Teaching Moment: Children Are People Too

Yesterday, the following comment was submitted on this post from November concerning fear of children in Britain [1]:

Someone obviously needs to re-read Lord of the Flies.

On a more prosaic level, I'd argue that people's feral, shrieking little carpet apes — oh, excuse me, Precious Darling Children — are a great argument for doing as many errands online as possible.

My first impulse was to delete the comment. Then I realized that it is a perfect example of the sort of casual dehumanization of young people that the original article highlighted. I am therefore going to use this as a teaching moment: an opportunity to explain a few things about why I believe the hatefulness that adults like b.g. feel free to express toward children in our culture is not acceptable.

The casual dehumanization of children is one of my research interests as a master's candidate in history; it is something I am both fascinated with as an historical and political phenomenon, and passionately opposed to in practice. Children are people. As someone who is opposed to hatred and fear of any group of people based on innate characteristics (skin color, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender) it appalls me how acceptable adults find it to express hatred and fear of children based solely on their age, or for behaviors that can be traced back to their developmental abilities. I see this among a wide range of adult populations, from feminists to Christian fundamentalists -- it's a form of bigotry that is in evidence across the political spectrum.

In part, I believe that this intolerance of young people is one symptom of the way, in modern culture, we have ghettoized many people who make us uncomfortable, or whom we perceive as an inconvenience. Those who slow down our over-burdened lives with their complicated needs or awkward social behavior. People whom, by their very presence, raise uncomfortable questions about our own values and our competence in a complicated, competitive society. People who are mentally ill, physically disabled, people who are struggling with poverty and old age. People who are made vulnerable by circumstance make us uncomfortable. As historian Gerda Lerner writes, in her book of essays Why History Matters [2]: "All of us, ultimately, will join one of the most despised and abused groups in our society--the old and the sick" (17). We would do well to remember, as well, that we all began life as members of a similarly vulnerable and dependent group: children.

This is not to argue that children are innately better than adults. Children are human: ergo, they are capable of human cruelty [3]. That is not the question at issue here. The question here is why people such as b.g. feel perfectly free to refer sneeringly to young human beings as "feral . . . apes" in a public space (this blog) when presumably, they would not feel free to make a similar remark about a black person. Or if they did, they would be held accountable. I have seen on countless feminist blog threads, self-identified feminists who are outraged about hateful speech directed toward women and other groups turn around and use offensive language to speak about the children.* Feminists have long argued that ostensibly "positive" ideals about women and femininity are just as dehumanizing as outright misogyny. Both obscure the complex humanity of the individual person before us. Similarly, characterizations of children as "precious little darlings" or "shrieking little carpet apes" are two sides of the same coin: neither recognize children as persons worthy of our respect. Yet as a culture, we have been reluctant to recognize these parallels.

I have read Lord of the Flies, William Golding's novel about marooned British schoolboys who resort to terror and violence in the absence of external social structure [4]. Lord of the Flies is a commentary on the nature of humanity more than it is about the innate character of children or the particular environment of childhood. Remember that the boys who have been shipwrecked in Golding's book are not, in fact, free of socialization: they have already lived upwards of a dozen years in families, and in a British boarding school, in which adults have taught them quite thoroughly what is to be expected from them as human beings. I would argue that the book demonstrates quite well the violence that has been done to these children previous to the shipwreck, in addition to offering a chilling reminder of the sort of evil that all of us, regardless of age, are capable of.

Language matters. Language can affirm the humanity of each individual being on this planet, or language can create a climate in which individual people -- or groups of people -- become easy to discount or view as unworthy of love, kindness, respect, or understanding. I will not be deleting b.g.'s comment because I think it offers us a valuable example of exactly the kind of hatred children in our lives experience on a daily basis. But let me be absolutely clear: from now on, anyone who leaves a comment on this blog using language like "carpet apes" to describe people whose sole "offense" is their youth will have their comments deleted. You may disagree with me that children constitute a marginalized group in our society. You are welcome to argue your point in comments with pertinent examples and other evidence. You are welcome to use strong language to express your feelings. You may not resort to insults. If the language you use would not be acceptable as a way to describe racial or ethnic groups, women, or queer folks, I will consider it similarly unacceptable as a way to describe young people. Because children are people too.

*It is important to recognize that many feminists do not use this language of dehumanization when speaking of children and youth, and in fact there are countless feminist activists and organizations who have placed the well-being of children and adolescents (regardless of gender) at the heart of their work. My argument here is that alongside this work there still exists a consistent current of hatred and fear directed toward young people, and that feminists are not always willing or able to see the applicability of their critique of inequality in other arenas to a critique of discrimination based on age.


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  4. Are you really that lame that you can't even deal with my rather mild commentary on inappropriate parenting and badly behaved children? Sheesh, if you don't want dissenting opinions, don't post your thoughts on the internet. How lame of you to have deleted it just because I didn't agree with you.

  5. I think you've just set up a ridiculous strawman. By and large, even people who love children do not actually enjoy children running around making as much noise as possible in places where that is inappropriate. Children are human, and as such, can learn to be considerate of other humans. Pretending that doing so is impossible or somehow stifling does such a disservice to kids. It is entirely possible to allow a child to be exuberant, joyful and playful and still be considerate of others.

    Also, I'm finding it a little troubling that you seem to be playing the Oppression Olympics here, and in your other post. Comparing the grumblings of adults who aren't a fan of high-pitched wails to racism? Really? That's either dishonest of you, or more than beyond tasteless. You are confusing actual prejudice with annoyance with individual instances of individual behaviours (which are by no means universal to the group, for that matter.), and that certainly is incredibly disrespectful to those groups you're comparing it to.

