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  1. Michael
    Michael July 27, 2010 at 2:46 am |

    While I agree with you that children and, by extension parents, should not be excluded from all public spaces, I think there is still a line that should be drawn. In a nice restaurant, or in other locations where there are decorum standards that are applied across the spectrum of people, those standards shouldn’t be lifted for anyone. For example, I doubt anyone would make a similar argument for the right to yell on your cellphone in a nice restaurant; a person doing that would be asked to either silence their conversation or leave the restaurant. There shouldn’t be an exception for children; if they are breaching the standards set for public decorum in a certain place with clearly stated standards, then their parents should be asked to either convince them to be quiet or leave.

    Similarly, in a store, there’s nothing wrong with children being there, but if they’re running around out of control knocking things over and causing havoc, a situation which is depressingly common at least here in the United States, then their parents should be asked to reign them in or leave. I recognize that children are just as much a human being as anyone else, but so are the people they are irritating and inconveniencing, and those people have a right to live their lives unmolested just as much as children do.

    The difference, though, is that the people in the hypothetical restaurant and store are following societal norms for public behavior and being disturbed despite that, where the hypothetical children in question are breaching those norms. Rewarding them with attention and presents for breaching those societal norms strikes me as a spectacularly bad idea for cultivating future adherence to those norms.

    Necessary disclaimer: no, of course I’m not saying that all societal norms are good things that should be followed at all times and all costs, but many of the norms that children violate in public are relatively non-contentious, at least in my experience: walking and speaking quietly while indoors, being polite to others, being careful with things that don’t belong to them, and so on and so forth.

  2. Tiff
    Tiff July 27, 2010 at 4:27 am |

    I disagree for a couple of reasons, But before I say that I want to voice my support for more porous boundaries and more child friendly locations in the US. One of my fav. places in Berlin is a coffee shop that is designed to entertain children and cater to their needs as well as the needs of adults. Additionally, my friend’s children are always welcome at parties we throw, and if we are going to do things not conducive to having children present we wait until the kids are asleep in the back room before doing those things.

    Children however should not be allowed in some private-public places. just as teens are not allowed in inappropriate night clubs and nor should children. I feel that it is perfectly acceptable to create areas which cater to adult activity in particular. It is good to have places where adults can act and converse in ways which are appropriate for public, but not for children. (to this I do not mean simply the ability to curse, but to have more explicit language or simply have a space free of the stress of children)

    Childfree places also allow a space of potential safety for adults with PTSD who may not be able to handle sudden loud noises comfortably, or folk with physical issues such as the inability to handle high pitched noises.

    I also think that places which service the general public should not discriminate against children, nor should anyone using that place whether or not a child is having a momentary tantrum.

    Finally, l while I make sure that my home can handle children and that my parties are comfortable as possible of children and parents, I do not presume to insist that other people open their private homes and parties to kids. The politics of not being sober in an adult setting with children present can be uncomfortable and binding–esp. if sexual banter is involved.

  3. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom July 27, 2010 at 6:25 am |

    Generally I don’t think of child-free spaces as a necessity – there are places and events I would consider inappropriate for children, but that’s not quite the same thing – but there are places where there should be an expectation of quiet. I have as little patience for a noisy adult interrupting me as I do for a noisy child.
    Children are part of society. So am I, and my requirements are also important.

  4. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 7:11 am |

    I’m having some trouble deciding how I feel about this. On one hand, I really understand what you’re saying, how children are just small people, they’re not wild animals and they should have the same right to these spaces as adults do. That expectations of children’s behavior are really expectations of mothers “controlling” their children.

    But on the other hand, my experience as a restaurant manager really make me feel like there’s some missing part of the puzzle. Children certainly are permitted in my restaurant. It’s a casual atmosphere, there are activities for children, etc. But when a mother comes in with three children who instantly drive out all our other customers with their noise and behavior, how am I supposed to feel about that? Some children were very well-behaved, and don’t create this problem. But when a group of children is shrieking, running up and down the aisles, running into other customers, drawing on the tables and causing complaints, where does this fall?

    Do you as an adult have a social obligation to be respectful of other people in the establishment (assuming they are respectful of you in return)? Do your children have that same obligation? If they fall short of the behavior exhibited by everyone else, is it their fault? Is it yours as a mother? What is a child-friendly, but business-conscious, restaurant manager to do?

    I’m not disagreeing with you– I’m just trying to reconcile the very good points you make with my personal (non-mother) experience on the subject.

  5. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 27, 2010 at 7:29 am |

    I knew having you guest post was going to be a great thing! Thank you, Maia. Thank you much. Before this thread degenerates into “ZOMG you take your child into a bar?!!11!!” or “keep her up past 7:00PM?!!?11!”:

    My most aggravating, angry-making “child free area” experience happened last month. At a bar? No. Restaurant? No. Movie theater? No. Symphony? No.

    It happened at a hospital. A cousin of mine sustained serious systemic injury and was airlifted to one of those “destination” hospitals that can handle that sort of thing (for clarification, Sicilian families are close, so this is not a distant relative. For further clarification, she used to live with me—along with her brothers and mother when they escaped an abusive situation. Before I had my daughter, I took her to “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” and showed her how to bend conduit and pull wire through it. We’re twenty years apart in age).

    So. She’s in the ICU, and in incredibly bad condition. Her kidneys are producing urine the color of motor oil, she had fasciotomies done on both legs (yep, open wounds that expose the muscle), and is in a great deal of pain. I knew my daughter (age 10, who as a preemie has her own litany of stories about hospitals and surgeries and the scars to prove it) wouldn’t be allowed in the ICU. I could live with that. I could live with that even though she has more internal resources for dealing with what she would see in the ICU more than most adults. But fine…I wasn’t going to press the issue, and I explained to my daughter she could sit in the waiting room and read a book, and I’d go visit in a few 30-minute sessions (seeing my daughter in between). Problem solved, right?

    Nope. The age restriction to be in the waiting room is age 12. The fucking waiting room. I don’t know whether my cousin is going to live or die at this point, and here I am after a long-ass drive with no one to help. I gritted my teeth, told my daughter to be very quiet and invisible, just read her book, and everything would be fine. I got my daughter settled with her book and a drink, and I went to see my cousin.

    When I got back, the Hall Monitor of the waiting room immediately started grilling me on my daughter’s age (though she was quietly sitting there in the back of the room, reading her book, disturbing no one). I wouldn’t lie. I told the Hall Monitor my situation (family member in crisis, me a single mother, a long driving distance so babysitting is out of the question, no other family members within a couple hours’ drive—and in case anyone wonders “why didn’t you just leave your kid with family?”, that long driving distance for me and for the rest of my family, is two different directions. It’s a three-hour drive for me to get to family.)—could she call her supervisor so we could get this resolved? Nope. I used every fiber of my being to stay calm while re-explaining the situation, and pointedly asking who is being harmed here by my daughter sitting by herself, and is this a place for healing? Nope.

    So I went off down the hall with my daughter, and we went to a nurse’s station to explain what was going on, and could they call for help. (this was going to be an ongoing problem; might as well make some kind of arrangement now). The nurses helped us out by putting us in a family conference room—which incidentally, had a television, puzzles, board games, and books in it.

    So, for international readers who wonder why these threads on child-free spaces get so heated, so fast…..it’s because of the extremely hostile USian attitude toward children, of which this example is but one. This is what USian parents, and especially USian single mothers, get to deal with on a regular basis.

  6. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 27, 2010 at 7:34 am |

    Before my comment gets out of moderation, I wish you peace and strength to get through the comments, Maia. It looks like the conversation is going to revolve around unruly children in restaurants (yet) again, rather than “how can spaces be more accommodating to everyone”.

  7. stellans
    stellans July 27, 2010 at 7:42 am |

    Last winter at breakfast out, my only pair of dress slacks was ruined by an adorable curly-haired moppet who plastered me with boysenberry-syruped hands. Her parents? Did nothing–she continued to run wild around the restaurant. The dry cleaners was unable to remove the stains.

    Unfortunately, the poor parenting of some adults will inevitably make it harder for parents of ‘cool kids.’ I will choose to eat at times and places where hopefully there will be no children. Unless my own grandchildren are visiting, then I will take them places where they are welcome, and where they will hopefully display the good manners they were taught by their mother, whose own manners were taught by me.

  8. Lynnsey
    Lynnsey July 27, 2010 at 7:51 am |

    I think most reasonable people know approximately where the thin gray line is here. On one side of it is the right of any individual (including children AND their parent/caregiver) to enjoy themselves as is appropriate to the time/location/purpose of that event. On the other hand is the responsibility of the caregiver to realize when their charge has crossed the line and needs to be removed from the situation/calmed/etc.

    My husband and I were at the outdoor seating of a brewery’s pub-style restaurant (obviously a relatively casual experience). Our then-18-month-old was being his usual good-natured self, got a little fussy, but was easily distracted. The child at the table next to us, however, proved an important point about teaching appropriate behavior.

    He was, at a guess, between 2 and 3 years old. He was with his mother and what I assume were grandparents. They were obviously waiting for someone, which we later determined was the boy’s father. Before he arrived the boy twice threw something, first a crayon then a coin, which hit my husband. Shortly after, he threw a butter knife at his mother. She responded all three times by merely telling him no, then smiling. She sent mixed messages about his behavior. After the father arrived, he threw something that again hit my husband before demanding to get up and walk around. He was then very much in the way of the servers, their table being across form the outside waiters’ station. He eventually took a glass from the station and (I know because I had a good view) very purposely threw it to the ground where it shattered.

    It is one thing to be unapologetic for a fussy newborn who is quickly soothed or a toddler’s slightly louder existence, but there is a point at which you truly infringe on the rights of others to enjoy themselves/do their job/etc. and, I say this as a parent, you need to be attuned to that.

  9. stellans
    stellans July 27, 2010 at 7:53 am |

    I’d like to ask La Labu: Just how do you propose making spaces more accommodating to everyone? For better or worse, airplanes and restaurants are where most people get to experience other people’s children, in almost a hostage situation.

  10. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 7:55 am |

    The issue I take with kids in public spaces is when parents think that because their kids are allowed to be there, they can behave in any way that they want. If children are just little people, then they need to behave in the way people are expected to behave.

    I absolutely do NOT appreciate parents who let their kids run, literally run, around the library in which I work, yelling, knocking books over, whatever. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean I have to like the way they behave, and it doesn’t mean I have to not complain about them.

  11. Triflosa
    Triflosa July 27, 2010 at 7:57 am |

    This is the first time in human history where children can be, and very often are, deliberate lifestyle choices. Children now are not seen to be inevitable members of the family that every married adult eventually gains. This, I suppose, is the reason for the seemingly growing divide between the child-free and the people who have children. And I think it’s going to get worse in the future…

    Anyway, with regards to the article, you seem to be creating something of a straw man – ‘I don’t understand people who say they are feminists, yet want separate child/adult spaces!’ you claim. Well, I’ve never met a feminist who advocated that children shouldn’t be allowed to “mix” on planes, or in stores.

    I do accept that most places will have children in them and my response to this is quite simple: I don’t glare at parents or when their child starts screaming etc, but neither do I smile at them to give them encouragement. I mind my own business. I ignore them and their offspring.

    You say you were in a bar, and your friend called and asked if you wanted to hang out. You were then upset when she asked you if your daughter was with you. I know your kid wasn’t in the bar with you, but I do agree with the idea that children should not be in bars especially in the evenings. In my countries, most bars ban children at all times of the day. If a bar does allow a child in, the adult is only allowed to consume one alcoholic drink and then they must leave. Bars, along with porn cinemas, are places which are considered child-free areas for a good reason.

    But anyway, your friend called you up and asked if you wanted to drink and hang out. I’m guessing at her house. Here’s the thing… you want everyone to (rightfully) treat your child as the unique person she is. Perhaps your friend wanted to drink and hang out with YOU, but didn’t want to hang out with your daughter. Maybe she isn’t friends with your daughter. Maybe she does treat your daughter as a person, and just doesn’t like your daughter being at her social events. Or, if she is just treating your daughter as ‘child’, perhaps she (quite sensibly in my opinion) thought that an adult party with drunk people was not a good environment for a child to be in.

    Drinking parties with children are, thinking back on it, pretty miserable for everyone involved. They’re miserable for the mother because she has to constantly watch what her kid is doing (one party I was at had an 18 month old child that ending up eating the end of a cigarette butt). They’re miserable for the other adults because they find all of a sudden they can’t swear, tell dirty jokes etc. And most of all they’re crappy affairs for the child who has to avoid being stood on by drunk people. Seriously, drunk people + child do not mix.

    No one is wanting to exclude children from airplanes, cafes or shops. However, there are good reasons why children should be kept away from bars and drunken parties…and I guess you being annoyed at this apparent restriction is what this article is really about.

  12. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 7:57 am |

    No, sorry. There are spaces that should be adults-only, and here’s why:

    If you have an expectation of behavior in an establishment, you need to make sure that the people in that establishment are capable of adhering to that behavior. If I go out to a nice restaurant and begin to talk loudly and disruptively (which isn’t hard for me), I may be asked to quiet down by the waitstaff (which has happened). But the point is, as mortified and chagrined as I am, I check myself. If I don’t, I may be asked to leave the establishment. I have the cognitive skills to know that if I don’t want an incredibly embarrassing situation, I need to adjust my tone/behavior.

    You can’t do that with kids. A waitron is not going to address a diner’s child and tell them to stop loudly whining about how they want french fries, or stop yanking on the tablecloth. They can address the parents and HOPE that the parents can exert some sort of influence on the child to get the child to behave, and that’s only if they feel comfortable “telling someone else how to raise their child.” But there’s no guarantee that even if the parents DO try to get the kid to behave, that the kid will behave, and in the meantime while this grand experiment of behavior is playing out, the rest of the patrons have to deal, even if this is the nice meal he’d saved up for so that that he could propose, even if this was the first time a woman who has spent the last two years going to nothing but Applebee’s and TGI Fridays because of the kids was able to get out and go someplace nice and grown-up.

    You can’t throw a child out of a restaurant without also throwing out the parents. Because of this, parents are expected to act as the security detail in this instance, and if you’ve taken your child to a space that is inappropriate, then you’ve already given people reason enough to believe that you will not exercise good judgment when it comes time to respect the space.

    True story: for my birthday a few years back, a bunch of friends took me out to a restaurant/bar that we’d heard good things about. This place was hardly a quiet establishment, and we were seated at a table right next to the open kitchen. Now, I’m not a quiet person normally, and if you get a few drinks in me and enough background nose to try to overcome, I can easily lose track of how fucking loud I am. So I was really mortified when a waitress came over and asked me to quiet down. But meanwhile, at the table next to me, there was a two year old chattering at the top of her lungs, literally jumping up and down in her high chair, which then toppled over, resulting in a shrieking and screaming. Maybe the waitress asked the parents/girl to calm the fuck down before things went ass-over-end, maybe not. But I can promise you, the second I was talked to, I quieted down.

    We create a number of spaces that that child-only expectations: playgrounds, gymborees, etc. These spaces are built so that children can have space to run around and act like kids with relative safety: generally we enforce things like “no unleashed dogs in the playground” or “no creepy men hanging around in the front lobby of the gymboree.” Adults should be afforded the same consideration. When I go to a bar (and I mean a bar, not a bar/restaurant), I do NOT want to see children there. I want to be able to drop the F-bomb with impunity. I want to be able to make crude sex jokes with my friends. I want to have a little staggering room without worrying about tripping over a toddler. I want to talk to my friends like adults, and not have to entertain a 2-year-old who wants to tell me about how funny the last Shrek movie was. When I go to a $30-40/plate restaurant, I don’t want to have some jerk loudly trash-talking the furrin-sounding menu, but I also don’t want to have to deal with a child trying to monopolize his parent’s conversation at the top of his lungs. When I go to see an R-rated movie, I don’t want to hear someone behind me talking on their cellphone, but I also don’t want to hear a toddler start screaming the second the aliens start exploding everything.

    The list of adults-only spaces should be limited, but it should be respected. And even though you and your child have every right to be in a cafe, I am not required to smile and throw warm healing light your way the second your child starts shrieking. I did not sign on to raise your child–and I don’t see that I have some solemn duty to suffer your child’s bad behavior because your comfort and happiness is somehow more important than mine.

  13. Meg
    Meg July 27, 2010 at 7:58 am |

    The problem isn’t that some spaces should inherently be childfree by the category of space it is… it’s that children don’t control what spaces they can be in. Sometimes parents take them places where they don’t want to be, and if this discomfort results in behavior that is then inappropriate for those spaces, it isn’t the child’s fault. That said, part of raising a child is teaching them what behaviors are acceptable in some spaces but not others. This is how we learn.

    I’m currently childless, but I love seeing kids when I’m out shopping. They’re typically cute, and I have a soft-spot for making goofy faces at toddlers. That said, on a recent trip to Target I came across a small boy who had picked up a dog’s squeeky toy, and was incessantly squeeking it as he wandered around the store. For her own sanity, I have no idea how the mother allowed that. It was driving ME nuts, but I didn’t say anything to her. I can only imagine what she was avoiding that was worth allowing that noise to go on for so long. This doesn’t mean I think children shouldn’t be in Target, but *that child* shouldn’t have been allowed to do what he did in Target. Significant difference.

    Do I think some places should be childfree? Only if being in them endangers the child’s safety. I think some (but by all means NOT ALL) bars fall into that category. Some (but not all) gyms. There are some places where no matter how vigilant the mother/father/caretaker is, the kid won’t be safe. And here I’m making a distinction between someone who has the capacity to know the danger they are in, and someone who cannot determine safety for their own self.

  14. J_in_Tuwani
    J_in_Tuwani July 27, 2010 at 7:59 am |

    I think your exactly right. Nearly all of the worthwhile activists meetings I’ve been attended have had one thing in common – kids. In communities where children are treated like community members, this has never been “a problem.” The problem is with adults who insist on being separated from what life is about and what makes like worthwhile.

  15. Triflosa
    Triflosa July 27, 2010 at 8:02 am |

    Oh something else. I’ve noticed on American forums that many parents do take their children to bars. I’ve also noticed that many parents get pissed off when criticised for this. While I am against kids in bars, it probably should be noted that I am from a different culture so the idea of children in bars (other than family friendly ones where the kids go to have a meal with their family) with adults drinking around them blows my mind a bit. So if drinking in bars with a child is legal in America/other countries, then I will apologise for claiming that kids should not be in bars as I didn’t realise this was fine in other places. My bad.

  16. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom July 27, 2010 at 8:10 am |

    Airplanes – that’s a tough one, and the airlines do very little to make it easier.
    There’s nowhere for a small child to put their feet, except on their own seat or on the seat in front; not really comfortable to dangle one’s legs for three hours.
    If there’s a play area in the airport, it’s generally just one, inconvenient for most of the gates, and doesn’t allow for the sort of vigorous running and play that a child may need after being on a flight.
    There may be preboarding for younger children, but there’s no getting off the plane early at the other end.
    If this was right after we’d gotten back from vacation, I’d have a longer list – I have often wished that airlines would offer family flights where a greater degree of lively behavior on the part of children is allowed for (and why don’t they realize that handing out, for instance, stickers to children at about an hour into the flight would forestall a lot of the objectionable behavior? Anything of that sort is much more exciting to my children that whatever they may have brought along in their bags. Maybe a stash of children’s books on the plane?). Nobody wants their children to be annoying, but after seven hours of flying/waiting for flights/being stuck on the ground, annoyance happens.
    Restaurants – it would be rather nice if they had the equivalent of an old-fashioned cinema’s crying room, for those whose kids are having trouble being quiet. Somewhere to go that doesn’t equal leaving the restaurant, should there be trouble.
    Difficult to balance the rights and needs of all patrons, but it might be useful to look at the sort of practices that set children up to fail at being non-annoying.

  17. Q Grrl
    Q Grrl July 27, 2010 at 8:12 am |

    Childhood as identity politics? Swell!

    (I happen to care less about whether there are children around. 99.9% of the time I love having them around. I just think it is weird to politicize children as a identity group. I’m not sure that really gets to the root of our Western society approach to adulthood/childhood)

  18. Jadey
    Jadey July 27, 2010 at 8:16 am |

    I don’t think temporary physical discomfort is a good reason to exclude kids from a space. Sometimes it’s irritating, sometimes it’s painful (oh god, headache plus sudden baby scream – I am prone to this because malls both give me headaches and contain babies who I presume are also getting headaches from being in malls. Airplanes can suck for the same reason, but I hate everyone on airplanes including the pilot), but I actually don’t see it as a reason to exclude kids from a space. Damage to people or property is different; breaking things or hurting someone should be grounds for ejection, but not all kids hurt people or break things and not all non-kids don’t, so I still don’t see legitimacy for a ban. Otherwise I don’t believe in the right to a totally discomfort-free existence (which is not the same as saying some kinds of discomfort, e.g., those as a result of discrimination and prejudice, are okay). This is personal and clearly not a universal opinion, but in these conversations I see a lot of variations on a theme of “This is really aggravating/annoying/uncomfortable, and it should be absolutely prevented from happening.” I sympathize with the first part and I’ve been there, but I think the second part requires some consideration of how this is achieved. A kid making noise is not oppression. Sometimes it’s just life.

  19. Alix
    Alix July 27, 2010 at 8:17 am |

    I think children should go everywhere. That’s the only way they learn to behave in all situations.

    But…why are you posting for Feministe if you are not a feminist? Just curious.

  20. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 8:17 am |

    Since when have privileged groups (here, adults) ever enjoyed receiving the message, “You aren’t allowed to say and do everything that strikes your fancy”?

    Because that is the essential “problem” with bringing kids into what are considered (in the U.S.) “adult” spaces–all of a sudden, adults suddenly start feeling like we have to be on guard about not cussing, not talking so crudely about other people, not drinking until we pass out, etc. Either to protect the kids, or because we don’t trust kids to keep the shit we do a secret. (I, personally, would trust a five-year-old farther than I would any of the girls in my high school graduating class–but that’s me).

    The essence of privilege, be it male privilege, white privilege, or adult privilege, is to be allowed to do what you want. Having kids around puts that into jeopardy for grown-ups.

    I second La Lubu in wishing you intestinal fortitude to put up with the comment thread, Maia. Thanks for this post.

  21. gretel
    gretel July 27, 2010 at 8:23 am |

    I agree with Meg. You have to consider the safety of the child, and that is one instance where I cringe whenever I see a child in a LOUD environment. I study speech and hearing, and I know the devastating effects loud sounds can have on a child’s hearing and in turn speech and language development (that said, please turn down your iPod and wear some ear plugs to that show, grown-ups!).

    If it is a mellow bar/restaurant/whatever with soft music, then great. I love kids, and I think being around them makes the majority of people (not everyone obviously) more light-hearted and compassionate.

  22. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin July 27, 2010 at 8:23 am |

    If I have ever been critical of children, it has been for a few notable reasons. One, that I remember how certain kids can be cruel to each other at any age, and with memory that comes many painful recollections of being teased and picked on when I was a kid. Two, I am reminded of all the things about parenthood/ fatherhood that scare me, and I am filled full of fear and anxiety, contemplating if I’ll ever be ready to have a child of my own someday. Three, I am quicker to notice the bratty kids and not the well-behaved one, which reinforces my notion of not wanting to have them.

    You may have noticed that these are purely my own issues, and I own up to them. They reveal more about me than about any child who might cross my path. These days, children make me anxious, but only because I think thoughts like, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a kid someday?” which is quickly followed by, “No, no, no, no! Not ready yet.”

  23. Babs
    Babs July 27, 2010 at 8:25 am |

    As a comment on the “hostile USian attitude toward children”

    Speaking from a European perspective (specifically France and Germany), I rarely see children in bars, and I can’t ever recall seeing one under 5. It’s not done, it’s simply considered socially inappropriate. There are plenty of other venues were a person can take their child along if they want something alcoholic or have a social meet up, I’ve never seen anyone suggest it HAS to be a bar. The “bar or nothing” dichotomy seems to be an American thing.

    They(Europeans) go to restaurants or cafés where the kids have something to do, or the parents can sit outside and the kids can run around a little where they won’t be underfoot.
    I have seen some very well behaved children in bars, but they’re usually quiet bars with a very relaxed atmosphere, and not in the evening when the majority of drinkers come out.

    It’s not appropriate to bring children everywhere, and I dislike the blanket statements that “children are ok/not ok in bars.” Bars are all different. I would balk at someone bring a child to a tightly packed sports bar, a smoky nightclub or a 5 star “jackets required” establishment. But the neighborhood watering hole, the family restaurant with attached bar? These seem fine to me. And while in Europe, I’ll see kids in the former once in a while. And those children are NEVER running around or misbehaving like some of the American children I’ve seen, so people are more likely to give leeway to children being present in those situations.

    So maybe the lack of “hostility” is simply that culturally, the fight doesn’t exist. They don’t take kids to bars very often so they don’t feel the need to seek validation for doing it.

  24. Caitlin
    Caitlin July 27, 2010 at 8:25 am |

    Right on Maia!

    I don’t have kids but I have always worked with them and honestly I don’t understand all these restaurant comments. Since when does your desire to have a quiet meal (which isn’t even synonymous with barring children from restaurants- I find loud/obnoxious adults 10000 times more disruptive than any tantrum a kid can throw) trump a child’s right to exist in the public sphere? Trump their parent’s right to that public sphere?

    As as for airplanes, no one’s comfortable on an airplane, least of all many young children. Have I gotten annoyed by a kid kicking my seat? Yes. Have I gotten annoyed by an adult behind me thrusting their knees into my back or reclining into my lap? Double yes. Point being- yeah, I was annoyed. But it doesn’t mean I don’t think kids or obnoxious adults should be barred from airplanes.

  25. Caitlin
    Caitlin July 27, 2010 at 8:26 am |

    *Doesn’t mean I think kids or obnoxious adults should be barred from airplanes.

    Whoops!

  26. Shoshie
    Shoshie July 27, 2010 at 8:37 am |

    Stellans- Um, “hostage” situation? Seriously? You may not like being around kids, but you aren’t being coerced. You’re just being a part of society. And part of that society includes kids.

    Regarding bars in the US, I think it depends on the bar. You’ve got your chill folksy bar, your dive bar, your brew pub, your college student hangout, your jazz club, your chill bar underneath a bookstore (my favorite!), etc. Some of these are good for kids of various ages, and some aren’t. And when I say good, I mostly mean pleasant and safe for the child.

  27. BW
    BW July 27, 2010 at 8:39 am |

    But I think that if a child is loud and obnoxious and their ‘party’ is asked to leave, people will assume that the restaurant “simply doesn’t want to accomodate children there,” but if a group of adults is loud and obnoxious and their ‘party’ is asked to leave, they will either respond with indignation or “oops, guess we were jerks” – not with “adults aren’t welcome here!”

  28. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 8:39 am |

    It isn’t just about the comfort of adults, it’s about the safety of the child as well.

    Children have no place in bars because drunken adults are a danger to them. I would no more let a child be in a bar where an adult might fall on them due to drunkness than I would let one play with matches/an iron/any other dangerous object.

    Most of the places where I live have a curfew, children and families are positively encouraged before a certain time, after a certain time they have to leave. This is because after that time the bar restaurant is filled with late night drinkers, people watching footie matches which can result in violence, it’s generally packed, noisy and discomforting for children.

    After a certain time children should be home and settling down for the night, a pub at eight O’ clock at night with a football match on and all the adults screaming is not a pleasant place for any child to be and it isn’t a safe place for them to be either.

    Same goes for late night showings at the cinema, your child does not want to watch the midnight showing of gorefest 6, they want to be in bed and nobody else there wants to be subjected to their misery either.

    The fact is there are simply places and times which are not conducive to children, some are dangerous for the child and others, some are uncomfortable for the child and others.

    As a parent it is your job to recognise when a venue is inappropriate for your child, want to go somewhere where your child won’t be comfortable or safe? Get a babysitter or don’t go.

    It is also your job to recognise when your child is ready to major outings such as restaurants, if your child is not capable of behaving for the length of time needed for eating out in a nice restaurant? Don’t take him or her. The kid won’t thank you for the strain of trying to behave, other diners won’t thank you if your kid loses it and the restaurant certainly won’t thank you if your kid runs around and injures themself or others.

    The fact is when you become a parent you also need to accept that it comes with certain restrictions on what you can do for at least a few years, not just because of other people but because you have to think about your child’s welfare and comfort first and foremost.

    Whenever I see a parent dragging a miserable tired child around a loud crowded pub? I know that parent cares more about drinking than they do about the safety and comfort of that poor child. Whenever I see a parent eating in a fine restaurant while their kid runs riot? I know that parent cares more about what they want than they do about the safety and comfort of anyone else including their own child. Whenever I see a child get hurt because their parent was enjoying sipping wine with friends to much to leave despite the fact that their kid was clearly over wrought and needed time away from that place? I know that kid’s safety and comfort takes second place to what that parent wants.

    Basically it’s not about discriminating against children, it’s about the fact that parents need to put the safety and comfort of their children first and realise that the kids needs are more important than a parent’s wants.

  29. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 8:40 am |

    Thank you so much for this post, Maia.

    There is a tremendous amount of hostility towards children in the feminist blogosphere. While I certainly appreciate and support women’s right to not have children if they do not wish to have children, I find the hostility directed towards children in some feminist spaces – namely this one – bizarre and incredibly depressing. Children are an oppressed group of people, which makes children a feminist issue. And there’s also that whole fact that women are almost always strapped with the care and raising of children which means that hostility towards children ultimately gets translated into hostility against women.

    If no one has informed you of this, or you missed the post, Jill made a post about kids in public spaces a few months ago that turned into a 600+ comment cluster$%*%. A few years ago there was a post with a comment thread that actually devolved into people here calling kids stupid.

    Good luck because it looks like this thread is turning into yet another children-policing cesspool already.

  30. Amanda
    Amanda July 27, 2010 at 8:41 am |

    Thank you for this post! I AM in the US and I get freaking sick and tired of getting crap for wanting to take my kids with me. My sons are 2 1/2 and 14 months and my older child has autism, so he’s extra-unruly sometimes. How are they supposed to learn how to behave around others if they don’t get to be in public?

    I believe that most people’s criticism about kids in public comes from 3 things: 1) there is some misguided belief that adults have a right to deny children access to public spaces, and 2) children are being insufficiently guided in positive ways as to how to interact in public spaces, and 3) everyone seems to forget that young children have bad days too, and children express their anger and frustration in sometimes loud and obnoxious ways. I personally would like to tell those adults who think it’s appropriate to yell at people that they should not be in public. I do not do so. Maybe I will now! :-)

  31. Thomas
    Thomas July 27, 2010 at 8:43 am |

    I agree with the sentiment that the US is hostile to children in public spaces. As a pre-teen, I benefitted from being in adult spaces and hearing adult conversations, and as a parent I include my kids in public spaces.

    This can be taken too far, however. For example, if I go to a club to do BDSM with my spouse, I don’t think any of us want a four year old watching our scene. So on my account, there are at least some spaces that are inappropriate for children, and it wasn’t entirely clear from the text of the OP whether you agree or disagree that some spaces really are inappropriate for children.

  32. katie t
    katie t July 27, 2010 at 8:43 am |

    i simply dont believe that my mamahood means that i must be shunted away from the rest of society.

    That’s exactly the sort of thing a feminist might say… :)

  33. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 27, 2010 at 8:46 am |

    i shouldn’t even be shocked at the way this convo is going…

    i am not really a “kid person” myself. and i have some serious (sometimes debilitating) issues with noise, both in volume, quantity, and quality. so i will be the first to say that i hate hearing babies cry and children squeal/whine/scream etc. high-pitched and especially unexpected noises can cause a severe nervous reaction from me.

    that said, the issue then is me, isn’t it? not the children, who are just being children. not the mother’s who aren’t “teaching” or “controlling” them enough. (and don’t even get me started on why there is never any discussion of male family members needing to assist in any of this, but all responsibility falls on the overworked mom who probably is as fed up with the noise as any of us.) i decide where i go, when, how frequently. i decide when i need to leave for the sake of my own sanity. if i’m in a store and a child is loud, i can choose to not follow that mom around the store getting progressively more annoyed with that child’s noise.

    this idea that adults are the center of the universe and should have their own comfort met all the time is really problemmatic. if you want peace to “drink til you pass out”, “cuss” etc., maybe you should consider whether you belong in public. not whether children do.

    also, the assumptions about what’s best/safe for the child are problemmatic. how about leaving that up to moms (and dads) to decide for themselves? all of this “a bar isn’t a safe place for a child” is really just code for “i came to the bar to get away and how dare you bring your child in here” no matter how nicely it’s put.

  34. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 8:47 am |

    I think my discomfort stems from the ambiguity of where responsibility lies should a child be behaving inappropriately for a particular setting.

    If an adult were behaving disruptively or inappropriately in my business, I would ask them to stop or ask them to leave. If a child is causing that same disruption, I can’t expect them to know any better– they are learning, after all. Many parents are upset by strangers, even in a helpful or constructive way, trying to calm children or redirect disruptive behavior. Should I address the parent, ask them to address the behavior? Should I ask the child to stop, realizing that the parent may think I’m overstepping my boundaries? I don’t know how to handle this.

    I can address an adult that causes disruption in my business. I feel powerless to address children. I think this is a lot of the reason behind many adults’ anxiety towards children in these spaces.

  35. Tracey
    Tracey July 27, 2010 at 8:48 am |

    By making the statement that people don’t have a right to childfree spaces you are making the argument that people don’t have a right to dictate what can and can not happen in their private establishments. In a lot of places, to a large extent, they do. Resturaunt and bar owners absolutely have the right to dictate that children under a certain age are not allowed, and in some cases it may be a legal liability for them to allow children in.
    I agree that children should be a protected class everywhere and often do not have all the rights I feel they deserve. It would be great to open up more spaces and change the culture of entitlement that regulates children and mothers to the back burners and invisibility, however not at the expense of dictating what behavior private establishment owners have to put up with. I also think that it is faulty to automatically assume that children will act a certain way based solely on their age. Children who are not being disruptive should not be treated as though they were.
    I also think that discrimination towards children is one of the ways in which authoritativeness reproduces itself in many places and situations. It would be great if children’s access to spaces was conditional upon their behavior and not their age, and in many instances the behavior typical of many young children is no more disruptive than that of some adults. However, in some places, incl. the U.S., restauraunts and bars are considered private establishments, not public space, and until children are a protected class, owners absolutely have a right to bar them or heavily control what behavior will and will not be tolerated. Not to mention, children are not allowed to smoke or drink, so establishments that are geared towards those activties may bar them as well.

  36. Tracey
    Tracey July 27, 2010 at 8:57 am |

    Just to clarify, I think that in most spaces, children should not be dismissed solely on the basis of age. However, these conversations often revolve around what type of behavior should be accepted of children in private establishments and to what extent. People often argue that people should learn to tolerate the occasional loud noises, tantrums, etc. instead of asking that the child leave. I think that is problematic b/c some establishments absolutely do bill themselves as being quiet, intimate spaces and such outbursts, though sporadic or typical of young children, take away from the atmosphere those spaces work to create. If they would ask an adult being loud to leave b/c they are disrupting the mood, they do have the same right to ask that a child who is being disruptive leave.

  37. Ava
    Ava July 27, 2010 at 8:57 am |

    Thanks for your post. I found it very thought-provoking and it will probably make me think more about how I react to children in public spaces.

    Lately, as I meet and hang out with people who have children or younger tag-along relatives, I’ve started to think more about how I should or shouldn’t act around these children or relatives who aren’t my own. (I am 28, with no children and no maternal instinct.) One of my friends has a nine year old son who hangs out around us every now and then. Because of her instructions, we are more circumspect in talking about things, don’t curse as much, and don’t do anything illegal/illicit. That friend has said that she isn’t always comfortable with another friend’s 16 y/o cousin hanging with us, as she wouldn’t allow her 16 y/o to hang, without her, with people 5-10+ years older than him, though his parents know where he is and we don’t allow him to drink with us. On the other hand, we are very open around him and just as crude and crass as we would be without him there. I sometimes feel as my friend does about but, as his parents seem ok with this situation, I don’t think I should change my behavior. Am I wrong? I have altered how I act around younger children. toned stuff down, even when their parents didn’t act like I needed to. Should I have followed their cues?

    This all probably makes me sound pretty stupid, but I don’t have much experience with children, am an only child & grandchild, and have never wanted children, so I don’t have experience with this sort of thing. Growing up, I was usually the youngest person in most places with mixed-ages and the behavior of the older people around me varied greatly.

    But again, thanks for this post.

  38. zoe
    zoe July 27, 2010 at 9:03 am |

    So, my gym has several locker rooms: women’s 18+ (no kids), women & children (no boys over a certain age), family (individual rooms, big enough for about 4-5 people to change in), and the same set up for the men. How do we feel about this? I’m just not comfortable getting my naked on in front of children. I’m also assuming you would make exceptions, Maia, for places such as sex clubs and the like.

  39. Betty
    Betty July 27, 2010 at 9:04 am |

    I like kids. I like my 3 year old sister, I like my friends’ 2 year old and one month old daughters, I like my 5 year old and 1 year old cousins. I know them well, I show them respect as people, I take an interest in their upbringing, and I often help out when the parents need a break.
    Similarly, I have a lot of respect for parents, as I’ve seen how difficult it can be to raise a child.

    However, this is what confuses me:
    a lot of times, a little bit of attention from an outsider will change the mood quickly. doing so in a way that does not overstep the mama’s boundaries and voila! you are the hero of the moment. and everyone is happier and less stressed. see, really, its that easy.
    In the past, when I’ve encountered an upset child in public, I’ve been all ‘Awww, what’s wrong?’ or similar (to the child) and the parent(s) have just shot me a dirty look. On one occasion I was told to mind my own business by a very rude man of about my age.
    So, actually, childless people can’t win: we’re vilified if we try to help, and we’re vilified if we don’t.

  40. Lex
    Lex July 27, 2010 at 9:04 am |

    Are we really arguing that toddlers belong in bars? People go to bars to drink, smoke, let loose with their friends and find random hook-ups for the night. None of those are kid-friendly activities.

    You’ll never hear a complaint from me about kids being in public spaces but they most certainly do not belong in bars.

  41. Still learning
    Still learning July 27, 2010 at 9:11 am |

    I get so depressed when I read posts like this. I understand the necessity of allowing children in all places and generally agree with what is being said, but in terms of real life, I keep thinking – where does this leave me? As a person who has a great deal of sensitivity to noise, this idea basically reads to me as ‘you and everyone like you does not have a right to be in any public place’.

    Obviously, children should not be prohibited from entering any space except for places where they would not be safe. We should not assume that children will necessarily be loud or misbehave. But to allow children who ARE being loud to stay in any situation presents serious obstacles to people with certain disabilities. I do not believe that people have a right to do whatever we want at all times, or that people have a right to perfect comfort and lack of annoyance at all times, but I do believe that all people have a right to be in public places sometimes. If there are not quiet places, some people will not be able to be in public places at all. That does not seem right to me.

  42. Suzi
    Suzi July 27, 2010 at 9:11 am |

    Thank you for this post!
    I think it’s really a no-brainer that the politics around children and the spaces they’re allowed to inhabit are inextricably feminist issues, with hugely important intersections with culture/class/race/etc.
    Childcare was and is considered primarily women’s work in many cultural contexts. It may be unpaid labour done by a housewife in the home, away from the public. It may be vastly underpaid labour done by migrant workers from the global south, with the same sort of invisibility assigned to both child and caregiver. Daycare workers, usually women, are typically minimum wage and do this labour in a space not usually visible to the public. Also, keep in mind that for wealthy families of western cultural tradition, we’re not that far removed from a time where children were even consigned to quarters removed from the main spaces in a house where the adults would entertain guests. (hey, that probably is still the case with some families, I dunno.)

    I think that categorizing children as unfit for public spaces also necessarily involves consigning their caregivers to that same category, which then has some dire consequences about how we’re supposed to be able to function in society, AND negatively affects being able to raise well-adjusted children.

  43. scrumby
    scrumby July 27, 2010 at 9:12 am |

    Why does the kid matter? Maybe everyone is hanging out at the neighborhood dive bar. Maybe they want to see an adult oriented show. Maybe they don’t want to have to censor their conversation or behavior. For all that a kid is a person they aren’t an adult and sometimes adults want to enjoy the freedoms of their station without the social restrictions children so often bring.
    In my own experience a lot of the vitriol I occasionally feel as a childless person is because of the pressure of “kid-friendliness” I get from parents. Regardless of your personal parental choices any time a child walks in there is a “not in front of the kid” pressure and that’s fine (I had no problem using kids as an excuse to lecture loud cussing drunks when I worked at a diner) but a waitress shouldn’t be lectured because she doesn’t have anything for the kid to do while they wait on their food. An usher shouldn’t get read the riot act because someone was making out in view of someone’s 10 year-old in an PG-13 movie.
    I’m all for well behaved children having the freedom to move abotu in public like anyone else (and even the less behaved because how else are they going to learn what is and isn’t acceptable) but parents have got to stop acting like a child shouldn’t be a factor in their decisions while it is so much so in the public at large.

  44. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 9:14 am |

    “Would it kill you to press the shift key? I feel like this was written BY a child.”

    Whoa. What. Just WHAT?

    What an utterly asshole thing to say.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 27, 2010 at 9:20 am | *

      Yeah, agreed with Faith, that was an asshole thing to say. Comment has been deleted.

      FYI to future commenters: This discussion can be a productive and interesting one, or it can turn into another clusterfuck. I would really prefer we go with “productive and interesting.” So: Jerky comments that are clearly not made in good faith will, per the Feministe comment policy, be deleted.

  45. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 9:15 am |

    well, i am a mother of two and I actually train my children to scream endlessly the minute I open the door into the real world. I especially give them lollipops when I bring them to the sex parlour and they jump up and down on some poor naked woman’s massage bench.

    Jesus christ.

    How about this: when there are family rooms, bathrooms, areas, etc–99.9% of the families I know and myself (with my diaper throwing naked heathens that like to leer at naked women, drink beer, and force people at screetch point to entertain them with Shrek stories) USE THEM. Accommodations are GOOD THINGS. And don’t always revolve around asking the naked cranky sex talking arrogant shit eating the 94$ meal next to me to mother my children for me.

  46. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 9:16 am |

    “when you create little reservations for children, you are really creating little reservations for mothers”

    BINGO

    And the fact that children=mother(=FEMALE) is the social reality is demonstrated by many of these comments saying, “I don’t dislike children, but _parents_ who blahblahblah….”

    Children will always be linked to females, even those of us who don’t reproduce, because we’re the sex which is presumed to be ABLE to reproduce and the only born-sex which can. Even if somebody doesn’t agree that children are an oppressed class, hate on children and the result is that you’re hating on women.

  47. Amelia
    Amelia July 27, 2010 at 9:17 am |

    I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about my family’s ideas about children, and how they are separated from other, older people both in the minds of my family and in how they are treated. Children aren’t really people in the minds of my family. They don’t have the same kinds of rights that older people have, such as bodily integrity (people can touch them whenever they please, etc.). It seems as if we choose an arbitrary age at which “kids” finally become “people” and are treated as such. And with that kind of attitude, it’s easy to decide that a “kid” will forever remain a “kid” and not ever enjoy the respect that “people” get.

    Thanks for this post. This isn’t a topic I see covered much.

  48. phira
    phira July 27, 2010 at 9:18 am |

    “But…why are you posting for Feministe if you are not a feminist? Just curious.”

    Seconded. And it’s hard for me to lend a lot of credibility to someone who says, “I’m not a feminist, but …”

    I think that one of the issues here is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of general rule that can comfortably apply to any sort of majority. Banning kids from the ICU? Certain restaurants? All the time? I don’t think that works. And it certainly disproportionally affects single parents and working class parents.

    And then there’s whether or not we should hold children or their parents/guardians responsible for bad/annoying behavior. I can’t tell whether or not a loud kid on the train is loud because h/er parents are irresponsible, or because s/he is just loud and her parents aren’t encouraging this behavior. And it’s really not worth my time to figure it out.

    That being said, I don’t have children, and I don’t want children. And I don’t appreciate hearing that as a non-mother feminist, I must want to live my life without any kids within earshot, or that I have to suck it up and never be annoyed when children misbehave. In my last apartment, there were a lot of families with kids all over the complex. Several of these kids would play together in the streets, making it stressful to drive. And a tantrum-prone (when I was on vacation, tantrums occurred 4-5 times a day) toddler lived above me, and his parents would let him cry in their room at night. I know this because their room was above mine, and sometimes I couldn’t sleep because the kid was crying.

    Children are not animals; you can’t ban them from apartments because they make noise or run in the streets (and you shouldn’t ban them). Children are not loud TVs or people thinking it’s okay to vacuum at midnight–you can’t just turn them off. But I don’t appreciate being told that we should collectively just put up with obnoxious kid behaviors because someone else has made the decision to have kids.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 27, 2010 at 9:25 am | *

      “But…why are you posting for Feministe if you are not a feminist? Just curious.”

      Because we asked her to. We asked her to because she is a great social justice activist and a great writer and an inspiring woman. Whether she chooses the label “feminist” or not, she does amazing work, and we are honored that she is willing to share her insights here.

  49. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    Supposed dangers?

    I still have a small scar where a drunken adult stumbled into me in a family pub when I was little, I got sent flying and banged my head on the bar splitting the skin. That’s hardly supposed.

    I can remember being a kid, the adult spaces I got dragged into were boring and they contained dangers and frightening things like the time two drunk guys got into a fist fight in the middle of a bar. There was lots of screaming, shouting and two adults several times my weight shoving each other over tables and stuff.

    I didn’t enjoy loud noises as a kid and I honestly wish that my caretakers had recognised that I was extremely unhappy in loud noisy places and respected that enough not to drag me into loud places.

    Children don’t find bars, pubs, fancy restuarants to be interesting, they find them boring. Leave the kids at home for both their safety and comfort.

    It’s not just dangerous to the children, I’ve heard of serious injuries being caused by the actions of upset and overwhelmed children, up to and including hundreds of stitches. I’m a wheelchair user and just a few weeks ago I dislocated two fingers by having to break suddenly on a ramp when someone’s overwhelmed child suddenly bolted in front of me, I wouldn’t mind but the place I was in had FREE daycare available.

    Nobody expects children to act like little adults, but we do expect the adults with them to recognise when the child is over stimulated and needs to be taken to a somewhere safe to quiet down, to recognise when their kids are not capable of behaving in spaces where a certain level of behaviour is expected and to respect the limits of their kid’s behaviour by not bringing them to said spaces until the kid is more settled, and to recognise that some places are not appropriate or comfortable places for children to be in.

    Basically we expect adults to take responsibility for their children, to make decisions in the best interests of their children and to not put their wants over a childs need to be comfortable and safe. That is all anyone askes.

    If parents respected their children enough to put the comfort of the child over the parent’s wants? Nobody would ask for child free spaces because children wouldn’t turn up in bars, at late night showings of gory movies and we’d only see comfortable, happy and well adjusted children in posh restuarants.

