest times I can remember, which is like three or four years old. I don’t know how my innocent, asexual excitement impacted the girls I looked at; I just remember it made me happy and excited and it was funny. There was a little boy who loved to run around naked downstairs from us who had the same effect, but with less longing, and more humor – I think it was because he was no different than me. So Hattie could use my memories to underscore her distaste for even the toddler male gaze. But I think my delight was asexual; no erections, no desire to control, no feelings down there at all.

    Even the possibility of subtle sexuality is distasteful to the radical feminist, though. If you find a woman beautiful to look at even though she arouses no sexual feelings, isn’t that still oppressive? Because isn’t the beauty you see based on male standards that control how women appear? Am I making statements thinly disguised as questions?

  85. Bird

    Well, count me as a childfree person who enjoys the company of children (or at least most of them). I like to run, crawl around looking for bugs, climb things, play catch, and generally do the sorts of things that our society says are for kids only. Kids are cool, and I still remember enough of being young to give them the benefit of the doubt most of the time.

    In my interactions with my friends’ children as the honorary Auntie Birdie, I’ve noticed that there is a huge amount of variation in the neurosis that affects most young humans in our patriarchal world.

    I know one couple who are extremely protective and have the traditional nuclear family set-up with mom at home all the time. Their girls are the “mama!” types. They alternate between acting out and clinging desperately to their parents. Already the oldest has learned how to manipulate and play pretty games (largely because daddy responds to such things, and she knows she can get rewards for putting on feminine behaviours).

    Another couple with girls the same age live in a small town. The kids spend a lot of time with grandma and other extended family around. There is a large circle of friends who also are constantly present. Everyone interacts with the kids, and mom and dad are watchful of the children’s safety without overprotecting them. The girls still get into trouble sometimes, but generally, they’re bright, fun, interesting kids who explore their world with enthusiasm.

    Some of this might be innate personality. But I’m pretty damn sure environment is having an influence here.

    And you can guess which children I’d rather play with any day.

  86. chingona

    I want to thank Vera for her comments and say that dr.sue may have a good compromise there – that if places are to be segregated, segregate them by sedate v. rowdy, not by child-free vs. child-run, though the idea of a few child-free spaces doesn’t offend me.

    Yet I have been astounded by the experiences described in this thread. I am a mother, yes, but for most of my life I was not. I am not particularly maternal and have no desire to hold or mother other people’s children. I have certainly seen ill behaved children and experienced irritation, but I have never experienced the world described by some of the commenters here. It seems they are constantly assaulted by screams and cries and tantrums and flung sand and splashed water and lord knows what other offenses against public dignity. Everywhere they turn, they find more brats and can hardly leave their houses and even there the neighbor children intrude on their peace and quiet. I guess reality is in the eye of the beholder, but I have never lived in such a world.

  87. Marcy

    I gotta say, initially I was a bit knee-jerky hostile to the admonishments that it is the patriarchy that’s giving me these feelings of dislike towards children. But I soldiered on, reading all the comments, and things started sinking in. So, I’m slowly coming around on this issue.

    But dislike of children is not my number one reason for not having kids. This is something I have been thinking about since my early 20′s. I have lots of solid reasons for my decision. And at this point in history, I do have a choice not to marry and not to make babies, and I’m grateful for it. I do realize that it’s only a pseudo-choice, b/c it can be revoked if the patriarchy so wishes it (and hell, it may be soon what with the fundies controlling everything).

    So, even if I make a complete 180 about my views towards children and mothers, I’m still going to remain childfree because I think it’s the radically appropriate thing to do in my situation given all the variables.

  88. Bird

    Marcy, I doubt any woman here is going to argue with your right to reproductive freedom. I know more than a few women who’ve made that decision for good reasons (including my aunt, an elementary school teacher who likes children and even fostered abused kids but never wanted to produce “her own”).

    I think we’d all just ask you to do the same (speaking as a currently childfree woman who does plan to have kids at some point).

  89. Patti

    I don’t think anyone here demands that anyone else have children! But it’s important that the mothers not be punished by their feminist sisters – the patriarchy makes mothering difficult enough.

    And nobody likes ALL CHILDREN. I’m a mother, and it doesn’t mean I want to hold them all and mother them all. But if you want a feminist future, it’s actually fun to help kids think critically about the world. If you’re hanging out with the older ones, you can point out things and just watch their wheels turning.

  90. Scrivener

    I gotta say, I don’t understand how rachel and Patti and a few others can continue to attempt to engage in this discussion without going absolutely crazy. They keep raising reasonable, intelligent points and then a ton of people ignores everything they’ve said to write another comment explaining why they hate all those snotty brats out there and their despicable parents too. I’m embarrassed that so many smart, feminist people who I would like to associate myself with on so many levels are making me feel embarrassed to be among them. These two posts just make me angry.

    And to all those commenters on the threads who have felt the need to go on about how much they look forward to the extinction of human beings: you are never going to be successful at enacting any sort of meaningful social change when you’re arguing from the position that the best case scenario is to kill off 6 billion people. That does not make you look like good, ethical thinkers.

  91. Hattie

    I like what you say, Lisa. Not a mother exists who has not had to haul her screaming kid out of some public place. My major horror story has to do with flying from Washington D.C. to Germany on a Luftwaffe passenger plane (don’t ask how that happened) with an active and willful two year old who had never before been physically confined for hours and hours. Worst nightmare of my life.
    Where you live it is clear that your community has the resources and people have the intelligence and good will to provide facilities that meet everyone’s needs. It’s not that way everywhere.
    You sound like a great person.
    I wish there were a not-blame button here for you!

  92. Carol

    Contrary to the way my earlier post was mis-interpreted, I do not hate mommies. In fact, if a mother is in public and struggling to keep her kids from running berserk, I have been known to approach them with a friendly, “Can I help with them?” And this is not in order to force them to behave in a way that the patriarchy finds appropriate. it is because in most environments there are a multitude of ways for kids to hurt themselves and/or others. It can be very difficult for 1 woman with more than 1 child to keep them from doing something that is dangerous. This includes the beach. Where the kids can drown. Just for starters. So, if I would like a beach where I can go without feeling nervous about children, I don’t see why that should be frowned upon. There are plenty of beaches where the kids can be.

  93. thebewilderness

    I said: My experience, and what I see happening around me, is the managing of children in service to the parents needs.
    Panic said: Sorry, are parents not allowed to have needs anymore, once they become parents? What I see, is mothers becoming (or being asked to become) only mothers, and no longer women of agency.

    Perhaps I was not clear.
    I am talking about something entirely different.
    I am not saying parents do not have needs.
    I am saying it is not the responsibility of children to serve their parents needs. I can’t really say it any other way.
    I second the suggestion to read Alice Miller. It opened my eyes to all the ways we obey the dictates of the patriarchy in our relationships with our parents and our children.

  94. delagar

    I’m fairly sure the actual arrangement of any given beach or coffee shop or showering facility is not the issue here. Arguing such arrangments is rearranging deckchairs at the Alamo, isn’t it? Burn that fucker down and let’s move on.

    Nor is parenting/lack of parenting by various over-priveleged parents. Yes, people should teach their kids not to run about in restaurants/kick sand on other people/insert your unpleasant behavior here. Yes, kids don’t know how to act right unless someone teaches them how to act right.

    But the point here, and what I love about Twisty’s post, is that you don’t teach someone to act right by acting badly toward them. You can’t make someone a decent human being by oppressing her. You make children evil by oppressing them. What we have, here in this land, is the product of a childrearing system that thinks it can make children “act right” by beating, humiliating, emotionally abusing, and otherwise oppressing them.

    Then we say, I hate kids, they’re such monsters. Then we say, why are so many of them so violent? Then we say, bullying in schools? Go figure!

  95. PhysioProf

    In “The Dialectic of Sex”, Firestone makes the point that patriarchy distorts the intrinsic nature of childhood in at least two ways. The obvious way–and the way that has been discussed here–is that it treats children as an oppressed class without bodily or mental autonomy. But she argues that there is a more subtle–and perhaps insidious–distortion that has become more prominent over the last 400 years.

    Her position is that earlier in European history, children were mostly treated as smaller adults, and society did not have much of a physical, emotional, or cognitive child-specific infrastructure. Over the last 400 years, children have gradually become the focus of a vast physical, emotional, and cognitive infrastructure, and Firestone’s view, as I understand it, is that this reinforces patriarchy and is thus destructive to both women and children.

    Some comments here that have been characterized as anti-children and anti-mother seem to me like they are attempts to make a similar point–that allowing children to become the focus of society actually serves to reinforce patriarchy. And Carlin’s joke comes from the same place.

  96. Frumious B

    I mean, do we really expect the human race to go on and on forever?

    Well, I don’t really care if the human race goes on forever and ever. But when I am too old and feeble to do things for myself, I want a non-feeble person around to do them for me because I am selfish that way.

  97. Twisty

    I’m not gonna scold anyone for their views on kids. I was once a hata, too. I know how it is. Their behavior is appalling, they’ve all got colds, their hands are sticky, they can’t read Latin. But I’m afraid it is impossible to align discrimination against them as a class with radical feminism.

    Discrimination against children, by the way, includes ownership by parents, imprisonment in schools, and the sentimentalization of childhood.

  98. Frumious B

    I find it pretty interesting how a discussion of child-rearing is interpreted as an attack on mothers and must therefore be vorbotten. The current paradigm of child-rearing, which dictates that children must obey arbitrary rules given out by an arbitrary authority, has direct ramifications on society in general and on individual lives (like mine) in particular. Some of the behavior that I hate coming from children is the direct result of their objection to some arbitrary and pointless rule – eg, who the hell cares which chair the kid sits in as long as she sits in a chair? Or for that matter, who the hell cares if she sits under the table if she is happy, quiet, and not a trip hazard? Just because it’s a woman issuing the rediculous and unnecessary directive doesn’t make the directive, or the issuance, any less rediculous or unnecessary. A vagina is not a get-out-the-patriarchy-free card. The fact of women engaging in Patriarchy supporting behavior does not make that behavior un-blameworthy.

  99. Antelope

    Ah, but the patriarchy does provide a way to free women from full-time responsibility for their kiddos – it’s called television. I’m pretty impressed that we’ve been able to talk about kids this long without anyone else really mentioning it.

    How can you stay on top of being 100% responsible for the kids and 100% responsible for the household chores as well? Simple, just turn the children over for a couple hours a day of full-blown patriarchal mind-warp while you get things done in the kitchen, or maybe even spend some time with your partner.

    The kids that really, really annoy me most are the ones who think it’s cute to imitate woody woodpecker or some other cartoon. And of course tv plays a role in kids’ fascination with violent, loud, pushy, greedy, and generally ADD behavior more than a wee bit, too.

    I have a young relative who is fascinated with Nanny 911, and of course she knows the kids on that show are “bad,” but it’s basically just teaching her that being bad is more interesting way, way before she gets to the teen years.

    I completely blame the patriarchy and not the parents for the incredible convenience of tv, though. In fact, I think Momsrising.org has the right idea when they argue that families with young children are so completely screwed right now, at every class level, that it’s really the best angle to use in building some bi-partisan support for real political change. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re the group to do it.

  100. Kali

    “Some comments here that have been characterized as anti-children and anti-mother seem to me like they are attempts to make a similar point–that allowing children to become the focus of society actually serves to reinforce patriarchy.”

    The “what about the children” argument is generally a way for the patriarchy to control women, because women, much more than men, can be guilt-tripped into sacrificing for the sake of children. Women are controlled through their love and sense of responsibility towards children (their own and others’).

    Regarding discrimination: I believe it is fair to discriminate as long as the following conditions are met:

    1. The discrimination is based on behaviour, and behaviour alone.
    2. That behaviour is voluntary.
    3. The acceptable standard for behaviour is not arbitrary, i.e. it is justifiable in a universal sense.

    That is why it is OK to discriminate against men, but only in situations and places where they behave like morons.

    The question of children is a bit more complicated. Definitely, their behaviour can be troublesome. But to what degree do they have control over their behaviour? Older kids (5 ) do have some control. But toddlers, maybe not so much.

  101. hex

    PhysioProf, thank you for your thoughtful posts. Especially this:

    “allowing children to become the focus of society actually serves to reinforce patriarchy.”

    I agree with this, but don’t know what to do about it. Well, aside from the fact that I had a couple of abortions and made sure I didn’t have children.

    I will think about this some more. This conversation has been valuable to me.

  102. sargoyle

    Jezebella said: “…if you don’t think a ten-year-old boy has been exposed enough to patriarchy to be ogling in the locker room, you’ve got another think coming.”

    I don’t know what planet you’re on, but I have never, ever, seen a women’s locker room that allowed boys over the age of *6* in there.

  103. Marcy

    And to all those commenters on the threads who have felt the need to go on about how much they look forward to the extinction of human beings: you are never going to be successful at enacting any sort of meaningful social change when you’re arguing from the position that the best case scenario is to kill off 6 billion people. That does not make you look like good, ethical thinkers.

    Ethical? It depends on whose point of view you’re working from. If you’re working from the planet’s and the ecosystem’s point of view, then it become very much ethical to talk about getting humans out of the picture altogether. As far as I know, it’s not birds who are polluting the rivers with toxic waste. Cheetahs don’t oppress other cheetahs. Elephants don’t find a cure for syphilis and then withhold it from some other elephants who have darker skin. I could go on. I’m sure you get the point.

  104. PhysioProf

    “PhysioProf, thank you for your thoughtful posts.”

    Thank you for the kind words. Just to be clear, all I was doing in this thread was alluding to Firestone’s analysis of childhood. The ideas are hers.

  105. Marcy

    But the point here, and what I love about Twisty’s post, is that you don’t teach someone to act right by acting badly toward them. You can’t make someone a decent human being by oppressing her. You make children evil by oppressing them. What we have, here in this land, is the product of a childrearing system that thinks it can make children “act right” by beating, humiliating, emotionally abusing, and otherwise oppressing them.

    That makes a lot of sense. I like that. Kinda the same insanity as locking up a person for breaking a rule, having him get sodomized and beaten and stabbed with a homemade shiv (is that the word?), and then let him out a couple years later claiming he’s “rehabilitated.” Gawd.

  106. Tigs

    How about kids as revolutionary allies?

    bell hooks and Paulo Freire talk at least tangentially about the idea that radical education that values children as human beings is a revolutionary act in and of itself. This radical education obviously isn’t about schools but is more along the line of the bildungs-conception.

    Being that an instant discrete revolution isn’t looking so likely, I advocate the idea that we should act our freedom as often as possible; resist what we can, and duck our heads when we can’t, and I think the way that feminism deals with ‘children’ is a really basic place to start this action on a daily basis. Treating children like human beings is part of a revolutionary program.

    That a five year old can be a feminist seems no more crazy to me than that a sixteen year old can be, and given previous discussions on high schools there are some blamers here who would certainly be good examples of teenage feminists I actively respect. I say treat every child like a human being, is that so hard?
    (As has been pointed out by others above, it might be about the same amount of hard as is treating women like human beings!)

    I think there are definite values to women-only spaces. Consciousness-raising is essential to any good movement. However, if we are going to insist on women-only spaces, I think we also need to insist on child-only spaces (with the caveat that safety must be ensured– I’m not advocating drowning babies). In safety-ensured child-only spaces, children will be able to engage or not engage on their own terms. Children should be allowed to yell and run in circles sometimes without oppressive judgment, yah? Just like women (who so choose to) should be allowed to sit quietly and enjoy nature.

  107. Tigs

    Question: We’ve all agreed that removing men and children doesn’t remove patriarchal poison, but who gets to set the rules for the utopian women-space?

    Seems to me that the serene image of women lying in the sun, languorously bronzing is a very specific definition of what happens at the beach. What about the women who want to run and play volleyball and jump off the beautiful cliffs (that I imagine as part of my non-judgmental women’s beach), and yell, and get drunk, feel safe doing all these things while in various states of undress? Should they be banned from the women’s only private beach? Should we partition the women’s beach into quiet v. loud? I think if we go too far down that line, you ultimately get to a theoretical place that says that we all need our own beach (how very Locke-ian), and oh well, there certainly ain’t enough beach for everyone. So get the hell off!

    Yarrr!!! (I am so glad summer I is over!!! Yayy! I love it here!)

  108. Violet

    Increasingly, I’ve come to resent the idea that all public spaces (with the exception of establishments that cater exclusively to males like strip clubs etc) be “safe” and “healthy” environments, suitable for the whole family. This has been achieved through draconian anti-smoking measures and laws that criminalize anyone peripherally connected to a DUI charge. In some states, bartenders and waitstaff can be charged for serving drinks to an already impaired individual or for not physically wrestling drunk patrons to the ground in order to seize his/her car keys. (As if bar staff don’t have enough to contend with without having to monitor the blood alcoho levels of each and every customer). This is not to suggest that I condone drunk driving in any way, shape or form, so please don’t interpret this as an attempt to downplay the severity of this particular crime. I merely take exception to the prevailing notion that the entire world should conform to the blandly puritanical shopping mall experience, whether one is in a cafe, bar or restaurant. I figure that unless you are in Chucky Cheez or some environment where the smell of unfairly traded coffee is pumped in through the air ducts, you should not expect the world outside your home to unconditionally cede to the demands of you and your children. We should allow for a little “unwholesomeness” (and no, I’m not talking about lap dances and other male-centric forms of “entertainment”) in certain areas designated for this very purpose. After all, not everyone embraces the prevailing Yuppie belief that every eating and drinking establishment be suitable for children and tourists from Ohio. Call me “anti-child”, but I believe that more public money should be spent on playgrounds, affordable daycare and other services for single and/or financially struggling parents, rather than expect the private sector to be wholly responsible for ensuring that children are entertained and provided for, even in places that don’t cater to them.

  109. Vera

    Wait–you mean it’s uncool to be from Ohio?

    Damn.

  110. kate

    Thank you Kiki, V and Vera for pointing out the classism seeping through many of the comments here.

    The smelly, disgusting concept that women can have complete control of their reproductive systems at all times carries the stench of patriarchy. Women do not — hear me out — they do not will baby making. Sometimes, believe it or not pregnancy happens unawares, unplanned, unwanted and oftentimes as a trap from which the woman cannot wrest free.

    Particularly in a society where for a large portion (majority) of the female population, services for pregnancy termination do not exist in any reachable realm.

    Therefore, no rightfully labeled feminist should ever shame a woman who has for whatever reason taken on the role of mother. I am sick and damn tired of people, especially liberals and feminists in particular, dismissing the experiences and powerlessness of those other than themselves, as willful victimhood, laziness, self induced ignorance or what have you. Get off it already! Or better yet, get the hell out of the suburbs and learn a thing or two.

    In the same vein, I would like to add that children who oppress your desire for noise-free space more than likely have no intention toward your destruction.

    I don’t know where to begin or where we shall begin, but possibly those wishing to free themselves of the constriction of patriarchy and its attendant hierarchies, might do well first to stop seeing children as willful actors against their precious rights.

    None of us have rights as individuals entirely exclusive of the rights or needs of others. That’s the hitch. As long as we continue to see our own personal needs as some commodity in competition with everyone else’s then the strife will continue.

    Children, parents, young adults, old folks and the rest of us all need our private space and time. In order for any of that to occur, a mutual sharing of energy for nurturance of others and self would be simultaneously occurring. Emotional neediness in children and adults would not exist as love and respect would not be commodities doled out as sugar-sweets only to the deserving or the rightly born, or the properly owned.

    Might I also add that discipline and love and attention seem quite confused among some. Discipline, the teaching through repetition, reward and example involves learning the skill of self control, usually develops as the child individuates/matures. Since most social systems require cooperation for survival, proper maturation requires the ability to learn delayed gratification.

    It is no mystery that the one’s ability to delay personal gratification is seen as a desirable trait. The perversion is that the servant classes (those not white males) and children are seen as not deserving of personal gratification at all, as of course that would require recognition of a worthy self.

    Therefore, when all persons are recognized as having worth by virtue of their existence then 1) compassion and nurturance are not commodities used to reward control and compliance and wither difference 2) since all are seen as fully capable of receiving, so likewise are all seen as fully responsible for sharing in return or as an act of giving in and of itself.

    So, child-free beaches would indeed seem a trivial argument, as it does to me now as well. There is a larger monster underneath this.

  111. Twisty

    Violet, I wouldn’t call anybody ‘anti-child’ who wishes the philosophic thrust of her culture to rise above Chucky Cheez.

  112. Twisty

    Nice blaming, Kate.

  113. Patti

    Amen.

  114. kate

    Thankie Twist.

  115. tinfoil hattie

    “Public” means “public.” Kids are part of the “public.” So are fat people, hairy people, skinny people, ugly people, folks with bad breath, drunks, evil skinhead Nazi types, shouters, gigglers, stare-ers. Kids are just an easy group to snarl about. It is indeed a pity that we all can’t be in a place where all our needs are met and things that irritate us don’t exist. And it is indeed a pity that we can’t each be Queen Of The World and dictate who can be where, and at what time, and in what state.

  116. medrecgal

    I don’t hate children, but rather I hate the way people in this current patriarchal age are raising them. I am also in complete disagreement with the notion that children are an “oppressed class”; quite the contrary in my experience, where it seems as though not only are they not oppressed, they are running the whole damn show! I am in full view of public spaces for much of my working day, and all I see are mothers working overtime to placate their children and children who are often running around out of control with unacceptable levels of noise and general insanity. I always say that if I had behaved the way I see many children behave these days, my mother’s size 11 shoe would have been planted firmly up my butt!

    I, needless to say, have absolutely no desire to raise them; the noise levels, constant need for attention, and unpredictability inherent in childrearing leave me ill at ease and with a desire to run far away from the situation. It’s more a reflection of my peculiar neurological makeup than of any characteristic of children, but neither do I appreciate the inherent notion of patriarchy that you’re somehow “less” if you choose not to partake in the bearing and/or rearing of children. The “motherhood mandate” has long overstayed its welcome. I’ll take my nice quiet career and a couple of spoiled felines any day over motherhood. Pox on the patriarchy.

  117. medrecgal

    Kate,

    I, for one, know a great number of ADULTS who have failed miserably at accepting and practicing the ideal of delayed gratification. Like I said in my previous post, a lot of this has nothing to do with the children themselves and everything to do with the cultural constructs underlying current childrearing practices.

    As for “shaming those who have taken on the role of mother”… it’s all in the context. There’s a lot of difference (to many people) between that “white picket fence, a dog, a husband and 2.3 children suburban soccer mom” and the equally stereotypical “welfare mother who keeps on popping out more babies because she isn’t smart enough to get birth control”. I would agree that this smacks of classism, but to be perfectly honest, I’ve seen examples that show the (small) kernel of truth to this. I would suggest that it’s a matter of resources; people take less kindly (in general) to those who draw resources from the social systems rather than from their own labors. If that’s classism, I think the overwhelming majority of us would be guilty of it, at least to some degree. The trick–and it’s a daunting one–is to find ways to help those with children make economic gains without compromising the care of those children. Our society has done a p*ss poor job of that, IMHO. And for that, IBTP, not mothers.

  118. Frigga's Own

    “After all, not everyone embraces the prevailing Yuppie belief that every eating and drinking establishment be suitable for children and tourists from Ohio.”

    I didn’t know us Ohioans (Ohians?) were so socially awkward. Must be our tendency to talk loudly and slowly until we get what we want, but with only cows and corn for conversational partners up here you can hardly blame us for being a little slow on the uptake.

  119. Violet

    Capitalism, by its very nature, creates the conditions that are hostile to children and the women who raise them. Unless you are willing to embrace socialism and fight for drastic increases in public spending for programs that benefit low-income families, you should expect nothing more than indifference and indeed, contempt for you and your children. Capitalism exists to uphold male privilege, so to blame the patriarchy without rejecting the economic foundations that support it, is a futile and short-sighted endeavor.

  120. Lizard

    I went to naturalchild.org, which was posted earlier, because I think the idea that children are an oppressed class is a compelling one in a lot of ways. The problem is that much of the theory on how children are people, too, and when they act out, it’s because their needs aren’t being met — it’s NOT feminist, if anything it’s incredibly anti-feminist. For instance: (and I don’t think I’m mischaracterizing the website by posting this particular bit:)

    From “Twelve Ways to Grow a Happy Child”:
    2. Keep your baby with you as much as possible. Separations and changing caretakers make it harder for your child to learn trust and to grow into a loving and trusting adult.

    3. Breastfeed your baby until he or she no longer needs it.

    4. Share sleep with your baby. This makes nighttime parenting easier and can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Your child’s need for your presence does not magically disappear at bedtime.

    5. Respond quickly and compassionately to your baby’s cries, both day and night, — reassures him that he is important to you. Picking up your baby will not “spoil” him. Carrying him increases brain cell connections. You can’t love a baby too much!

    9. A breastfeeding mother and her infant share sleep cycles and dream in unison, so the mother is less likely to be awakened by her baby during dreams or deep sleep. A refreshed mother is a patient mother!

    Maybe children are better off in some ways with the undivided attention of their parents, but what I’m getting from this is that a good mommy entirely gives up her life for her child, and that if she doesn’t, her child is less likely to trust, love, survive, and develop those crucial “brain cell connections.” You’re even supposed to sleep with your baby so your sleep cycles are in common. Long periods of this sort of parenting drastically undermine womens’ abilities to be economically independent, which I think is crucial.

    While I don’t dispute that children would be happier if society were structured in certain different ways, until the patriarchy is gone, criticisms which ask that children be treated in those very different ways — even things that seem benign, like, “of course if you ask kids to adhere to some arbitrary fascistic standard, he/she won’t want to — stop!” will inevitably translate in real life to a criticism of primary caretakers, who are mostly women. Even if that’s not what we mean to say, I read “small children need people to be more patient with them” as “even though your life would be a great deal easier if your child would be quiet and sit down, those needs are less important than the needs of your child to be loud and not sit down.”