  6. Suzy,

    I made it clear I would not accept comments on this blog that used dehumanizing language to speak about children. Calling children "spawn" counts.

    If you would like to re-post without using that kind of insulting language you are welcome to do so. As you see, I am not deleting your second comment.

  7. Poor dewicate widdle Anna, she can't stand any "hateful" comments.

    Yet another grad student with far more education than common sense. One of many reasons I left the Boston area. Can't stand politically correct little twits like you.

  8. Anna, my dog is better behaved and trained to manners than the vast majority of children inhabiting my neighborhood. She knows what is acceptable behavior and what is not. The rare instances of unacceptable behavior (lunging, growling, howling, jumping on people) are easily corrected with a sharp, "NO!" and tug on her leash. This corrective action brings her attention back to me and reminds her who is higher in pack authority and what her pack alpha expects from her.

    That the human children in my middle-class suburban neighborhood are nowhere near that level of socially conditioned to decent manners speaks volumes about why people refer to children as "feral." They really DO act like a pack of wild hyenas - running freely, leaving mess and waste everywhere, howling at all hours of the day or night. 'Acceptable behavior' is not a term they're familiar with. I've met one child - JUST ONE - in my neighborhood who was well behaved enough to say "good morning," "please," and "thank you," and ask to pet my dog instead of running up to her and screaming like a rabid jackal with a cactus in its rectum. If you want to complain about "dehumanizing" children, I suggest you look to their breeders (because I won't sully the term "parent" by applying it to these people) before blaming innocent bystanders. They certainly aren't training their offspring to act like humans. They seem more than content to leave them at the social level of Rhesus Monkeys, up to and including flinging feces. Yes, I've seen neighborhood children THROW SHIT. And you actually wonder why people refer to children as "feral"? On what planet is it all right for human beings to throw feces?

    That you would compare referring to untrained children as "feral" to institutionalized racism, sexism, and homobigotry tells me where you come from. At the most basic, it's intellectually dishonest and stinks of rich white heterosexual privilege. Try being a minority for a while with actual laws codifying your sub-human status. Then you can whinge about how adults don't like being around badly behaved children.

    Calling these children "feral" is an honest characterization, does no actual harm to the children, and calls attention to both their horrific behavior and the laziness of them what bred them. It may actually shame the adults in their lives to do something about it. Calling Victoria Stillwell! Cleanup on aisle 4!

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  10. I think a part of the problem is that children are following different imperatives from those followed by adults.

    I recall seeing a sequence in the television series "Britain From Above" that studied the movements and behaviours of teenagers in a neighbourhood, and concluded that the behaviours that adults found threatening were in fact quite normal and innocent. They simply reflected different priorities from those imagined by the adults for the same types of behaviour.

    The same is probably the case for younger children, too. A young child simply does not have the same priorities in interacting with the world that their parents, or other adults, do. And quite possibly the best way to grow up as a healthy human being with a decent understanding of the universe, is to run around a lot, and to test one's lungs and vocal chords.

    That these behaviours can be inconvenient for adults, or in their eyes seemingly purposeless or uncontrolled, does not change the basic fact that children need to do them. Yes, a certain amount of discipline is required to make sure that these behaviours do not impinge upon essential activities, or do not lead to dangerous situations (e.g. traffic), but blaming children for doing what is natural is barmy.

    And the alternative to children running around like maniacs screaming, is children turning into anti-social hippos.

    @ Keori - likening children to dogs shows where you're coming from. Or maybe the idea of "training" another human being is something you don't find problematic?

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  13. So snowdrop: it's ok for kids to run around screaming in a bookstore,grocery store library et.al, because of their development? What about the rest of us? How bloody selfish. I can think of parents who would heartly argree with me also.
    I am so glad I grew up in the seventies where I was expected to be considerate of those around me, and not some Indingo(sic) Child!
    And yes, this bloggers rich white privilage reeks. No wonder why people of colour flee from white feminists when they hear dribble such as this.

  14. Seriously, you need to read Black Like Me, Lakota Woman, and Malcom X. It's disingenous to compare terms like feral and vermin as the equalvilent of rape,murder, lynching, being called Boy,N****r lover, being pulled over for DWB, and redlining that still goes on.

  15. Man, you really got some venom spewed at you for the outrageous suggestion that children are people are deserve to be treated as such (down to the language used to describe them *shock*).

  16. Hear, hear Meghan. Nice how these comments demonstrate exactly the kind of nastiness you were addressing in your post.

  17. Anna, you rock.

    I have morphed into one of those gurgling grandmas who actually LIKES most children, and I find they often say far more interesting things than their parents do. I started to notice that when I describe kids, or what they say (and I am NOT a cutesy sort of person, so it isn't that)--I get the eye-roll or the sneer. Kids, icky poo.

    This is ageism, pure and simple.
    As a grandmother, I experience it on the other end, and I know it when I see it.

    By and large, even people who love children do not actually enjoy children running around making as much noise as possible in places where that is inappropriate.

    (Now, see how easy that was to say without resorting to epithets?)

    I don't like adults doing that either, particularly after they've had a few beers, which can be lots more loud and obnoxious than squealing kids.

    (Add football or rock and roll, and watch out.)

    Comparing the grumblings of adults who aren't a fan of high-pitched wails to racism? Really?

    Are you advocating excluding a person due to physical characteristics they have no control over? (Are you seriously suggesting a baby or toddler can control their high-pitched wails?) Would you exile an adult with Tourette's, who might also emit a high-pitched wail?


    Anna, my dog is better behaved and trained to manners than the vast majority of children inhabiting my neighborhood. She knows what is acceptable behavior and what is not. The rare instances of unacceptable behavior (lunging, growling, howling, jumping on people) are easily corrected with a sharp, "NO!" and tug on her leash.

