No, You Don’t Have A Right

July 27, 2010 § 10 Comments

by KATIE E.

…to child-free spaces.

I’m afraid it’s true. You don’t have a right to demand a public space without kids anymore than I have a right to demand a public space without women. Or people of color. Or trans* people. Or…anyone. I would think that as social justice minded individuals we would collectively realize how seriously screwed up the notion that we can exclude a group of people from the public sphere is.

You know what else you don’t have a right to? You don’t have a right to demand parents to “control” children in public, as if they are animals or objects. You don’t get to police parenting techniques, and you don’t get to demand that kids don’t demonstrate age-appropriate behavior.

If you are going to call out misogynists, racists, ableists, trans/fat/lesbo/bi/homophobes or anyone else contributing to the kyriarchy, but you are completely open about the fact that you just hate children, you are a hypocrite.

Also, Jezebel? I have HUGE problems with your site, particularly the way you brand feminism, but now you’ve officially lost a reader. It features what I’ve often heard called the “oppression olympics” (Racism and sexism are much worse than child-hate!), and polices a woman’s choice not to call herself a feminist, which, if you read the feministe comment thread, she clearly has good reasons for.

The Jezebel thread is even worse, and includes very thinly veiled racist attacks on mai’a. (Making fun of her daughter’s name and the like.)

If Mai’a or anyone else who agrees with her is reading this, good for you and I’m so sorry you have to deal with all of these horrible comments. If you’re one of the other “feminists” I saw exhibiting ageist, child-hating behavior, you’ve made me pretty ashamed to be a feminist and normal fan of feministe today.

Things You Should Read on This:

My Child Take Up Space

Being anti-children isn’t really helping anything, you know.

§ 10 Responses to No, You Don’t Have A Right

  • I love you all, writers at Women’s Glib. I do sometimes wish for clarity, however. I mean, are you saying that it is unreasonable to expect parents to look after their children in public, or are you simply saying that child-haters and those who get angry when kids act like kids are exhibiting ageist behavior? Because the latter is certainly true, but I would take issue with the former. Because kids are…well, usually relatively small and defenseless. And parents who completely ignore their children and allow them to go wherever and do whatever in public frankly annoy me. It’s not only dangerous to allow your kid to wander off in public, it’s downright rude. I’ve seen kids in grocery stores throwing fits and tearing things down off the shelves–making a mess and destroying merchandise, costing the store employees and owners time and money. I’ve also seen kids as young as two or three just standing around, looking lost, in the middle of the mall or a Wal-mart. I don’t think it would be policing parenting techniques to say that these parents are being careless and inconsiderate, both of their own children and other people. Yes, parents have a right to take their children out in public. But they also have the responsibility to make sure that their children are safe and at least reasonably non-destructive while doing so.

  • Elena says:

    The reason why I enjoyed Mai’a’s piece so much is because she points out that child-free also means mother-free. If we expect women to do the majority of child care, then we punish women when they are out in public with their children.

    The only times I think children shouldn’t be allowed in an area if there are laws placing age restrictions. If a sixteen year-old can’t go to an R-rated movie, then a baby can’t, either. If a bar or nightclub is age 21+, then babies shouldn’t be there because, well they aren’t 21.

    I did find it interesting that one thing the Feministe commenters discussed was how children shouldn’t be permitted to watch live theatre. I’ve had to deal with families bringing in small children to high school/college performances, and overall, they enjoy it. Most are quiet, and ushers are quick to deal with parents with screaming children (my HS AV class helped create a closed circuit TV so families taking care of noisy children in the lobby could continue to see the show). The reason why I am an actor and an artist is because I went to see lots of live theatre as a child, and went to museum exhibits since birth.

    By saying “No! Children can’t be around anything non-child like!”, we are negatively affecting their development and understanding of the world around them.

  • Brit says:

    I agree with Elena on the age-restriction thing, which is where I think a lot of other people have issues too. If you expect a place to be adult only, and the policy is 21+, 18+, whatever, then NO ONE under that age should be allowed in. Because then where is the line drawn? An 8 year old can get in but not a 17 year old? What if the 17 year old is with a parent (tried that, doesn’t work).

    And overall, I think people on both sides need to be a little more forgiving and understanding of each other:

    Parents need to know their kids; when I was 5, I went to theatres and fancy restaurants because my parents knew I would sit still for a 3 hour show. When my brother was 5, my parents knew he couldn’t handle stuff like that, and so we did a lot of fastfood and park trips instead. Parents need to know what their kids can and cannot handle, and respond accordingly.

    At the same time, non-parents (or people who are anywhere without kids), need to know that, hey, kids can be loud, messy, and expressive but generally, they’re pretty cool. And, like it or not, they are part of our society. Babies are probably going to cry on airplanes; bring earplugs. Kids are probably going to run around in public places; make a joke about them running into things, and if it gets bad, talk to the parents.

    Parents are frazzled, and may not always be attentive; the best kid may decide to throw a tantrum in the middle of a store; someone who’s had a long day may snap at a fairly well-behaved kid…we’re all just human.