  50. evil_fizz
    evil_fizz July 27, 2010 at 9:27 am |

    Would it kill you to press the shift key? I feel like this was written BY a child.

    What the everloving fuck? Seriously?

  51. Angela
    Angela July 27, 2010 at 9:33 am |

    Usually a lurker, but jumping into the fray!

    I’m with Triflosa – what if your friend wanted to hang out just with *you*? When parents are with their children, their attention is going to be divided. You’re essentially not the same person you are when you’re alone. No matter how badass you think your three year old is, they aren’t self-sufficient enough to be left on their own while you hang out with the grown ups.

    Adult-only spaces have been made that way because there are just enough asshole parents out there that don’t adequately parent their children that the easiest thing for the establishment to do is say “no” across the line to all kids. Everyone thinks their child is awesome, and many don’t recognize when their child is not being awesome.

    I admit I’m coming at this from the childree side. I don’t inherently hate little kids, but I’m on edge when they’re around because I’ve had enough bad experiences to make me wary.

  52. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 9:35 am |

    Intellectually, I think the question should be whether a particular child is harming others.

    For example, I was in Chuckie Cheese with my nieces a few months ago which for the uninitiated is a playground with crappy pizza that lots of kids love. Kids were running, yelling, generally cavorting except for one kid that I noticed who was about 6 or 7. HE was running around punching female patrons (young and old) in the chest. IMO, he should have been ejected, not because he was a kid (or because it was an “Adult only” space) but because I do have the right to bodily autonomy when I go out in public.

    But what is the solution for the parents of this particularly child? If he assaults people are they trapped without the option to go to places that may be necessary? Clearly, not allowing La Lubu’s daughter to wait in the waiting room was ridiculous, but even if the child isn’t beautifully behaved parents sometimes NEED to be places.

    Which leads me to conclude that part of the problem in many parts of the US (also, the whole US is all the same thing is kind of annoying – different places are vastly different in their treatment of children) is that children aren’t part of the community. They are the property of their parents and even approaching a child is often met with anger and fear, perhaps for good reason.

    For example, my SO, M, and I were on a long red eye back to DC in the middle aisle (Goddess save me) with a kid, I’d put at maybe 4ish? About an hour into the flight the mom fell asleep and the kid became increasingly fussy. M made little origami creatures out of the skymall magazine. He told him a few stories and half an hour later…kid is asleep. Just before the flight lands the mom wakes up sees the origami animals and asks her son about them. She then proceeds to chew my SO out for 20 minutes (literally) for talking to her child. In retrospect we should have woken her so that she could personally address her kids behavior I guess, but at the time there didn’t seem to be any harm in interacting with the kid ourselves.

  53. Babs
    Babs July 27, 2010 at 9:38 am |

    There is a trend I am noticing, and that is to equate “bars” with “all public spaces.” I can count on one hand the number of places people consider child inappropriate or necessarily childfree.
    – some bars (maybe half?)
    – fancy restaurants
    – establishments linked with sex or sex work
    – live theatre (but not usually dinner theatre)
    – night clubs

    The number of child-friendly places vastly outnumbers the child-unfriendly. Shops, dining establishments of all kinds, museums, just about every outdoor space imaginable, movie theatres (provided they meet the age rating, and even then), etc. There are clubs that welcome children, and I don’t mind parents bringing children on airplanes (I have earplugs, and I don’t expect children to never travel).

    On the “forbidden” list, I can only think of one, maybe two, that legally bar children entirely. One can still take children to a fancy restaurant, but it absolutely won’t be appreciated if the child acts out. And as the parent, the parent should realize the likelihood of that happening and exercise their better judgement instead of thinking, “well I want to so I will.” Some children can handle that kind of environment in a socially acceptable way, some cannot.

    If parents respected their children enough to put the comfort of the child over the parent’s wants? Nobody would ask for child free spaces because children wouldn’t turn up in bars, at late night showings of gory movies and we’d only see comfortable, happy and well adjusted children in posh restuarants. I like this a lot, and it’s quite in line with my way of thinking.

  54. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 9:40 am |

    Angela is spot-on.

  55. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 9:41 am |

    Maia,

    You’re assuming that the vast majority of parents are granted common sense the minute the kid gets here. I’ve known way too many people who think that having babies shouldn’t stop them from drinking themselves semi-comatose and a babysitter is way too expensive so they drag the kid with them.

    There are parents who give their five year olds grand theft auto for goodness sakes. Unfortunately giving birth/impregnating a woman does not necessarily equate to being a good or considerate parent and there are some frightfully irresponsible people who have kids.

    Basically, for every responsible parent who knows that kids do not belong in certain places for the kid’s sake and the sake of others who use the space, there are usually quite a few who seem to think that parenting stops with impregnantion/birthing the kid.

    This is why there is such a backlash, because these irresponsible parents are bringing their unruly barely old enough to have manners kids into spaces that are inappropriate and subjecting not just their kid to discomfort and danger but also the rest of us to it as well.

  56. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 9:41 am |

    The problem is with adults who insist on being separated from what life is about and what makes like worthwhile.

    Who are you, j_in_tuwani, to say that children are what life is about for me? Or that they make life worthwhile for anyone else? Honestly.

  57. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 9:41 am |

    @Lex: oh, is THAT why people go to bars? I guess I’ve been doing it wrong, since I go mainly to have a few beers, play a board or card game, chat with friends and get out of the house a few hours. That IS letting loose for me if I have kids with me and unless you’re planning on randomly hooking up with the toddler or having sex on the bar, it really doesn’t matter if you’re there for a random hook up or not – guess what? The toddler has no idea what your plans are later, and won’t be accompanying you to your home, cheap motel room, or car.

    I’m tired of the “some places aren’t suitable for kids” shit. So you know better than the child’s parent what is suitable for their kid? Maybe cussing doesn’t bother them, maybe the kid prefers the company of adults (mine do, for many of the same reasons y’all do), maybe, just MAYBE the parent has given some thought to their decision and their child-rearing message. I’m with maia on the “partying harder than I do” thing. If someone’s stumbling onto ANY patron, it’s time for them to leave, not the patron. There are even laws in place that prevent bars from serving people to that point of drunkenness.

    @Meg – grow up. If the only thing you have to contribute to the conversation is a snark about capitalization, keep it to yourself – it’s called manners, and clearly, it’s not only children who still need to work on them.

    @ the cascade of inevitable “but what about when children are acting in inappropriate ways?” tirades: Actually, I often address children directly and I have NEVER had a parent have a problem with it if I’m respectful about it. The secret is not to be rude or condescending – it’s easy, if you consider the child to be a person – try it! “Excuse me, but your feet on my chair are making me really uncomfortable, do you think you could find somewhere else to rest them?” “Oh Dear! that IS loud! It hurts my ears! Can you use a quieter voice?” “I need you to stay out of the aisles, because I have to carry hot drinks through here. Can you take your seat please?” or even: “if you break something/something else, I’m going to have to ask you to leave/pay for it/a combination thereof” Try being aware of whether you actually WOULD address an adult about this behaviour and how (someone talking loudly on their cell phone, an adult resting their knees/feet on the back of your chair, a restaurant patron standing/sitting in the aisle, a woman with a giant bag who isn’t keeping track of the things she’s knocking over as she turns around, etc), but you might find that children tend to be at least as cooperative as adults if you treat them with the same respect. Try to imagine how cooperative you’d feel if wait staff approached your husband/dinner companion and asked him to reign you in/control you.

  58. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    A shorter rant: If your time is ruined because you can’t stop being judgemental of a child’s parents/mother, that’s your problem, not theirs.

  59. Ruchama
    Ruchama July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    I’m puzzled by the comments about how children ruin adult parties. (I’m just talking about the “bunch of friends get together, have a few drinks and stuff” parties, not specifically sexual things here.) Plenty of my friends have kids and bring them along to parties, and it’s never been a problem. The adults tend to congregate in groups in various places, as people do. The toddlers wander around. If they end up at a group where the adults aren’t really interested in having a kid around, then the adults ignore the kid and the kid finds somewhere else to go. The kids who are old enough to actually participate in conversations tend to find people (usually adults they know from previous parties with this same group) who are having a conversation they can join in on. I’ve actually far more often heard mothers complaining that everybody focuses on “Oh, look at the cute kid!” and ignores that the mother wants to have some adult conversation and company, too, than I’ve heard anyone complaining that the kids shouldn’t be there. (For context, this group of friends are mostly grad students, with some professors and a few random friends who got included in the group, ranging in age from just out of college to late forties.)

  60. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    “I’m with Triflosa – what if your friend wanted to hang out just with *you*? When parents are with their children, their attention is going to be divided. You’re essentially not the same person you are when you’re alone. ”

    Yes, this is true. However, if you honestly care about your friend you’ll recognize that your friend is a parent and honor that their kids are a part of their life. Becoming a parent does change everything. I’ve personally had to give up a great deal of my social life after becoming a parent. Either you care enough of about your friend to accept their children, or you don’t. I really do think it’s as simple as that.

  61. china
    china July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    Just the other day my pregnant daughter told me the story of riding on public transportation and hearing yelling come from the back of the light rale – a man was yelling “your baby is so loud I can’t take it anymore, stop her crying, change her diaper, do something, i have four more stops”.

    No one said anything.

    As she got off the train a man said “so that was a quiet ride” She said “Yes, that terrible yelling man!” and the man said “No I meant the crying baby!”

    no one said anything and my daughter felt vulnerable thinking this is the world she is becoming a mother in, she didn’t want people to yell at her, or to leave her out. She is a waitress and she thinks also that she wants to be the mom that gets to stay and finish her margerita – not have to rush off early harried. She hopes she will be the table that has some things to occupy the children, that talks to them and works through bumps, that can go out in public and socialize, and still be herself.

    seeing the world through her newly pregnant eyes I see again, the level of hostility our society has within it, that can often be seen through more vulnerable groups.

    We need to learn how to act better to include children around us. Its a big issue. Socializing adults and children, to give a smile not a frown, how to communicate and make things better for all. there is a tension when one is unfamiliar with children and the less they are seen, the more the tension. We need to learn more intergenerationally. Public transportation, restaurants, and yes Bars – where we mingle.

    Like Ashly told me a bit ago: children aren’t in the way of the movement, they are the movement. Theoretically it might be easy to say something easier on line, but in person, please be kind to each other. Its not easy. If you haven’t been in someone’s footsteps dont’ judge. Your action as a member of the public can make things much better, or much worse. Give some slack, parents can’t “control” their children’s every move like cops but guide their children and need the time and yes even help sometimes, more tolerance. Childrens needs are also different, we need to give MORE sometimes, not just to those with class and race privelege but to ALL children – modeling the qualtities we want to teach – building the future.

    the thing is, taking children out also helps them get better social skills as well! Parents are often isolated, this time is special to them too. We all need to work together better no doubt – but there is yes, a premise, that children shouldnt’ be even allowed to be in spaces outside school and private homes and playgrounds and spaces made for children.

    I dont’ think I believe in internet discussion, esp. in places where I have heard interactions get ugly, but am sharing to support maia’s post and thank you for being real! XOXO – each situation is a little different and everyone has something to learn – be childfriendly, work on your own issues, and that will make a better world for us all.

  62. Shelly
    Shelly July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am |

    Children don’t find bars, pubs, fancy restuarants to be interesting, they find them boring. Leave the kids at home for both their safety and comfort.

    I think you mean *you* found those things boring when *you* were a child. I loved going out with my mom, when I was little. Being left at home–or worse, being relegated to playing with my younger cousins–was always disappointing. I much preferred hanging out with the grown-ups, where I’d sit quietly and listen. I found their discussions fascinating. Heck, I’m in my 40s and still would rather sit and listen to my older relatives talk than to hang out with my cousins.

    And though I’m child-free, I really don’t understand the animosity toward children who occupy public spaces. With few exceptions, they have as much right to those spaces as adults do. We’re the grown-ups, so we should maybe act like it instead of getting bent out of shape because a small person is behaving like a small person. That’s what small people *do*. They aren’t perfect, and even the best of them will have bad days. They’re allowed to.

  63. Jill
    Jill July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am | *

    Also, folks, fyi, you can disagree with mai’a and engage with the post without name-calling or criticizing her stylistic choices (really, WHO CARES ABOUT CAPITALIZATION, GET OVER IT. AND NOW I JUST CAPITALIZED TWO WHOLE SENTENCES, SO MAYBE THIS WILL BALANCE THINGS OUT). Please do not cry in the comments about how I’m censoring you or only showing one side of the issue. Plenty of critical comments, and comments that take issue with the ideas mai’a presents, have been let through. Feel free to engage, but do it respectfully. This is not that hard.

  64. scrumby
    scrumby July 27, 2010 at 9:50 am |

    “furthermore, i am really disturbed by the use of ‘appropriate’ and ‘well behaved’ because i start to wonder…who is determining what is appropriate…who is defining well behaved? if appropriate and well behaved means ‘adult like’ that is oppressive. ”

    Umm… yes? Isn’t that what the whole raising kids thing is about?
    You teach them to read, to eat with silverware, to not spit on the floor in the hopes that at the end of it all you have a happy, well adjusted adult who will be a benefit to the world in some way. The bar for proper behavior for children is and should be pretty low; they are just learning. Kids are oppressed in a lot of ways but teaching them how to function in a society they will be living in isn’t one of them.

  65. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 9:51 am |

    Children are not an “oppressed people”, children grow out of being a child. They eventually get all the rights and responsibilities that being an adult entails.

    Children have their own rights but nowhere does it say that they have the right to go everywhere because some spaces are not appropriate for children.

    Personally I actually find it moderately insulting that you would compare the fact that certain spaces are inappropriate for children to real oppression.

    Again, I state, if parents parent then there’s not usually a problem. The objection is not to children as a group but to the problems that bad or poor parenting causes, the problems that selfishness on the part of parents towards both their kids and other people causes.

  66. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 9:52 am |

    Maia said:
    furthermore, i am really disturbed by the use of ‘appropriate’ and ‘well behaved’ because i start to wonder…who is determining what is appropriate…who is defining well behaved? if appropriate and well behaved means ‘adult like’ that is oppressive. children are an oppressed class of people.

    Please read Michael’s point from the very first comment. This should explain what these concepts mean. These things do not oppress anyone:

    of course I’m not saying that all societal norms are good things that should be followed at all times and all costs, but many of the norms that children violate in public are relatively non-contentious, at least in my experience: walking and speaking quietly while indoors, being polite to others, being careful with things that don’t belong to them, and so on and so forth.

  67. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 9:54 am |

    This comment from Mighty Ponygirl is so correct that I cannot help but quote it again:

    The list of adults-only spaces should be limited, but it should be respected. And even though you and your child have every right to be in a cafe, I am not required to smile and throw warm healing light your way the second your child starts shrieking. I did not sign on to raise your child–and I don’t see that I have some solemn duty to suffer your child’s bad behavior because your comfort and happiness is somehow more important than mine.

  68. Elby
    Elby July 27, 2010 at 9:55 am |

    I have to agree with Babs. I’m seeing a lot of comments basically expressing that the US is a child-unfriendly place. I respect everyone has different experiences, but in my experience children are generally welcomed everywhere. Of course there are some establishments where children are actually barred from entering, mainly (as already mentioned) bars and nightclubs.

  69. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 9:56 am |

    Shelly,

    You’re the odd one out actually I think you’ll find, most children are clearly bored when dragged out to pubs and places that are intended for adults.

  70. latenac
    latenac July 27, 2010 at 9:56 am |

    Children are not small people they are growing people. They are different than adults they are not small adults. To understand the needs and abilities of a child you have to first recognize that. I would never assume my 6 year old could sit quietly through a 12 course meal at a posh restaurant or an hour long classical music concert b/c she is a 6 year old not a small adult. I also recognize as a 6 year old she would prefer to run around places and often doesn’t notice where she is going. It is not my job to control my child but it is my job to set limits, teach her how to behave and act in a community of people that consist of more than just her and I, it is my job to teach her self love as well (although she is 6 she hardly needs help in that) and also self confidence. It is not for me to rely on people to smile indulgently as my child runs all over the place knocking things over or has a meltdown or is the only child in a room full of loud inebriated people. A little understanding from people for the first two, yes, b/c so many of us have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

    But at the same time it is my job as a parent to explain to my daughter that it is dangerous in some circumstances to run around willy nilly and to try to prevent it from happening. It is my responsibility as a parent to recognize the signs of pre-meltdown and try to stop it by either feeding her or making sure she’s getting enough sleep or just by knowing when to call it a day. It is also my responsibility as a parent to recognize that it’s not cute or charming or “cool alternative lifestyle” to keep a 3 year old up until dawn in a club while I’m drinking. Sorry you completely lost me there. It’s my job to recognize I’m a parent, not a friend. That parenting is planned obsolescence. If I’ve done it right I will have a friend in the end a friend who recognizes she is part of a greater whole in the community that she lives and who is self-sufficient.

  71. Vail
    Vail July 27, 2010 at 9:57 am |

    I was a clerk at a book store and I saw all the variations of parenting/child behavior. Yes, there is a time when a kid is just cranky etc, but I have seen parents watch a child destroy a book and done nothing. There are many great parents out there, who make sure they’re kids are well behaved or are very watchful to avoid any destruction but on the other hand there are parents who dump their kids in the children’s section and expect US to baby sit them. Sorry that’s not our job. When we got our daughter we limited our shopping time dramatically. Our daughter has Sensory Integration issues so the bright lights and noise was just too much for her. If we were at a restaurant we would take turns taking her outside for a walk to let her take a break. We believe it’s our responsibility to keep her calm and not make people deal with the crying etc. We haven’t seen hardly any movies in ages, and the rare times we have had a babysitter, we did have a crying toddler behind us in a rated R movie. We ourselves didn’t take our daughter to a movie until we believed she could sit quietly and watch. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say (badly) is that the parent has to decide if their child is able to deal with the situation and prepare accordingly. If the child is upset and cranky, maybe staying home is best, and people should be more understanding when the parent can’t make that choice (like vacations or at the doctors office, or grocery shopping).

    (Sorry about the lack of coherence, it’s Summer and my daughter is on full time “lets ask 5 billion questions while mommy types” mode)

  72. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 9:59 am |

    Everyone who is anti-children in public spaces will forever be able to come up with the “here, this is TOTALLY inappropriate argument”. I think it’s probably better not to engage in the specifics of This Situation versus That Situation.

    I think the best comments I’ve seen thus far are, paraphrased:

    How is a kid supposed to learn how to behave like an adult if they aren’t ever supposed to be in adult situations?

    And of course, the business about kids and their mamas and how the mamas will find it harder to go to certain places because of the desire to keep the kids out.

    To those who want to talk about the bad kids, the ones who hurt other people or ruin things, maybe you should consider that for every single one of those you’ve seen, you didn’t notice three or six or ten other good kids who didn’t make a fuss and didn’t become the target of your attention. And do consider that I would often like to go places without having to have Grown Person X or Y there who will make my enjoyment of the place less, but I don’t get to choose that. That isn’t how being in public works.

    (Examples of Grown Person X include: the loud drunk guy who is hitting on every girl in sight, the loud drunk girl who is having a GREAAAAAT time, the guy who is smoking right outside the door so the smoke keeps coming into the smoke-free bar, the guy who hits my chair every time he stands up because he can’t be bothered to police the edges of his own body and not cause damage to other people.)

  73. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 10:00 am |

    My natural voice is incredibly loud and deep. I have to work hard to keep it “quiet,” and I happen to enjoy good restaurants. Sometimes, I don’t pay attention and I get loud, and there have been occasions where I’ve caught the looks of the other patrons, or had a waitress ask me if I could tone it down, and I work to regain control.

    Because the expectation of the space was such that it was intended to be a quiet, intimate dining experience.

    Seriously, because my natural volume is so much louder, am I being “oppressed” for having to exert control over myself and speak in a voice that is correct for the establishment?

    It is not oppression to have a code of acceptable conduct for an area and expect people to adhere to it. When kids are well-behaved in a nice restaurant, no one cares. Hell, most people will go out of their way to compliment the parent and the kid on how adorable and well-behaved they are.

    I have zero patience for people who expect supermarkets, the neighborhood bar/restaurant (as in an eating establishment with a bar), hospital waiting rooms, and restaurants with children’s menus to be child-free zones. I may not want to stick around once a kid starts screaming, but it is not the mom’s responsibility to haul the kid out of the cereal aisle because my eardrums are getting pierced by their shrieks. But the flipside of that is that I want people with children to respect spaces that are for adults. If you can bring your 5-year-old to Cafe le Snob and have them behave, mazel tov. Really, all the best to you and you have my respect. But Cafe le Snob is not the place to train up your child on how to behave in a nice restaurant. The other patrons there take the experience seriously. Some even found babysitters. There are plenty of establishments that aren’t obnoxious chain restaurants with a bunch of random crap tacked on the wall, but also aren’t charging $50/plate where you can teach your kid indoor voice, sitting still, and conversation skills.

  74. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    Why is it that asking for *patience* (which is what I believe mai’a asked for up there in her post) the same exact thing as asking a childless by choice *F*eminist to mother all the small children around her when she never wanted to be a mother?

    Do we really think that asking for a patience at the most and a few funny faces if you’re feeling charitable is the same thing as *mothering*? Really? The two minutes it would take just to offer a sympathetic smile, or even to just *not glare*–that is what is considered mothering these days by teh feminists?

    My question, why can’t it be an act of feminist solidarity? Why can’t it be helping another (sister in solidarity) woman out? deactivating the overt hostility that especially mothers of color are subject to when their kids are having bad days?

    Because if you think that your “right” to not have to listen to a screaming toddler isn’t a fiercly aggressively defended right, you’d be wrong. I have had non-white friends that have had white people, white MEN get up in their faces screaming at them for not “controlling” their children. I had one friend whose child was grabbed by the arm and forced to sit down, and we all should know about the white guy who slapped the little girl in the walmart line by now. Do we think that little white boys are being slapped by grown men? Do we think that white fathers are getting screamed at in public spaces because of the way their kids are acting?

    I myself have had my son physically manhandled by an older white woman, and have had him yelled at by a *F*eminist because he was a little kid who wasn’t moving through a line fast enough.–I *regularly* am told not to bring my kids to feminist *organizing* spaces and am repeatedly told the reason why is because “we don’t want to be disturbed” and “this isn’t the place” and “it’s inappropriate” and and and and and—child by choice non-mothers dont want to have to parent my child.

    ANd so there is no grassroots response at all to grown men slapping little girls in the face or grown white men screaming at black women in their faces, making it physically unsafe for them to be in a public sphere–because the *real* problem is screaming children at sex parlours.

  75. Angela
    Angela July 27, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    “Yes, this is true. However, if you honestly care about your friend you’ll recognize that your friend is a parent and honor that their kids are a part of their life.”

    You’re certainly right here – and if this friend would *only* hang out with Maia when her child wasn’t around, then the friend has issues. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to spend time with your parent friends away from their children, especially if you’re childfree yourself.

    I feel the same about my parent friends on Facebook. I’m friends with *you* and while I recognize your new baby is a huge part of your life (that I am in fact interested in), if you can talk about *nothing* other than your child, you’ll be hidden from my feed, or even de-friended.

    As for Maia’s question of what is appropriate or well behaved – I do hold children to a similar standard as adults – that’s not oppressing them, that’s acknowledging that different places have different expectations. I’m not saying children can’t run around, scream and yell – I just don’t think the subway, movie theatre, or restaurant is the appropriate place for that behavior. A stray yelp or shriek or wail isn’t a nuisance – the child is probably either excited or isn’t able to speak yet. It’s when such actions are never ending that they become inappropriate. After all, sometimes I like to yell and scream and run, but that what a park or my room is for.

  76. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 10:01 am |

    Also, for those people who say they just aren’t kid people and didn’t sign up to raise my kid – hey, that’s great. I don’t think anyone is asking you to raise their child. I think it’s unreasonable of you to think that because of your personal preference, my kid shouldn’t exist in public places until he’s old enough to act like you think he should.

    If I wasn’t having kids, if everyone around you wasn’t having kids, there’d be no society left. Kids are a very important part of keeping the world going.

  77. Jennifer
    Jennifer July 27, 2010 at 10:02 am |

    Thanks for the post–as a mom (and a feminist)–right on!

    To the person whose dress pants were ruined by a kid, I give you my brother in law whose dress pants were ruined in church by an adult usher who spilled wax on them (probably a little more physically painful as well). One can imagine clothes being ruined in any number of ways–you are choosing here to focus on the child and assume that the child should not have been there when you would probably not assume that if your pants had been ruined in other circumstances. This attitude is what the post is questioning.

    There was a similar post on bitch phd a while back http://bitchphd.blogspot.com/2010/05/so-ok.html that posed some interesting questions along the lines of what if you just don’t like people of a certain category (race, ethnicity, disability, etc.)–is it socially acceptable for those with similar taste to create social spaces where such people are not allowed? I’d say not really–certainly not something like a restaurant. So why do people feel this is a socially acceptable attitude to take with respect to children?

    For those who are talking about how children are loud–not all children are loud. Many adults are loud. We know that whenever we venture out of our controlled spaces we are at some risk of being disturbed, yet many people seem to feel that children should not be among the potential disturbances.

    Finally, for those who might flame me as one of “those” mothers who subjects other people to my horrible monsters: Not really–I know you’re out there in large numbers, and though I think very little of you, I don’t want to subject myself or my kid to your pettiness, so I mostly segregate myself to places that I know are child friendly. Your loss.

  78. abby jean
    abby jean July 27, 2010 at 10:02 am |

    a lot of commenters seem concerned about children appropriately learning and internalizing social norms. children are always learning, and they’re a lot more observant than adults sometimes think – but nobody seems concerned that children will be learning about this disdain, disgust, and dislike that the majority of commenters in this thread seem to have for children as a whole. when a child in a public space gets dirty looks and exasperation and other social signs that basically add up to “we don’t like you and don’t want you here,” that child will notice. that child will learn, and that child will internalize.

    is that really what we want our children to learn – they have no right to take up space, to exist, to explore? that their needs and interests are always and automatically less than that of an adult? these seem like damaging and destructive messages to impart – and messages that run counter to a lot of the talk about cultivating and valuing girls and teaching them to respect and value themselves that i see here and in other feminist circles.

  79. Niki
    Niki July 27, 2010 at 10:03 am |

    I agree with some people here who are saying child-free spaces are sometimes necessary (certain bars, although not all bars, is really the main thing) but I also get the OP’s message. I went to a wedding one time where people weren’t allowed to bring kids. It didn’t affect me personally, since I don’t have kids, but I thought that was hugely arrogant of the bride & groom to ask; I mean, come on, there’s nothing kid-unfriendly about weddings, it’s just a big party with all your loved ones. And it’s insulting to the parents. Like, “Oh, we want you to share in our special day, but if you can’t find a sitter, then well, we don’t want you there that badly.”

    I think it’s perfectly acceptable for certain businesses to ban kids. Strip clubs should certainly be adult-only. And at many bars or sex shops you have to be the legal drinking age or the age of majority to just walk in the door, and that’s an insurance/liability thing, so that’s a whole other bag of worms. But beyond that, I generally think “no kids allowed” is kind of rude. And I definitely think that your friend uninviting you to have a couple drinks at her place – which doesn’t sound like a raging kegger to me – just because you have your daughter with you was an uncool and even rather antisocial move.

  80. Babs
    Babs July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    the use of ‘appropriate’ and ‘well behaved’ because i start to wonder…who is determining what is appropriate…who is defining well behaved?

    It’s, like so much of this discussion, situational. It’s appropriate at a sporting event to shout, dance, do the wave and talk as loudly as you like. Everyone is free to act this way, children and adults. I’ve never been to a quiet hockey game and I don’t really think I would want to.
    This same behavior is inappropriate at a school dance recital, even though the latter will have profoundly more children and be more child-oriented.
    The way a person can behave at Applebee’s is very different from Le Bernardin. Normal behavior at the former will get you asked to leave at the latter (which also has a dress code). This goes for adults as well as children.

    You take your cues from society around you and what is considered acceptable for the location, and that changes, regardless of how old you are. It doesn’t mean “acting like a little adult.” It means that quiet spaces are quiet spaces, and people in them should be expected to behave thusly. Children are fully capable of being quiet (which does not mean they have to be silent), it’s not beyond expectation for them to behave appropriately for the situation. If they are too young to understand what the proper behavior is, then it’s up to the parents to determine how to handle the situation. They can choose not to go, to bring quiet distractions, to limit the amount of quiet time or to break it up so the kid has some play/loud/running time. Whatever the method, while in the museum, quiet is still the rule.

    And what would be the point of all the “we take children out to teach them how to behave” talk if one didn’t acknowledge that yes, there are rules concerning what is appropriate behavior.

  81. JK
    JK July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    I would like to point out that noisy kids in public spaces can be ignored by the childless/parents-on-their-own- they can leave, go somewhere else in the space, or put in earbuds- but the underpaid, overworked staff? Usually can’t, and will get in trouble for trying to do so. I work in a grocery store, and while most kids are fine, some are obnoxious, and despite my sensitivity to high pitches and loud noises, I can’t go into the back room or refuse to help someone. And its not that I want this job, as I am searching for a new job and have been for over a year. So while you, shopper, can ignore that loud noise coming from the cart, I have to stay through my entire shift and hear every angry, frustrated kid.

    I understand that mothers are frustrated. Try to understand when underpaid, overworked grocery store employees are too.

  82. Shelly
    Shelly July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    Dawn,
    That’s really not been my experience. Sure, a few kids will be bored. They’re individuals, after all. But mostly they’re happy to be in adult company as long as the adults in question aren’t hostile toward them. And believe me, kids know when they aren’t liked.

  83. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    It’s really revealing to think about how this comment thread would look like if you replaced all instances of the words “child” or “children” with “person with a developmental disability”, and all instances of the word “mother” or “parent” with “care-giver” or “care provider.”

  84. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 10:05 am |

    Emily,

    They learn in other spaces first. For example meals at home are practise for behaving in a restaurant. Somehow I don’t think though that kids need to learn about drinking until they barf and cussing though.

    It’s called preparation. How do you think kids learned before after all fifty years ago, most kids were left at home until they were old enough and prepared enough to help with shopping and other chores.

    Actually it’s getting so we notice that ones that do behave because they’re rarer than ever. I always smile at and praise good parents because I see so many bad parents.

    You know some places do throw out loud and disruptive individuals.

  85. FilthyGrandeur
    FilthyGrandeur July 27, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    didn’t we already have an anti-child thread not to long ago?

    i’m really getting sick of this. being anti-child is not helping. at all. yes, i admit i’m annoyed as much as the next person when i’m out and hear a child screaming. but dammit i am not going to glare daggers at the mother and make the situation worse. why are we even debating about this? don’t any of you remember being a child?? not a damn one of you knew exactly how to behave in public all at once; it takes time to learn from parents and other people, and if you want children to learn how to behave in public then that means letting them fucking be in public!

  86. Emily
    Emily July 27, 2010 at 10:07 am |

    I think part of the problem in US society is the relationship of strangers to children. I have often felt awkward about dealing with disruptive children who are not my own. I want to help, and I know that, as maia says, the friendly intervention of a stranger is often incredibly helpful. But in US society, it is just not really allowed. On the occasions I have done it, it has worked out really well.

    As an example, when I was pregnant, I was waiting for an ultrasound in a non-doctor office place where you go to get ultrasounds. A young girl, maybe 3 or 4 was there with two adults. When one went in for her appointment, the child was left with the other and started wailing and trying to follow the mother (?) into the back. They had brought toys and activities. The girl would have none of it. Now I was a visibly pregnant lady (not usually seen as dangerous to children), who grew up seeing her mother (a child psychiatrist) engage with children in similar situations. And I felt nervous and unsure about “overstepping my bounds” and interacting with this child. However, once I did so, she became much more “manageable” and spent most of the time until her family returned quietly watching me color in her coloring book.

    Here in the US, we have been taught not to intervene. I don’t know exactly where it comes from. Is it part of the “stranger danger” meme? It is something about our individualistic culture? I don’t know, but there are significant internalized barriers to just interacting normally with children who are unknown to us.

  87. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 10:09 am |

    when a child in a public space gets dirty looks and exasperation and other social signs that basically add up to “we don’t like you and don’t want you here,” that child will notice. that child will learn, and that child will internalize.

    I don’t think that’s the case. I think that when a child misbehaves (yes, there is such a thing, for both adults and children, despite maia’s protestations), and gets looks/exasperation, they learn that misbehaving creates those looks and exasperation.

    When a child behaves well in public, and gets all kinds of praise, they learn that behaving that way is appropriate.

    I have absolutely no problem with children in public, even in some bars, just like I have no problem with adults in public. I do have a problem with misbehaving people (adults or children) who make being in public miserable for others.

    We all have a responsibility to ensure that we are not making the place worse than when we came in. If that means curbing our children’s behavior, that’s what we need to do. That is not oppression; that is good manners, for both grownups and the children they are parenting.

  88. FilthyGrandeur
    FilthyGrandeur July 27, 2010 at 10:11 am |

    @Dawn–

    you seem to be assuming that everyone has the luxury to leave children at home, or if they don’t, then they should. well, not everyone can, or does.

  89. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 10:11 am |

    Dawn,

    So then as their mother, I shouldn’t be able to go to the places where kids can’t go until they’re old enough or I can pay a babysitter?

    I didn’t say it was the only place that they could learn that behavior, but the idea that kids shouldn’t be in public until they DO learn that behavior is kind of absurd.

    You know some places do throw out loud and disruptive individuals.

    Oh, okay. So the next time I’m in a bar and someone behaves in a way I don’t like, I can just get them thrown out? Man, that’s going to be great.

    Bars don’t throw out every disruptive individual. They couldn’t. What’s disruptive to me may not be disruptive to someone else; that’s what “being in public” is all about – you have to deal with people you might not like.

  90. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 10:11 am |

    bpf: Why is it that asking for *patience* (which is what I believe mai’a asked for up there in her post) the same exact thing as asking a childless by choice *F*eminist to mother all the small children around her when she never wanted to be a mother?

    OP:but dont get me wrong. kids will be kids. at times that means tears, loud noises, knocking things over, etc. and when that happens the worst things to do is start sending out negative energy, glaring at the mama and child, yelling, sour faces, etc. much more helpful is to take a deep breath, send warm energy toward the mama and kid, give a sympathetic smile, and maybe even start talking with the kid to distract her from whatever has her upset at the moment. a lot of times, a little bit of attention from an outsider will change the mood quickly. doing so in a way that does not overstep the mama’s boundaries and voila! you are the hero of the moment. and everyone is happier and less stressed. see, really, its that easy.

  91. Lex
    Lex July 27, 2010 at 10:12 am |

    @mightydoll: What you’re glossing over here is that many of us go to bars to get away from our own children for a few hours. It’s nice to have adult time, with adult conversations, and that’s difficult to do when you bring your kids with you. You want to hang out with your friends and your kids, there are plenty of bars with restaurants attached. Go to one of them. Leave the actual bars for grown-ups.

  92. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 10:13 am |

    I went to a wedding one time where people weren’t allowed to bring kids. It didn’t affect me personally, since I don’t have kids, but I thought that was hugely arrogant of the bride & groom to ask

    People’s weddings, where they pay thousands upon thousands to feed and entertain their loved ones, are their own business. If they don’t want children there disrupting the private event, that is a choice that should absolutely be respected.

    While children were welcome at my wedding, most parents opted not to bring them–many stating that they didn’t want to be disrupted themselves. It’s not just the bride and groom who may not want the kids there.

  93. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 10:14 am |

    “who is determining what is appropriate…who is defining well behaved?”

    If we’re talking about businesses (restaurants, bars, stores) then I think it’s the business owner who gets to decide the guidelines for how their patrons behave. And that’s well within their rights, even if their patrons include children.

    “if appropriate and well behaved means ‘adult like’ that is oppressive.”

    I respect your point of view, but I have a really hard time qualifying business owners who have guidelines for how their patrons should behave while in their business as “oppressive.” You’re saying that kids are part of society and and we should all accept that. Fair enough, but rules are also part of society, including rules that dictate behavior. If you want equal treatment for kids then they need to be removed from a theater for shouting the same as the drunken 40-year old lout needs to be removed from the bar for fighting.

  94. Dominique
    Dominique July 27, 2010 at 10:17 am |

    There are some places where there is an expectation of silence, such as libraries, funeral homes and chapels. The sounds of children squealing loudly, screaming or wailing, violate this expectation and make it impossible to study or pray. The very purpose for which the space was created is, therefore, defeated when a very loud child – or anyone else – is allowed to disturb everyone there without being stopped or disciplined.

    Obviously, public spaces such as family restaurants, airplanes and supermarkets are spaces where there is no expectation of silence. Therefore, one must accommodate or tolerate. I also have extreme difficulty with loud noises, especially high-pitched ones. This is due to something called Sensory Integration Disorder. It was torture for a long time, until I got an MP3 and played it loudly enough to drown out the noise of children. I found earplugs are not always effective enough and do not block out the sound of babies crying.

    Overall, I cannot agree that mother should not be expected to “control” their children. Yes, they should. It’s called “raising your kids”. My mother certainly controlled us. When I was young and a baby started wailing in church, the mother always took the baby outside. In the case of toddlers and older children having tantrums, the mother or father always scolded the child and left with him or her. European kids are much better behaved than the ones in North America. European parents are most certainly doing something right.

  95. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 10:17 am |

    “Children are not an “oppressed people”, children grow out of being a child. They eventually get all the rights and responsibilities that being an adult entails.”

    Yes, children eventually grow into adults. But when they are children they do not have those rights. Children are some of the most abused, exploited people on the planet. They are completely vulnerable to the whims of the adult people around them and dependent on them for care. The fact that they are seriously abused and exploited BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS makes them an oppressed group of people.

    I mean, really, do you know nothing of child abuse and child slavery?

  96. Lori
    Lori July 27, 2010 at 10:18 am |

    I sense that only a few commenters are getting Maia’s critique of US culture. But we in the US do have an extremely, weirdly segregated culture in many many ways: racial segregation is still very real; socioeconomic class segregation in our living spaces is extremely real; and we have all this age-segregation: e.g., “children’s menus” which are often filled with really hideous stuff, and are simply weird to our culture (and ones that we’ve strongly influenced).

    These are the questions this raises: Why do we in the US do this to children (and we=corporations and parents and adult strangers all seemingly acting separately but often in concert)? Are we framing children, even in “family friendly” spaces as “other”? If so, how does this shape how/whether we see them as fully part of the social order?

    I would also like to better understand where Maia’s resistance to the word “feminist” is coming from, as I sometimes share it–when I sense that it’s overwhelmingly being taken to mean “career /privilege advancement for white women at the expense of others.” (That’s not what feminism means to me–for me, feminism means a basic resistance to the oppression of women and girls, and people who are perceived as women/girls, of all colors and orientations, and the trivialization and deprecation of the roles and attributes commonly associated with women and/or femininity. I see this oppression as having negative impact on the humanity of all people, male, female and transgender, and being strongly intertwined with racism, class markers, xenophobia, and homophobia.)

    This post would seem to suggest that we’re coming from a similar place with regards to resisting oppression and dehumanization; I am just curious to understand, better, how/whether she, as a social justice advocate, sees gender as an entangled part of oppressive structures.

  97. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 10:20 am |

    Niki,

    A wedding is about celebrating the groom and brides commitment to each other, it is about them, if they don’t want children there usually because children often disrupt the ceremony then that is their choice.

    It is not arrogant to want your own wishes to be met on your big day anymore than it is arrogant for a kid to invite who they want to their birthday part.

    Shelly,

    In my experience, the majority of kids are usually bored with that sort of stuff. Perhaps you just know a lot of unusual kids but generally adult talk is boring and unfathomable to a child.

    bfp,

    That is a completely seperate issue, nobody should have the right to assault or threaten another human being.

    It happens to everyone though, as a kid I was flung down a flight of stairs after a younger kid lied to a neighbour and said I hit him after I told him not to bully my little sister, the same neighbour later tried to blame me for hitting her kid and when I said I didn’t beat me so severely that I was left with terrible injuries. Another mother on our street was so jealous of me for not being crack addicted that she not only spread nasty rumours about me, she attacked me with her friend.

    Anyone can be violent and nasty, including parents.

  98. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 10:21 am |

    “I feel the same about my parent friends on Facebook. I’m friends with *you* and while I recognize your new baby is a huge part of your life (that I am in fact interested in), if you can talk about *nothing* other than your child, you’ll be hidden from my feed, or even de-friended.””

    Then maybe you really shouldn’t be calling yourself that person’s friend, because, frankly, clearly you aren’t.

  99. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 10:21 am |

    MIghty Ponygirl–and your point? Sending good vibes–maybe talking to a child–THAT is considered parenting? Really? Please explain how, I’m interested in knowing.

  100. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 10:21 am |

    “furthermore, i am really disturbed by the use of ‘appropriate’ and ‘well behaved’ because i start to wonder…who is determining what is appropriate…who is defining well behaved? if appropriate and well behaved means ‘adult like’ that is oppressive. ”

    I certainly never meant that to mean “adult like”. I think an adult can be inappropriate in the same way a child can, and that “appropriate” changes from place to place. If you scream in a playground or a gym, that is fine. If you scream in a quiet coffee shop, that is not fine. Child or adult.

    I’m not arguing that anybody, child or adult, doesn’t have a right to dictate their own behavior. I’m just asserting the right of the business owner, or the employees, to decide what the environment they run will be like. It does piss me off when adults are held to different standards– if somebody kicked out a family with a crying child but let an obnoxious adult overpower the atmosphere, I’d be angry about that, too.

    @mightydoll: I have frequently gotten dirty looks from parents when I constructively try to help behavior. I don’t know, maybe you and I have had different experiences in this way. I think some parents tend to think that because I look young, I must have no experience and have no idea what I’m talking about. (despite years of experience nannying, working in the childcare industry, and being around younger relatives– I’m pretty good with kids, despite not being a mother.)

    Additionally, in the service industry, I’ve found that if this “helping” is accepted by the parents, it can quickly devolve into “oh good, the staff is watching my children for me.”

    I really don’t want to sound like I’m arguing against children in public spaces, I’m really, really not. And I realize that I’m holding one or two personal experiences of “inappropriate” children above hundreds of “reasonable” child experiences. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle these situations, I really have.

  101. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 10:22 am |

    Yes, children eventually grow into adults. But when they are children they do not have those rights. Children are some of the most abused, exploited people on the planet. They are completely vulnerable to the whims of the adult people around them and dependent on them for care. The fact that they are seriously abused and exploited BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS makes them an oppressed group of people.

    I mean, really, do you know nothing of child abuse and child slavery?

    I didn’t realize we were talking about abused, exploited, child slaves here. I thought we were talking about children of loving parents who are being asked to behave in public.

    Or could it be that you’re talking about an entirely different issue?

  102. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 10:22 am |

    @Dawn some more: Indeed! Things were much better for women and children 50 years ago. We should use that model of child rearing and mothers should just keep their spawn at home!

    As long as we’re going back in time, 200 years ago, there was no sense of childhood at all, really, and with the exception of the upper classes, kids were everywhere adults were.

  103. scrumby
    scrumby July 27, 2010 at 10:24 am |

    Are any of these post really anti-child? There are anti-certain behavior posts and anti-parent posts but I’ve yet to see anything that really slams kids themselves.

  104. feministjen
    feministjen July 27, 2010 at 10:24 am |

    I just want to say I’m a USian, and I love and agree with this post. I’m not a mother, and I am a feminist. And I love. This. Post. (Please mock my punctuation, including the inappropriate use of these parentheses now)

    I completely second what maia said in a comment: is children’s status as an oppressed class of people really a question?? We need this post in the US *because* this post generated such heated debate (and so many personal stories about how that one time some kid spilled something on me/cried/ran around at a restaurant). Boohoo! Whoops, got more frustrated than I meant to.

    What about maia’s point that when we exclude children, we’re also excluding primary caregiver’s, most frequently, mothers?

    What about the point that many others are making, that children aren’t in the way of the movement, they are the movement. Love this!

    My day job is working to end sexual violence, and more and more every day I am convinced that it’s the kids, duh, who are so important to this work. To teach us about it, to learn healthy ways of thinking about themselves and others and choices and their bodies, as they grow up into grown people.

    And what about the fact that children are a really vulnerable population? A population vulnerable to violence, sexual violence, and bullying. Children are frequently ignored or presumed to be lying when they tell us about the violence they experience. There are difficulties around children’s bodies and control: when is it ok to pick up a child against her/his will? How do we help children learn to know who can touch them and how and when?

    How don’t we see children as an oppressed class of people?

    And I love when one of my favorite friends who is a mama talks to me about her daughter. When her daughter throws a tantrum, she lets her have some time in it, because when you grow up, you are no longer allowed to throw a great big tantrum when something really unfair happens to you. And there are times I would love to throw a great big tantrum.

    Kids are beautiful, and including kids and their mamas adds so much richness to us, to different situations, to conversations, to social settings.

    The funny thing is, I don’t want to be a mama. It’s not my calling. But, loving kids is part of my calling, and loving their mamas too. Supporting mamas and children, and being aware of their inclusion/lack of inclusion.

    Ugh, “some tyke in a restaurant bothered me” is so not a convincing enough reason to disallow someone into spaces.

    feminist love,
    Jen

  105. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 10:25 am |

    “I feel the same about my parent friends on Facebook. I’m friends with *you* and while I recognize your new baby is a huge part of your life (that I am in fact interested in), if you can talk about *nothing* other than your child, you’ll be hidden from my feed, or even de-friended.””

    Then maybe you really shouldn’t be calling yourself that person’s friend, because, frankly, clearly you aren’t.

    WHAT? Is this really ok? In order to be someone’s friend you must read everything they write on Facebook, including being hugely interested in stories of diaper changes/carrot puree on faces? Surely this isn’t an ok comment. Surely.

  106. Loughton
    Loughton July 27, 2010 at 10:27 am |

    recently, i was hanging out at a bar, when a friend called and invited me to come hang out for a few drinks and chill time as the sun came up. cool. then, i heard a bit of whispers in the background and the question posed to me: is aza with you?

    Does it bother you that your friends don’t like hanging out with your daughter?

  107. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 10:27 am |

    @Sarah: “I respect your point of view, but I have a really hard time qualifying business owners who have guidelines for how their patrons should behave while in their business as “oppressive.” You’re saying that kids are part of society and and we should all accept that. Fair enough, but rules are also part of society, including rules that dictate behavior.”

    Hypothetical situation: a business owner creates some behavioral rules which wholly impact, or disproportionately affect, a certain class of people. Say… business owners who do not permit breastfeeding, or business owners who demand that people only speak English in their establishment, or business owners who say that they will not serve anyone wearing certain garments associated with minorities (“baggy pants” comes to mind), or business owners who say that only certain kinds of patrons can sit at the lunch counter….

    You wouldn’t consider any of these to be forms of oppression, or symptomatic of larger social oppression?