    I write from the south. Leash?! What is THAT?

    Dogs here are let run wild (no leash laws) and attack people. Should we euthanize them all? More to the point, are ALL dogs everywhere to blame for the old-school hunting-dog mores of the old south? Or are owners and breeders to blame?

    Should I generalize about ALL dogs due to the bad behavior of dogs in the rural south?

    And speaking of the south...

    That the human children in my middle-class suburban neighborhood are nowhere near that level of socially conditioned to decent manners speaks volumes about why people refer to children as "feral."

    Actually, I think it speaks more about the middle class.

    The religious homeschooling parents around here take their children out of public schools using precisely this language and rationalization. And incidentally, their children are among the best-behaved and most polite customers (of any age) that I have. (Their vocabularies tend to be excellent, in particular.)

    Most of southern homeschoolers are working class, and attribute the bad behavior to bored middle class kids who aren't supervised, watching HBO and listening to hip-hop in the afternoons. And I guess you agree with the (mostly Christian and right-wing) homeschoolers on this one, huh? Interesting.

    Keori, I honestly wouldn't bother wasting intelligent, passionate argument on Anna. "Rich white heterosexual privilege" is hitting the nail on the head. I'm smelling the spoor of sick-makingly earnest upper-middle-class girl who finds any sort of "unpleasantness" (i.e., bluntness and scorn for bullshit) distasteful. When this type goes into academe, they learn all sorts of po-mo jargon that helps them continue to distance themselves from harsh realities that don't play out the way their professors insist they do.

    Well, I agree with Anna and share only one of those characteristics with her (I'm white)... so, wrong again!

    with her ilk

    Anna, my political mentor used to tell me that when they start referring to you as "ilk"--that you have definitely scored points.

    and get fat

    b.g. has more prejudices than just ageism, obviously. S/he is just getting warmed up.

    Summation: Advocating that someone not use nasty language to describe kids, obviously means the person advocating said position wants kids screaming and running riot all over hell's half acre. Damn, who knew?

    Speaking of class, it seems that most of you here are surrounded in real life by adults who behave like people from a Jane Austen novel and have manners right out of Martha Stewart. I'd suggest you turn on the Jerry Springer show (Note: he was once the mayor of Cincinnati, you know) and observe "adults" acting far more disgustingly than kids. Maybe you have never seen any of those kindsa folks up-close and personal... but if you haven't, you really shouldn't preach to Anna about CLASS... because your sheltered existence is just as obvious and visible as you claim hers is.

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  19. I made most of the other points, but I will just say that yes, children are people too, however, we know that developmentally they are not ready to make all their own choices and be members of society-hence why there is a guardian concept.

  20. Wow. The vitriol in some of these comments is astounding. Apparently kids are animals and to say otherwise is so outrageous that b.g. can't even comprehend it.

    Anna, I find your original post very thought-provoking. I have to say that I don't like being around kids, and I don't like hearing crying kids in public. BUT I also know that they're growing up, testing boundaries, still very egotistical, etc. Usually, it's not because of bad parenting or some innate devilry in the child - it's just because children often don't know better. So I can take a deep breath and deal with it. I don't want to have kids, but some people have to want to have kids for the species to continue. And I know that when I was a kid, I did bratty stuff, too - not because I was evil or had bad parents, but just because I didn't know better yet. Then I learned, and now I don't throw tantrums in public anymore.

    I think that SnowdropExplodes is onto something. We expect certain behavior in public, and kids often don't meet those expectations. I have a much younger brother, and sometimes his behavior just boggles my mind. I can't tell you the amount of times I've said to him, "Why would you ever say/do that?" Sometimes it's because he was being selfish or rude, but often it's because he just hasn't learned certain social norms. No one can be born knowing everything about society, and we have to be patient with little folks while they learn, just as we would be patient with someone from a different culture who, for example, didn't think it impolite to belch loudly during a meal. It might be annoying at times, but most people are annoying at times, and you had to go through a learning period, too.

    (Also, the Lord of the Flies analogy was ridiculous. The whole point of that book was that it was an allegory for adult behavior.)

  21. It also occurs to me, that the issue of child's rights gets very much complicated by the age involved-I assume we're talking under 5 here, not 15 year olds. And yes, snowdrop explodes is onto something-we expect certian behavior in public. While children shouldn't be called animals for not meeting that, I do think that there are very good reasons for asking why children need to be in public, particularly in spaces that aren't able to cater to them. Yes, as Lauren O says, we all(or at least I) had to go through a learning period too. but this learning period for me was generally in private or in public spaces that can deal with children-I did not go to an evening wedding as a 3 year old, to name an example that I've seen. Is it truly an infringement on children's rights to suggest that this isn't a good plan? I don't think so. I also remember being told when screaming "okay, we're going home" and that was the end of the discussion. that was part of the "training of humans" which, is, in fact, why children of mammals, especially social mammals like humans, stay with their parents-it is a parents job to train them. not problematic at all. I seriously hope anyone who doesn't believe in training a human doesn't have children. People aren't born knowing everything they need to live-they need training. Everyone else is not there to cater to a child's needs.

  22. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. This thread has given me a lot to think about.

    Apologies for just getting around to thread moderation here late in the evening . . .

    b.g.: none of your comments have convinced me that you have any serious response to my post. Instead, you have 1) made clear that you dislike young people by using language I expressly requested people commenting stop using, and 2)made clear you find me personally offensive based on a number of assumptions you made about my background, experience, and identity you have no grounds to make. Any further comments you make will be deleted as they do not contribute to our discussion.

