The New Mommy Argument: "You Do Not Have A Right To Child Free Spaces"

Illustration for article titled The New Mommy Argument: You Do Not Have A Right To Child Free Spaces

In what I would venture is a deliberately inflammatory firebomb, one mom, "Maia," writes on Feministe: "i thought that maybe some feminists could use a refresher course, a reminder, that kids are people. shorter, cuter, more honest people." Go on!

Advertisement

Now, I normally abstain from these debates for the simple reason that I am not a mom, merely a woman who loves kids. The defiance evidenced in both sides of any "kid-in-public" debate has become, it seems, particularly counterproductive of late and has increasingly little to do with the children themselves, let alone their welfare. And even now, I really just want to put the author's, ahem, argument to the room and see what you, our readers, have to say about it. Yet, as one of the people who, apparently, needs a "refresher course" in straw-man acceptance, there are a few points that I do feel bear addressing. Lack of capitalization is hers.

First:

my daughter, aza, is a person. a three year old person. a funny, cute, bad-ass, curly haired person who loves to dance and draw, wearing short skirts, watching pink videos, and talking on the phone. frankly, she is probably cooler than you are. she is definitely cooler than i am. but even if she wasnt you dont have the right to discriminate against her based on her age. or her race. or her gender. or her nationality, etc.

Advertisement

Yes, she did just compare keeping kids out of a bar to racism and sexism. Moving on:

sometimes she is loud. but frankly, she is normally one of the quieter people in a room full of inebriated souls. and since she is a person, and not a thing, it is not my job as her mother to ‘control' her. love her? yes. model how to be respectful to fellow human beings and other sentient creatures? yes. teach her self respect, self love? definitely yes.

Well, the room full of drunks (?) is probably a good example in that regard.

im not a feminist ( yeah, i said it…shrug). but i dont understand people who claim to be feminist on one hand, and on the other hand think that children should be designated to certain public and private spaces, not mixing in ‘normal' public areas, such as restaurants, stores, airplanes, etc. cause in us culture, when you create little reservations for children, you are really creating little reservations for mothers. it is the mother who will be sent away to take care of the child. and how is that supporting all women and girls?

Advertisement

No, you don't understand people who claim to be feminist. Let's leave it at that. Okay, here's the thing: I get some of the points the author is making. Like these:

you know in a lot of cultures, like the one i live in now, the lines between adult spaces and child spaces are much more porous. it is assumed that kids will be around. that people of all ages will be. because of this kids learn early on what is expected of them in various social situations. they dont expect that every space they enter will be made to cater to their age group. and they learn to negotiate boundaries with various people.

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.

Advertisement

She's right: socializing kids is important. Blanket "I hate kids" chauvinism is ridiculous and offensive in its own way. And even then, it's not "children" people object to as much as parental permissiveness. Mutual understanding and kindness is crucial. Beyond this, she's lost me by dragging in straw-man "feminism," and generally attributing to young children a level of autonomy, power and authority they'd neither want nor expect. Let's not pretend this is about "discrimination against children" - no instance of which the author actually provides - or, if it is, she's just done her cause a major disservice.

(By the way: The post is tagged "ageism." No: ageism is when someone is prevented from doing something that's a legal or societal right; preventing kids from doing something that did not occur to them in the first place, and which could potentially compromise the security of themselves or others is not the same thing and to claim it is does a disservice to anyone who's actually encountered it.)

Advertisement

Shorter, Cuter, More Honest People [Feministe]

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

Dear everyone,

Thank you again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to slam a radical woman of color for her writing without a shred of context or understanding. When there was that little lull after the delightful smackdown of Renee from Womanist Musings, I started to worry that it was the end of the Lukewarm Feminists. But this resurgence has reminded me that we are alive and well and will triumph with flaccid feminist vigor!

Needless to say, the Lukewarm Feminist Nipple Tassel of the Decade goes to all the writers and commenters (and absentee moderators) who don't know or care about the alienating and painful experiences of radical women of color mamis in mainstream/white feminist spaces, who don't yet see children as legitimate community members or our ideas about kids and their role in society as worthy of inspection, and who find the idea of diffusing the parent/child division silly and weird and instantly dismissable despite it's eminence and success in many cultures and subsects of society (particularly non-Western countries, families of color, poor or working-class families, etc).

Bonus points to the commenters who critiqued Mai'a for naming her child one of those "creative" ethnic names, but I don't think it's fair that only Aza is the butt of our jokes. Surely there are other children in Egypt we could laugh at for their funny names too, right?