  108. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 10:29 am |

    @ Ellie: I’m not claiming it never happens to anyone, but I think it happens rather less than these threads seem to suggest. Or perhaps where I live (Toronto) is different from wherever you live. Who knows? I do believe, though, that if we wish to change the way children are treated and the resultant way children act (because, really, kids live what is modelled to them), we have to BE the change we want to see. Parents who might be prone to giving you dirty looks are likely so used to having people judge them harshly, that the first thought is that you are judging them, when you ask a child for different behaviour. The more we treat children like a part of society, rather than a societal burden, the less frequently this will happen.

    In terms of parents assuming babysitting: That’s a toughie, however my experience has largely been that asking a child to behave differently seems to step up the parents’ involvement, rather than step it down. Of course, it helps to be friendly and pleasant and engage the child, rather than dictatorial. – Getting down to their level, looking them in the eye and smiling really goes a long way towards how the child feels (and is apt to behave afterwards) and how the parent feels.

  109. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 10:29 am |

    @FilthyGrandeur

    If they can’t afford to hire a babysitter? They probably can’t afford to go out to a nice restaurant or drinking.

    @Emily

    Part of having children is dealing with the fact that they do have an impact on your life, this includes some restrictions. It’s not the fault of others if you can’t afford a babysitter or refuse to use one.

    Basically part of being an adult is learning consideration, if you aren’t considerate of others, how can you teach a child to be?

    Well it never hurts to ask and if they don’t do it, find somewhere else to drink. Most of our local pubs here have a watch scheme which basically means that disruptive individuals are barred from all pubs if they act up in one.

    @Faith,

    I suggest you don’t lecture someone who survived one of the worst child abuse cases in Europe on child abuse. I probably know more about it than most people.

    Any vulnerable individual can be abused, this does not make what they are an oppressed class. Some children are abused, this is wrong, however the normal expectations of children and parents do not count as oppression.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 27, 2010 at 10:37 am | *

      If they can’t afford to hire a babysitter? They probably can’t afford to go out to a nice restaurant or drinking.

      False. Plenty of people budget for a nice meal out on occasion, but can’t afford the extra cost of a babysitter for hours (which, by the way, often includes food for the babysitter). When I was baby-sitting 10 years ago, I was getting paid somewhere between $10 and $20 an hour. People also tend to need more experienced and older baby-sitters for very small babies, and that’s going to cost you even more. There are lots of people out there who scrape together $50 for a meal out, but not another $50 to pay a sitter for the night.

      And let’s please not suggest that people with children should have to stay in if they can’t afford a sitter. That’s basically saying that people without a lot of money shouldn’t have children, and that view is not one we’re going to support here.

  110. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 10:31 am |

    That is a completely seperate issue, nobody should have the right to assault or threaten another human being.

    How is it a completely separate issue? There’s no connection at all to “my right to not be subjected to etc etc etc” and a man up in a woman’s face screaming at her to get her children under control? Really?

    The thing about conversations like this is that they are so uninformed by race and even gender, it’s laughable. Who do we think is going to be considered “appropriate”? do we think that the little black girl mouthing off to her mother will be looked at the same way as the little white boy sassing to his dad? Do we think that the mother talking to her child in spanish will be viewed and treated the same way as the white mother talking to her child? Some people consider a mother speaking to her child in spanish *child abuse*. Spanish speaking mothers have had their child taken away from them for speaking spanish.

    Also–I hope all the people who are sure they know best what is an appropriate place for children to be and that children aren’t oppressed peoples–I wonder what the response has been from these same people to children, to even *babies*, to even US citizens who are children–being held in prisons indefinitely because their parents are undocumented. Or children (the vast majority of them children of color, and more of them *girls of color*) being arrested at schools for “acting out.” or, “having a tantrum.”

    are mothers of color just naturally bad parents? do we raise kids that think it’s ok to act out? Or are there other deciding factors here in what is “appropriate behavior” that will be applied differently to all children?

  111. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 10:32 am |

    “I mean, really, do you know nothing of child abuse and child slavery?”

    Child abuse/child slavery is not the same as asking a parent to remove their screeching kid from a restaurant. I think that’s exactly the point previous posters are making. To use the word “oppressive” about kid-unfriendly restaurants or bars is a bad comparison when these very issues you mention are going on in the world, in far too many places.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 27, 2010 at 10:44 am | *

      Child abuse/child slavery is not the same as asking a parent to remove their screeching kid from a restaurant. I think that’s exactly the point previous posters are making. To use the word “oppressive” about kid-unfriendly restaurants or bars is a bad comparison when these very issues you mention are going on in the world, in far too many places.

      No, it’s not, but Faith was making the point that children as a class face oppression. That does not mean that every act of removing a child from a restaurant is oppressive. Kind of like how women as a class face oppression, and that is evidenced by a lot of things, including systematic rape and abuse. Pointing that out is not the same thing as saying that every bad thing an individual woman faces is oppressive. It is saying that what happens to women or children (and how children are treated in public spaces) should be assessed in the broader context of that oppression. So suggesting that children should not be in certain spaces at certain times is not de facto oppressive, but treating children poorly in public spaces or suggesting that parents (which really means “mothers,” usually) have to “control” their children at all times is part of a continuum of disrespect and disempowerment of children.

  112. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 10:34 am |

    @mightydoll

    Parents who might be prone to giving you dirty looks are likely so used to having people judge them harshly, that the first thought is that you are judging them, when you ask a child for different behaviour.

    This is indeed a very fair point. People hold hostilities towards children because of a couple bad examples, and parents can potentially hold hostilities towards me because of a couple of bad examples of strangers stepping in. I can’t really expect parents to universally accept my help until the general public universally accepts their children.

  113. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 10:35 am |

    bfp,

    I *regularly* am told not to bring my kids to feminist *organizing* spaces and am
    repeatedly told the reason why is because “ we don’t want to be disturbed” and “this isn’t the place” and “it’s inappropriate” and and and and and—child by choice non-mothers dont want to have to parent my child.

    Wow, I didn’t realize the situation was so hostile. Most of the “feminist” spaces I’ve been in from rape crisis to domestic violence to unionization…even sex worker outreach has included children. The only objection I recall was having children in the group therapy room at a rape crisis center, which was easily resolved by a volunteer offering to entertain the child for 45 min. When I was a small child (I remember going as young as five to “help”) I went with my parents to volunteer and it was my (very grown up) responsibility to bring toys so that I could comfort any other kids who might be frightened, a technique that ensured I was on my very best behavior.

    I’m shocked that kids aren’t welcomed in all these spaces anymore. I’m fairly certain that they are at least permitted everywhere I volunteer, but maybe as a childfree person I don’t notice if there are extra hassles a parent has to endure. I will try to find out.

    Are there any national or regional organizations that you would feel comfortable calling out? Or are there particular barriers that you encounter in lots of places (other than assholes of course)?

  114. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 10:35 am |

    Wait, you’re saying that we can’t talk about children being oppressed because child slavery exists? Don’t look now, but we can’t talk about date rape because of the kinds of systematic rape-as-a-weapon that occurs in the Congo and South Africa.

    Let’s not play oppression bingo.

  115. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 10:36 am |

    @Dawn: How do you think that families managed to keep their kids out of sight? Do you think it was because the moms never went anywhere?

  116. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 10:39 am |

    bfp,

    Nobody should be willfully abused. I have never abused a parent, so why do you think it’s okay for me to be abused by their inability or unwillingness to actually parent their kids?

    Personally a disruptive kid is a disruptive kid, their race doesn’t matter to me, their gender doesn’t matter to me, nor does their parent’s race or gender.

    A bad parent is a bad parent regardless of what colour of skin or genitals they have.

    I find strikingly that those who see everything through the lense of race and gender are far more likely to actually have a bias. There’s a difference between respecting the differences people have and using them as an excuse.

  117. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 10:40 am |

    however the normal expectations of children and parents do not count as oppression

    this right here is the problem. what is “normal”? is there such a thing? Black girls are arrested at school for “acting out” (i.e. having a tantrum)–white boys are called “imps” and “flirts.” Black mothers have a historical pressure put on them by an apartheid regime to “control their kids”–does “normal expectations” apply to them? Latina mothers are accosted and getting their children taken away from them for speaking spanish–is this normal? Is it normal to expect that all children will speak english and only english and if they don’t they are being abused?

  118. annoyed
    annoyed July 27, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    Parents bringing their children to pubs or restaurants is really the parents’ decision. As someone else said, children grow into adults. Keeping them at home doesn’t really help them learn how to socialize. But parents not disciplining their kids, that’s a big problem. Just as I’m not happy when an adult yells or shouts next to me, I’m not happy when a child does it endlessly while the parents are not doing anything to correct this behavior. We were in an airport a few weeks ago, and after one of these children had been yelling for some 15 minutes, my mom simply went to the child and started a conversation. In most cases, a child yells when nobody pays attention to him. I’m no expert on kids, but I think today’s undisciplined children are tomorrow’s disturbed teenagers and adults. I grew up going to all the places my parents went: to parties, to restaurants, to all public places. Sometimes people cursed, sometimes people drank: this did not turn me into an alcoholic and I do not start and end my sentences with “fuck”.

  119. Shelly
    Shelly July 27, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    Dawn,

    I’m not sure what your point is. Sure, some kids don’t want to hang out with adults, but a lot of them do, given the option. I suspect more of them would, if we lived in a culture where they were better integrated into adult society. Which is not to say that they wouldn’t also want to play with kids their own ages. Of course they would, but they’d also be comfortable with adults, in adult settings, if they weren’t so heavily segregated.

    Anecdata: Most of the kids I know, given a choice, usually prefer to hang out with the grown ups. But, my family and my circle of friends tend to integrate kids into the mix from day one, and kids are generally treated like they have a right to be seen and heard. This is partly out of necessity (can’t afford sitters) and partly out of a belief that kids have a place in the world.

    For example, when I visit my family, my niece wants to go shopping or out to eat with my mom and I. She’d choose that over playing with her friends or cousins, because she can do those things any time. And I suspect it makes her feel grown up and important to be included with the adults, which is perfectly okay. She matters, so she *ought* to be included.

  120. MT
    MT July 27, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    I am an elementary school teacher. I love teaching children. However, when I am not working, I do look for places with fewer-no children to relax. Grown-ups need grown-up time in the outside world sometimes.

    While I do agree with not segregating mothers with children in the general public, I do not believe it is right for parents to take their ill-behaved children into places where adults go to relax (R-rated movies, expensive restaurants, etc.). This is common sense.

    As a teacher I study how parenting is reflected in children. Sometimes, it seems that people get together and, out of lack of forethought, decide that they need a child to fill their lives and solve their problems. Children become a sort of glorified garden gnome–a part of material culture by which parents can comply with a heteronormative narrative. Children, like cell phones, become a right to have in “quiet” spaces like the cinema, theater, and upscale dining establishments.

    I am not calling for a ban on children in these places, but parents, please remember that your child WILL ruin the experience and further embed this prejudice against ALL mothers and children in the minds of all adults in a place if your child is obnoxious.

  121. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 10:42 am |

    this right here is the problem. what is “normal”? is there such a thing?

    Can I again direct people to Michael’s point in comment number one?:

    many of the norms that children violate in public are relatively non-contentious, at least in my experience: walking and speaking quietly while indoors, being polite to others, being careful with things that don’t belong to them, and so on and so forth.

    That is normal. That is not oppression. It is disrepectful to actual victims of child abuse and oppression to equate these expectations with oppression.

  122. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 10:45 am |

    @Dawn:
    Personally a disruptive kid is a disruptive kid, their race doesn’t matter to me, their gender doesn’t matter to me, nor does their parent’s race or gender.

    Easier said than done.

  123. Babs
    Babs July 27, 2010 at 10:46 am |

    @S

    Why is “being quiet” the same as “wearing a certain type of clothing” or “breastfeeding?”

    The rules children are generally expected to follow are universal rules, and ones that all people can follow with some minor adjustments.
    “Please by quiet in the library” isn’t targeting kids (I like that it keeps noisy cells phones away). Kids are perfectly capable of being quiet. There is an entire section of my local library full to the brim with indoor-voiced children.

    I suppose that somewhere, there are rules that unfairly single out kids (I remember a restaurant that only allowed children to order off the children’s menu, which is absurd). But “be quiet” and “no running in the museum” are NOT the same as “Irish need not apply.”
    People should give some leeway for those still learning, but that’s not the same as saying the rules themselves are the problem.

  124. tanglad
    tanglad July 27, 2010 at 10:46 am |

    omg, Maia. I just to voice my support for you. I am not a parent but as a person, i am appalled at the vitriol in this thread. I wish I could have posted before this thread degenerated into what about me, my space, my comfort, my rights. It’s just another disappointing iteration of the focus on individualist issues to the exclusion of an analysis of systematic oppressions. padayon.

  125. Niki
    Niki July 27, 2010 at 10:47 am |

    @Dawn and um, no, what would be your suggestion then? Weddings are family affairs and oftentimes, every single person you would normally ask to babysit your child (your parents, siblings, cousins, close friends) might be going to the same wedding as you. So even with months of planning, it could be that you simply can’t get a sitter for your kid. That’s where the arrogance comes in. It’s different than not wanting a particular person at your birthday party, because you’re not wanting a particular type of person there, and that is loaded with judgement. I know that plenty of parents opt to leave their kids at home, but at least that is the parents’ choice; and not all parents have that luxury.

    I used to work at a coffee shop and I was often baffled by some of my coworkers getting mad because of some toddler that was crying loudly. It’s a coffee shop. Families are welcome. And kids that young cry. They scream sometimes. Most parents handle it just fine; they can’t just flip an “off” switch, they have to be patient, and as workers at the coffee shop, we owe it to our customers to be patient too.

  126. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 10:48 am |

    @Dawn: are you seriously suggesting that you are abused (oppressed?) by unruly children, while in the same argument arguing that children aren’t considered an underclass? Wow.

  127. Mo
    Mo July 27, 2010 at 10:48 am |

    There are many good points made above, and many extreme views. Nobody is 100% right. There are some generalities that have a common theme on which I’d like to remark, however.

    1. It is expectant upon the parents to eventually teach the child acceptable social behavior to function in public as a member of society. How that is defined can be by your social group, your nationality, possibly even your ethnicity or religion, when you grew up there’s a ton of variables. In America, I think there are some general expectations that children eventually learn what is acceptable when it comes to matching your noise and activity level to the type of space you’re in. Some parents, for whatever reason, do not give consistent instruction in this, or the kids are having a bad day. This upsets other people in those spaces, and people who are upset are often quick to judge. There’s give and take on both sides. I have seen people get bitchy very fast, and I’ve seen parents who basically ignore everything their kids do in public with no discipline at all. I’ve also seen it go the other way.

    2. No two people are going to agree 100% on how to raise a child. In America, we may claim “it takes a village to raise a child”, but we don’t do it. Not only do we stress individualism incessantly, we have also heightened awareness of the danger to children from certain strangers to the point where we don’t want our kids to interact with strangers much at all. I think there is a point where it becomes hard to trust another adult because you aren’t trusting their motives with your child, and that gets generalized. My mom would have been thrilled if someone was kind enough to make origami animals on a plane for me. Unfortunately, airlines long ago cut out having the “activity kits” and colorforms they used to hand out. You’re lucky to get a meal on a flight these days. We’ve also become accustomed to a fear that if we publicly discipline our kids (and I’m not talking spanking, I’m talking even just a stern talking too), that some random stranger will think it’s child abuse and call CPS on us.

    3. I can only offer my own experience, but I have witnessed the similar experiences of friends to say that I am aware this method works. You set boundaries. Crossing those boundaries has consequences. My mom will tell you to this day about the 3 times when I was little and misbehaved in a restaurant when she then paid for the half-eaten meal and we left. I learned extremely quickly that if I didn’t behave in public, I didn’t get to *go*. It made me aware that being overly loud and refusing to stay in my chair was what meant I didn’t finish my dinner there at the restaurant or get to see the rest of the movie. It instilled in me that I was responsible for my own behavior, and that some things were acceptable in certain places and not in others. Yes, Mom wasted money. Yes, it cut short her time out. She never once expected a waitress or usher or anyone else who was working to watch me. It wasn’t their job.

    4. This is a little non sequitur, but I think there’s a big difference in the definitions of “bar” in this comment thread. I grew up in Denver, CO and now live in Seattle, WA. Bar, to me, means a place where people of legal drinking age go to drink and meet people and maybe dance. “Bars” don’t normally serve cooked food. They may have snacks or something for happy hour, but if it has a kitchen, it’s no longer a bar. If they don’t serve cooked food, they can’t legally allow anyone under the drinking age in the establishment. I’m terribly curious as to where commentors on here are taking children into bars in the USA legally. It’s why we don’t call a bar a pub here in the US, at least not anywhere I’ve lived. Pubs have meals. (and usually darned good ones.) Even now in Seattle, a pub has dinners, and minors can eat there. But a minor can’t go in a bar.

    1. Jill
      Jill July 27, 2010 at 10:56 am | *

      This is a little non sequitur, but I think there’s a big difference in the definitions of “bar” in this comment thread. I grew up in Denver, CO and now live in Seattle, WA. Bar, to me, means a place where people of legal drinking age go to drink and meet people and maybe dance. “Bars” don’t normally serve cooked food. They may have snacks or something for happy hour, but if it has a kitchen, it’s no longer a bar. If they don’t serve cooked food, they can’t legally allow anyone under the drinking age in the establishment. I’m terribly curious as to where commentors on here are taking children into bars in the USA legally. It’s why we don’t call a bar a pub here in the US, at least not anywhere I’ve lived. Pubs have meals. (and usually darned good ones.) Even now in Seattle, a pub has dinners, and minors can eat there. But a minor can’t go in a bar.

      I live in a neighborhood where kids go into bars (I live in Brooklyn, NY). I’m not exactly sure what the regulations are, but there’s a bar I frequent that always has a ton of kids in it. Mostly little ones, still in strollers, and generally early (I don’t usually see kids there past 8). But yeah, those bars exist. Under NY law, kids are allowed in bars. They can’t drink, and minors under the age of 16 have to be accompanied by an adult, but they can come in. That said, bars are also allowed to limit entrance at their discretion to only those 21 and over.

      It’s actually really common where I live to take kids to bars, especially during the day on the weekends or early in the evenings. Obviously parents self-select relatively quiet bars where they can sit and have a beer; I don’t see parents bringing their kids to super loud fratboy hang-outs or clubs. Here’s a Times article about it:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/fashion/10stroller.html

  128. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 10:50 am |

    @Dawn: “I have never abused a parent, so why do you think it’s okay for me to be abused by their inability or unwillingness to actually parent their kids?”

    You are not being abused by being seated next to a crying baby on an airplane, any more than the parent is being abused while trying to comfort the kid. Abuse requires some sort of deliberate, targeted action against you, not the mere presence of annoyance within your hearing.

    And I find it highly unlikely that children, as a class, are more likely to cause you or your property injury than, say, middle aged white men are, as a class. If you’re worried about being “abused” then I’d say there’s a better argument for banning MEN from bars than banning CHILDREN.

    “I find strikingly that those who see everything through the lense of race and gender are far more likely to actually have a bias. There’s a difference between respecting the differences people have and using them as an excuse.”

    This isn’t about the “differences” people “have” – it’s about the differences in the way they are treated and perceived by society at large. Are you seriously going to sit there and suggest that minority parents are inherently worse parents than white parents? Because when I sit there and look at how many minority kids are in foster care and how many white kids are in foster care, I have to say that the first thing to enter my mind is not, “Oh, gee, black parents must be so much more ABUSIVE than white parents.”

    WTF, Dawn.

  129. Frowner
    Frowner July 27, 2010 at 10:50 am |

    (Hi bfp! I used to comment on your blog, which I still read but I’ve been commenting less everywhere)

    This astonishes me because it’s so awful:
    I myself have had my son physically manhandled by an older white woman, and have had him yelled at by a *F*eminist because he was a little kid who wasn’t moving through a line fast enough.–I *regularly* am told not to bring my kids to feminist *organizing* spaces and am repeatedly told the reason why is because “we don’t want to be disturbed” and “this isn’t the place” and “it’s inappropriate” and and and and and—child by choice non-mothers dont want to have to parent my child.

    Total feminism fail! Total organizing fail! I would argue race/immigration/class fail as well, since people who face the various social constraints of racism and poverty are much less likely to have the money to make childcare arrangements and the energy to wrangle the whole situation….even being child-unwelcoming hurts organizing because it’s difficult for parents to deal with meeting after meeting where it’s obvious that the kid isn’t welcome. All groups need to have a plan in place for childcare or for amusing the kids during meetings–pass the baby around to the people who like to hold babies, etc etc.

    I don’t have kids; I’m awkward with kids unless I know them pretty well. (Housemate is having a baby this fall, so things will be a little different.) You don’t have to adore every child in the world to acknowledge that we can’t build a just society if we don’t make a place for kids.

    And yes, kids are an oppressed class. If they weren’t oppressed, they wouldn’t have to go to school with bullies when they’re afraid and miserable; they would have some choice about their education; they would have bodily autonomy except when broadly necessary (feeding little kids, grabbing a toddler out of the street, etc). Adults who have to work with bullies and who have no choice at all of occupation are oppressed too; it’s called class injustice.

    It’s interesting how bars and strip clubs become proxies for “everywhere else”. I frankly have never seen a little kid in a dive bar. I’m sure they turn up sometimes, but at least in Large Midwestern City, they’re not around often. So I think this “but what about my drinking time?” is a bit of a canard.

    I would be very interested in emotional and material suggestions to help activists support parents with kids–maybe do some kind of childcare class for activists who (like me) didn’t have little siblings or babysit as teens; maybe some plans for groups and social groups to help them make sure kids are integrated with the most happiness for all.

    Also, life changes and you change with it. Now that I’m older, my friends have kids. I’m not going to ditch out on our years of history together just because I have to learn a few toddler-wrangling skills.

  130. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 10:52 am |

    There are some places where there is an expectation of silence, such as libraries, funeral homes and chapels. The sounds of children squealing loudly, screaming or wailing, violate this expectation and make it impossible to study or pray. The very purpose for which the space was created is, therefore, defeated when a very loud child – or anyone else – is allowed to disturb everyone there without being stopped or disciplined.

    @Dominique Libraries are no longer considered places where quiet is expected or enforced. Rather than deal with their own kids and their behavior, many parents will drop their kids off at the library and leave. . .I guess along with a library employee, I’m expected to be a baby-sitter, too.

    But don’t, God-forbid, try to keep the kids safe. I had an incident where an unattended toddler almost pulled an encyclopedia on herself. I pulled her out of the way. She was startled, and began to cry. Her mother (who was surfing the Internet) yelled at me, and complained to my boss.

    So I guess the real issue here isn’t kids in public spaces — it’s the parents of these kids expecting someone else to take care of the kids THEY decided to have.

  131. ElleDee
    ElleDee July 27, 2010 at 10:52 am |

    I have read a million annoying child stories in these threads, and the questions I have never get answered fully.

    – How many of these incidents could be avoided or lessened with just a modest amount of accommodation for the needs of the kid/parent? Probably a lot. Parents, what accommodations would make things easier for you?

    – At least some of these incidents are the result of parents asleep at the switch, but also the world is stuffed to the brim of strangers who criticize the parents (=moms, of course) without thought. Is it possible to discern poor parenting from afar at all? How can rowdy kids be managed without involving the parents, if the parents are doing nothing? I know I’m also wary of interacting with kids because their parents think they own them.

    – Most people seem to be talking about infants and toddlers, but those are not the only ages excluded in adult only spaces. La Lubu commented very early on about her 10 yo being excluded at a hospital and she can’t be the only one.

  132. ACG
    ACG July 27, 2010 at 10:55 am |

    I don’t think that, outside of certain outliers (places that are deafeningly noisy and/or smoky, places that are of an “adult” kind of adult nature), places should really be designated “adult-only.” But a lot of places are organized not around ages but certain kinds of behavior. There are places where things are quiet (some restaurants, libraries), places where things are loud and swear-y (other restaurants, bars, action movies), and places where things and noisy and fun (still other restaurants, parks, kids’ movies). And bringing one type of behavior into another type of place makes things unpleasant for everyone.

    If I wandered onto a playground or into a Chuck E. Cheese, cracked a beer, and started swearing and telling bawdy stories, I’d be dragged out by my hair, because that behavior isn’t appropriate in that place. In a karaoke bar, I’d probably be okay, but not at Chuck E. Cheese. And not at my favorite restaurant, either.

    Kids absolutely need to be included in what would otherwise be “adult” places, because that’s the only way to learn how to behave in “adult” places. I recently had dinner at a coat-and-tie restaurant next to a family with the most adorable two children–neither of them over ten, both of them in little coats and little ties, and both of them polite and quiet and behaving perfectly for the setting. They’d obviously had a lot of instruction in what’s expected for that kind of environment, and so their presence was no more of a disturbance than that of any of the adults there. And if their reward for sitting quietly during dinner involved shedding the coats and hitting the Playplace at McDonald’s afterward, I hope they rocked out, because that’s what’s expected for that kind of environment.

    I don’t do well with noise and crowds, and so I try to stick to places where those things are discouraged–from kids and adults. I try to do my shopping during off-peak hours, and if it’s chaotic when I get there, I grit my teeth and bear it. If I’m at the park and there are small children running around shrieking their heads off, I’m all for it–parks are a great place for running and shrieking. But the places I seek out–certain bars, certain restaurants, certain movies–are the ones where sitting quietly is the accepted norm, and I don’t think I’m out of line to ask kids and adults to respect that norm.

  133. john
    john July 27, 2010 at 10:55 am |

    I do see the double standard. It is socially acceptable to not particularly like kids, but is it socially acceptable to not particularly like the mentally retarded? Is it socially acceptable to complain about someone navigating a wheelchair in a large crowd? Or perhaps the obnoxious high pitched noise from the beeping crosswalks for the blind.
    Kids have needs and limitations compared to older people and if our society is to be inclusive it should be inclusive to kids as well.

  134. FilthyGrandeur
    FilthyGrandeur July 27, 2010 at 10:56 am |

    @Dawn: If they can’t afford to hire a babysitter? They probably can’t afford to go out to a nice restaurant or drinking.

    your privilege is showing. you clearly do not respect the autonomy of other people. baby sitters can be expensive. and sometimes adults just want to include their children in the “going out” experience. also, i was commenting on you mentioning going to the store, which is excessively classist of you to suggest that children should be left home if they can’t help with shopping. yeah, fucking say that to the mom who has to get her errands done with her kids, when a baby sitter may not be available or realistic. baby sitters are simply not an option to some parents, and shopping is a fucking necessity.

  135. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 10:57 am |

    @Dawn: are you seriously suggesting that you are abused (oppressed?) by unruly children, while in the same argument arguing that children aren’t considered an underclass? Wow.

    Some people really and truly experience pain on hearing loud, high-pitched noises. It’s not just annoying to hear a child screaming, it is physically painful. In a situation where I cannot leave (for example, a plane trip), it is definitely comparable to abuse.

  136. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 11:00 am |

    Emily,

    I often have to stay in because I’m disabled, it’s called life isn’t fair, there are restaurants that welcome kids even badly behaved ones that I can’t access because of my disability should I want to go to them.

    Going out to places like bars is a want not a need. Having a child requires certain sacrifices and a reorganisation of priorities, at least you choose to have a child, I didn’t choose to be disabled.

    bfp,

    Stop bringing race into it because for many of us it isn’t about race, it’s about the fact that certain places are not kid friends or kid appropriate.

    The gender of the kid/parent, the race of the kid/parent? Not an issue.

    The behaviour of both? an issue.

    I live in a multicultural town, I see bad parents of all genders, all races with their correspondingly poorly raised kids of both genders.

    Someone’s race or gender doesn’t make them a good parent or a bad parent, their decisions do that.

    Maia,

    I have said nothing insulting about race, I merely consider it a non-issue in the debate, I don’t really care what gender or race a kid is, if they’re being disruptive and poorly behaved then it’s not because of what gender they have or what skin colour they have.

    It is usually because their parents permit such behaviour or are not taking steps to address such behaviour.

    If the kid is in an inappropriate place, it’s usually nothing to do with the skin colour or gender, and everything to do with the decisions their parent has made.

    In summary,

    I like children but they don’t belong everywhere and they do need to be actually taught by their parents. Parent is a verb as well as a noun.

    People aren’t fed up with children, they’re fed up with the whole “attached at the hip” thing some parents have got going on, kids do have to learn independence after all, they’re fed up with the idea that the responsibility for disruptive kids falls on others to tolerate rather than people respecting that parents need to actually parent.

  137. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    That is normal. That is not oppression. It is disrepectful to actual victims of child abuse and oppression to equate these expectations with oppression.

    let me say it very clearly: societal “expectations” play out differently for kids depending on the kids identity and how they are read. a black girl can and does get arrested at school for “acting out.” white boys have considerably more lenience and are interpreted far more sympathetically than a black girl is. we may all say we just “want quiet”–but a black girl (who will eventually grow up to be perceived as an angry black woman) will *always* be considered louder and more irritating than a white boy will be.

    so when we all feel justified and mighty for glaring at a mother that is forcing childless people to mother her child–we will feel more justified glaring at a black mother or a non-english speaking mother than we would glaring at a white mother.

  138. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 11:01 am |

    @Babs: “Why is “being quiet” the same as “wearing a certain type of clothing” or “breastfeeding?” [...] The rules children are generally expected to follow are universal rules, and ones that all people can follow with some minor adjustments.”

    Well, first off, you seem to be thinking of “children” as “individuals over the age of 7.” What about infants? Toddlers? No, these people cannot keep themselves quiet, and it’s unreasonable to expect them to do so.

    But even if we were talking only about “universal” rules which they could follow, they are often enforced disparately. My experience has always been that a family with a single raucous child is more likely to be asked to leave a restaurant than a table full of loud, offensive men of the same race; a woman with a child hiding in the racks of clothes is more likely to be asked to leave a department store than two women of the same race who deliberately drop clothing on the floor or scream at employees; a child, or a woman with children, is more likely to be asked or pressured to give up his or her seat on crowded public transit than one or more adults.

    So, maybe these are “universal” rules, but some of us are more equal than others.

  139. anna.licious
    anna.licious July 27, 2010 at 11:03 am |

    Thanks for this post, Maia. You bring up a lot of provocative points and I think feministe benefits from your presence.

    I’m childless and plan on remaining so, but most every job I’ve worked in has involved a lot of dealing with children. Most of the time, kids brighten my day and make work more interesting/fun. In my experience, children act out most often when they’re overwhelmed, bored, unhappy or uncomfortable. While yes, a screaming toddler does give me a headache, whatever he/she is experiencing must be equally miserable.

    Part of the problem is that so many spaces in the US simply aren’t designed to be child-friendly, though parents (most of the time reasonably) expect them to be. In the high-end women’s clothing boutique where I work part-time in the summers to supplement a meager graduate stipend, most of the displays aren’t very stable and all of the clothing would be seriously damaged if stained or ripped. We don’t let adults in with food, either, but I’ve gotten dirty looks when I’ve notified parents that we can’t have toddlers running around, touching the clothing with bright red or blue lollipop goo or chocolate ice cream all over their fingers. We also sometimes get glares for asking parents to keep a close eye on their kids around the six-feet-high mirrors, which aren’t anchored to the wall and have fallen over on employees trying to clean them once or twice (the manager is waiting for maintenance to attach them to the wall but it’s taking a while). Our clothing racks are on wheels and the tables all have sharp edges, so we don’t want kids running around in the shop lest they get hurt. It’s purely a safety thing. If a kid was injured in our shop, we could be sued (USians are a litigious bunch). We’re a tiny establishment and couldn’t absorb that kind of monetary loss the way a chain might.

    So it’s difficult! But for every child that almost gives me a heart attack when he starts shaking the mirrors or running around between the racks, there’s another who impresses me with her stellar vocabulary and honest observations, or his desire to help his mom find the prettiest dress in the store.

  140. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 11:03 am |

    Restaurants that do not accommodate disabilities are (or should be) in violation of the law. There is no law to be able to enjoy your dinner without having to endure seeing a child in the world.

    I choose to have a child, yes. And if I didn’t, and every other parent didn’t, the world would stop existing. Children are important to keep society going. So, you’re welcome.

  141. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 11:03 am |

    Kids have needs and limitations compared to older people and if our society is to be inclusive it should be inclusive to kids as well.

    The difference is that kids as a whole do not have any limitation that requires them to be disruptive in public places. If they really couldn’t help it, that would be different. But we have all seen well-behaved children, so that is simply not the case.

  142. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 11:04 am |

    And if I didn’t, and every other parent didn’t, the world would stop existing.

    I think you’ll find the world would keep existing and probably be better off in the long run.

  143. um, no
    um, no July 27, 2010 at 11:07 am |

    Ah but wait–I don’t live in the US, so I might be missing something there.

  144. Ruchama
    Ruchama July 27, 2010 at 11:09 am |

    @ACG: Actually, a lot of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants do serve beer. I’ve seen a bunch of news articles about drunken parents getting into brawls there when their kids got into an argument about whose turn it was for a game.

  145. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 11:10 am |

    @EmilyWK:
    I choose to have a child, yes. And if I didn’t, and every other parent didn’t, the world would stop existing. Children are important to keep society going. So, you’re welcome.

    Just as you expect to be respected by childless folk, I’m sure they’d like the same respect from you. It’s your right to have children, to have them where you want them, to raise them as you will– but you’re not doing me a personal favor by fulfilling some imaginary obligation to continue the human race.

  146. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni July 27, 2010 at 11:13 am |

    Could people (yes S, I mean you) stop equating disabled adults with children.

    Mai’a – “people who are best suited to decide what is best and most appropriate for their kids, are the parents/caregivers of the kid. everyone else who isnt part of that primary relationship, is just giving their opinion on someone else’s life choices.”

    That’s the thing though, it was a personal choice on the part of the parents to have those children, to bring them into the world. In doing so they effectively agree to a ‘parent contract’ to care for that child, raise them to be productive citizens, and protect them from harm. You can’t say “Help a parent out by engaging with an upset kid” from one side of your mouth, while effectively saying “Don’t you DARE even look at her, I’m the parent, I’m in charge” from the other.

    OK, you might be a ‘cool’ parent who takes your child into mixed spaces to help her learn how to interact with people, but there are other parents who have chosen to have children, but not to honour their ‘parent contract’. Not every parent behaves like you, your experience is yours alone, it is not universal.

    Some parents take their children to venues and immediately switch into ‘not my problem’ mode, or ‘everything my kid does is cute and hilarious’ mode. If I’m in a restaurant I don’t want my hair pulled, I don’t want my wheels fiddled with, and if someone takes food off my plate then that’s it – my meal is finished with. When these things happen I don’t want to hear “Oh s/he’s only a little kid!”. Those children aren’t having the kind of positive interactions and learning experiences that all children should be getting to prepare them for life, they’re getting the message that they can do whatever the hell they want and get away with it.

    So because that’s their parents’ ‘life choice’ I should automatically respect that? I’m absolutely going to judge people who encourage their children to behave badly and disrespect the rights of other people, not because I hate kids, but because those kids have no chance of figuring out anything of value on their own, and because their behaviour earns them glares and whispered insults when it should be their parents who are the target of people’s rage. I’m going to judge people who do that to their children.

    Like someone else said above, impregnating someone, or pushing someone out of your body, does not automatically confer on a person the common sense, instinct and dedication necessary to take a child from babyhood to adulthood. It does not always induce a sense of responsibility, or a realisation that they’ve made a life choice that will involve making permanent or temporary changes in their lifestyle. I wish it did. I wish I’d never had to speak to a child who’d drunk petrol, been burned at a drunken raucous barbecue, been locked in a car overnight, or was contemplating suicide. Those are the flip-sides of the kid being encouraged to play up in public/private spaces, or to act as if the world is theirs, and theirs alone, or of being born to people who just don’t care what happens to them. There are too many parents who revel in the ‘fun’ aspects of parenting, and leave the rest to chance. It’s always the children who suffer the most, and the defensive crowd who insist ‘mother knows best’ are deluding themselves if they think that everyone who has ever had a child has done so for the same reasons they have, has the same motivations, and the same desire to gift a new person into the world.

    I love children, but they’re not a right, they’re a responsibility, they need love, guidance and education and sadly they don’t always get it. If it was a perfect world, and kids were only ever born to those who wanted and loved them, who were dedicated and selfless, then there would be no need for the enforcement of ‘adult only’ spaces. Until then…

  147. Sei
    Sei July 27, 2010 at 11:16 am |

    @Ellie

    ” but you’re not doing me a personal favor by fulfilling some imaginary obligation to continue the human race.”

    It’s not just continuing the human race. If I may ask, what are your retirement plans? Who do you expect will do the necessary labor to make the money for your investments to bear fruit? Who do you anticipate will provide medical care in your old age, or grow your food, or keep the electricity on?

    As often as I’ve heard people say that they have no interest in the continued existence of humanity, I’ve never met a person who didn’t plan his or her life around the availability of labor during their old age. It seems awfully hypocritical to me to say that we don’t need the services of parents at the same time that we depend on them.

  148. Ruchama
    Ruchama July 27, 2010 at 11:17 am |

    The safe, child-friendly environment of Chuck E. Cheese: http://online.wsj.com/article/NA_WSJ_PUB:SB122878081364889613.html

    In Brookfield, Wis., no restaurant has triggered more calls to the police department since last year than Chuck E. Cheese’s.

    Officers have been called to break up 12 fights, some of them physical, at the child-oriented pizza parlor since January 2007. The biggest melee broke out in April, when an uninvited adult disrupted a child’s birthday party. Seven officers arrived and found as many as 40 people knocking over chairs and yelling in front of the restaurant’s music stage, where a robotic singing chicken and the chain’s namesake mouse perform.

  149. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 11:18 am |

    @dawn–no, actually I won’t stop bringing race into it, because I am a mother of color and my children are children of color. and my life as a mother and my children’s lives as children aren’t encompassed by what you see of them at the library or the local sex shop.

    girls of color are regularly reprimanded for “being loud”–ALL girls that do anything outside of the gender “norms” are considered to be “bad”–just look at how Angelina Jolie (AND NOT BRAD PITT) was accused of bad parenting because she lets her daughter wear pants and have short hair. Kids are judged the minute they walk out the door–a dirty girl of color (i.e. a NORMAL CHILD) is considered a testimony of bad parenting–and when that child “acts out” in her dirty clothes, it is given as evidence to support societal disgust and blame on the mother–her child is loud, obnoxious, AND dirty. Oh LORD.

    but this condemnation has real consequences on mothers of color especially and all mothers in general–a black girl wearing fly clothes is considered “grown up” and her mother is considered a bad mother for letting her daughter wear them *because* she is being compared to the white girl who is dressed in a soft flowy dress with her hair done up in a bow.

    When not just one individual–but an entire society thinks that mothers of color don’t wash their kids and dress their kids too grown up–that translates into society believing things like “welfare queen’ and “spanish is abuse.”

    1. Cara
      Cara July 27, 2010 at 11:26 am |

      You know, it’s funny how badly one can behave in public places (like blog post comments) while telling other people all about the kind of behavior that is and is not acceptable in public. Or maybe bad, rude, offensive behavior is just a lot more socially acceptable when it’s coming from adults making pseudo-feminist arguments.

      But let me just say that anyone seriously uttering the words “stop bringing race into it” is looking to get banned. No. How about “stop being a privileged asshat”? I’m not going to sit here and explain WHY it is so incredibly fucked up to tell other commenters to stop talking about how stigma against mothers and children intersects with racism. You know why? Because this is neither a feminism nor racism 101 blog. As much as it disgracefully looks like one right now.

  150. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 11:20 am |

    @Sei

    When we as a society actually stop producing new human beings I’ll consider this. (Hell, when we extend the lifespan considerably longer than it is now, producing a much larger balance of elderly people, I’ll consider this.) But one person having one child is not doing me a personal favor.

  151. Mo
    Mo July 27, 2010 at 11:21 am |

    Thank you, Jill, I didn’t know that about bars in New York. Perhaps the laws vary by state? Back in Denver, an employee would be the first to ask you to leave if you brought a minor in a drinking establishment. Fascinating, though. (I’ve also noticed in Seattle that a ton of people bring their dogs, and I’m not talking service animals, into places that serve or sell food. Different regional attitude.)

  152. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 11:22 am |

    While there is no obligation to continue the human race, Ellie, if you ever plan to retire, or even get sick in your old age, today’s children WILL, at some point, become indispensable to you.

  153. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    “Could people (yes S, I mean you) stop equating disabled adults with children.”

    The “reasons” people give for being annoyed with adults with disabilities are almost exactly the same as the “reasons” given for being annoyed with children. The comparison is meant to demonstrate that disgust is being lobbed at children-as-a-class which we would recognize as abhorrent if it were lobbed at people-with-developmental-disabilities-as-a-class.

    In short, unless you think that children are deserving of lowered respect or being treated as less-than-fully-human, then the comparison between how people react to children and how people react to adults with developmental disabilities is not in any way offensive.

    Seriously, give me a reason why comparing the treatment of two oppressed groups, in order to show the mechanism of oppression of the second group, is inherently offensive.

  154. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni July 27, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    Emily – “I choose to have a child, yes. And if I didn’t, and every other parent didn’t, the world would stop existing. Children are important to keep society going”

    But children in bars aren’t necessary to keep society going, children running around restaurants aren’t either. That’s the difference.

    Because you’re here, on this site, in the first place I assume that you realised that after making your choice to have children your life would have to change, that you couldn’t live exactly as you did pre-kids. Here’s the thing – not everybody is that clued up. I was in my last job for just under three years, and I can guarantee you that at least once a day I would get calls from new parents asking “When will Baby sleep through the night? She’s a week old and I’m tired of getting up” or “When can I switch from milk to food? I’m sick of preparing all the bottles, it’s been a whole month.” I had to refer at least one child a day to the poison control service after they’d been given air freshener or cigarettes to play with, or had been given half a sleeping tablet in their milk because they were crying. Sleeping Tablet Mummy was a Lit. Professor btw. These things transcend class and income lines.

    So while you clearly have your wits about you and realise that you can’t get ripped to the tits on Jager and Aftershock every night while you’re pregnant/a parent, that you won’t automatically get weekend lie-ins and Sunday brunch in bed followed by lazy sex and a night at the theatre, too many parents just aren’t that clued up. They resent the changes they have to make, their kids suffer, and society suffers with them.

  155. Babs
    Babs July 27, 2010 at 11:26 am |

    Well, first off, you seem to be thinking of “children” as “individuals over the age of 7.” What about infants? Toddlers? No, these people cannot keep themselves quiet, and it’s unreasonable to expect them to do so.
    I would be more generous and say 5 an up, but perhaps that’s a cultural thing. And even younger children can be included in quiet places with some accommodation. It’s unreasonable to expect them to be quiet forever, but it’s not unreasonable for them to come, and if they begin to make a lot of noise, for the parent to step outside with them until they quiet down. Some places make this easy, more should.
    There’s nothing wrong with stepping outside for a few minutes, and if the individual really can’t keep quiet (and that could be anyone from an infant to a whiny teenager to a drunk spouse), then it’s time to re-evaluate the situation and maybe go home and pick a different venue the next time (less noise for the infant, less beer for the spouse).
    And I’ve still seen toddles in the library using indoor voices. They’re never there as long as the other kids, but they still get to participate in the space in the limited capacity they are able to. As they learn, they will be able to stay there longer.

    <i.But even if we were talking only about “universal” rules which they could follow, they are often enforced disparately. My experience as always been that a family with a single raucous child is more likely to be asked to leave a restaurant than a table full of loud, offensive men of the same race; a woman with a child hiding in the racks of clothes is more likely to be asked to leave a department store than two women of the same race who deliberately drop clothing on the floor or scream at employees; a child, or a woman with children, is more likely to be asked or pressured to give up his or her seat on crowded public transit than one or more adults.

    So, maybe these are “universal” rules, but some of us are more equal than others.

    That is a cultural problem. The root is not “please be quiet,” but the disparity in enforcement. I would hope that people would be evenhanded, and my experiences have differed from yours. Mostly people give up their seats on the transport around here, particularly so families can sit together, and people are particularly keen to help women with strollers. I’ve seen people on cell phones kicked out of restaurants more often than people with unruly children. Even nice restaurants (but then I really don’t see a lot of unruly children).
    The problem here is not to expect the rules to change, but to try and get people to change their attitudes. I would hope that children would get some leeway in certain spheres where they cannot perfectly follow the rules. It’s a learning experience, they should be introduced to new situations and then taught how to behave. I would also hope parents would understand that just because you can take a child somewhere, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, and if they do, they probably can’t enjoy it the same way they would without a kid.

    There should be give and take from both sides.

  156. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 11:28 am |

    @shelly,

    My point is that adult spaces are boring, there are places kids would rather be and they should be in those places.

    @Maia,

    Where you live =/= where everyone lives. Also ethnic minority changes depending on where one lives, go to one of the eastern countries and there’s racism against groups of people who are not white by people who are not white.

    I live in a multicultural town, if anything it works the other way around here.

    I’m not colour blind, I just don’t think that someone’s parenting skills/behaviour depends on their skin colour or gender. If I see someone being a bad parent I don’t think it’s because of their skin colour or gender, I think it’s because they make bad choices.

    Niki,

    No, they’re about the bride and groom, they are only family affairs in that they’re celebrating the new family created by the union of two people.

    As their special day it is their right to make decisions about who is invited and who is not.

    If you can’t find a sitter with months of looking, you’re either not looking or haven’t really given it the attention it needs.

    S,

    An aural assault is still an assault, I am sound sensitive, high pitched noises not only cause me pain but can trigger epileptic fits after an interval, I suppose I should just stay home though rather than expect parents to take their screaming kid who is getting louder and louder out of the store? Often I can’t leave the store in enough time to avoid the collapse.

    You’d be incensed if parents were banned from stores, so why should I be because parents now refuse to take their screaming child out of the confines.

    Actually they are, children are far more likely to run into me, I’m fragile and I break easily. An adult is generally enough together not to knock me down, often kids don’t look where they’re going though. I’ve had more dislocated bones through being knocked over be loose children than I care to think about.

    No, my point is that a bad parent is a bad parent regardless of their skin colour or gender. I don’t look at someone encouraging their toddler to scream louder and louder and think it’s because of their skin colour or their gender, I think it’s because they’re a bad parent and an inconsiderate person.

    I’ve met plenty of bad parents of all genders and colours. It’s irrelevant to me personally because a bad parent is a bad parent at the end of the day.

    @maia,

    More like you can’t explain without insulting those of us who do belong to an oppressed class. Children are not an oppressed class, they will grow out of being a child eventually. Most people don’t grow out of their gender, skin colour or disability.

    @Elledee,

    What might be telling is to ask why the hospital has that rule? If in the past the hospital has had a lot of problem with incredibly disruptive children and a lack of parenting that might explain such a rule.

    I notice such rules often come into existence because some parents ruined it for the rest. It’s not just to spite children, often it’s because not everyone’s kid is a little angel with a wonderful parent.

    @FilthyGrandeur,

    Try shopping in a wheelchair sometime, it’s a nightmare trying to get around a store when half the store is flooded with parents who felt the need to bring their kids into a stroller the size of a small car along with about five other kids tagging after them and screaming their heads off.