  121. Rebecca

    “There’s a lot of difference (to many people) between that “white picket fence, a dog, a husband and 2.3 children suburban soccer mom” and the equally stereotypical “welfare mother who keeps on popping out more babies because she isn’t smart enough to get birth control”. I would agree that this smacks of classism, but to be perfectly honest, I’ve seen examples that show the (small) kernel of truth to this. I would suggest that it’s a matter of resources; people take less kindly (in general) to those who draw resources from the social systems rather than from their own labors.”

    What small kernel of truth is this? That single women raising their children alone are punished by a welfare system where they actually get less money if they work, but still not enough to survive with added costs of childcare, work clothing, and transportation? That the burden of caring for children and working full-time is too much for many people to take – hell, just doing one or the the other is daunting?

    It’s good to see that the myths of the ‘welfare queen’

  122. Rebecca

    oops, got cut off

    It’s good to see that the myths of the ‘welfare queen’ who drives a Cadillac and has another kid for no other reason than the extra $20 a month she will get, as well as that poor people, by not contributing things that capitalism values, are ‘living off the system’ – have survived intact. Perhaps that ‘kernel of truth’ in your idea of the welfare mother who is too stupid to get birth control is that *it is purposefully made difficult to control your own reproduction in the patriarchy, let alone as a poor woman.*

  123. zofia

    If there is a class and/or entitlement issue, it’s the yuppy mothers who are the ones who seem to me to feel entitled in this case. They don’t want to take their kids to the Y with all the riff raff, so of course we should all be thrilled with Johnny’s bomb dive.

    Oh really. Why isn’t the woman in question at the Y? She too is a member of ‘the club’. Sounds like a typical clash of the privileged. Yuppies with kids duking it out with yuppies without. Yawn.

    I think it’s ironic that women who claim to want a revolution would cling so tenaciously to their bourgeois values and demand that children of all people be forced to conform to the bullshit of this life sucking Patriarchy. Let them act up! Encourage it! Oh, right, they should be seen and not heard. They should mind their P’s and Q’s. When did Rad fems go fucking Victorian on the subject of children’s behavior? You talk about wanting to crush this system and then cluck your tongues at ‘the kids these days’ who refuse to conform and obey? You turn into Archie Bunker when someone imposes on your yoga class? What kind of revolution is that? What world do you live in? Women and children reduced to fighting over scraps? There has to be something more.

  124. Hattie

    We’re getting very psychological about what I would prefer to think of as logistics. The better the arrangements for children are, the better behaved they are. Often, especially for poor mothers, it is not possible to provide kids with what they need, and bad behavior can be a result of that.

    More generally, we need a national social program to support parents in the essential job they do of bringing up the next generation. We need better health care, better pre-schools and schools, cleaner air and water, better recreational opportunities. And family allowances.

    Maybe self interest could be persuasive to some. Don’t we want children to love and respect us, their elders? To look after us in old age, if we need it? And don’t we want a healthy, happy and well educated generation to run this country when we’re gone?

    It’s time for the U.S. to grow up and start doing right by kids. I know many are doing their very best. But it’s hit or miss.

    On this subject I recommend a book by the social scientist Theda Skocpol, The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy, Norton, 2000.

  125. redhead

    “Let them act up! Encourage it! Oh, right, they should be seen and not heard. They should mind their P’s and Q’s. When did Rad fems go fucking Victorian on the subject of children’s behavior? You talk about wanting to crush this system and then cluck your tongues at ‘the kids these days’ who refuse to conform and obey?”

    The system is what makes them act out. They act out because they are not allowed any real choice. It’s not about minding P’s and Q’s, it’s about treating the people around you with respect. That includes children – both in terms of how they are treated and how they treat others.

  126. Arwen

    I want to thank Kiki for her contribution. Which I think added quite a dimension, and especially important to consider the young women, poor women, and women of colour who get excluded in such conversations. Also thanks to Lisa, who addresses this with compassion.

    I don’t have any real issue with adult-only or female-adult-only spaces, especially if there are times or options for women-and-children only.

    I do have issue with both the naive nature and the lack of compassion of a number of the comments here. We get pregnant. We have kids. We breastfeed them. We love them. It is one major reason why we’re so oppressable; it is a great boon to women in patriarchy to remain child-free. Why? Children are hard, and we get tied to them: the expectation of parenting falls to us socially, but the hormones of parenting also affect some of us quite deeply. My feminism acknowledges that motherhood specifically, and not just parenthood, is a hard job and a huge resource-taker even if you’re addicted to meth and your children run wild in the streets.

    I happen to also wonder what “neurotic acting out” means. It is socialization that we don’t scream when mad or cry loudly when overwhelmed or ask someone missing a leg where she put it. If a child is running rampant or not using his or her inside voice or is asking annoying and overly personal questions, it is neglectful *or overwhelmed* parenting that lets it go on, but the behaviour could be the temperment of the child. Some children just want to say what they want to say, and many times, what they want to say is “AAAAAAAHHHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAAAAAHAHA!” Especially under the influence of sugar, fatigue, or illness, and definitely if an upset is in their lives. Like grandpa getting sick, or daddy beating mommy.

    It takes a while, as Lisa says, and with some children it takes longer. You don’t tell a dog to sit and stay once and have it stick, and kids are more like cats than dogs in training anyway. They generally have opinions. I have one of each; my eldest has very, very large emotions and is socially awkward and incredibly rambunctious. He’s charming, NOW, in public. That is hundreds of hours of incredibly difficult work, in which I had not only his feelings and mine to balance in a broth of my own social values and expectations. You want to kill the brat? Sometimes I did! But they are different in public than at home, and McDonald’s or Denny’s is our default in this mom-hating society. Childhood obesity, indeed.

    In this permissive age, I sometimes seem more strict than most, because I expect manners and empathy and the consideration of others: but that extends to the caregiver of the child who’s running into the waitress. That caregiver is also eating a meal, and parenting a rowdy child WELL during such an outing can be very much like performing accounting on the back of a bronco. I have many resources, as a parent, and sometimes I am less effective than I’d hope to be. I have a partner, financial stability, my health, a support network, education, interests outside, self-time, and love, and even still, sometimes, I fall off the bull.

    Perhaps it can be an exercise to come up with a reason why a person with a bronco in their house might find themselves in need of eating out…

    In such an instance, I might consider the circumstances of the caregiver’s indifference, and see if I could help out. The very offer to help out may be enough for the caregiver to understand a social boundary is being crossed, if that was unclear to the caregiver. And we aren’t all from the same culture – in some places, a rampaging child is expected to be told off by the waitress. That can be responsible, “let other people set their boundries” parenting for a given culture – usually smaller areas, and oddly, conservative ones.

    Or, perhaps a marriage has ended or a grandparent has died, or a nanny is afraid that a child will tattle and she’ll lose her job, or there’s just exhaustion and fatigue and picking one’s battles.

    Yes, it is inconvienent. As are the homeless, the vets, the mentally ill, the poor, those with odd cuisines who eat in your workspace, the elder in front of you in line who takes 5 minutes to make change, the person on the bus who tries to engage you in discussion.

    We are in this together.

  127. Arwen

    And may I say that in the world of lawyering, many women are doing very well, and making partner, and being shoved out specifically after having kids because their billable hours fall.
    That is patriarchy.

    If women need more than 6 weeks off, we’re supposed to assume it’s because they’re not committed enough to their jobs? That is patriarchy.

    If women don’t want to become their own dads and never see their kids in a play, we’re supposed to assume it’s because they’re not committed to their jobs? That is patriarchy.

    I found it easier to fight patriarchy without children, because for many values of patriarchy, it fought me far less. Oh, it fought me, yes. But it rarely kicked me in the teeth and stepped on my windpipe. It didn’t have my kids to use as a lever against me. My kids? Strongest lever ever invented.

  128. SusanM

    I think there may be a complement to this thread over at Flea’s:

    http://buggydoo.blogspot.com/2007/06/contest-humiliating-moments-in.html

  129. tinfoil hattie

    Go Kate, Zofia, and Arwen! Woo-hoo!

  130. Silence

    Is it child-hating to be annoyed by the noise an unruly child makes in a theatre or a cafe? Very well then; I’m a chiold hater. You got me. I admit it. You can drag me out and shoot me.

    Kidding, of course. Look, this should not be such a push-button issue. I don’t care whether children were planned or unplanned, although a planned child probably has a better start in life. I don’t care what color they are or what gender they are. As soon as they’re here, they’re people with almost the same rights as everyone. I say ‘almost’ because I’m not ready to see six-year-olds driving cars yet, although I dare say some of them would be better at it than some adults I know.

    The trouble as I’m seeing it is that some of us are saying, quite simply, that they do not want to be assaulted by screams and temper tantrums when they go out in public. And when we mention this fact, we’re branded ‘child-haters’ and given a list of excuses: the child is bored, the child is on a sugar high, the child has ADD, the mother (never the father) is doing her best, the mother is trying to discipline her child in a non-agressive way. And so on and so forth.

    Guess what? I have a list of excuses too. I also get bored. I also get headaches. I’m sometimes less than pleasant to people because I’m in a bad mood and I regret it later because I can’t go around apologizing. All I can do is try to be mindful and respectful of others. Most people, I am sure, do their best to teach their children to be similarly mindful and respectful. I don’t expect the lessons to take immediately. I don’t expect the poor lady with the howling and obviously unhappy infant to make it automatically shut up for my sake. Sometimes we just endure.

    My problem is and shall always be with the way children are socialized. As things stand right now, we women are expected to adore every child who crosses our path. I’m sorry; I can’t do it. I don’t have the time. Nor do I have the time to interview the parents of every child I meet to find out if their child has some serious mental issue or if s/he is just being loud and active. And there are times when children should be encouraged to be still and quiet or should not be there at all. I’ve personally seen people take three-year-olds to ‘Les Miserables’on Broadway and then the poor kid spends the entire show whining, squirming, and kicking the back of the seat because they’re not interested. Whom does such behavior serve? Remember, the other patrons at the show have probably spent nearly $100 a ticket. Don’t they deserve to watch the show in relative peace? Of course there may be obnoxious adult patrons, but surely we all know that three-year-olds are not likely to be interested in musicals about ninteenth-century France. In this particular situation, yes, I blamed the parents. I considered it both abuse of the child and rude to the rest of the audience. Surely people who can afford tickets to such a show could have sprung for a sitter for one afternoon.

    What I want is a solution that makes everyone happy and respects everyone’s rights. I don’t think there is one just yet because we live in a culture whose rules are those of dominance and submission. We can’t avoid it any more than a fish can avoid the polluted sea it lives in. Until it changes — if ever it does — we have to content ourselves with stopgap measures, like designating women-only spaces or child-friendly spaces and such. Once the revolution comes, we’ll stop sentimentalizing childhood. Children won’t belong to everyone and they’ll be free to learn and explore at their own pace.

    Look, why are we fighting? Most of us are women. Society damns us if we have children and damns us if we don’t. I’m not going to praise mothers above single women because that’s falling into the trap of valuing women as child-rearers above all else. Nor am I going to praise single women above mothers because that’s akin to saying that women who have children are somehow less intelligent and worthwhile than those who are child-free. And it’s all patriarchal bullcrap. I like to think that we’re all living our lives as best as we damn well can and trying not to be too critical of each other because we all know what is really to blame.

  131. tinfoil hattie

    There’s a lot more to this thread than people just saying, “I simply cannot abide the noise children make in public.” Nice try, though.

  132. delphyne

    Even if it was just noise, it still wouldn’t be an excuse. Children are noisy – so what? I hear a lot more noise from the drunken louts that pass my window ever Friday and Saturday night than I ever have from any kids. And the louts’ noise sounds much more threatening.

    There’s also a weird element of classism(?) going on here: children at the theatre in $100 seats; children in upscale restaurants; children throwing food over people’s posh clothes – all ruining adults’ expensive enjoyment. As if the money people pay means they are allowed to look down on children just that little bit more.

  133. Kali

    “My kids? Strongest lever ever invented.”

    So why voluntarily give the patriarchy tools to be used against us? It is some kind of overwhelming biological urge? Or is it a tradeoff where you (consciously or subconsciously) agree to help perpetuate the patriarchy in exchange for fulfilling your desire to have children? Is it lack of knowledge/awareness about how the kids would be used as a lever by the patriarchy against you?

  134. Silence

    Sorry, delphyne, if I am being elitist. I am a white, over-educated, privileged female. My opinion still counts and $100 is still a lot of money for me. Going to the theatre is a rare treat for me. I expect it is a lot of money and a special treat for other people too. Why should a poor child be bored out of her wits for three hours at a play she can’t be expected to enjoy? Why should the people who spend their hard-earned money for some entertainment be expected to listen to the child’s complaints or endure her kicking the back of their seats? Better for everyone, including the child, if she is left in a place where she can pursue her own interests. How, exactly, does that equate with me ‘looking down on children?’ Or are we not allowed to spend the money we earn as we wish anymore because it’s capitalistic and materialistic and otherwise swinish behavior?

    Ye gods, what is it with this ‘Yes! Yes! Children should be allowed everywhere or it’s oppression!’ mentality? Is it possible to see a difference between a child and an adult without it sentimentalizing childhood or stepping on their rights? There are things adults want to do that children do not enjoy. Some sort of provision should be made where the kids are allowed time away from adults and vice versa. No one should have to be on call for their child twenty-four hours a day. Please notice that ‘should’ because I realize many women have to be. I’m talking about in a better world than ours.

    And by the way, wasn’t part of the purpose of the thread to ask why ‘women-and-children’ are always put together like they’re one unit but ‘men-and-children’ just sounds strange and wrong? Why is that when, to my knowledge, children require parents of two gender to make their start into this world. Why is it that it is so much easier for men to walk away from their duties as parents while women are left to squabble over whether they’re getting respect as mothers or as childfree females?

    The answer is that none of us females are getting any respect and all this infighting is, once again, distracting us from the true enemy, the patriarchy. I want to hold it to account for the way children tend to behave and the way people react to them, not mothers, not single women, not anyone who is struggling to stay same in this blasted system.

  135. No Blood for Hubris

    Wisdom of Solomon: cut baby in half?

    Something for everyone — cut beach in half, kiddieful/kiddiefree.

  136. Silence

    That should be ‘sane,’ not ‘same.’ Something I’m not right now, since my cat woke me at six ‘o clock this morning.

  137. Heart

    Well…

    Except that this isn’t really even a woman-only beach. It’s owned by a man, run by a man, it includes a male lifeguard (because the asshole who owns/runs the place thinks women can’t save drowning women because we are too weak and feeble or our boobs are too big and get in the way or something like that), it includes male hairdressers, and it’s not really even a “beach.” It’s a spa or health/beauty salon kind of a deal located at a nice beach which is calling itself a “woman-only beach” because “woman-only” is a marketing tool that is working right now and rich patriarchs have picked up on that.

    I blogged at length about this latter phenomenon yesterday, top post on my blog.

    Women don’t need men’s help creating or establishing woman-only anything, we know how to create, establish, find and enjoy our own woman-only spaces, those of us who enjoy them. Women also don’t take children (or men) to more conventional (read: not on the Adriatic shore and owned by a rich patriarch) health spas or beauty/tanning/manicure joints for reasons I also blogged about yesterday. These places are by definition women- (and possibly gay men) only. Women (and gay men) don’t bring their kids along when they get manicures, hair foils, go tanning, go to chill in this particular way with their girlfriends. (Leaving aside, of course, for the moment, all of the issues around compulsory femininity, class issues, fascist beauty standards, and so on.)

    To me, what is of interest about this from a feminist perspective is that men are cashing in on the fact that women do indeed enjoy woman-only spaces, so much so that they’re using the idea as a marketing tool, even when what they are promoting isn’t even woman-only. There’s also a buttload of fine blaming waiting to be done given that the guy who runs this joint is a Class A sexist (to wit, women can’t be lifeguards).

    Given the density of patriarchy blaming material here, why did this thread turn into a fight about kids/no kids between mothers and women without kids? I think that’s because of the history around the topic of children and motherhood here at IBTP and lingering, unresolved pissed-offness on the part of both groups. It’s disappointing, because some real blaming and good analysis would have been great to read, instead of women fighting with women.

    Heart

  138. delphyne

    “Why should the people who spend their hard-earned money for some entertainment be expected to listen to the child’s complaints or endure her kicking the back of their seats?”

    Because she has a $100 ticket too, same as you? How often does this happen, though? I’ve never had this experience at the theatre, have you? On the other hand I have had adults kick the back of my chair, talk through performances, eat noisily etc, etc but I’m not expecting adults to be banned from being out in public any time soon.

    What I’m trying to get at is that people are constructing these elaborate scenarios where there are children, children everywhere spoiling adults’ costly (and costly does seem to be the important part) enjoyment when the reality is that children generally don’t get taken to the theatre or posh restaurants, or make a bee-line for adults cashmere clothes.

    Maybe US culture is different from the UK and lots of children do appear regularly in these venues. In which case I apologise for my scepticism.

  139. Crys T

    Since the blow-up on the previous thread, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot. And my opinion (at least at this point in time) is that there are a lot of “progressives” or “liberals” or whatever tag they prefer who don’t really get that After The Revolution, not only is drudge work not magically going to go away, there isn’t going to be a designated Drudge Class to care of it all.

    I thought being progressive meant belief in concepts like solidarity and fair play and supporting your community. Reading over the anti-child bullshit here, apparently I was wrong: it’s about wanting to have the same lack of responsibility and sociopathic levels of self-absorption that middle-class American white males are free to indulge in.

    There is not a one of us that doesn’t generate shit. Which means that there is not a one of us who shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning shit up. Which means taking on our fair share of jobs that are boring, dirty, repetitive and unrewarding. Because otherwise, if we don’t spread it out, it gets loaded on too few people who then have to do it full-time.

    Jesus Christ, if there were a women-only beach that I could use, and as a condition of using it I had to donate one morninng or afternoon of my time every few months to helping take care of a load of kids so their mothers could relax and enjoy some time off, I’d do it. Because do so would give ME the right to enjoy lots and lots of relaxing women-only space and time.

    And maybe if you child-haters actually interacted with and got to know children as human beings, you wouldn’t have such bigoted attitudes about them. You might even enjoy the time you spent with them.

  140. Simonne

    Patti, you’re my new heroine.

  141. Crys T

    Delphyne: no, you’re not mistaken. If anything children are more invisible in the US than in the UK. The people posting the horror stories are basically taking a couple of incidents and grossly exaggerating their frequency to make them sound like the norm.

    It’s the same old crap: child-hater hears one child screaming and ignores the other 20 children who are present and behaving themselves reasonably, turning it into “all children scream!!!” And as you pointed out, when an adult behaves badly in public, it’s because that particular adult is an arsehole, but when a child behaves badly in public, that child represents all children and her behaviour is Typical Child Behaviour.

    These the exact same mechanisms that other types of bigots use to support and justify their prejudices, and they just as ugly and unacceptable when used against children as they are against other minority/minoritised groups.

  142. Kali

    “There’s a lot more to this thread than people just saying, “I simply cannot abide the noise children make in public.” ”

    That’s true for both sides of this discussion. Noisy children don’t bother me. I have a high decibel tolerance and love kids. They can run into me, scream in my ears, throw food around in public places all they want.

    What bothers me is this notion that having a woman-only beach that excludes children is antifeminist. I think this notion is antifeminist. It reeks of the patriarchal mandate that women put everyone else before themselves, especially children. It reeks of the patriarchal view that a woman who doesn’t want to be with children all the time is somehow evil and not deserving of the conveniences/pleasures that she is asking for. It reeks of the patriarchal view that puts the all-sacrificing mother on a pedestal and that creates this inseparable mother-and-child entity and puts all child care responsibility solely on women.

    Heart, I agree that the owner of the beach is a sexist asshole. I suppose the reason why there isn’t much discussion about that is because pretty much every one here agrees on it.

  143. PhysioProf

    “Maybe US culture is different from the UK and lots of children do appear regularly in these venues.”

    I think it is. My experience having spent time in both those countries–and others–is that children are sentimentalized substantially more in the US than elsewhere. A corollary to this sentimentalization is that the needs and desires of children–as they are constructed by patriarchy–have a greater tendency to trump everything else.

    One of Firestone’s interesting assertions is that post-patriarchy, the needs and desires of children will be much more similar to those of adults than under the patriarchy, and thus there will not be so much perceived (and actual) need for special accommodation of children.

  144. delphyne

    I didn’t ask if they were sentimentalized PhysioProf, I asked if children regularly went to the theatre and to fancy restaurants.

    The times I ate out in restaurants in the US (New York and San Franscisco) there weren’t any children around. I met up with my Dad when he and my stepmother were taking in the Broadway theatres and they didn’t mention the performances they saw being ruined by children.

    I’m getting the impression that for some people the mere presence of a child is enough to offend them, or maybe it’s their own inner child kicking up a fuss about being asked to sit still and behave and that’s why they are thinking there are children around when there aren’t in fact any.

  145. Crys T

    PhysioProf: I have to vehemently disagree with your last comment. Attitudes towards children are substantially more negative in the US than in any other country I’ve ever lived in or spent enough time in to get an idea about the topic.

    Other countries have shitty school because they can’t afford good ones. America has shitty schools because children come so low on the list of priorities that voters in many places refuse to give them decent funding.

    An amazingly high number of adult Americans have no clue how to interact with children. They act as if children were some sort of separate species. Adults from most of the other cultures I’ve witnessed have no such trouble.

    In fact, apart from a number of British celebrities whose images rely on their “grumpy” personas who were appearing on TV programmes, I don’t recall ever hearing an adult from another culture openly state, “I dislike children.” When interacting with Americans, that statement is made with frequency. Not just in online, anonymous forums, but in face-to-face interactions I’ve had.

  146. Vera

    It seems to me that some of the people commenting here don’t see that much of what they write contains sweeping, negative generalizations of children as a class. Generalizations of this type go by the name of prejudice.

    To put these generalizations into stark contrast so that they may be seen for what they are, I’ve taken the liberty to replace the word “children” with “feminists” in a sampling of the comments from this thread:

    • Feminists will be feminists; they get rowdy sometimes. I like them fine in small groups.

    • I am sure all of you have perfect, darling angel feminists who never do anything annoying at all. It’s all of those OTHER feminists I would prefer not to be seated next to.

    • I have new next-door neighbors who house anywhere from 6-10 hollerin’ feminists on any given day. These feminists are barely, if at all, supervised. They stand in the yard and have screaming contests, these feminists. They make a LOT OF FUCKING NOISE.

    • I happen to enjoy feminists more than anyone I know, but hasn’t anyone ever heard of a busman’s holiday?

    • Why is it that feminists scream for attention twenty-four hours a day?

    • Feminists in traditional societies are much better behaved than American feminists.

    • What if society had advanced to the point where feminists didn’t have to be neurotic balls of neediness?

    • Although we all want to think that feminists are wonderful, the truth is they can quickly become insufferable with their screaming and running.

    • A feminist-free zone on a beach is not the problem. The assumption that feminists who have not been taught the basic politeness that the rest of us have should have the right to run roughshod over us polite people is ridiculous.

    • I get migraines so easily that I have to avoid going out anywhere where there might be a feminist who could scream.

    • I don’t hate feminists, but rather I hate the way people in this current patriarchal age are raising them.

    • I am in full view of public spaces for much of my working day, and all I see are feminists who are often running around out of control with unacceptable levels of noise and general insanity. I always say that if I had behaved the way I see many feminists behave these days, my mother’s size 11 shoe would have been planted firmly up my butt!

    • Is it feminist-hating to be annoyed by the noise an unruly feminist makes in a theatre or a cafe?

    • Some of us are saying, quite simply, that we do not want to be assaulted by feminists’ screams and temper tantrums when we go out in public.

    • My problem is and shall always be with the way feminists are socialized. As things stand right now, we women are expected to adore every feminist who crosses our path.

    • Why should the people who spend their hard-earned money for some entertainment be expected to listen to the feminist’s complaints or endure her kicking the back of their seats?

    • I don’t have to listen to someone else’s screaming feminist.

    • I still don’t like strange feminists staring at me in locker rooms.

    As a bonus, here are a few of the commentariat’s descriptions of mothers:

    • yuppy mothers who feel entitled
    • permissive
    • mother-hen mommy
    • suburban soccer mom
    • welfare mother who keeps on popping out more babies
    • tourists from Ohio

    Well, perhaps that last one isn’t a description of mothers, but rather a synonym for people who like to eat at Chuckie Cheese.

  147. Heart

    Fair enough, Kali, but isn’t IBTP all *about* talking about sexist assholes who, we all agree, are sexist assholes? Analyzing the specifics of the assholery? Has the day come that because we all agree that someone is a sexist asshole — assuming we do; I didn’t read every post, but I did do a search on the word “lifeguard” and it didn’t appear until I commented; it didn’t seem to me, based on what I did read, that there was much interest here in even talking about this actual establishment created by this actual asshole — anyway, has the day arrived that feminists stop talking about sexist assholes and attack each other instead (over problems which are the direct result of having to live in a world full of overbearing sexist assholes)?

    Physioprof, the needs of children already are pretty much identical to the needs of adults. The problem is the adults, and more specifically, male adults.

    Heart

  148. villiers

    Kali said:

    “So why voluntarily give the patriarchy tools to be used against us?”

    Well, there’s that problem of “voluntarily.” I have a lot of trouble with the notion of children as a “lifestyle choice” (a phrase I often hear from the childfree). Having children is not the same as taking up yoga or raising dogs. It is not always a choice, as some have pointed out. And even when it is, well, you’re suggesting a hell of a devil’s bargain: you’re suggesting that the main consequence of that “choice” is to feed the big P, as though there were no other consequences to having children, as though women who “choose” to have children are doing so only so as to say cheerfully, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

    You even suggest that any mother whose career tanked as a result of having children had a “lack of knowledge/awareness” of what would happen to her. Come on now! Blaming women for their career sacrifices? Well, what’s the alternative, in your opinion? Just Don’t Breed?

