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Calling a Spade a Spade

I know that I'm going to be skewered, and I'll probably offend a few people whom I otherwise love and respect, but I have to say something that's been brewing in my mind for a while now. To all of those people who are very vocal about the fact that they do not like children, I tell you: You are a bigot.

"They smell." "They don't know how to behave in public." "They shouldn't be allowed among normal people." If you were to say those things about blacks or Jews or gays or any other racial/ethnic/gender group (and variants of them have been said about all those groups at one time or another), people would call you out for it. You would be branded intolerant and shamed. People would point out to you that it's offensive to paint an entire group of people with the faults of a few individuals.I understand that many of you have had unpleasant experiences with individual children at one time or another, but to condemn children as a whole because some are poorly-behaved or (heaven forbid) not as sweet-smelling as yourself is no different than saying all blacks are criminals by nature, that all Russians are mobsters, that all gays are child molesters. It's not just wrong, it's insulting.

I love children. I like spending time with them and think that it's offensive to hear from otherwise open-minded people that they hate children and think that they should never see the light of day. It's rude, hurtful and disrespectful, as ALL bigotry is. So, while I don't want to infringe on your right to say what you think, I do want you to be honest with yourself. Stand up and say "I hate children and think that they should all be kept in closets." But right after that, look yourself in the eye and say "I'm a bigot, and I'm okay with that."


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 8th, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
Thank you for this. You've summed up succinctly my primary problem with the virulent 'child free' community.
Apr. 8th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC)
*wild applause*
Apr. 8th, 2009 07:58 am (UTC)
Very well said!
Apr. 8th, 2009 10:18 am (UTC)
I found this via my friend Astrid.

Nicely done.

Speaking as a teacher, I always get comments such as "How can you stand it?"
Well, I stand it because children are infinitely more pleasant to work with than adults!
I work in the 3rd most deprived housing estate in Britain so my lovelies are a pretty tough bunch.
But their constant enthusiasm and will to survive the odds amazes and humbles me.
And they are "only children".
People who do not marvel at the resiliance and brilliance of a growing mind of a child are, quite frankly, cutting themselves off from one of the fundamental joys of existence. They may as well be carving their eyes out or sawing off their ears.
And I speak, ironically as one of the "child free" set.
However, one can be child free and still be in awe of the wonders and delights of a young mind as it comes into sentience.
Apr. 8th, 2009 11:48 am (UTC)
*gives you the teacher seekrit handshake*

(also here via astrid.)
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC)
Is that the handshake that involves a yoga-esque pose?
*Does it back anyway!*
Apr. 8th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
Here here!
Apr. 8th, 2009 11:51 am (UTC)
I've called ppl out on this and they insist that they're not bigots, it's not the same, blah blah blah.

It makes me crazy & I've lost a few friends over it.

I'm a preschool teacher *&* I'm childfree, first by chance & now by choice. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my students, even when they're testing my patience and generally being awful. They're learning what's okay & what's not. Adults should already know these things & saying you hate someone just bc of how old they are is really not okay.
Apr. 8th, 2009 01:33 pm (UTC)

Hi there. I'm here via Astrid linking your post.

I totally understand your trepidation. I've been skewered for this in the past and for extending it to mother hate. Oh yeah, people don't take kindly to being called bigots, but hopefully if this is pointed out enough there will be at least be some subtle internal pondering of the issue all around.

Crazy how one can say, "Hey, that thing you said about parents/kids was hurtful," and be met with all kinds of excuses instead of anyone stepping up to give a shit that you're really torn up by the assumptions and stereotypes. It must not actually be hurtful since families are part of dominant culture, right??? And being 'alternative' means attacking dominant culture even if your friends' lives involve doing some of those things, right??? Sure. Last I checked being alternative enough that you can't biologically spawn is far more expensive than a lip ring, folks. Enjoy the privilege.

Don't even get me started on how this is all a designer issue anyway when you consider there are plenty of women around the world who have heard of this 'birth control', but don't know where to get it, can't afford it, but can't afford to feed anymore kids either and could die having the next one. How about applying some bigoted bovine and ageist terms to these fine folks? Wouldn't that be charitable?

This issue gets me totally riled. I've experienced a lot of this and the resentment builds. Thank you for putting it so eloquently.
Apr. 8th, 2009 08:07 pm (UTC)
(I'm not sure this really counts as a counter-point or anything, but it's probably worth sharing my thoughts all the same.)