    I suppose I should just stay home and starve though so I don’t inconvenience parents by bringing my wheelchair which I do actually NEED into the store with their oversized kid carriers. Why does a kid an eighth my size require something more than twice the size of my wheelchair? No parent has ever answered that one.

  157. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 11:29 am |

    @mightydoll
    I’m not suggesting that we get rid of children, or that I will never have a need for people younger than myself. I’m only frustrated with the attitude exhibited in Emily WK’s comment.

    That kind of rhetoric could also suggest that I am doing them a favor by existing & growing old, providing their children with employment opportunities in the future.

  158. Sei
    Sei July 27, 2010 at 11:29 am |

    @Paraxeni:

    “They resent the changes they have to make, their kids suffer, and society suffers with them.”

    Then maybe society should realize that parents need more support than they’re getting, and should offer to occasionally watch the children for free so that Mommy can sleep for more than two hours at a time, or should provide paid maternity leave so that Mommy doesn’t cry from exhaustion from having to wash the bottles out after eight hours of work and getting less than 20 hours of sleep over a two week period.

    Y’know, just a thought that such a tack might work better than saying, “Well, what did you think was going to happen?”

  159. tanglad
    tanglad July 27, 2010 at 11:30 am |

    bfp: “but this condemnation has real consequences on mothers of color especially and all mothers in general”

    Putting it up just to re-emphasize. I wish people would make the effort to see beyond their individual issues of “my comfort, my ideas of what’s appropriate” etc to consider how their actions and attitudes shore up an atmosphere that is already hostile to mothers and children of color. I don’t think that’s a lot to expect from people who purport to be feminists and social justice allies.

  160. ElleDee
    ElleDee July 27, 2010 at 11:33 am |

    bfp, I agree with you completely that how “appropriate behavior” and “appropriate parenting” is defined is often racist and used against non-white parents and their children. So does that mean that it is impossible to identify parents who are letting their kids run wild? Is it impossible to set the most basic standards because they will always be applied in an unfair manner? Is that what you are saying? (This is not some sort of gotcha question.)

  161. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 11:33 am |

    Paraxeni,

    I completely agree that children suffer under the kids as personal fulfillment and property problem we have in the US. BUT that has nothing to do with whether they should as a class be banned from public spaces. Yes, some parents are neglectful or abusive…why does that mean that all children can’t go to a particular restaurant?

  162. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni July 27, 2010 at 11:33 am |

    S – your ableism is showing. You’re not alone in that on this site, I refuse to debate issues relating to disability here because the all-around fail is too much to take.

    TAB-privilege is too difficult for me to address because:

    a) it’s not my job to be Gimp101 and list the ways in which comparing PWD to kids is offensive and reductive (would you have used an analogy comparing kids to PoC or GLBT? If not, why not? After all both groups are frequently told their ‘behaviour’ is inappropriate or ‘showy’)

    b) it always ends in one of two ways. PWD either get the “nasty, lazy mean crip” label, because people don’t like being called on TAB privilege (or any other kind). Or, I’m told “When I say ‘everyone’ then obviously you’re exempt because of X.Y. and Z, silly. I didn’t mean you!” as if I’m somehow not regarded as a contributing member of society.

  163. Athenia
    Athenia July 27, 2010 at 11:38 am |

    Yes, Americans do NOT have a “it’s takes a village” attitude when it comes to children.

    Compared with Japan, American children are (supposed to) be heavily regulated by their parents, so when they aren’t, massive judgement befalls the mom or dad. As opposed to Japan, where they are supposed to run wild (but in Japan, mom is home all day and dad works too much, so I imagine they really don’t have that bar problem over there).

    I think it’s even harder in America because spacially, it’s very compartmentalized—you are at your house, you get in your car, you go to the restaurant, you eat, you get back in your car, you go home. People expect public spaces to be managable and actually “private.”

  164. Kaija
    Kaija July 27, 2010 at 11:42 am |

    “I feel the same about my parent friends on Facebook. I’m friends with *you* and while I recognize your new baby is a huge part of your life (that I am in fact interested in), if you can talk about *nothing* other than your child, you’ll be hidden from my feed, or even de-friended.”
    Agreed. And it’s not anti-kid…I feel the same about someone’s favorite TV show, bellydance class, sci-fi habit, NASCAR/shoe shopping obsession, what have you. If that’s all you can talk about, then we might not be having many conversations. Same goes for significant others; I like most of my friends’ s.o.’s but sometimes I just want to hang out and shoot the BS with my friend and relate in *our* way, without kids and partners around. If I really REALLY dislike your s.o. (or vice versa), then we probably won’t see each other that often except for those times when we can get away on our own. Yes, children can’t help being children, but we do choose our lives, including s.o.’s and children, to some extent. I’ll try to accommodate your choices but expect some accommodation in return…I think the exact terms of that (and how they really REALLY differ from person to person and among cultures) is what we’re arguing about here.

    “So I guess the real issue here isn’t kids in public spaces — it’s the parents of these kids expecting someone else to take care of the kids THEY decided to have.”
    This is the part that gets to me. I’m fine with people having kids and bringing them along in public spaces and events of everyday life, but then expecting everyone else to either put up with their kids when they behave badly (and it does depend on the age of the child and whether the parent(s) are making an attempt to teach the child how to behave in public) or make public spaces into kid spaces. Not every place is appropriate for kids and that is a matter of both culture, judgement, and personal opinion. Some places are for adults and adult behavior, but it’s the grey areas that are a point of contention. If your 10-year is whining and kicking the back of my seat all the way from NYC to Seattle, I’m gonna be upset. An overtired toddler fussing in the mall I probably won’t care too much about. A 5-year old dancing and singing in the space between tables in a restaurant, I will not think of as “cute” or “precious” even if everyone around me does. I probably won’t intervene, but I will finish my dinner quickly, leave, and think twice about whether or not I want to go there again, depending on the judgment call of “isolated incident” or “this place is catering to a different crowd now.” That’s my call to make based on my own preferences and comfort level/boundaries. Others may disagree, have opinions about my opinions, but I generally find people/places to fill my days with the right balance, as do we all.

  165. Megan
    Megan July 27, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    Re: children being bored by adult company — In my experience, children who enjoy adult company/conversation aren’t that ‘unusual’ and I doubt that both Shelley and I just happen to know an odd bunch of kids. It’s a little silly I think to make broad statements about what ‘most kids’ enjoy or are bored by, or how ‘most kids’ behave. I’m fine with treating children as the individuals they are and with expecting them, as well as anyone else of any age, to more or less conform to the standards of the space they are in or asking them to leave. On 2 occasions, one of my children has been incapable of maintaining minimal standards of behavior to the point that left the restaurant with him in tow. On at least 10 occasions, I’ve had people glare at me, roll their eyes, or otherwise passively transmit their displeasure at my children the moment they walked through the door or were seated at a nearby table. I hope that at least some of those extremely rude people had the grace to regret their reaction when we all got through our time together without my children disrupting them in any way.

  166. Shelly
    Shelly July 27, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    My point is that adult spaces are boring, there are places kids would rather be and they should be in those places.

    You know what? You don’t get to decide that. That’s up to grown-assed PARENTS to decide for their children, not random strangers. The only thing you get to do is to decide whether or not *you* will act like an adult when in the presence of children. Some of whom will inevitably misbehave–because they are kids and that’s what kids occasionally do. It isn’t the end of the world. I promise.

  167. Jesse
    Jesse July 27, 2010 at 11:43 am |

    I work at an academic library in a community college. Over the last two years (while the US has slid into a recession) I have seen more parents bring their child into the library while they study.

    This is good. It means the parents are here, doing school work, and focusing on their classes.

    What astounds me is how few parents provide activities for their child(ren). They know that they’ll be here for a few hours. Yet they bring no snacks, no books, no crayons/markers, and no toys. While we are a library, we are not set-up to cater to children. We have a small childrens’ book collection that is geared to our childrens’ literature class. We have scrap paper from recycling which I encourage parents to grab, and give to their kids. I can only think of a few parents that plan activities for their children. One woman has a notebook that her kindergarten aged child can only work in while she is studying with Mom. A very young couple brings in their 1 year old and will take turns walking her if she gets fussy.

    Additionally, children are not allowed to get onto our computers. Michigan law dictates that children under 18 should be provided with a filtered computer for their use. Our computers are unfiltered because we cater to adults (18+). If a child were to access an inappropriate site, then my library could see a hefty fine if the parents choose to pursue a complaint.

    Most of the time, parents don’t know what services we provide. I try to direct parents to our group study rooms. This way they can bring a blanket, toys and let their kids play/wander in a contained area. Also, the kid can talk without disrupting the entire lab of computers.

    I really try to support parents who come here to use the library services. But sometimes I must make a decision that doesn’t benefit the parents. Yesterday students who were filming their entrance exam to the college’s sign language interpreter program couldn’t hear the testing cassette over the cries of a child in the study room next door. In that case, the child needs to leave. The child’s behavior has gone past discomfort, or boredom into continued disruption.

  168. ElleDee
    ElleDee July 27, 2010 at 11:46 am |

    Dawn, I know why the hospital has the rule. People find children annoying and disruptive. We’ve established that fact already. Like, a million years ago. But the entire fucking point of this post and my point also is that those rules cause parents (again, =moms) and children a lot of problems too.

    I think in the majority of the cases, people just need to get over themselves and accept children as they are. But beyond the assholes, how can these conflicts be minimized? How can we all share the space better, without barring people’s existence?

  169. Shinobi
    Shinobi July 27, 2010 at 11:47 am |

    I think there is more to not wanting kids around than a bias against children. Kids are complex, they aren’t like another minority group that gets discriminated against, because they are kids. Their status as kids is temporary, their individual “kid”ness is generally unique and varies from awesome to annoying.

    What I think is most important about the status of kids as a group is that adults, as a general rule, are expected to change their behavior to accommodate the presence of kids.

    Kids are not adults, and so I cannot treat kids as if they are adults. As a general rule I can’t curse, or talk about sex or death or drug use or the fact that there is no Santa Clause around kids. (This obviously varied based on the individuals, but that means that we have to tailor our behavior to each individual parent kid combo.)

    And more importantly there is an added component of implied responsibility. As an adult myself it is part of my responsibility to look out for any kids in my presence. Like the other day on the train when a kid asked for help with his spelling, all the adults around are expected to help. He was just a kid, he is dependent on us, and as a community we are responsible for his growing up, so we helped with his spelling. And if the train had crashed, or he’d had a nose bleed, one of us random strangers would have helped, because we are adults and it is our job.

    And sure, if the parents are around they are the responsible ones. But as was noted in the post parents expect you to adore their kid. But just like I”m not friend with the significant others of all of my friends, I’m not necessarily friends with their kids. Their kids are unique individuals who I may or may not like.

    I’m not saying that it should be okay for people to discriminate against kids, or against mothers. I just think we have to make the point that having kids in spaces that are generally for adults places expectations on the non parent adults around. And that sometimes the reason people may not want to be around kids isn’t because they hate kids and are trying to keep them down, it is because they care about kids and want to protect their innocence but also would really really like to get drunk and talk to their friend about their recent sexual or chemical exploits. ( really long, cross posted at my blog)

  170. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 11:49 am |

    Fact is inequality according to race doesn’t just happen to one group. There are plenty of non-white countries where being of the wrong skin colour means social pariahship. You want tough, try being a member of a minority in a country where life isn’t even that great for the privileged majority.

    aaaaaaaaaand…I’m done. have a great day.

  171. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 11:49 am |

    @Dawn:

    “An aural assault is still an assault, I am sound sensitive, high pitched noises not only cause me pain but can trigger epileptic fits after an interval, I suppose I should just stay home though rather than expect parents to take their screaming kid who is getting louder and louder out of the store? Often I can’t leave the store in enough time to avoid the collapse. [...] You’d be incensed if parents were banned from stores, so why should I be because parents now refuse to take their screaming child out of the confines.”

    Well, no, if somebody is making noise that is not the same as them “assaulting” you, because it is not targeted specifically at you and they aren’t intending to hurt you. You’re in a situation where you’re uncommonly sensitive to it, but that doesn’t make their behavior an assault.

    I’m very sympathetic to your situation, as I have been in your shoes (albeit not with hearing, but with scents) and my mother has a hearing problem which makes her unable to be around loud sounds.

    But you can’t decide to ban an entire class of people based on your individual medical problems. There are many people out there who are extremely sensitive to smells and have allergic reactions to certain types of things, but we don’t declare that anyone who is wearing perfume should not be out in public. When a young black student was asked to leave her classroom because the teacher was (allegedly) allergic to her hair product, people got (rightly) up in arms about it. Regardless of what your medical problems are, to be in society requires some measure of willingness to put up with a normal range of human behavior, and a young child’s screaming is within the normal range of human behavior.

  172. Paraxeni
    Paraxeni July 27, 2010 at 11:53 am |

    Sei – UScentrism alert! “Then maybe society should realize that parents need more support than they’re getting, and should offer to occasionally watch the children for free so that Mommy can sleep for more than two hours at a time, or should provide paid maternity leave so that Mommy doesn’t cry from exhaustion from having to wash the bottles out after eight hours of work and getting less than 20 hours of sleep over a two week period.”

    Maybe your society has fucked up there, but mine has mandatory paid maternity/paternity/adoption leave, mandatory flexible/family-friendly working arrangements for parents/guardians, it has free/reduced cost childcare, families are given extra money in the form of monthly family credit payments and weekly child allowance payments to cover the cot of the ‘burden’ of having kids.

    Kristen – my point is that although the Feminista mommies may have taught their children to navigate the world and interact with other people, treat every experience as a learning event, and care about the welfare of their children – not everyone is like that. Kids don’t belong on busy streets because not all of them have been taught that traffic=danger. Kids have this wonderful sense of immortality, that’s why they can’t live on their own, because hot things and sharp things appear to pose no threat, animals and vehicles are shiny fun distractions, they think other people are always good, and loving, and want to be around them. Children who are neglected, who aren’t monitored or given help to navigate our very scary world (by the very people who signed up for the job) fall foul of the world. They run screaming into traffic, they climb up store shelving, they bump into people carrying hot or sharp things in restaurants, when a ‘nice man’ offers them something nice they take his hand and follow him.

    Sadly, nobody knows by looking at a parent whether they’re smart, dedicated Feministas or drunken neglect-o-moms who haven’t taught their children that engaging with the world needs some caution and restraint. That’s why some places have to ban kids outright.

    I used to go to a great pub almost every day, in the city I lived in for a while. It was somewhere I could get something cheap to eat, and use the WiFi to do some studying away from the squat I lived in.

    It was child-friendly, served food for them, provided toys and crayons, safe places to play, and a great relaxing environment for everyone. Then the incidents started happening – kids not being watched by their parents who were too busy getting their drink on. A little boy gashed his arm really badly on some glass, his mother slapped him for crying like a ‘poof’, then started hurling abuse at the bar staff. A little girl was left behind in the pub by accident, the father stormed in ten minutes later and called the barman (who was comforting the sobbing kid) a “fucking paedo bastard”, grabbed her little girl and stormed out. Parents turned up at opening time (11am) and stayed until Kiddy Kick-out at 9pm, while their children got more grumpy, more uncomfortable, and more upset.

    The pub decided to introduce a 3-drink/3-hour maximum, to a storm of criticism and protest from mothers who ‘knew best’.

    So the management took the decision to ban anyone under 14.

    That’s why there are ‘guaranteed adult-only’ spaces. Because you just cannot tell in advance.

  173. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    @Maia,

    I didn’t sign up to parent someone elses kids. You had ‘em, you care for them.

    Besides I’m usually too busy coping with my own problems like trying to cope with a world not really built for wheelchair users to play babysitter because some parent doesn’t want to watch their kid.

    Oh and reality exists without children, it’s not like the universe popped into being the minute the first human appeared and will disappear when the last of us dies.

    Oh and incidentally you’re not the only person in the world to suffer from racism, nor are people of certain races the only people to suffer from racism. Twenty years ago in the country you live in, a minority organisation was being murdered regularly, I bet you don’t even know about that.

    Athenia,

    Japanese kids don’t run wild, whereever did you get that idea?

    Shelly,

    Except that parent’s often refuse to deal with the consequences of ignoring their kids discomfort.

    Misbehaviour isn’t what I have the biggest problem with, it’s how they often misbehave which is frequently dangerous especially to someone with my disability.

  174. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    Paraxeni — because it’s the restaurant’s call. If I am running an establishment that is quiet and romantic, having a child loudly proclaiming their opinions on the decor, playing with the candles on the table, blowing bubbles in their milk, whining about how they want to go to McDonald’s, etc ruins the mood I have worked hard to create and that other people came to the restaurant to enjoy.

    No one here is declaring that no child ever should be allowed into a restaurant nicer than an Applebees. In fact, 99% of restaurants out there have expressed that children are welcome by providing children’s menus, high-chairs and booster seats, and facilities for things like diaper-changing. But just as foolish as it would be to declare that children shouldn’t be allowed in a PlayZone, it’s obnoxious to declare that children MUST be welcome in all establishments. Some people, EVEN PARENTS, really do want a retreat from children–a romantic evening out together where they can have the sort of conversations they had before everything turned into Spongebob.

  175. S
    S July 27, 2010 at 11:56 am |

    “would you have used an analogy comparing kids to PoC or GLBT? If not, why not? After all both groups are frequently told their ‘behaviour’ is inappropriate or ’showy’)”

    So it’s NOT okay to compare the forms of oppression faced by children and adults with developmental disabilities when -I- do it to call people out their prejudices, but it IS okay to compare the oppression faced by people with disabilities, children, people of color, and folks who are GLBT when YOU do it to call me out on my “ableism”.

    You know what I find really offensive? I find it offensive that you are comparing the behavior choices of grown adults to the behavior of both children and adults with developmental disabilities, who often do NOT have the cognitive capacity to make those kinds of choices. You may have a disability, but it is quite apparent that it is not a developmental disability, as you do not seem to understand that the crux of my argument was that it is unfair to hold people to a “universal” standard of behavior which is impossible for some people to meet.

    You want to talk about ableism? Check yours.

  176. alynn
    alynn July 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm |

    Always amazes me just how many comments are generated by this topic…time after time after time…

    I think there should always be (limited) adult only spaces, where it makes sense for spaces to be adult only. However, I expect that when I’m at the grocery, family restaurant, or movie theater, I will interact with kids. Cool…no problem.

    But Maia states this about her culture: it would be ridiculous to complain that you have to smile at or even talk to a kid for a few minutes in order for that kid to calm down. ppl just step and volunteer when they have an extra minute or so free. and frankly, that is the way a lot of the world outside of the first world is.

    What I’d actually like to complain about…(and this has been echoed up thread) is that I don’t feel I have the permission to interact with kids in public. I feel the fear of the stranger is so strong that when a child I don’t know is fussy, I’m barely allowed to make a strange face at him/her, much less play or speak to them.

    While currently childless, I love kids, and I wish I felt more welcomed to smile/talk to a kid to allow them to calm down.

  177. college girl
    college girl July 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm |

    I understand and appreciate the message of this post. Children should be recognized as a part of the community, allowed to be in public space and should be treated as people not as property (the way some of my friends were treated when they were growing up). There are many spaces that could be more accommodating for children – someone mentioned above that they attend a gym that has family restrooms as well as “men with children” and “women with children” changing rooms. This seems like a very good idea, for the comfort of both families with children and those without. I’m sure there are many more important accommodations that could be made in public spaces – including things like more availability for subsidized family housing on college campuses, and support for parents attending college (free daycare on campus, for example, as well as professors extending greater flexibility when parenting makes adhering to their expectations more difficult for parents than non-parents).

    However, I think it’s kind of dismissive to say to childfree adults who have crazy parties, “you must party harder than I do” as if wanting to party is ridiculous. I’m 21 and childfree, and I spend *most* of my time in settings that are inappropriate for children. I doubt I will party as hard when I am 40 and/or have children (although of course that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with 40 year olds continue to party). I will not have children for a long time because of this – I know that having them will place restrictions on what my leisure time looks like.

    Of course, I might still want to go to crazy parties from time to time – that’s where babysitters and grandparents come in. If I can’t afford or can’t find babysitters, well, I guess I’ll have to miss the party. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your children, and sometimes that means changing the way you socialize with friends, since not all adult social settings are appropriate for children. Again, that’s why I won’t have children until I’ve gotten the wild-and-crazy years out of my system and until I’m financially stable (not to imply that there’s anything wrong with parents who struggle financially – I think free childcare should be a basic service in most work environments, for example – but given that having children is a choice, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for parents to have to choose between paying for a sitter or not partying).

    This applies even more to bringing children to friends’ parties. For example, I would be very upset if children were brought to a party of mine where cigarette smoking is permitted indoors, because I would not allow said indoor smoking to continue if a child was present, and I shouldn’t have to change the rules in *my* living space because a guest brings a child along without asking me first. The adults who own the living space get to set the rules, and other adults who choose to enter that space accept those rules or don’t attend. Children don’t have the same ability to come and go freely, so their parents must exercise discretion when deciding whether or not to bring them to an event at another adult’s house/apartment/whatever.

    My right to make my own decisions about how to live my life may in some cases come into conflict with providing appropriately nurturing and safe environments for children. So how do we navigate the conflict between my rights and the child’s right to be in public space? By creating adult-only environments so that the rowdy college students can go to the club without worrying about kids and so parents don’t worry that their kid is going to see someone snorting coke in the bathroom at a family restaurant (behavior I *have* seen in some clubs).

    My point is, there are some spaces that are adult-only, and those of us who choose to “party hard” also often choose not to have children (yet) precisely because our lifestyle is not at all conducive to nurturing the young and vulnerable. I think we have a right to make this choice. Sometimes this results in a conflict of interests between those with children and those without. So how do we navigate that, when we’re talking about something like on-campus housing – parents and children have a right to subsidized housing just like other students, but perhaps the family housing should be kept separate from the main undergraduate living area. Because, really, do you want your 3-year-old around my frat friends while they’re doing beer bongs? I don’t think so. And they don’t want your kids around either. So I think it’s important to discuss the exceptions to the rule that “children should be included in society.” Some parts of society are not good for young people who have not yet developed adult coping skills. We crazy adults shouldn’t be shunned on the basis that we “ought to think of the children” – rather, it should be acknowledged that children are different from adults, and do not belong in all adult settings.

  178. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 12:03 pm |

    Elledee,

    Actually often the rules are created because kids in the past have done dangerous things, they’re usually more of a safety rule than anything.

    I think the space would be shared better if parents all parented, we need more better parents so the bad ones won’t give the good ones a bad rap. Also if parents respected that not everywhere is an ideal place for their child, not everywhere is an ideal place for everyone, I wouldn’t try to take my wheelchair up a mountain after all.

    The issue wouldn’t exist if parents didn’t try to shoehorn their kids into everything, we know they’re a big part of your lives but they’re not the only part, there is room for places where kids aren’t central as well.

    @s,

    Tell that the woman who last year was deafened after a kid leaned over and deliberately screamed in her ear on a plane.

    I don’t want kids banned from all public spaces, I want parents to parent meaning that they do remove kids from the space until they’ve calmed down, and to recognise that not everyone is a kid friendly space.

  179. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm |

    I think there’s a massive difference between having to ask a child (or other patron) to leave because they are behaving inappropriately for the space, and stating that children shouldn’t be “allowed” certain places, or that they should be held to what amounts to higher standards than adults (children are often expected to be *less* disruptive than adults are, to get treated like they aren’t a problem, in my experience). I believe this post is about the latter, rather than the former. Noone is suggesting that children are oppressed when they are asked to leave because of inappropriate behaviour, we are suggesting that presupposing that children will be a problem, that parents (mothers) will be a problem and premptively banning them or treating them like dirt IS.

    An aside about 50 years ago, to Dawn. In fact, if you DO want to go back to how things were 50 years ago, you’d better get ready to speak to kids directly about their behaviour, be tolerant of them, and even accept that parents can’t watch them all the time. It USED to be normal to drop the kids off at the library or the park while you ran your errands, or even had a luncheon date with a friend, to leave a kid in the toy section, on a patch of grass or lock them out of the house to run around the neighbourhood a few hours and expect that your community would keep an eye on them. It is, ironically, folks who insist that they shouldn’t ever have to engage children, who cause an environment where a mother has no choice but to bring her child everywhere she goes, hence necessitating the occassional noisy child where you’d rather not see/hear them.

  180. Jlu
    Jlu July 27, 2010 at 12:04 pm |

    maia, I just needed to post to say that I am with you.

    Here is what I want to add to this discussion (I have read probably 50% of it but need to get on with my day and so apologize for repeating).

    First, there is so much judgment of parents going on here that I actually am shocked by it.

    Second, I can’t believe how much people in a “feminist” community dislike kids. It’s so disheartening to have it here because you get it everywhere else, too.

    Third, yes, you all can have your “one time I went to this place and a kid did something annoying or even destructive and the parent let them and it ruined that meal or flight and I can’t let it go and harbor that anger against all children” stories. But we ALL also have the stories of the annoying adults in a restaurant who did annoying or, sometimes, destructive things that ruined that experience for us. As someone said above, the world is not discomfort-free and I’m not sure why it is expected to be when children enter the equation.

    Fourth, so many commenters here have no faith or trust at all in parents. You seem to assume that parents don’t understand social protocol or appropriate behavior, if they do understand that they don’t give a shit, and/or that they are willing to put their children in harm’s way. Give me a break. And give parents some freaking credit.

    Finally, I think this desire to control and curb children’s behavior is a problem in and of itself. Yes, they shouldn’t hurt anyone or destroy other people’s things. I agree. But we could all learn something from the abandon and freedom with which children approach all situations, including social, public ones. We could also learn a lot of our own emotions and the ways in which we deal with them if we would just acknowledge that children are in the process of learning. No, you don’t need to be my child’s parent simply because we are in public. But when someone reacts to my child’s tearful and possibly loud emotional response to rejection or loss (even if you think that rejection or loss is trivial in the scheme of things) with disdain, anger, or hostility, what is it exactly that someone is teaching all of us in that social space? My kid doesn’t know any better and he is using all the tools he has to manage the emotions and I try my best to help him. It becomes quickly clear, though, what tools other people around us are using to deal with the social situation in which they find themselves: intimidation, shaming, glaring, etc. Maybe kids in public places are good for all of us because then we all have to behave in ways that push at our own personal levels of comfort.

    This all reminds me of how my friend felt the first time she flew with her daughter alone. The people on that plane made me aware from moment #1 that she was not a welcome site. Her overall response to the trip was to proclaim over and over to me that her daughter is a person, a passenger, and a human being, too.

  181. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 12:08 pm |

    @mightydoll

    Some parents unfortunately think it is oppression if they’re told to leave because their out of control child has just set a patron’s hair on fire or something equally dire.

    We don’t just say kids shouldn’t be in certain places out of worry of disruption, it’s also because some places are just plain not safe for children. It’s their safety we’re worried about as well as the enjoyment of adults.

    My grandmother would probably love to hear that, but then she actually knows how to parent and could trust her kids to go to the library without her and without them disrupting the library or wrecking anything.

    The point is parents used to be parents, they weren’t their kids best friend or anything like that, they were parents and they did their jobs.

  182. ACG
    ACG July 27, 2010 at 12:10 pm |

    @Ruchama:

    @ACG: Actually, a lot of Chuck E. Cheese restaurants do serve beer. I’ve seen a bunch of news articles about drunken parents getting into brawls there when their kids got into an argument about whose turn it was for a game.

    Yeesh. I’ll consider my point made.

  183. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm |

    Maia,

    Then that is a feminist issue, children should be a choice and all women should have the right to choose for themselves.

    But at the same time if someone does choose to have children, then they also choose the responsibility of raising them and they really do need to live up to their choice.

  184. C/L
    C/L July 27, 2010 at 12:19 pm |

    I just want to express my love for bfp. Love love love.

  185. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

    Dawn: oh right, kids and parents have totally changed over the last 50 years. Kids these days are less respectful, parents use less discipline…etc, etc, etc.

    Since we’ve been hearing this refrain since the beginning of the written word, I’m surprised we don’t just all live in trees and throw feces at one another.

  186. Niall
    Niall July 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm |

    why are we even debating about this? don’t any of you remember being a child??

    Yeah, I do. And I remember on the relatively few occasions that my sister or I acted up, cried or threw a hissy fit in a public place like a library, restaurant or bank, we were promptly removed by a parent from said place until we got over it and were told in no uncertain terms that people don’t want to listen to us and that if we ever wanted to get out and to more “grown up” places, we’d best learn what’s socially acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. That’s what’s called responsible parenting

    not a damn one of you knew exactly how to behave in public all at once; it takes time to learn from parents and other people, and if you want children to learn how to behave in public then that means letting them fucking be in public!

    .

    Yes, kids have to learn somehow and sometime. And obviously the only way to do that is to expose them to different kind of environments. But these things should be decided on keeping in mind the age of the child and the particular environment. In other words, one can reasonably expect your average ten year old to be quiet enough or at least not totally disruptive to others in a decent restaurant. But it’s unrealistic to expect a three or four year old to do the same.

  187. Dawn
    Dawn July 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    @mightydoll,

    Actually there has been a lot of change, I remember when I was a kid and I honestly have noticed a major difference where I live. Ever since the fad for being a friend to your kid not a parent, it’s like subsequent generations have forgotten how to actually parent.

  188. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    Dawn: living up to my choice to have children =/= living up to YOUR opinion of how those children should be raised.

  189. michelle
    michelle July 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm |

    I have 5 kids & I disagree with you. There are places that kids do not belong. Why would any responsible person put a child at risk by taking them to a bar? You even said “she is normally one of the quieter people in a room full of inebriated souls”, why would you risk your daughter’s safety by deliberately surrounding her by drunk people? I do not understand that way of thinking.

  190. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm |

    Dawn, you have a kids’ memory of what it was like to be a kid, just like every other adult who has spoken those words before you.

  191. Brie
    Brie July 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm |

    I work in a restaurant/bar, and have seen some wonderfully behaved children, and some terribly behaved ones. The point I find worth looking at though is taking kids into bars.

    I think a good rule of thumb would be kids are ok in places like that before happy hour. If you want to take your kid in for a burger before people get off work, go for it. The drinkers are going to be a lot fewer, and more subdued, and anyone else there is mainly eating lunch. I’ve seen people swing by with their kids for that reason and it usually goes smoothly.

    But, the drinking definitely picks up after work hours, 4 or 5o’clock. That’s when people are coming in specifically to drink. People want to be able to relax. People get loud, which upsets kids. People yell, people swear, people get raunchy. You also just have people sometimes act like total jerks, which really isn’t something you want kids around. The staff is already taxed making sure everyone gets their food, their drinks, monitoring if anyone’s too intoxicated, being a buffer b/w customers. There’s a lot of maintenance in keeping all the wheels on the cart. We can’t be watching your kid and the bar customers too.

  192. Lue
    Lue July 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm |

    Surely this is about behaviour of all bodies in certain spaces, rather than just those bodies that are children? And the negotiation of a social contract by all the bodies in that space?

    From a fairly rural French perspective, kids can go pretty much anywhere. My friend’s daughters toddle up and down the cafe, and every patron grins or says hello, or spare two minutes to listen to whatever toddler-speak is occurring at the time. I’m sure there must be some childless-by-choice feminists in there – hell, I’m one of them. But you make the effort because that child is merely walking up and down, smiling and interacting. That child is abiding by the rules of the space. Most of the time, actually, they sit at the table with us, burbling to the staff and demanding this glass, that glass, whatever it is they fancy at that moment. But if they walk about, whatever. If an adult body is unfriendly, or tuts, or gets arsey, then they would be glared at by the cafe, because that’s not how you react when another human says something nice to you – that’s not how anyone, adult or child, should act in a public space.

    Once, daughter 1 fell and bumped her head, and wailed for a bit before the nearly the entire cafe was waving and calling over to see if she was ok (she really whacked it – if I’d have done the same thing I would have screamed and cried also). She thought it was great!

    But it cuts both ways. If any child becomes disruptive for a significant amount of time, because they are uncomfortable, because they are pissed off about something (and my friend’s daughter 2 can get suuuuuper-pissed off), then they clearly need a bit of personal parental attention and chill-out time. If they have been screaming for over ten minutes, or doing that writhing outraged full body slam that they do, well, then they are temporarily taken away, so they can be given the time and attention that they need to chill. I’m not talking about taking them outside and giving them a dressing-down, I’m talking about a temporary five or ten minute breather so that they know that screaming because of a total tantrum is not going to get them the same adoring attention as the same screaming due to a head bump.

    From what I’ve experienced, this is consistent and makes for happy public spaces. Kids having fun, being kids, making happy noises for a long time, or even not-so-happy-noises for a short time? All good, and all the occupants of the social space engage with one another. Prolonged demonstration of child outrage? Child is taken to chill after all other tactics have been exhausted. This means that adults don’t wince at the first sign of a raised child voice, because they know that, should things turn stressed, the space is not going to be indefinitely disturbed by an upset body. Parent is given time and space to try and connect with their child, and then they take up the reins and head off for a little one-to-one time.

    I don’t think you can put this down to ‘the public is nicer to kids so they behave better’ any more than you can say ‘parents take them out so the public likes kids better’. It’s a two-way street – one doesn’t work without the other.

    In my rather larger UK experience, where you can also pretty much take kids everywhere, this social contract does not happen. It is far more common that an upset child will not be removed for some one-to-one chill out time; the child will be left to have their stress in a public arena. It doesn’t look to be particularly fair on them, because they are being ignored by everyone, including the parents. When they are ignored, they are going to up the stakes! It’s natural! So they smash; they roll; they fight. The situation escalates. That’s not fair on anyone – the other bodies in the space, the owner of the space, the child themselves.

    When the other bodies in the space are used to this happening, they are far more likely to pre-emptively react at the first sign of a child’s voice. When every time you’re out in public your space is disturbed by another body behaving unreasonably for a prolonged time, your going to get some learned behaviour from that.

    Of course, death-glares and tuts only make the situation more strained, the child can detect this, the child doesn’t feel welcome, the child is then in a position where they cannot exhibit child-appropriate behaviour. The slightest peep from said child is greeted as the precursor to an enormous display of tutting and sighing, and round and round we go. Kids don’t go places, kids don’t get socialised, are more likely to act up, and round and round we go.

    A fairer social contract, adhered to by all adult bodies, would make life a hell of a lot easier.

  193. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm |

    @alynn “What I’d actually like to complain about…(and this has been echoed up thread) is that I don’t feel I have the permission to interact with kids in public. I feel the fear of the stranger is so strong that when a child I don’t know is fussy, I’m barely allowed to make a strange face at him/her, much less play or speak to them.”

    I know what you mean…it’s even worse for a 40 year old man, unless I’m with my wife, I feel I can’t smile at a child without coming off like a paedophile.

    Personally I would say yes, a man over 30 who’s single should be allowed to go to the zoo on his own…but I admit I would find it a bit suspicious, so I wouldn’t do it for fear of how others would view me…

  194. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:26 pm |

    Also: a child setting a patron’s hair on fire? Did you actually see this happen, and subsequently the parent act like they were being oppressed by being asked to leave?

    I call straw man (much like the patron whose head is on fire, apparently)

  195. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm |

    You know….we don’t look at Phyllis Schlafly and say, “Hey, there’s a woman who believes women should stay at home and be subservient to their husbands. She goes around the country telling other women to stay at home and be subservient to their husbands. Gosh, what a shitty thing to do. We must judge all women on the basis of Phyllis Schlafly and prevent them from speaking out in public or leaving the kitchen. Because it’s in their best interest.”

    So WHY are we all rushing to police children and parents on the occasional bad behavior of the “bad” ones?

    Oh, right. Because that’s what it means to be a member of an oppressed class: you don’t get to be an individual; you’re judged by your similarity to the ‘worst’ of your kind.

  196. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:30 pm |

    @alynn and Fat Steve. I’m a white, lower middle class, mid-30’s mama, so I probably don’t arouse suspicion when I engage children not my own (usually, I’ve had a few people give me sick looks), but I’m also firmly of the belief that the only way to reverse the trend of paranoia and the subsequent detachment between the generations is to challenge it (as respectfully and carefully as possible, of course. Don’t try to take someone’s kid somewhere, but go ahead and be friendly) :)

  197. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm |

    Parents DO use less discipline, whether that’s good or bad. You would never have heard about anti-spanking laws 50 years ago.

    But things HAVE changed in the last few generations, at least they have in the U.S. The Baby Boomers were the first generation to be aggressively marketed to as children, and it has gotten more aggressive with every passing decade. And I think that children are absorbing that message in a very consumptive way. Kids equate non-consumption with boredom. When they don’t have attention, they ask for snacks, they point to some crap piece of plastic they want. Studies have measured this phenomenon (the number of “snacks” per day of your average child, etc) They want to be given something, or else they will throw a tantrum. I have observed this behavior in countless settings and regions.

  198. Shelly
    Shelly July 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm |

    Ever since the fad for being a friend to your kid not a parent, it’s like subsequent generations have forgotten how to actually parent.

    The truth comes out. This seems to be more about people not parenting to *your* specifications than it is about some random kid being truly obnoxious at Target. And guess what? You don’t get to decide for other how to raise their kids.

  199. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 12:34 pm |

    Dawn,

    I think we all hear that some children have made it difficult or impossible for you to fully participate in public life. At the same time, children have a right as humans to also participate in public life. We absolutely need to find better ways to help you particpate, but that CANNOT be at the expense of other human beings right to enter the public sphere.

    Paraxeni,

    Why not just refuse that parent service? Why not just eject those who have clearly crossed the line? Why is a class wide ban the appropriate response to the bad behavior of a few individuals?

  200. latenac
    latenac July 27, 2010 at 12:35 pm |

    @JLU “Second, I can’t believe how much people in a “feminist” community dislike kids. It’s so disheartening to have it here because you get it everywhere else, too.”

    Actually I see people disliking certain types of parenting not disliking kids. I can’t blame a child for doing what is developmentally appropriate for them to do. I can blame the parent for not recognizing what is developmentally appropriate for a child and for not having an understanding for what is appropriate behavior in the situation they are in.

    When I see a child running around screaming in a restaurant or grocery store or wherever, I look around for the parent and then I make my judgment based on how they’re dealing with it. If I see a parent who’s making the effort to catch their child or looks like they are their at their wits end I don’t mind and I attempt to help them out. If I see a parent who is ignoring the behavior or feels that it’s the god-given right for children to be underfoot while waiters are carrying in heavy trays of food or people are trying to do their grocery shopping in a crowded produce section, I’m going to dislike the parent. Because frankly then all you’re doing is modeling for your child that they are the center of the universe and that they should do whatever they feel is right.

    Sorry I just guess I’ve just been dealing with way too many parents that seem to have the belief that their child is the center of the universe not to mention a perfect extension of themselves. Even if it means writing to a principal several nasty, damaging and unprofessional e-mails criticizing a 30 year veteran kindergarten teacher b/c you just know the other kindy teacher is the ONLY teacher for your child. This despite the fact that the evil teacher is the perfect teacher’s mentor and they collaborate all year long. I just see a direct correlation between this sort of behavior and “ha, ha isn’t my 3 year old adorable running around this crowded cafe and look she almost tripped the waiter carrying the heavy tray. Isn’t she just adorable at expressing her joie de vivre?”

  201. ACG
    ACG July 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm |

    @maia:

    wow. it seems so simple and basic. if you are a human being in this world, you have some basic obligations that come with your humanity. one of them is that you are responsible, as is everyone else, to look out for one another, including children.

    I’m sorry, but I just can’t go for this. I’ll accept my responsibility to look out for a child to the extent that I’m expected to look out for anyone else. If a kid is about to run into the street, I’m on it. If a kid is choking or about to eat something dangerous, I’m on it. If someone scoops up a kid and makes a run for it, I’m there. But I can’t be held responsible for anyone else’s emotional state. I’m not good with kids, I don’t really know how to interact with them well, they generally don’t respond well to me–I have enough trouble dealing with my own mental state, much less someone else’s. If a basic tenet of my humanity is the ability to calm a child in distress, we’re in trouble.

    You can’t just say, “By agreeing to live in the world, people agree to interact with children.” I didn’t agree to live here–I was born here, completely without consultation. And I don’t feel the onus is on me to remove myself from the world if interacting with kids isn’t my cup of tea.

    I’m not and have never been anti-kids, or anti-kids in public. I’m actually very much pro-kids in public in the interest of teaching them how to grow up to be good, solid adults. But I can’t get behind this recurring idea that because I’m a human being, because I go out in public, because I eventually will retire and rely on tomorrow’s workforce, I have some particular obligation to the kids around me. If you bring your child into my presence with the assumption that I’ll step up and take responsibility for his care on a moment’s notice, you’re going to be disappointed.

    And that’s what gets to me. I’m terribly sympathetic to a parent with a squalling child, I’m terribly sympathetic to the fractious toddler whose parents have made him sit too long at a restaurant, and I’m terribly sympathetic to a parent doing the hard work of teaching a child how to behave appropriately in public. But when a parent expects me to just plug my ears and get over it because making funny faces at another person’s kid is part of the social contract? That sympathy is out the window.

  202. Vail
    Vail July 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm |

    Here in Madison Wis, there is a very active Moms in Madison (I hear there are groups like this in many cities). They swap tips on places that are kid friendly and tips on keeping kids occupied on trips etc. Madison has many kid friendly spaces, if you look for them. It would be great if there was more places that are welcoming of families but I don’t think that every spot HAS to be kid friendly.

  203. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm |

    @college girl I’d like to commend you for your comment. Your arguments are mature and sound, and I wish more people your age would come to the conclusion that you have.

    As for me? I won’t be having kids anytime soon, because I enjoy the freedom I have too much. I don’t have to WORRY about keeping my kids behaving appropriately in a public venue. If you want to have kids, that’s your call, but I, personally, am not in a place in my life to want to deal with any of that right now. And that’s my right, just as much as it’s your right to have kids if you want to.

  204. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 12:42 pm |

    @ mighty ponygirl: I disagree that parents use less discipline. Discipline =/= punishment or retribution. Parents DO discipline differently, based on studies (done by many of the same types of people who did the studies you quote) about how effective different disciplinary methods are and aren’t, and the kinds of social behaviours they evoke.

    Consumerism IS a problem in child development, but it’s a pretty separate problem from parenting. Very few people set out to create little consumers and I’d hazard that an increasing segregation of children from the rest of society will only increase the deleterious effects of child-focused marketing, as people increasingly try to “accomodate” kids with screens, toys and “activities” as well as “child centred spaces”. This is usually what parents are trying to AVOID when they include their children in their lives.

  205. Safiya Outlines
    Safiya Outlines July 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    Where I live (not the US), child protection is vastly underfunded and failing children, the care system for children is still produces very poor outcomes for children, refugee children are imprisioned, Young Offender’s institutions have a sky high suicide rate, play spaces are being sold off nearly everywhere and it is still legal to hit your child.

    Is anyone seriously going to say that children are not an oppressed class when we treat them like this on a state level?

  206. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    Not all parents use less discipline. Many use different discipline, or other non-“discipline” (but still effective) ways of reinforcing behavior. Just because you’re not legally allowed to hit your child doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t discipline them, or that they are incapable of learning “acceptable” behavior.

    Other things have changed, too. For example, (speaking theoretically here), this conflict of children in bars would be all but solved if women weren’t allowed in bars. (Because after all, parent = mother, right?) Bars haven’t always existed in the form they do now. Just because this problem has been caused by changes that have happened in the past however many years doesn’t mean that those changes are bad changes.

    Sometimes conflict arises with change, but it doesn’t mean that the change was bad.

  207. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    If they have been screaming for over ten minutes

    Holy crap — 10 minutes?!

    Try 2. If your kid isn’t calming down after 2 minutes (at most), you should take the kid outside and comfort/correct them there. We were eating out with friends and their 2-year-old girl last weekend and she fell and hit her head and started crying and after about 30 seconds of being held by mom she had subsided to a whimper.

  208. C/L
    C/L July 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm |

    I just want to add that it’s not just behavior that makes people hostile to mothers and children. When I walk in somewhere with my three when their hair is all tangled and their faces dirty and their 2nd- (3rd, 4th?) hand clothes stained up, I immediately get eyed with suspicion. (And, yeah, it would be nice to have the time and energy to fuss over their appearance every morning, but I just don’t have it.)

    It doesn’t even matter if they’re behaving beautifully. If we get read as poor, we get treated differently. And I know my kids get a fair amount of leniency here because they’re white. Ask any mom of color about taking her kids out without their freshest faces on. That’s seriously a privilege only white mothers are afforded, and even then it’s still a risk.

    Intolerance of children in public is not just about high pitched voices and rough-housing. Try going out with your less than ideally-behaved kids when there’s only 15 years difference between you and your oldest. Now, please try to convince me that this hostility is all in the interest of occupational safety and the sensory issues of others. Bullshit.

  209. FilthyGrandeur
    FilthyGrandeur July 27, 2010 at 12:49 pm |

    @Dawn: Try shopping in a wheelchair sometime, it’s a nightmare trying to get around a store when half the store is flooded with parents who felt the need to bring their kids into a stroller the size of a small car along with about five other kids tagging after them and screaming their heads off.

    while i empathize with you on your mobility, and understand that yes, children can be a hindrance to your mobility in a store, it’s still important that you acknowledge that shopping is a necessity, and for some families it is necessary to bring children into the store. i have been run over by a woman pushing a stroller (that thing could have been a tank) but i’m not going to tell ALL mothers to leave their children at home. it’s not realistic. just as you would find it condescending and no doubt frustrating to hear someone tell you to stay at home because you use a wheelchair, it’s similarly condescending and frustrating to a mother who has no other option other than to bring her children while she buys food for the week.

  210. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    @Jlu – “I can’t believe how much people in a “feminist” community dislike kids.”

    Nobody in this thread, as far as I can tell, has said that they dislike children. What people have said is that they want parents to deal with their children in public spaces. Expecting parents to parent is not the same as disliking children.

    Maia’s notion that it’s no skin off other adults to entertain her children is cute and all, but it doesn’t actually work in many cases. As an example, I once had a mother absolutely bite my head off for talking to her child. Her child, who was maybe 4 or 5, was repeatedly kicking the back of my seat on an airplane. I turned around and said to the child, “Please stop kicking my seat.” The mother practically yelled at me and said “He’s only a CHILD, you need to learn some MANNERS.” This kind of reaction means that no, I am not willing to engage with children in public. I expect the parents to deal with the children. That’s their job.

    @maia, not everyone thinks your “badass three year old” is cute. I’m not going to be rude to her, but your expectation that I should entertain her is stepping over the line into entitlement.

    Also, this nonsense about “you should be grateful to people who have children because if we didn’t, the world would stop existing”? We have a word for that – it’s called a bingo.

  211. Icewyche
    Icewyche July 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    I’m childfree (NOT “childless”, TYVM) and a feminist, and I don’t like kids. I don’t think they’re “cute” at all; babies especially repulse me. There are exceptions, of course, but on the whole I find kids obnoxious and uninteresting and avoid them whenever I can, the same way I would avoid hanging around loudmouth guys whose only topics of discussion are football and beer. It’s why I stay away from “child-friendly” spaces like Chuck E. Cheese and amusement parks. Children are an inescapable fact of life, but so are spiders and I don’t have to put myself around those either.