    There has just GOT to be a middle ground between mothers-as-patriarchy-placaters and extinction. I refuse to believe that those are the only two choices.

  149. PhysioProf

    “Attitudes towards children are substantially more negative in the US than in any other country I’ve ever lived in or spent enough time in to get an idea about the topic.”

    This is completely consistent with what I wrote.

  150. Crys T

    Thanks for the compilation, Vera. But I get the feeling that this is going to go the same route as every thread on racism has: privileged, prejudiced feminists denying the existence of their privilege and prejudices.

    And I missed the “tourists from Ohio” crack. As someone who lived in Ohio for over 20 years, I can’t say I’m surprised by the commenter’s laughable ignorance, but I have to say I’m sick of idiotic stereotypes that come, after all, from bullshit classist patriarchal roots, being spewed out by people who make a claim to progressive status. Whoever it was: you’re just as clueless as any of those fratboys you’re so fond of criticising.

  151. PhysioProf

    “Physioprof, the needs of children already are pretty much identical to the needs of adults.”

    I think Firestone’s point is that, because childhood has been distorted by patriarchy, children have needs under patriarchy that would not exist post-patriarchy. And under patriarchy, children’s needs are more different from those of adults than they would be post-patriarchy.

  152. villiers

    I’m from Ohio. Believe it or not, we do have electricity, running water, and intellectual discourse. I’m fed up with Left- and Right- Coast elitism. Ocean views are not a necessary prerequisite for feminism.

  153. Kali

    “Well, there’s that problem of “voluntarily.””

    I specifically wrote the word “voluntarily” to exclude those women who tragically have been forced to give birth against their will. My question is addressed to women who have children voluntarily. If you have been forced, it is not addressed to you.

    “And even when it is, well, you’re suggesting a hell of a devil’s bargain: you’re suggesting that the main consequence of that “choice” is to feed the big P, as though there were no other consequences to having children, as though women who “choose” to have children are doing so only so as to say cheerfully, “Thank you sir, may I have another?””

    No, that is the opposite of what I am saying. I am saying that there are multiple consequences, and am asking if one of these consequences (pleasure from children) is more important to women who voluntarily have children than the other consequence (feeding/enabling the patriarchy).

    “You even suggest that any mother whose career tanked as a result of having children had a “lack of knowledge/awareness” of what would happen to her.”

    I am asking, not suggesting.

    “Well, what’s the alternative, in your opinion? Just Don’t Breed?”

    For those of us who do have this choice, I would strongly suggest that you seriously consider it.

  154. rootlesscosmo

    Crys T: Other countries have shitty school because they can’t afford good ones. America has shitty schools because children come so low on the list of priorities that voters in many places refuse to give them decent funding.

    And for an explanation of these priorities:

    “For instance, the stubborn American resistance to universal health care in the face of piles of evidence for it makes a lot more sense if you consider the historical willingness of many white people to forgo certain benefits if there’s a chance that black people will share in those advantages.”

    via Pandagon

    http://pandagon.net/2007/07/02/pandagon-book-club-killing-the-black-body/

    citing Dorothy Roberts: Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty

  155. Twisty

    Vera’s comment is hilarious. Especially “I still don’t like strange feminists staring at me in locker rooms.” Gold, pure gold!

  156. Twisty

    Easy, Villiers. The chair recognizes that people from Ohio are not subhuman.

    You’re lucky the rest of the country doesn’t hold Ohioans accountable for Charles Manson. For some reason, Texans are all responsible for Dubya. We also killed President Kennedy. I have encountered this astonishing point of view even from liberal progressive feminists who should know better.

  157. julia

    i’m with you kali: i don’t think the notion of a women’s only beach which excludes children is anti-feminist, all issues about choice and childcare and other impacting issues aside.

    it’s funny how there has been so much anger, mostly from mothers (i am just *noting* this), about the perceived blaming of women with children in this thread, and relatively little about women without children being seen as incomplete. there have been some juicy comments worthy of more exploration, but my lunch break is over and i gotta get back to work, to keep my cats in kibble.

    let’s be clear. i don’t blame mothers, ibtp.

  158. villiers

    Consider me chastened, Twisty. Sorry!

  159. Kali

    “has the day arrived that feminists stop talking about sexist assholes and attack each other instead”

    Heart, what appears to be “attacking each other” is, IMO, a disagreement about how to deal with or change a world full of sexist assholes.

    Some of us (including me) see the mother-child relationship under the patriarchy as inextricably linked with the production and maintenance of sexist assholes. For example, placing the sole/primary responsibility of childcare on mothers and other women means that women have less time/energy to gain access to power and resources in the public sphere, allowing the public sphere to be dominated by men who use their resulting power and resources to oppress women and children. The reason why men dominate the world is because women are at home taking care of children. To the extent that child/eldercare is the sole/primary responsibility of women, to that extent men are able to oppress and dominate women.

    Some women think that the mother-child relationship is too strong to do anything to change the above situation, so women should not be oppressed even though they take (and will continue to take) primary responsibility for children.

    Personally, I don’t believe this is a realistic possibility under any form of capitalism, and I don’t see any alternative to capitalism. Which is why I come down on the side of a “reproductive strike” of some sorts, at least by those of us who are fortunate enough to have a choice.

    There are others who believe a “reproductive strike” is unrealistic and that this idea blames women who have children, so they continue to push for strategies which make life a bit simpler for mothers and women, but this, IMO, doesn’t really do anything to the roots of patriarchy.

    It is a very difficult situation with no easy solutions, which is why there are so many disagreements which can rise to the level of “attacks”. But I think not having this conversation at all simply avoids addressing the problem.

  160. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Wisdom of Solomon: cut baby in half?

    Something for everyone — cut beach in half, kiddieful/kiddiefree.

    Ah, but the moral of this story was that the child was not cut in half – the wiser of the two mothers recognized that the wholeness of the child was more important than her personal ‘ownership’ of half of said child.

    Perhaps that idea could be applied here also? That it is the ‘wholeness’ of our culture’s soul that we really seek, by finding a way that acknowledges all humans as worthy of a respected place in the world community.

    Thinking out loud, I’m here equating ‘community’ to the body of the child that would have been split in two to meet the needs of the two selfish mothers.

    By splitting our community into ‘childfree’ and ‘child-friendly’, are we really honoring the truest needs of the community as a whole? As I see it, what we’re really talking about here is creating community in which every soul feels as welcome as every other.

  161. delphyne

    Who is splitting it? I’m don’t have children and I support mothers. I know lots of other childfree radical feminists who support mothers too and who realise that disapproval of mothers and children is actually supporting the patriarchy.

    I don’t like your framing of the issue as “two selfish mothers competing over the child”. It sounds sexist as indeed the original story was.

  162. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Ideally, the needs of the community and the individual should not be mutually exclusive. How can we make this work?

    By not mandating strict rules that absolve us of the responsibility of thinking for ourselves. By addressing each issue on a case-by-case basis and not making broad, sweeping generalizations.

    By teaching everyone equal parts self-respect and respect for others.

    It seems to me that if we’re all taking care of ourselves and at the same time taking into consideration the needs of others, the problem solves itself.

    It’s when half, or more of the population has not ben taught the value of concern for other humans that things get ugly.

  163. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    I was asking a rhetorical question, delphyne, and I was certainly not attacking you personally. I was genuinely trying to turn the question on its head and, as I said, ‘think out loud’.

    I am an idealist, as well as a cynic and a pessimist, which annoying combination causes many of the arguments in my own head to run in small circles chasing their tails. So sometimes I ask a question, to see if things can be made clearer.

    In fact, reading your comment again, I’m not sure you understood what I was trying to say, and I’m not clear how your comment relates to mine. We may be talking about two entirely different ideas.

  164. Twisty

    Alas, until reproduction ceases to be the main fucntion of women in society, women’s continued oppression will be guaranteed, no matter how much lipstick we don’t wear or how many fat girls get pornulated on the cover of Maxim.

  165. Kali

    The comment about “two selfish mothers competing over the child” sounds jarring to me too.

  166. The Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    Vera, really really big old dyke chin knod to you. Full-bore, full-blast blaming. Magnificent, thank you.

    But I think feminists should be seen, and not heard.

  167. delphyne

    I didn’t think you were attacking me personally curiouser. I just picked up a flavour of sexism in your framing of this issue and I was wondering where it was coming from. Seeing women described as “selfish” in any context and in particular with reference to being mothers, as they always seem to get stuck with that label, sets my alarm bells ringing.

    Are you a mother BTW?

  168. Toonces

    Still not seeing how spoiled, overindulged children running amok in front of overly permissive parents are oppressed. Children need rules, and they need to learn how to respect those around them. If attempts to civilize them and teach them boundaries is considered oppression, then I really wonder how that would play out for them in adulthood.

    Curiously, though, whenever I do see a child being exceptionally disruptive and destructive in public, it is usually a boy child. Seems to me that girl children are usually better behaved; or more likely, the parents are not as permissive with her,thus not giving her a chance to misbehave. Apparently, grooming the boys to take their place in society as privleged patriarchs who can run roughshod over anyone and anything starts early.

    Okay, now I know how that plays out for them in adulthood. Nevermind. IBTP.

  169. Vera

    “But I think feminists should be seen, and not heard.”

    *snort* Especially the cute ones! They’re so adorable!

  170. niki

    “Women do not — hear me out — they do not will baby making. Sometimes, believe it or not pregnancy happens unawares, unplanned, unwanted and oftentimes as a trap from which the woman cannot wrest free.”

    This sentiment comes up time and time again. Perhaps it would benefit some less enlightened readers for those of you who have been forced into staying in a marriage or bringing a pregnancy to term to share your stories. I know I live on cheese and sarcasm, but I would honestly like to learn.

    If by ‘cannot wrest free’, you are referring ultimately to a set of beliefs, I can’t help you there. I do, however, know that there are holistic means of inducing a miscarriage with no patriarchal interference. I know organizations where women with resources reach out to other women without who would like to exit a marital violence situation. I have friends that have fallen into a number of horrible patriarchal pitfalls and have managed to make their lives work for them to their choosing. Then again, I am lucky enough to live in a progressive American city with many resources for people who want to change their lives in whatever direction.

  171. Vera

    I don’t think that any women-only space established for profit can be seen as feminist. That doesn’t mean I excoriate such spaces. But it seems to me that a feminist space (or a radical feminist space, at least) must be freely available to all women regardless of ability to pay. And I think the probability that any male enterprise will establish a non-profit women-only space is somewhere between zero and nil.

    So such spaces will continue to be established, formally or (more often) informally, by women. Women with children will continue to find, in such spaces, other women who will take over childcare duties from time to time so each woman will have some quiet time to gather her wits and prepare for the next patriarchal onslaught.

    For the loose alliance of women here and at the IBTP forum, I wish that the phenomenon of women creating safe, peaceful spaces where mothers can take some time off be seen for what it is: radical action.

  172. Monica

    I am not getting this argument here. Actually I don’t get this site at all. IS this a lesbian site ? Where all come here to bitch and complain about men ?

    I understand problems do occur , but are your methods really working to help solve any problems these men cause?

  173. Panic

    This sentiment comes up time and time again. Perhaps it would benefit some less enlightened readers for those of you who have been forced into staying in a marriage or bringing a pregnancy to term to share your stories.
    I can’t really tell if you’re being sarcastic here.

    I do think there’d be a lot who were coerced, to varying degrees, to do such things. I think we heard from some of them in the marriage post.

  174. rachel

    “Still not seeing how spoiled, overindulged children running amok in front of overly permissive parents are oppressed. Children need rules, and they need to learn how to respect those around them. If attempts to civilize them and teach them boundaries is considered oppression, then I really wonder how that would play out for them in adulthood.”

    No one has yet contended that bad behavior and/or “spoiling” (a term that deserves its own parsing out as it is deeply relative; many would argue that anyone commenting on this thread, via computers and internet connections and free time, are spoiled) are the lone or discreet manifestations of oppression of children. As Twisty and others have pointed out, the very role of children in society, which includes their tethers to their parents, their time in educational institutions, the fact of their presence in public/private spaces being perceived as an inconvenience, are all facets of their oppression. I see that you are worried about how we will suitably “civilize” (another nice term) the poor dears if we are too worried about oppressing them. I would suggest that a first step towards lightening their oppression would be to interrogate both the roots and the effects of your (by which I mean the general address second person and not you exclusively) attitudes toward them, including the sense that their misbehavior and emotional outbursts are only your problem insofar as they irritate you.

    A comment earlier in this thread (Vera? V? Crys T? can’t quite find it)notes the extent to which the discourse of hyper-individualism and middle-class entitlement infusing the comments of those who don’t want their adult space encroached upon. I quite agree. Twisty may not be inclined to scold people for their attitudes about children, but I am. I still can’t really grasp why it is even theoretically ok to dislike them as a group. Because they are noisy, messy, bossy, not fully socialized? Would anyone here ever think it was ok to dislike, as a group, the mentally disabled for this reason? Would you feel cool about attesting to how you wish the autistic would just stay the hell out of your restaraunts? Is your distaste for being around kids related to the fact that it is very hard to separate them (mentally and literally) from various patriarchal units (nuclear families, marriage, mother/child dyads, etc)and therefore they present as a physical manifestation of these distasteful things? If so, is it really fair for kids to bear the burden of what they are unlucky enough to signify?

    Kids are inconvenient and messy and taxing but so is revolution. You want the revolution, fucking work for it; I’d suggest starting with the recognition that kids are the most maleable and open-minded persons you will meet.

  175. Marcy

    • I still don’t like strange feminists staring at me in locker rooms.

    Thank you for the giving me the heartiest laugh I’ve had in days!

    I got this mental picture of my being half-naked at a health club with Gloria Steinem standing two feet away giving me the ol’ stink eye.

  176. thebewilderness

    Toonces:Still not seeing how spoiled, overindulged children running amok in front of overly permissive parents are oppressed. Children need rules, and they need to learn how to respect those around them.

    Just as you might not think Paris Hilton is oppressed, still, she is part of an oppressed segment of society.
    So children, who need to learn, are oppressed by being treated like an overindulged pet, rather than a person.

  177. Panic

    I still can’t really grasp why it is even theoretically ok to dislike them as a group.
    Is there a possibility of neutrality at all here? I mean, I don’t feel good about the notion that I have to like them, as a group (even though I find I do). I just all winds up sounding like that maternal instinct garbage that gets rammed down our throats all the time.

    Also, I’m not down with comparing oppressions (though I also find the concept of children being an oppressed class pretty hard to grok). Comparing kids to the mentally challenged, or any other group, isn’t really fair, or accurate, to any of the groups.

  178. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Thanks for the clarification, delphyne. I think we all here are guilty of leaping to various conclusions at various times, and it’s easy to misinterpret somebody’s quick, off-the-cuff one-liner on a blog, where we don’t have the additional cues of tone of voice, facial expression, etc.

    My comment about ‘selfish mothers’ was just playing on the earlier poster’s comment about ‘splitting the baby’, which is a reference to a biblical story. I’m not feeling up to putting the story in a nutshell today, so I’ll quote a (sorry kind of long) version of it I just found via google:

    To split the baby is a reference to a story in the Old Testament in Kings 3:5-14, regarding a decision of Solomon that shows his wisdom when given a difficult task. Solomon as king was often asked to judge between people with difficult problems, and his solutions were accounted very wise.

    In Kings, two women approach Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of the same baby. In fact, one woman has smothered her own child in her sleep, and has taken the child of another woman with whom she shares a home. Upon waking, the mother of the living baby finds she is holding the dead child, who she knows is not hers. Since she cannot convince the mother of the dead child to give her back her child, they go to Solomon for judgment.

    Solomon’s solution is fairly unique. He hears both sides, which are identical, and decides that the best course is to split the baby in half so both mothers will have a share. However, to split the baby means to kill it. The mother who has already lost a child is happy with the solution, but the real mother cries out and begs Solomon to let the other woman raise her child alive.

    When the real mother protests the solution, and is willing to give up her rights as a mother to preserve the life of her child, Solomon hands the baby to her. Her reaction is key to determining true parentage. Her depth of love for the child would allow her to surrender her rights as long as the child is alive.

    Thus splitting the baby is essentially an unreasonable decision, and might refer to any judgment that must be made when the details are hard to determine. It is actually no solution, but a threat, which attempts to flush out the truth of a situation, so as to make the wisest decision.

    My comment ‘selfish mothers’ was a reference to the story, in which clearly at least one of the mothers was selfish in considering only her own needs and not those of the child – the child is cast solely as a voiceless pawn in a battle between two women.

    I do believe there are plenty of selfish mothers out there, I see them every day. And I agree with Twisty and many others who have commented here that selfish mothering is a direct result of the nuclear-family aspect of patriarchy which splits women off from the communal support that allows them not to be selfish, by giving them support, help, encouragement, etc.

    And there are also many mothers who pour incredible amounts of life energy into loving the dickens out of their children. And most mothers are somewhere in between, and oscillate between moments of wanting to give the kid away to the next passerby, and feeling that having a child is one of the most fabulous experiences a person can have. And everything in between.

    No, I’m not a mom, but having done a huge amount of excavation in my own personal basement of emotional/psychological/parentally-induced horrors, I feel ‘in touch’ enough with the pain of my own childhood to be able to relate quite strongly with children in ways I couldn’t before I did that work.

    I also have 5 nieces and 2 nephews, and the three younger neices are a delight for me, and I spend as much time with them as I can.

    This comment is feeling way too long, but I also want to say that I don’t think mothers being ‘selfish’ is mutually exclusive with being good mothers. In fact I’d say the opposite – mothers who are able to be selfish when they need to free up precious emotional energy for being fully present when they’re with their kids. It’s the women who ‘sacrifice everything’ who end up so out of balance between their own needs and the kids’ needs that they (most often) take it out on the kids. And I don’t mean they do it intentionally, that’s just how the hierarchical nature of patriarchal power imbalance works, and the Devil in fact does take the hindmost, as someone else said.

    My $.02.

  179. roamaround

    The self righteous defense of women and children in the face of middle class, racist entitlement seems to me to be going right off the deep end.

    “peaceful spaces where mothers can take some time off”

    What about caregivers who are not mothers? Are we chopped liver? Can’t we log for peaceful spaces without being attacked as selfish child-hating anti-mother classist white princesses?

    “the perceived blaming of women with children in this thread, and relatively little about women without children being seen as incomplete.”

    Yeah! I get scorn, pity and/or ridicule for NOT being a mother all the time, at work and in family and social circles. It’s been enlightening to read in this thread about how oppressed mothers feel, with good reason of course. It’s a heavy role under the patriarchy. The vilification of the childless woman is a real phenomenon too, however, and I shudder to see it happening here.

  180. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    And the trouble with metaphors is that sometimes it’s not possible for me to take a story that so neatly sums up my ‘gut’ feeling and rephrase it in plain language.

    So a metaphor that makes perfect intuitive sense may not survive the translation into more prosaic language.

    Sadly, I have not Twisty’s gift for concise, polished wordcraft. But I read, and perhaps I learn.

  181. PhysioProf

    “I still can’t really grasp why it is even theoretically ok to dislike them as a group.”

    My interpretation of the comments is not that anyone dislikes children per se, but that some dislike the pathological relationship between children and adults–especially women–that is imposed by patriarchy.

  182. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    And one more, feel thread-hoggy here – before I did my ‘personal work’, I would have preferred a child-free beach, too. But now I actually want to chip in and help the overburdened mothers cope with their kids.

    And we do need places where kids can run and play freely and safely so they don’t need 24/7 monitoring. Because really, the micromanagement of a child’s every move is part of the problem. Kids need to be free to be kids and not be constantly jumping through the hoops of their parents’ expectations for adult behavior.

  183. RadFemHedonist

    I am appalled by the child-hating comments, but would like to point out that no-one should have to suffer from migraines, a little sympathy please, though children are hardly exclusively responsible for loud noise in public places, which I suppose was the point of the comment.

    I am very individualistic and since all born homosapiens are individuals with full individual rights this leads me to care about them.

  184. delphyne

    “My comment ’selfish mothers’ was a reference to the story, in which clearly at least one of the mothers was selfish in considering only her own needs and not those of the child – the child is cast solely as a voiceless pawn in a battle between two women.”

    Yeah, I knew the story you were referencing. I was kind of taken aback at you characterising both women in the story as selfish however. I’d have said one was mad (because women who take other women’s children are usually unbalanced) and the other was just a normal mother who wanted her baby back. The patriarchal reading of course is to see both the women at fault and Solomon as all-wise because he threatens to chop a kid in half (like men never *actually* do things like that). It seems like a bit of a patriarchal projection that the story portrays the women (or at least one of them) as the threat to the child and in opposition to each other and patriarchal wishful thinking that the man is the clever nice guy who sorts things out.

    I just think you need to be careful about calling women selfish, even if they are fictional characters. It’s not like allegations of selfishness are never used against women. It’s one of the biggest sins that we can commit in patriarchy.

  185. niki

    Just a muse: The word ‘Sins’ in the same sentence as the word ‘Patriarchy”. Verrrrry interesting.

  186. Kali

    “In fact I’d say the opposite – mothers who are able to be selfish when they need to free up precious emotional energy for being fully present when they’re with their kids. It’s the women who ’sacrifice everything’ who end up so out of balance between their own needs and the kids’ needs that they (most often) take it out on the kids.”

    Please, enough of the good mothers and bad mothers talk. We get plenty of that from the patriarchs already. The focus of the discussion here should not be on what women are doing right or wrong to be good enough mothers, to their own children and other people’s children. That is patriarchal bullshit.

  187. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Maybe what’s needed here is a clarification of our definitions of ‘selfish’? To me, selfish behavior is when a person considers only their own needs. So the mom who accidentally smothered her child was being selfish because to her, half a child (which meant a dead child) was better than no child at all. And the needs of the child (to remain alive) were of no concern to her at all. Hence, ‘selfish’.

    You’re right, the other mom really wasn’t selfish in the sense that, as soon as Solomon proposed the ‘cut the child in half’ solution, she capitulated and said, “no, I want her to live.” So she wasn’t really selfish. I think I was framing it in the terms of the story, which by offering the solution “cut the baby in half” assumed that both mothers were ‘selfish’ and would sacrifice the baby’s life in order to meet their own needs.

    *sigh* Communication is so difficult sometimes!

    As to calling women selfish, I think the trick is that under patriarchy what constitutes ‘selfishness’ in a woman is considered normal behavior for men. So it’s this double-standard (again) that you’re pointing to, yes?

    If this is what you mean, then yes, I understand your concern about the choice of word. I hope you see that I wasn’t using selfish in the patriarchally defined sense of the word (women must always put others’ needs before their own), but rather in the sense of failing to take the needs of others into consideration.

  188. Vera

    Me: “peaceful spaces where mothers can take some time off”

    roamaround: “What about caregivers who are not mothers? Are we chopped liver? Can’t we log for peaceful spaces without being attacked as selfish child-hating anti-mother classist white princesses?”

    If I implied that only mothers deserve peaceful spaces, my apologies. That was certainly not my intention, particularly in light of the fact that until about a year ago, I was the caregiver for my sick, elderly father. Believe me, I needed a peaceful place, and there were times I would have traded my right arm for it.

    I was attempting–unsuccessfully, I guess–to bring the discussion back to the original topic, which was, in Twisty’s words, “Is it useful to demand a woman-only venue? Is it antifeminist to ban kids from a women-only venue?”

    I realize that, as roamaround says, “the vilification of the childless woman is a real phenomenon [...]” but I don’t see it happening here. Can you cite the comments that vilify child-free women?

  189. Lisa

    I guess in all this, and some other posts here at IBTP, is the implication that mothers who choose to have children (assumming there was an option to choose) are being antifeminist by becoming mothers.

    I did not have children till I was 34 years old. So I had years and years of experience with the annoying “when are you going to have children” and “it is your duty as a woman to have children” crap. My 39 year old single and child-free sister has also been treated like a freak because of her choices. So I get that those unfair and patriarchal-driven comments suck and are extremely annoying and unfair.

    However, I don’t see anyone on this thread saying that to those who have chosen not to have children. Also, as I understand how annoying those comments are, I don’t think, IMO, that that level of oppression compares to what women who are mothers face. If you’ve chosen to be child-free in full or in part to avoid the full steam, gloves-come-off, oppression that faces mothers, then that is a perfectly valid choice for you.

    Now, for those of us who are mothers, we have the potential to play just as big of role in the revolution as the child-free. We are influencing and educating the next generation. For the commenter who was all for extinction, that’s just great. But then why even bother being a feminist? Do you honestly think things will change with the current generation? That all oppression will end in the next 100 years, but who cares? No one will get to enjoy it, we’ve all died off. Change takes generations. We might see some changes in our own lifetime, but realistically (and excuse the drippy saying) the work we are doing here is for the children, not for us. We are working to build a better world for women in generations to come.

    This notion of a reproductive strike is an interesting one. If it wasn’t too late for me, I’d almost want to go for that (and I am in a way as that I will no longer be having anymore children.) Also interesting is Twisty’s (and I believe Firestone’s idea of technological advances that take the role of reproduction away from women and make it into a more equitable task for all genders.) However, people come to feminism at different times in their lives, and that means that some of us will have kids before we see the light. I myself, was a ‘feminist lite” before motherhood. Motherhood actually made me see so much more of what the patriarchy was doing to me and my children and my fellow sisters and their children. As someone said in a previous post, “when you become a mother, the [patriarchy's] gloves come off.” Motherhood recruits feminists.

    So, choosing to be child-free can be a feminist action. And choosing to become a mother, at this time in our history, can also be a feminist action. Let’s quit with the bashing of each other’s choices because this all comes down to owning your own uterus anyway. Bickering amonst ourselves and putting each other down is exactly what they count on us doing. It is the oldest trick in the book for oppressors. Don’t give in to that.

