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in which p is a kid-hating bitch!

Posted by pocochina on July 28, 2010

You all know what I love?  An exhortion by a non-feminist for feminists to be nicer young ladies,* and just remember how much we love babies.

It’s really telling to me that this person specifically chose a feminist blog on which to lecture people about the appropriate feelings to have towards children.  Because remember, this person has absolutely no idea about the political leanings of the people who have had the temerity to look askance at her toddler.  (Who does sound really fucking amazing!  I am not debating the awesomeness of her kid or anyone else’s!)  What she does know is that there are WOMEN being NON-MATERNAL on the internet, and these ladies need to be lectured and shamed into their rightful place, which is of course cheerfully with child or dutifully self-flagellating for failure to duly reproduce.

And you can do that ANYWHERE on the internet!  Hating on feminists, while a bullshit answer to this particular social issue, is also welcome everywhere on the internet except feminist blogs.  Outside of a desire to feel superior to the selfish low-life commentariat, I don’t really know why someone would choose to post that particular reactionary idea to Feministe.  I don’t question her credentials to be there at all, I have a lot of respect for the regular bloggers who made that decision, I just really question the choice to put this post in this forum and some of the ideas behind it.

Look, if someone is actually mean to your kid, sure, knock yourself out, dislike them; say something.  But online hostility towards children – children entirely too young to read a blog – is not actually hurting the children, so I’m inclined to conclude that the posturing is parental defensiveness of the parents’ feelings.  Just like a lot of childfree defensiveness (as opposed to simple honesty about disliking children) is in reaction to those apocryphal parents we’ve all come up against who bring their kids to happy hour and then decide it’s their job to morally police the language and conversation of everyone around them.+

And I get that parents, especially mothers, get shit on a lot and that’s wrong.  Which is why I am so glad FEMINISTS ARE ON THE FUCKING CASE.  Day care?  Parental leave?  Breastfeeding accommodations?  Thank a feminist(womanst/pro-feminist/etc)!  Or support a feminist org, since they’re basically the only folks who give a shit about your problem.

I mean, what, were things awesome for kids pre-feminism, and we ruined everything?  Because I’d feel just terrible about that.  Between all the factory-working and the being married off as to older and potentially abusive men as teenagers and the pathetic pre-modern-era education and the totally legal physical and sexual abuse and the being the tenth kid to a mom who didn’t even want one?  No.  You’re right.  I bet people were more polite in restaurants, which is the more important thing.

As long as women are expected to reproduce and give up our lives to be mommies whether we want to or not – and had damned well better like it, or tranq ourselves up on enough Valium to be able to pretend we do – the expression of anything less than cooing adulation of children is an overtly political act.  Answering that particular political expression with a self-satisfied tone argument is a deliberate reinforcement of traditional gender roles.  And when someone’s follow-up to “im (sic) not a feminist” is to lecture women on how to be nice and ladylike, I really feel justified in some suspicion about their motives.

I’m glad a lot of people in comments brought up the ableism of the post – like if you have PTSD, a sudden scream isn’t so much an occasion to send a smile and some “warm energy,” so much as it is a potential trigger.  And if you’re deaf/Deaf/hard of hearing, or have a difficult time concentrating on a conversation, an undue level of noise isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s something that socially isolates you from your companions.  If you’re like me, it’s a reminder that you’ll probably never be a mom, no matter how much you want to, because your mental illness might never lift.  Expecting disabled folks/PWD to suck it up even more than we already are just to be out, and to do so with a smile on our face, is privileged bullshit.  That’s not to say kids and moms should stay home.  Just that if the general atmosphere of a room is quiet and well-controlled, at least some of the people there have chosen it for a reason; if it’s family-friendly, parents are less likely to face judgment and kids are far more likely to have a good time.

There’s a lot of straw-arguments going on in comments, as well.  LaLubu’s discussion of a child-hostile hospital is of course an important story, but it’s simply not the same issue as the one the post was talking about.  Children are to be expected in a hospital, as both patients and family members; hospitals may be privately owned but they should be open to all members of the public; such a burden falls disproportionately on single and working-class mothers and it’s unacceptable.  But recreational areas, where children won’t be welcome or particularly happy, such as bars, are not the same.

I’m so annoyed at people who buy into the divide-and-conquer strategy about kids.  The issue, very clearly, isn’t about “cultural hostility towards children.”  It’s about the cultural policing of reproductive decisions, the under-valuing of child care labor, and the class disparities of child care opportunities.  Considering that these are among the core social concerns of even the most mainstream – and thus totally non-intersectional and uncool, we hate those old hags – feminist organizations, and that the denial of progress in these areas is an explicit goal of anti-feminists, it’s tough to find good-faith justifications for this type of feminist-shaming.

In short:  “ladies, I exhort you to do your duty, be nice and coo over babies” is not actually revolutionary social commentary.  Quite the opposite.

*When someone says they’re not a feminist and follows it up by saying they’re a womanist or a pro-feminist or some other explicitly woman-positive identity, I respect that.  When someone says, by way of introducing themselves to a largely unknown audience, that they’re not a feminist and then commence to the childfree-shaming, I really don’t think they’re arguing in good faith.