    I think I can speak for a good many CFers when I say that the problem isn’t that kids exist. The problem, more often than not, is the parent(s) who decides that because Widdle Pweshus is the center of THEIR universe, he has to be the center of EVERYONE ELSE’S universe. Not everyone finds your child as perfect and fascinating and wondrous as you do; we don’t think her shrieks of boredom are on a par with Verdi’s operas, we don’t see his destruction of other people’s property as “curiosity”, we don’t want to hear them asking loudly, “WHAT ARE THEY DOING? WHAT’S THAT? WHO’S HE?” at the ballet or providing running color commentary during the movie while you sit by and do nothing. It’s not putting an undue burden on parents to ask that they teach their kids early on how to behave like responsible human beings and to respect the rights of others; unfortunately, there are far too many parents who seem to believe that THEIR child (and by extension, they themselves) should be exempt from society’s most basic rules because s/he is the most specialest, wonderfulest creation EVER, and they should be equally exalted for having given life to this pinnacle of human evolution.

    Here’s a little story from my own experience: I took my elderly mother to a buffet restaurant a while back. It was lunchtime, so the place was busy and the tables crowded. In the midst of all this, a young boy and his sister decided to play tag around my table, nearly slamming into several people carrying heavily laden trays. He stopped directly behind my chair and let out a SCREECH that felt like someone had detonated a bomb in my ear. I’m sensitive to loud noises, and this was particularly painful; he was lucky I didn’t smack him across the room on sheer reflex. Instead he got the Glare of Laser Death, as did his mother, who sat at the next table looking bored and making no attempt to rein in her spawn. Mom only shrugged and said laconically, “He’s only three.” That was it. No “I’m sorry,” no “Sit down, kids,” nothing, and the kids continued to run wild. And I’m supposed to give a “sympathetic smile” and “warm healing energy” to THAT? Um, no.

    Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “adults only” spaces; after all, there are plenty of spaces reserved for kids and families. We see nothing wrong with giving kids their own adult-restricted places to socialize, so why shouldn’t adults be extended the same courtesy?

    And for those of you complaining about children not being allowed in hospitals, here’s something you might not have considered in your righteous anger: Children, especially small children, are notorious for being carriers of illness. A hospital is filled with people whose immune systems aren’t working at full power; even something as generally innocuous as a cold can be deadly. Your kid doesn’t even have to go near the patients – all that’s needed is for someone to be around your sneezing, sniffling child in the waiting room. To say that your child being welcomed everywhere outweighs the health and life of ill patients is arrogance in the extreme.

  212. Jamie
    Jamie July 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm |

    *sigh*

    I promised myself I wouldn’t jump into the middle of another crazy kids-in-public-spaces fray, because let’s be honest everyone, that last one ended in the same two ridiculous straw men being tossed back and forth till the cows came home.

    But I do want to quickly point out that, in all honesty, a lot of the frustration comes from trying to be childfree in a society that is just not ready to accept it. I’ve done a lot of work with children, in teaching them, running an activist group for them, mentoring them, living with them, and even catching a newborn – and ultimately decided that it wasn’t for me. Don’t think that the decision to be childfree goes unattacked in this society. And while I refuse to agree with a lot of those strawmen being thrown around by the childfree on this forum, I do understand the frustration of constantly defending one’s lifestyle choice and how that can inadvertently manifest itself in all this hostility.

    I’m not going to go through the whole ‘this one time I was out and…’ debacle. I do have my opinions, but honestly, I don’t feel safe sharing them here. I will, however, ask everyone – for your own benefit, because I don’t think I’ll be checking back – to please keep in mind that discussions like this cease to be useful the moment you lose track of the notion that you might be wrong. We’re here to build, together, some idea of a compromise…not to vent our frustrations.

  213. Athenia
    Athenia July 27, 2010 at 1:00 pm |

    @ Dawn

    I taught those little hellons. :)

    And actually, if you do read about Japanese culture, in general, childhood is one of “freedom” whereas adulthood is of “restrictions.” Conversely, in America, children have “rules” whereas when you are an “adult”, you have the “freedom” to do what you want. This is all in general of course.

  214. alynn
    alynn July 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm |

    @mightydoll I hope to get to the place where I let my friendly nature overcome my reservations about what people sometimes seem to think about me (harmlessly/playfully) interacting with a kid.

    @Fat Steve I was thinking about that as I was typing it. I know my partner loves kids even more than me, but he’s only felt free to be smiley towards one when I’m around.

  215. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 1:10 pm |

    “I think I can speak for a good many CFers
    when I say that the problem isn ’t that kids
    exist. The problem, more often than not, is
    the parent(s) who decides that because
    Widdle Pweshus is the center of THEIR
    universe, he has to be the center of
    EVERYONE ELSE ’S universe.”

    Oh no…don’t suck the rest of into this little hate rant. Some CF people like children just fine, we just don’t want to raise them ourselves.

  216. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    Uh, Kristen, that’s what she was saying.

  217. ACG
    ACG July 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm |

    … aaaand, late to the party, Icewyche shits all over everything. I’m going for a margarita.

  218. C/L
    C/L July 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm |

    One more thought: I really don’t think many parents at all expect that every adult their child interacts with needs to show limitless patience with their kiddly ways or to entertain them until they squeal. Certainly, kids don’t *need* every adult they meet to play those roles.

    If a you’re around a kid who’s throwing a tantrum for inexplicable kid reasons, and you don’t feel comfortable intervening, then please and thank you baby jesus, do not intervene. You do not have to be “good with” kids to be good to kids.

    Honestly, all you need to do is just be in their community. When my kid throws a fit in the grocery store, and you’re standing at the end of the aisle getting uncomfortable (or, on some occasions, amused), you help me. I say to my little one, “Little One, all of these people can hear you acting up. Is that what you want?” And it helps. You helped. Just by being there and not throwing a fit yourself. Easy. Pat yourself on the back.

  219. Lue
    Lue July 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    Holy crap — 10 minutes?!

    Try 2. If your kid isn’t calming down after 2 minutes (at most), you should take the kid outside and comfort/correct them there. We were eating out with friends and their 2-year-old girl last weekend and she fell and hit her head and started crying and after about 30 seconds of being held by mom she had subsided to a whimper.

    Nah, I think ten is ok. That encompasses the half-hearted whinge, then subsiding, then starting again, then subsiding, etc. It’s normally if they’re being denied something they want. I think it’s acceptable to be told ‘no, you can’t have another ice cream/your sister’s ice cream/MY ice cream’ and then have a short protest, and then learn that this is not the right reaction, whilst still sat at the table. This is the sort of situation in which other bodies in the space need to learn to appreciate that this is happening. Of course, it might not be happening, which leads to the ouroborous that I mentioned above.

    Kids don’t need to be whisked outside at the first sign of any sort of noise or disruption, or the outside space will lose any aspect of calm one-to-one time.

  220. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    That yelling/squealing two-year-old in the restaurant? Whose mothers we’re all mentally condemning as Bad Parents? Might be a PWD. Who is acting that way because of a disability, which we (as womanists/feminists/allies) would without a doubt excuse if an adult were to experience the same type of event.

    There is simply no way to know. And it is a function of grown-up privilege that we automatically assume otherwise. We mentally default to a view of the situation that gives us the right to be in the space and evicts the parents and child.

  221. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus July 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm |

    Personally I would say yes, a man over 30 who’s single should be allowed to go to the zoo on his own…but I admit I would find it a bit suspicious, so I wouldn’t do it for fear of how others would view me…

    Reminds me of the line from “Thou Shalt Always Kill”, by Dan LeSac vs. Scroobius Pip:

    “Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 who plays with a child that is not their own is a pedophile. Some people are just nice.”

  222. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl July 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm |

    If they have been screaming for over ten minutes,

    is what you wrote. Screaming for 10 minutes is unacceptable. 10 minutes of some fussing, a cry or a minute or so of screaming, and then some whimpering is not the same thing as screaming for over ten minutes. Two VERY different things.

    Frankly, when a kid starts full-blown screaming, once it passes 1 minute, you’ve basically given a big Fuck You to everyone else in the establishment if you haven’t tried to move it someplace else.

  223. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm |

    @ C/L – LOL! Indeed, it’s much harder to teach children not to throw fits in public or treat people with disrespect when adults are doing it all around them.

    I once had a woman complain, loudly and with some fairly strong language about my choice to read aloud to my kids on the bus (Harry Potter, if you’re curious) for the entire bus trip. She was far more disruptive than I, (and far more disruptive than my kids have ever been in a public space – if you factor in the fact that she wasn’t removed swiftly from the space). After she exited the bus, several other passengers expressed their sympathy and, addressing the kids, pointed out that that was very bad behaviour for a great big woman like her. (great big as in adult, not as in physical size)

  224. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm |

    (oh I should add that by “entire bus ride” I don’t mean 2 hours + on the greyhound but a 15 minute city bus ride, on a bus containing about 8 people -and hopefully it goes without saying that my volume was no higher than a typical conversational tone)

  225. Kai
    Kai July 27, 2010 at 1:23 pm |

    I admit that I haven’t read this thread (200+ comments?! don’t have time!), but just wanted to thank maia for this post. I can’t stand the anti-child (and more generally ageist) attitudes you find in US culture, which really strikes me as a form of humanity-loathing and actually self-loathing.

    In Chinese culture, not only are there always babies and children around, there are also always elderly people around. I grew up in multi-generational households. This is how cultural wisdom gets passed on and accumulates: family and inter-generational community. I find it bizarre and unhealthy that so many US adults want to keep the very young and the very old out of sight. It’s as though they seek to disconnect themselves from the reality of life’s journey via isolation, hyper-individualism, and denial. It’s a sick, violent, fragmented culture.

  226. Shelly
    Shelly July 27, 2010 at 1:24 pm |

    @Kristen J.

    What you said. I may be child free, but I for sure don’t want to be lumped in with those who dislike kids. Good grief! Imagine saying out loud, in front of a group of people who are presumably anti-isms, that you dislike an entire class of humans. The mind, it wobbles.

  227. Jlu
    Jlu July 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm |

    But the thing is, kids don’t always act exactly like people want them to, because they are kids. They don’t have what people are describing as the “appropriate” social tools to act like adults. They are kids.

    If you are can’t stand the fact that kids like to run around, that they can be loud, that they cry, you aren’t just talking about the parents. You are talking about kids.

    What you want is for parents to curb that kid behavior and make them more acceptable to you and whatever it is you feel is “correct” in the situation. FFS, two parents of the same child can’t always agree on “correct” behavior so how is it that we are supposed to know what every person in the restaurant thinks is correct?

    Sometimes, running a child down in a store or yelling at them or shushing them or whatever behavior it is you expect the parent to do, just inflames the situation, makes the child react in a way that doesn’t make anything better, and will just lead to more running and more screaming. Parents know their children. Just because to you it looks like they aren’t doing anything or aren’t doing enough or are oblivious to their children, doesn’t mean that that is what is happening.

    Of course, all of us parents are only concerned about ourselves and our children and can’t see anything or anyone beyond that. At least that is the vibe that people are giving off in this forum.

    But what you don’t seem to get is that we HEAR you, right now in this forum and the comments you make in public. We SEE you and your physical reactions when we get on the plane, sit down at the restaurant. Your policing, the stuff that you are saying now, it works. Even if it my child is a complete angel (and he is NOT), I see how people react to other children. I notice it. It’s embedded in my mind, I can feel it in my skin.

    I will think about these comments the next time I am in public with my child, as I fuss and obsess endlessly over whether or not he is acting correctly (I guess that is my lot in life because I chose to have children and I need to suck it up). But will you attempt at all to change the way that you react to a child who isn’t acting “appropriately” or will just roll your eyes and complain about that lax parent who only cares about themselves and is ruining your meal?

    I just CAN’T believe that that policing of my parenting and my kid’s behavior is coming so forcefully from such a group. I just can’t.

  228. mightydoll
    mightydoll July 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm |

    @Salix: Thanks for that, too. My eldest is autistic, and while I generally had the privilege to enable me to work with and around his autism so that he wasn’t any more disruptive than an average child his age, some of the things people took issue with and blamed on my parenting were really frustrating and demoralizing (and I’m largely talking about asking for some pretty basic understanding such as: if my child seems upset by being talked to by a stranger please don’t push the issue and then blame me for not teaching him manners when he starts to cry, or that maybe he’s blocking the escalator because he’s terrified of it and he’s working up his nerve to get on)

  229. Lasciel
    Lasciel July 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm |

    “It’s interesting how bars and strip clubs become proxies for “everywhere else”. I frankly have never seen a little kid in a dive bar. I’m sure they turn up sometimes, but at least in Large Midwestern City, they’re not around often. So I think this “but what about my drinking time?” is a bit of a canard.”

    Never was brought to a strip club, but I was taken into bars a couple times. During the daytime, no problems, since they were mostly quiet and empty and no one said a thing, usually had a Pepsi. But being brought into a bar on the weekend, after dark, when it’s filled with noisy, drunk people was scary and uncomfortable as a small child, even though no one was mean to me.

    So I think asking parents to consider whether a place is really actually comfortable for your child, and whether they even want to be there, is not so bad. If children are an oppressed group, then part of that oppression is taking them into uncomfortable places for them, against their will. (Not talking about say a doctor’s office) but a very formal restaurant (where EVERYONE is usually on more uptight behavior) and expecting them to conform to that behavior is a little unfair. It’s an act of unfairness perpetuated by the *parent* though, not the non-parent/guardians in the place.

    Most of the parents saying children are oppressed still think it’s ok to force their non-essential choices on them. It’s hard because children legally can’t be left alone. They legally have to be educated. So if a child is being bullied or terrorized by their teacher (I had a teacher throw a freakin’ chair at me in 1st grade. Nothing was done.) what can the parent even do? Switch schools, which often has negative consequences like having to drive very far, lose friends, etc. Homeschool, where a parent will have to stay home… or hire someone, if they have money. Private school is expensive.

    If a child does not want to be dragged to a gov. office and sit bored for 4 hours while their parent fills out forms, they have no choice. If Mom can’t afford a babysitter, that’s her only choice.

    We can’t really change that-young children can’t be safely left alone for too long. Myself, I find them more troubling than some jerk sneering at a kid who dares to come into a library.

    Don’t take your kids into areas where the social expectation is higher than they can currently meet. Don’t leave them helpless and bored for hours-make sure you bring books or toys even if you don’t think you’ll be gone long. Respect their educational desires the best you can. Respect their dietary choices if you can (it’s not easy trying to be a vegetarian when you’re 11 and can’t cook) Don’t take them to unnecessary places where *THEY* will be uncomfortable (no, you shouldn’t give up fun because you’re a parent, but you don’t have a right to make a little kid sick and scared) .

  230. Jess
    Jess July 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm |

    Wow.

    So basically what I got out of reading all of the comments to this post (oy) is that most people from the US (including feminists) are individualists, and other people think that this is weird. I wish that we could have a feminist conversation about this that would not center on kid-hating.

  231. Lasciel
    Lasciel July 27, 2010 at 1:42 pm |

    “find it bizarre and unhealthy that so many US adults want to keep the very young and the very old out of sight. It’s as though they seek to disconnect themselves from the reality of life’s journey via isolation, hyper-individualism, and denial. It’s a sick, violent, fragmented culture.”

    If you are not of a culture (I take it you identify with Chinese culture?) then please don’t call it “sick, violent, and fragmented”. That’s not cool. Different is not always bad, it just brings different negatives and positives. More family-emphasizing cultures have downsides because of that aspect, just like with anything.

    and to clarify, I do think children are an oppressed class, but it’s foolish to tackle the subject by only talking to/about non-parents. Parents are the ones that control children’s lives, a key part of keep kid’s safe and protecting their rights as much as possible is realizing that, and making sure parents’ control over their children’s non-essential activities are lessened.

  232. latenac
    latenac July 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm |

    Jlu I had no idea that all your children did was run around screaming their heads off, pulling things off shelves while you just stand there and think it’s adorable.

    There are parents out there that to do this. Do you consider acceptable public behavior? Do you find it charming?

    I will concede that we as a society could be more tolerant of the child on the airplane who is screaming b/c their ears are popping, the child at the end of their rope in the grocery store while their parent just wants to get the groceries they need and get out. Most people I know actually are. They are also tolerant and empathetic to other developmentally appropriate behavior and offer to help out mothers or fathers who are having problems by letting them go ahead in line at the grocery store or getting the stewardess to bring some water or whatever.

    Culturally, I come from an Arab family. Yes kids are prevalent everywhere but the understanding was also that kids knew how to behave and it was spelled out very black and white. A culture that is in your eyes more accepting of children everywhere is a 2 way street there are also things expected of the children and every adult has a given right to parent the child if they see bad behavior. I went to all weddings, family parties, adult parties, restaurants, china shops, etc. But I was told beforehand how to act. We folded our hands when went into shops with lots of breakable objects, we were told to be quiet while adults were talking, to sit at table until everyone was done, etc, etc, etc. Nowhere in these 200+ comments do I see anyone who has posited “but they’re just kids and they should go everywhere” talk about the responsibility of the parents or the child. Instead a good deal of the comments just come across entitled.

  233. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm |

    Blast it all to hell…one of my responses got eaten by my blackberry…Okay, again but shorter and I apologize if it somehow made it to moderation…I’m assuming my blackberry ate it because of the error message.

    Mightydoll,

    I’m also firmly of the belief that the only way to reverse the trend of paranoia and the subsequent detachment between the generations is to challenge it.

    Easier said than done. When we first moved to DC, M and I took our dog to play in one of the baseball fields near our house. We play catch, the dog runs…there’s usually a picnic involved…all good fun. Well, this particular afternoon a couple of the “bench” kids came over to see the dog from their little league practice that was going on in the next field over. They petted our dog and asked M about some of the pitches he was throwing. So I went to sit in the shade and M showed them some pitching stuff and threw the ball around for them to hit. They were hanging out with us having some carrot sticks (which I know, I forgot, no feeding children they may have food allergies I don’t know about) for maybe half an hour when someone called the Police. Seriously. Sirens and all. Because childless man + public park + cute dog + willingness to play catch in this area equals child molester.

  234. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm |

    aww hell, i’ve been going to bars to shoot pool… in fact, the bar i used to frequent the most was a non-smoking bar even… and i didn’t drink and even though others were drinking, i don’t recall ever seeing anyone acting like an asshole or being “dangerous” to anyone else. the rowdiest things got was dancing to rancheros if a woman got dizzy from spinning too fast – not from being drunk. apparently i was missing out on the “point” of the bar and i missed a lot of “fun”.

    and you know what? any friend that wants to hang out with me and can’t deal with the fact that my son is with me isn’t much of a friend. being a mom is a full-time job and if friends can’t handle that then i don’t need to hang out with them.

  235. Mike Crichton
    Mike Crichton July 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm |

    I think a large part of the problem is that, in our culture, most people grow up associating mostly with either their immediate family, or other children in their immediate age cohort. There’s limited socialization with children who are significantly younger or older, and many parents have never had any significant experience with children at all before they had theirs. As a result, people end up with completely unrealistic ideas of how children can be expected to behave. For every bystander who fumes about how inappropriate it was that that rude parent was letting their toddler _giggle_ in _public_, there’s a parent who thinks it’s perfectly appropriate for their toddler to pull on random strangers’ hair, and how dare some oppressive bystander say otherwise! Then you get the really sad cases, like parents who think a week old baby is misbehaving when they cry.

    The other major problem is the “stranger danger” meme that’s already been mentioned above. By conditioning people to believe that the only reason any stranger might _possibly_ express any sort of interest or concern in your child is that they’re planning nefarious deeds, parents are encouraged to be suspicious, and bystanders are encouraged not to get involved. The bystanders who might genuinely want to help won’t, but those who are inclined to harangue the “bad parents” in their midst will feel no such restraint.

  236. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm |

    While I am firmly on the “there ought to be limited adult-only places”, the whining, anecdotal “this one kid was so horrible” stories need to cease. That being said, I do have an amusing one if you need a chuckle!

    I was sitting in the sauna at the Y after swimming, and a young kid was on the other side of the glass door, staring in. He was cute, I waved at him. His mom was nearby, obviously very pregnant, and I guess had explained to him that she couldn’t use the sauna because she was pregnant. That’s the only explanation I can think of for why this kid suddenly started shouting, repeatedly, “Mom! There’s a pregnant lady in there! Moooom! Why is that lady in there when she’s pregnant?”

    He also started addressing me directly, and loudly. “Hey, you shouldn’t be in there you know! You can’t be in there if you’re pregnant! Hey you!”

    I was honestly pretty humiliated, as this went on for a couple minutes and there were several other women in the sauna who started staring, or trying not to, during this whole thing. I stammered to the woman next to me that I wasn’t pregnant, just fat. I managed a rueful chuckle.

    The kid’s mom ignored him the whole time. In retrospect I laugh at this incident, but it did kind of bother me at the time.

  237. Jlu
    Jlu July 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm |

    “Nowhere in these 200+ comments do I see anyone who has posited “but they’re just kids and they should go everywhere” talk about the responsibility of the parents or the child. Instead a good deal of the comments just come across entitled.”

    This is ALL that people have talked about. It is ALL about the irresponsibility of parents to teach their children the right behavior and how that ruins the public space for people.

    And here’s my point. You think that in order me and mine to go into public I need to tell my toddler how to act before we go somewhere, have him fold his hands while in public, be quiet, sit still at the table until I tell him otherwise.

    Obviously that worked for your parents, that is something important to your community, and is behavior that you think is appropriate. Fine. But I can guarantee you that you did NOT always do those things. And at some point you did something that pissed people in public off and, so, probably pissed off your parents. Because sometimes, kids act like kids.

    I’m also just trying to get the point across that because a parent doesn’t look like they are doing anything or isn’t acting in the way you expect them to in response to their kid’s behavior, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t, at that moment, both parenting and totally aware of their child.

  238. Kelly
    Kelly July 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm |

    As you can see, Americans at least are very anti-child. Children should only be “allowed” here or there If this or that. It’s very tiresome. I want to believe America will wise up and do better for our citizens who are literally our future, who determine how other people (including us should we reach old age) are treated.

    Thank you for this article, Maia.

  239. Gina
    Gina July 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm |

    To return to the original post for a moment, I’m baffled as to why a friend merely asking if your daughter was going to come along offends you. Maybe she just wanted to know what sort of night to be prepared for. If she planned on doing some activity that she knows your child wouldn’t enjoy, maybe she just wanted to know if she needed to change up those plans. I have confidence that you took offense for some real reason – perhaps you had a past experience with this friend that indicated they had something against children. But you haven’t explained that to us here, and so your story makes you sound like you’re suffering from some entitlement issues. Please be aware that I’m not assuming that you are, but I think the way this story was told, with some apparently missing links, might account for the negative response we’re seeing here. I also want to be careful to note that I’m not making a “tone” argument here. I love a militant tone in feminist writing, and I think anyone should be able to take any tone they want. But I do think there is some missing info that would have made the object of your criticism a little clearer.

  240. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 1:58 pm |

    For god’s sake, Jess, not wanting to hear children scream is not equivalent to kid-hating.

  241. Ruchama
    Ruchama July 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm |

    Now that I’ve seen the straw-man strip-club mentioned several times, I remembered that I do know of one actual child in an actual strip club. In the sixties and seventies, my mother’s cousin owned a strip club, and his son (then in elementary and middle school) would come to the club after school to help with sweeping and washing dishes and stuff like that. I would assume that kids working in places like that used to be much more common than it is now. I know that I’ve seen photos of bars from the Prohibition era where the kids mopping up in the background don’t look much older than 10.

  242. Jlu
    Jlu July 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm |

    @latenac

    I had no idea that all your children did was run around screaming their heads off, pulling things off shelves while you just stand there and think it’s adorable.

    There are parents out there that to do this. Do you consider acceptable public behavior? Do you find it charming?

    I never said that behavior is “charming” or that my child does that. But the fact that one parent did that and it annoyed you doesn’t mean that all children in public are this way. That would be like me assuming that all other patrons in the stores that my family shops in are jerks because of the way a couple people have out-and-out judged us without knowing a damn thing about us or our child. But that would seem ridiculous if I said that I did think that.

    And, you know what, I am not going to say what I think is “acceptable” behavior in every situation because 1) I’m not there, 2) I don’t know those children or those parents, and 3) being a parent is a hard job and I’m not going to sit here on an online forum and judge some random person I saw once at Target who didn’t do enough as a parent in my opinion. Where is that getting us? Clearly, no where.

  243. Kai
    Kai July 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    Lasciel, I was born in New York and have as much of a right to talk about US culture as you do, though I’m guessing you will always see me as a foreigner.

  244. S.H.
    S.H. July 27, 2010 at 2:12 pm |

    First off I just want to quickly say to Jill how awesome this blog has become with all the guest posts. I’m so loving this place! More on topic, it just occurred to me how much my own upbringing, which was spent with more adults than children, has benefited me greatly. My parents moved from a metropolitan area to a more rural area when I was very young. This area was rife with racism (and every other ism you can think of) and as such, my mother made the decision to keep us close and limit our interactions with other children, at least when it was unsupervised.

    At the same time my mother had a small group of friends who were also “fish out of water” types, and I often spent my time listening to their debates on philosophy, religion, and politics. I think I was the only 8 year old in my class who could discuss the racial implications of the Bernie Goetz case back in the 80’s. I greatly benefited intellectually from this exposure, and more importantly it was a highly effective antedote to being constanty exposed to hatred and privilege.

    Now one can easily say when I describe my situation that this was no environment for children! But on the other hand, I credit my parents for giving me the values I hold dearly today, and I can’t help but wonder if my parents had made a different decision, I would have become as ignorant and racist as those I had the misfortune to live around. All of this is just to say I firmly believe in the benefits of children interacting with adults, and I think they far outweigh the negatives.

    Now my situation was somewhat unique, but there are often unique situations that drive parents to make their decisions regarding child rearing. I agree with Salix’s point in that it is impossible to judge parents’ motivations until you understand their situation completely, and it’s all too easy to misjudge a situation at first glance. Or in other words, people usually have far more complicated motivations for their actions and are not simply trying to fuck up your night out just for kicks.

  245. Elby
    Elby July 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm |

    Seriously, what is with this “US is anti-child” meme? No, the U.S. is not perfect, but some of the generalizations in this thread are offensive!

  246. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm |

    Jlu, LOTS of parents act like that in public. It’s not just “I was annoyed by this parent and this child this one time.” It’s “I am annoyed by some parent almost EVERY TIME I go out in public” – and it’s not because I have a low threshold of annoyance.

    I do have to say to Maia that I think your original post was deliberately inflammatory. Really, telling people that “they don’t have a right to childfree spaces” is pretty much guaranteed to piss them off. Also, claiming that your child is soooo cute and soooo badass and more honest than any adult doesn’t help your point; it just makes it look like you’re one of the parents who thinks that your child can do no wrong.

  247. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm |

    They are also tolerant and empathetic to other developmentally appropriate behavior

    But if you don’t know the child, who are you to judge what behavior is developmentally appropriate for her?

    I don’t see why this is not a HUGE, GLARING issue for disability rights advocates. Clearly the policing of parents and children is much, much stricter and falls more often not just when the parents have disabilities (which DR groups pick up on) but also when it’s the child who has a disability!

    It saddens me to see people who identify as disabled or allies thereof instead rushing to say, “But here’s how kids [meaning: one hypothetical kid who behaves "badly," but children are an oppressed class and do not have the privilege of being seen as individuals] spoil the space for adults with disabillities.”

  248. incurable hippie
    incurable hippie July 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm |

    Sadly we can’t always rely on parents to make the right decisions for their children. Sometimes decisions have to be made to protect the child, regardless of whether the parents think something should be allowed or not.

  249. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm |

    @ Amphigorey,

    You don’t have a right to whites-only spaces.

    Is that inflammatory?

  250. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom July 27, 2010 at 2:26 pm |

    Kelly: “As you can see, Americans at least are very anti-child”

    I beg your pardon? There’s nothing in this comment thread that would lead me to think that Americans are “very anti-child”. Possibly the U.S. has, in general, different standards than another country, in general, does regarding appropriate behavior for children. That in itself does not make the U.S. anti-child.
    What has, perhaps, been lost sight of in this discussion is that many of the people complaining about disruptive children are parents. This isn’t a parents vs. childfree matter. This is a matter of people with different opinions, and it isn’t any more useful for one person to accuse another of oppressing children than it is for the second person to accuse the first of raising brats.
    Personally, I think that if more stores, restaurants, etc. provided spaces for children to be children, without that necessarily meaning running around like pronghorns on Jolt, we’d all be better off. One of my favorite places gives children a little wad of dough to play with. Tolerance on one side, understanding that a child won’t necessarily sit still for two hours on the other (I don’t say which side is which, mark you). If we can’t get past the adversarial nonsense, why the hell are we having Yet Another Kids In Public thread?
    For what it’s worth, I never amend my language due to children being around. Children’s picking up of colorful metaphors is one of the risks, or benefits, of having them out in public.

  251. Betty
    Betty July 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm |

    A local indie cinema has a BYOB (Bring your own baby) screening one or two times a month. (http://www.hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk/events.php#event36)
    What are your thoughts on this? Is this the kind of thing parents want?

  252. Emburii
    Emburii July 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm |

    I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that I don’t have a right to any child-free spaces, even in my own home, which is what you seem to be trying to convey.
    My partner has PTSD specifically related to children, from being abused when he was younger and having younger siblings that were abused as well. If there are children crying he gets agitated and his first instinctive response is to make it stop somehow, anyhow, even if it means yelling at the child. He clamps down pretty hard on said behavior, but not having children over to our apartment is as much a safety issue for the child as for us. And thing is? From your post, I shouldn’t be allowed to make that decision, or at least that’s what it sounds like. I’m a bad person for making a safe space for my soulmate, rather than inviting people with kids over.
    What’s worse is that I can argue that children are actually more privileged than adults in some ways; the adult punching people in the chest from an earlier example would have been asked to leave, but for children? People shrug and say, “What can you do?” or “Boys will be boys”. When you say I’m not entitled to any sort of safe space, anywhere, you’re privileging that unruly behavior.
    On the other hand, I can see why you’re frustrated. If you treat your ‘little person’ with respect and responsibility and she can respect other people in turn, being lumped in with the chest-puncher is probably very frustrating. The hospital waiting room was also ridiculous. But this doesn’t deserve a blanket statement that there should be no safe spaces at all for people with triggers.

  253. Mike Crichton
    Mike Crichton July 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm |

    @salix: How about “you don’t have a right to a woman’s only space.”? I think a fair number of people here _would_ find that notion inflammatory.

  254. Kate
    Kate July 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm |

    You have a right to your opinion, but…

    You’re wrong. You are wrong. That’s all I have to say.

  255. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm |

    Salix, I do have the right to childfree spaces.

    Even Disney acknowledges that – there is a restaurant at Walt Disney World that does not allow children under ten years old. The restaurant is Victoria and Albert’s, and yes, I think that was a lovely idea on Disney’s part. Children under ten don’t belong there.

    Comparing children as a class to race, gender, ability, etc., is disingenuous. They are different from adults, and no, they shouldn’t have as many rights as adults have. They can’t drive and they can’t vote and they can’t make their own medical decisions because they are not adults.

  256. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm |

    @Aaminah “being a mom is a full-time job and if friends can’t handle that then i don’t need to hang out with them.”

    Your friends have full time jobs as well, and for many of them I’m sure leisure time means getting away from the full time job. How would you appreciate if your friend had a full time job as an accountant and you invited her over to socialize and she brought a bunch of tax returns to work on?

  257. Peppery
    Peppery July 27, 2010 at 2:40 pm |

    When people talk about the comparison between parents and people with disabilities, I think it’s worthwhile to remember that these are not always mutually exclusive groups. “Parents” is not a homogenous term, and many of us with children are also living with any number of challenges, which can include ability issues.

    For example, way above, Dawn compared her genuine need of a wheelchair to parents’ use of “oversized” strollers. She (like many others out there) saw the strollers as an example of a parent taking up more than her share of space*. But the larger strollers, with their manoeverability, suspension, and adjustability, are a godsend for parents with ability issues. They also usually have a basket underneath to stash your shopping in. Little, foldable strollers can be so hard to push (While you’re bent over, carrying everything in a backpack) that many parents find them painful to use.

    Anyway, any challenges you may face are probably also faced by some parents. Disability? Sensitivity? Poverty? Stress? Not liking the sound of screaming children? Parents have to deal with this, too. Almost all of us are trying to be good parents, but it seems like anything less than an ideal parent, with ideal children, is going to be censured in public.

    * I’m pretty sure that condemning “women taking up too much space” is a feminist issue. And that includes whinging about big strollers.

  258. latenac
    latenac July 27, 2010 at 2:43 pm |

    JLU you’re assuming a lot and not reading my posts very well.

    When I was talking about how my parents did things I was talking about the so called “children are everywhere and accepted” cultures that Maia and other people have talked about. Yes children are everywhere in these cultures but there is also certain behavior expected of them. That was my point. My point was not that all kids should act like this or be parented this way.

    Also, I have not seen one child screaming out of control while their parent found it amusing or got pissed off when someone pointed out it wasn’t good idea. I’ve seen myriad parents do this. Sorry we live in a community. Everyone has to be taken into consideration not one person’s preshus. I have also seen myriad parents whose kids were screaming out of control attempting to do something about it in a respectful, gentle, AP manner even. I don’t assume that every child that is screaming out of control is doing so b/c of bad parenting. You have misread my posts.

    Also you again misread I said no one who is crying that there shouldn’t be any child free zones or who have defended the OP has talked about the responsibility of parents or the children. They’ve only talked about how awful society is to them. Yes lot’s of people who don’t agree with the OP have talked about the parent’s and child’s responsibility.

    And Salix I think you are also making assumptions about my comments.

    And I guess I should state again, I am a parent myself of a 6 year old. I don’t see the world as black and white. I don’t think one way of raising a child applies to everyone. I am actually fairly AP which to me involves listening to and responding to your child’s needs while providing a secure environment for them to become independent adults. My definition however doesn’t include assuming that everyone else considers my kid the center of the universe and thus they should be allowed to do whatever they want. I fail to see how that helps them become independent adults.

  259. Ellie
    Ellie July 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm |

    @Salix: You don’t have a right to whites-only spaces.

    Are we really comparing childfree status to race here? Seriously?

  260. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm |

    Thanks for this post, although it did give a venue for the tiresome “CHILDREN MISBEHAVE IN RESTAURANTS!” justification for hating on kids.

    If you don’t like “kids” or “babies,” there’s something wrong with you. Note I didn’t say “don’t want to have” or “don’t want to raise” or “aren’t interested in the minute-to-minute machinations of.” I said “don’t like.” How do you “dislike” all babies? Or all kids? WTF? That is just weird. Do you also dislike all … Albanians? Or all people with red hair? Yeah, yeah – bring it on.

    Also, many hugs to maia & bfp, although I do think bfp could have had the courtesy to just pretend race doesn’t exist, to make things more comfortable for Dawn.

  261. Lasciel
    Lasciel July 27, 2010 at 2:49 pm |

    Nah Kai, I don’t see you as a foreigner. But if you see mainstream American culture as largely destructive, I wouldn’t blame you if you disassociated yourself from it.

    I just don’t think it’s correct to dismiss an entire culture or way of life as bad because some of the problems it has. Individualism has it’s upsides, it has it’s downsides. In general, eople in the city seem to be colder, less friendly and less concerned about other people a lot of the time, where in the rural parts around here most people are friendly, more helpful and more concerned with other people. You get both sides of the coin though. For all the city-rudeness, you get the *right* to be rude, you’ll likely never see the person again if you just had a bad day and snapped at someone, everyone won’t be talking about it. In the countryside people are nicer but everyone knows your business as well. How you treat other people will color every bit of your life, and if you don’t go with the flow to some extent, you will likely have a terrible time.

    You can’t just say urban life it terrible, sick, and heartless. Or that rural life is always stifling, oppressive, conformist and wearying.

    @Mike- Myself, I’ve never understood the Women’s-Only Spaces thing. (would welcome a link on it if anyone has one handy) all I’ve heard about it is people excluding trans people from them for various reasons.

  262. Kate
    Kate July 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm |

    I’m done with Feministe. I’m not posting this to “bawww” or because I expect the loss of my readership to be a big deal, but I feel that you should know why I’m done.

    I’m sick of mommy manifestos such as these. This isn’t the first time Feministe has published a self-righteous bullshit fest like this and I doubt it will be the last. I don’t mind mothers taking part in feminism (though the OP herself says she isn’t even a feminist), but I DO mind people like Maia telling me, as a childfree person AND a feminist, what rights I have and what rights I don’t. This sort of swill has no place on a feminist blog, IMO. Goodbye, Feministe.

  263. emandink
    emandink July 27, 2010 at 2:53 pm |

    @Amphigorey – you don’t have a “right” to childfree spaces in the public sphere in the U.S. You may have the privilege to patronize private places that choose to enforce age limitations (and it is at present a business owner’s right to do so in most instances in the US, and in some places even their responsibility) and you can certainly choose to prohibit children in your own home, but Disney providing a (young) child free dining opportunity is not a “right” that they are acknowledging, but a marketing ploy for their guests.

    The converse of that is that I don’t have a “right” to a child friendly environment for my children either. The right that we both have is to choose what businesses we patronize so as to meet our desires most effectively.

    I would *like* to see more places try to accomodate children more effectively. I would *like* U.S. culture to adapt to the idea that not everyone wants to have kids and to be more accepting of that idea. I would also like guaranteed paid parental leave for 6 mos or more, more easily accessible and flexible child care, more options for alternative work environments where my need/desire to be actively involved in my kids’ lives would not unduly burden those people who chose not to have children, a unicorn and a pony.

    Alas, in the current United States, I’m probably most likely to get the pony.

  264. Katherine
    Katherine July 27, 2010 at 2:59 pm |

    Here’s how you can tell she’s not a feminist: “it is the mother who will be sent away to take care of the child. and how is that supporting all women and girls?” Why must that be the case?

    Well, you could start by having the child’s father or co-parent help out, for one thing. It is incredibly anti-feminist to assume women have sole responsibility for taking care of children. If you’re a single parent, well that’s different, but can we please stop equating “parent” with “woman?” Drives me nuts. It is 2010. Men can parent. And they must.

  265. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm |

    @Certain Commenters: please, please, stop “helping.”

    @others: Can you cut it out with the “You all hate children” meme?

    Something that’s come up, mostly tangentially, in this thread, that the last OMG Kids thread didn’t really touch on, IIRC: the class and race issues going the other way. It’s absolutely true that rules and societal standards around children end up having a disproportionate impact on WOC and working-class women, but…

    …I think the people arguing for their child’s right to yell and knock things over – or, if you’re going to tell me that no one’s saying that, the people arguing that to “take a deep breath, send warm energy toward the mama and kid, give a sympathetic smile, and maybe even start talking with the kid” is a “basic obligation[...] that come[s] with your humanity” when a child is yelling and knocking things over – those people are ignoring the class and racial implications of what they’re saying.

    Because you’re saying that that should be the reaction of the other patrons in the restaurant or the store, but you’re forgetting the people who work in the establishment – the people who can’t choose to leave and who will suffer economic consequences for not dealing with the situation – and who, depending on the location and type of the place, are more likely to be working-class WOC.

    And I’m not comfortable with the tacit insistence that WOC must always be parenting others’ children for them.

  266. C/L
    C/L July 27, 2010 at 3:03 pm |

    “I don’t mind mothers taking part in feminism”

    Gosh. Thanks for the warm welcome. Glad you can find room for us. We’ll try not bring down the movement with all our issues and stuff.

    (Hint: Maybe this kind of patronizing crap is why the author doesn’t id as a feminist.)

  267. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 3:08 pm |

    Holy crap..the assertion that you don’t have a right to public spaces free of other people is getting push back? Wow. Okay, I think this thread has descended to depths that are beyond reasonable discussion in my view.

  268. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm |

    I don’t mind mothers taking part in feminism

    O_o.

    OMFG. Well isn’t that generous of you.

    I’m childfree as well. Some of what Mai’a wrote rubbed me the wrong way, but FFS this goddamn flouncing because you are tired of “Mommy Manifestos?” Really??? WHO DO YOU THINK MAKES UP THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT? A lot of women are mothers.

  269. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 27, 2010 at 3:11 pm |

    @Katherine: “not a feminist” does not mean “against women’s advancement.” See “womanist,” for example. More to the point, though, that statement is a reflection of what actually happens, and saying “your position sucks because it would be unnecessary in my fantasy world” isn’t too helpful.

  270. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 27, 2010 at 3:14 pm |

    Well, you could start by having the child’s father or co-parent help out, for one thing. It is incredibly anti-feminist to assume women have sole responsibility for taking care of children. If you’re a single parent, well that’s different, but can we please stop equating “parent” with “woman?” Drives me nuts. It is 2010. Men can parent. And they must.

    Yeah, that’s the ideal, but that’s not the reality for a lot of women. In our culture, it is women who tend to be shamed for “bad” parenting–witness Jamie Oliver’s shaming of a mother who didn’t feed her children the foods he deemed healthy, witness the welfare queen scare stories, witness the the drive-by parenting when a mother works or doesn’t work or does something separate from her children.

    We should expect men to parent and push for cultural change, but also be aware that many people simply are not in situations where that is going to happen.

  271. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 3:14 pm |

    Katherine,

    Stop and re-read from a place free of anger. Acknowledging the reality that the obligation to “parent” falls disproportionately on women is most certainly feminist. When we add more responsibilities/requirements to parenting we almost always burden women not men.

  272. Icewyche
    Icewyche July 27, 2010 at 3:15 pm |

    My, my…there are a lot of people with a stranglehold on their pearls over the idea that there are actually women who don’t adore children. So to all of you who think that kids should be universally adored and tolerated simply by virtue of being human, let me ask you this: would you enjoy being around people who spoke about nothing but “Twilight”? How about guys who constantly stared at your chests or who hadn’t bathed since the Reagan administration? I’m guessing there are quite a few of you out there who would go out of your way to avoid such people…and yet, these are HUMANS, so by your own logic you should love them and want to spend time with them. Saying everyone should love kids because they’re humans is like saying everyone should love Rottweilers because they’re dogs – it doesn’t work.

    It’s been my experience that when a man says he doesn’t like kids, most people will shrug it off and not think anything of it. But when a woman says she doesn’t like kids, people tend to react as though she’s just confessed to ax-murdering kittens as a hobby. Why do so many people – even, depressingly, many self-identified feminists – act as if being a woman means you automatically MUST love kids and want to be around them?

    By the way, Kristen J and Shelly, in the midst of your scrambling to disassociate yourself from “those evil evil child-haters oh noes!”, you failed to actually read my earlier post. I said that for most CFers, it wasn’t the CHILD that was the problem, it was the PARENT(S) – specifically, the parent who refuses to actually parent.

  273. prosaica
    prosaica July 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm |

    “you do not have a right to child free spaces. ”

    This sentence, standing there alone, was absolutely awesome.
    Thank you very much for it. The rest of the post was also wonderful, but the beginning… it left me gasping for air.
    Thanks from the other shore of the mediterranean sea.

  274. M
    M July 27, 2010 at 3:21 pm |

    I don’t agree. There are places where it’s appropriate for children to be and there are others where they shouldn’t. Also not everyone likes children. If I wanted to deal with wailing and other misbehavior I’d have my own. There are plenty of child-friendly spaces and frankly I’m annoyed by people who bring their children along to things that they know are intended just for adults. I sympathize with the fact that not everyone can afford childcare but I hate to say it, if you can’t get a babysitter then stay home.

  275. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. July 27, 2010 at 3:24 pm |

    Icewyche,

    I don’t care what gender you identify as…hating a class of people for any reason is disgusting. I hate people who leer, not men. I dislike TAB people who refuse to surrender their seats to those who need them, not all TAB people. I am irritated by people who wear perfume, not all people. Behaviors you can hate…you can deplore when I child screams…but hating a class of people, regardless of whether that class is age, race, gender, hair color, eye color, country of origin, lactose intolerance, handedness, etc, is inexcusable.

  276. annajcook
    annajcook July 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    wow. it seems so simple and basic. if you are a human being in this world, you have some basic obligations that come with your humanity. one of them is that you are responsible, as is everyone else, to look out for one another, including children.

    I don’t have the strength to read through / engage with the whole comment thread today, but just wanted to thank you for posting the OP and your comments, maia. As someone who does not have children of my own, it seems so “simple and basic” as well, and it’s always a pleasure to read the generosity of others who feel the same way. keep being yourself in the world, and encourage your daughter to do the same! I’m sure she’s an awesome human being with you for a mum :).

  277. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    @Icewyche,

    [how would you like being around really annoying people]

    Running and screaming = a behavior. I have no problem with anyone saying they don’t like being around running and screaming people – even if those behaviors correlate a bit more with being a child.

    Being a kid? Not a behavior.

    in the midst of your scrambling to disassociate yourself from “those evil evil child-haters oh noes!”, you failed to actually read my earlier post. I said that for most CFers, it wasn’t the CHILD that was the problem, it was the PARENT(S) – specifically, the parent who refuses to actually parent

    I won’t speak for Kristen J and Shelley, but you’re still dead wrong here, because that’s a thing that people get annoyed at. Childfree means without children or plans to have them. It does not mean your views on parents, children, or social politics.

  278. Annie
    Annie July 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm |

    @La Lubu

    While I understand that having your daughter not be allowed in the waiting room at the hospital is upsetting, I don’t think it’s based on discrimination so much as it as for her protection. This year’s flu season was awful, waiting room is where sick people, and germs still exist. My mother is on immune-suppressing drugs and she too has been asked to not be in the hospital waiting room. Child discrimination? I think not in that circumstance.

    I do feel that parents are excluded because of their children,and that friends and family should make an effort to include both mother (and/or father) and child. But when children begin to impede on other’s peoples lives or enjoyment at a location then it begins a sticky issue. I have been in both situations, I often take care of my younger brother (who is often mistaken as my child) and have been asked to leave because I had a young, loud child with me. I have also been the other patron in a restaurant, leaving early, and miserable because someone else’s child was creaming and being loud. I think going to a bar, or other activity that is suppose to be ‘adult-centered’ it is not irrational or cruel to expect there to not be children.

  279. C/L
    C/L July 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm |

    I see what you’re saying, Rebecca, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch in that it’s not responding to what people have requested.

    I haven’t seen anyone say that strangers need to *parent* their children for them. Smiling at a distressed child is not parenting. Nor is talking to a child, or refraining from glaring at the kid’s parents when the kid is crying about some ridiculous thing that kids cry about.

    Last month I encountered an injured elderly man with Alzheimers wandering my street. When I stopped to assist him, I wasn’t taking on the job of his caregiver. I wasn’t thinking, “Goddammit! People expect me to do *everything* around here!” I was just being a decent human being because that is not too much to ask.