  190. V.

    I detect a certain nasty self-righteousness amongst certain members of the commentariat who have chosen not to reproduce.

    I have to wonder if we would be hearing the same sort of sniffy,”Well, I didn’t make that choice, why should I have to concern myself or bear any of the burden?” let alone the lack of compassion, if the topic was domestic abuse rather than childbearing?

    If I had to do it again, I probably wouldn’t reproduce. However, I very inconveniently had my feminist awakening after I gave birth, and since it’s clearly too late to take them out back and shoot them like the vermin they are ( at least according to some,) I have to make do with attempting to help them become decent human adults.

    It’s not like anyone else is gonna raise ‘em for me.

    Or even offer to lend a hand.

    After all, I made my bed, and now I have to lie in it.

    Thanks, sisters.

    Good to know you’ve got my back.

  191. Tigs

    “So, choosing to be child-free can be a feminist action. And choosing to become a mother, at this time in our history, can also be a feminist action.”

    Thanks!

    I feel relieved hearing this the same way I feel relieved when someone else speaks up for the okay-ness of having a positive, self-critical heterosexual relationship (just as I totally support a woman’s choice to live as a spinster aunt). I know there are plenty of blamers here who will say that both these choices are anti-feminist, but as one who doesn’t, I appreciate hearing it from others.

  192. roamaround

    Vera: “Can you cite the comments that vilify child-free women?”

    I think if you substitute “childless women” for “child-haters” you might get some idea of the tone I’m objecting to. As in,

    *if you childless women actually interacted with and got to know children as human beings, you wouldn’t have such bigoted attitudes about them.

    I also note the use of a lot of loaded adjectives such as bourgeois, classist, racist, liberal, middle class, etc. As with the perception that people here are bashing mothers and children, some aren’t directly stated as attacks on childless women, but the implication is there. I am sick of the caricatures on both sides of this discussion.

    It has been interesting for me to read statements like this, however,

    “I don’t think, IMO, that that level of oppression compares to what women who are mothers face. If you’ve chosen to be child-free in full or in part to avoid the full steam, gloves-come-off, oppression that faces mothers, then that is a perfectly valid choice for you.”

    and realize that we see the world so differently. Remember, being child free isn’t always a lifestyle choice either. For some of us, the fact that the patriarchy effectively forces dependence on a man in order to raise children made it impossible to have kids even if we had wanted them. (In addition to many other possible reasons for not becoming mothers that can’t be characterized as “choice” either.)

    Also, and this isn’t meant to flame or incite, I quite honestly see mothers as the exalted class among women under patriarchy. Still the sex class and oppressed, but given just a few more crumbs of status over the lowly barren spinster. The mother icon is a complicated figure, granted, with mostly hollow rewards, but she’s at least got some rank. The childless woman, especially after her sexbot years are over, is really absolutely worthless to the patriarchy.

    I sense smug superiority from *some* mothers *sometimes* and it’s just so surprising to me to read that mothers here have sensed the same in reverse from child free women. I’m not denying it; I just really didn’t see that before.

    I say all this in the spirit of productive discussion, not to try to trump anyone else’s oppression. As others have said, the split arising here is important to analyze since that is just how the system keeps us down. Divide and conquer.

  193. Vera

    Thanks, roamaround. I’ve been coming to the same conclusion, but from the other side.

  194. zofia

    For some of us, the fact that the patriarchy effectively forces dependence on a man in order to raise children made it impossible to have kids even if we had wanted them.

    Wow, this will be news to all of the lesbians and single mothers out there.

    I quite honestly see mothers as the exalted class among women under patriarchy.

    Are you serious? Have you seen the umpteen studies that show that mothers are less likely to be hired and are offered lower salaries than female peers without children? A study done at Cornell showed that women who have children are held to a harsher performance standard than women who do not. You call that exalted? Oh you must be referring to welfare queens. Yes, they are held in high regard. Single mothers?Those dumb asses. Or maybe working mothers, those selfish bitches. How bout the lazy, bonbon eating stay at homes? Everyone loves them. How bout those Lesbians and their turkey basters who don’t even have a man in the house? The Patriarchy exalts them above all. Maybe you live in Europe or something? I hear mothers have it better over there, as long as they are white and not immigrants, of course.

  195. Arwen

    For some of us, the fact that the patriarchy effectively forces dependence on a man in order to raise children made it impossible to have kids even if we had wanted them.

    I think this is particularly situated in strata/culture. Not having children is very often the choice for fertile women having heterosexual sex. Patriarchy is generally happy if women are denied access to birth control.

    There were very few dads on the scene as I was growing up. Divorce, prison, and shiftlessness disappeared many dads. Some dads we just another mouth for mom to feed. I, and many of my closest friends, had our single parent plans in place. Our higher paying careers based on education were first on the list, having learned from our moms that minimum wage and kids can trap.

  196. Lisa

    Re: “I quite honestly see mothers as the exalted class among women under patriarchy”

    I’m wondering, and this is just a question, if some are confusing ‘exalted’ with being sort of patronized and praised for being good little women who are doing our duty to raise men’s children. It may look like esteem from the outside, expecially if you are hearing that you are some spinster who isn’t doing her womanly duty by spending her life wiping snotty noses. In actuality, it is opressive, condescending, and makes me feel just about as lousy about what the patriarchy thinks about my choice to be a mother as you might feel about what they think about the fact that you are child-free. In both situations, the patriarchy is defining us by their rules. In both cases, it sucks. One of the very foundations of oppression is that of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t. This is how the patriarchy has framed our sometimes optional and sometimes forced decisions regarding our reproductive options for us. Again, we need to respect each other’s choices and not allow patriarchal standards and definitions to control our judgments of ourselves and each other.

    Also, I would like to say that “choice” is such a loaded word and I use it broadly here. If you have no choice, does that mean you have a gun to your head? Sometimes it does but a lot of times it doesn’t. When you are oppressed, it often means you are choosing between the better of two shitty options for you. How shitty each is can be very personal. Have kids and throw out your career vs. don’t have kids and have everyone think you are a child-hater. Great options.

    My situation is extremely unique, but I’ll use it for example. I have a master’s degree and worked at a good paying university job. I am also disabled. (I am deaf and visually impaired.) This affected my career greatly. I am a heterosexual, disabled, educated, white, single mom by choice of twins that were concieved through IUI. I do coparent with a quadriplegic male friend whom I’ve known for 13 years. He has no biological connection to my kids but he does have legal guardianship, though I have sole custody as far as visitation goes. As a quadriplegic and what that involves, he is not able to help me financially or physically with the kids like some men can. Now, I raise my kids by working part time from home and by getting a disability check. I really, really wanted to have kids. And one of the reasons I did, was because of the massive amounts of discrimination that women who are disabled get in regards to child-rearing. Many times, people in the public were horrified by the thought of ‘someone like me’ having kids. In a small way, having kids was a political decision for me. A metaphorical fuck-you to all who don’t think I can pull it off.

    I enjoy my kids and love them immensely, but my options in life now are more limited than I ever could have imagined. I cannot work and pay for childcare for young twins. I am very limited in how much I can get out and do “adults-only” stuff. I am isolated from my community and if I ever am able to get back to my career, I’ll be facing not only the deaf/blind thing, but the fact that I have such a huge gap in my employment.

    I sacrificed a lot to have kids. I totally understand that this is not a choice a lot of other people would ever make. But I am doing it, and I am succeeding for the most part. With two boys, I am constantly ruminating and wracking my brain to try to raise them into good people who recognize as much as possible how the patriarchy affects their lives and the lives of women.

    As far as the hierarchy of oppression goes, for me there has a been a very definite decline after motherhood. I have been a woman who was not (outwardly appearing) disabled. Then I was a disabled woman with no children. Now I am a disabled woman with children. The hierarchy pretty much goes in that order: Nondisabled woman, disabled woman, disabled woman with children. The crap I face now is much more severe than each previous incarnation of myself.

    Choosing to have children has allowed me to DO something. I can write and give my opinions all the time, of course, but no one allows you to do shit when you are disabled. At least, in the littly enclave of my own home and as much as I can out in the world, I can raise my kids to be more inclined to the solution-the revolution-than the status quo source of the problem. This has been the main way, almost the only way, that I can contribute to the feminist cause and the disability rights cause.

    I’m sorry child-free people get the collective sneer from the general public, but at least you get to go out and have jobs and be heard and be recognized as even being able to make your own choices. As a disabled mom, many times I am not. I know throwing the disability thing in this discussion sort of puts a cog in the wheel, but it is really the same issue at root. Being treated as human beings.

  197. redhead

    Zofia,

    Pretty much everything you wrote is a bunch of assumptions. Please don’t write such inflammatory language – and what you have written blames women who are child-free for being so. Saying that mothers are privileged in certain ways is not the same as saying that single mothers are ‘dumb asses’ and stay-at-home moms are ‘selfish bitches.’

    As a woman who is committed to not reproducing due to genetic factors, I find this insulting. I see the change in people’s perception when they find out I do not plan on having children. The change is one from ‘oh, you are awesome, all your cleaning/cooking/caretaking skills will be great in motherhood’ to the view that I am lazy, selfish, and don’t care about the world around me. I do recognize, as ‘Lisa’ suggests, that this exalted status is probably actually a patronized status.

    I think roamaround (and Vera’s response) hit the nail on the head. Both groups (mothers and child-free) can look at the way the others go through life and envy it.

  198. Arwen

    redhead, Zofia is merely documenting what mothers get confronted with very often. Single mothers may not be called dumb asses on this page, but they certainly do get called dumb asses. A single mom by choice friend of mine was asked if she was too stupid to keep her legs together by a cabby, for example. Hirshman is a pretty good example of someone who is rather harsh with stay at home moms for being selfish, or even moms who work part time or 40 hour weeks in lawyering or tech or politics. She’s only a very small tip of the iceberg. On the other side, we have Dr. Laura and Coulter and all those folks. Sears vs. Ferber. A formula feeding friend on cancer meds has been told off 3 times for formula use. I’ve been told off for breastfeeding. Cloth vs. disposable. You think these are fringe? In my experience, they are omnipresent, and they are commented on with all the fervor of whether or not you use your uterus. And have too many, and suddenly other people are yelling at you for your whorish ways.

    In 5 years, I have been questioned regarding my choices vis a vis parenting and lectured, told off, or advised hundreds and hundreds of times. I was a big-breasted woman in a male dominated career with my own violence against women survived and, previous to this, I have never ever defended myself so much or been so under scrutiny. It is quite alarming.

    Patriarchy is constructed so that it is difficult to be a mother and important to anyone but your kids. Of course, to them, “we’re the most important people in the world”, strings and violins and carnations on Mother’s Day. Soft focus vaseline on the lens. Until we do something wrong, by anybody’s standards.

    You have experienced how nosy people get about other people’s choices around children, and I agree it is painful. That doesn’t *stop* if you end up with children. It shifts. Everyone is evaluating your ability as a parent all the time based on the behaviour of your un-civilized, emotional child, who is also your heart wandering around outside you.

    It is the few and far between mother whose child HASN’T been the annoying brat that is being criticized on this thread. I have no car so I have to use public transport. Can you imagine how annoyed our migrained sisters would be? Can you envision what choice I might otherwise have? Can you imagine the comments I get? Perhaps not.

    Hundreds.

    We’ve heard that suggestion here – that we’re failing our children and excusing them because we’re permissive and lazy – and we hear it in much stronger terms in many other places.

  199. Arwen

    Perhaps a little narrative, to show why moms sometimes get upset at the “brats in public” issue.

    A pastiche of bus trips from the past 5 years.

    All true stories.

    I could be here for days.
    ———————–

    I am on public transit taking a sick child to a doctor. I have it explained to me by a young man that he’s sick of the bus waiting for strollers to take the extra time to get on. Why do we think we’re so special? Kids ride in strollers until they’re 5 now. I point out that mine is 8 months old and the walking child is 4, and it only took us 20 more seconds to enter the bus than it would take me by myself. He humphs.

    Another woman wearing a child points out that childwearing takes less time on and off busses. (This 20 seconds is a real issue for people.)

    I explain that I need to carry groceries and laundry on the way home from the doctor’s today. Oh, she says, that makes sense. Don’t I use my car for that? No car, I say. Ohhh… she says. I see her counting my children. 1…2. Too many for a poor person, perhaps. I explain to her that we’re trying to minimize our footprint. She looks relieved. The young man points out that our “time footprint” is long. (The bus driver, bless his heart, tells the young man to cut it out.)

    One of my two kids tantrums because he is ill and two, and I try to calm him and it takes more than forty seconds – because the child is his own person, and what am I going to do? Beat him until his jaw shatters and he can do nothing but whimper through blood? Oh, right. No. So we try to do what we can. An old man clucks. A woman shakes her head and blows out loudly. I too am sick, Tylenol barely holding the fever down, and tears form in my eyes. I want to cluck and blow out loudly. I hate this noise even more than they do. It lives in my house.

    I generally try firm correction and ignoring the behaviour if smallish (the current advice of experts), or I “fail” at parenting him well and try distraction for the sake of the other passengers. I will not, ever, give a tantruming child the thing that he’s tantruming for. This makes them scream louder, by the way, until they finally figure it out – which make take awhile with the hard-headed ones – but it also makes them less likely to become conservatives. So says the NYTimes.

    I try cuddling him if he sounds truly upset – which may result in a head butt in the face from the flailing. This results in me saying “No, gentle with mom” and me putting him down. Cue more screaming. If I didn’t, I’ve just told my little boy it’s okay to hit his mom when frustrated. Oh, hello, patriarchy. So, no it is. Let him scream.

    Guess which one many moms pick, so you won’t think badly of them and their kids because their kids don’t get told off? The “good” moms get hit and don’t add more fuel to the fire. Oh, HELLO, Patriarchy!

    Guess which one many nannies HAVE to pick, because an angry tattling child may get a dependant nanny fired? Holy shit. Being a mom is hard. Being an afraid nanny is hell.

    Perhaps I’m desperate and try a wobbling badly patched Frankenstein of strategies (thereby failing the Be Consistant Even If They Make Your Life Hell rule).

    Suddenly it’s fine again. The cloud passes. My child says “ssawy” and kisses my nose.

    I assume that some think this behaviour is due to patriarchy. No. This behaviour is due to emotions being bigger than ability to cope. Since I get involved in flame wars, I relate. It takes time to learn to negotiate the world and one’s emotions. They don’t have comment boxes.

    The old clucking man points at my eldest, who is wearing butterfly barrettes. This is the problem, that your boys are so sensitive, he says. “That’s a good thing.” I say. He looks cross.

    His wife suggests “maybe that child needs a nap”. “Yes”, I say, smiling. My teeth hurt from gritting.

    As I get off the bus, the woman disembarking after says “is your mommy being mean to you? she should give you a cookie”.

    This turns into another tantrum. We’re looking for tantrums, now, and cookie does it. I give the child his soother again. An older woman walking by pulls it out. “Filthy habit.” she says, “He should learn to comfort himself. You’ll make him fat.”

    Come the revolution, it’ll still be my fault, I suppose.

    Sigh.

    If I were to wish for a feminist victory, it is that people would respect my work, my competence, and the very real contribution I am making. And I am fielding the patriarchy at every step: fighting back the messages that my boy children should become jerks, trying to help them become confident, competent, happy, empathetic, well-nourished, intelligent, aware, and responsible. If I were to wish for a feminist victory, that would be enough, even though this parenting is painful, loud, messy, belligerent, and not pretty.

  200. LouisaMayAlcott

    Arwen,

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful posts. Yours is an updraft of wonderful energy with which I start my day.

  201. RadFemHedonist

    Arwen, I’m sorry about what happened, the patriarchy makes life crap whether you have kids or not.

  202. delphyne

    “I also note the use of a lot of loaded adjectives such as bourgeois, classist, racist, liberal, middle class, etc. As with the perception that people here are bashing mothers and children, some aren’t directly stated as attacks on childless women, but the implication is there. I am sick of the caricatures on both sides of this discussion.”

    I’ve got to say I think you’re adding to them. For example I commented on the bizarre classism that was being displayed with the creation of fantasy scenarios of masses of children in snooty venues causing havoc. Most of your examples are criticisms that have been levelled at *child-haters* not at childfree people.

    I also disagree that the implication is there. I’m childfree and I’m not feeling any implication, subtle or not, that my choices are being judged anti-feminist. You actually had to take someone’s post (a woman who is child-free herself) and change the wording from “child-hater” to “childless” in order to feel insulted. I suppose I could have substituted “Scottish people” for “child-hater” in the same sentence then I could really have an issue with Crys T.

  203. LouisaMayAlcott

    Hi Delphyne,

    Scottish, eh?

    Well in that case:

    http://www.shoutcast.com/directory/index.phtml

    and type scottish into the Genre search box.

    I’m listening to Pipes and Drums at

    http://clubhost.ca:8070/

    Gets me going in the morning.

  204. LouisaMayAlcott

    Oops, too many URL’s

    It’s held in moderation.

    I’ll try again.

  205. LouisaMayAlcott

    Hi Delphyne,

    Scottish, eh?

    Well in that case, head on over to shoutcast dot com,
    and type scottish into the Genre search box.

    I’m listening to Pipes and Drums.

    Gets me going in the morning.

  206. Mar Iguana

    “I quite honestly see mothers as the exalted class among women under patriarchy.” roamaround

    Exalted verbally, yes, but it’s an empty class since there is no such thing as a good enough mother.

  207. Mar Iguana

    Oops. I meant to credit the paraphrase “no such thing as a good enough mother” to Chesler

  208. tinfoil hattie

    Wow, Arwen. Just — wow. I completely relate to your story, though my own bad parenting hasn’t received quite that much public commentary. Being a captive on that bus, with literally no other choice — ugh. I wish I could have been there that day, and helped you.

    Lisa, I hear you too, and if your twins are young, all I can say is, it’ll get better. If you live in the DC area, I’d hook up with you & all our boys could play together.

    All I know is, when I read comments from people about how everyone has a choice whether or not to have children (as long as you live in a big city with lots of resources and access to birth control and abortion, at least), and those of us who have them made our beds and so we should now lie in them, and our children are spoiled or ill-behaved or loud and don’t belong in “adult” venues (like what?) anyway, I feel more isolated, lonely, and villified than ever. I don’t feel anything remotely approaching “exalted,” not that I was looking for exultation when I became a mother.

    Nobody can tell by looking at you that you don’t have children. But it sure as heck is obvious, when yours are with you, that you do. I don’t know how many people here who have no children have been approached in public, out of the blue, and excoriated by strangers for not having children. I do know there’s pressure from family and friends, and that is completely unreasonable and sucks big time. And, as someone who had her kids at 36 and 40, I do remember having to field all the exhausting and infuriating “why are you such an incomplete, selfish woman” questions from relatives and friends.

    But at least I could be anonymously childless on the street. As a mother, add one more aspect to my existence that is fodder for public inspection, comment, and criticism.

    For all of this, IBTP. As though you couldn’t see that coming.

  209. delphyne

    That’s enough to stir a Scotswoman, Louisa. Thanks. Maybe that’s why the noise of children doesn’t bother me – I grew up with bagpipes.

  210. Crys T

    Arwen (nice Welsh name, there, BTW): I can’t figure out if your post made me want to cry or go tear something up in frustration. Even though I know you’re not exaggerating, it still boggles my mind that people could be that nasty towards a woman and two small children. And a woman actually pulled the pacifier out your child’s mouth???!!??!? God, on what planet is that considered acceptable behaviour?

    Please accept a big hug, and thanks for such a great illustration of how mothers are actually treated as opposed to how the culture would have us believe they are treated.

    tinfoil hattie: “children are spoiled or ill-behaved or loud and don’t belong in “adult” venues (like what?) anyway”

    Well, didn’t you know that all the clubs/discos/bars these days are just bursting with wee ones scampering about? And my home: even though I’m childfree, I’m constantly finding them underfoot at all hours. And the gym I go to: you can’t even get on the machines for all the babies using them. And the office where I work: I tell ya, eight solid hours of nonstop screaming, toys being thrown, hair being pulled…children EVERYWHERE. There Are Just No Places Where Adults Can Go These Days Without Snotty Little Brats Being Shoved In Their Faces.

    Well, except for most places, most of the time.

  211. fishboots

    Arwen, bless you. And EXACTLY! Holy crap. Every. single. decision. you make is the wrong one, and subject to commentary from the rest of society. It’s freakin’ wierd. No one wants to be bothered with children or their freakishly child-like behavior, but I’m assuming they all want a steady supply of doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, fodder for the patriarchy. And you’d better get off the stick, and start doing it right! Whatever the latest it thing might be.

    I would like to point out that in my experience men with kids are HEROES, and not subject to such judgements.

  212. rootlesscosmo

    In 1952, a (then already middle-aged) Irish-American workingclass woman in my family watched Nixon read his “Checkers” speech on TV, with Pat and the girls looking on in worshipful silence behind him. She took one look at Pat’s scared expression and announced with finality, “He beats her.”

    Patriarchy oppresses single moms “for” being single, stay-at-home moms “for” not having paid work, working moms “for” not staying home, moms on public assistance “for” being freeloaders, lesbians “for” being queer, straight women “for” being (fuckable or not-fuckable) members of the sex class. Stop the presses: patriarchy oppresses women, and it always comes up with some jive-ass “reason” which is completely beside the point.

  213. SusanM

    Arwen:

    Perhaps a little narrative, to show why moms sometimes get upset at the “brats in public” issue.

    Yes. Parenting can be difficult, as can being disabled, eldercare, working double shifts and living with a serious illness. But, take heart– in your case, your condition is temporary. Eventually, you’ll be a woman without small children, and you’ll still be living in the patriarchy. Then you can be annoyed by other people’s kids!

    (BTW, I have kids. They grow up and leave, but the patriarchy never does.)

  214. zofia

    Arwin, your story made me so sad. I hospiced my mother who was was nearing the end when when my daughter was born. Taking care of them both was a strain and I was so ill from the stress I could no longer breastfeed. One day the nurse sent over a volunteer that does respite care so that the primary caregiver can go out for a bit. I went to a park with my baby and was sitting and bottle feeding her on a bench. A woman came up to me with her two little girls in tow. I looked up and smiled. She then proceeded to say, “look, that’s what it looks like when you poison your baby” and walked away. True story.

    As for my language, as Arwin pointed out this is what mothers hear daily. There is not a decision you can make as a mother that is not vilified by society and I guess reading some responses here by feminists.

    I have nothing at all against women who choose to not reproduce. Many of my friends have chosen that path for damn good reasons.

  215. Silence

    Cryst T, thank you for calling me a liar. I really, really appreciate that.

    I am not exaggerating any of my ‘bad child’ stories, so sorry. Nor do I hate children, nor do I want them seen and not heard. In fact, I don’t think the kids were ‘bad;’ just acting up at that moment for some reason or another.

    Why is this thread turning into a parody with all these screaming brats being ogeled by evil, child-hating feminists on one side and all these good, smart, angelic children cooed protectively over by loving mothers on the other? Because both sides are equally ugly and both sides are equally wrong. One can object to a certain child’s behavior in public without hating children or their mothers.

    I will go back to my theatre story, even at risk of hijacking the thread. The little girl was not directly in front of me, but a few seats to my left. She did not interfere with my personal enjoyment of the play, except every once in a while I chould hear her complain or see heads turn as she kicked the back of people’s seats. When this happened, my attention would momentarily turn to her and I would feel sorry both for her and for the people who seat she was kicking or who sat close enough to her to have their attention disturbed by her complaints.

    And she had every right to complain. She was stuffed in a seat with no way of getting out and expected to sit still for three hours. Plus she was all dressed up in a little pink frock — my guess is her parents brought her there as a showpiece. If they’d really wanted her to enjoy the play, they could have taken the time to play the music for her, explained the plot to her, and most of all, they should have damn well asked her if she wanted to go to the theatre. Judging by her behavior, she would much rather have spent those three hours at a park in wearing comfortable clothes. I did not give this child the ‘stink-eye,’ although I did notice that at intermission her parents bought her a large soda and then stood and talked and completely ignored her. The reason this whole episode sticks out in my mind is because it just felt like a bad and avoidable event.

    Am I anti-child because I also pity the people who paied good money to see a show and had to spend it with a child kicking them in the back? I don’t think so. I feel that I am respecting the rights of those people as well as the child’s. No one deserves to be kicked in the back, and when you spend your money to see a movie or show, you deserve to see it in relative peace. That’s why they tell you to turn off cell phones and pagers in theatres these days, and yes, I do give the stink-eye to people who don’t comply with that.

    And every time I have ever gone to the theatre I have seen children. There were two sitting behind me the last time who just loved the play. They were around ten, I think, and yes, they talked every once in a while, but they were interested and enthusiastic, and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their comments.

    Do you see the difference? In the first case, the child’s wishes had not been consulted. She did not want to come to the show, and as a result, she was unhappy, bored and disruptive. The second two children wanted to come and had a great time. It’s all about respecting the children and accepting their own decisions — you know, like they’re real people who can think for themselves. Age does not matter. My sister was six when she first saw ‘Les Miserables’ and I know a guy an another forum who showed his five-year-old ‘The Seven Samurai’ — and the kid loved it.

    The problem is, of course, that all this comes down to a matter of time. How many parents can spend the time it takes to introduce their kid to a difficult piece of literature? It’s especially hard when so many fathers opt out of child care entirely. It’s doubly hard because our society is not set up in such a way that mothers are given attractive alternatives to 24 hour a day parenting. It’s difficult, to say the least, and it leads to hard feeling on all sides and everyone start snarking at everyone else because it’s easier to go for small targets than try to untangle all those patriarchal threads we’re ensnared in.

    I respect all women, no matter what reproductive choices they’ve made. I respect all children, yes, even the noisy ones. I’ve never been in an angry public confrontation because I konw life is difficult for everyone and everyone had their own reasons for their behavior. All I want is a little respect for myself, and that means asking other people — adults and children alike – to make an attempt to be quiet and still in places where it is appropriate to be so.