I'd like to particularly thank those who ejaculated these brilliant and incisive comments from the urethra of insight into the crumpled tissue of genius! Here we go:

"Bars aren't for kids!"

As a Bad Mother of Questionable Skill and Judgment, I think we can be fairly certain she intends to take her child to a dangerous den where lecherous old men will throw darts at its head! Surely she realizes that 86% of today's inmates can trace the roots of their incarceration to first-degree exposure to adults chatting over their beers?

Anyhoo, despite our commitment to Gender Revolution and the Upheaval of Patriarchy, I think we can all acknowledge that the divide between Adult and Child space is immovable, innate, and beyond critique. I mean, kids in bars? What's next, unicorns with Swiffer mops for wings?! Will they dust any surface they land on?!

"I don't go to kid spaces, why should your kid go to adult spaces?"

It shouldn't! It's not like excluding kids from spaces makes these spaces less accessible to moms, particularly moms with scarce cash and no co-parents! And even if it does, once you choose to be a mother, you sign off on less access to society! I mean, that's just how life is, and we accept that with every fiber of our lukewarm hearts! Changing society to be more inclusive to you & your kid isn't part of lukewarm feminism - we are perfectly content with this lack of access because it doesn't affect us, and we know a mom who agrees!

"I'm a mom, and unlike this pussy mom, I am totally on board the lukewarm feminism train!"

Awesome! Please come out for the next Lukewarm Feminists Caucus, where we'll talk about how we can't believe how Bad and Unskilled some other moms are, how we aren't like those moms, and how our contentment with the status quo is surefire evidence that anyone else's protest is illegitimate! Then we'll have a ladylike round of head-patting and we'll learn how to knit a layette and then set it on fire! *Note, please do not bring your child. We will not have childcare and your spawn is not a real person entitled to space in our political action anyway.

"Oh, so she's a non-feminist? Doesn't she appreciate what we've done for her?!"

Preach, sister! She has several blogs which all showcase her alarmingly non-lukewarm writing. The tagline on her latest blog actually reads: Dedicating my body and life to stopping by any means necessary and possible the violence (whether it be state, military, communitarian, medical, domestic, etc.) that threatens our survival on this earth and to co-creating revolutionary, liberatory communities. And her work on reproductive justice, war, increasing access to abortion, and collaborating with radical women of color? With anti-feminists like these, who needs enemies?!

"Why do you want me to parent your kid even though I decided to be childless?"

The Lukewarm Feminists would like to set forth the hypothesis that Mai'a Badmother McShitparent is under the influence of industrial-grade narcotics; it's the only explanation we have for her bizarre vision of a world in which our relationships are defined by our willingness to reach out to each other as community members instead of our God Given American Right to refuse interactions with whomever we dislike. Even if that's not the case - I mean, maybe she's just having a dream within a dream and she hasn't realized it yet, I know that always fucks my brain up temporarily - her insistence that we drop our fondue forks and raise her children as our own in the middle of Tequila Tuesday is just — wait, what? What do you mean, "she never said that, you're decontextualizing it"? That doesn't sound very lukewarm to me! BEGONE TRAITOR!! YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!(throws non-lukewarm feminist into bowels of the earth, re-emerges two hours later with comely white beard, horse, air of serenity)

"Does she honestly think that kids are an oppressed group?"

What's next - fat people?! Every time you suggest that conditions could be better for a particular group that hasn't gotten its sidewalk star on the Lukewarm Feminism Walk of Oppression, the wage gap increases. There's simply not enough room for all of us to want more equality! Why else do you think the trans people and disabled people have to wait in the basement even though the asbestos guy hasn't shown up yet though he said he'd come to get rid of it next week and they're starting to hyperventilate? What's with that guy anyway? Does anyone have his cell number? No? Do you think we should get a new guy? Could we vote on that maybe? We could do better, surely? No, and don't call you Shirley? What? — oh, ha! Ha ha! Ha! Nice one!

Anypoo, I think that just about wraps up this decade's illustrious Lukewarm Feminist Nipple Tassel of the Year Awards. As I gaze out over this remarkable audience, I see innumerable new members in our midst, and I'd like to formally welcome you all and thank you humbly for your attendance. Without you, we would have revolution - but with you by our sides, we'll have the half-hearted stagnation from which all equality is limply born.

*after birth of equality, please refrain from bringing equality to events unless they are specifically designated as family-friendly as equality can be intrusive, whiny etc