    Or this: When I’m at work and a patient’s family member gets upset and cries because they’re loved one has just been diagnosed with some awful terminal illness, I try to comfort them. I’m a frackin med tech. It is not my job to comfort distressed family members, but I do it because it’s just the nice thing to do.

    I interpreted the post as a reminder that, hey, kids are people, too, and deserve the same human compassion we should show to everyone else. Not, hey, watch my baby for a minute. (Though, I admit I have thought that before.)

  280. incurable hippie
    incurable hippie July 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm |

    There are times I am really triggered into PTSD symptoms by the presence of children, especially children of certain ages. On those types of days I try to go to places where children are less likely to be.

    There are certainly places I avoid during school holidays.

    This does not mean I hate children or think they should be banned from places. But I do appreciate that there are places I can go where I am less likely to come across children.

    I think it’s about balance. I know parents who really appreciate a night out at the pub, mainly *because* it is a childfree place. It’s not about hating kids, or restricting kids’ rights. It’s just that there are places more appropriate for kids (most places) and places less appropriate for kids, where adults who prefer not to be around kids may prefer to go.

  281. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm |

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and there is a lot worth thinking about here. I think we keep too many things hidden from children in our society, and we need to work on that. However, I do have to disagree with you on several points. In the US, parents often demand that the people around them adjust themselves because their child is in the room. I can gather from your post that you don’t do this and are understanding that others shouldn’t have to change their behavior for your child (except for the “positive energy” thing, but I’ll get back to that), but I’ve seen many parents tell other adults to watch their language, or to not speak so loudly because the baby is sleeping, or even ask that gay couples should express love for each other in front of their child.

    I think at least one other commenter also mentioned that maybe there are some mamas in that bar who want a night out to be amongst other adults after a long day of caring for children. Oh, but wait, not wanting to be surrounded by the darlings 24 hours a day means you hate babies! And what kind of monster hates babies! (At least, that’s what I’ve learned from some of the comments following your blog). I see nothing wrong with wanting to show your daughter the world, but you have no right to tell me to send positive vibes your way if I don’t feel like it. And yes, I have tried this in the past. I smiled and waved at a little girl in a store because her mother was talking to someone and wasn’t paying attention to the tantrum she was throwing, the woman accused me of threatening to kidnap and molest her child by smiling at her. Not every mother feels the same way about positive waves as you do, unfortunately, and it can cause huge problems.

  282. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 3:42 pm |

    *sorry meant to say parents ask gay couples NOT express love for each other in front of children. Typo.

  283. NefariousNewt
    NefariousNewt July 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm |

    Maia:

    As the father of a 5-year-old daughter, allow me to articulate a few things:

    1) Your 3-year-old daughter may be a person, but she is first and foremost, a child. She has a lot of fundamental development to go through, and her place in society is as your ward. You are responsible for her, because she cannot be 100% responsible for herself.

    2) While there should be no blanket ban on children in public, save where their presence would expose them to grave danger, it should also not be assumed that children belong everywhere. You may take a child to a restaurant or a museum or a movie, but you cannot expect them to remain interested, if they are interested at all, in the activities you would have them partake of. You must be more selective of what situations you place your children in.

    3) Your take on feminism is incorrect. Feminism, as I define it, is a movement toward enforcing the equality of men and women, to where women may do whatever they please, however they please, by their own right, and not due to the direction of men. This has precious little to do with the subject of children in public, and using feminists as your foil to score easy points is spurious and unnecessary.

    4) No one is suggesting that your children should be banned from public. We were all children once; we all know how inconvenient it can be to be a child in an adult world. We are asking you to be more cognizant of your environment, so that we might all enjoy the benefits of enlightened human society, without creating friction which is clearly not required.

  284. niemaodpowiedzi
    niemaodpowiedzi July 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm |

    This thread has comments comparing children to hostage-takers, spiders, and tax forms.

    I find myself rather bewildered that this level of dehumanization, this complete disregard for the humanity of those under the age of eighteen, is seen as something other than oppression. Something other than than an ideology born from power plus prejudice. Something other than wrong.

    Humans are not just adult. Or white. Or cis. Or currently non-disabled. Human rights [need to, though they don't yet, not even close] take place at all ages, at all points in the spectrum of humanity, not just those which kyriarchy deems acceptable.

  285. Alexandra Lynch
    Alexandra Lynch July 27, 2010 at 3:48 pm |

    I’d like the U.S. in general to be more friendly and accepting of the fact that women have to gestate and all genders have to parent at varying levels of involvement the next generation. In return, I’d like the people who are actively parenting people whose training on “how to act in public” might be a little wobbly yet to restrict their outings as much as possible to areas suitable for training flights, so to speak. This is not a forever thing. By the time my kids were five they were okay in even fancy restaurants if we planned properly. (But then, I am not okay in a fancy restaurant if I am tired and my blood sugar has crashed. I tend to weeping fits.) And really, as my life does not include a lot of bars and fancy restaurants, it worked out that I could take them places with mostly good results by the time they were three.

    But we ate family meals, so the idea that you sit at the table and you don’t throw food and you engage in polite conversation wasn’t some new concept that only came in at a restaurant. And we were not so well off we could just buy whatever we wanted, so no one got to buy what wasn’t on the grocery list. (They would whine with Grandma, but not with me; Grandma was responsive to whines for toys and candy. Kids can suss this stuff out.) Did we have occasional crash-and-burns? Yep. But we had them at McDonald’s, not at somewhere nicer.

    It’s amazing how far you can get with remembering everyone needs enough food and sleep, and a few toy cars and some crayons and paper in your purse. It’s only fair; I carry a novel, myself, and now my older boy carries his gameboy for such moments, the younger his novel. I’m not sure why this seems to a lot of parents to be an amazing feat of parenting, though.

  286. IrishUp
    IrishUp July 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm |

    @Mai’a (I hope I got that right please correct me if I misread it from FFJ!). Thank you for your most excellent post, and I am eagerly awaiting more, assuming the clusterfucktastrophe that is this thread does not prevent it. In which case, I will follow your work elsewhere.

    @ Parts of The Commentariat- Once I waded through the army of Straw Men, swam across the Imaginary Sea of Hypotheticals, and reached the Forrest Hidden In the Trees, it hit me! There is so much $_ISM FAIL here y’all should be fucking EMBARASSED, and if you’re not, you’ve got more work than you think to do. (Also, if my comment is not about you, well, it’s not about you and carry on …)

    1. Feminism 101a: Assuming you have the working bits, IT’S NOT HAVING CHILDREN THAT IS THE FUCKING CHOICE, AND MOST WOMEN ON THE PLANET DON’T REALLY HAVE IT!
    2. Biology 101: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU WAS ONCE A CHILD WHO DID THE $_UNBEARABLE CHILD THING. GLASS HOUSES AND STONES, MOTES AND BEAMS PEOPLE! SERIOUSLY!
    3. Feminism 101b: Being pro choice means A) BOTH defending each person’s right to agency and meaningful choices AND not second guessing that agency and choice AND B) THERE IS NO FUCKING B (see A).
    4. Oppression 101: Does the rhetoric describing children’s /parents’/mother’s various failngs to behave in “appropriate ways” remind you of anything? Hmmmmm? Do you seriously not see the hatefulness behind the “this one horrible $_X” being used to justify “that’s how $_Xs ARE” and/or your opionions of the $_Associates of Said $Xs? This shit should look mighty familiar. Go look at an MRA or TeaBagger site, see if you can’t replace what they’re saying about women or POC with what YOU just said about kids.
    5. Human Being/Equality 101: ALL HUMAN BEINGS COUNT. EVERY SINGLE ONE. EVEN THE ONES YOU DO NOT APPROVE OF, LIKE, OR WANT TO BE NEAR. THIS INCLUDES CHILDREN, WHO ARE HUMAN BEINGS. YES, YOU FUCKING DO HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO THEM, AND A RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS AND OPINIONS TOWARDS THEM.

    Now, if anyone wants to find me, just look in the nearest pub. I’ll be the one with the kid.

  287. M
    M July 27, 2010 at 3:52 pm |

    I agree with the commenter who said this is about entitlement. Everyone who has a chip on their shoulder somehow finds a way to blame feminisim. Why does the OP assume that people’s annoyance has anything to do with feminism? Why not just common social courtesy. You don’t have to hate children or want them to be banished forever to recognize they are some places they belong and some they dont. You may not think others have a right to child free spaces but you don’t have a right to subject people to your children either.

  288. Amber
    Amber July 27, 2010 at 3:52 pm |

    Sorry, I got distracted by your announcement that you are not a feminist. If it was so important to announce, can you please explain your need to separate yourself from those who work tirelessly to ensure your daughter will enjoy the same rights and privileges as her male peers? I just don’t get it. Why would you make a big production of standing up for the rights of children as you insult those who stand up for the rights of women? You do realize 50% of these precious children will grow into women, right?

  289. sara
    sara July 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm |

    I am upset at the idea that the ICU area of a hospital should be forced to bend the rules for a woman to bring her child (regardless of how well behaved) who might potentially be carrying germs that could infect the health of those staying there. There is a good reason children are kept out of most ICUs. If your immune system is depressed, young children are prime sources of infection. Adults can usually be trusted to wash their hands and not touch a lot of stuff. Kids not so much. Please do not say that this policy is a problem. I’m sorry you had a long drive, but you couldn’t called the hospital and asked before hand. Some will allow under 12, some will allow only over. But they didn’t make the rule against YOU, specifically.

  290. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm |

    This thread has comments comparing children to hostage-takers, spiders, and tax forms.

    Well, as someone who was compared to a hurricane as a child, I found the tax-forms comparison both amusing and refreshing.

    I’m sorry, I shouldn’t snark, but this thread is so full of fail on all sides that I can’t even begin to respond to it.

  291. Scott
    Scott July 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    Sirkowski,

    Thank you for reminding me that I am often wrong when I think threads couldn’t get any lower.

    [The comment being responded to has been deleted ~mod]

  292. meep
    meep July 27, 2010 at 4:08 pm |

    i think this boils down to discipline. and i do think a discussion of “well-behaved” is warranted. if we’re at a neighborhood restaurant and there’s a small child who is well-behaved, amusing themselves w/toys or coloring books brought by mom and dad or napping in a stroller, fine. but if the kid is unruly – throwing things, screaming, not sitting down, and mom or dad does nothing to stop it, that’s just rude to the people around you.

    and yes, if the kid is unruly that does sometimes mean that mom or dad will have to leave the situation to handle the child, but that’s called being a parent. things are going to change when you have kids. a 3 yr old child is not just another member of your social circle; they’re a child who needs boundaries and discipline and – sometimes – a babysitter when mom and dad need some grown-up time.

    i’d also agree that you can’t really give your undivided attention to someone with a kid around – esp a 3 yr old. if they’re older, they can at least amuse themselves, but i don’t blame the author’s friends for asking if her daughter is going to tag along. if i’d wanted to see my friend’s 3 yr old, i wouldn’t have invited her to hang out w/me at a bar. i’d have planned a more kid-friendly activity.

  293. emandink
    emandink July 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm |

    @M – Actually, yes, I do have the right to take my children anywhere where they are not forbidden by law or by the rules of a private establishment, which means that other people may be “subjected” to my children. What constitutes “subjection” clearly varies from person to person and situation to situation. I choose to, say, remove my 11 week old from situations where we are all uncomfortable with her crying, and I accept the responsibility for making choices about what activities to partake in with my children so as to minimize discomfort for *everyone*, but you do not get to decide what those choices are or what is and is not appropriate for *my* kids or what they are capable of handling or anyone elses.

  294. Emily WK
    Emily WK July 27, 2010 at 4:10 pm |

    Sara, the problem wasn’t with the ICU not admitting kids. It was with the waiting room not admitting kids under a certain age and not being willing to be flexible about it when faced with a kid who wasn’t causing trouble or making a scene in any way.

    I don’t see anywhere that anyone suggested that the ICU should admit children.

  295. Amber Rhea
    Amber Rhea July 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm |

    I am not getting involved in this conversation deeply because I can tell from the number of comments that it has already degenerated. I do feel that maia has set up a strawman in her original post. I will say that one place I draw the line is my own home. No one has the right to demand that children be allowed in anyone else’s home. My husband and I are good friends w/ a couple who has an almost two year old. He’s a great kid and we love spending time w/ them and him. However when we get together w/ their son present, it’s as their house. The reason? Our house is not “baby proofed” (we do not yet have children) and I do not want him to hurt himself and/or break/damage something. It also means less stress for all the adults involved in having to continually monitor everything he would try to touch or get into. I do not think this is unreasonable in any way.

  296. SeriouslyPeople
    SeriouslyPeople July 27, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    I’m probably repeating points from previous comments, but I thought this required saying:

    The truth is that there are child-free spaces. These are spaces where the exposure is dangerous for the child. Let’s enumerate some of them.

    * spaces where the child could be physically harmed – examples: construction areas, homes where objects that are harmful are left about and where it is unreasonable for the child to stay away from them etc
    * spaces where the child could be emotionally harmed – examples: places with abusive or scary language such as night clubs, anywhere around large numbers of inebriated people, anywhere where people will be emotionally abusive to a child etc
    * spaces where the child could be developmentally harmed – examples: anywhere where the child is exposed to age-inappropriate sexual references etc
    * any private dwelling where the child is not residence and the owner wishes the home to be child-free. Now, you don’t have to like that person, but you do need to respect their wishes. Last time I checked, each person is allowed to decide who enters their home

    Children are not adults. Some spaces are not appropriate for them. To ignore such facts is to endanger the child’s emotional or physical well-being.

  297. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 4:20 pm |

    IrishUp, yelling doesn’t help. Condescension also doesn’t help, especially when you’re wrong. It makes it funnier, though.

  298. martini
    martini July 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm |

    As someone who loves kids (but doesn’t much like babies) and has none, I’m feeling a lot of anger on this thread. But I think it’s mostly due to the demands that society puts on women, and the fact that no matter the choice you make, it’s the wrong one and society will punish you for it. No kids? Evil, child-hating, selfish freak. Have them? You get to be a people-hating, oblivious, selfish freak. This thread shows that we’re buying into that narrative to some degree, and we are feeling sensitive that ‘our’ group is being discussed in negative ways.

    I do think that in the OP and some of the followup comments, that mai’a treated having kids as the norm, and in a way that didn’t really recognize that it’s simply not everyone’s life. Since those of us who don’t have kids get that from every which way, it can be really hurtful to deal with on a feminist site, although I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way.

    And to be honest, I don’t deeply care about other peoples’ kids. I care about those in my extended family, and about my friends’ kids. And at a party, I’m often the only childless one, and yet am the one down on the floor playing with the under-4 set. But random kids on the subway? Eh. I get irritated when strange adults put me out, because they’re not people I know or have any reason to cut some slack, and I think that’s probably how I feel about strange kids too. If it’s your kid who’s being irritating for whatever reason, I’m probably not their biggest fan, no matter how cool you think they are. I might have the fleeting impression that they’re bratty, much like I get irritated at people having cellphone conversations on the bus, and think that *they* are brats. Surely that’s not the end of the world?

    I acknowledge that I don’t have a right to childfree public spaces. But I will seek them out and choose them sometimes, when I have the choice. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person. If I’m ever lucky enough to have kids, I’ll probably similarly seek out child-friendly spaces when I can.

  299. Molly Kaline
    Molly Kaline July 27, 2010 at 4:25 pm |

    Damn, I was really hoping to get to this before the comment thread exploded, but I looked down at the bottom of the post and…300 comments. Wooo lordy! Since meaningful conversation probably jumped the rails around comment 10, I will simply say:
    FUCK YES
    Children. Are People. Have the right to public space. Lovely post. Good luck with the comments. Much love.

    P.S. Aza sounds rad.

  300. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm |

    @ Ellie,

    Yes, I went there. I was actually going to use “women-free spaces,” but the public bathroom thing occurred to me as a valid objection in this case (I assume we are talking about public spaces). I am trying to highlight the nature of parent/childhood as an oppressed class.

    It really should tell us something that nearly every other oppressed class gets compared to children in some way. Women complain about being “treated like children,” and of course there is the long-standing tradition of referring to women as ‘girls’ LONG after we have stopped referring to males of the same age as boys; the ‘childlike man’ was the dominant stereotype of Black men in the waning days of slavery; ‘childlike and passive’ remains one of the persistent stereotypes of Native Americans in pop culture; PWD talk about being ‘treated like children’. Heck, the very word for the cojdescending “I know what’s good for you better than you do so shut up and do it” attitude is paternalism–well describing adult supremacy, pater=father. ALL of that hinges on children also, and in the first place, not being seen as equally human.

  301. Amber
    Amber July 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm |

    Maia,
    I don’t understand your response, and my intention is not to enrage you. I am curious why you said you are not a feminist. Not because I want to engage in a screaming match, but because I feel like there is some awful association with women identifying as feminist, and I honestly do not understand it. I honestly apologize for being rude initially, will you explain why you felt it was important to say you are not a feminist?

  302. Kai
    Kai July 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm |

    Lasciel, I didn’t say anything about urban vs. rural or about any culture being all-bad or all-good. I’m cosmopolitan, nothing is that simple. I’m not sure why you’re saying these things to me, but yes I agree that there are upsides and downsides to many cultural and subcultural attributes.

    For me personally and in general, I feel that those of us who are child-free have a particular impetus to care for children, because parents already take on so much and often need a break and it’s nice to lend a hand; and also because I think it’s healthy for kids to be exposed to different kinds of people, including all of us who for various reasons choose not to have children; and also because I think it’s healthy *for us* to stay in touch with a child-like mentality and perspective.

  303. M
    M July 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    @emandink You have the right to bring your children wherever they are legally allowed. That’s great. Most children are not legally allowed at a bar which was the example used in the post. The point I was trying to make is that if people should not feel entitled to child free spaces then parents should not feel entitled to child-friendly spaces especially where not only laws but norms dictate that they do not belong there. That is all. What you decide to do with your children is completely up to you but the OP is suggesting that other people should accept and like her decision. No one is entitled to that.

  304. ACG
    ACG July 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm |

    @Salix – “Paternalism” and being “treated like a child” aren’t about being seen as equally human–they’re about being seen as equally adult. It’s about someone saying to a person, “You don’t know what’s best for you. I know what’s best for you, so I’m going to take care of it, and you just sit there not getting into trouble.” And when you’re an adult woman or a PWD, yeah, that’s horribly condescending, because you’re perfectly capable of making your own decisions and shouldn’t be treated otherwise.

    When you are a child, however, being treated like a child is perfectly appropriate, because you don’t know what’s best. You’re a very young, very inexperienced human being, and so you need someone with more experience to help you learn to be an adult and look after yourself. This idea that children should be treated just like adults is ridiculous, because they aren’t adults. And it’s not “paternalistic” to make decisions for them and make sure they keep to spaces that are safe, comfortable, and appropriate for them–it’s parenthood.

  305. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 27, 2010 at 4:51 pm |

    For me personally and in general, I feel that those of us who are child-free have a particular impetus to care for children, because parents already take on so much and often need a break and it’s nice to lend a hand; and also because I think it’s healthy for kids to be exposed to different kinds of people, including all of us who for various reasons choose not to have children; and also because I think it’s healthy *for us* to stay in touch with a child-like mentality and perspective.

    While that’s fine for me–I like most kids, I’m fairly goofy, and I have no problems lending a hand–I don’t think it’s fair to put that expectation on everyone. Not everyone is comfortable around children or can relate to them well, and not everyone is equipped to do so.

  306. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm |

    “How would you appreciate if your friend had a full time job as an accountant and you invited her over to socialize and she brought a bunch of tax returns to work on?”

    Um, I’d crack open a beer and ask if there was anything I could do to help?

  307. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm |

    “How would you appreciate if your friend had a full time job as an accountant and you invited her over to socialize and she brought a bunch of tax returns to work on?”

    Um, I’d crack open a beer and ask if there was anything I could do to help?

  308. Br00ke
    Br00ke July 27, 2010 at 4:57 pm |

    Goody, goody. Storytime! *crisscrossing legs and folding hands in lap*

    Yes, all Americans hate all children all the time. Except for their own children, of course, only some Americans hate their own children all the time. Glad someone brought up “flying with kids.” International versus domestic flights is a perfect example. On domestic flights I have experienced a myriad of child-hating, from idiots requesting my toddler not play with his toy (non-electronic, non-beeping-annoying-ass-thing) to being upset that my child was looking at them through the crack in the seats. Remember, Americans don’t stare. That is rude behavior. Unless of course they are innocently looking at someone who is “different” such as a foreigner or someone who has failed to appropriately blend in. And children should know this. Two-year olds should have absolute control of their gaze. And their hands. And their tongues. And their feet. They need only be told something once and they should remember it and act on it. All the time.

    Or the time my infant and I were squeezed between two upstanding businessmen who refused to give up their isle or window seats and so one had my son kicking at him while he nursed and the other had his head and my elbow rubbing into him. No, I did not feel bad when my carry on landed on one’s head as I tried to pull it out while holding a baby. And if he had asked for my information so as to sue me if there was permanent damage to his spine or whatnot, I would have gladly given it because I take full responsibility for mine and my children’s actions. I am a responsible parent like that. Did he comment here? I’m THAT parent.

    Anyhoo. Let’s compare that to international flights, like my recent one with my five children (yes,I am a frequent breeder!) on Royal Air Maroc. Not only did the Moroccan crew seem to genuinely enjoy “serving” my kids, bring them little treats and lavishing a little extra attention on them, but—scream off of this—some of those non-American travelers not only greeted my kids (as if they were fellow speciesmen) but also patted them on the head and *gasp* kissed them! In some parts of the world it is okay to talk to and even touch other people’s kids–wild!–but I’ll come back to that. The silliest thing that happened on that flight was a grumpy American lady started bitching at my 8 year old for going over to her spot—a center row of seats she was sleeping on, but failed to recognize that my son’s stuff on the floor in front of said seats should have been an indication that the seats were already taken—anyway, he literally laughed at her absurdity, grabbed his stuff and moved to one of the many other rows available.

    Shopping. Glad ya’ll brought that up, too. If I had a twenty for every. freakin. time. some American stopped their shopping cart a few inches in front of my children and stared at them intently as telepathically in commune. You see, Americans observe polite manners when sharing public spaces, we say “excuse me” as an indication that we would like to pass by. Unless of course it is a child who is obstructing the thruway. Children are not, after all, human and should not be afforded the same decency and respect. Or maybe this is more of that weirdness around how we don’t talk to or touch other people’s kids, oh yeah because they are not human? Or we don’t want to be sued? Moroccans do the strangest thing when a child obstructs their path. I have seen this repeatedly, so all Moroccans must do it. They will—as if inherently understanding the nature of children and that they are not as quick to respond as adults—they will lay a hand on the child’s shoulder and say excuse me as they pass by or reach in front of the child. I always must resist my indoctrinated American urge to scream out “Don’t touch MY child!!!!!” only because my throat would be hoarse by the end of the day if I did so.

    See, where as Americans would let me child DIE rather than touch him, Moroccans have concern for a child seemingly in distress or danger. Compare the time my child fell down an escalator in America and people moved. out. of. the. way. “to let him pass” versus how Moroccan children will often drag my toddler out of the climbing structure and over to me saying “dangerooooss Madame” as if I’m some stupid American. Oh, or maybe they mistake me for a careless French mommy.

    Anyway Mai’a, I am deeply disappointed that you already stated your locale because I would have loved to have been the one to tell you, “If you don’t like it—move!” Killjoy. Recentered killjoy!

  309. Melissa
    Melissa July 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm |

    The problem most of the time isn’t with children, it’s with the parents who don’t discipline them or teach them proper manners. They’re not just small adults, they’re CHILDREN.

    And yes, you should control your child if she’s not behaving properly and you should be prepared to leave whatever public establishment you’re at if she doesn’t behave.

  310. jennygadget
    jennygadget July 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm |

    “Do I think some places should be childfree? Only if being in them endangers the child’s safety.”

    Meg, I think that’s an extremely good way of looking at it.

    I just did a focus group yesterday with a handful of 12 year olds on their opinions of our Summer Reading Program and the library in general. These are all well-behaved kids – most of whom were being chaperoned by older siblings – who were at the library voluntarily for their own entertainment.

    One of the most troubling things we learned in the focus group is that many of our own staff* are very dismissive – if not down-right hostile – when these tweens (these tweens! these well-behaved readers!) ask for help, try to participate in the Summer Reading Program, or even just try to enter the library. These are people that are paid to serve the public and who know what management’s views on teen and kids in the library is (please come! as long as you behave within reason) and yet they still fail to treat this particular group of patrons with basic respect.

    One of the parts that I found most interesting (and while troubling, at least easier to fix them some of the other problems that came up) is that the kids are often told by security guards as they try to come in that they are too young to come into the library by themselves. One particular girl – who looks more like she is 9 than 12 (but, yes, is 12) – is stopped so often that she has given up on trying to come by herself.

    This happens because staff get more focused on the rules and not on the reasons for them. (and clearly, miscommunications about our policies) Refusing kids entry to the library on the grounds of protecting them – while at the same time not calling their parents and knowing the kids will continue to be alone in public elsewhere – is what happens when you are concerned about being held responsible for what might happen, but aren’t really concerned about the safety and well-being of the kids.

    The better thing to do – and our actual policy – is to only stop very young children who try to enter the library alone (and call their parents!) but to let the tweens and even older elementary age children to enjoy the library without supervision as long as they know how to locate their parents and someone can come within 15 minutes and they are behaving appropriately and safely. This is kind of approach you take when it’s children’s safety that you are concerned about. It also ends up making the library a more comfortable space for everyone, as it gives children a safer way to learn how to navigate public spaces without parents present, which means they are better able to act maturely as older teens.

    *Children’s staff do this too, but it was mostly Adult Services staff the kids were talking about – who are also the primary service point for teens, which – for our purposes – includes 12 year olds.

  311. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm |

    ” I will say that one place I draw the line is my own home. No one has the right to demand that children be allowed in anyone else’s home. ”

    And I’m not sure anyone is actually saying that you should. My understanding is that this post and the discussion is about -public- spaces, not private ones. I think you have a right to allow or not allow anyone you like in your own home, even if your reasons are bigoted.

    (I’m not saying your reasons are bigoted, btw…I’m speaking in general.)

  312. greg
    greg July 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm |

    Ageism? Really? That is dishonest to people who have actually been discriminated because of age.
    And the whole part about not having to control the kid, give me a break. I know kids will be kids, but when your kid is flinging hot sauce on people and screaming, don’t be surprised if you are asked to leave.

  313. Sarah
    Sarah July 27, 2010 at 5:26 pm |

    Yes, comparing adults with disabilities to children is ableist, full stop. There is a pernicious history (and ongoing practice) of treating adults with disabilities, particularly with developmental disabilities, as though we are children. While I’m sympathetic to the argument that we should be treating children better, this comparison participates in an age-old ableist discourse.

    (And BTW, just because someone is posting on this blog does not mean that they don’t have an intellectual disability or developmental disability. Can we please stop making assumptions and othering people here?)

    As someone with auditory sensitivities which can make being around loud children (and loud people/sounds in general) hell, I don’t like being told to just get over it. Accessibility for all needs to include PWD, children and adults. But accessibility doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. It is worthwhile to brainstorm creative solutions so that both children AND adult PWD can enjoy fair access to public spaces. For example, while I may not have the right to deny children access to public spaces, I sure would appreciate an accommodation that would allow me to move to a different seat in a restaurant (or on an airplane, etc.) if there is a loud child close by. I already self-accommodate, to some extent, by scheduling my shopping and eating out at times where I’m less likely to run into a lot of children/people in general. But society can also make things easier for me, and other people with sensory sensitivities, without necessarily excluding children entirely. Children shouldn’t be excluded, but neither should I be told to just leave or suck it up. Which, frankly, is the message that PWD typically receive when bringing up accessibility concerns.

    More awareness about disability and access concerns might, hopefully, lead parents to consider access needs in raising their children. For example, we should be teaching children that it is NOT OKAY to touch someone else’s assistive device (service animals included) without permission. And, perhaps, if more people were aware of the fact that many people have sensory sensitivities which are in fact disabilities, parents might take that into consideration when deciding where to take their kids and how long they should let their kid remain in particular spaces (while being loud). As always, it’s harder to provide equality and access when we think of disability issues as an afterthought, rather than something which is really important and needs to be addressed from the get-go.

    What I’m seeing on this thread is a lot of assumptions that either access for children or access for adult PWD must be privileged. When we really should be trying to provide fair access to everyone.

  314. SheSpeaks
    SheSpeaks July 27, 2010 at 5:26 pm |

    Bring your child to a bar is hating it!! This is free speech right. I do think children should not be scorned in most environments however, I also think that bars, strip clubs, orgy’s, dance clubs are not places for children. Second hand smoke will damage the children’s lungs, and their minds cannot process these things well and so they act them out to their detriment. If you do not see that I am willing to take your daughter and give her a good home. Smh because, you want to party and your daughter is a real third leg for you so you wanna make her your bff and you will destroy her if you continue on this wretched trend

  315. childfree
    childfree July 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm |

    Icewyche made this aggravating thread worth reading.

  316. Stephanie
    Stephanie July 27, 2010 at 5:52 pm |

    The slippery slope that is human judgment seems to be the real issue here, as many have pointed out. Restaurants, stores, and airplanes are brought up because those are the venues where most of us without children come into contact with them.

    I agree that learning through example is best, and children must experience different places in order to learn proper behavior. We have all encountered unruly children and overly permissive parents that can make going out to eat a completely nerve-wracking experience, though obviously this is not always the case.

    However, when it comes to bars, I really feel that childrens’ presence is not appropriate. I’m not talking about a restaurant/bar, but a real bar, where people go to drink, hang out with friends, and let off steam. One of the commenters here suggested that losing our ‘adult privilege’ to drink and perhaps make salty jokes in a bar makes us not want children there. Yes, exactly- it is my privilege to drink and act as an adult in a bar would, because I am an adult. I did not get to go to bars as a teenager, or drive a car as a child. Now that I am of age, I may do so. It is not my responsibility to act in a way that is appropriate for children in a place that is designated for drinking.

    By the same token, knowing that certain places ARE meant for children, and may not be best for me, I tend to avoid family restaurants and movie theaters during matinee hours.

    Let’s also clarify a point: there is a difference between a fussy child who is having a bad moment, and an unruly, disrespectful child who doesn’t know how to behave. I agree that no one deserves to be scorned in public for their child’s behavior, but I don’t think that everyone should be expected to rally to the parent’s side to help. Not everyone has the inclination or the desire to engage with kids.

  317. ACG
    ACG July 27, 2010 at 5:56 pm |

    @Br00ke – Please pardon me for not kissing your child or touching him on the shoulder; where I live, this is legally actionable. It’s not that I think he’s sub-human and not worthy of human contact; it’s that I have no way of knowing from a distance whether or not you’re the litigious type. I will pull him out of the path of a car, though, with or without your permission.

    I’m not sure about making faces at and/or talking to your baby. My chances of you being the type to yell at me for it are probably fifty-fifty.

    @Faith – If my accountant friend brought over a stack of tax returns I definitely wouldn’t help, because I don’t know the first thing about tax returns, certainly not to the point that I would try to do someone else’s. I might be curious as to why she brought her tax returns over for cocktails. (When we have a tax return party, however–which we actually have had, because such things are always more fun with friends and drinks–she should absolutely bring them with her.)

  318. Katie
    Katie July 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm |

    recently, i was hanging out at a bar, when a friend called and invited me to come hang out for a few drinks and chill time as the sun came up.

    Am I reading correctly that you had your 3-year-old out pulling an all-nighter of bar-hopping with you?

  319. janjamm
    janjamm July 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm |

    I love this brawl! Someone even compared a child to a cell phone!

  320. Amber Rhea
    Amber Rhea July 27, 2010 at 6:03 pm |

    Excellent points from Sarah @ #333… all I can say is YES!

  321. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 6:07 pm |

    @maia, you’re making me very thankful that the parents who are my friends don’t share your entitled attitude. You’re doing a very good job of making parents look bad.

  322. Shoshie
    Shoshie July 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm |

    I think it’s important to separate some of these issues into:

    a) What we are legally obligated to do.
    b) The bare minimum behavior for being a decent human being.
    c) How to go above and beyond in our treatment of others.

    For instance, a lot of people are hung up on this point in the OP where mai’a said it would be nice to send some positive energy toward a parent with a “difficult” child or even interact with them. If you are in a situation where you encounter a parent with an upset child you:

    a) Are not allowed to physically harass the parent or child. No slapping children or mothers. This is your legal obligation. If this is a private space (restaurant, home, whatever), then the owner can legally expel whoever they would like.

    b) Should not verbally harass the parent and child. No one’s telling you that you can’t be annoyed. But if you cause either of them public shame, you may be an asshole. I’m not including polite requests to stop the upsetting behavior in this category. But if you treat a parent and child with any less respect than you would treat an adult that was publicly behaving in an annoying way, you are probably being an asshole. You should also be aware of the fact that the offending child may be a PWD.

    c) If you want to be a super awesome person, you can offer to help out the parent. This is not required, just as it’s not required to say “Good morning” to someone that you pass on the sidewalk. You have your right to a bad day. You have your right to your own space. You have your right to tune out, provided this does not endanger others. However, if you want to go out of your way to help others, which I know is something I aspire to, then help out a tired parent with an unruly child, just as you may give up your seat for an older bus rider or help out someone who is juggling bags in a parking lot. The world is a better place for these actions, though they are certainly not required of people. Nor should they be. You have a legal right to be an asshole (though not one who physically abuses others). You have a right to be apathetic towards others. But, if you can, it is good to help out fellow humans.

    Now, another issue is how we can make public spaces more accessible for people who have difficulties with loud noises. I’m not sure how to solve this problem, but I know the solution is not to ban children from public places. Of course, you may do what you like in private spaces. And we should also consider that some of the people who have difficulty with loud noises are children.

  323. Z
    Z July 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm |

    I don’t have any children of my own, but help raise my 3 year old niece in a very “it takes a village to raise a child”-type situation. We have taken my niece EVERYWHERE, from doctor’s offices, courtrooms, fancy restaurants, activist meetings, research conferences, etc. We never have a problem with her because she’s used to these situations. We never leave her at home if we aren’t forced to because these have been valuable learning experiences for her. I think it would be unfair to ban children from public places, but I certainly understand having an opinion on whether or not children should come along on group outings or be allowed in one’s own home. Some people really dislike children. I don’t understand this, but I have to respect it. If I’m hanging out with friends, the dynamic changes if I bring my niece along. Children are people too, for sure, but they are people who have different needs and capabilities than adults. Bringing children along suddenly means that there is NO way my friend(s) will have my full attention because I am going to be in “care taking” mode. When I’m with my niece, she absolutely comes first, which means we have to leave early if she gets tired, etc.
    Having said this, I also strongly agree that it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring children to bars, however I think that this should be at the caretaker’s discretion. I’m much more concerned for the child’s safety than the comfort of the people around them.

  324. Z
    Z July 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm |

    I don’t have any children of my own, but help raise my 3 year old niece in a very “it takes a village to raise a child”-type situation. We have taken my niece EVERYWHERE, from doctor’s offices, courtrooms, fancy restaurants, activist meetings, research conferences, etc. We never have a problem with her because she’s used to these situations. We never leave her at home if we aren’t forced to because these have been valuable learning experiences for her. I think it would be unfair to ban children from public places, but I certainly understand having an opinion on whether or not children should come along on group outings or be allowed in one’s own home. Some people really dislike children. I don’t understand this, but I have to respect it. If I’m hanging out with friends, the dynamic changes if I bring my niece along. Children are people too, for sure, but they are people who have different needs and capabilities than adults. Bringing children along suddenly means that there is NO way my friend(s) will have my full attention because I am going to be in “care taking” mode. When I’m with my niece, she absolutely comes first, which means we have to leave early if she gets tired, etc.
    Having said this, I also strongly agree that it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring children to bars, however I think that this should be at the caretaker’s discretion. I’m much more concerned for the child’s safety than the comfort of the people around them.

  325. Faith
    Faith July 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm |

    “If my accountant friend brought over a stack of tax returns I definitely wouldn’t help”

    The accountant comment also misses the point that when people say parenting is a full-time job, they mean it’s a 24/7 job. Accountants can clock out and go home. Parents don’t get to clock out at the end of the day and leave work. We are parents ALL the time.

    And the “GET A BABYSITTER!!” meme is getting really old. There are very valid reasons for why people might not be able to get a babysitter. There are even valid reasons for not wanting to leave their children with a babysitter. Children left alone with babysitters are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. I personally will not leave my children alone with anyone that isn’t family…and, guess what, sometimes the few family members I have either don’t want to babysit or can’t babysit. This is quite often true as a matter of fact.

  326. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm |

    wow, all i can say is this thread reminds me so clearly why i distance myself from *F*eminists and do not claim the term to self-identify. :)

    Love to you, Mai’a!

  327. Michael
    Michael July 27, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    But you do say just that. You made two separate arguments in the original post.

    From the fifth to the seventh paragraph, you argued that children should be allowed in public spaces, that allowing them to do so is part and parcel of proper socialization, and that excluding them from public spaces is oppression. Then, in the eighth paragraph you argue that when children behave poorly in public, a special set of rules should be applied to them.

    When adults misbehave in public, they experience social shaming – people glare at them, people request that they stop misbehaving, they are asked to leave places that have rules against misbehavior. But in that eighth paragraph, you argue that when children break these rules, they should not experience that social shaming, (which, I would argue, is a part of that “proper socialization” that you’re trying to achieve through public appearance) but rather that they should be treated specially based on their classification as “child.” That’s privilege.

    If children are people on perfectly equal footing with every other person in that public location, then they should be treated just like every other person there. If children are a special class who can avoid judgment for poor behavior based on their special status, then they aren’t on perfectly equal footing with every other person in that public location.

    And that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, and as several commentators have pointed out, many parents don’t do that. Combined with the increasingly litigious nature of US culture, (and I know, you aren’t coming at this from the perspective of someone in the US culture, but the critique is primarily directed at US culture, which you characterize as anti-child, so that’s the context I’m using here) raising a child socially the way you advocate isn’t a possibility in the culture you’re criticizing. Simply characterizing everyone who takes those considerations into account as “anti-child” does a disservice to the debate.

    Actually the comparisons have been to someone speaking loudly in public on a cell phone, as that’s a simple shorthand for an adult violating social norms against using an indoors voice.

    Separate from the responses, I’d like to thank the people who discussed the different treatments of PoC with children versus white families with children. That’s something I had not thought about at all.

  328. bfp
    bfp July 27, 2010 at 6:38 pm |

    so we have a bunch of feminists mocking children, telling parents they shouldn’t be in public, calling children *things*, saying “race nor gender matters” etc etc etc etc—AND–AND to top it all off, we’re all also OUTRAGED that a mother doesn’t call herself a feminist because–*supposedly* feminists are all about equality for little fucking girls???? You all do realize that the “it” and the cellphone and the pain in the ass and the obnoxious shit that set the woman’s hair on fire up there (ZOMG) are GIRLS, right?

    Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.
    Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.

  329. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 27, 2010 at 6:41 pm |

    Holy eff, 350 comments. I wonder if this turned into the same discussion as last time on Feministe.

    I enjoyed your thoughts, Mai’a. While I agree that we are not entitled to childfree spaces, I think what happens amongst us without children and without any real reason to imagine having kids, we can tend to displace our anger that we get so much shit that “WE ARE THE CARRIERS OF THE BABIES AND EVOLUTION AND WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE AREN’T AT REPLACEMENT LEVELS IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD AND IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, INCUBATOR” and so on that we shoot to bring down something that is however loosely related. A similarity I’ve found (in the US, at least) is when people flip out over illegal immigrants because they are upset that they don’t have jobs. It can’t be coincidence that the illegal immigration issue tends to come up whenever the unemployment rate skyrockets. You can’t target the economy in the same way you can’t target institutional sexism, so it turns into targeting people we perceive as the benefactors, however falsely.

    Lots of conjecture! Whatever – the point was thanks for the post.

  330. Michael
    Michael July 27, 2010 at 6:42 pm |

    Oh crap. I completely screwed up my block quotes.

    My first 4 graphs are supposed to be in response to Mai’a saying this:

    “all i am saying is that she is a person, too. not that she should be privileged.”

    The next is supposed to be in response to this, also from her:

    “as i said in the op, i teach her to respect others”

    The next was to this from janjamm:

    “I love this brawl! Someone even compared a child to a cell phone!”

    And then the final graph was not in response to any single post. Sorry about that. If there’s a mod who could correct that, I would be eternally grateful.

  331. Salix
    Salix July 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm |

    @ Aaminah, I agree; disregard for children was my breaking point as well.

    @ general population,

    I agree that the conversation that needs to happen is one about how to negotiate different groups’ needs. But this doesn’t seem to be possible in an environment (i.e. current feminist movement) that has made children and mothering into the foremost symbol of white women’s oppression.

    @ Mai’a, I envy the patience and grace you have displayed throughout this thread. Your bad-ass princess is lucky to have you.

  332. Amphigorey
    Amphigorey July 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm |

    Michael, I think you have exactly the right of it. Maia is saying that we should treat her daughter like a person, but we should also extend her special privileges and attention. That is why people (including me) are saying that she has an entitlement attitude.

  333. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 27, 2010 at 7:04 pm |

    But there are places reserved for quiet. There are quiet carriages on trains, where adults are not allowed to use mobile phones. But never mind all that.

    Ma’ia you have made a lot of really good points in your followups and I agree with your 8 items right there. But your original post implied that feminists were somehow more guilty of this than others.
    when you say things like
    “i thought that maybe some feminists could use a refresher course, a reminder, that kids are people. shorter, cuter, more honest people.”
    well really couldn’t everyone be reminded of that????

  334. Annaham
    Annaham July 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm |

    I should start by saying that I do not want children of my own.

    Does anyone comparing children to tax forms, for example, *remember* being a kid? Because being a kid kind of sucks, sometimes, and I’m actually sort of shocked that we’re having this discussion AGAIN. Like Maia and several commenters on this thread, I have a sensitivity to noise (from neurological complications due to premature birth, wheee), and yes, I do find it difficult to hear screaming children during the very few occasions that I come into contact with them. But that does *not*, under any circumstances, entitle me to treat them like they’re less than human or belittle them, or say that their race/gender/ability doesn’t matter because they’re just kids. Because from what people like bfp have been saying this whole time (and, tangentially, from I remember of my own childhood) these things absolutely matter.

    Why does treating other humans — children included — with respect seem to be a zero-sum game for some people in this thread?

  335. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm |

    Yeah, I agree with Fat Steve. It kind of goes back to what I was saying. You can’t attack anti-children attitudes so the biggest benefactors of anti-children attitudes (feminists) are the target instead. In reality, anti-children attitudes are bigger than feminists.

  336. Lasciel
    Lasciel July 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm |

    “why is this some difficult concept? really? you do realize it is immoral for you to treat all people the same. and it is immoral for you to treat people unequally.”

    Part of what is making it a difficult concept is the implication/statement that people have a duty to be kind and give social attention to children in public spaces. There are a lot of reasons people aren’t willing to do that. I’m not willing to do that because I have social hang-ups and try to interact with strangers (including children) as little as possible. I tend to glare, grind my teeth, and tremble when anyone walks by me too quickly and when I’m not expecting it. It’s not a matter of hating people (or kids), or thinking they shouldn’t be there. I am not trying to send negative enegery. But it is too damned much to expect me to interact in other people’s situation when I can barely make myself stay in the room.

    If there wasn’t the expectations being implied on the non-parents there would probably be a lot less anger and rejection of the idea. That’s what a lot of people seemed to be ticked off about. It ticked people off in the last thread as well. So I would just leave out the whole “play nice with my kids” idea in the future, cause some people are willing to take that on and others can’t, and asking them to won’t change that.

  337. M
    M July 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm |

    I really appreciate all of the comments here, especially those pointing out the connections to race and gender. I think for me what was missing in the original post is context and what is still not clear to me is this: Are there really no spaces that are not appropriate for kids and if you believe that, does that mean you automatically are not treating a child with the respect due a fellow human being? I’m not talking about walking on the street and being annoyed by a child, nor on the other end am i talking about bringing a child to sex clubs (which i don’t know of anyone doing). Is it never appropriate, respectful, reasonable or legitimate for adults to not want to be around children or to expect adult-only spaces? I’m curious what the author thinks about this because it sounds to me like it is an all or nothing proposition. If you think kids should not be allowed in certain places then automatically you are buying into their oppression. I’m not sure it has to be that way.

  338. Laura
    Laura July 27, 2010 at 7:14 pm |

    We ARE entitled to childfree spaces. Just like women are entitled to men free spaces and men are entitled to women free spaces. Not all women like men or find it easy to get along with men. Not all men like women or find it easy to get along with women. Not all adults like children or find it easy to get along with children. And whats more there are Parent and Child ONLY spaces so why should there not be adult only spaces. I’m a big kid, I love swinging on swings and monkey bars, I however am not allowed into playgrounds they all have the 12 years and under rule.

    Just because they are children does not mean they should have special privlages. It does not mean that despite the fact there is women and men free spaces there should never be child free spaces just because they are mini adults. As mini adults they need to learn, life is not fair and you cannot go everywhere. I don’t go into the mens room at the gym, I don’t go into the mens clubs where they complain about their ex wives.

    I don’t have kids yet but I will later in life. I however will not be taking my kids to bars, I will not be taking them to friends houses if the friends want some quiet, kid free time with me and I will not expect everyone in the street to bow down before my precious child and smile and wave and pull silly faces just because they are a child. Children need to be taught what is civilised behaviour, they need to learn that children cannot go everywhere, that tantrums are not appropriate everywhere and that not everyone can go everywhere. I don’t walk into secure military bases just because I feel “oppressed” at not being a member of the defence force.

  339. Jo
    Jo July 27, 2010 at 7:16 pm |

    A comment specifically for La Lubu’s comment, #5 above (and I know this’ll get lost in the thread, but what the hell; I feel the need to respond)….

    I’m a nurse. I work at a hospital that has a no-kids-under-sixteen on the floor, even in the waiting room, policy. This is why:

    This last winter, a family brought in a child to a waiting room, and a patient left her room to see the child. The patient then returned to her room, and (in a series of mechanations I won’t go into here), an entire ward of people with severely compromised immune systems ended up being infected with a common childhood illness.

    Six of those folks ended up in my ICU. Two of them died. Horribly. I held one man as he bled out because of a liver hemorrhage directly attributable to a crazy complication of being exposed to common childhood diseases when you’ve got no white cells.

    Yeah, it sucks that your kid can’t sit in a freaking waiting room, and I understand your frustration. Believe me: I’ve felt it myself when I’ve had to tell families with no money and fewer options that their children simply could not stay in the waiting room on any floor, and had to leave.

    But there’s a reason behind it that isn’t just blanket hostility in the US toward children. Kids can carry bugs that adults barely even notice, and a child coughing or sneezing–or in some cases, even touching surfaces–can spread viruses or bacteria that can be deadly to really sick folks.