    By the way, would it be possible for any of the children of some of the folks here to post every once in a while? I’d love to hear their perspective on Twisty’s posts, and I’m sure we could all benefit from it.

  216. zofia

    And now a much needed break from our petty infighting.

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/07/05/damon.india.widows/index.html

  217. rachel

    I think, Silence, that the reason you are being construed as being anti-child even though you are citing onyl individual examples is for discursive reasons that you yourself can recognize. If a person is, in the context of discussing feminism, starts relating anecdotes about some feminists he’s encountered and how they were shrill and bossy and interfered with his enjoyment of something, and then he claims to be not antifeminist on the whole, I imagine that you would be suspicious of his claims. The choice to use this discussion as a place to recount negative experiences with children and then use that as exemplary of why they shouldn’t be in some places haas a similar effect. To the extent that this thread was created by the moderator in order to “embiggen” the conversation into larger,more abstract matters about where our ideas about kids come from, how mothers are obligated to them, how society writ large is obligated to them, etc, I read the continued appearance of anecdotes about bad kids as defensiveness deployed to avoid interrogating any of the former.

  218. delphyne

    “All I want is a little respect for myself, and that means asking other people — adults and children alike – to make an attempt to be quiet and still in places where it is appropriate to be so.”

    I think that’s the problem Silence. You’re seeing noisy children as being disrespectful to you when all they are being is noisy children. And it results in you saying things like you’d like to drop-kick them into the nearest river or strangle them which is kind of extreme to say the least.

    Whatever else, you can’t extrapolate from one child having a bad time at the theatre to the idea that there are hoardes of children spoiling adult enjoyment at all times of the day because it simply isn’t happening.

    This discussion started about beaches, places where mothers often take their children, and in particular, a beach where mothers will be excluded because their children are banned. It’s not about demanding that kids be taken to openings at MOMA or Gordon Ramsay’s latest restaurant, it’s about being out in the fresh air having the kind of fun that children love.

  219. Panic

    Have you seen the umpteen studies that show that mothers are less likely to be hired and are offered lower salaries than female peers without children?
    But the point is that mothers are exalted under the patriarchy. The patriarchy doesn’t particularly want you to have career fulfillment or a job outside the home. Of course mothers get the shaft in the world outside the home. It how the patriarchy tries to put you back in your place.

  220. Frumious B

    The focus of the discussion here should not be on what women are doing right or wrong to be good enough mothers, to their own children and other people’s children. That is patriarchal bullshit.

    And there you go. What about when mothers engage in patriarchal bullshit of their own? What if it were a mom in the commercial yelling at the kids for disobeying arbitrary rules instead of a dad? I’ve seen it happen.

    OK, some arbitrary rules have to be made and enforced b/c we live in society with other people and we have to get along. Others appear to be made up on the spot by parents who aren’t even paying attention to what the kid is doing or why she is doing it. Some of those parents are moms. That doesn’t make their ridiculous threats to stop crying right now or you’ll be punished any less ridiculous.

  221. Silence

    Occasionally I want to strangle people. It’s an idea in my head and of course I don’t act on it. Are you saying that you’ve never had an experience in public where someone angered or annoyed you just by being themselves and you swallowed it and went on with your life gritting your teeth? Because it happens all the time to me. And yes, I’m sure I annoy people at times too, but becaue I try to be socially responsible, I attempt to be polite to everyone I meet, at least until they act disrespectfully towards me.

    I am askin, what is the middle ground for women here? The original question arose over a woman-only beach where children weren’t allowed. This immediately gave rise to the call: ‘What about the children? What about the mothers?’

    Fine. Yes, children deserve their space. They deserve time and respect. Mothers are seen as part of a unit by soceity. Their individuality is snatched away and they’re seen as creatures who are supposed to bury their own needs for the sake of their child’s. Of course they love their children. Of course they want places where their children can run free and do as they please. I am not, for the final fucking time, knocking mothers or children or denying that they have a rightful place in this society and that they suffer under the patriarchy.

    I’m asking a few questions for the other side. Should children be allowed into every public space? My answer to that is, yes, of course they should. Second question: when they are allowed into these public spaces, should they make some sort of attempt at respecting the rights of other people present? And my answer to that is also yes. Are they going to succeed every single time? No. Because they’re still learning to respect personal boudaries. All part of being a kid.

    But should I be pleased when a child is being disrespectful of outher people’s boudaries and the parents stand by and do nothing to correct them? I am not. I too have seen children running around in retaurants while the family sits and talks and ignores the child instead of asking her/him to sit down or takes her/him outside for a walk or whatever is necessary to help the child to understand that there are places where it is neither polite nor safe to run. It is a danger for the servers when children run free in restaurants. At a live performance, it is disrepectful to the performers when a bored child shrieks and cries.

    If we were in the post-revolution society of Twisty’s life would be different. Children would not ‘belong’ to their familial unit and they would probably grow up with a healthy idea of their own worth and their relation towards other people. Adults would not sentimentalize children, nor would they see their offspring as extensions of their own ego. But in today’s society, children are seen as belonging to their parents, and I cannot interfere with how they are raised. I would have loved to take that little girl at the show aside and explained the story to her and told her what to watch for. I wasn’t allowed because she’s not my child. In today’s world, that would be seen as interference and most parents would think me creepy if a stranger paid so much attention to their child.

    I’m probably done with this thread. I’ve posted too often and I’m tired of being seen as some evil, lying, child-hating bitch. I’ve seen too many over-indulged children. Some parents do allow their kids to run around and scream and put their hands all over you and we’re all supposed to smile and shrug becuase that’s what kids do. But I’ve met plenty of children who knew that there were times when they should keep their voices down and be still becuase they learned to do so from their parents.

    I’m tired of swallowing things and sucking things up. As a woman, I am expected to do this all the time. There seems to be pressure on women that says: “Yes, you must love children all the time! If you don’t, you’re a Bad Person.” Or, on this board, a bad feminist. Well, hell, there are times when I don’t love my mother. There are times when I scream. Plenty of mothers here have admitted they explode at their kids from time to time. I don’t explode at anyone’s kids, so why are we child-free women not allowed to admit that every once in a while we’d like to go out into public and not have a child on wheelie-shoes crash into us? If I said I’d like to go out into public and not be leered at by beer-swilling frat boys, you’d all smile and agree with me.

    Bottom line: it’s a problem with society, with the way we are raised and the way women and children are viewed. IBTP. But until we smash the system, what are we to do? I don’t want to hide in my house and never leave it. I ewant children to learn and play and explore. But when our interests collide, whose needs win? Mine or the child’s? It think the situation has to determine that. Usually I’m willing to step aside. Just not all the time, because that’s giving in to exactly what the patriarchy wants — women subverting their own desires for the sake of the children.

  222. Dawn Coyote

    I haven’t read all that closely, but there’s some distressing stuff here. First of all, I don’t much care whether there are children around or not. While I’m easily annoyed by other people (indescriminately), I’m living in a city that seems almost child-free at times, and it’s rather soulless as a result.

    Things that are bothering me about this comment thread: 1) I don’t see any actual child-hating going on; 2) That mothers feel so attacked by the comments that express a desire for places where children are not welcome. I don’t doubt that there’s some basis for this (the sorrow is palpable), but I don’t see a basis for it in this thread.

    That this falls apart over children seems particularly tragic to me. It’s just the ugliest double-bind, ever.

  223. medrecgal

    Lisa,

    Re: “I’m sorry child-free people get the collective sneer from the general public, but at least you get to go out and have jobs and be heard and be recognized as even being able to make your own choices. As a disabled mom, many times I am not.” Well, let me offer another perspective as someone who is both child-free and disabled: having a job isn’t an easy proposition when you’re disabled, children or not. But perhaps some people are looking at your children as yet another obstacle to your ability to contribute to society in a society that is overly focused on financial independence. Being heard? Please…I’ve been ignored so much some people would suggest I fade into oblivion, and that has nothing to do with whether or not I have children. I don’t think the primary issue in this case is children, but the intersection of womanhood and disability. Patriarchy sucks at dealing with that, too, as far as I’m concerned. But I would also suggest you do have three strikes against you, and in that case you’re right on: disdain exists for all three statuses you describe (mother, woman, disabled). The same is true for a disabled woman without children, because those of us who are NOT mothers are seen as abnormal, too. Once you’re pegged as somehow socially unworthy under the patriarchy, your choices become limited. So really we’re on different paragraphs of the same page. Hopefully your children will be better versed on dealing with people with disabilities after being raised by a disabled mother, because a whole lot of people are lousy at it. IBTP and other social systems.

  224. acm

    (admitting that I have not read all 200 prior comments, but maybe the first 50)

    is it possible that the “no children” thing is to avoid disputes about male children and at what age they should be kept out? just wonderin’

  225. Arwen

    Arwen, I’m sorry about what happened, the patriarchy makes life crap whether you have kids or not.

    RadFemHedonist, I was indeed a woman without children under patriarchy before having children. I had big breasts. I wore no makeup. I have been fat and thin under patriarchy. I was a feminist under patriarchy. I was a woman who suffered violence against women. I held and hold hands in emergency. I have marched with placards under patriarchy. I have been a caretaker of an older woman under patriarchy. I am a woman in Computer Science and have been “put in my place” by a handful of assholes under patriarchy. I have been yelled at as a hairy legged feminist under patriarchy. I have had my ass pinched under patriarchy. I’ve been told to shut up and look cute under patriarchy. I am constantly being told to smile under patriarchy. I grew up with a single mom under patriarchy. My godmother was a single queer woman under patriarchy.

    I have f^cked patriarchy and eaten patriarchy for breakfast. I’ve fought it, bled on it, squeezed it, embraced it, rejected it, danced with it, and betrayed it. I have seen it where it isn’t and missed it where it is.

    This level of people assuming I’m a moron is new, which is my point, and it comes from the most unexpected quarters. This level of constant irritation with me is new. This level of expressed anger at me is new. This level of assuming that I am the specific problem is new. This level of assuming that my work is valueless and yet the centre of the Known Problems Of The Universe is new.

    SusanM – I am aware that many people have a harder life than my spoiled, coddled, white, middle class existence, and that mothering is temporary, unlike other challenges.

    As a feminist, I also am pretty sure that the fact that career-imperative years of our lives are also parenting years, and that without the 80 hour weeks to high paying careers we are at a disadvantage over the long term, much like the disabled, the race-excluded, and the ill. I am happy to examine intersecting exclusions, but the point that women *specifically* are the only group that become mothers, and mothers *specifically* are dough-headed morons that are under constant scrutiny, is indeed systemic and about women, and helps us to be excluded from economic and political activities whether we’re working or not.

    “According to High-Achieving Women, 2001, between 33 percent and 43 percent of women are childless at ages 41-
    55 – only 14 percent of them by choice. The percentages are even higher amongst women of color. In addition, the
    study found that large numbers of highly qualified mothers opt out of the labor market completely. The result: too
    many women are forced to sacrifice: either family or career. Only a small proportion of these women feel that it is
    likely they can “have it all” in terms of career and family but feel that men fare better on this front.”
    I found this at Centre for Work-Life policy. I have no idea who they are, but I believe it.

    Personally, I think that women having kids is the cornerstone of patriarchy. Not because having kids is bad, but because it makes us easy to exclude.

    Personally, I think it is a great and fabulous trick of patriarchy that having children is a choice for which women should open eyed consider the consequences to career and voice, and just accept those as the price one pays.

    Yes, being a mom ends. Obviously being a mom ends in a way that being a woman of colour does not. That does not mean that it’s not used as a massive stick to beat you about the head and neck while it’s happening, perhaps permanently damaging or wounding you as a member of larger society. It is a force multiplier, if you would.

    It’s driving women out of law and comp. sci. (recent studies on these fields); and even if that bitter taste in your mouth of not being wanted here, and having one’s 60 hour week devalued as insignificant because one “is a Mommy and left when Junior spiked a fever so Mommy is Not Committed to Us” doesn’t deter you from getting back in the game, you will still be behind the eight ball.

    And a lot of women are moms. If we say “suck it up, moms, it ends”, we also ignore populations who are having 3 and more kids, and who parenting for 30 years – which, not coincidentally, are statistically often also populations with other challenges.

    My feminism wants moms at the table and in the halls of power. A good first start would be a little benefit of the doubt now and again.

    —-

    I should make clear that that “bus trip” happened over 5 years! That’s a blending of different stories. They’re all true, but separated over time. If they happened all in one day, I might not have made it through the first week of parenting without deciding that murder suicide was the best option. I also live in a very densely populated urban area.

  226. Kali

    “is it possible that the “no children” thing is to avoid disputes about male children and at what age they should be kept out? just wonderin’”

    acm, someone brought up this issue (of pervy little boys) in the last thread and I suggested maybe we should allow girl children but not boy children. But then someone else took offense at the idea of “pervy little boys”.

  227. fishboots

    That mothers feel attacked is probably because “some mothers” allowing their children to behave horribly is exactly who we are at any given moment in time when in public with our children. I’m pretty sure none of mine have ruined anyone’s outfit, but I’m not going to lay any money on it. I completely understand the desire to go somewhere without the burden of having children around, but why on earth should so much of adult life be “child free” when so many adults have children? And so many childless adults will be dependent on these children becoming thoughtful and productive members of society? Because short of the world coming to a complete stop, that’s where we’re at. The next generation…gah.

    Honestly, mostly I just want people to climb down off of mother’s backs. And by people, I mean anyone that feels compelled to give someone a hard way in order to make themselves feel superior or because of the immediate inconvenience. You see a woman struggling to maintain a couple of kids safety, food for said kids, the sanctity of public space, and her sanity…Help a sister out. Hold the door. Wait without all the drama of sighing and rolling the eyes. Have some compassion for what she’s trying to get done. It matters, it shows, it helps.

    My opinion…The needs of children do superceed the needs of adults, but since, mostly, those needs are the same – not that big of a sacrifice. Now sorting out wants is another thing altogether. I want to continue writing a thought provoking response. My child wants to help. These are not two wants that can occupy the same space… so she wins. This time.

  228. Kali

    “It’s not about demanding that kids be taken to openings at MOMA or Gordon Ramsay’s latest restaurant, it’s about being out in the fresh air having the kind of fun that children love.”

    Well, children love eating, music, entertainment, but they are excluded (either by rules or social disapproval) from operas, certain restaurants, certain entertainment venues. If children are being excluded from certain kinds of restaurant/music/entertainment experiences, why is it any worse to exclude them from a certain kind of beach experience (the quiet, laid-back, for adult women only variety)? My suspicion is that this has something to do with valuing men’s wishes more than women’s. The former category includes men and the latter category doesn’t.

  229. Arwen

    There seems to be pressure on women that says: “Yes, you must love children all the time! If you don’t, you’re a Bad Person.”

    Actually, I very much don’t expect you to love children all the time. I certainly don’t, not even my own. When they’re kicking the backs of chairs or tantruming, I dislike them intensely.

    What I’d LIKE is for feminists is to be the group that jumps to an explanation other than the parents aren’t paying enough attention to the needs of their child. I’d like to know how you can come up with that analysis. Having two, I’m CONSTANTLY trying to figure out who these two are. It is the meat of my days. They shock me continuously. They switch directions faster than a wind-sock in a hurricane.

    Some parents do allow their kids to run around and scream and put their hands all over you and we’re all supposed to smile and shrug becuase that’s what kids do.

    Yes, patriarchy would like you not to help the mother. Yes, patriarchy doesn’t want you asserting your boundries, especially as a woman. Yes, patriarchy likes us all to be individuals concerned primarily with our bubbles, because it makes it easy for vast numbers of people to be pushed down and used.

    HOWEVER.

    In the situations like the restaurant, I often call the child over, and entertain him or her, before returning him or her to his or her caregivers. I watch the caregivers for clues, and the child for clues. I would explain to the child about the waitress. I would have been funny – pretending to tip over a heavy tray, smash! – and I would have been firm – that is dangerous to you and the waitress. And I react FIRST with compassion to the caregiver. I usually get good reactions. Caregivers do often try to help each other out, even if they’re not caregiving their own a the time. (Unfortunately, helping out can often open the door to lots of criticism and snorting.)

    IF the caregivers said something defensive, I would understand why they would feel defensive. I smile and say I know it’s hard to be a caregiver of a rambunctious child, and that it takes a village, and their child is funny and delightful. (Even if not.) I’d suggest it was only where I was sitting that I saw the inevitable waitress/child collision about to happen. Because I know that their defensiveness is in part based on the fact the whole world tells them they are failing, all the time, and this is another example.

    Yep, I’d be caretaking everybody. Child, waitress, other caregivers. Under patriarchy, I may be doing this because I’m a woman – and a mom.

    But.

    Caretaking has to happen, without patriarchy or not. My hope would be that more men would caretake and share the burden, not that women would all leave. If we all retreat and caretake just our little units, the waitress will trip over the child.

  230. delphyne

    “If children are being excluded from certain kinds of restaurant/music/entertainment experiences, why is it any worse to exclude them from a certain kind of beach experience (the quiet, laid-back, for adult women only variety)? My suspicion is that this has something to do with valuing men’s wishes more than women’s.”

    Since when was the beach an adult experience? The people who have most fun at the beach are kids and dogs.

    The problem with excluding children is that you are excluding mothers. This is *basic* feminism. Not all mothers are able to get someone to look after their kids. Having children doesn’t suddenly stop a woman being bothered being ogled by men.

  231. Arwen

    I should point out again that I don’t have a problem with women-only beach times/space, provided caretakers have an option too that makes any sense. My problem is with the discussion of why and how this is necessary.

    I don’t want class woman to have to caretake as a default.

    I don’t want class woman to have to like kids.

    I don’t want class woman to have to want kids.

    I KNOW that class woman includes people who cannot have kids and would like them, people who do have kids and don’t want them, and people who love their kids but don’t have interest in the caretaking of them.

    I want class woman to be allowed all those options.

    However.

    I would ALSO like class FEMINIST to try to give the caregivers the benefit of the doubt.

    I would like class feminist to reject, perhaps, that they as women have to be caregivers, but not to lose sight of the importance of caregiving.

    I would like class feminist to support our caregivers, women and men, and to assume they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got until proven otherwise.

    I would like class child caregiver to be innocent until proven guilty, at least among feminists.

    I would like class feminist to say that this honey-soaked patronization of caregiving popular under patriarchy does not, actually, begin to acknowledge one tiny smidgeon of one tiny particle of how much work and contribution this caregiving makes.

    I would like class feminist to look at the vulnerability of the traditional woman’s role and be enraged, but NOT AT THE WOMAN, nor AT HER WORK, nor IF SHE CHOOSES IT, but at the system and the world that finds and exploits every vulnerability for another’s gain.

    I would like class feminist to see caregivers as contributing and sacrificing and vulnerable, and that vulnerability is not a betrayal, but in fact, something that feminisms can fight to protect.

    Feminism is helping us gain access to the entitlements of man, too slowly, to be sure; but some of us white, (abled), monied, educated women have actually made a buck or two and published a paper or two and have been described as a thinker in our fields. Less than dudes, sure. It is harder for women than for men, sure, but some of us have fought right up to getting a sliver of that pie.

    And many haven’t.

    Those of us Womaning – whether that be moms, dads, nannies, or other paid caregivers, but generally, women in one way or the other – those of us Femming in any way, are still dumb cows good for love and not for thinking. We wipe asses! So smart and glamorous!

    This is not changing, it’s just morphing. We should know better, us dumb femmes, to be trapped in femmy roles. Where is our analysis? Where, our self-respect? Where is our feminism? Where are our brains?

    I was butch, and successfully so, as a hetero feminist with docs and a male degree. I fought it with my teeth bared. Now I am a breeder, a cow.

    *I* am not that different.

    The reactions to me certainly are.

    When one of my children acts up, other people can decide they know that I’m failing on my job, on any number of planks. From the left, it’s usually that I’m not empathetic or nurturing or in tune. From the right, I’m not disciplining and I’m screwing with their gender identities and they’re not being raised by God. Nobody treated my research, my hundreds of hours of work, and my hundreds of hours of thoughtful problem solving with such contempt when I was mainly a software engineer. As mainly a mother, the women ON THIS PAGE think they know why my kid’s a shitheel.

  232. ginmar

    Bottom line is men need to care for their kids, otherwise it gets pushed off on women. And sorry if I don’t like kids, I’m still not a child hating anti feminist, I worked retail, and I saw that some people think kids make them entitled to do things that people without kids can’t get away with.

    I saw two commercials recently in the US that hinted at how boys become the patriarchy. See if you can spot the similarity:

    Commercial one: father asks girl who her ‘fave five’ or whatever on her phone are: she names five friends. And dad couldn’t look less interested by the way.

    Son then volunteers that he picked the same five of the sister’s friends, because they’re hot. Daughter is outraged, demands of dad, “Aren’t you going to do anything?”

    Dad grunts, “Find uglier friends.”

    Second commercial: A woman with four boys is finding them uncontrollable because they’re boys, blah blah blah, therefore she appreciates that the insurance company does house calls.

    In sum, maleness is presented as something that just is, that you have to work around, and that can’t be controlled, especially by mere women. And you’re damned right I’ve seen it in young boys, especially groups of them. Boys learn early on that they’re boys and that they’re special. Every time their dad refuses to ‘babysit’ they get the damned message all right.

    I don’t like kids in an overpopulated world, and I’m sorry, I hate badly-behaved kids even more. I’ve seen rich kids steal things right in front of their parents in the store I was working at, and their parents yelled at moi not their little angel, especially when it was explained that the kid was going to be arrested, no matter what they offered to do belatedly. Their kid is not to be messed with. If I had shoplifted when my mom was in the store, it would have been a closed casket funeral, and I knew it. Poor kids, in general, seemed to have stricter parents. I can think of a half dozen instances where the poor kid’s parental figure told me to take them to jail—and I’m sure I could find more instances, because I kept and still keep a daily diary.

    That said, I don’t agree with mother-bashing at all, but I’m not willing to step and fetch and act all gooey about babies because I’m female. That’s the patriarchy. Liking kids is not compulsory, and it’s no more acceptable when feminists demand it than it is when the patriachy says it. I don’t like kids. I therefore have none of my own, though I quite like some of the neighbors’ kids. I also don’t like loud stereos. I do not play mine loud and call the cops whenever my neighbors play theirs loud. Same issue. I do not feel the need to wear earphones or any of that shit because some of my neighbors want to be assholes. There’s a line between things you hvae to bear and things you don’t have to bear. I don’t have to bear being thought of as an automatic baby-fancier by the public, much less listen to Snoop Dog at 2 AM from across the street.

  233. Kali

    “My hope would be that more men would caretake and share the burden”

    They are not going to do that voluntarily. Linda Hirshman has said that women should put pressure on men to share in childcare. But she was not very well received.

    I have heard many feminist women say that men should take on equal responsibility for childcare. Some of these very same women have complained about their own husbands not doing this. When I ask them about how they propose to make their husbands take more responsibility, they get very angry and defensive and the whole discussion ends with “He is a really nice guy and he would take equal responbility but I wanted one parent to stay home and I wanted that parent to be ME!”

    There are other women who respond by saying “what about the single mothers and the lesbian mothers”?

    So, in theory, it sounds very good to say men should take equal responsibility, but as soon as we get down to the specifics and the logistics, the whole thing falls apart.

  234. Kali

    “Since when was the beach an adult experience? The people who have most fun at the beach are kids and dogs.”

    I could say the same thing about restaurants. Since when is eating out an adult experience? The people who have the most fun eating out are kids. But, just like some restaurants are a particular kind of eating out experience, a quiet woman-only beach is a particular kind of beach experience. Note that I am not saying that all beaches should be childfree, just as I would never say that all restaurants should be childfree.

    “The problem with excluding children is that you are excluding mothers.”

    Because mother-child is an inseparable entity and dog-forbid that the father be called upon to take care of the kids while the mother goes to the beach?

  235. Arwen

    Linda Hirshman has said that women should put pressure on men to share in childcare. But she was not very well received.

    Linda Hirshman said a whole lot more of a mouthful than that.

  236. Kali

    ginmar, I saw those two ads and hated them for the same reason.

  237. delphyne

    “Because mother-child is an inseparable entity and dog-forbid that the father be called upon to take care of the kids while the mother goes to the beach?”

    Single mothers? Women whose husbands aren’t safe to leave with children because they abuse or neglect them? There are all sorts of reasons why women are stuck with kids. You can’t make men do their fair share by excluding mothers with children from women’s space.

  238. Jodie

    Men have no problem finding child-free space or child-free time.

    Women do. Even married women have a tough time finding child free time (I certainly did when I was married, and I worked full time; my then-husband, however, had no qualms about doing whatever the hell he wanted to; I couldn’t even go to the grocery store without children in tow).

    For the past 24 years, I have either been at work or been fulfilling mom duties (the past two years have eased up quite a bit, as my last one ages) with not much else left over.

    My last kid graduated from high school and is going off to college end of August. I cannot tell you how free I am starting to feel and how hard these last few months are. I want my home to myself. I am tired of children. I am tired of someone always wanting something from me. I want alone time. I want a space that is messed up because I messed it up, or clean because I cleaned it. I want that women only, child free, beach.

    When my children were younger I might have resented that women only, child free space (because I could not have gone there, and I would have desperatedly wanted it).

  239. Lisa

    Medrecgal,

    re: “But perhaps some people are looking at your children as yet another obstacle to your ability to contribute to society in a society that is overly focused on financial independence.”