  23. First: anna, this is my first visit to your blog. Nice post, nice blog. I plan on coming back! Also, good to see other familiar faces here (*waves to Snowdrop and Daisy!*)

    There've been a few posts on Feministe dealing with exactly this subject---and those are the ones that get the most comments, hands down. No other subject seems to bring out the trolls quite so much. I don't really know why that is, but my sneaking suspicion is that children are a safe target---anyone else might Kick Your Ass (online or IRL), but...children? Bwa hahahahaha!!

    That, and....children come attached to that other pesky group that keeps insisting on its humanity---women. Oh, sure, sure. Kids have fathers too. But I don't think the trolls are thinking much about fathers when their default insults are "crotch-droppings", "cunt turds" and "pussfruit". Right, bg? You do know that you're an asshole, don't you, bg?

    One of the difficulties in having an honest, adult conversation about children is the number of assumptions (usually conflicting) about "what children are like" or "how children behave" and "what are proper parenting practices", let alone "who should have the power to decide."

    The inevitable commentary started right up---the conflation of all children with obnoxious, in fact radically obnoxious behavior. Why is that? Seriously. I seldom see any child screaming or throwing a temper tantrum. Hell, way back when I worked in child care, I didn't see that very often. I'm not living in a cave, so can someone tell me where all this bad behavior is taking place?

    I just finished up Barbara Ehrenreich's "Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy", and was thinking while I read it how much of the premise (the causes and resistance to the shrinking of opportunities for group celebration) related to changing attitudes toward children as a whole.

    I think it relates to the shrinking of the Commons. There really isn't much in the way of public space (at least in the U.S.) the way there used to be. The physical spaces (sometimes) still exist, but the way those spaces are viewed is different from how it used to be when I was my daughter's age. There's fewer people on the street than before. Street noise consists mainly of cars, trucks, buses and trains---not conversation. So...when a group of kids runs by, giggling and talking (usually at the same volume as animated adults---but being kids, their voices are higher-pitched and thus carry further)---it's a change from the norm.

    When it comes to expecting certain behavior in public, we can all agree on what is obnoxious behavior. But what about the middle ground? I'm thinking of this line by kb: I do think that there are very good reasons for asking why children need to be in public, particularly in spaces that aren't able to cater to them.

    There's a lot to unpack there, starting with the need for children to be in public. For starters, the fact that human beings are social animals and the only way to learn how to deal with other people is....dealing with other people. That, and parents need to be in public. Sometimes, we need to be in places other than our worksite. "Hire a babysitter" isn't a reasonable solution for all of those times, or even most of those times. Which brings me to the second part...

    ...the "spaces that can't cater to them." From what I can see, "spaces that cater to children" consist of really crappy, high-priced, artificial places where obnoxious behavior isn't only tolerated, but encouraged. And those same places don't cater at all to adults. I'm thinking along the lines of fast-food restaurants with indoor playgrounds and such. Those places don't resemble anything like real life anywhere else---including an actual playground. Or even "movies that cater to children" mostly consisting of schlocky, poorly-drawn characters in a vapid excuse for a plot, with heaping side orders of racism and sexism. Bah.

    And, there's different ideas about what is proper parenting practice---like kb mentioned not going to an evening wedding as a three-year-old. Nothing wrong with that, but that's not common practice in my cultural background---I've never been to a child-free wedding, and weddings are one occasion where bedtime rules don't seem to apply. Speaking of bedtime rules, that's another area where there are differing opinions. Choice of books, films, other activities for kids---everybody's got an opinion. Shit, you can't even get people to agree on if or when something crucial like sex education ought to begin.

  24. Um, it seems some people aren't actually hateful of children but of anyone who says or does anything that they disagree with. It seems pretty hypocritical to be hateful of children's behaviour while exhibiting hateful (some would say childish) behaviour oneself. I think ADULTS should be able to respectfully disagree with someone. Some of these comments are abusive.

    Anyway, I think of children as being the best and worst in many areas. Children can be nasty but often this has been modeled to them by adults. I definitely think of children as vulnerable. They are often not listened to. Abusing them isn't REALLY seen as a crime. Sometimes judges will do whatever it takes to give a father visitation even if he is abusive. If people think mothers made a bad decision or even an okay decision without a lot of money, we don't care about children. Give her as little welfare as possible or no maternity leave or no good daycare, people say, because she shouldn't have had a child. Well she did, and her child is going to grow up in this society. We have little appreciation that children will become something someday, a contributing member of society (hopefully). I was thinking of all this today and it saddens me. We don't really care about children, many of us.

  25. Oh no, KB, I'm referring to children between the ages of 3 and 17. Diaper-clad little 'uns are one thing, tweens and teens who should know better than to fling feces are quite another. The behavior of the children in my neighborhood is appalling.

    The reason I compare children to dogs (and horses, and soldiers) is because training them all to social graces/customs/courtesies and decent manners is something I am experienced in doing, and believe me, it's all very similar. It requires the same mixture of demonstration and good example, positive and negative reinforcement, continual reinforcement of lessons learned, and establishing hierarchy early on. I'm the adult. I am higher in the "pack" than my children (and dogs, and horses, and soldiers), and as such am responsible for their behavior. My 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter know perfectly well what is and is not appropriate behavior in public. They know that good behavior results in rewards, and bad behavior results in punishments. They reserve the "testing the vocal cords," etc, for the appropriate places, such as a playground or the woods or at the park with the dogs.

    Wild mammals in family groups have similar standards. Funny how a pack of apes or wolves can train their young to acceptable behavior within the family group without worrying about hurting their offspring's self-esteem, and American humans are not up to the task.