    We lost two people to a really common infection that affects most adults no more than a cold does. We had to shut down an entire ward of people, and move them to a different hospital, so that their bodies would not reject the life-saving transplants that they’d gotten (from, I might add, families who’d lost loved ones themselves). Dozens of transplant candidates had to be rescheduled or pushed around on our list because our unit was closed, and four people were in hell for weeks and weeks, even if they didn’t die. All because of one child with the sniffles.

    Sometimes rules are there for a reason.

  340. Evey
    Evey July 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    I agree that there are some places in public that children should be more than welcome. The park, grocery stores, family-friendly restaurants, and libraries are all wonderful places for children to get life experience while also learning how to conduct themselves in public. Those places are also good for new parents to learn how to bring their child into public and what to do when said child becomes unruly. This is called parenting. This is not being a friend to your child, nor is it being mean. It’s raising your child to become a productive member of society. The act of parenting does take an element of controlling. If you aren’t prepared to do that for your child’s best interest, then maybe you should reconsider being the one doing the raising of the child.

    The author is ignoring the fact that children aren’t adults. They don’t have the life training that adults have. They are not just “little people”. They are children. And it is entirely inappropriate to bring a child into a situation that it is not ready to handle.

    High end restaurants are not the place for you toddler. Your toddler does not know how to handle that sort of situation. No, that’s not discrimination. It’s sparing a child and a parent (not to mention a bunch of other patrons of the same establishment) from a painful and awkward time.

    Also, places like bars, pubs, clubs and the like are not for children. I appreciate that parents want a little adult time to spend with their friends. However, these establishments (in my country, at least) are non-child friendly because it’s simply not safe for a kid to be there. It’s not the environment I would want to place a child, and it would be just as uncomfortable for the adults. Just as parents need places they can go with their kids, adults that want to be without their children (or children at all) need places they can go as well.

    I think that to say that there are no places that children cannot be is very selfish and also very naive. The idea that adults should drop everything in their adult endeavors just so you can bring your toddler to the bar and pretend that it’s an adult is ludicrous. Even other parents need time to themselves.

    Think of more people than just you and your daughter.

  341. janjamm
    janjamm July 27, 2010 at 7:43 pm |

    In the USA, the tension from its inception has been between the concept of individual liberty and the concept of community rights/community good. It is a neat balancing acting that requires an educated, thoughtful, probably small(er) context to thrive. This, shall we say, fertile context, needs to be continually renewed in order for the these ideas to flourish and remain balanced, or regain balance when things go awry. This discussion reminds me of why it is so hard to actualize these two concepts, individual liberty and community rights. They cannot exist separately, they need to exist at the same time. We just are not good at holding two conflicting ideas at one time, still.

  342. Flowers
    Flowers July 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm |

    I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said already.

    Except….. Thanks for not shutting down this thread! Even though people seem to be talking past each other and making the same points over and over and over, there have been some really interesting comments that have gotten me reflecting and thinking.

    So thank you, Maia, for not doing a knee-jerk closing of the thread because it is long.

  343. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm |

    @Laura: I’m not sure what country you’re writing from, but aside from things like bathrooms and locker rooms, it’s not actually legal to have a men-only space (such as the “men’s club” you mention) in some countries, because it perpetuates wider discrimination. Women-only spaces don’t have the same issue (except when they fail on other axes, like massive cissexism) because women don’t have the societal power to use their women-only spaces to arrange promotions and pay raises that exclude men.

    The rationale behind a women-only space isn’t that “not all women get along with men.” It’s about having a space where women’s experience is centered.

    And I really don’t think this applies either to the desire for childfree space or to the desire for space where children’s or parents’ experience is prioritized.

  344. Heather
    Heather July 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm |

    “1. children are people.
    2. children are people, but they are not adults.
    3. children should be respected as people, but not be expected to act like adults.
    4. treating children as people, does not mean treating them like adults”

    I think we can all agree on your first four points.

    “5. treating children as children, is not giving them ’special privileges’, it is treating them like children.”

    It’s here where we run into the conflict. For some of us, “treating children as children” includes a good deal of discipline and an understanding that some places are inappropriate for children.

    I find it incredible that people think a bar is an appropriate place for a child. A place with drunken, loud people, some of whom are cursing or saying other things children don’t need to hear, some of whom are arguing or fighting, is not an appropriate place for a child. Just no.
    When my mother wanted a beer, she got a Bud from the corner store. She certainly didn’t take my brother and I to a bar. This seems like common sense to me. Yet, we have plenty of people of people who think this is a fine idea. Although I grew up in the U.S. and live here still, at times I feel like I’ve come to a foreign country.

    “why is this some difficult concept? really? you do realize it is immoral for you to treat all people the same. and it is immoral for you to treat people unequally.”

    right?”

    Well, no actually. A blanket statement like “it is immoral for you to treat people unequally” is unreasonable and unrealistic.
    I’m pretty sure that most people would treat the bum hanging out in front of the liquor store differently than the clerk inside and for very good reason. At times, no it isn’t immoral to treat people differently.

  345. Sisou
    Sisou July 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm |

    @Amber

    “Sorry, I got distracted by your announcement that you are not a feminist. If it was so important to announce, can you please explain your need to separate yourself from those who work tirelessly to ensure your daughter will enjoy the same rights and privileges as her male peers? I just don’t get it. Why would you make a big production of standing up for the rights of children as you insult those who stand up for the rights of women? You do realize 50% of these precious children will grow into women, right?”

    I am sorry but you made me laugh. How about you explain how the feminist movements has worked tirelessly to help black girls?

    ” I honestly apologize for being rude initially, will you explain why you felt it was important to say you are not a feminist?”

    You need to check your privilege( yup I’m assuming you are white cause you tried and fail at shaming a black woman into claiming feminism) and stop expecting Maia to explain herself to you. The post was not about her being a feminist. It was about children.

  346. SarahMC
    SarahMC July 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm |

    Br00ke, the reason some of us don’t speak to your children when they are blocking our path in the grocery aisle is because we know that speaking to a stranger’s children–especially to ask them to change their behavior (i.e. please move)–will make the parents hostile and defensive. It’s easier to stand there and wait rather than suggest that someone’s precious child is in the way. They have a RIGHT to be there, dammit!

  347. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm |

    Yep, just as I predicted this morning, this thread turned into a clusterfuck of disingenuous arguments. I’m finding it painfully hard to believe that there’s an epidemic of folks’ taking their children to the BDSM club or 3AM bars.

    For those in this thread that take issue with my calling a hospital policy of “no children in the waiting room” hostile to parents and children…..there was no sign on the door that said people with cold symptoms are prohibited from entering. No, adults honking productively into their hankies were welcome….just children under the age of 12 were prohibited. Even if they had no cold symptoms. Why the random age of 12, I don’t know. But…damn….it’s a major hospital that airlifts patients in from all across Illinois. It’s a lead pipe cinch that most of the people in the waiting room drove for two hours (or more) to get there. The hospital itself recently underwent a major expansion, to coincide with the re-working of an interstate highway to accommodate the expansion. So…seeing as the divorce rate is 50%, I find it hard to believe that the “no children in the waiting room” can be considered anything but family-unfriendly.

    (also for what it’s worth—these “rules” do not exist in the two hospitals I have worked at as an electrician, nor are children barred from visiting either of the NICUs my daughter spent time in—let alone barred from the waiting room. No, I couldn’t have saved myself the drive. I was going to see my cousin, despite the fact I don’t have access to a babysitter who could watch my daughter for 8-12 hours.)

    My thought is that the sole reason for the rule is the paternalistic notion that children should be shielded from any knowledge of death and trauma. I come from a culture that doesn’t subscribe to that notion. With that said:

    I think a lot of the hostility toward children in the US has a lot to do with anger at having to accommodate the different cultural norms of adults. And some folks here in the US are so angry that they have to accommodate different cultural norms of adults, that they fiercely draw the line at having to accommodate the children of those adults….precisely because children don’t have the political power to organize (unlike adults). So any idea that race and/or ethnicity don’t place into this is ludicrous.

    Look. I grew up in the 70s. And back then, there were “latchkey” kids. I was one of ‘em. When I was six years old, I was expected to walk home from school, let myself in, and do homework or whatever (as long as I didn’t make a mess) until my folks’ got home (it wasn’t until much later, in a different city, that my mom worked third shift and so was “home”, albeit asleep, and God help me if I woke her up). This was normal life. The boundaries between “adult spaces” and “children’s spaces” were much more fluid then, but more importantly: children were not only allowed, but strongly encouraged to develop independence.

    That is not the case these days. Now, parents who encourage independence are thought of as Bad Parents. And extended childhood that goes well into the early twenties has become the norm for white middle class people—the people with political clout.

    Political clout, not just social. See, I can effectively ignore the hairy eyeball. I’m used to being the Outsider. But in Illinois law, it is now illegal to leave a child under the age of thirteen unsupervised. If I go to the grocery store to get cat food without taking my 10-year-old with me, I could be arrested. In fact, I would be arrested, because I’m a working class single mother—I’m not going to get the benefit of the doubt.

    And it’s my feeling that this sea change in general US social norms about restrictions on children came about in the 80s along with the rest of the toxic values of neoconservatism, with a heaping helping of racism on the plate. See, a lot of northern schools didn’t integrate until the late 70s. A lot of city halls didn’t have an aldermanic system of government (which guarantees at least some integration in city government) until lawsuits were filed in the late 70s/early 80s. Reagan’s deregulation of the media ended the Fairness Doctrine, and paved the way for media harping on nonexistent welfare mothers with Cadillacs and 10 kids. The hyper-attention on “crack babies”.

    So, it’s no accident that the new norms about children are so exclusionary. The only people with children who can make those norms work have a certain amount of wealth, if not whiteness as well.

    Food for thought.

    Also, thank you Kai, for your mention of how ageism also emphasizes the exclusion of the elderly. This is also something I have never understood. I guess it goes with the whole idea that you are not a person in the US unless you are a “producer”. Humanity doesn’t have an intrinsic value here.

  348. Mechelle
    Mechelle July 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    I’m a lurker and I have come to like this site more than the other feminist blogs I read. I am, however, offended with how ALL feminists are being portrayed here. I don’t mind people disagreeing with certain feminist aspects, but I do not like the blatant hate coming from people who don’t even seem to understand what feminism stands for. Apparently, we’re only making it equal for a black girl to go to jail at 21. As a Black woman, I have never gotten that from feminism. If anything, it helps me come to terms and to distinguish how I am viewed by society as an ethnic and racial minority. I am benefiting from it.

    Some of you all are making broad generalizations of feminists and feminism that are not necessarily true. Feminism is way too vast to say that all feminists are like this or all feminists are like that. Please don’t tell me you won’t find feminists who agree with Mai’a. You will. I love children and I can understand what you’re saying. To sit here and say as a whole group of people with different feminist beliefs and ideologies that we are all a certain way or the majority of us are is downright wrong.

    This is how feminism as helped me because I know that as females we all have different views and we all lead different lives and I respect that. I’m not going to alienate a whole group of people based on a few experiences or my own stereotypes. I’ve learned to look beyond that.

    I don’t mean to hijack this thread but it seems to have become a feminist vs. non-feminist thing with people now understanding why they hate feminist, why they don’t identify with it, and Fck feminists based on a comment thread. I wasn’t going to comment but some of this is making me very angry. I come here because I am feminist, I don’t want to be stereotyped for my beliefs.

  349. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm |

    Mai’a, people who read feministe aren’t just feminists; we’re also people. The anti-child attitude isn’t due to our feminism but due to our being human and thus not free from prejudice. Feminists also slut shame and victim blame. It’s not because of feminism.

  350. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig July 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm |

    Personally, I think a lot of the hostility toward children by feminists in the U.S. is that, for years, feminists in the U.S have fought and are still fighting for women to have the right NOT to have children. A child, at least in the U.S., is seen as both an indicator of economic privilege and an indicator of the parent’s political beliefs. And sometimes, the parents believe that their superior economic status gives the child immunity from bad behavior.
    For the record, I volunteer at an urban library. The white kids tend to get away with a lot more bad behavior then the African American kids or the Latino/a kids. (I did have a bad moment when an African American boy darted between my library cart and the shelves, but that was only because I was worried about his safety. Those carts are heavy and don’t steer well.)

  351. A.
    A. July 27, 2010 at 8:14 pm |

    Hi Maia,
    Thank you for the great post. I am not even sure if it is worth giving my 2 cents at this point since a lot of people are busy defending their own point of view than listen.

    I grew up around my parents. That involved listening to talk about politics and economics, sometimes hearing maybe stuff non-appropriate for kids (whatever that means). I wasn’t particularly interested in adult topics either. I would often excuse myself if we were home or find something to occupy myself with if I was bored (in a restaurant tooth picks were one of the more common things)

    For people who don’t like kids. I honestly don’t get this fear of children expressed. You don’t have to suddenly make the kid the center of your whole attention, or smile as they are rampaging across a restaurant a la problem child style (believe it or not, most kids don’t do this). They might occasionally speak out of turn or get bored, or get the parents attention as they help him/her with the food or something, which I think is what Maia meant with not being little adults. A child’s presence does not mean they have to understand every single part of the conversation (although you might be surprised to realize how much they understand or realize they are able to participate to the conversation) or that every part needs to be appropriate for their age group as per ordered by experts. I mean if the parent brought them there they probably thought it is okay. If you are not sure: asking the parents might help. (and yes I am biased on this point because I think American culture is way too paranoid about what a child should or should not be exposed to)

    Anyhow…

  352. Should Children be Seen and Not Heard? | Strollerderby

    [...] Feministe, one mom has taken up arms with a manifesto about how kids are people too. Jezebel hit back with [...]

  353. Lauren
    Lauren July 27, 2010 at 8:33 pm |

    maia 7.27.2010 at 7:21 pm

    @bfp
    fuck yeah.

    The author of this post is saying “fuck yeah” to “fuck feminism”? Feminism? The advocacy of women’s rights? I am confused. I had high hopes for feministe…

  354. Oy vey
    Oy vey July 27, 2010 at 8:39 pm |

    Maia, if you don’t like the US/Western attitude towards children, then just stay in Cairo. It’s extremely presumptuous of YOU to think that Americans should behave the way Egyptians do towards children. I really resent this comparison of cultures. “Oh, well in Cairo it’s like THIS.” Yeah, well in America it’s like THIS.

    Also, saying “children should be respected as people” is completely meaningless given how vague it is. If there’s anything that this comment thread has shown, it’s that how kids are treated in public spaces will vary widely depending on context. Where you are, what time of day it is, the social setting, etc.–all of these will determine what “respecting children as people” will mean. Your generalities don’t help the situation at all.

    And honestly, I have a hard time taking you seriously at all given this laundry list of grievances you’ve spewed. You’re pissed because there’s a lot of cigarette smoke where you live? So what? At exactly what point should your environment bend to your will? And when should you (and other mothers with the same complaints) just ADAPT? I’d like to hear some specific answers to that.

  355. Heather
    Heather July 27, 2010 at 8:48 pm |

    So, let me get this straight!

    We, as feminists, fight for equality. We fight for choice. We fight for women to do/say/wear what they want. We fight to break glass ceilings, to tell little girls (and boys and genderqueers and transkids and other non-gender binary folks) that they can be *ANYTHING* they want? We tell them to not let anyone bring them down. We tell them to be loud, to not be afraid to take up space, to use their voice, to find agency.

    BUT. Now we are saying that they have to be “appropriate” and quiet and police how parents raise their children? Look, just because *I* might not take my hypothetical child into a bar or I wouldn’t let my kid drink Coca-cola at 9:30 at night or something does not mean I have the right to tell someone else what they can or can not or should or should not do with their parents. Just because I sometimes like to go to certain places and NOT hear children screaming in my ears does not mean that child has no right to be there. I make the decision to leave my house, knowing that I might be surrounded by someone who smokes cigarettes, someone who has body odor, someone who wears too much perfume/cologne, someone who has a voice I find grating, etc. Does that mean these people should avoid these spaces, or should I recognize that that is what I might encounter when I leave the house? Everyone has their own ideas about what constitutes as “appropriate” and “polite” and “respectable” and guess what? THERE ISN’T ONE RIGHT ANSWER.

    And this is the story of how the feminist blogosphere has made me really ashamed of this wonderful “community” we’re supposed to be in together.

    So, maia, I enjoyed this post and hope you stick around a little longer.

  356. zuzu
    zuzu July 27, 2010 at 9:04 pm |

    It’s the annual Running of the Clusterfuck!

    I have to agree with someone (don’t recall who) waaaaaaayyyy upthread who said that the number of child-free spaces under discussion could be counted on one hand. Kids can pretty much go everywhere else, so why is it so oppressive if some adults want spaces where they can be adults? If kids can come to my bar, I want to use their swingsets.

    Also? As night follows day, the child-hating accusations come out. Just because someone wants a safe space in which one can act like an adult without being observed by children doesn’t mean that one is a child-hater. Hell, lots of parents want such a safe space.

    I’d also like to say to Emily WK or whoever it was who first huffed that her children would be wiping the asses of the childfree years from now and so she should be thanked: You’re Welcome. For what? Why, for the tax dollars for your child’s schools and playgrounds in public parks (that I, as an adult unaccompanied by a child, am not allowed to use) and after-school programs and child health programs, etc. Not to mention the taxes I pay that support current retirees — and I don’t get a break on my taxes for kids or marriage.

    It’s called the social compact, and we all follow it. I’m not a net drain on society just because I don’t have kids, yanno. In fact, I probably will pay in more over my lifetime and use fewer services than a parent will, though the parent will be producing productive members who will later contribute.

    As for my retirement, I plan on getting a drop-top Thunderbird and going out like Thelma & Louise. Your darling may have to scrape me off the floor of the Grand Canyon, but at least s/he won’t have to worry about my Social Security checks anymore!

  357. Crys
    Crys July 27, 2010 at 9:12 pm |

    I don’t mind children being in public in and of itself. What I mind is the lack of MANNERS on the part of some parents and children.

    When I was a child and misbehaved in the store, I was taken out of the store and was not allowed to go the next time. I learned pretty quickly that if I wanted to go to places with my mom or dad, I was to be quiet, not disruptive and polite. I learned how to say please, thank you, excuse me, and I addressed people as “ma’am” or “sir” if I was spoken to.

    I believe that basic manners are something that should be taught to all children as early as possible. Even in my preschool classroom, I try to stress the importance of treating others as you would like to be treated.

    I know that sometimes kids will be kids, and sometimes they will act out. But the rules should not change just because someone’s temperament does. Being consistent with the rules is how people realise that there ARE rules in place.

    It’s just good MANNERS on a parent’s part to make sure their child learns how to use their own good manners. I don’t care how you teach it, as long as we all arrive at the same spot.

  358. Djinna
    Djinna July 27, 2010 at 9:21 pm |

    I would say that part of the reason why some USians seem so very protective of the few “adults-only” locations that Babs mentioned way up is because the nanny state is so strong here. Adults are allowed very few places to safely acknowledge that they even have adult interests, and yes, contrary to the OP, I really do think that we have a right to the few that we have. And the list that Babs gave in 58 pretty much covers it, in my experience, though I think it’s a little too extensive. I went to plenty of fancy restaurants as a pre-teen (and was bored beyond belief, though we got constant comments on how well behaved we were, because we had been trained on “restaurant manners” at McDonalds long before setting foot in Chez Pierre.) and could behave properly, because we learned the skills at appropriate places.

    The nanny state is strong in America. We can’t have tv with words stronger than fart on anything but special cable channels, can’t see nipples that all mammals are born with on a female human of any age, constantly hear the drone of how horrible it might be if someone’s theoretical child happened to see a tv program with subject matter that might be the slightest bit sexual (but violence is A-OK!), no matter how late at night it’s shown, how many parental warnings are put before the show, how strong the rating is, because, omigod, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!1!!bigeleven!!! This gets very oppressive sometimes, so yes, I am very protective of the very few places that adult behavior is allowed to be openly on display.

    If we, as a culture, didn’t feel the need to make all of our culture “family-friendly,” we might be much more willing as individuals to be friendly to families. Which is truly sad, but there are very few children in my social circle currently, all of which live a minimum of two hours’ drive away, and we still feel the need to be protective of the few places where we can even acknowledge our adult desires. It’s not so much the behavior of children that bothers the adults in my circle, based on our discussions, everyone remembers what it was like to be young or have a younger sibling or cousin or whatever, so much as the oppression of having to police our own behavior 24/7, lest some child inadvertently witness it. We have to act professionally at work, sometimes we need down time from the constant self-monitoring. Adults like to engage in things that make them feel good sometimes that children should not be doing, be it drinking, smoking, having sex with someone (even a spouse), talking about mind-altering substances ingested years ago, etc.

    Though crap, if I ever saw an adult complaining about a child acting like a child in a place where children have every right to be (which is pretty much everywhere but bars – not restaurants that serve mostly alcohol, but flat-out bars, sex clubs, and R+ rated movies), I would laugh in their face. My father once wrote a letter to the local Chuck E. Cheese about how horrible it was that it was loud and there were kids running everywhere. Even as pre-teens, we knew enough to laugh at the thought of an adult that didn’t understand that certain places cater to children, and will have entertainment for them, no matter how heavily indoctrinated we were in the “father is always right” mentality. We don’t care about kids acting like kids, but as adults, sometimes we want to act like adults.

    Granted, none of us have recent work experience in places where kids show up more than once or twice a year, max, kids are very rarely directly encountered in our circle.

  359. Ruchama
    Ruchama July 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm |

    A child, at least in the U.S., is seen as both an indicator of economic privilege and an indicator of the parent’s political beliefs.

    Some children are. Children of poor families, especially children of poor families of color, are seen as a drain on the system, or as potential criminals.

  360. Dee
    Dee July 27, 2010 at 9:31 pm |

    There has to be some kind of balance between not marginalizing children and realistically accepting the fact that children are not expected or welcome everywhere even when by strict legal definition they may have a right to be there. Does that exclude the option of them being included in more places? Not at all. But I think it is problematic to expect all spaces to be child friendly or even to have a right to a child friendly space at all times. There also has to be respect for the fact that not all people want to or can interact with children and their reasons–just as the mother who brings a child into an “adult-only” space has her reasons–may not just be as simple as being anti-child.

    The best interactions are based on mutual consent and I find something incredibly offensive about the attitude that a parent could say to a friend in not so many words, “I have specific socialization and developmental goals I want to achieve with my child by interacting with you and your peers and I’m going to bring them along regardless of your consent.” Children are human beings with human rights but they are also very special human beings because of their needs. Not every act of excluding a child is an act of child-hate or oppression.

    There is a distinct difference between the mother who has no choice but to bring her child along and the mother who actually has other options but chooses to do so anyway because she is only thinking of the socialization benefits to her child regardless of what anyone else think or how anyone else might be affected. I’m making no assumptions about which the author is but her post *read* as if she were in the latter camp and I think that’s what some people are responding to. Just as leaving the child at home might not be best for the child, bringing the child along might not be best for the community and there seems to be an implication that having children around is *always* good for everyone concerned and that is just not the case regardless of how any one parent raises their child

  361. Amber Rhea
    Amber Rhea July 27, 2010 at 9:33 pm |

    Thank you for your comment, Jo! It’s always helpful to point out the REASONS behind something.

  362. Amber Rhea
    Amber Rhea July 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm |

    …and on reread I realize my comment may have come off as snarky, but I was being serious.

  363. Grafton
    Grafton July 27, 2010 at 9:43 pm |

    Maia, you’re asking for other people to interact with your child so she may participate in public life. This is good. But as Fat Steve and others have pointed out, it is also, in the US at least, somewhat impossible.

    Once I was sitting at a cafe drinking coffee and reading, when, to my surprise, a small child climbed into my lap. I hadn’t finished setting her back on the floor and saying, “I’m sorry, you can’t do that, I am a stranger, it’s not safe,” before I was being yelled at by a mother. I am somewhat surprised she didn’t hit me.

    Another occasion I was eating an enchilada in a restaurant when a different small child picked up my briefcase and started marching around the room with it. I decided that I didn’t need to do anything about that, as it was locked and couldn’t spill. Moments later, I was having another unpleasant encounter with a mother, who slammed my case onto my table and glared at me, then stomped off.

    On neither of these occasions did I think that the child was behaving badly, in particular. It wasn’t appropriate public behavior, but they were really little, and just learning.

    I don’t like or dislike children. What I hate is the catch-22. As an adult male by himself, any encounter I have with a child I am likely to be considered to be misbehaving. Yet at the same time, you and others are telling me I don’t have a right to be free of these encounters. The more child-friendly a place is, the more unfriendly it is to men who are alone.

    I don’t buy it about the US being so child-unfriendly. My own town is so child-friendly that I feel like I need a female chaperone to be allowed out in public.

  364. Hinemoana
    Hinemoana July 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm |

    @ #14, J_in_Tuwani

    “The problem is with adults who insist on being separated from what life is about and what makes li[f]e worthwhile.” (refering to children).

    I would appreciate it if you didnt force what YOU believe life to be about or what makes it worthwhile, on ME.

  365. On Being A Considerate Parent | The Angry Black Woman

    [...] there’s this post on Feministe about “shorter, cuter, more honest people”. I have a lot of issues with this post. A lot. Starting with the fact that the author wants to make [...]

  366. Amber
    Amber July 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm |

    @Sisou
    “You need to check your privilege( yup I’m assuming you are white cause you tried and fail at shaming a black woman into claiming feminism) and stop expecting Maia to explain herself to you. The post was not about her being a feminist. It was about children.”

    I was not foiled in my attempts to shame a black woman into doing anything at all, because the blog post itself does not address race. I did not know the author’s race when I made the initial comment. It does bring up feminists and feminism twice. I was being completely sincere when I apologized for being rude and and asked why she said she was not a feminist. Not because I was trying to shame her or bait her. I am always going to be curious when a woman makes that statement. If I have a myopic, exclusive or privileged view of feminism, I want to take the opportunity to revise. It’s actually very important to me to not be an asshole who chooses ignorance over an uncomfortable realization. I asked the question a second time because I want to know, not because I think anyone owes me an explanation.

  367. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie July 27, 2010 at 10:10 pm |

    oooh, Grafton wrote about two mean parents! Now I’m gonna counter with two adults who were unfairly mean to MY kids. Should I start with the woman who KICKED MY 8-year-old who was sitting quietly on the ground, playing with dirt while he waited for the tour bus? He didn’t get out of the way quickly enough for her when the bus did arrive – she started running for it (to get on before the other 75 of us who were also waiting, I guess) and yelled at me for not watching my kid. AUUUGGHHH!!! The kid was SITTING QUIETLY AND PLAYING IN THE DIRT. What would have been more correct? Now, of course, I HATE ALL MY FELLOW TOURISTS IN EVERY CITY.

    Maybe I should tell about the time a baby sitter slapped my child across the face because he & her two-year-old were fighting over a toy. NOW I HATE ALL BABY-SITTERS! THOSE JERKS!

    Or how about the clerks who ignore my kids when they’re trying to pay for something, and instead look past my kids at the adult behind them. OMIGOD I FUCKING HATE STORE CLERKS!

    Yeesh, people. There’s only room for so much sanctimony in life. If I had a match, I’d light it to this thread to see how many straw comments burned went up in flames.

  368. Jigae
    Jigae July 27, 2010 at 10:11 pm |

    We used to follow the theory of a social contract with everyone giving up some rights in order to create a greater good for all. This led to any number of abuses, but is the radical selfishness we’ve moved into any better?

    I’m sorry for people who have been or made themselves disenfranchised. I am sad that the left perpetually tears itself apart over meaningless distinctions because being “feminist” doesn’t adequately address being queer or over color. All of our identities are fractured and multiple — Denying the power of a collective movement because it doesn’t represent the totality of your identity will never be a winning strategy.

    Women have a right to have children or not. They should be supported in their decision. There’s a lot of unexamined assumptions running around and unrealistic idealism. There is “*appropriate*” behavior when out in public. It’s rational to expect your child to follow it, and for you to use it as a teachable moment when they do not.

  369. Jigae
    Jigae July 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm |

    Also, thanks Jo @364 for explaining this. It’s not about you. It’s terrible that the hospital didn’t do a better job of explaining their policies, but it wasn’t a personal attack.

  370. Lindsay Beyerstein
    Lindsay Beyerstein July 27, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    I feel a little out of step with my fellow childless urbanites on this question.

    I believe that almost every space should, in principle, include children, provided they can maintain a minimal, child-appropriate standard of behavior. I don’t expect them to act exactly like adults. They’re new at this, they’re going to screw up even more often than we do. On the other hand, I do feel like there are minimally acceptable standards of adult behavior for certain situations and that we should grade kids on a curve.

    If you want to bring your generally chill baby to my local, I support you 100%. I’ll defend you against hipster curmudgeons who treasure their hermetic child-free space. I don’t care if the baby cries from time to time. I’m not going to judge you. I understand that there are going to be meltdowns. We grownup bar-goers accept that the occasional adult will have too much to drink and make a scene. It’s a prevailing hazard of serving booze. A prevailing hazard of an inclusive space is that you’re going to get a few people who are too young to control themselves as reliably as your average moderately sober adult.

    I’m tolerant because I feel I owe a debt to the next generation. My parents brought me to parties and asked the indulgence of their friends, who welcomed me with open arms.

    Making kids behave should never fall 100% on the female parent. It never did for my mom. My dad took way more risks in terms of taking me to academic conferences and other events he knew I would be enjoy without disturbing anyone, despite being nominally too young to be involved. Sure, he was gambling with male privilege, but I’m glad that society gave him a huge return on his investment. Moms should get the same credit when they mainstream their children successfully.

    Part of the social contract in these situations was that my parents either expected me to behave like a reasonable person in any given social situation, or engineered ways for me to be a normal kid without disturbing anyone (like figuring out in advance if there was a fenced yard at this event and dispatching me to it, as necessary, if I wasn’t ready to sit still and participate in a conversation).

    Kids shouldn’t be hidden away, they should be expected to rise to the occasion. Sometimes they won’t, but the parents who brought them shouldn’t be shamed for trying, as long as they have the good sense to bail if the situation seems to be veering out of control. These things happen. It doesn’t mean they’re bad parents, or inconsiderate, or anything–as long as they’re attuned to the sensibilities of others and take appropriate action. There’s no shame in bailing. On the contrary. They should be encouraged to try again, when their parenting skills, and/or the kid, is a little more advanced.

  371. Grafton
    Grafton July 27, 2010 at 10:23 pm |

    What’s your point, Hattie?

    Seriously, two mean parents are an example of how ‘child friendly’ spaces are ‘single adult males stay out’ spaces. It’s not isolated incidents, I am honestly not able to comfortably use spaces that are heavily frequented by children unless I’m accompanied by a woman, or I will inevitably have an encounter with a momma bear who’s assuming that I, by virtue of my maleness, am a threat.

    I am not saying it’s right to keep children out of public life. I’m just saying that the “it’s just so simple” solution that Maia proposes isn’t simple at all — I get in trouble with people for trying to implement it.

  372. ageism and me. « Order of the Gash
    ageism and me. « Order of the Gash July 27, 2010 at 10:24 pm |

    [...] and me. So there’s this post up at Feministe, beginning with the provocative line “you do not have a right to child-free [...]

  373. renniejoy
    renniejoy July 27, 2010 at 10:25 pm |

    OP – “…recently, i was hanging out at a bar, when a friend called and invited me to come hang out for a few drinks and chill time as the sun came up. cool. then, i heard a bit of whispers in the background and the question posed to me: is aza with you?
    ummm…what? why? does that matter?”

    I’m not sure why this conversation is linked to anti-child hostility. There is almost certainly some context not given.

    Among my friends and I (all of us are white US mothers of two or more children), that question is a determination of what kind of hanging out we’re going to do. Without children, we’re going to be a lot more rowdy. :)

    Sometimes, we don’t want to deal with/surrogate parent other people’s children and so we get together a different time. I, personally, often find that I cannot handle five children (two mine, three hers) asking for something every five minutes. Those days, I just don’t go hang out with that many children.
    Naturally, YMMV. :)

  374. Jackie
    Jackie July 27, 2010 at 10:33 pm |

    I’m surprised this is back here again, after the major debate regarding this issue the last time this topic was posted.

    Discriminating against children huh? So I guess not letting children have a right to choose to watch a rated R movie is discrimination? Certainly, not letting children have the right to decide to go to a party with alcohol around is discrimination?

    The reality is children are not adults in smaller bodies. There are people like Tiff mentioned with PTSD or people with physical issues that makes it uncomfortable to hear high pitched noises. I want to thank you Tiff, as someone with Hyperacusis, who does have a oversensitivity to sudden and high pitched noises. I really appreciate it, since it seems to rarely come into anyone’s conciousness that people like myself exist, and have a right to go out places without being provoked into an anxiety attack due to a child screaming at the top of their lungs, which to people like myself feels like the sound is hitting right into your eardrum.

    My view is that this is another case of parents complaining about discrimination, when it comes to them bringing their children with them places, and making it about their children. Since, apparently only horrible mean people would deny children the right to everything under the sun, even if it may harm them physically or psychologically.

    This really, is about parents raging against going places, and being glared at when their child acts out while they’re ignoring them. It’s about them claiming their child is being discriminated against, when they can’t drag them to a fancy restaurant where surely their child would find boring. If they make it about the children, they feel then their views will be listened to, because nobody would attack a child.

    I can see right through this tactic. Isn’t it child discrimination by telling your child, no we’re not going to Chuck E Cheese, we’re going to the restaurant mommy and daddy want to? Isn’t that denying the child their right to be heard, and to feel their views are validated? Wow, look I can use the same pro-child argument, to make the parents look as if they’re discriminating against their own child! What’s next, oh homework is discriminating against children, because they’re forced to do tasks against their will. Grounding children is akin to solitary confinement! I’m on a roll!

  375. Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » On Being A Considerate Parent

    [...] there’s this post on Feministe about “shorter, cuter, more honest people”. I have a lot of issues with this post. A lot. Starting with the fact that the author wants to make [...]

  376. zuzu
    zuzu July 27, 2010 at 10:54 pm |

    I want to note that there’s a lot of dismissal of the experience of childfree/childless/others-who-have-given-examples here. The pattern seems to be:
    1. CF person gives example of child misbehaving in public as example of why some spaces should be reserved for adults;
    2. Parent dismisses such experience because their own children don’t do that behavior or because they consider the behavior negligible in terms of annoyance.

    That’s not cool, people. That’s not too far off from saying that a woman’s experiences of street harassment don’t count because you yourself have never seen such a thing happening.

    You know, it could be that you don’t see this behavior because you’re around kids all the time so it doesn’t stand out to you, or because your kids don’t do that in front of you. But that doesn’t negate the experiences of those who do notice it.

    Now, a legitimate argument you could make is along the “plural of anecdote is not data” line, but I’m afraid that could also be turned around on you, too!

  377. Dana R
    Dana R July 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm |

    Lindsay Beyerstein’s post x2(million). Co-signed in it’s entireity.

  378. Amber
    Amber July 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm |

    I have not read the whole thread. I gave up after a few posts, because they sort of made my head hurt.

    What I really wanted to say, though, is thank you for articulating my feelings. I am a mother of two small children. I have to take them out into the world with me. I do my best to be considerate and mindful, because when they decide to throw themselves to the ground and wail it is unpleasant for everyone. Me included. But sometimes, life happens.

    If I can’t take my children out in public, it means my life is spent at home. I can’t visit the bank, or the grocery store, or the post office. I can’t travel on any conveyance that involves other people. That would be a major hardship. My kids would probably love it – they don’t really like the bank, surprise surprise. But it’s a necessary part of my life.

    You don’t have to like my kids. You don’t have to find them cute, or enjoy it when they somehow manage to press a bunch of elevator buttons. I will sure as hell try to stop them from pressing those buttons in the first place. But even when they don’t do those things, their mere presence is often cause for glares and cold stares and muttered comments. And that just feels patently unfair and limiting to me and my ability to navigate my life.

  379. zuzu
    zuzu July 27, 2010 at 11:32 pm |

    Amber, you’re making a big leap from “please no kids in bars” to “I can’t go anywhere because people want to keep kids off public transport.”

    One of these things is not like the other.

  380. prairielily
    prairielily July 27, 2010 at 11:40 pm |

    maia, I started off thinking that there are absolutely places children should not be, but seeing the thread devolve once again has put me firmly on your side. I would appreciate your thoughts on what I’ve written and look forward to reading your other posts.

    A good parent of a child easily bored or terrified of loud environments will not take that child to the bar or to the movies. Saying that children will be bored (which I actually do believe is true for most children) is therefore redundant. As for a not-so-good parent, perhaps we should make community parenting and parenting classes more accessible and widespread and less stigmatized. Most parents try their best and when parents aren’t that great, let’s all help each other to get better.

    I think we should also remember that children “act out” because they have not yet formed the ability to control themselves. Many adults never develop that ability, but when they are loud assholes in public it is seen as a failing of that person, not of all adults ever. Meanwhile, many people are irritated by even well-behaved children, or by behaviour that is not actually bothersome. So what if a child at a nearby table is giggling? Would most people be as angry and annoyed if an adult woman was giggling? Probably not.

    Lastly, we don’t know why the child is upset. My mother has told me that when I was a year old, I cried most of the way through a seven-hour flight. I imagine the other passengers were miserable, but it wasn’t my fault – I’d developed an ear infection. At the same time, I was often told to be quiet and not speak up at dinner parties because I was a highly intelligent child and the other adults didn’t like it when I told them that they were wrong. I ended up with some pretty serious lasting damage because of it and it’s taken me years to be able to speak up for myself. I wouldn’t wish that on any other child.

  381. Ravan Asteris
    Ravan Asteris July 27, 2010 at 11:46 pm |

    What? In most states, it is actually illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be in a bar that is not also a restaurant, and even then, under 21 is not allowed in the bar proper. It doesn’t matter whether the “young person” is 18 years, 12 years, or 18 months old. UNDER 21 is UNDER 21. Same with sex clubs – No Under 18. That mean no kids – not 17 1/2 years, not 17 months.

    Is that really so hard to understand?

    Just like 40 year olds don’t get the “Seniors Discount” at restaurants, kids don’t get to go certain places. IIRC, there are a few places that no adults are allowed without kids, to prevent creep trolling. There are kid spaces, teen spaces, adult spaces, senior spaces, and general spaces. They each meet the needs of the various groups.

    Quit trying to homogenize the entire population based on your erroneous sense of entitlement. Kids don’t belong in dive bars and strip clubs, and adults don’t belong playing in those blowup bounce houses that their parents rent for parties. Or do you advocate mixed gender restrooms, too? After all, people are people…

  382. Ruchama
    Ruchama July 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm |

    I tend to get panic attacks when I’m in a crowd of people, especially if most of those people are significantly bigger than me. (Which is pretty much every crowd except crowds of small children, since I’m less than five feet tall.) This did not develop when I was an adult — I’ve been having this reaction for as long as I can remember. When I was a little kid, I could only tolerate places like Chuck E. Cheese for a really limited amount of time — too long there, and I would just melt down. Same thing could happen at a crowded mall. Too many people, too much noise, too many lights and sounds, and eventually, I would crack. As I’ve grown up, I’ve somewhat learned to control that reaction, and I’ve also learned to recognize when an attack is coming on and try to find somewhere quiet to go for a little while. When I was a little kid, though, I hadn’t learned all that yet, because, well, I was little. I was still learning stuff. Also, when you’re five or six years old, you can’t really go find a quiet place when your mom has ten other errands to do in the mall before she has to pick up your sister from dance class, or whatever. So, if you were in a mall in New Jersey around 1986 or so, and saw a small girl suddenly start screaming and crying, that was not a misbehaving child. That was not a spoiled child, or a selfish child. That wasn’t a child determined to ruin your day. That was me, not able to control the panic for one second longer, but also not yet able to find the words to communicate what the problem was. But that was also me learning how to read my body’s signals — I didn’t like it any more than anyone else did, and I learned that I should try to find ways to step back before it got to that point. Same mall, a few years later, I would have enough experience to have come up with some better coping strategies. Those times when I ended up screaming and crying were necessary steps on the way to getting to the place where I am today — still not good with crowds, but I’ve had enough experience with them that I can usually handle it.

  383. slee
    slee July 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm |

    Kids in public. I’ve questioned the parenting skills of parents with their 5 year old at an 11PM slasher flick, of people letting their kids run wild in restaurants specializing in dishes lit on fire, kids in bars watching the drink-uourself-under-the-table-by-three types do just that, and in grocery stores at 1am, miserably tired and clearly loud and crying because they just want their bed. Yes, I’m up for banning chilcren from porn stores, strip clubs, and places where children will be exposed to the damaging actions of others, but otherwise? Children will never learn how to behave in public unless they get to be there and see proper behavior modeled.
    As for child-free people wanting to not be around other people’s children, that stikes me as any priviledged group not wanting to be around any other group against whom one might discriminate. Like skinny people who think fat people shouldn’t be allowed on the beach.

  384. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig July 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm |

    Annaham: “Being a kid sucks, sometimes.”
    Yes! I get so irritated at people who think childhood is all fluffy-happy bunny time. My happiest childhood memories- were either of reading a book- alone- or spending time with animals, also alone. Until I was twelve, I pretty much avoided girls my age.
    Ruchama: That’s true, and I should’ve tacked that into my comment. I forget it, sometimes.
    And on a side note: Waves? Really?
    *Sorry, but I really really hate that hippy-dippy psychic crap.

  385. Lisa
    Lisa July 28, 2010 at 12:01 am |

    There is only one way I know how to respond to this. I think I need to make a new Fem Watch video based purely on the comments in this thread. The script is classic.

    Automatically Accepted Comments:
    “I don’t mind mothers taking part in feminism.”
    “Why don’t you stay in Cairo?”
    “I take it you identify with the Chinese culture.”
    “Children are an inescapable fact of life, but so are spiders and I don’t have to put myself around those either.”
    “No one here is declaring that no child ever should be allowed into a restaurant nicer than an Applebees.”

    and basically anything that involved comparing children to inanimate objects such as taxes or natural disasters. Or using the word “it” when referring to a child.

    Mai’a, my friend, I send you peace and some kind of legal substance to assist you through comments.

  386. kungfufighter
    kungfufighter July 28, 2010 at 12:02 am |

    I cannot help but say that what this is really about is an unmitigated sense of entitlement by posters with children. Reading back over the posts, it seems pretty clear that what the child-free people are asking for here is nothing more than a little bit of consideration for their rights as autonomous human beings as well. They are not saying children should be locked away from all public spaces until they are adults. By and large, they are not asking for anything unreasonable. They have merely asked that people with children understand that sometimes adults (those both with and without children) should be allowed to enjoy certain public spaces free of the disruptions that children inherently bring. And Maia and her followers have given the big Fuck You to anyone who doesn’t 100% agree 100% of time with %100 of their opinion that children have the right to run free, run wild, destroy at will, and invade any space they so choose. These folks want it their way, all the time, no exceptions, fuck you if you don’t like it. The “opposing view” offered many valid arguments, yet I did not see the Maia armada concede a single point. And I can’t help but wonder if they would be nearly so pleased with their own logic if it meant that when they took their child to a library story hour, some fully-grown woman felt she had every right to suddenly burst out right in the middle of the story with something like “FUCK YA!! GODDAMN THIS IS ONE BITCHEN STORY—DON”T YOU THINK SO KIDS? I doubt it. Because it would be completely inappropriate and would infringe upon the children’s right to have space that is free of pure-adult behavior. Nuff said.

    And btw, my sister is a single mom escaping an abusive relationship, raising a 3 year old with no other family to help her, except me once in a while (I live one town over). She’s going to community college full time and works. She’s exhausted all the time and rarely gets to go out for some adult time. My beautiful, super-fricken smart, hilarious, willful, bad-asser-than-your-bad-ass-kid, niece is the absolute light of my life. I was the first person to see her into this world and I cut her umbilical cord. I adore her—BUT we do not take her to movies, to the theatre, to bars, to evening ballets or symphonies, to all-adult parties, or to fancy restaurants. She is not mature enough to handle them without seriously disturbing other patrons who have paid and have the right enjoy their child-free time. When my sister does get the occasional break to go sit in a hot tub at her friend’s house or have a nice dinner out, you can bet she does not want to hear a single child near her. She wants a Margarita and a few grown-up laughs.

    I do agree, whole-heartedly that the onus for children-rearing is placed on women—and it’s unfair, it disgusts me that men are not held more accountable, and it just plain sucks. However, that still doesn’t equate to “kids have the right to be everywhere.” An unfairness has been placed upon moms in general and single moms in particular, but does that mean that you can necessarily just transfer that unfairness to me by negating my right to adult privacy. I’m sorry, no. How bout we work on making dad’s more responsible instead. Here’s a thought, grab a couple of your friends and all the children you can, and take them to a sports bar full of men lounging around watching their favorite football team on the big screen. Let the kids run around, wreak havoc, and disturb the shit out of them for awhile and when the men complain you can say “Sorry, the POS of a supposed father ran out on these kids, and this is the only choice I have. So, ya know, why don’t you fella’s work on changing how your sex views their child-rearing responsibility, then, hey you won’t have to worry about us invading your man space…….. just a thought

  387. TanyaD
    TanyaD July 28, 2010 at 12:04 am |

    I’ve read through most of the comments, and some are totally missing the point and some are on point. What I can’t understand is this lauding of the OP for standing up for the poor, oppressed children when she admits to taking her toddler to a bar, because she will take her child where she pleases?

    When I go to adult only spaces, such as a BAR I don’t expect a toddler there. I think it’s a sign of privilege and entitlement that you would not consider that the child may not enjoy such a place, nor the fact that you could be putting the bar owner at a huge risk of a lawsuit or loss of their liquor license because you’ll take your child where ever you go.

    Since I was not raised on a deserted island, I accept that children are part of our society, but what I will not accept is a sense of entitlement and poor parenting in places that I frequent. There’s a marked difference in kids enjoying themselves, screaming in delight and having fun and kids screaming their head off, running in the aisles and acting as if they have no sense while their parents do nothing about it.

    If you are amongst those parents that actually, parent good on you. However I find it very arrogant to assume that I should have to bow down to the altar of motherhood wherever I go, because kids are people too darn it! Well, they are people, but they are not mini-adults.

    Your assumption that kids are not welcome in the US is interesting but a false assumption. I don’t know where you are currently residing, but I’ve found the US to be incredibly child-friendly to the point where I’ve been grilled, ridiculed and told I’d get over my aversion and fears of being a parent, even after telling someone point blank that i have no desire for motherhood. It’s a fallacy to me to to point out that the US is so child hostile, when women here seem to be deemed useless and bizarre if they don’t want any kids.

    I find this article to be full of privilege, ethnocentrism and a dash of condescension for added flavor. Next time you might not want to lead off with a tale of traipsing your toddler in to the bar before you try to make your point about kids and rights. I might actually take you seriously.

  388. Lex
    Lex July 28, 2010 at 12:07 am |

    Wow. There are so many logical issues with this essay, I’m not sure where to begin.

    Children are CHILDREN, not “short adults.” As a mother you should control your daughter, not in a negative or violent way, but as an adult teaching a child and setting boundaries. I don’t understand this mentality that because a child is upset or crying or throw a tantrum the rest of the world should just show a little compassion. Um, this is not how the child will be treated when they grow up and have a hissy fit. They should learn that the world does not revolve around them.