I wouldn't say that I categorically hate all children. Not any more than I categorically hate any other group. I'm willing to evaluate pretty much everybody on an individual-by-individual basis, sans bias. 'Course, "sans bias" also means that I'm not grading on a curve, and that I do not award bonus points to anyone based on age any more than I'd give bonus points to anyone for their ethnicity or sexual orientation. And rather a lot of children don't stack up especially well on this front.

It's not something I especially blame children for. I mean, if you're four years old, you probably don't have a lot of cool stories about wacky college roommates, or opinions about local Zinfandels, or the ability to get all of my pithy pop culture references. :) Hey, comes with the territory. That's doesn't preclude the ability to engage in cordial discourse with them - same as I might with adults where I don't really have a common frame of reference. (And if the child keeps interrupting me during conversation or rambling endlessly about something I'm fantastically disinterested in... well, I'm probably going to take the first out I can find. Same as I've done to adult folks at cocktail parties in the past.)

I think rather a lot of the animosity springs from that, in the minds of a number of folks, I am expected to extend all sorts of extra dispensations and understandings just because they're children. I mean, if I were to have a stoner friend with me who randomly screamed while we were at the movies, or who kept upending plates of food while I was at a fancy-pants restaurant, I'd be mortified, pilloried, and probably asked to leave the premises. "No, it's cool, Jim's just like that, don't worry about it" would probably be a piss-poor ineffective excuse. And "how DARE you even SUGGEST that stoned individuals aren't WELCOME at this BIGOTED ESTABLISHMENT" would probably be met by incredulous chuckling. But these feel very analogous to the "aw, they're just kids, you're too sensitive" rationales that we actually hear in the real world. Not every parent is like this, not remotely by a long shot... but it's that vocal-but-entitled minority that dirties the pool.

I can see where you're coming from on the topic of not wanting blanket statements thrown around regarding children as a whole. On the other hand, it should probably be noted that I'm not a totally oblivious moron. If a third of all little old Filipino men who've ever sat behind me on airplanes pounded on the the seat back... well, I'd probably have trepidation and dread when I saw one in the row behind me on the next airplane, yes? "Statistically, there are other demographics that are much less likely to annoy me on this flight" would be an accurate statement. "How dare you observe such a thing!" and "Why are you saying that all little old Filipino men suck?" seem like weird and distorted overreactions to voice in response... but sub in toddlers for little old Filipino men and it seems like the precise sort of critique-and-retort I've seen go down in the past.

(In closing, I don't talk about issues like this more often almost precisely because of responses like nicklausse's. Categorically branding others as closed-minded bigots... while casually dismissing the opinions of all those who disagree with sweeping "you're all just anti-culture lip-ring-sporting poseurs" rhetoric? Classy!)
Apr. 8th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
The problem I have with your logic is that you've got the same expectations of children that you have of adults, and that's just not rational. Your likening a stoned guy to a child doesn't hold up, because a stoned guy has the choice *not* to get stoned. The stoned guy is capable of being in a state where he understands what's expected of him.

Part of being a child is learning social interaction. Kids *don't* always know what's expected of them. Adults who have expectations and don't communicate them (you probably fall into that category) don't help. It's like playing a game where nobody will tell you the rules.

I don't think you're too sensitive. Nobody likes to see kids behaving badly - it's annoying to most, and embarrassing to those of us whose children know better. I also totally get that it's hard for someone without kids to say to a person whose child is behaving unacceptably "Can you please get your kid off my leg?" without having that parent get defensive. "Where do you get off, kid-hater?"

What I'm saying is that a little bit of compassion goes an awful long way. Children don't *want* to behave badly. When you're a kid and you behave badly it makes adults be mean to you, and that's not fun. If, as an adult, you're proactive and friendly about your expectations of child behavior, most kids are okay with that. And when you're nice to kids, they behave better.
Apr. 8th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
It's about expectations. If you never take a kid to church, never take a kid to the movies, never take a kid on an airplane, never take a kid to a restaurant, and so on for all situations where the kid might observe and interact with adults in a social setting, the kid will grow up and never learn what's appropriate. It's the duty of parents to teach their children what's expected of them.
Apr. 8th, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
Well, it's a rational line of thinking... but one predicated on an assertion along the lines of "children should be held to approximately the same standards of public discourse as adults should". Which is obviously not a particularly universally-shared sentiment, and one which comes across to a number of folks as unreasonable. Which is fine. Opinions differing and all that.