    There is a time and a place where children can act like feral hyenas. That place is not inside a library, or out in the general public, or a restaurant. When we are out in public and my son begins to whine, I give him That Look and ask him, "Are you about to embarrass me?" he visibly stops, thinks, and then says, "No, ma'am." Then he tells me what is really wrong. Imagine that! A child who can communicate a problem without throwing a screaming fit! And who can eat in a restaurant with a knife and fork and napkin and say "please" and "thank you" and who can be counted on to not have a belching contest with his sister! (At-home pizza parties are, of course, another matter entirely.) And an adult who actually expects a child to communicate via words, phrases, and hand gestures instead of unintelligible whining and calling it "creative spirit"!

    That is not ageism. It's called parenting. Try it.

  26. actually, playgrounds, or activity with my age group peers is what was thinking of with "places that can cater to children" and ways for children to be in public. or woods and open spaces would be private, eve though technically they aren't-however, nobody else was unable to read because of the noise that is developmentally appropriate for children. I don't strictly mean, for example, disneyworld, which I agree is more than a bit artificial. and you have a good point about shrinking of the commons-what do you do if there isn't a playground that's safe in your neighborhood? There are, however, many ways to get children socialization that don't involve letting them do the behavior that most people here are complaining about. I realize, Lu Labu, that you're going to say that my being taken home when I screamed in a store was class privilege, but you know, I can only remember having 2 babysitters in my life, and that was when I was older. so, while you have some good points, I don't think that a parent's need to be in public can trump their need to teach children the behavior appropriate for the setting. and I do think it's possible to meet both.

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  28. b. g. just shut up. and La Labu, as to your culture argument-if the spaces a child is in is culturally appropriate for their behavior, there won't be complaints. You say it was normal for children to be at evening weddings-and I'm guessing there weren't complaints, if it truly was expected and normal as you describe. Hence where I say learning the expectations for them, rather than one standard of right behavior. because you're right, everyone does have an opinion. and different public spaces have different rules. that doesn't excuse children from the rules of the space they're in.

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  30. Right, I've also never been to an adults-only wedding. Also, hearing a screaming child in public is pretty rare for me. Really, often when I see kids misbehave I think either parents are expecting too much of a young child, the child is tired and should've been in bed earlier or something. There is expecting kids to behave properly and then there is expecting kids to behave perfectly. As the title says, "children are people too" and people get upset, whiny and angry once in a while. If this happens too often, that's a problem.

  31. Keori, I have to say that I'm a little confused about your assertion that you are superior to soldiers in our society. In what way are you the "alpha" to soldier? But that is beside the point.

    What I really don't get is how you first say that children are the same as dogs and horses because they have to be trained, then point out that your children behave well in public because you communicate with them. Communication is the reason children are different from dogs and horses. You can't explain things to a dog and then ask it to demonstrate its comprehension. You can certainly do that with a nine-year-old child, which is why a nine-year-old child should not be compared to an animal.

    Anna, I do not envy you your deleting job here. I'm sorry that some people are being such asses.

  32. (((kisses La Lubu!))) And yeah, HI SNOWDROP!

    I went to the Mass (photos of adorable children on my blog! beware!) for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday--and I was also struck by the difference in child behavior in another cultural setting. The Latino kids were allowed to wander around during Mass, but they were largely quiet and didn't touch anything. They just wandered. It made me a little nervous since I am not used to that. But I noticed allowing them to wander a bit had the overall effect of keeping them more quiet than if they had to sit in one spot and be still for a long time. So, were they badly behaved for the wandering, or well-behaved for staying (mostly) quiet? See, that's a subjective judgment.

    Anna, thank you for allowing us to have this discussion here.

  33. Just a response to Daisy: You say that you're annoyed by adults being loud and destructive. I would point out that that's why noise complaints get filed, public mishief, drunk and disorderly...get the picture? It's not like it's something that people expect from adults and just wish to punish kids by not letting them do. Having (and learning! Now that's a teaching moment.) consideration, respect and compassion for those around you is something that's excellent for everyone.

    And no, I'm clearly not talking about babies. Older toddlers and, say, ten year olds? Do you really give them so little credit as to assume that they cannot possibly learn any of the things that are expected of people as they grow older? (I know the answer, apparently most of the folks around here, in addition to a metric ton of privilege, think so little of children's intellect that they could never imagine that children could be taught basic social norms.)

    And again, comparing a disability/neurological condition with the refusal on parent's part to actually parent? Wow, that's some disgusting ablism there. Again, not surprising here, sadly.

    I'm still amazed at how few people seem to assume that the only alternatives are either to refuse to discipline or teach your child (itself being something that should be seen as neglect) or to beat your child into terrified silence. There are many, many contexts where kids can yell and be as, well, kid-like as they want. Outdoors, parks, yards, kid's events, houses where that is welcomed. But who am I to get in the way of a good black-and white strawman?

  34. Cobalt 60 said what I was going to, basically. Adults do have policing on their behavior in public places. I have had to call police for noise complaints. As a lifeguard, I had to remove adults from a public pool for being drunk and dangerous more than once. Nobody claims I hate adults because I expect them to follow posted rules. Lyndsay-yes, children get tired or upset. so do I. If I therefore start screaming in a grocery store, or running around a nice restaurant, I am asked to be quiet or leave. If I don't do either then I am forcibly removed from that particular public space for not following the rules. Why is it hatred of children to suggest that the same consequences should apply, other than the fact that the people removing them is generally someone who supposedly loves them instead of police or security employees who don't claim to love me?
    Daisy-I'd ask the same question about the children wandering in services that I did to La Labu about the children at weddings. If this is normal and expected, how many people complained?

  35. Anna,

    A wonderful post. Regardless of our political disagreements, I always appreciate your thoughtful commentary and am happy that you choose to share it with people you've never met.