    I think it is laughable – LAUGHABLE – that someone who rejects the feminist label expects feminists to somehow commiserate with the plight of a child who is not welcome with open arms at a bar. A BAR. Can we think about this with our brains for two seconds? Feminism (the belief that women should be treated equally), regardless of the specifics of how you think this can be actualized in society seems an absurd thing to reject by someone advocating for parental and child rights. Your essay reads as if the underlying thesis statement is “I don’t understand the clamoring for equal right among women, but I nevertheless demand you all treat my five year old as if she were just a small adult irregardless of the obvious behavioral, physical, emotional and intellectual differences there are between children and adults.”

    Good god, people like you are insufferable and I have no compassion for you when you might find yourself at a party near the crack of dawn and your compatriots don’t want to hear the incessant whine of a kid that should probably be in BED.

  389. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 28, 2010 at 12:09 am |

    I really really hate that hippy-dippy psychic crap.

    Stop oppressing hippy-dippy psychics! Just because their behavior is generally obnoxious and irrational… :p

  390. LSG
    LSG July 28, 2010 at 12:15 am |

    Those who are confused about about what feminism has to do with race and why that relationship is relevant to this conversation:

    This is important, and if you’re confused I recommend checking out some bell hooks and some Audre Lorde, reading some blogs like Flip Flopping Joy and Womanist Musings, or even googling “womanist” — often, when a person says ze is not a feminist, ze means ze is anti-gender-equality, pro-“traditional family”, ect. But in many cases, people like mai’a and bfp do not identify as feminists because they feel the Feminist Movement has betrayed them. And let’s be honest — feminism has definitely made some important changes in the world, but feminism as a political movement does not have a good record with protecting the rights of non-white women, poor women, trans women, disabled women, and many other oppressed groups of women. There are many totally kick-ass people out there advocating and working for all forms of equality, including gender equality, who don’t want to be associated with feminism because it’s let them down over and over and over — or in some cases, kicked them in the face. To say “I am not a feminist” is NOT saying “I don’t think women are equal to men” it’s saying “for whatever reason, I don’t wish to be associated with this movement and this label.” Just because some people have bad reasons for not wanting to be called feminists doesn’t mean all reasons for not wanting to be called a feminist are bad. Dismissing the insights of those who are advocating for social justice because they don’t identify as feminist — when the reason they don’t identify as feminist because in feminist communities they’re routinely dismissed and excluded and their concerns are belittled — is kind of the quintessential privileged approach to the subject, isn’t it? Identify on my terms and endorse exactly what I say is important, or I’ll refuse to listen to your criticisms of my terms and priorities!

    Now, as it relates to this discussion? (Besides the fact that a person doesn’t have to own a “This is what a feminist looks like” shirt to make valuable contributions to a conversation on feminism- and gender-related topics.) Race came up first, I think, when bfp pointed out that a black child is treated far differently by society than a white child. Absolutely true, and absolutely relevant to the discussion. (Such as it is.) Mothers of color are also treated differently — more harshly — than white mothers. Also relevant to the discussion.

  391. Sisou
    Sisou July 28, 2010 at 12:16 am |

    @Amber

    I was aware that it was not your intention to shame a black person into feminism. I was pointing out her your comment came across ( to me)
    “If it was so important to announce, can you please explain your need to separate yourself from those who work tirelessly to ensure your daughter will enjoy the same rights and privileges as her male peers?”

    When I read that I figured that you were making either one of two assumptions:

    One: that the feminist movement had worked tirelessly for “all women” ( wrong)
    Two: that the author was a white upper-middle/middle class women who the feminist movement has worked tirelessly for

    Either way, I *felt* like your privilege set you up to question that seem like ” not a feminist shaming”. IF you had asked her nicely without the both assumptions that would have been different.

    I hope that clears up what i was saying. Otherwise, never mind. bedtime

  392. Opheelia
    Opheelia July 28, 2010 at 12:21 am |

    I have only read through about 1/2 of the comments, but I wanted to post one to allow feedback while I’m reading through the rest.

    I worked with kids who have autism for a couple of years throughout my life, and the behavior modification programs we used taught me a lot about learning and motivation. These ideas don’t just apply to kids who have autism, and I’ve found that it helps me put things in perspective.

    First, sometimes a parent who seems like they are ignoring a child’s tantrum is actually trying to stop it. Kids respond to attention, and sometimes negative attention, like scolding, is just as reinforcing as positive attention, like praise. Someone above said, “In most cases, a child yells when nobody pays attention to him.” Sometimes, paying attention when a child is yelling can actually increase the frequency of that behavior when they are seeking attention. If a kid wants to leave the grocery store, throws a tantrum, and leaves the grocery store, they’ve learned that if they want to leave the grocery store, they should throw a tantrum.

    However, it’s important for parents to know their kids’ limits. It’s also important for people in spaces where kids are expected, if not a staple, to recognize that kids are growing and developing. Sometimes, that’s unfair. Other times, it outright sucks. I want to honor the experience of people who are particularly sensitive to those types of noises, though. I’m wondering what kind of solutions commenters could offer.

    I agree that for many (if not most) children, going out with adults when there aren’t other kids or distracting activities to engage in is a recipe for boredom at best. There are exceptions, of course, and the parents of those kids will know that. I also think that those parents need to have a conversation with their friends about how many are comfortable engaging the child in conversation; sometimes, kids make people super uncomfortable and frightened, and depending on others to engage a child (even if the kid LOVES adult conversation) is unfair.

    Second, US culture has become increasingly paranoid about stranger-danger since the 80s, without a whole lot of evidence to back it up. The fact of the matter is that the person who makes a silly face at your child in the supermarket or makes oragami sculptures while you’re sleeping on the plane is often a safer bet than people you know. We really, really want to be able to tag perpetrators with some kind of “This is how you recognize kid-touchers!” warning sign, but you just don’t know. Parents need to gauge their kids’ reactions to the people they spend time with, from coaches to baby-sitters to family members. Ask questions. Talk about the difference between secrets and surprises. Let them know that talking to you about their friendships and relationships is expected when they’re young.

    (However, online matters are another story.)

    Lastly, if it’s a bar, it’s a bar. I’ve lived in rural places and metro places, and I always had at least one option as to whether I wanted to go to a bar or to a bar/restaurant.

    I love kids. (According to Demetri Martin, you shouldn’t be too specific about this. You can say, “I love kids,” but you can’t say, “I love 10 year olds.” :) But I don’t think that kids should be subjected to a bunch of inebriated adults, and most adults inherently think their behavior should change around children. Even if the parent doesn’t care if you swear or talk about sex or do any of a number of other things, there will always be adults who don’t feel comfortable doing so. They expected something else, because they’re at a bar; it’s generally considered an “adult space.”

    The OP said that her friend invited her over for drinks “as the sun came up.” Maybe the friends did mimosas or screwdrivers or breakfast drinks, but if they’ve been up all night, I honestly can’t blame them for not wanting to expose a child to that. Is it unfair to the OP? Maybe. Is it totally unreasonable? Absolutely not.

  393. Jennie
    Jennie July 28, 2010 at 12:21 am |

    THANK YOU FOR THIS POST MAIA!! you haters on here have no idea how tough it is to be a momma these days!! I have three little ones, 4.5 yo, 3 yo, and 18 months. My oldest is used to public spaces (I’ve been bringing her with me everywhere so she can learn you know), so she is able to help the other two learn how to better handle these public spaces. I’m in the US and I face soooo much hostility. When I take my kids out to a restaurant, I always count at least 3+ glares when we take a seat. My youngest is going through a bit of a screaming phase, imitating and the like, but it’s like, what, you think I don’t deserve a meal out every once in a while because she’s still so young??? My cuties try their best to make momma happy so if I need to tell them to be a little quieter, they listen 90% of the time. Oh, something that happened to me just last week that’s definitely relevant…. I was meeting up w/ my friends at a nearby bar for a few post work drinks. I brought my kids along because I had been at work for 10 hours and really wanted to spend some time with them. I had just started on my third long island when the bartender asked me to leave, because my youngest was crying! I took her outside beforehand, got her to calm down, and after 10 minutes of her being silent and my kids being very well behaved, that’s when the bartender asked me to leave. It’s like, can you not do anything with children anymore? It’s ridiculous. My friends were cool with it, the patrons didn’t say anything, why did he get all up in my face about it? I had to chug my drink and leave asap and my friends just came over to my apartment. We still had fun, but why did I need to be relegated to my apartment??

    Thank you again Maia for giving me a place to rant about this. Is there no place safe for kids anywhere anymore??

    Jennie

  394. Amy
    Amy July 28, 2010 at 12:45 am |

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L69XZdIuLuI

    I just came across this today on facebook! This mom just asked the lady behind her in line to stop swearing and this is what she gets! It’s absurd.

    The video is absolutely terrible.

    I think this issue really comes down to common sense and just what type of event/place it is. Kids cannot go everywhere. Sorry. They can’t. Mothers can, kids can’t.

    I do think America has very little patience for little kids. Screaming children evoke anger, instead of compassion. Everyone complains about the babies on the flights, but really? How are they supposed to get the kid there without a plane. That’s really limiting and ridiculous. And regular errand of course, parents should be allowed to take their kid.

    However, there are times, when it would be rightfully considered imposing for the parent to bring the kid. People DO have to modify their behavior around children. You can consider that ageism, and maybe I’m an ageist, but children need different environment then adults and any respectable adult realizes that and modifies their behavior. But not every part of the world should be modified for kids. That’s where we get into censorship and bull crap. I should be allowed to do adult things, watch adult things and be an adult because that is who I am. No one should have to baby proof their entire life.

    So, when someone invites you out, they don’t always want to baby proof the entire event. Just because you had a kid, or your friend had a kid it doesn’t mean you have to completely stop what you enjoy doing as an adult. It just means you need to find someone to take care of the kid while you go out. So those around you don’t have to constantly baby proof themselves whenever you show up. There has to be a balance and you have to still let adults be adults some times in some places and that’s not rude of them.

    There is a very big grey line I think on this issue.

  395. Lisa A.
    Lisa A. July 28, 2010 at 12:47 am |

    @bfp at 354
    “Fuck feminism, fuck feminists and fuck their obnoxious entitled bullshit attitudes. And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter. MOTHERS did that, not you.
    Mamis, mommies, mothers, M/others–NOT YOU.”

    Well, given that you believe that a woman has to be mother to have anything valuable to contribute to society, I can see why you are not a feminist. But people with beliefs like yours are the reason I am one.

  396. whatsername
    whatsername July 28, 2010 at 12:48 am |

    Maia, thank you. Before reading your and other’s posts about children I had pretty much well absorbed the typical notions about children, their rights, how to raise them, and where they belonged, and identified pretty comfortably with “childfree.”

    It was after spending some time following your blog, and then reading Arwyn’s Dancing between the tables: on the personhood of children, that I realized just how incredibly fucked up and kyriarchy reinforcing those standards/expectations are.

    I still don’t know if I want to raise a child of my own, but I am slowly unthinking what I know about how to do so and how to think about children and their place in public life.

    I’m thrilled to see you posting this here, and disappointed but completely unsurprised at what this post is being met with. But you changed how I think about this stuff.

    Keep up the good fight, mama.

  397. noob
    noob July 28, 2010 at 12:52 am |

    Sorry if the gist of this has been posted already: I didn’t have the attention span to scan 400+(!) comments (and, naturally, no hard feelings if people skip likewise over mine). But:

    Even assuming that we childfree people are not reasonably entitled to ANY childfree spaces — and even assuming we take this to absurd extremes (surgeon letting his 2 year old run around the OR, knocking over instruments and whatnot? oh fine lol) — a corollary is that you, mommy, have no right to regulate my public behavior so as to render it appropriate for your child. You want to bring your kid into a bar (and, in a grotesque display of white privilege, you want to analogize keeping kids OUT of bars to racism)? Fine. But don’t complain when my friends and I alight on an adjacent barstools and start a graphic conversation about anal sex, serial killers, or how deeply prescient Idiocracy was.

    Also, I have news for you: if any adult went into Le Bernadin and started flinging food around and shrieking like a fucking animal, the frigid glowers from other patrons would be just as forthcoming as when this happens with your precious kindergartener. So here, really, is an instance where your kids are being treated with perfect equality (if anything, they are treated more leniently that adults).

    I am not really a feminist, either, but I am sick and tired of seeing “women’s issues” conflated with “mommy issues.” No, discrimination against children is not de facto discrimination against women because thankfully, in contemporary civilized society, motherhood is a choice. Not an innate, immutable trait like sex.

    Kids are people and smokers are people, too. I wish them well. But in restaurants I avoid them like the plague.

  398. whatsername
    whatsername July 28, 2010 at 12:52 am |

    Lisa, I would look up bfp before you talk a bunch of shit you can’t get back about who she is or what she’s done for things you care about. Seriously.

    That actually goes for a bunch of comments I skimmed past saying flat out ignorant crap about being suspect of someone who “doesn’t identify as a feminist”. You know what? There are very good reasons why many women don’t identify as such, and those aren’t issues to do with those women, but with FEMINISM/ISTS.

  399. Anne
    Anne July 28, 2010 at 1:08 am |

    Not to sound rude, but honestly, children should be allowed anywhere. As human beings they have the right to be allowed into any establishment, period. Anyone who suggests otherwise is contributing to the oppression of children. Every human being deserves the same rights, and those rights include equal usage of the world around us. It is unfeminist, bigoted, and downright rude to suggest otherwise. No one should feel entitled to tell me where and when my child is allowed near them. We can take care of ourselves, thanks.

  400. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan July 28, 2010 at 1:19 am |

    And fuck all of you who think you did a goddamn thing for my daughter.

    I don’t take issue with the “fuck feminism” thing ’cause I don’t care but… Really? No one (even non-feminists) without a child has ever done anything for her daughter? Only mothers? No women who wanted children but couldn’t, no women who didn’t want children but did want to cure childhood diseases, no women who died too young to have kids but died fighting for little girls like her daughter? None of them? And no men ever have? Only mothers? Wowzer.

    That’s not about feminism/womanism/whateverism, that’s about only valuing women who’ve popped out a kid. Good to know that a functioning uterus is make-or-break in certain people’s estimation of their sisters (and even women who aren’t their sisters) — yeah, not at all aligning yourself with thousands of years of patriarchal ableist bullshit right there.

  401. Vic
    Vic July 28, 2010 at 2:11 am |

    Saying women do not have a right to childfree places basically pisses all over a woman’s right to choose not to have children. As if only women who reproduce should be accommodated or provided places to go to be childfree. And it seems you make the common mistake many people do, assuming childfree people dislike children and are discriminating against them. There are plenty of reasons people don’t want to hang out with children. Perhaps your friend wanted to discuss adult matters with you or just wanted to spend time with you.

  402. exholt
    exholt July 28, 2010 at 2:36 am |

    When kids are well-behaved in a nice restaurant, no one cares. Hell, most people will go out of their way to compliment the parent and the kid on how adorable and well-behaved they are.

    Ha! As a childless single 30something who spent nearly 25 out of 30+ years growing up and attending various NYC venues….you wouldn’t believe the frequency and levels of anti-child hostility I’ve observed from ignorant adults towards kids who were as well-behaved as described above. :roll:

    Unfortunately, there’s plenty of ignorant adults who automatically assume all children or teens are “guilty until proven innocent”….even after the child/teen in question has established him/herself as being well-behaved.

    I should also add that in those 25 years in various NYC and Boston venues, it was almost always the adults…especially those who felt entitled due to their age and socio-economic privileges who misbehaved and caused damage in ways no toddler or child could match.

    Sorry…but I call BS on the stories about the prevalence of horrific behaving children……especially when the same people who recount such stories IME tend to be those who expect in practice a far higher standard of behavior than that of an adult.

    In my experience, the majority of kids are usually bored with that sort of stuff. Perhaps you just know a lot of unusual kids but generally adult talk is boring and unfathomable to a child.

    This sort of patronizing nonsense is a large factor in why most US parents have such low expectations that children are excessively micromanaged and controlled to the point they arrive in college classrooms completely unprepared to function independently without the “help” of their helicopter parents to the dismay of friends who teach/TA those courses.

    It may also factor in why US children are perceived to behave worse than children from many other cultures and underachieve academically compared to their international counterparts.

    I also second comments from Shelly and Kai as speaking from my own experiences, I benefited greatly intellectually and socially from being exposed and encouraged to take part in adult conversations with those who were several years or even decades older than myself as a young child.

    In the Chinese-American home I grew up in, children were expected to rise to the challenges* of trying to emulate and learn adult behavior and being in many adult situations rather than continually being treated as an incapable child needing parental micromanagement well into and even beyond the undergraduate years as my college Prof/TA friends have been observing since the beginning of this millennium.

    Moreover, though I did not grow up in a multi-generation home, I also found it strange how US society tries to segregate everyone into their own respective age groups when I’ve always thrived on having friends and otherwise interact with people ranging from the toddler set to senior citizens.

    * Like La Lubu, I was also a latchkey kid since I was 6 in 1980’s era NYC who was an independent veteran straphanger on the subway by the time I was 11…..and NYC had much higher crime rates back then. A reason why I am amused whenever I hear sheltered upper/upper-middle class suburbanites whine and cringe in terror at allowing high school aged kids to cross a busy street or riding mass transit.

  403. problem chylde
    problem chylde July 28, 2010 at 2:45 am |

    Maia, I am sorry your post got overrun by a bunch of taller, not-so-cute, uncharitable people. I forgot how their clothes and their eardrums and their senses of prudish decency for perfect conduct in public spaces overrun any consideration for the humanity of those younger than them and their equally human parents.

    Clearly, those out in public are overburdened and overwrought, and children are the evident cause of all those problems.

  404. Mandolin
    Mandolin July 28, 2010 at 2:45 am |

    As a kid, I was well-integrated into my parents’ life. If I have kids, I expect to integrate them into mine.

    My/our experience was mostly that these things were self-policing. If they put up an R-rated movie (I remember picking one myself at the video store once because it had an actress I liked, and then hating it) then I’d find it boring and leave the room. If I picked up a book that was too much for me, then I’d dislike it, and I’d put it down again.

    So do I have a problem with a kid at a party where there are drinks? Not especially, as long as the kid has options if the kid is miserable there–and as long as kid’s safety is being managed.

    But I think there are two things that need to happen before I’m comfortable with the obliteration of adult spaces, both of which I sure hope do happen:

    1) An end to the expectation that children will be sheltered from things that are considered ideologically dangerous. Kids obviously need to be sheltered from physical danger. But if kid is brought to traditionally adult space X, and traditionally adult space X includes, say, nudity and swearing… then that’s part of the deal. Bare breasts and “fuck”s are not intrinsically harmful. If parent doesn’t want kid to see/hear those things, then the parent should opt not to bring their kid–not demand that the space police itself according to his or her ideas of appropriateness.

    And if the kid doesn’t want to see or hear those things, then it would also be best if the kid had safe options for bowing out. (Karnythia talks on Alas about her experience as a kid who was dragged into bars, and how it was no fun for her.)

    B) There need to be free, safe, extensive child care options available, for the good of both parents and children. Parents being able to enter spaces with their children so they can take a break is good and necessary; parents having the option to drop their kids off in a fun, safe, social space, so that the parent has time to be an adult on their own is also good and necessary.

  405. shaming the childfree « Pocochina’s Weblog

    [...] 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 w…. [...]

  406. Br00ke
    Br00ke July 28, 2010 at 3:34 am |

    You will never, ever, never understand the point of this article if you think it is about taking a child to a bar. Reread it.

    MAI’A WAS AT THE BAR WITH AZA ALREADY! As has been pointed out, SOME BARS ARE CHILD FRIENDLY. That is NOT what she is talking about here. Who was not child-friendly was the hip “FRIEND” who wanted to chill, drink and watch the sun come up–probably in a PRIVATE SPACE.

    Learn to read people. Better yet, learn to LISTEN.

  407. Laura
    Laura July 28, 2010 at 3:36 am |

    @ Rebecca I live in australia. Where women DO have that power. We have a female prime minister. Women have the power to make or break and decide wages all because of Feminism. And mens groups are not banned here, ive never heard of something so ridiculous. Why don’t men deserve a right to have the “experience centered”?

  408. biogrrl
    biogrrl July 28, 2010 at 3:47 am |

    As you state, children are people. Why then would you assume that your daughter was automatically included in your friend’s invitation to come have a few drinks? If friend A invited me out for some drinks, I wouldn’t bring along friend B, who doesn’t know friend A well, without asking. I certainly wouldn’t assume that I could bring along my elderly grandmother, who is getting old enough that she sometimes needs help with basic tasks and doesn’t approve of cussing. You can assume that you may take an accessory like a handbag pretty much anywhere. You can’t make the same assumption as a person, especially a child-person, whose presence alters the behaviors that are acceptable from all adults who might be interacting with her. Maybe your friend was hoping to tell you in graphic detail about the really hot one-night stand she had. Maybe she wanted to discuss the fascinating and challenging concepts in a philosophy book she just read. The former conversation is definitely out of question within a child’s hearing, and the second will be very challenging if the child needs attention, as young children often do.

    I work with kids. I love them. I think most public spaces need to become more accommodating of children and parents. That doesn’t mean I think children have a right to be in every private gathering, dive bar, fancy restaurant, or workplace. There are places that are unsafe for children, and sadly not every parent has the sense to keep their children out of these spaces. There are places, like offices or gym classes not specifically designed for parents, where children can get in the way of stuff getting done. There are places, like upscale restaurants where the quiet is part of the atmosphere, where the standards of behavior are such that children are developmentally incapable of consistently following them. Parents might bring kids here, but only if they’re prepared to leave if the kid can’t handle it. Finally, I think it’s important for adults to have places to go to unwind. I want places where I can cuss, flirt outrageously, exchange friendly insults, and generally behave in ways within the bounds of society but outside of what could be considered a good role model for kids.

  409. Br00ke
    Br00ke July 28, 2010 at 3:49 am |

    SarahMC-Right, they do have a right to be there. And IF–which you are too afraid to open your mouth and find out–but even IF their parents are assholes it is NOT the child’s fault. And by objectifying them you are contributing to the problem. Be a human, recognize other humans and say “excuse me.” IF the parent is a beast, at least–at least–you were not.

  410. Lisa
    Lisa July 28, 2010 at 3:49 am |

    I hope you’re still shouting about your kid’s rights to go into bars when she’s 13, can’t ‘discriminate’ on age after all.

  411. biogrrl
    biogrrl July 28, 2010 at 3:54 am |

    Quick addendum to what I just posted (argh, post-send thoughts!): I don’t consider things like cussing or talking about sex to be fundamentally harmful to children, but I would never presume to do them in front of someone else’s child unless I knew the parents and their standards very well. I like having a few child-free spaces so I don’t feel obligated to self-censor in order to respect others’ rights to parent as they see fit.

  412. Br00ke
    Br00ke July 28, 2010 at 3:57 am |

    Mai’a that sucks a little for your hub but thinking about all the children of color the world over who have been killed or horribly hurt by white guys who no one was brave enough to question–well, it sounds like profiling gone right.

  413. Still learning
    Still learning July 28, 2010 at 4:12 am |

    All this hatred of the supposedly anti-child feminists is ridiculous. Since when is it evil and bad to want to find ways that make it possible to navigate public places while living with a disability? Why is it acceptable on a supposedly feminist blog for people to claim that all you self-centered, entitled disabled people, you just need to get over yourselves! Which is basically what people seem to be saying.

    It still seems to me that we need to have as many places as possible to accomodate different needs. We need loud, lively places filled with child-friendly activities (of which there are currently plenty), quiet, calm places that welcome quiet children but do not welcome loud people of any sort (of which there are currently some that are enforced by glares and other social pressures, but very few which are directly stated as such – except for things like quiet areas on trains), and places where adults can engage in adult-like activities without worrying about exposing children to things they should not be exposed to. I don’t see why this is so controversial.

    I think one thing that might help would be to have more explicitly-stated quiet areas, which would hopefully cut down on the social policing of areas that are not like that; if you really want a quiet atmosphere, you could go to a quiet area rather than going to a normal public space and desperately hoping it remains quiet.

    But to suggest that EVERY area should be available to people behaving in any way, and implying that all those who disagree are vicious child-haters, that is just a slap in the face to people with disabilities associated with loud noise. I’m sorry, but wanting to be able to leave my house every now and again does NOT make me cruel or prejudiced.

  414. Tiff
    Tiff July 28, 2010 at 4:15 am |

    Another thought: I often ask if my friend’s are bringing their kids so that I can plan accordingly (bring out the toys, make sure there is a quiet room, make sure food that that particular child will eat is on hand, and make plans accordingly–usually like knowing we can not go to swim after the child goes down.) Could your friend have been doing this?

  415. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 5:47 am |

    1) on the “only women with working uteruses are valued” bullshit – first, that is not what BFP said but i’m not surprised that’s the direction this would go with a bunch of women with zero reading comprehension and yes, child-hating/mama-hating – which most of you most certainly obviously are. as a MOVEMENT – and frankly, yes, many of you individually who are commenting here – ya’ll have not done shit to make things safer, healthier, or better for BFP’s daughter or most girls. if anything, you are examples of everything that makes *F*eminism obsolete and irrelevent to women/girls of color. rather than taking issue with commentors actually saying that GENDER (really? you call yourself a feminist but think gender has nothing to do with it???) and RACE (and culture, language, etc.) have nothing to do with how children and mothers are treated – you would rather jump on some ridiculous notion that you are being oppressed by this convo trying to center mothers?

    really, if you can’t read, please don’t comment.

    2) NO ONE is saying disabled people’s needs don’t matter. but the supposedly disabled person who is talking the loudest happens to be expressing racist, classist and entitled opinions that marginalize (at best) children. she isn’t the only disabled person on this thread. plenty of disabled people do not go into “evil pain in the ass kids!” mode automatically. plenty of disabled people don’t think that their disability completely overrides their responsibility to other people, including children, and the requirement to just be a decent human being.

  416. SeriouslyPeople
    SeriouslyPeople July 28, 2010 at 6:05 am |

    Just close the thread already. No one is listening on either side.
    Both are convinced the other is completely wrong. Both are defensive to the point of hate and resentment.

    Honestly, now that I had the chance to read the comments, I wish I hadn’t posted. Intelligent words can not be heard through chaos.

  417. You do not have a right to child-free spaces « Dating Jesus

    [...] July 28, 2010 · Leave a Comment So says Maia at Feministe. [...]

  418. Salix
    Salix July 28, 2010 at 6:18 am |

    @ Aaminah,

    Thank you. I’m disabled, and I actually think it’s one of the reasons I am so tuned in to the oppression of parents/children–I can see the parallels in treatment, and it pisses me the hell off. NO ONE should be thought of/treated that way. The difference is, I’m outraged at ALL bad treatment–not just bad treatment directed at me.

    @ Mandolin,

    Day care comment = spot on.

  419. Emily
    Emily July 28, 2010 at 6:33 am |

    I always get depressed when I see kids at bars. All I remember is hanging around them with my mom, watching her get sloshed and watching men do all kinds of disgusting things to her, riding in strange cars to strange houses and having to wait or sleep on the couch in strange living rooms. I feel so sorry for them.

    I don’t speak to my mom anymore. She’s a horrible person.

  420. Tracy
    Tracy July 28, 2010 at 6:40 am |

    What a huge sense of entitlement being displayed by you and your supporters in the comments. I’m grateful to see some comments that are reasonable, but the rest…Good grief.

    Children are not small adults who know about the standards of behavior in society and are automatically going to be good. Children need to be taught manners and need to be taught that the world does not cater to them or revolve around them. Rewarding your child for bad behavior with a sympathetic smile or sending “warm healing energy” their way is doing them no favors. That guarentees they will grow up to be obnoxious adults who will not last very long once they get out into the real world.

    Children need boundaries, otherwise they become insecure and unsure of what to do. Not all spaces are child-friendly. Bars, fancy restaurants, and other adult spaces are not interesting to children…they are boring for kids, and a bored child acts out and the result isn’t far for the child or for the adults around.

    Yes there is a need for adult-only spaces. Adults need time to unwind away from children, both the childfree and parents. They need adult conversation, time with peers of the same age. Children already have enough places where they are welcome.

    And can everyone please stop equating the so-called “oppression” of children to the oppression of queers, disabled people, and other minorities? As a Jew with autism who also happens to be queer I find it very offensive and patronizing to be comparied to a child. It infantilizes minorities first of all, and secondly as I said above children generally need to be taught how to behave appropriately in polite society. Jews, disabled people, and other minorities generally don’t. So it is very insulting to equate us with children.

    And that so-called “oppression” children experience? It’s called discipline, something essential to raising healthy well-adjusted children. Actually doing your jobs as parents to set boudaries and teach your children how to behave will go a much longer way then sending “warm healing energy” to them and letting them run amok.

  421. Stacy
    Stacy July 28, 2010 at 6:56 am |

    I’m a little hesitant to comment, since I’m not familiar with the child culture of Cairo, but I think I may have some insight as to your expat friends (but this is resting on the assumption they are from US or somewhere with a similar child culture). Here, there are some reasonable mommas and poppas who take their kids out to “adult” places and ensure that they discipline or remove them if they become either a safety hazard by knocking people over or a nuisance, such as screaming for hours on end. However, there seems to be a growing segment of parents that feel that their child (and by extension, them) is entitled to do whatever they want whenever they should chose to do so. For example, at a friend’s wedding one of her guests sat and watched as her 3 year old threw an all-out hands flailing, screaming, and kicking tantrum in the middle of the dance floor while the bride was trying to have her father/daughter dance. She was right there, but would not remove said child because “She’s a kid. They do that sometimes”. Parents like that make other parents and their children look bad.
    From the other cultures I have experienced, this is obviously not a worldwide issue. In other places, parents take other people’s comfort into consideration and don’t mind if another adult mildly disciplines their kid for doing something dangerous or wildly inappropriate if the momma or poppa isn’t right there. Hopefully you can be a good example for those friends and show them what parenting is all about.

  422. S
    S July 28, 2010 at 7:13 am |

    To the person upthread who compared “having” to listen to a child’s cries to experiencing street harassment: EPIC FAIL

    For the most part children are at their absolute worse an annoyance. They will not physically harm you. They will not stalk you, or beat you, or drug you, or rape you, or crowd over you to intimidate you if you say something they don’t like, or torture you to death and dump your body somewhere.

    When people in this thread go on and on about wanting childfree spaces, and compare them to the desire for women-only spaces…. Well, I weep for feminism, I really do.

  423. china
    china July 28, 2010 at 7:14 am |

    Up the mama and crip revolution! (for mamaz and disability justice) we have too much in common not to support each others needs. Learn more and get together.

  424. Alexis Pauline Gumbs
    Alexis Pauline Gumbs July 28, 2010 at 7:14 am |

    Wow. I can’t even read all of these comments. Who knew there was an army of defense for “nice places to eat and bars.” (And I’m especially sad that a commenter named “Lex” is so shamefully failing to live up to our name!) I would have never guessed that there were so many people who care more about random bistros and pubs than the future generation of life on the planet. A world without Maggiano’s? Fine with me. A world without children? Absolutely unacceptable, unimaginable, unsurvivable.
    We actually have a society full of people who care more about eating out (and not in the sexiest sense of the phrase) than about children? Maybe these folks don’t have the skills and friendships that make eating at home with loved ones and children running around so priceless.

    We actually think that an adult’s “right” to act a drunken fool is more important than a child’s right to be seen in public and be safe around other adults. (Newsflash, drunken violence not only unsafe for children, but for all of us, and as a survivor of sexual violence I want to say that adults who act out violently and irresponsibly when using alcohol are harmful enough…now we want to punish kids for their usually privilege-induced bad behavior?)

    But what those comments on this post prove about the dominant narrative in our society is tragic, and points to something very true. Those of you who are making this same banal comment over and over again about how there should be child free spaces are consenting, everyday in your lives to a world where random and mostly worthless consumer pleasures are more important than human rights. Where it matters more that you are able to have your latte than that is destroys the ecology and life of a whole group of people.

    Saying that you deserve to be in spaces free of children just because you don’t want to act like an accountable adult, is the same as saying you have the right to be in spaces free of poor and houseless people, simply because you are not imaginative enough to work for a society where everyone has what they need.

    I mourn the apathy of your mindsets and hope that Mai’a’s well-placed words can awaken you to more than a future of perpetual quiet Thursday night dinners out. We deserve much much more than that.

  425. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 28, 2010 at 7:17 am |

    places where adults can engage in adult-like activities without worrying about exposing children to things they should not be exposed to.

    And therein lies the rub. Who gets to decide what children should not be exposed to? As I’ve said before, the standards when I grew up were much looser, the boundaries more porous. My father and I were talking about this a couple of weekends ago when he was here; he thinks that all of this tight stricturing came about because of the political influence of the Moral Majority (with backlash against the feminist, gay rights, and civil rights movement running a close second. I agree with him but reverse the positions; backlash first, WASP fundamentalism second. But he’s lived through a lot, and seen a lot more changes than I’ve seen, so maybe he’s on to something there).

    Anyway, we started giving examples of changes in attitude towards children and parenting practices. I started with the obvious—legal prohibition of latchkey kids. But there’s also: children not allowed in the library by themselves (or not allowed to check out books from outside the children’s section until the age of 13). Lockdown of schoolyards after hours (no access to playground). Trying children as adults in the courtroom. Prohibition of teenagers from movie theaters on weekends unless they have a parent with them (to see any movie, not just an R-rated one). For that matter, prohibition of teenagers from any public space—mall cops following groups of kids around and kicking them out if a certain amount of time has passed and they haven’t spent any money. Removing of basketball courts from parks (so teenagers won’t hang out there). The privatization of “play space” (private, expensive sports clubs replacing city- or park district-run public teams). Abolition of any sex-related ads in the newspapers (when I grew up, the ads for the X-rated drive-ins were posted along with the rest of the theaters).

    And along with the legal, structural, formal changes comes the social monitoring. You’re a bad parent if you: consume any alcohol in front of your child (let alone offer a small glass of wine as is common in my culture), let your children watch TV or films that include “adult subject matter” (like homosexuality, transsexuality, any type of sexuality, abuse, addiction, structural inequality of any sort—-basically, anything that diverges from some magical kumbiyah world), let your child learn to fall asleep when her body is tired rather than setting a very early bedtime for her to toss and turn for a couple of hours…..

    When “Ugly Betty” was on, my daughter and I were front and center of the TV every Thursday night. It was a fun show for both of us (America Ferrera is fabuluous!), but I also liked it because of the conversations it would start. That show was the stepping point for a lot of questions for my daughter; questions she may not have asked me had the show not been on (despite my telling her that there isn’t any off-limits topic for us—my daughter is a perceptive child, and had internalized the outside societal strictures about what children are allowed to say and ask about). So while we had conversations about the various permutations and combinations of sexism and racism, this simple show spurred conversations about homosexuality, transsexuality, the closet, consumerism, adultery….lots of subjects that “children aren’t supposed to be exposed to”.

    With no exception, the people who thought it was horrible of me to let my daughter watch “Ugly Betty” were people who didn’t think children should know that those subjects we talked about should exist. That “those people” (LGBT) should exist. And that’s fucked up.

    No, I don’t shelter my child. That sheltering wouldn’t serve her well in the world she lives in. I have to prepare her for her environment, and her environment is not a hothouse. I talk about things like rape and sexual harrassment and strategies to protect herself (mentally, verbally, and physically) because that is the world she lives in. I first started getting followed around and sexually propositioned by adult men when I was 11. Guess what? That’s next year for my daughter (actually, later this year). That’s what’s coming up right around the corner.

    So I don’t have any patience with the set of folks who are more concerned that I take my daughter to an “adult restaurant” and have a glass of wine in front of her, while we chat about “adult” subjects….but those same people are content to have…segregation, underfunding of schools, drug and gang violence—all kinds of things that are perfectly ok to have as long as they don’t affect them. Bah.

    And the cognitive dissonance that allows feminists to adopt or insist on (for others) the parenting practices of the Moral Majority must take a lot of mental gymnastics.

  426. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub July 28, 2010 at 7:26 am |

    Let me get this straight: women are exhorted to curtail our movements, only go out alone in daylight, only go to certain “safe” places, only go out with friends, only drink our drinks if they never left our sight, and basically live under a form of house arrest in order to avoid rape and other forms of violence, but MEN cannot go out in public because some mommy was an asshole to them and everyone thinks they’re child molesters? I must have missed the mass incarceration of single men and the suspension of Miranda.

    Oh, you poor special fucking snowflake. Here’s a silver platter of hankies. Wipe your nose and stop your goddamn whining.

    And Br00ke–I have to say, when I was a kid, I HATED it when strangers touched me. It gave me the creeps–it was like I a was a doll or a pet to them.

    And to the folks who went on about mean parents yelling at them for touching their kids–I don’t touch children I don’t know not because of a supposedly overly litigious society or because I hate all children, but because the kid may not really like it. And I really, really wish more people would consider that. Kids have a right to boundaries. When they try to set them, a lot of adults over look it, laugh it off, or scold the kid. I’ve seen this even quite recently–and it creeps me right the fuck out.

    The other side of the same fucked-up coin.

  427. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 28, 2010 at 7:28 am |

    @Br00ke you say “MAI’A WAS AT THE BAR WITH AZA ALREADY! As has been pointed out, SOME BARS ARE CHILD FRIENDLY. That is NOT what she is talking about here. Who was not child-friendly was the hip “FRIEND” who wanted to chill, drink and watch the sun come up–probably in a PRIVATE SPACE.”

    Exactly- that has been my point all along and one I think Mai’a is ignoring as much as anyone else if not more.

    This is not an issue about ‘feminists,’ this is about a disagreement between friends and I still don’t understand how that translates into “feminists need a reminder…” Even if the ‘friend’ is a feminist (which isn’t made clear in the post.)

    You say Mai’a’s “hip “FRIEND”” was not child friendly. How do you know that? Maybe the friend has a decent reason for not wanting Aza around. Maybe the friend has a completely different appraisal of her than Mai’a does.

    There are only two explanations for this behavior and none have anything to do with feminism. Either a) This friend has a legitimate reason for not wanting to hang out with Mai’a when Aza is around- or b) The friend is extremely selfish and has no good reason. Nothing to do with feminism.

  428. Dee
    Dee July 28, 2010 at 7:34 am |

    Having a child is a life-changing experience. Your priorities change and yes as a person you change too. A painful part of life is we grow out of friendships or drift away from people when we no longer have as much in common with us as they used to. As difficult as it might be for the mother, no one has an obligation to stay friends with you if they don’t feel the basis of the friendship still exists. This happens at many stages of life that have nothing to do with children and those relationships are not framed in the context of anti-something or oppression. I don’t understand why that automatically means that the friend who does not want to hang out with a child is oppressive, disrespectful or anti-child. You have two different women at two different stages of their lives. That changes a friendship.

    Do mothers experience isolation? Surely. And I agree that we (as a society) need to come up with ways to support mothers that allow them to take time away from their children so they can nurture their adult relationships but blaming the friend for the ills of society as a whole does not solve the problem. No one has the right to verbally or physically abuse any child. No one has the right to expect children to be banished from public places but there really is such a thing as child-appropriate spaces and that will vary by culture. You may disagree with the cultural norms and want to change them or you may agree with them but just as not every norm should be followed not every norm that exists is an act of oppression.

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  431. Juri
    Juri July 28, 2010 at 7:41 am |

    Fine then, lady; bring your little spawnlet to the bar. Just don’t expect me or my friends to stop talking about sex, swearing, bringing up violent movies that we have watched, drunkenly ogling the cute barman and speculating on the size of his package, or, if your daughter happens to be outside, smoking all over her.

    In return, I and my friends won’t turn up at your daycare with bottles of vodka and cigarettes, or use your favourite kiddy playground to have sex with our boyfriends in. Seems a fair swap, seeing as according to you, no-one can discriminate according to age. So we did do the above and you complained, you would be discriminating on us cuz we happen to be older than the target audience of daycare and the playground.

  432. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 7:53 am |

    also, demands to “shut down this thread” ARE entitlement. if you don’t want to read, don’t read (Lord knows, i’m not bothering to read most of it anymore). if you don’t want to comment further, don’t comment further. if you think your comments have been misunderstood but don’t feel like defending them, i feel you – don’t do it. but telling Mai’a that she shouldn’t allow anyone to continue commenting is ridiculous. it will get shut down if and when Mai’a decides to shut it down and not because some people are tired/sick of the convo. please believe me, a lot of us are tired/sick of it. but we get to choose whether or not we continue to engage. i’m actually still reading as much as i am mainly so i can laugh at how quickly the *F*eminist movement becomes completely unhinged and how quickly *F*eminists throw certain women under the bus. if you take this thread seriously, you will want to shoot yourself for the future it posits for our daughters. or it’s like watching a terrible wreck that you can’t take your eyes off of even as you know there is nothing good to come of it.

  433. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 28, 2010 at 7:59 am |

    I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I disagree with Mai’a on this issue. I’m not 100% sure how I feel. I think she has made some excellent points in the followup. I just felt the attack on feminism is wrong. Bearing in mind the huge amount of commenting, I may even have to change my mind about that- perhaps you have to be provocative in order to get people talking.

  434. Dee
    Dee July 28, 2010 at 8:09 am |

    I also wanted to add that not because people find their way to a feminist blog means they are feminists or understand the history of feminism and its problems. Some of the people here are feminists, some aren’t; some found this post through a random link sent by a friend or it showed up in their google alerts.

    There are lots of blanket statements about how certain comments are representative of the feminist movement as a whole and that may be true but it also may not be. The funny thing about the internet is once you post something that people feel might be relevant to them people will see it and comment on it .400+ comments clearly attests to that. All this to say, while the author’s intent might have been to have a conversation with feminists about what she sees as a problem within the movement, she might not actually be talking to the audience she thinks she is. I am NOT saying it’s not feminists here disagreeing or saying objectionable things; I just think the post to be understood requires an understanding of context that many commenters coming to this blog just might not have and that the author does assume.

  435. Rebecca
    Rebecca July 28, 2010 at 8:23 am |

    @Ravan Asteris:

    Or do you advocate mixed gender restrooms, too? After all, people are people…

    This thread was enough of a clusterfuck before you brought OMG RESTROOMS into it, you know.

    @Laura

    I live in australia. Where women DO have that power. We have a female prime minister. Women have the power to make or break and decide wages all because of Feminism. And mens groups are not banned here, ive never heard of something so ridiculous. Why don’t men deserve a right to have the “experience centered”?

    Oh, I see, you’re just a troll.

    But, for the benefit of anyone else who may be reading: No, women as a class do not have societal power. Individual women may, but women as a class are still oppressed – just as the fact of the USA having a black president does not take away from the oppression that POC experience every day. And to suggest that men need special spaces where their experience is centered is to pretend that society as a whole isn’t a special space where men’s experience is centered.

    @conversation:

    Once again, please do stop with the “YOU ALL HATE KIDS!!!11!” It’s lying about people because they disagree with you, and while you may think it’s going to make people change their minds, it’s just making you look disingenuous and entitled.

  436. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 8:26 am |

    Dee, that makes no sense. If she’s addressing it to feminists, then those who aren’t feminists are the ones making assumptions if they think it’s personally about them. And why shouldn’t she address a “feminist” issue and critique of the “feminist movement” on a feminist blog? The responsibility for “assumptions” is on the part of commentors, not Mai’a (oh, and calling her “the author” instead of by name is sorta… obnoxious). The “context” is: this is a feminist blog and she’s writing about an issue that many of us find to be a feminist issue AND an issue where feminists/feminism as a whole tends to be failing. The way self-avowed feminists have commented on this thread has reinforced our feeling that feminism is failing in this regard. If commentors are coming from elsewhere (i.e. non-feminists) that’s not on Mai’a and they are the ones that need to understand context. Don’t tell Mai’a to stop assuming readers/commentors are feminists. Heck, maybe that’s one reason she was clear that she does not self-label that way – so that other non-feminists would relate to her critique as an outsider.

  437. SarahMC
    SarahMC July 28, 2010 at 8:30 am |

    Br00ke, hesitance to address a parent and/or hir child is not “objectifying.” It’s not dehumanizing. I’d have no problem saying “excuse me” to a child by hirself. But clearly, some parents think their kids’ shit doesn’t stink. The kid is sooooo much cooler than us, as the author of this post claims. Of course she is. Everyone’s kid is the greatest human specimen to ever grace the planet. That’s why some of us don’t want to interact with their parents; they see People Who Didn’t Spring From Their Loins as less-than. It’s your child’s world; we’re just living in it.

  438. Aaminah
    Aaminah July 28, 2010 at 8:37 am |

    SarahMC – no, it’s not that she’s cooler just because she’s Mai’a’s precious kid that sprung from her own loins. it’s because she really is much cooler than many adults. and many children really are much cooler than many adults. many children really do have an outlook and personality and certain qualities that adults have stifled in themselves and that some of us find amazing to be witness to in a child. and many adults are frankly just asshats who are far more obnoxious, loud, mean-spirited, thoughtless and all around bummer-inducing in public spaces. no one ever tells grown folk to shut the fuck up already when they’re behaving badly in public (oh, i could tell you SO MANY “anecdotes” of adults behaving loudly, nasty, threatening to me in public and other adults not saying a damn thing). no one ever tells (most) adults to get the hell out of their way in public places (although some of us – us lower brown life forms, esp moms – do get told that). so yeah… really… whatever. stop sucking up my genius perfect uber-cool child’s air!

  439. Dee
    Dee July 28, 2010 at 8:40 am |

    @Aaminah my post was not trying to tell her not to assume anything or that she should not post here. Nowhere in my comment did I demand that. There are lots of comments saying “omg you people will never get it; did you even read the post?” and I was just pointing out that part of the the reason there seems to be such confusion and/or misapprehension, is because the author had a certain intent–to engage feminists in a conversation and it’s not criticizing that intent to point out the fact that alot of people responding here are not the intended audience and don’t realize it. That doesn’t mean anyone should stop posting or that the original reasons for the post were not valid but it may explain some of the comments. I’m sorry you find my use of “the author” annoying or obnoxious. I’m was not deliberately not using Mai’a’s name; it’s a habit and was unconscious and I meant no disrespect by it. She is the author is she not?

  440. Vail
    Vail July 28, 2010 at 8:57 am |

    One thing I have noticed reading all these posts is the regional/cultural differences just across the USA. For me, our town has many child friendly places to go to and I see parents traveling everywhere with their children. Our parks are very kid friendly (splash parks, water parks etc.) and many kid friendly activities are offered (my daughter is in softball through the park system). We have tons of farmer’s market, a Children’s Museum, child centered cafes etc. But we are lucky, and many people are stuck in areas where they don’t have these available. We need to remember that, and open our minds to figuring out how to make this world a safe place for learning and growing for all children. We all have different views about how to raise our children and we should respect that differences. So lets stop focusing on that and figuring out what changes we should work for, like maybe free safe childcare, making sure libraries are more child friendly