    Well, of course. I couldn’t tell what your point was because you said exactly what I was saying. The very nature of being oppressed for whatever reason is that the oppressors put you into a series of catch-22s. People say I shouldn’t have kids and I should work (more), these same people will not hire me. People complain about SSDI, yet the same people will not voluntarily provide accommodations and hire the disabled. I have always patched together an income. I have worked since I was 12 at least part-time. But disabled women are not even worth being mothers. You are supposed to sit down, shut up, do as much or as little as possible to use as little resources as possible and stay in your place. Becoming a mom was asking too much. Becoming a mom, or getting married, or going on vacation, or buying nice clothes, is not staying in your place.

    But that was not even the point of what I said. Disability discrimination complicates things and does intersect with gender discrimination in my life. But I was a disabled child-free woman for years and years. And I’m now a disabled mother. So, if you can give me the conceit of canceling the disability part out–I have recieved by far more of the kind of discrimination that Arwen describes as a mother than as a child-free woman.

    I do not drive and I have been on public transportation. Arwen does not exaggerate one iota. The stupid and contradictory judgements you get as a mother, in my experience, far outweigh the stupid comments you might get when you are child-free. In most cases, mothers have spent part of their adult lives child-free and have experienced at least some of what you are complaining about. Child-free women, for the most part, may not have experienced what it is like to be a mother and be judged for every little decision you ever make.

  240. smmo

    “Linda Hirshman has said that women should put pressure on men to share in childcare. But she was not very well received.”

    She was not very well received because whatever good points she had to make (and there were good points) were bathed in cruel elitist stinky shit. Way stinkier shit that anything I’ve ever dealt with as a mother.

    “I can think of a half dozen instances where the poor kid’s parental figure told me to take them to jail”

    I find it rather depressing that so many commenters here who decry patriarchy don’t see that “strict” parenting is another form of it. I know it is quite the rage these days to hate the stupid permissive mommies with their bratty kids. But it is a hell of a lot easier to terrify and browbeat children into behaving in a socially proscribed way than to try to convince them by other means. But who cares! The terrified children are so much more pleasant to be around.

  241. Arwen

    I also did, ginmar. It made me tired.

    Patriarchy wants us to love babies.

    As a feminist mom I can totally agree that kids are snot nosed little jerks a lot of the time, who are narcissistic, undersocialized, and inappropriate as compared to adults.

    I don’t think as a feminist I’m about to ask any of you to love my children for being children. My “high needs” or “spirited” elder is sometimes a challenge to enjoy for those closest to him. My younger tends to attract all sorts of positive attention. (They both only receive extremely gendered attention, mind you.)

    As a feminist, I’d ask you to cut the moms and nannies some slack, not the kids. Try to give the moms and nannies the benefit of the doubt.

    Even the ones spoiling their little brats and not socializing them in any meaningful way. The mediocre ones. The ones who don’t work it the way you’d work it. The ones who have perhaps given up without a meaningful and supportive framework for childrearing available. The ones who are using watered down Adler because they’ve been told it will work. The ones who are told that it’s every man woman and child for themselves. The ones who look like they’re spoiling those kids: sometimes, it may just look that way right now.

    Parenting is a waltz through a landmine strewn field, and there aren’t easy answers (spare the rod) anymore, and a hell of a lot of second guessing and very little support. One of the reasons I get so much advice is to 90% of the population on any given day, I’m doing it wrong.

    That kids are boors is a given, to me. I disagree that kids would be less neurotic post patriarchy. I think it’s not neurosis. It’s a learning curve, like not-pooing-in-a-diaper. Until that learning happens, people are exposed to and forced to deal with your shit.

    That there is a problem in the state of caregiving is definite.

    That our society is confused and raising children is broken, and there are little entitled Paris Hiltons springing up all over the place? No argument here.

    But it is more than the problem of the individual caregiver. It’s a truly feminist issue. A framework was left behind, and there are currently about 40 competing frameworks out there. As a feminist, I work very hard at parenting my BOYS in a feminist manner. The patriarchy sits down at the table the second a baby is born, and I’m up to my eyeballs in how that affects the raising of kids. And what I’ve seen is this: there is no obvious feminist framework for childrearing readily available, after we’ve agreed on the right and choice to work and accessible daycare and birth control.

    But what there is for parents of all stripes is a confusing array of ideas and philosophies.

    Imagine that you are, in fact, parenting a thunderstorm. You are roughly feeling you’d like to shut the brats up for 10 minutes so you can fucking think, and you had some great nuclear option to force them to mind you. You are also aware that this feeling is inappropriate in a parent these days, especially a loving left-leaning parent who is not about to get daddy to switch the kid’s little butts. You’re a mother under patriarchy, which means you’re boundless love, but you’re also a mother under secular society, which means you don’t have an authoritarian behind you to threaten with. You don’t want an authoritarian, but what do you do instead?

    The other people around you want your brat to SHUT UP AND MIND. You have those moments yourself, because unlike with an adult, you cannot put the 18 month old down to scream while you walk around the block and come back into yourself.

    You whisper it to yourself: authority, not authoritarian. Authoritarian IS patriarchy/corporate/however you describe the conservative framework. Hobbesian. Might is right. Power wins.

    So you try to be nurturant authority, which means a lot of hatred from both the kid and society. Because the kid will test you more right up in your face, like the little critical thinking hegemony rocker you’re trying to nurture. But, you cannot be a pushover or exploited – you will have to maintain your boundaries with laser precision or the KID becomes the dictator and the family bends to keep him or her from tantruming his mighty power around. The kids, they know society is out there with headaches, and that nothing can freak mom out more than pushing that button hard. Sometimes you give up and chose one or the other, in the moment, or sometimes parents just give up and choose permanently. That’s because it is hard.

    Do people get lost on that line? Yes they do.

    There is a problem in parenting. Many do give up. I agree.

  242. maribelle

    I can’t count the times in public that I have seen a child say or do something so endearing, clever or life-affirming that it brought a lingering smile to my face. I know it’s far more times than I ever was annoyed by an ill-mannered child. Maybe it’s because I look at them expecting good things and usually find them. If I were looking to be pissed off by them, I’m sure I wouldn’t be disappointed.

    Random comments on random quotes:

    Personally, I think that women having kids is the cornerstone of patriarchy.

    Women having children is also a cornerstone of biology. Yes, women are oppressed regularly in patriarchy by being expected to do the majority of family care. That is finally changing (more below.) That doesn’t change the fact that being born live of a human mother is one fundamental part of our human experience that we all share. How about reflections on the one thing we truly have in common here–being born of women?

    Yes, being a mom ends.

    Not to derail, but IMO being a mom never ends. Being a mom is a state of mind that fundamentally changes you forever. Many (not all) of those changes are deeply profound and for the better.

    So, in theory, it sounds very good to say men should take equal responsibility, but as soon as we get down to the specifics and the logistics, the whole thing falls apart.

    Actually, in the majority of households I know, the men do far more childrearing than my father’s generation ever did. In some cases, the father does the majority of childcare duties. The times have changed pretty quickly on this one, even though of course there is much more to be accomplished.

    ~I look forward to living in a world someday (post-post revolution?) where taking physical and emotional care of other human beings is not derided, especially by other women. (and yes, by generalizing that swaths of women are failing in their parenting duties, you are deriding them.) Care of others is an honorable calling, whether paid as a professional or volunteering as a family member.

    That mothers feel attacked is probably because “some mothers” allowing their children to behave horribly is exactly who we are at any given moment in time when in public with our children.

    Yep. Every mom who has ever seen her kid melt down in public has been on the spectator’s end before. And as she remembers her own critical thoughts at the time, she has a unique perspective on the concept of karma. It keeps you humble. (and I love Arwen’s ideas of helping caregivers in public by backing them up. I do this too, whenever possible.)

    I guess what I’m saying is that none of us are in this alone. Yes, we are our sister’s keepers–and our brothers’ too–and we sink or swim together.

    “Every [person] is my superior in that I may learn from them.” Like it or not, children are our fellow travelers on this planet, and with their unique perspective, they have much to teach us. Avoid them all you want, but you are cutting yourself off from wonderful allies, friends and teachers.

  243. tinfoil hattie

    Well, I think the Washington Post today (7/5) has the answer. In the special Golf Is Everything section for today, a gushing article explains that when professional golfers become FATHERS, they do even BETTER at their jobs.

    Must just be us stupid women who can’t seem to excel at parenting AND career, huh.

  244. Kali

    “gushing article explains that when professional golfers become FATHERS, they do even BETTER at their jobs.”

    It’s not just golf. Men earn more when they become fathers and women earn less when they become mothers. Guess why?

  245. pheeno

    “Single mothers? Women whose husbands aren’t safe to leave with children because they abuse or neglect them? There are all sorts of reasons why women are stuck with kids. You can’t make men do their fair share by excluding mothers with children from women’s space. ”

    Speaking as a single mother, I WISH there were adult women only spaces. I dont get to be alone often,maybe twice a year, and I would KILL for an all women adult only beach. When I *can* get away, there’s no place to go. How is that any better than being stuck with kids and not having any women only places to go?

    Why cant there be a place for ME? Just me, not MOM, not daughter, not sister, not ex wife, not employee- Just me. Kim. A place where I can be Kim and cuss if I want to, just relax with myself if I want to…not hear MAMA MAMA even from other peoples children if I want to. A baby crying makes a womans hear rate increase, even if she isnt a mother and its not her kid crying. Im on high alert when kids are around, even when they arent mine. I cant turn it off, unless Im around adults and no children.

    Do you know how much of a luxury it would be to have a women only adult only space? It would relieve so much stress I cant even truly imagine it. But I wouldnt even be able to enjoy it even if I could get there, because once again I have to fucking put everyone else ahead of me and god forbid I do something for myself and not catch shit for it or be resented.

    We need woman only adult only spaces just as much as we need women with children only spaces.

    The rare time I can get away counts too.

  246. Arwen

    Maribelle, right on!

    I agree that only women (but not all people who are women), are moms. What I meant to infer is that patriarchy exploits the vulnerability that can happen with being moms, not that being moms causes patriarchy. There is a victimization, but it is not the fault of motherhood or womanhood. It is not wrong or pathological to love one’s kids, or wish to carry them through infancy and teach them how to walk and read. Nor is it pathological to feel finished with that process, and wish to go back to work with adults. They are both valid expressions of biological, emotional, and personal facts.

    I also want to thank you for standing for the wisdom and the beauty of our tantruming annoying beasts, too. It’s there, and it’s beautiful, and it’s why some of us like caregiving.

  247. kate

    Repeatedly comments illustrate the amount of propaganda we have absorbed in this American culture. Over and over again, commenters speak of finite resources of space, peace and self healing, which are in danger of extinction at any minute:

    Medrecgal:
    “. I would agree that this smacks of classism, but to be perfectly honest, I’ve seen examples that show the (small) kernel of truth to this. I would suggest that it’s a matter of resources; people take less kindly (in general) to those who draw resources from the social systems rather than from their own labors.

    If you agree that it smacks of classism then why not deconstruct it and understand why it does? Or is classism a palatable social construct as long as you are not on the bottom? The concept of finite, non-renewable resources does not extend to human capacity for generosity and cooperation. We all have an infinite ability to share space and time and have consideration for others in return for the same given to us. But of course this means that people begin to examine what the hell they are working for, do they really need it and what truly makes a quality life? I love suburbanite/yuppie reovlutionaries, their epalets match their shoes so well and they will nary say a thing untoward to anyone — unless they deserve it.

    As I said before, fighting over who has the privilege this hour or this month or on this beach would be superfluous in a truly just society.

    Lizard:

    “Long periods of this sort of parenting drastically undermine womens’ abilities to be economically independent, which I think is crucial.”

    roamaround: “What about caregivers who are not mothers? Are we chopped liver? Can’t we log for peaceful spaces without being attacked as selfish child-hating anti-mother classist white princesses?”

    Kali: “Personally, I don’t believe this is a realistic possibility under any form of capitalism, and I don’t see any alternative to capitalism. Which is why I come down on the side of a “reproductive strike” of some sorts, at least by those of us who are fortunate enough to have a choice.

    The reproductive strike, whatever the hell form that might take, requires that one group be given the power to impose a ‘strike’ on another group that will be powerless to resist said strike and therefore, have no choice but to conform. Please tell me how on earth that is any different than the social system in place now?

    People?! What on earth do they do in some countires in Europe? Do they not allow/fund for child time? Health care? Do they not allow families family time? Do the people not recognize that this is for the good? And is it not shown over and over again that such countries actually have a lower birth rate the countries where women/families do not have support as mothers/parents? When we value quality of life enough to fund it cooperatively then we shall all have it and not until.

    Kali: “Some women think that the mother-child relationship is too strong to do anything to change the above situation, so women should not be oppressed even though they take (and will continue to take) primary responsibility for children.”

    The women who think this aren’t feminists, they work against feminists and usually wear the mantle of religious conservativism or some other repressive social control system. Radical feminist philosophy is or should, as it evolves, develop the obvious conclusion that woman should never have the sole responsibility for child rearing. In fact, as I said before, the nuclear family, a construct of the modern industrial-patriarchal system, demands that roles be followed along a strict line delineated by gender and that one gender wields the power and the other serves.

    No one in their right mind would want to be saddled with child or home care exclusive of their own personal development, but women still are pressured to do just that and do and right ‘chere in the good ole US of A! Those that support such a system are usually ignorant of alternatives or fearful of change. I blame the hierarchical constructs of racism, sexism and classism for keeping this ignorance and fear well protected.

    Niki: “Perhaps it would benefit some less enlightened readers for those of you who have been forced into staying in a marriage or bringing a pregnancy to term to share your stories.”

    Surely you jest. But I’ll answer these obnoxious points in case you or others here do call themselves feminists and at the same time carry such presumptions. Do some research about the status of women in this country and worldwide. Your entitlement attitude wreaks to holy hell and I for one am in no humor to enable it.

    Niki: “I do, however, know that there are holistic means of inducing a miscarriage with no patriarchal interference. I know organizations where women with resources reach out to other women without who would like to exit a marital violence situation. I have friends that have fallen into a number of horrible patriarchal pitfalls and have managed to make their lives work for them to their choosing. Then again, I am lucky enough to live in a progressive American city with many resources for people who want to change their lives in whatever direction.”

    There’s that resources thing popping up again. Quite often with liberals of high mind and status, when the lowers step up and pronounce that things suck down there, guilt ensues unto the middle-uppers who know they’ve been caught. Of course, like any criminal caught doing something they like, they must dispense with the tattler quickly and what better way than to acknowledge that ‘yes, we have cake and you don’t, but there’s nothing we can do so we’ll all just have to suffer with it.’

    Many options do indeed exist and those hoarding the cupboard have often historically lost everything when a little cooperation would have been so much better for them. I believe this will happen with those of economic privilege eventually in this country if radical change does not come about peacefully. Feminists who wish to see true change should get on board instead of clinging to the patriarchy, even the parts that benefit them now.

    roamaround: “Also, and this isn’t meant to flame or incite, I quite honestly see mothers as the exalted class among women under patriarchy.”

    Only white middle mothers. The rest are told daily to “put the fucking kid somewhere and get to work, wash the laundry, do the dishes, flip the burgers, take out the bedpan and at the end of the day, get the hell back to their part of town and out of sight pronto.

    And for god’s sakes, stop whining about how you want time to go to school to get some career or how Medicaid won’t pay for your rotten damn teeth to be replaced or your how your lights were shut off last night. We’ve got a $100 a plate democratic fundraiser to get to and if you’re late tomorrow, you’re fired. Good luck finding another job bitch.”

  248. Arwen

    “My hope would be that more men would caretake and share the burden”

    They are not going to do that voluntarily.

    This one bothers me.

    This is another face of patriarchy.

    Yes, some men ARE happy to volunteer. Usually, those who finally understand that there is great good reward in care-giving, and it is not the job only of the stoolie, the whupped, the stupid, the girl, or the bitch. Dads, just like moms, often love their kids to the point where their breath catches in their throat and tears run down their faces. For men, it is often work to allow themselves to be present in that sheer terror and love, that vulnerability to vulnerability, that listening not-solving but being-with, under patriarchy. To suggest they have to be whipped to get there is just more macho down the macho-hatch.

    A child and their needs is not a hot potato, an unrelenting burden foisted only on women, which men should grudgingly stoop to pick up too. In a society where a woman and her children is nothing at all, a grudging Sunday afternoon Dad-is-babysitting may mean something, but it won’t solve society, and it won’t give men a role with their kids in any meaningful way.

    A child and their needs is an incredibly complex relationship, and like any relationship, there are zillions of benefits to doing the work to be present, and it IS work, and you AREN’T immediately all knowing about it (regardless of how many moms you’ve clucked at), and you will make mistakes, and you will need to consult external resources, and it is something to learn continually, and not just a default encoding on the XX of the fairer nicer gentler stupider lovinger sacrificinger sex.

    It’s work that the men have to start doing, and we have to stop doing for them, but it’s not BAD WORK. It’s only hurtful because we’re given it as an assumption due to biology, because it’s both expected and ignored, and it’s criticized and scrutinized and used as a shaming tool by people not doing that work and having not the slightest clue what’s involved.

    Assuming, of course, only that they could do it better and with more aplomb, if they stooped to show us how to do it.

    “What the hell do you do all day, woman?”

    Nothing, obviously, says patriarchy, that God didn’t decree as my role. Therefore, I should barely have to think about it, and it’s never actually work.

  249. smmo

    “Also, and this isn’t meant to flame or incite, I quite honestly see mothers as the exalted class among women under patriarchy.”

    Another one of patriarchy’s sneaky tricks. As kate points out (nice blaming!) this applies only to white mothers in middle class or above nuclear families. Even for them it fucks your career, fucks your fuckability, and opens you up to criticism from all fronts. Childless carefree hot fuckable bimbo or boring stupid ugly fat mommy – to which I say no and hell no, cake please. As for poor and brown moms, well they’re just fucked.

    The exaltededness of motherhood in patriarchy is most eloquently expressed by the fact that being murdered by one’s impregnator is a leading cause of death for pregnant women.

  250. Arwen

    In fact, as I said before, the nuclear family, a construct of the modern industrial-patriarchal system, demands that roles be followed along a strict line delineated by gender and that one gender wields the power and the other serves.

    Amen amen amen. But I have to repeat, please – it’s not the service that’s the problem, it’s the forced split along gender lines.

    Are white middle class mothers being exulted under patriarchy? Well, yes, in “premise”. Exactly the same way that women are “more sexually powerful for being women”, although that only REALLY applies to thin white women with health, and teeth who are younger than 35, when you ask the person saying it. Which also happens to also be the group that is targeted for violence with the excuse they’re fucking asking for it.

    Other women are targeted for other reasons. It’s a divide and conquer strategy, because don’t we hate the gorgeous sex-bot for being saleable, girls? Isn’t she asking for it, girls? Just like middle class mommies who stay home for a year or three and bother to show up to the emerg when their kid has a broken arm are asking to be excluded from avenues to power and career success? We agree she’s asking for it too? Good, good.

    I say both paradigms are a crock of lily-dipped shit. Gilded cages.

  251. roamaround

    Kate: “Do some research about the status of women in this country and worldwide. Your entitlement attitude wreaks to holy hell and I for one am in no humor to enable it.”

    Your contention that only white middle class mothers gain status through motherhood pretty much leaves out entire continents where nonwhite women who can’t or don’t produce children (especially sons) are: shamed, reduced to poverty through divorce, forced to shared resources with multiple other wives who gain status over them when they produce sons, starved or even murdered for being barren.

    By exalted status I meant mothers as a class throughout the history of patriarchy. As I said, patriarchy allots some status crumbs to married mothers as producers of sons (madonnas). The underclass status is reserved for unattached and childless women (whores). Of course, we are all shit on and oppressed, probably unattached mothers with the hardest situation of all though arguably their motherhood is still seen as redeeming. At least if they have sons.

    I am not trying to beat up on mothers or children of any social class or color who may be struggling under current conditions of racism, imperialism and capitalism. You seem so anxious to attack women here who you perceive, on pretty flimsy evidence, as privileged. The more revolutionary than thou posturing is getting old.

  252. medrecgal

    Kate,

    I was not suggesting that classism is a “palatable social construct”; I was suggesting that it is one of the many negative byproducts of patriarchy. It’s really completely backward thinking if you deconstruct it: women in the lower classes supposedly have more children than those in the upper classes (most statistics I have seen do not support this) and cannot support them “properly”, so those children are a “drain on the social systems”; whereas women in the upper classes have fewer or no children, even though they have more resources to draw on. (This is not my personal belief system, it is an attempt at “deconstruction”.) The reality is different; oftentimes lower class women actually have FEWER children, but resources are so scarce that it really doesn’t make that much difference. Classism, for all it’s obscenity, is a continuing problem in a culture that has developed an underlying perspective of earning power as the primary determinant of a person’s social worth. There is something inherently wrong with this idea, and it certainly has negative effects on the children.

    And as for the human capacities for generosity and cooperation, they are often sorely underused in a culture that is so focused on “every man for himself” (and, by extension, every woman for herself). More focus on how we’re alike rather than how we’re different would go a long way towards eliminating many of the “isms” discussed in this thread (sexism, racism, classism, etc.). These things have to be long term; handouts aren’t going to help much, and the change has to be wholesale–it won’t work with just a handful of people. Any suggestions for changing the American mindset?

  253. ginmar

    SMMO, you’re ignoring some rather significant things. One: the children were committing illegal acts, about which we had a sign posted. Two: should rich kids be exempt from legal punishment? Should poor kids? Both committed the same act—that of theft. And as somebody who had to work in that store, let me tell you, I hated thieves. So you wanna try again?

  254. SusanM

    Here’s a story about a woman who tried to help a crying child. She was lucky she wasn’t arrested:

    “This little girl was about 5 years old and was crying her eyes out,” Johnson said. “Her face was beet red, and she was screaming and coughing and saying things like, ‘I don’t want this! It hurts! Please stop!’ She was grabbing her ears so the adults couldn’t touch them.”

    http://www.kansas.com/news/local/story/113900.html

  255. redhead

    Hey blamers,

    First off, I want to say thanks to everyone who has contributed here, this is obviously a touchy subject (thanks especially to Arwen, Lisa, and others who have shared personal stories).

    Secondly, I want to make a half-formed hypothesis. I think that the distaste many have for children (not saying specifically anyone here, just in general) has to do with our culture’s general disdain for any showing of emotion or acknowledgement of physical pain or other needs. People are so uncomfortable when someone cries that they tell them to suck it up and stop crying; loud laughter is frowned upon; coughing and sneezing – involuntary reactions – get dirty looks; and we are supposed to put aside emotions constantly and just use ‘logic.’ I have been told that it is disrespectful when I seem tired or yawn at school, even though the training for my profession requires me to work so much that I sometimes get 6 hours of sleep or less for a few weeks straight.

    Please note, also, that the disdain of emotions and awareness of bodily needs is usually levelled against various oppressed classes. An angry black man is scary and threatening, but an angry white man is righteous. A gay man who is loud and outspoken is flamboyant – with all the negative connotations that word carries, a frat boy who is loud and outspoken is just being a guy. A frustrated mother is crazy and short on patience, a frustrated father (when you see it) is just frustrated, justifiably, by a cranky kid. A kid who can’t sit still and doesn’t like structure has behavior problems, but an adult male constantly moving is creative and energetic, and should explore being an ARTIST!

    Anyway, this might be readily apparent to others, but I have just made the connection between the reaction we have to children and the general distaste towards, and suppression of emotions and physical needs.

  256. Arwen

    Very interesting, redhead. That wasn’t obvious to me, and yet it clicked for me now that you’ve said it. I’ll have to think on it more. And I imagine as a child gets a little older, (I’m steeped in 5 and under), all that mistrust and attendant repression helps cause neurosis? Such as mentioned by Twisty?

  257. Seren

    Silence, children and adults are different, you know? Children don’t understand the physics of kicking someone’s seat, they don’t realize the person in front of them is affected by that. They have limited experience in the world and don’t really understand how their behavior affects others. I’ll give an example, when I was a little girl I went to the Disney ice show. I started kicking the seat in front of me, not realizing it would disturb the man who, for some reason, was there alone watching the Disney ice show, apparently he felt the ice show too was supposed to be a childfree space. I was happy and I liked swinging my legs and hearing the metal clink. No doubt my parents would have stopped me, but *they didn’t realize I was doing it*, until the man screamed at me and then they proceded to scream at me and dragged me out of the theater. I guess I learned not to kick the seat, although I still didn’t understand why I just wanted the scary man and all the yelling to stop, but I’m not so sure I recommend those methods. I can’t say my parents were wonderful parents, but I’m sure that guy left the rink whining about permissive, undisciplined parents who let their kids kick chairs and uh, no, my parents weren’t ever that.

    Arwen, WORD. I’m childfree and I can’t believe the amount of harted and contempt heaped on mothers (yeah, let’s use the euphamism “parents”) in public, and how willing complete strangers are to judge someone else’s parenting skills and situation. Either your kids are perfect always, and not subject to childrens biology with small legs, small bladders, short attention spans, quick to get tired, or they’re rotten kids and you’re a crap parent who should be able to do magic. You’re too permissive, you’re too child centered, you’re too selfish and indifferent, no matter wat you do, it’s wrong. You’re wrong if you reason, you’re wrong if you just try to ignore it so you can finish up quickly and go, you’re wrong if you give the child what s/he wants so s/he’ll be quiet and everyone will stop hating on you.

  258. Crys T

    Silence: “I will go back to my theatre story, even at risk of hijacking the thread. The little girl was not directly in front of me, but a few seats to my left.”

    This sounds to me like a one-off incident, right? So, to go from it to generalising that every time you go the theatre, you have squalling brats causing a ruckus is exaggeration. Not a “lie”, but certainly turning some molehills into mountains.

    I stand by what I said: there is massive exaggeration of children’s bad behaviour going on with a number of commenters here.

    Panic: “Is there a possibility of neutrality at all here?”

    You’re asking if it’s okay to be “neutral” on a subection of humanity?

    “I mean, I don’t feel good about the notion that I have to like them, as a group (even though I find I do). I just all winds up sounding like that maternal instinct garbage that gets rammed down our throats all the time.”