    As a long-ish-time blogger (two years and counting), I fully understand the difficulty in dealing with trolls. They can quickly ruin a good discussion, or, even if there isn't much discussion, give you a massive headache. It is, of course, your blog - the mere fact that the public has access does not obligate you to give them (us?) any control over it.

    As for my super-adorable, truly awesome little siblings: they are well-behaved, because the adults in their lives (i.e. our parents) taught them to act that way. They don't act like miniature adults, but rather like well-behaved children, because that is exactly what they are. Those who hate modern youngsters would do better to direct their venom and vile at the parents who refuse to fulfill that role.

  36. Anna-

    Thanks for this post. It really put some pieces together for me... where do you think these child insults common in internet comments are coming from? It seems like there is a larger group of people on the web who discuss their hatred for children and exchange acidic insults that they all laugh at together. What is it that links these people together? Is there a name for it?

  37. Great question theczech! I've put up a new thread for thoughts and responses here.

  38. ~~That you would compare referring to untrained children as "feral" to institutionalized racism, sexism, and homobigotry tells me where you come from. At the most basic, it's intellectually dishonest and stinks of rich white heterosexual privilege. Try being a minority for a while with actual laws codifying your sub-human status. Then you can whinge about how adults don't like being around badly behaved children.~~


    Anna, I find it extremely troubling that not only do you see nothing wrong with comparing child-directed insults to the institution that is racism, you continue to use such terminology, and you do not respond to the many commenters who before me who have pointed out why such a comparison is problematic at best.

    Comparing racism to insults directed at children not only marginalizes adult Blacks, but also disregards the racism felt by young Black children. Children who, as another commenter stated, will grow out of their childhood, but will not grow out of being Black.

    You, as a White person, are in no position, to compare the effects of racism to ANYTHING.

  39. Try being a minority for a while with actual laws codifying your sub-human status.

    Um, not to point out the obvious or anything, but the Fourteenth Amendment ensures that minorities are treated equally. So there are no laws in 2008, at least in America, which "codif[y] your sub-human status."

    There are, however, many laws which treat children as fundamentally different from adults. Some of them are sensible (e.g. the prohibition on voting and drinking); some are not.

    Finally, I find it extraordinarily troubling that minorities hold a "us against them" attitude. Why do you kick your supporters in the face? Anna, from what little I know of her, is extremely sensible and caring. Telling her to STFU about racism does not make you look good.

  40. bridget-are you seriously suggesting that children are appropriate allies for people dealing with racism? wow. way to show the exact thing she was talking about. I thought this could be an interesting discussion. I was sort of hoping Anna would engage with these arguments-defend(in an academic sense) her argument that racism is an appropriate analogy. but no.

  41. kb, I'm thinking about what a lot of you have said and working on some thoughts. I plan on posting a "take two" on some of the issues in the next few days, where I'm going to try and respond to some of the concerns raised here about my original thoughts. Many of your arguments are complicated to address and I (at least) need time to consider and respond adequately to them. For the moment I have been reading and taking in what you have to say.

    Thanks (once again) to all of you for the discussion . . .

  42. ~~Um, not to point out the obvious or anything, but the Fourteenth Amendment ensures that minorities are treated equally.~~

    sniff, sniff....Anybody else smell bullshit?

    ~~Finally, I find it extraordinarily troubling that minorities hold a "us against them" attitude. Why do you kick your supporters in the face?~~

    We iz so sorry, Miz Bridget! We iz on our knees thanking the nice white lady from coming down on high to save us poor lil' negroes!


  43. fair enough-it takes time to think and properly engage. I do look forward to it.

  44. Anna, I'm sorry I missed your comment yesterday. I look forward to reading your response.

  45. bridget-are you seriously suggesting that children are appropriate allies for people dealing with racism?

    Obviously not. Your ally in all this would be Anna, who is sensitive to issues affecting all humans, not just those who fit her demographic.

    Angel H.,

    Asking to not be kicked in the face isn't the same as asking for thanks or adulation. Obviously.

    What I forever take issue with is this nonsense that some people of colour have about "owning" the civil rights movement, as if human dignity is a concept that can be doled out. (Actually, it's a paradigm that's remarkably reminiscent of eras in which people were denied their rights.) Some basic facts:
    1. It takes not just the affected group, but unaffected groups who care about all of humanity, in order to effectuate change.

    2. It's not a contest about who has suffered the most, or who has it the worst. Anna made an analogy. We don't need to re-learn the lessons about the evils of discrimination and hatred all over again, simply because a new group is being affected.

    3. Again, with this ownership of the civil rights movement, and the snark directed at anyone who is not African-American but dares to say anything about it: WTF? Anyone remember the California Prop 8 results? The sheer anger of the African-American community that any group would have the temerity to believe that their struggle for basic civil rights is comparable? Remember how the Prop 8 results were tipped by the 70% of African-American voters who voted for it? Classy.

  46. Angel,

    As for your contention about the codification of discriminatory laws: did I forget the XIII and XV Amendments? Mea culpa. Another mea culpa for using shorthand of the Fourteenth Amendment to include not just that, but the Supreme Court decisions that have interpreted it since, especially those that came out in the '50s and later.

    Instead of giving a snarky comment that does absolutely nothing to refute my point, why don't you try backing yourself up with logic, reason, and facts? Give us a law on the books that a) facially discriminates against minorities and b) would withstand Fourteenth Amendment scrutiny if challenged. (I'm not even asking for the third requirement, which is that it be enforced on a semi-regular basis.)

    Anna's post is entitled "A Teaching Moment." Somehow, I doubt she would mind if her commenters were to take the opportunity to do the same.