    So I guess…just try to understand the other side, and don’t be an extremist. Tends to be good advice for life in general ;)

  • Melissa says:

    What bothers me most about the child-hate brigade is that every single one of those people was a child at one time. Does not compute.

    Not wanting your own children? Fine. Not particularly liking to be around children? Fine. But categorically “hating” children and feeling like they have less of a right to public spaces than you do? It doesn’t make any sense.

  • Alara Rogers says:

    If a sixteen year-old can’t go to an R-rated movie, then a baby can’t, either.

    Actually, both the sixteen year old and the baby can go if the *parent* is going… and if the parent isn’t going, the baby sure as heck isn’t going by herself. :-)

    And this tends to outline the absurdity of age restrictions rather than make a good point for consistency; say it’s an NC-17 movie that a 16 year absolutely isn’t allowed into even with a parent. Why *shouldn’t* a baby who does not yet understand language and will spend the entire time nursing *not* go? Why can’t an 8-year-old go into a bar with a parent if the reason an 18 year old isn’t allowed in is that the 18 year old can easily pass for 21 and could attempt to scam a drink, against the law, whereas everyone can see that the 8 year old is underage, and no one would be fooled if she asked for an alcoholic drink?

    If age restrictions exist for a good reason, then that good reason needs to be applied when enforcing the age restriction. Why aren’t 18 year olds allowed in bars? Because it leads to underage drinking, because they are old enough to look like they belong and old enough to want to drink, but too young to be permitted. Would the same thing happen with an 8 year old? No. What happens if the parent of an 8 year old wants to go in the bar and the 8 year old is with him? Can she head home by herself? No. Can the 18 year old? Yes. So does the restriction on the 18 year old make sense? yes. On the 8 year old? No, unless your motivation is “kids don’t belong in bars”, and if they’re not drinking, why not? Isn’t that the parent’s call, not yours?

    Now, I’m hardly a fan of the concept of Daddy dragging his daughter along to the bar because he wants to get his drink on and Mommy’s working, but if Daddy’s an alcoholic, odds are, he’s going to the bar anyway, so the options are, he leaves his daughter home alone so he can go get drunk, he drinks at home where he’s only got an 8 year old around him if he incapacitates himself, or he takes his daughter to the bar where, at the very least, there are other human beings around that she can turn to for help, and if you make him taking his daughter to the bar illegal, then some people are going to abandon their kids to go drink. You did not in fact solve the problem you were trying to fix, if the problem you were trying to fix was irresponsible parents dragging kids to bars because they are alcoholics.

    • Elena says:

      I brought up the bar/R-rated movie example because both of those spaces do have age restrictions/situations where small children could be adversely harmed. Depending on the R-rated film, there may be content that could scare the baby/small child, and a crying baby could impede on otehr viewer’s experiences And unlike live theatres, there are not as many ushers present to immediately take care of distractions such as crying children.

      There are some restaurants and bars that may be more child-appropriate (there are several in my community that have a full restaurant menu and more child-friendly atmosphere), but regular “bars” where the sole purpose is for patrons is to drink (some to inebriation) could be dangerous to children. Whether it would be safer for the 8-year-old of the hypothetical alcoholic father to go to the bar with him, or stay at home while he wnt drinking is a moot point, because both are dangerous. A small child cannot drive home if the parent has had too much to drink, and other bar patrons could accidentally harm said 8-year-old, OR give them alcohol as a joke. An 8-yar old home alone without supervision could harm themselves, but it would be better if the hypothetical father wasn’t an alcoholic.

      There are also bars that I could not go to, even if I was accompanied with my parents, because they are strict about there “No patronsl Under 21″ policy. I doubt such establishments would also allow an 8-year old accompanied with parents, either.

      And yes, I meant that the majority of child care is performed by mothers, but is not necessarily always the case. Women as caregiver is the norm, wheras men performing caregiving responsibilities is seen as a special (ie, rare) occaison, unless of course that caregiving is accompanying the child on a fishing or hunting excursion.

      The point of this long-winded ramble being that when we designate too many “child free” spaces, the caretakers are also adversely affected as well. Child-free spaces should be limited to situations where a childs prescence could be harmful to themselves, or other people around them.

  • no says:

    Elena, the “mother-free” point is only true if you believe only women/mothers are caregivers.

    • mirandanyc says:

      Well…women currently make up the vast majority of caregivers, for better or worse, so excluding kids from a space in theory often means excluding women in practice. (I read Elena’s comment not as suggesting that only women are caregivers, or that only women should be caregivers, but that most caregivers are women. Which is true.)

      As feminists, we should seek to include and advance women in non-domestic fields of work, but also to improve the conditions and social value of “women’s work” — and creating more child-friendly spaces is an improvement.

  • […] Women’s Glib (response to Feministe Child-Free Spaces post): You don’t have a right to demand a public space […]

  • whatsername says:

    Could not have said it better!

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