+Seriously, parents of the world?  Dirty language and happy hour go together like Jack and Coke.  Learn to deal, or teach your kids those words early enough that they won’t be shocked when you bring them to J&R’s on a Thursday.  And we, the drunken twenty-somethings of the world, will endeavor not to be douchey when your kid behaves as badly as we do.

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11 Responses to “in which p is a kid-hating bitch!”

  1. […] 3 comments I also like this response, even though I don’t actually think there was childfree-shaming going on in the original […]

  2. Astraea said

    Thank you! YES. It’s hard to have any kind of discussion when the OP flat out says that if you sometimes don’t want children around you’re a hateful discriminating oppressor who hates kids. And then people wonder why there is negative reaction.

    • pocochina said

      It’s a polemic subject, for sure. And it’s just surprising that someone would think after a lifetime of being shamed for their reproductive choices, folks would line up behind being moralized at even more.

      We aren’t going to fix the problem of disregard for mothers until we recognize that being a parent or other significant form of child caregiver is NOT something that you do to avoid being a Bad Person, but a particular and deeply difficult decision that’s only right for some people, and therefore should be freely chosen and supported.

  3. kankurette said

    Thank you for writing this. I am disabled myself – I have ME and Aspergers Syndrome – and being around kids screaming their heads off causes me pain. I go into sensory overload, and it is a horrible thing to have to deal with. It’s kind of like having a drill stuck in my ear boring into my head. It’s got nothing to do with race – I simply cannot deal with kids. I cannot deal with people, period. I’m on the high functioning end but I still find it hard to cope with kids being loud and running riot. I also don’t want to have kids since I can barely take care of myself, I have a good few mental health problems, and I know I’d be a bad mother. I made the conscious decision not to have children because no child deserves me as a mum. The idea that this somehow makes me less of a person is horrific. The feminist movement does have a lot of problems that need straightening out, and it’s admirable that Mai’a does so much work, but she does seem to have a blind spot where CF’ers are concerned and doesn’t seem to realise that some of us have VERY good reasons for not wanting children.

    • pocochina said

      Yes, I was disappointed by the TAB privilege on display in the post and in the comments. Several folks brought up similar issues, and they were ignored and lumped in with “nasty feminists are mean and hate kids”! It’s one thing to not think about disabilities you don’t live with (which I think is often understandable, though in this context it seems a fairly obvious oversight); it’s another to ignore and belittle people who have gone out on a limb to share. The suck-it-up-and-be-nice expectation is silencing and exhausting. Yeah, yeah, we’re selfish and unladylike and a burden on TABs; we’ve heard that one before. *eyeroll*

      Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  4. […] I’m not going to rehash all the depressingly well-trod talking-past-each-other business; others have done so.   I’m going to follow up on Karnythia’s post and talk about kids and […]

  5. Lee said

    Hi, first time here via ABW. I just wanna say YES! Thank you! As a disabled woman, CF by choice (for real, I’m 43, kids aren’t happening for me) I have been really upset by the last few days about the posts at Feministe. Feminsite (and feminism in general) is far from perfect, but one of the reasons I read the blogs is to get away from this kind of crap, which as you pointed out, is pretty much everywhere else. I didn’t expect find them posting something so blatantly anti-feminist there. (It’s hard to see tying a woman’s value as a person to motherhood as anything other than anti-feminist.) I’ve read some other critiques, but they didn’t cover every level of fail there as post did, which has made me feel much better. (Call me selfish, but I don’t enjoy feeling inferior for not being a mother.)

    • pocochina said

      Call me selfish, but I don’t enjoy feeling inferior for not being a mother

      Funny how “making a reasonable, responsible cost-benefit analysis based on one’s own life, desires, and physical and emotional condition” turns into “selfish” for women no matter what we decide! You’d think mothers especially would get that, seeing as they get it all the time, but I guess not? There’s not that fine a line between “I enjoy” and “you should,” but it seems this post has crossed it.

      I’m really sorry Feministe is sucking for you lately. I think Shakesville is one of the more childfree-supportive, mother-supportive, pro-PWD bigger blogs out there, I’d recommend checking it out if you haven’t had a chance to yet.

  6. […] July 31, 2010 at 11:23 am (Uncategorized) Feministe has a post that sparked tons of discussion and controversy. […]

  7. Piglet said

    Someone commented on Karnythia’s post about the hospital issue. Very well put. The short version is that the age rule is for safety. The hospital found a child-friendly accommodation, on request.

  8. D.J. said

    I know this is old but I just found it. I read op’s post and she sounds like she is letting everyone watch her kid for her. Being a mother of three children and not a feminist, I will be the first Biatch to give a kid and their mom/dad/whatever dirty looks if they LET(not even pretend to want to stop them) their kid act like assholes. Being a bit of a cranky person I am easily irritated by this sort of thing. I watch my kids and stop any behavior (I sometimes fail but at least I try) I know would make me nuts if another person’s kid did it.

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