  47. Bridget,

    Yes, everyone should be involved in civil rights issues. I never claimed that it was exclusively a POC issue. My contention, as well as others who have posted, is that Anna wrongfully compared the struggles against racism to insults directed at children. As a white woman, she has no fucking clue as to how harmful, demeaning, and dehumanizing it is for a POC to deal with covert and institutionalized racism. To claim that someone calling a child a "shrieking little carpet ape" is the same as, or just as hurtful, as someone calling a POC a racial epithet shows an overwhelming amount of white privilege on her part and yours.

    And speaking of your own white privilege: Are you seriously telling me that after those ammendments were passed, racism and racial prejudice just [poof!] disappeared? Get over yourself.

    As for the Prop 8 "blacklash":

    Get a fucking clue.

  48. Hi all,

    I just published the promised take two post. I look forward to your comments. I will not be online for most of this evening, so please don't expect active interaction in the thread. I will be reading all of your posts eventually, and if you are interested in further response I will certainly try to follow up as soon as possible.

    In the meantime, I request that all of you are mindful of my request not to use abusive language in your comments. I want to hear what all of you say, but if you are continually disrespectful of fellow posters or appear intentionally derogatory in your language when writing about children, I will moderate and delete.

  49. Angel H.

    Do not swear at me. I don't appreciate it, our hostess does not, and, finally, it has the opposite effect of the one you are aiming for (i.e. it detracts from your comments, rather than strengthening them).

    You claimed that there are laws in America which codify discrimination against blacks. You've never actually backed yourself up on that. You've criticised me when I've called you out on it, distorted what I've said, and tried to take this on little side routes, but never actually backed up the substance of your claim.

    I'm just asking you to provide a modicum of evidence for your claim: is there a law, on the books in the United States in 2008, which facially discriminates against African-Americans but would withstand Fourteenth Amendment scrutiny?

    Finally, 70% of blacks voted for Prop 8. You may put any spin you want on that, from blaming it on the Mormons to throwing rhetoric (not logic) at it, but it doesn't change the facts.

  50. Angel,

    To claim that someone calling a child a "shrieking little carpet ape" is the same as, or just as hurtful, as someone calling a POC a racial epithet shows an overwhelming amount of white privilege on her part and yours.

    Analogies work if they are accurate in either degree or kind. I believe that Anna was making an analogy of the latter type (i.e. stating that the type of discrimination, and the lack of dignity afford to children, is akin to how people of colour are treated). She did not make a quantitative judgment on whether one is more pervasive, hurtful, or frequent than another.

    As a linguistic note, I absolutely despise the term "privilege" and would never apply it to men, to heterosexual married people, or anyone else. To me, the term connotes something given that is neither earned nor an inherent right, which is an entirely inappropriate means of describing human dignity.

    As such, our goal is not to erase white, male, heterosexual, or upper-class "privilege" (the way one typically deals with privilege), but to ensure that the benefits which accrue to those people are available to all. Human dignity, unlike legacy admissions into Harvard, is not a zero-sum game.

    In some respects, that is a deviation; in another, I would like you to know that this business of crying "white privilege" isn't going to cow me, because I find the term itself to be fantastically irritating.

    I've had friends who have taken the time to discuss racial issues with me. As a feminist, I've found that there are men who are wonderfully amenable to hearing about women's concerns. Really, it's the only way the world is ever going to change. One side has to be ready to listen, and the other side has to talk.

    So tell us what it's like to be black in America. That we have yet to understand (although I think we do, but I'll play along with this game) does not mean that we cannot understand.

  51. I would have liked to have read this post in its original form. If it needed editing, as I gather it did, some indication that it had been edited should have been given. Nothing wrong with rethinking a few things and updating to reflect that; bloggers do it all the time.

    Bridget, the way you've responded to Angel is condescending as . . . ah, HECK. Sometimes people react that way out of defensiveness or anger or the urge to defend a friend or what have you, but this--this, if you'd written nothing else:

    So tell us what it's like to be black in America. That we have yet to understand (although I think we do, but I'll play along with this game)

    --this indicates a problem on your end that goes way beyond anger and defensiveness and having someone's back. That problem, surprise surprise, is exactly what the women of color criticizing this post and your arguments said it was. Because you know something? It's not a game. And generally speaking, only white people think there's a race card and that it's something people of color get off on playing.

    So, no. No, I don't think you understand "what it's like to be black in America." That you'd even suppose you could, especially while you're in the midst of telling Angel to speak like this, don't speak like that, make your argument this way, and oh p.s. tell me what I demand to be told even as I accuse you of doing so for duplicitous game-playing reasons, is pretty galling.

    I hate that I would have liked this post but for the initial offense and its aftermath. It's even a great discussion (well, minus bg, whose comments sound like they needed deleting) right up until Bridget comes back at Angel. If that is the kind of discourse privileged here, forget it! I can go back to fangirling over Angel, Daisy, and La Lubu at their own blogs.

  52. I would have liked to have read this post in its original form. If it needed editing, as I gather it did, some indication that it had been edited should have been given.

    Just to clarify, Ilyka, this post is still in its original form -- I just added another post on the same theme to my blog (the link above).

    Angel H. & Bridget, I agree with Angel that it is not productive or accurate to blame African-Americans for Prop 8. This post was never indended to be a place where various types of discrimnation, marginalization, and hatred were judged for relative value. Prejudice and privilege are much more complicated than that.

  53. Anna,

    I'm sorry if my statements came off as "blaming" blacks for the result of Prop 8. I wasn't making a proximate cause argument, or anything having do with the closeness of the vote tally; my intention was to point out the cognitive dissonance in supporting one civil rights cause (and doing so out of a complete understanding of how important it is) while literally simultaneously voting against another.