    Yeah, I get that, but using the fact that not all women want to be mothers and not all women are especially nurturing as an excuse for having a prejudice against children (I’m not saying *you* do so, but others here do) is not okay. The whole idea that so many see children as some sort of separate group (often not even a human one) and not as a collection of individual human beings that is as varied as any other group of humans is the problem here. If you did as Vera (IIRC) did and changed the word “children” to any other group label, the sentiments that have been expressed here would be deemed morally repugnant by everyone here. But children seem to be an oppressed group it’s okay for progressives to fling shit at.

    Arwen: “I would like class feminist to reject, perhaps, that they as women have to be caregivers, but not to lose sight of the importance of caregiving.”

    EXACTLY! Seeing caregiving as degrading and worthless is a patriarchal value in the first place. Not all of us are cut out for it, but we all ought to respect it and not take on male-defined attitudes towards it.

    redhead: “I think that the distaste many have for children (not saying specifically anyone here, just in general) has to do with our culture’s general disdain for any showing of emotion or acknowledgement of physical pain or other needs.”

    Yes, yes and yes again. I think you’ve got something there. I can understand feeling stressed and worn-out and feeling hyper-sensitive to noise, and getting irritated when you hear a child screaming, but to classify being loud as “bad” in and of itself seems very strange to me.

    It also seems strange that so many women who otherwise consider themselves rebels should be so obsessed with “proper” & “seemly” behaviour.

  259. Panic

    You’re asking if it’s okay to be “neutral” on a subection of humanity?
    Well yeah, I am. This is an honest question too. Can I not hate kids, and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them? Why does it have to be one or the other? Now, I’m child-free, if you haven’t guessed, so I don’t really have any stake in feeling anything for them. Happy coincidence that do like ‘em, and that I’m happy to hang with them and my mama friends.

    If you did as Vera (IIRC) did and changed the word “children” to any other group label, the sentiments that have been expressed here would be deemed morally repugnant by everyone here.
    Again, I don’t think it’s right or fair to take “kids” out and replace it with “feminists” or “Black people” or “the disabled.” Kids are not all disabled, the are not all female, and they are not all Black. You CAN NOT compare oppressions. The shit kids face is not the same as what other groups face, though if the kids belong to any of those other groups, the oppression they face is intensified. Oppressions work together, but they’re not, and CAN NOT, be compared. I hate, hate, hate that. Let me reiterate, that I really don’t think a disabled person would enjoy being compared to a child. I don’t think a white upper-middle class child faces the same challenges as a WOC. Comparing oppressions is dangerous stuff.

  260. Vera

    Note that in making those substitutions, I was not in any way “comparing oppressions.” My point was that people freely make generalizations about and express prejudice for children as a class. It’s an ideal of the patriarchy to put children in a class, just as it is to regard women as the sex class.

    Putting them in a class and making generalizations is the first, and essential, step in regulating and oppressing them.

  261. delphyne

    I don’t mind if the oppression of children is compared to the oppression of women. Obviously they aren’t exactly the same but bigotry is bigotry whatever form it takes.

    Who would be in danger if we compare the oppression of children to the oppression of women for example?

  262. Crys T

    Panic: “Can I not hate kids, and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them?”

    Well, that depends on how you feel the following sound:

    “Can I not hate women, and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them?”

    “Can I not hate Blacks, and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them?”

    “Can I not hate people in wheelchairs and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them?”

    “Can I not hate lesbians, and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them?”

    “Can I not hate Jews, and not love them? Can I feel “okay” about them?”

    Personally, I think anyone saying any of the above sounds more than a little suspect.

    “You CAN NOT compare oppressions.”

    No, but you sure as fuck can compare bigoted attitudes towards different oppressed groups. You can compare the rationalising bigots use to justify their prejudices they have for different oppressed groups. Which is what I am doing. Saying that bigots use similar arguments to justify their bigotry of different groups is in no way comparing the experiences of those groups. Come on.

    And nice try attempting to make out that I’m calling the disabled children. I’m sick of that sort of silencing-through-implied-threats bullshit that so many “progressives” trot out when they get caught out exposing their own prejudices, too. Just stop making excuses and attempting to justify unjustifiable attitudes. It’s not okay to treat a subsection of humanity as if they were less than human. Not ever.

  263. Crys T

    Oh, and oh yeah: I love the fact that the term “infantilisation” appears frequently in descriptions of how oppressed groups are treated, yet, when you say that children as a group are oppressed, you get people who say they don’t see it.

  264. Panic

    Well, that depends on how you feel the following sound
    Yeah, you just completely did what I said you could not do.

    And nice try attempting to make out that I’m calling the disabled children.
    I wasn’t singling you out at all, but please, take it personally.

    I’m sick of that sort of silencing-through-implied-threats bullshit .
    Um, isn’t that what you’re doing to me? Calling me a bigot?

    Just stop making excuses and attempting to justify unjustifiable attitudes.
    Which attitudes? That I don’t think comparing oppressions is alright? That I don’t hate kids? I mean, the only thing that you may have on me, is that I think the theory that children, as a group, are an oppressed class, is suspect at best. Though I doubt you’re referring to that, because that was way way up the thread, and you’re just responding to the one comment I made there.

    It’s not okay to treat a subsection of humanity as if they were less than human. Not ever.
    When did I say they were less than human? Or less worthy of care, respect, and dignity? FIND IT FOR ME. You won’t of course, because I never said it. Don’t put words in my mouth. Don’t attack me for shit you’re getting from other people.

  265. Panic

    delphyne said:

    Who would be in danger if we compare the oppression of children to the oppression of women for example?

    Not all children are female, of course.

    If we compare the oppression of women, to the oppression of children, which children do we leave out? The pressures on female and male children are markedly different, yes? One can argue that the patriarchy has created and sustains both gender roles, but the outcomes are drastically different.

    I’d like to be able to say the oppression of adult women is different than that of girl children, but as time goes on, and we sexualize little girls at a younger and younger age (to better create new consumers, as far as I can figure), the differences get smaller and smaller. But little boys are being raised to be little men. Are they going to have to deal with, say, challenges to their reproductive freedom? Do you see what I’m getting at here?

  266. delphyne

    I’m sorry I don’t get what you are saying, not at all. There’s nothing in what I said there that could lead you to think that I thought that all children were female. Children are oppressed as children, girls are also oppressed because of their sex.

    Here’s an example for you about how comparing the oppression of children to the oppression of women is helpful (and you still haven’t explained who is in danger if someone compares oppressions) – children are routinely subject to violence with the violence being disguised in euphemisms like “spank”, “tap”, “smack” or “paddling”. There has been a whole vocabulary created to disguise adult violence against children. We wouldn’t accept any of the rationalisations that people use for violence against children if they were being used against women so why do we allow it when kids are the victims? The answer of course is that some people think that children are less than human and do not have the same rights as adults.

  267. Panic

    The one in danger, is the one getting ignored (as I attempted to say, but clearly failed).

    If you are comparing two different oppressions, there are things that will get missed.

    Your example of violence, (and let’s face it, often children and women are the victims of violence at the hands of the same person) is a very good one, and kind of illustrates my point. We can’t treat kids like tiny adults: they don’t have the resources that adults have, they don’t have the agency, they don’t have the vocabularly, they don’t have the experience in the world to know that this isn’t normal, the don’t have rights under the law, they literally can never leave the situation on their own. If they do, they’re a “runaway.” Something to be returned. Children are almost legal posessions of their parents. The way a child experiences violence isn’t the same as the way an adult would. Are we do assume that women are the possessions of their abusers? Or are we to assume that children can relate to the world the same way adults do? Someone loses here, it all depends on which side you wanna take, if you truly do want to make the comparison.

    Now, this is certainly not to say that I’m in that “Why doesn’t she just leave that abusive boyfriend” camp? I hate that reasoning as much as anyone. It’s very difficult for many women to leave their abusers, but the reasons are often much different.

    I’ve been thinking about the other comment made to me (not by you delphyne); I’m amazed that my absolute refusal to put people into ever larger groups, rather than looking at the specifics of oppression, makes me a “bigot.” Isn’t it more bigoted to say “All Black people are the same” “All kids are the same” “All oppression is the same”?

  268. Panic

    Children are almost legal posessions of their parents. [...] Are we do assume that women are the possessions of their abusers? Or are we to assume that children can relate to the world the same way adults do? Someone loses here, it all depends on which side you wanna take, if you truly do want to make the comparison.
    Augh. So this bit means that I am agreeing with you, when you say “The answer of course is that some people think that children are less than human and do not have the same rights as adults.”

  269. delphyne

    But where in my comparison do I suggest that we treat children like adults or adults like children? Do you really think people are so stupid that when we point out that violence against children is as unacceptable as violence against women that they will suddenly think that women are the same as children or children are the same as women? Observing similarities doesn’t preclude conducting a deeper analysis into the particular experiences of each group.

    Violence against children is still acceptable in our society. That needs to change and one of the way that it can change is by pointing out that our society acknowledges that violence against adults is unacceptable (or at least it pays lip-service to the idea) so why are children allowed to be abused in this manner, in other words challenging prejudices by making a comparison.

    “Isn’t it more bigoted to say “All Black people are the same” “All kids are the same” “All oppression is the same”?”

    First of all nobody said all oppression is the same, just that there are similarities and that there are definitely similarities in bigots’ attitudes. Also it’s not possible to be bigoted against an oppression. One can only be bigoted against people.

  270. Arwen

    Panic, I think it’s a framing thing. No two kids and their oppression is the same, although they are more similar to one another than to adults in some aspects. (Although a child of colour may find their colour a greater factor in their lives than their age, etc.) No two disabled black lesbian women are the same, either. There are commonalities is why and how oppression happens with groups, and comparing oppressions is just comparing what sticks are being used in a similar manner. Like redhead’s (to me illuminating) discussion of how body and emotion is pathologized for oppressed groups; you might be a hysterical woman, a bratty and out of control child, or a fearful black man, but the commonality of the pathologization is that your body and emotions are cast as suspect. Whereas men who hospitalize their partners are just single instances of criminality, and not “reverting to form”.

  271. CoolAunt

    Children are not comparable to women, black people or disabled people because almost every woman will remain a woman until her death, every black person will die a black person and every disabled person will live out her life disabled. A child, on the other hand, assuming she receives almost 24/7 supervision and support of every kind from at least one adult, will live to see the day that she is no longer a child. In short: Sex, race and disabilities are permanent; childhood is temporary. Each child will grow to be a man or woman (or some combinataion thereof but it ain’t child), of whatever race she was born and with the disabilities, if any, of her childhood. If you ask me, waiting it out and letting nature do her job is a super-easy. Tick-tock, tick-tock, grow from oppressed to oppressor.

  272. CoolAunt

    I meant to type:

    If you ask me, waiting it out and letting nature do her job is a super-easy way to beat your oppression. Tick-tock, tick-tock, grow from oppressed to oppressor.

  273. delphyne

    How does pointing out similarities in experience get turned into a claim that children are exactly the same as women or any other oppressed group?

    The fact that they grow up doesn’t stop them being beaten when they are small.

  274. Panic

    Do you really think people are so stupid that when we point out that violence against children is as unacceptable as violence against women that they will suddenly think that women are the same as children or children are the same as women?
    Maybe. We’re talking about a world where some people think it’s okay to abuse both women and children. You’re saying this in a thread where people are complaining, very rightly, that mamas often get lumped as a unit, in with their children, instead of being individuals.

    Though if by “people” you mean “The folks hang out here in Twisty’s blog” then probably not. Feminist discourse can’t just be about preaching to the choir, however.

  275. Panic

    Crys T:

    Oh, and oh yeah: I love the fact that the term “infantilisation” appears frequently in descriptions of how oppressed groups are treated, yet, when you say that children as a group are oppressed, you get people who say they don’t see it.

    I’m really not sure what you’re getting at here. Infantilisation means treating someone as a child, who is not one. By definition, you can’t infantilise children.

  276. delphyne

    No I mean people in general, who I know aren’t that stupid. Most people are able to follow analogies and comparisons without making ridiculous logical leaps. It’s one of the reasons why us humans are able to communicate with each other. Unless they are arguing in bad faith of course, but that’s something quite different. Anyway it makes no sense to try and censor one particular type of argument because hypothetically some people might misinterpret it.

  277. smmo

    ginmar: I’ve worked retail too, and took a lot of crap. However, I try not to let a limited, artificial experience embitter me to the point of advocating child abuse.

    Surely you can see that arresting them is hardly the most enlightened way of dealing with unruly children. Of course I think the law should be applied equally to people regardless of class, but I also think women shouldn’t be oppressed and that bowls of coffee heath bar crunch should be appear before whenever I want one.

  278. Panic

    Most people are able to follow analogies and comparisons without making ridiculous logical leaps.
    It’s not even about making ridiculous leaps (though I did posit that as an example as where it can go wrong, and it does happen). It’s more a case of possibly missing salient points on either end.

    Anyway it makes no sense to try and censor one particular type of argument because hypothetically some people might misinterpret it.
    It does make sense, however, to be as clear and concise as possible. That’s really all I’m asking for in the end. If you start comparisons, where do you stop? Was the PETA comparing chickens to Jews in the Holocaust okay? To them, it made total sense. To me, that was BATSHIT offensive.

  279. delphyne

    It’s quite easy to know where to draw the line – don’t compare people’s experiences with those of animals. And I’m not even arguing that it’s always OK to compare different people’s oppressions – just that a blanket ban doesn’t help anyone either. In some cases a comparison may be appropriate, in other cases it won’t be.

    I don’t see where I haven’t been clear or concise.

  280. Panic

    I don’t see where I haven’t been clear or concise.
    I was talking more generally. I’m sorry that didn’t come across.

  281. maribelle

    CrysT: “infantilisation” appears frequently in descriptions of how oppressed groups are treated, yet, when you say that children as a group are oppressed, you get people who say they don’t see it.

    Panic: I’m really not sure what you’re getting at here.

    I think the point is that it’s not a compliment nor an honor to be “infantilised” i.e. treated as children. The language itself is showing that children are oppressed because the state of being treated like them is undesirable by definition.

  282. Arwen

    I think the oppression of women and children are intimately linked in both tactic and mythology. At least as far as white women and children go: I am not intimately versed with the women/children mythos of other cultures.

    But Western culture puts us both in similar Hallmark cages.

    We are angels when good. We should be sweet, and cute, and neither strident nor discomfiting. We should know our place, and not intrude our issues if we’re allowed to speak with the adults and their serious discussions. For some more authoritarian models we should be kept in line with a firm hand – the beating of children and of women is certainly linked to how families are construed and how authority is construed. Yet, we are what is protected and patronized (by the big strong mens), and we ARE hearth and home. Men are told they are valueless without us in their pocket, yet at the same time (like the mortgage on a house), we are an onerous responsibility for a grown up man. We are in charge of domesticating and civilizing men on one hand and tying him down and stifling him on the other. Our emotions are hysterical, messy, and out of proportion, and we are illogical. Our bodies are a syrupy stew of hormones that render us less capable of judgment and thought.

    What have I missed? Probably tons.

  283. Panic

    Yes, I know that was the point but… it doesn’t make sense. It’s undesirable for an adult to be treated like a child. We will all agree on that. I don’t, however, see what’s wrong with treating children like children. I don’t think that’s oppression, I think it’s the state of being a child. I don’t think that’s wrong, and I think a lot of mamas would tell you that you can’t treat children like little adults.

  284. Sniff

    Arwen, I’ve been following this thread with interest from the start and I’ve been meaning to thank you for your comments. Each one has been insightful, well-articulated, and respectful (as have comments by many other posters – I’m not attempting to create any comparison!). You have definitely embiggened my internal discourse on this topic!

  285. Panic

    Arwen
    “What have I missed? Probably tons.”

    The only issue I take with your analogy, is the sex differential between boy and girl children.

    We are angels when good. We should be sweet, and cute, and neither strident nor discomfiting.
    What you describe happens to a lesser degree for boy children, who are taught/supposed to be rambunctious, loud, energetic, and assertive. Boys will be boys after all!

    Girl children, and women, are most definitely seen as having “emotions [that] are hysterical, messy, and out of proportion” but boys are taught not to have emotions at all (girls are “allowed” to express them, while simultaneously being derided for them).

    Men are told they are valueless without us in their pocket,
    And men are more valued with boy children/ are told to value boy children more.

    We are in charge of domesticating and civilizing men on one hand and tying him down and stifling him on the other.
    While boy children are more the mirrors, or the clay to mould into another patriarchal soldier.

    A bit off-topic:
    This all leads me to think, again about what I said above about the sexualization of young girls. Your comment also made me remember that society treats women like children. Is the point to blur the lines so much, and to make the “perfect” female a perpetual adolescent? Someone who has the naivety (sp?!) of a child, with a pornificated body, both easily used and consumed by the patriarchy? I’m sure this is hardly a radical thought, I just haven’t really parsed it before, in this way. Critiques happily accepted.

  286. CoolAunt

    Delphyne:

    How does pointing out similarities in experience get turned into a claim that children are exactly the same as women or any other oppressed group?

    The fact that they grow up doesn’t stop them being beaten when they are small.

    It doesn’t. But it does mean that as a group, they are not oppressed. To oppress is to keep down by using unjust force and authority. Unless the child is beaten to death or to brain damage so severely that she’ll never grow past childhood mentally, children are not oppressed because they are beaten. Children need protection from those who would harm them, yes, but not premature emancipation from their parents/guardians.

  287. ginmar

    SMMO, maybe you can explain the retail business to me and oh by the way? STop being so fucking patronizing. Christ, thanks for the impromptu psych eval. Fuck you. Now that’s bitter. I don’t like being patronized by indulgent strangers on the web.

    We got hit hard be teen shoplifters as well as adults and so did other stores that had a let ‘em go policy. We changed the policy because we were getting ripped off so bad, but hey, call it child abuse if it makes you feel superior, instead of what it was: theft. So I take it kids should be let go and learn that adults will let them get away with crap if they’re under a certain age? We tried that, and we lost hundreds of merchandise per week. Let’s not teach kids that actions—especially illegal actions—have consequences. People who want to coddle kids because they’re kids have no solutions for when the coddling produces kids who think that ‘wanting’ means they should get to ‘have’ without this thing called ‘paying.’

  288. Vera

    CoolAunt, are you saying that it is sometimes okay to strike a child?

  289. LouisaMayAlcott

    Ginmar,

    Thanks for that. You throw into sharp relief in your post the intense class issues involved.

    Middle and upper middle class kids rarely, if ever, get punished for theft. For that matter, neither do their parents. A “settlement” is made. For the working and lower classes, we have no wherewithal to offer in “settlement”. Our wherewithal is nothing but the (very limited) personal freedom that we have: namely, not (yet) being in prison.

    To keep paying a salary to a retail sales clerk has to stay in business, it has to be able to *sell* its merchandise, not have it ripped off. So, it becomes a virtual condition of employment for a retail sales worker to control theft.

    And here again: it’s often mothers living in poverty, the homeless, just the *poor* period, who are forced to choose between shoplifting or going without the necessities of life.

    IBTP

  290. LouisaMayAlcott

    Oops.

    ” … clerk, a store has to …”

  291. LouisaMayAlcott

    Vera,

    I don’t think that CoolAunt is saying that at all.

  292. Vera

    I’m wondering what she means by this: “To oppress is to keep down by using unjust force and authority. Unless the child is beaten to death or to brain damage so severely that she’ll never grow past childhood mentally, children are not oppressed because they are beaten.”

  293. smmo

    “So I take it kids should be let go and learn that adults will let them get away with crap if they’re under a certain age? We tried that, and we lost hundreds of merchandise per week. Let’s not teach kids that actions—especially illegal actions—have consequences. People who want to coddle kids because they’re kids have no solutions for when the coddling produces kids who think that ‘wanting’ means they should get to ‘have’ without this thing called ‘paying.”

    No, I don’t advocate allowing thievery. If my kid shoplifted there would be serious consequences. Do you advocate children being treated exactly the same as adults by law enforcement? Put in adult jails no matter their age? I absolutely agree that entitled children of parents who give their kids every material thing but no guidance are a gigantic problem. But I also think that rigid, violent,disciplinarians who treat their children as property are a gigantic problem.

    You feel I patronize you. I feel you haven’t addressed one single point I’ve made with anything approaching fairness. So I guess we’re even.

  294. LouisaMayAlcott

    Vera,

    Yup. I see what you mean.

    But I read it in the context of the whole paragraph, that ends:

    “Children need protection from those who would harm them, yes, but not premature emancipation from their parents/guardians.”

    Harking back to my grade 4 lesson that a paragraph expresses a complete thought, I processed the entire paragraph in order to synthesize the complete thought. That thought is different from the complete thought expressed by a paragraph consisting only of the two sentences that you quoted.

  295. Bex

    Those pondering alternatives to those classic ‘ole Patriarchy child socialization methods might find the following link interesting…as it definitely covers child-rearing issues…

  296. ginmar

    Why don’t you try fuckin’ ASKING ME, smmo, instead of putting words in my mouth? Christ, this is one of those times when I sure am glad I’m not middle class. I wouldn’t wnat to be that fuckin’ blinkered if you paid me.

    If there were severe consequences for the fucking kid, he wouldn’t be stealing in the first place, would he? Guess that fails the parenthood test.

    Louisa, I was and still am poor. I worked in a dirty bookstore because ironically they had the best salary and health care. The stuff the kids were stealing wasn’t food or necessities: they were stealing porn and comic books or baseball cards, while the adult thieves stole…porn and more porn. Most of our customers were male, so most of our shoplifters are male. My presumptions about the dewy innocence of youth ended once I started busting arrogant sixteen-year-old suburban boys for shoplifting and they’d call me a dyke and a bitch and a whore.

  297. Vera

    Actually, LouisaMayAlcott, reading the entire paragraph still doesn’t answer my question. (And though I already know not to take things out of context, I’ll assume that you’re not patronizing me by harking back to your fourth grade lesson.)

    CoolAunt is saying that children are not oppressed. It is a tenet of this blog that children are oppressed (see The Twisty Weltanschauung). So I’m wondering how CoolAunt’s view differs from Twisty’s. And mine, since I do believe that children are oppressed.

    CoolAunt’s comment is brief, but I think what she is saying is that striking children per se is not oppression; only extreme beating. Lots of people would agree; for instance, many people think the best way to teach a child not to run in front of a speeding car is to give her a swat on the rear when she does.

    I don’t believe that, myself, although I’d have to plead guilty to having done it, once upon a time.

    To me, the fact that certain adults (parents) have permission to strike (swat, spank, etc.) children is exhibit A of why children can be said to be oppressed.

  298. Arwen

    The only issue I take with your analogy, is the sex differential between boy and girl children.

    As a mom of two boys and the babysitter of two girls, I have very little experience with stereotype of rambunctious being okay for boys, at least where I’m situated – which is not conservative US, but very liberal (pinko, to you Americans), very densely urban Vancouver. Perhaps in places with more space, boys will be boys rules the day. Not so here.

    I hear ridiculousness regarding gender all the time. It drives me crazy. It has radicalized me. I can’t keep my mouth shut. So I’m not saying that there aren’t gender roles that cut both boys and girls – and that girls aren’t sexualized at a very young age. There are hundreds of things. They tend, to me, to be things we’re not talking about – the gender of bugs, the politics of aesthetics (men are visual but gays and women aesthetic except for dykes whom I suppose don’t even have eyes), the denial of anything soft/cute/vulnerable for boys (tiger cubs but not kittens, beetles but not butterflies), the material pajamas are made from, the gender of logos – these things all are coded, and it drives me frikkin’ mental.

    However, children “acting up” in public, girl or boy, is always problematic. Sometimes you’ll hear “boys will be boys” from a caregiver, and possibly at camp or church (should you go such a place) or other child-inclusive venues.

    I would suggest that in greater society it is certainly not okay – with the annoyed man and woman with the headache on the bus. Child-dislike is universal, and mother-critique, hatred, and blaming universal, and children are a perplexing non-normative annoyance to many.

    Frankly, boys will be boys is the least of the gendered bullshit I have to cope with, because girls will be boys is gaining increasing acceptance, and has vocal cheerleaders everywhere I go. Girls smart and strong, doctors and jocks, bullies and leaders? Fine, as long as they’re ALSO sex-bots and driven with ambition and don’t wander into a pool of exclusive man things like race-car driving and electrical engineering. And Dads these days are happy to have their girl children be “the first” to break into such fields – Dads are now passing the family job down to their XX kids, and that makes a difference.

    But boys will be girls? Un-freaking-acceptable. They’ll lynch you. Not just individual violence against, but lynchings.

    Femme is never okay for a boy or a man.

    Which means that non-beauty-and-sex femme tasks (caregiving, love, sacrifice) now fall to a smaller and smaller group of denigrated women, who now are told they “choose” their femme denigration, falling back to unthinking XX as it were, whereas it is increasingly okay for girls and women to be driven, ambitious, and self-confident as long as they keep the sexy glamour sexy sexbot bits. Just not the old grey mare bits. If you should choose femme – only open to girls, still, and that is misogyny right there – if you should choose that you’ve broken yourself, your reputation, your mind, and you should never be taken seriously again because you are stained by that (woman oppressing, non-serious, stereotypical) choice.

    (Of course, you should always be at least “somewhat” caretaking of your partner, but not your kids or your parents. Quite a line we have to walk.)

    I was very assertive and smart and supported, so it was a shock to me to see the utter dismissal of mothers – I have never in my life encountered such constant misogyny. That is because I am third wave, and the second wave DID make a difference, and DID clear a path, and it was always good that I was top of my class and strong except for some (as we put it) knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who obviously couldn’t get laid with Brad Pitt’s dick. (I just needed to also be thinner and better at waxing my eyebrows, and probably it was suspicious that I masturbated in high school.)