(Really, I can understand where they're coming from. It's a pretty high place for the bar to be set, and very probably a function of my own life experiences. I know I grew up treated much less like a son than a glorified roommate. Leading to a thought process along the lines of "I was always quiet and deferential as a child, with massive negative consequences for doing anything untoward; why should I expect less of other children now?" and all that rot. Making me the poster boy for having approximately zero parenting instinct as an adult, I suppose.) :)

It's true that I don't particularly pipe up to children (or their parents) when I feel that they're acting out of line with my expectations. Mostly because I feel it's not my place to do so - doubly so if the child in question is one I'm not previously acquainted with. Giving a child a mixed message as I convey an expectation totally orthogonal (or contrary) to their parents' teachings is bad enough; potentially drawing Mama Bear Ire upon myself for voicing a complaint ("are you telling me I don't know how to raise my kids?!") is much, much worse. On balance, it's usually not worth the political capital involved, so I just sort of grin, muddle through, and attempt not to find myself in such situations going forward.

I do try to show a modicum of compassion. I know that at the end of the day, most folks are pretty much on the same page regarding their kids, and all parties involved would prefer that the world at large not find them vexing. I try to afford kids the same general level of sympathy and understanding I'd afford anyone else. And I try not to be irrationally uppity about children or anything - "sure, that kid's incessant noise-making is irksome, but no more so than suit-dude similarly blathering into his Bluetooth, so meh, whatever." I guess it's just that the standard-issue bad scenario - a tyrannical child paired with an indifferent/beleaguered/enabling parent - is a pretty big negative for me, with seemingly no really socially acceptable recourse outside of "suck it up or leave". It's kind of disheartening, the limited options at hand, and I can see why other more sensitized folks tend to lash out in frustration regarding the whole matter.

(Edit to get post-threading correct. Not sure how I messed that up. Sigh.)
Apr. 9th, 2009 03:02 pm (UTC)
If people hate kids it's probably because they resent at how free and unscarred they are (compared to the adults of the world) by life's b.s. That's the good thing about children - they allow you to see another way to look at the world...and it's generally more positive then how you view things!
Apr. 9th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Without disagreeing with the previous poster, I have two conceptual problems with your analysis.

First, you seem to be conflating "not liking" with "hating." There's quite a continuum between those, and lumping them together is inappropriate. Granted, your examples of statements are on the more extreme end, but it feels like you're not allowing for someone to simply not like children (in the sense of "just not my cup of tea") without being branded a bigot. I don't know, perhaps I'm reading in other arguments I've heard before.

Second, and more significantly, why is saying "I hate children" a sign of irrational bigotry, but saying "I love children" is not? Granted, it's more positive from the children's perspective, but isn't it just the same type of ignoring the differences between individuals?

Or, perhaps, there really are some inherent differences between children and adults, not just stereotypes, and some people like those differences and some simply do not?
Apr. 13th, 2009 03:19 am (UTC)
Well, Person Who Can't Whack Up the Ginger to Give Their Name, it seems you have two things to say here, and I'll address them separately.

1. I conflate "not liking" with hating. It's not really me doing the conflating, it's the folks who voice the opinions. I think that they phrase it as "I don't like children" because it makes you sound like some kind of Nazi to say "I hate children." People who say "I hate children" are routinely the bad guys in popular children's literature and are made to suffer horrible ends. Notice that I call out specifically those who make unjust, sweeping accusations about all children, and who suggest that children not be allowed out in society. That's not "dislike." That's hate.

There is certainly a continuum. Most people don't suggest that children be sent off to boarding schools at birth or kept in small boxes without electricity until they emerged, fully-formed, as adults. Most people who simply don't like children overlook the good ones and snark about the bad ones, and are able to keep their comments confined to the behavior. Love the sinner, hate the sin, as it were.

2. Why is saying "I hate children" bigotry, but saying "I love children" is not? Quite simply, bigotry is an act of intolerance. To say "I hate" is intolerant, while to say "I love" is not. If I had said "I love children and I hate anyone who doesn't," then I might be a bigot, but I never said that. I said I was hurt, I said I was offended, but I never said hate. The fact of the matter is that I don't hate. It's just not in my nature. (See above about "love the sinner, hate the sin.")