    My understanding of third-wave feminism is that it encompasses not just well-off white women, but also issues of poverty, race, sexual orientation, and the like (recognising that all discrimination springs from the same root of denying human dignity to people). Libertarianism (small "l") is supported by similar arguments. That's why statements about "appropriating" civil rights movements rub me the wrong way; it implies a legitimacy of one movement, but not another.


    Do not attempt to evaluate the soundness of my psyche over the internet. Telling me that I have "issues" and "problems that go way beyond..." is condescending, cruel, and as dehumanising as it gets.

    Question my arguments all you want, or my logic or reasoning or what I present, but please do not strip away all human dignity and presume to know my mind, and deem it unfit.

    I have treated, and will continue to treat, Angel in one way, and exactly one way: the manner in which I would treat a white person who makes similar arguments.

    Somehow, though, that will be "racist," and you and Angel and others will fail to understand that white people, who haven't a racist bone in their bodies, get really bloody tired of being called racists.

  54. As for the "race card":

    1. No group is immune from wrongdoing, since they are made up of humans who occasionally screw up. To suggest that blacks never, ever play the race card is just as ridiculous as suggesting that whites are never, ever racist.

    2. The difference between consciousness-raising and playing the race card is that the former can be substantiated. That's why, when the issue of racism is brought up, I ask about it. Otherwise, I'm never going to know; I'll know that something is apparently wrong and offensive, but it will remain an entirely subjective evaluation, not something that can ever be understood nor applied to other situations.

    So Ilyka, you read it backwards. .

  55. white people, who haven't a racist bone in their bodies, get really bloody tired of being called racists

    I just want to point out, Bridget, that all of us, by virtue of being born in a racist culture, are vulnerable to being racist, however unintentionally. As many people on this thread have pointed out, as white women we don't--and can't--experience racism in the same way as people of color. That doesn't mean we can't engage in a conversation about what's being read as racism and why -- but we shouldn't assume our actions and words are entirely unimpeachable just because we don't mean to be offensive.

    As a general comment to all of you, I am still reflecting on and trying to engage with some of the issues you have raised about my original and subsequent post on marginalization of children. Thank you.

  56. Anna,

    You make a wonderful point. I did not mean to suggest that anyone is unimpeachable; I was actually trying to get at the opposite point.

    My issue with being called a racist is pretty simple: the history of racism is so ugly and horrible that using that term is incredibly harsh.

    The ironic part in all this is that if you understand and appreciate the racism that has occurred in this country, you'll also understand why calling someone a racist (or even making that implication) is a pretty heavy accusation.

    Sexism, while still an ugly thing, wasn't nearly as bad as the history of racism in America. Yet, I do my best to not throw the "sexist" label on men who unintentionally say or do something that is based on a male norm. From a totally pragmatic standpoint, no one wants to listen to it, and you can practically hear the circuits in their brains shut off. More than that, anyone who is of good will is more than happy to listen and to hear your perspective. If it's presented as, "Hey, did you ever think about it this way," as opposed to, "You sexist idiot" (or the functional equivalent thereof), the person is absolutely going to listen.

    Maybe we differ in what "racism" means to us. To me, it cannot be separated from the ugly connotation of Jim Crow, slavery, and a wholesale denial of human rights to members of our society.

  57. Anna thank you for your comments and for clarifying your position.


    Wow. So much to learn. So little time.

    Since Anna responded to my queries and I don't want to derail any further, I'm going to suggest that you do a little - er, A LOT - of reading on the subject of racism and white privilege in this country. And while you're at it, take a good, hard, LONG look in the mirror. Fair warning, though, you might see something that you don't like.

  58. You're a complete dolt. Spawn is a technical term-children are spawned by their parents. It's like the word offspring, sire, or any other biological term for child. I didn't call them hellmonkeys, for goodness sake.

    You have too thin a skin to be on the internet posting opinions if you take offense to spawn. Perhaps it's best to quit while you're ahead.

  59. Suzy,

    The fact that a term is technically correct does not stop it from being used in a derogatory manner. Spawn is first and foremost a term used for fish and amphibian eggs -- not human young. And given that my original post was all about the use of non-human metaphors to talk about children, your comment was ill-considered at best and deliberately insulting at worst.

    My offer is still open if you would like to post any sort of substantive commentary on the original post or any of the subsequent discussion. If all you are interested in doing is complaining about the moderation of my blog, I'm not going to accept further comments from you.

  60. Angel,

    And while you're at it, take a good, hard, LONG look in the mirror. Fair warning, though, you might see something that you don't like.

    Babe, let's make something clear: the character assassination has gotten old, fast. I don't know where you get off making moral judgments about me, simply because I had the temerity to question you.

    When I look in the mirror, I see a woman whom I like and respect. That's the result of values and toughness. Now, in your world, those are bad things, because people who are intellectually inquisitive, principled, and disciplined can't be cowed.

    This isn't about racism or consciousness-raising; it's about a power trip to see whether or not the white people here are going to feel guilty enough about what their ancestors did to bow down to you.

    Sorry, but I don't hold unearned guilt as my god, and the basis for my actions are values and objective facts. You've refused to present the latter; you've made huge, sweeping claims, and, when asked to - gawd forbid - explain it, thrown "white privilege" around like beads at Mardi Gras.

    Sorry, Angel, but there are no bills of attainder in this country.

    Not cowed. Standing upright. Pissing you off because I have the temerity to question a black person. RAAAAAAAAACIST!

    [throws up in mouth]

  61. Bridget,

    I realize that both you and Angel H. are responsible for the tone of your back-and-forth about racism . . . but I would appreciate it if you would not further derail this thread by using it as a platform for personal attacks. Your comment embodies the very same sort of disrespect for another person's point of view that you're accusing Angel H. of displaying.