    The problem, as I see it, is with the denigration of femme. If women get access to the man’s world, but also are genetically the only owners of femme, we will still be repressed in droves; and yet it can always be said that those who are driven enough can make it, and we have won, because we could theoretically get a piece of all the pies. If we were just less goddamned femme.

    My solution – fucking break butch and femme, already. We’re all both. Give boys pink and butterflies and softness and aesthetics, to start, so they won’t need to be unmanly to love a baby and change a diaper.

  299. smmo

    “If there were severe consequences for the fucking kid, he wouldn’t be stealing in the first place, would he? Guess that fails the parenthood test.”

    Shoplifting is a completely mundane and common way that kids rebel. Do you truly think children don’t rebel even when there are consequences? The trick is channeling their rebellion and anger in constructive ways. Yes, I know, you will mock me as hopelessly bourgeois but you know what? I don’t care. I’m trying to raise my child without intimidation and violence. That is radical, while your expectations for children’s behavior is entirely conventional.

    delphyne said: “children are routinely subject to violence with the violence being disguised in euphemisms like “spank”, “tap”, “smack” or “paddling”. There has been a whole vocabulary created to disguise adult violence against children.”

    Yes yes yes. The same way we say “beef” instead of “cow”. Violence made palatable by words.

    Arwen said: “We should be sweet, and cute, and neither strident nor discomfiting. We should know our place, and not intrude our issues if we’re allowed to speak with the adults and their serious discussions. For some more authoritarian models we should be kept in line with a firm hand – the beating of children and of women is certainly linked to how families are construed and how authority is construed.”

    This is great, like so much of what you’ve written here. Thanks.

  300. medrecgal

    LouisaMayAlcott,

    Re: “It is often mothers living in poverty, the homeless, the poor period, who are forced to choose between shoplifting or going without the necessities of life”… That is not a valid line of reasoning, as far as I’m concerned. There are any of a number of ways to get those necessities without resorting to criminal activities. Our social systems are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s what programs like food stamps, WIC, public assistance, etc. are for. There is NO situation in which stealing–or any other illegal activity–is OK. Some would suggest that if you are that poor, you should get some kind of education and get a JOB. (Preferably before you have children, but that’s for another thread entirely…) Yes, I will be the first to suggest our minimum wage in much of this country isn’t enough to support a family, but that still doesn’t excuse crime.

    As for consequences to actions for children, there often AREN’T ANY, which is the biggest problem I see in how they are raised these days. I see a lot of “oh, well” and “give him/her what they want so they’ll just shut up” kinds of responses. I don’t care what anybody says, in a lot of cases it seems like children are running the show and the adults just let it happen. No sense of respect in either direction, no sense of authority, no sense of what constitutes right or wrong. That, IMHO, is a setup for serious trouble.

  301. PhysioProf

    “To me, the fact that certain adults (parents) have permission to strike (swat, spank, etc.) children is exhibit A of why children can be said to be oppressed.”

    Permission to physically dominate children is only one of many aspects of their oppression. Even in a society where children were subject to no direct physical force, they could still be completely oppressed.

  302. Vera

    PhysioProf, yes, I absolutely agree. Force is only one of the methods used to oppress children.

  303. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    It doesn’t. But it does mean that as a group, they are not oppressed. To oppress is to keep down by using unjust force and authority. Unless the child is beaten to death or to brain damage so severely that she’ll never grow past childhood mentally, children are not oppressed because they are beaten. Children need protection from those who would harm them, yes, but not premature emancipation from their parents/guardians.

    CoolAunt, I literally sat here with my mouth open in disbelief when I read your comment.

    You say yourself that ‘to oppress is to keep down by using unjust force and authority.’ I challenge you to go to any public space that contains parents and children and just sit and observe for half an hour, or even ten minutes. Take a notebook and pen and write down your observations about how parents treat their children. Count the number of times you see a parent being overly harsh, yelling at their child, hitting the child, or otherwise using ‘undue force’. When you tally up the results of your own personal survey, I bet you’ll find that parents far more often ‘use unjust force and authority’ to enforce their wishes on unwilling children than they do calm, kind, respectful behaviors.

    Or better yet, try to put yourself in the kid’s shoes the way we here try to get men to put themselves in women’s shoes (now there’s an idea, make men wear spike heels for a week. Sorry, sidetrack.) Imagine somebody treating you the way most parents treat their kids, and then ask yourself why it’s ok to mistreat a person just because they’re smaller and weaker and – oh, wait. That’s it, isn’t it? The smaller and weaker bit. And do you see the parallel? Men have more power than women because, generally speaking, women are smaller and weaker than men. Hence the dominance/submission thing and the whole patriarchal power game.

    And we feel it’s ok to treat kids this way because why? Because they can’t stick up for themselves; because they’re smaller and weaker; because they are utterly and completely dependent on us. Sound like anything familiar? Except for the ‘completely dependent’ part, which has only changed very recently in terms of the overall story of human history, this is the state in which patriarchy tries to maintain women. Weaker; defenseless; dependent.

    How can we, in good conscience, take advantage of children this way? Because that’s exactly what we do when we use the power imbalance to get our way with children. We excuse ourselves by saying they must be socialized, and children are challenging, and parental energy and resources are limited, so that makes it ok to do whatever’s necessary.

    But it still doesn’t excuse mistreating kids. Which includes throwing one’s weight around unnecessarily when a kid is trying, by ‘acting up’, to get its legitimate needs met. And since the child is not a grownup, it doesn’t have a adult’s abilities to calmly, rationally ask for what it needs. A child uses whatever methods it knows how, which, since it’s a child, are often childish: Temper tantrums, arguing, yelling, crying, kicking and screaming.

  304. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    An adult. Sorry.

  305. Orange

    I’m a woman with a rambunctious 7-year-old son. He gets in trouble at school for talking and running, and there’s very little time allotted for recess or active play there. I am ill-suited to home-schooling (I treasure my grown-up alone time, and I lack the patience for 24-hour parenting). I can see how school squashes his self, and I can see how saying “because I said so, so just do it NOW” is bossy and assholish parenting. But I don’t know what the solution would be.

    It’s also sad to see that he gave up liking pink and purple because the kids at school said they’re “girl colors.”

    Sometimes he’s loud or cranky or “disobedient” (what a loaded word!) in public, but we try to make sure he gets enough food and sleep at the right times to maximize his ability to “behave.” But the squashing of his essential kidness is kinda unfortunate. I want him to be a happy and self-actualized individual, but society often has other demands.

    Gotta run–but not because the kid needs something. He’s outside playing with his very-involved dad right now.

  306. rootlesscosmo

    There is NO situation in which stealing–or any other illegal activity–is OK.

    The whole damn country was stolen from its inhabitants. Africans were kidnaped by the million and their labor, and their children, and their children, and their children’s labor, stolen from them. The lives and happiness of tens of millions are stolen by exploitation on the job, patriarchal violence at home, state violence and threats in public. If we’re going to get all huffy about never violating any laws at all (never smoked weed? wouldn’t have had a drink during Prohibition? gimme a break) let’s at least get our priorities in order and go after the big villains before we start picking on the small-timers. Sure, privileged teenage brat boys stole where ginmar worked and insulted her when she intervened; the crime that jumps out at me is the class inequality and the patriarchal abuse, not the petty theft. Hungry people will steal, desperate people will do drugs, oppressed people will find a way to survive any way they can, and to hell with the law in its majestic even-handedness.

  307. ginmar

    SMMO, you’re still incapable of getting it? God, how arrogant do you have to be to see stealing shit as being ‘acting out’? Keep your kids away from me; they sound like spoiled little shits. Do they ever do anything wrong? The way you just won’t listen doesn’t hold out much hope for any kids you raise.

  308. smmo

    “Keep your kids away from me; they sound like spoiled little shits. ”

    We’re commenting on a blog. I have no idea who/where/what you are so how could I possibly achieve this? Which, believe me, I earnestly want to.

    So far I’ve overlooked the ugly things you’ve said to me and tried to stay on point. But congratulations, you’ve pushed the correct button. Fuck off.

  309. smmo

    rootlesscosmo said: “The lives and happiness of tens of millions are stolen by exploitation on the job, patriarchal violence at home, state violence and threats in public. If we’re going to get all huffy about never violating any laws at all (never smoked weed? wouldn’t have had a drink during Prohibition? gimme a break) let’s at least get our priorities in order and go after the big villains before we start picking on the small-timers.”

    I agree. I never thought I’d read so much shilling for law and order, spare the rod, and behave yourself on IBTP. I don’t know who to blame for that, but I’m sure it must be the fault of mothers. Everything else is.

  310. ginmar

    Hey, SMMO, we’re even. You pulled a lot of shit to get me this pissed, don’t you dare act like a coy virgin now. Fucking hell, what a manipulative little middle-class apologist you are.

  311. V.

    As a parent I’ve found it interesting and heartbreaking to watch my son (age 7) begin to grapple with his role in the patriarchy.

    Between 2-5, he was very, very, stereotypically ‘femme.’ Pink tutu, dolls and high heels femme. Around age 6, he was able to put things into words, and one of the things he said, very strongly, is

    “I wish I was a girl. Girls have a better life. They don’t have to be soldiers.”

    I found it interesting that he was so clearly aware of stereotypes, and was able to discuss preferences. He very often talked about not wanting to go into the army, not wanting to get killed, etc.

    From my interactions with him, it was clear that he was able to identify what the oppressor role was, was scared of it, and did not want to identify with that.

    In the last year and a half, though, he’s become increasingly fascinated with guns (as the symbol of power,)and increasingly male-identified. He still says, however, that girls are better for feelings than boys. (Perceiving both the stereotype and the fact that our culture cuts women a bit more slack around certain types of emotional expression than men, at least around children.)

    I mention this because while it may be true that all boys will become men in the patriarchy, as kids, we start off a bit more flexible, less differentiated, and more perceptive than most give us credit for.

    My son won’t remember it, of course. But when he was 3, 4, 5, and 6, he feared the patriarchy, and blamed it the best he could. And he wanted OUT, OUT, OUT!

  312. medrecgal

    rootlesscosmo,

    “Hungry people will steal, desperate people will do drugs, oppressed people will find a way to survive any way they can, and to hell with the law in its majestic even-handedness” sounds like you’re making a lot of excuses for the failings of society in general. It also sounds like a recipe for anarchy, which sure as hell is NOT the answer to the problems of patriarchy. You don’t suddenly gain the “right” to steal because you’re poor, class inequality or not. Do you know of any truly “classless” human society where they’re not all miserably poor? The point I was trying to make was that there ARE ways to address these issues without resorting to harming other people in some way (be it physically, economically, or whatever). And if you want to get really picky, no, I have never in fact smoked weed in my life. My life isn’t anywhere close to perfect, but you don’t see me out there robbing, shooting, stealing, doing drugs, or any of that other stuff. And as a member of two oppressed classes, I’d say I’m a good example of the fallacy in your argument. The law is far from perfect (as we see when we look closely at our overflowing prison system), but it’s better than letting people get away with harming others in the name of fulfilling their own selfish needs.

  313. Arwen

    There is NO situation in which stealing–or any other illegal activity–is OK.

    Oh, I don’t know.

    I’m a pretty big fan of the Underground Railway, Rosa Parks, and certain Founders of your country (and mine). Also, Ghandi. Also, pre- Rowe v. Wade abortionists, and Morgentaler in Canada, rank right up there in my list of heroes.

    Laws can be made by fascists, and given the Patriot Act and the current SCOTUS, I’m not sure you really want to stick all laws in the white knight uniform and ride them into battle. Because laws right now are detaining people without trial.

    Certainly, shoplifting from ginmar is not nearly the same, but there are shades of grey. Law has been and is a huge tool of oppression for women and minorities of all sorts; and right now the legislative branch is crippled by veto.

    If ginmar was selling prescription medication and the kids were shoplifting from big Pharma for their wracked-with-pain elders, you might see it differently.

    I also have been shoplifted from, and worked a lot of retail where the margins were low. So I really understand ginmar’s frustration and anger. I also both get smmo’s point and suggest that this heated discussion is, indeed, is the crux of the problem in parenting these days.

    My mom, when my sister shoplifted (because it IS a very common thing for children/youths to do, at two different stages in development), required my sister to go back in and pay for the object with an apology to the store owner. She, however, would have had an extremely negative reaction to the police being called, since her recent experience with police had been extremely negative. That is not my story to tell, but it is also situated in systematic prejudice. Now, my mom probably would have just started crying and puked. Or, she might have hit my sister – and she’s a pacifist. Police do punish people inappropriately and outside of the law sometimes; the law is not equal to all of us. Anyone who doubts this should be referred to any number of women of colour blogs. The Jima Six are instructive, for example.

    Hobbes, and every man for himself, and our sense that we earn all of our privilege, is exactly what “patriarchy”/heirarchy needs us to believe. It wants us to make our children mind with a big stick.

    There are a lot of very very bright liberal people who would like moms to do things differently, and they send us all sorts of messages, usually via “Child Development Experts”. They DON’T want us to use a big stick, and are shocked if we try. They want us to get eye to eye and negotiate on the child’s level. They want us to honour. THEY like to be patriarchal assholes too sometimes, because often they don’t leave a whole lot of room for mom to have big feelings. Mrs. Dr. Sears, for example, is Florence Nightengale with extra Saint Sauce. The discipline on this plank is there, but almost drowned in Saint Sauce and the idea that the kids will instantly turn into third year psych students and lovingly negotiate boundaries, which doesn’t actually give a lot of traction to the flailing mom.

    In the other ring, we have conservatives, who generally want us back to not sparing the rod, and mommy in the kitchen and God in his church. I spend less time with these people, obviously, but they like the sleep schedules and assuming the baby is manipulating you and you have to put your foot down NOW, before it gets any ideas. Dad first, then Mom, then child. Dad is the head and the decider. Mom is consulted. The children follow that lead.

    The problem is when there is neither a big stick nor an egalitarian understanding of parenting that is workable, or there is a badly thought out mixing of the two approaches, or parenting understanding is coming only through the popular media (which jerks moms chains constantly), and then there is a confused attempting that doesn’t have all the resources it needs to work. Then, what happens is this:

    permissive/permissive/permissive/AUTHORITARIAN!

    Usually with no discipline in the permissive phase.

    Are you bored yet with what stupid mommies are doing philosophically? No? Onward.

    People are trying to follow Adler/Sears/Dr.Phil/Oprah, either of their own philosophical choosing or because they’ve been told by the doctor they should “do it this way”, but they don’t have all the resources. The vast majority of parents go into parenting thinking they know what they’ll do, and it takes about four weeks for them to break the promises they’ve made to themselves. You’d do it too. Plus, if they’re moms, they are constantly and continuously being told they’re morons. It’s rather demoralizing.

    On top of that, non-authoritarian parenting is the most fucking intensive job there is, and it will strip you bare and wring you out if your son or daughter is particularly interesting and spinster aunt-like. (If they’re quiet people pleasers, you’ll never have any idea, but for whatever reason moms usually have one of each. The spinster-aunt radicals are great good fun, though.)

    A big stick is much faster, for whipping our little radicals into sullen line, and it is instantly usable to those of us who’ve ever opened a newspaper. We know how war works.

    Now, you can assume, if you would like, that it’s because (moms) are child-indulging selfish spoiled entitled brats and that if you had a child you would be way better at it. You may even BE way better at it. Still, it is not simply sullen laziness and entitled parenting that you are seeing, and simply seeing the problem as individual moms – a popular sport, and also mainstream media patriarchy-approved feminism! – is really missing the utter confusion that moms are functioning under while they’re trying to create a new sort of person who ISN’T going to grow up and be Dick Cheney.

    So, I know what you’re talking about, ginmar, and yes, that style sets my teeth on edge, too. However, I also think smmo was not trying to be either entitled or patronizing: she’s referencing a very big conversation. I doubt very much that she is in fact someone who would be totally comfortable with her children shoplifting. She’s just reacting differently, because she’s spent however many years wading through this parenting slog, and once you’ve been doing it for a long while, that’s your context.

    There is an essential SYSTEMATIC confusion, and making it an individual issue – that lazy or crazy or entitled or spoiled kid and their bad mother – means more of the same, not less, as those of us who are moms slowly drown in society’s vomit.

  314. Arwen

    And for people who have thanked me, thank you and I’m glad it wasn’t a waste, because I am certainly procrastinating: and for people who are tolerating me, thank you, and for people who are ignoring me, well. Ignoring ME? I’m shocked. I imagine you need more words from me. You know. Now that Mandos is gone. Sigh.

  315. Arwen

    Jena. Jena Six.

  316. dr.sue

    I’ve been grappling with the idea that children are not an oppressed class because some of them will outgrow their oppressed status, at least to some degree. I do understand this idea–that for boys, oppression is something to be endured until they can turn it around and oppress other weaker beings, and that does make their experience different from that of girls, for whom it is more permanent (this is leaving out issues of race and class, I know). I keep coming back to the light that went off in my head, when my then 10-year-old son made me see (or recall, actually–like many adults I had repressed many of the nasty details of my own childhood) the similarities between school and prison. He was not allowed to fraternize with his peers except in brief, well supervised “recreation periods.” He had to ask permission to pee, and had to return within a specified period or account for his activities. Although the children were not physically abused, they were kept in line through various intimidation techniques. His third-grade teacher repeatedly called a physically small child “shorty,” despite complaints to the principal, and confiscated the cough drops of a child with allergies because “we don’t allow candy in the classroom.” My son was publicly shamed, repeatedly, in fifth grade for an as-yet-undiagnosed learning disability that made it hard for him to juggle competing demands and assignments. Like V’s son, mine had a number of “femme” qualities that made him a target at school, and that he learned to repudiate.

    He’s almost 13 now. He’s stronger than I am and in demand on athletic teams. He does okay in school now that his LD is being addressed. He is poised to be embraced by the patriarchy as a “winner,” and I am terrified–because now is the time that the “boys will be boys” attitude kicks in, in my experience. When he was little, his “girlish” tears, emotional expressiveness, even his honesty (“Why doesn’t that man have any hair?”) were hugely inconvenient and embarrassing to the patriarchy and had to be shamed and intimidated out of him. Now that he’s big and strong and can channel his aggression into more “acceptable” outlets (aggressive sports, violent video games, picking on smaller kids and girls) he is encouraged to “sow his wild oats.” As far as I know, he does not engage in this kind of aggression or oppression–his sport of choice is baseball, he plays non-military flight sim computer games, and he has friends who are girls–but as many here have pointed out, no mother thinks her son is capable of the violence and misogyny routinely perpretrated by sons of mothers. And because love and respect for mothers (other than the sentimental Hallmark lip service kind) is also shamed out of boys, my influence is waning. And his experience, 5 days a week, for 9 years so far, has been focused, institutionalized oppression. That’s a large part of his reality.

    I also want to thank SusanM for that link, which provided a clear example of the attitude that children are chattel. For me the money quote was, “Ear piercing has long been the subject of controversy among parents. For some, piercing an infant or young child’s ears has deep-rooted cultural or religious meaning. Others pierce babies’ ears because of family traditions, or simply because they like the look or want to more easily identify the baby as a girl.”

  317. medrecgal

    Arwen,

    As for the idea that “Moms are child-indulging, selfish spoiled brats”, I wouldn’t go quite that far. It’s not the MOTHERS I blame, it’s certain messed up aspects of American culture as it exists under the current state of patriarchy. I, for one, would never call someone a moron just because she’s a mother trying to raise a child in a culture where there are such conflicting messages about children. What grates on my nerves, however, is the consistency with which many of them are so unable to enforce any sort of appropriate discipline. It’s not because they’re “bad mothers”, it’s because our culture is so warped. Children who don’t get the right opportunities to release their energy and just “be children” without a huge burden of expectations are going to act out inappropriately, and that’s what I’m seeing. I still say the lack of discipline is a problem, too. Teach them appropriate behaviors instead of just letting them run around and wreak havoc in public places. Children should not be so lost in the “time crunch” of our hurried culture that they don’t learn how to behave; there’s a time and place for everything.

    And for the record, I will probably NEVER raise a child; it’s simply not a role I wish to take on. But I don’t begrudge those who do, and I also know it’s hard to be “selfish” or “spoiled” when you’re a mother, trying to raise a child who is neither of those things in a culture that says “it’s all about me”.

  318. PhysioProf

    “I keep coming back to the light that went off in my head, when my then 10-year-old son made me see (or recall, actually–like many adults I had repressed many of the nasty details of my own childhood) the similarities between school and prison.”

    I find it hilarious that there is so much hand-wringing rhetoric concerning improving the “education” supposedly purveyed by the public school system. Anyone with half a brain knows that the purpose of the public school system is not education. It is indoctrination into, as Twisty puts it, the megatheocorporatocracy.

    Every day I thank my lucky stars that I was not subjected to public schooling.

  319. dr.sue

    Physioprof, I’m not sure what you mean by “hand-wringing rhetoric” about “improving” the schools. My point was that I had a moment of clarity thanks to my son, in which I really got that the schools serve the same purpose as the prison system. I, too, wish I had been privileged enough to evade this indoctrination myself. Then maybe I’d be smart enough to figure out what is so hilarious about my post. I also wish I could offer fabulous alternative schooling, or whatever it is that you had that makes you see things so much more clearly, to my kid. Too bad we forgot to be rich in New York City.

  320. dr.sue

    Wait, I just reread your comment and realized that you were probably talking generally and not attacking me-me-me after all. Clearly, the topic of childrearing/child-free-ness taps into huge wells of insecurity and defensiveness even in those of us who believe we are comfortable with our own choices and respectful of others’. IBTP, but also my too-quick impulse to push back.

  321. Vera

    “And his experience, 5 days a week, for 9 years so far, has been focused, institutionalized oppression. That’s a large part of his reality.”

    I wish more people would understand this. Most people in the U.S. spend most of their formative years in institutions that mirror the repressive, hierarchical arrangement of the patriarchy. As a parent, trying to fight off what this does to a child’s soul is damned near impossible. Add to that the incessant drumming from mass culture, and I felt nearly defeated before I began. The fact that my daughters grew up to question authority seems miraculous.

  322. PhysioProf

    “Wait, I just reread your comment and realized that you were probably talking generally and not attacking me-me-me after all.”

    Yes. I was agreeing with you and amplifying on your comment.

  323. ginmar

    Someone commented that my comment introduced the bald class element here, so let me reiterate: I’m blue collar and these were rich white kids. They weren’t stealing food; they were stealing comic books and porn. Most of our customers were male. That place, by the way, has since gone out of business. It was a chain of thirteen bookstores, and my store was the second-smallest, and we caught forty percent of the shoplifters in the entire chain. That’s at least once a week. I think I caught exactly one female shoplifter there the entire time I worked there. We caught some shoplifters more than once. One time I had to throw a bank vice president out of the store. Some of them just wanted something. Others didn’t want to be embarrassed by buying porn and stuff. Just being embarrassed by porn was something I didn’t have the luxury of. Then again, I once got asked by a fellow feminist who wanted to take a cheap shot how come I didn’t quit my job if I was such a feminist. I think SMMO’s shots about arresting shoplifters are just as cheap. Having worked my whole life and had some of my stuff stolen myself, I find the idea that theft is to be rationalized as “acting out” infuriating—and infantilizing. We had signs that said shoplifters would be prosecuted. They knew the risks they took. They just didn’t think the rules applied to them, and as someone who knows too well that there are different rules for poor, lower-class women than there are for rich, upper class white kids, let me tell you, that’s infuriating. In fact, when I got mugged while on the way to work, I had to go back to work even with black eyes and broken teeth, because I didn’t have the money to heal priviately at home, and let me tell you, that was an exercise in class perceptions that probably isn’t really germane here. But how come so many of the yuppies that came into that store treated me like I was some sleaze who’d gotten into a barfight instead of a crime victim?

  324. smmo

    I never once used the words “acting out” ginmar. I’m truly sorry for your bad experiences. I’ve worked my whole life too. I’ve been a victim of violent crime too. I’ve cleaned up the semen of some asshole in the children’s section of a bookstore I worked in. I can’t stop you from setting me up as a straw woman, but please don’t make assumptions about my life. That is a cheap shot.

    “Every day I thank my lucky stars that I was not subjected to public schooling.”

    Gosh, physioprof, I thought it was me that was the bourgeois scum here. Those of us who will have no choice but to use public schools are glad we amuse you with our concern.

  325. PhysioProf

    “Gosh, physioprof, I thought it was me that was the bourgeois scum here. Those of us who will have no choice but to use public schools are glad we amuse you with our concern.”

    When I referred to “hand-wringing rhetoric”, I wasn’t talking about the legitimate concerns of those who suffer directly from public school indoctrination. I was talking about the rhetoric of those who stand to benefit from improved efficiency of public school indoctrination, and who hide that real goal behind the fake goal of “improving education”.

  326. ginmar

    Don’t want cheap shots? Don’t defend crime that somebody else has to deal with. Rich suburban kids shoplifting costs poor peoople their shitty jobs.

  327. smmo

    Ok, PhysioProf, sorry to have misunderstood. And I agree with you, the rhetoric, the testing mania, the No (white middle class pliable) Child Left Behind – it is all infuriating.

    ginmar, we’re done. You’ve chosen to interpret my remarks in the narrowest possible way and I can’t change that. It is painful to be attacked in this way, to have ugly words directed at me, at my parenting and my child. If I’ve caused you pain I apologize.

  328. ginmar

    No apology should contain the word “If.”

  329. LouisaMayAlcott

    “I apologize for any pain that I have caused you.”

  330. LouisaMayAlcott

    Apologies in the patriarchy are generally not offered, offered disingenuously, or worded with extreme care to avoid legal risk of suit for damages.

  331. Twisty

    Invoking a rule I just made up that says any thread accumulating 100 or more comments may be relocated to the boards, I hereby relocate this thread to the boards.

  1. They’re creepy and they’re … creepy. Three datapoints. at Hoyden About Town

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