You're acting as though the difference between children and adults were some kind of cultural thing - as though they're entirely separate groups of people and ne'er the twain shall meet. That's wrong. You were a child. For all I know, you still are a child. Every adult was once a child. Whether they were treated well or not, whether they were well-socialized or not, whether they were happy or not doesn't make any difference to the fact that all human beings start as children, and to say that one doesn't like children has a kernel of self-dislike to it that makes me a little bit sad.
Apr. 13th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
My name is Alex. I'm not aware of any personal shortage of ginger or any other rhizome, but since I don't have an LJ or OpenID account, my only choice is posting "anonymously."

On my first point, perhaps we don't really have a disagreement. As I said initially, I've seen a lot of people who do that (lump everyone who doesn't just adore all children into one undifferentiated mental category of "child haters"), and it bothers me. If, as it now appears, you aren't doing that, then I have no beef with you on that point.

On the second point, now that we've clarified the first somewhat, it seems to me that perhaps we are talking past each other. If I understand correctly, you are focused on the intolerance factor of "bigotry," which I wasn't fully aware of (until I looked up the definition just now). I was focused on the irrationality factor.

Thus, again if I understand you correctly, you are saying that someone who hates children is a bigot, but someone who merely dislikes them is not (or at least is not necessarily so). If I'm correct on that point, then I withdraw my original comment with apologies, as it was based on a misunderstanding.

However, if that is your position then I will say that I think "They don't know how to behave in public" is a poor example to use, as to me it doesn't imply hatred on the part of the speaker. I don't see how it differs in content from "Part of being a child is learning social interaction. Kids *don't* always know what's expected of them."

And as long as we're talking, I may as well address your final point. I don't see where I implied that there's some sort of bright demarcation between childhood and adulthood, and certainly that's not what I think. I'm just saying that, while there is a slow and continuous developmental process, it is also true that there are real differences between children and adults.

I assume you aren't denying this, because if there aren't any differences then saying "I love children" reduces to "I love people," which I don't think is what you are trying to say.

I'm not quite sure whether it's a good idea to address your self-dislike thesis, but let me take a stab at it. I perceive it this way: As I live my life, I try to improve myself, as I hope all people do. I believe I have, at least in some ways, succeeded in improving myself. Which necessarily implies that I believe I am now, in those ways, better than I was then.

Thus, it does not seem at all contradictory to me to recognize that I used to be a child, while still not liking things about children, some of which I shared at that time. Nor does it seem to imply that I dislike myself, but merely that I dislike aspects that I used to have, which is the very reason that I changed them. To think otherwise, it seems to me, is to believe oneself to be perfect, and as I have yet to meet a perfect person, I would not be so egotistical as to assume that I am the one.
Apr. 13th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Howdy, Alex. I think that you and I are on the same page with this. It's hate that I find offensive, and especially hate directed toward a group that isn't at fault for its own shortcomings. With the right guidance, most of us grow into adults who have moved beyond the stuff that made adults roll their eyes.

And just for the record, I do love people as a general mass. It's when we get down to individuals that things get sticky.

I like you, though. Thanks for being engaged and for engaging. I appreciate that in a person.
Apr. 13th, 2009 06:16 pm (UTC)
"I do love people as a general mass. It's when we get down to individuals that things get sticky."

Thanks for my laugh of the day.

Aug. 17th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
I don't say I hate children. I tend to say I dislike children. And I only say this because I am surrounded by family who look at me and go "ooooh...you're 21 now! You have your bachelors degree. Pretty soon you're getting married, settle down and get a husband and loads of children." I hate it when people start planning my life for me. Especially when they decide my university degree is worth nothing compared to getting married and having children. So I end up saying I never want to get married and dislike children. I guess that doesn't completely mean I hate children. And people who see me with children know it's not true. I actually like children. The way they play games and do things without worrying about others. On the other hand, they can be cruel too. And they can be tiresome. I always say I am going to not have kids and just take the kids of my siblings on a trip to Disney for a week. That will be enough "kids" for me. I guess I might not be the person you're addressing in your post completely. But I felt spoken to nonetheless.
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