Another “Go read this” Post

Because there’s nothing I could say that would add to this.

Sneak preview:

If you are raised on the notion that earth is just a passing thing, and we’re only here for a gnat’s eye-lash bat, then you are going to be focused on the Hereafter, assuming that’s where you (and everyone else) will spent eternity. You’ve been taught that your life here doesn’t matter much and so you are to prepare for the life after death. And that’s where your focus is, often to the exclusion of some very real pain right in front of you. It’s a spiritual myopia that helps contribute to Christianity’s lousy reputation.

You have idiots like that guy in Florida spending calories to organize a woe-begotten “protest” to burn Islam’s holy book. And for what? For. What?

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Children and Public Spaces

Feministe has a post that sparked tons of discussion and controversy.

I’m currently childless, but very much pro-kid, which puts me in an odd spot in this conversation. I think that, of course, in places where “adult” activities are going on, it’s reasonable to prohibit children–most bars or nightclubs, adult toy stores, strip clubs. You know, places where the mere presence of a kid is likely breaking a law. And I doubt anyone is seriously arguing against that, but more against the expansion of “child-free spaces” from places that should absolutely never have children to include places where it might be a bad idea for children to be, or places where someone has arbitrarily decided that they don’t want children.

As a comment to the original post, La Lubu describes a ridiculously child-unfriendly 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[…]

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. […] 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 […]—could she call her supervisor so we could get this resolved? 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.

That’s a prime example of the arbitrary and ridiculous. Kid’s harming no one, doing nothing wrong. And her mom has to waste valuable time that she could be visiting her injured cousin trying to find a place for her daughter to be.

Someone further down in the comment thread suggested that it was less because “kids are disruptive” and more because “kids are germy” and that it was a health and safety precaution. To which I call BS. If an adult was there coughing, the hospital staff would probably hand them a mask and some hand sanitizer, not tell them to go away. Plus, this is the waiting room, not the ICU. Even if 11-year-olds are more likely to spread germs than 12-year-olds, it isn’t as though she’s going to touch or breathe on someone who’s in intensive care. (Plus, if it were health and safety, I think the age level would be lower. By eleven, most kids have pretty well figured out hygiene.)

More likely, the rule is based on the assumption that kids eleven and younger are likely to be disruptive. Statistically speaking, that might be true, but it’s not fair to tell a kid “get lost” from a space they have a reason to be, and whose rules they are following, just because they’re of an age that they *might* cause problems. Adults don’t get thrown out of public spaces until they actually cause problems; the same “innocent until proven obnoxious” standard should be applied to kids.

It also seems really irrational to keep kids out of an ICU waiting room. What if it were this girl’s parent or sibling who was injured and maybe dying? Even if she can’t be in the room with the family member, why deny her the ability to be nearby, to have the adult visiting relay “I love you’s” between the injured person and the kid? And it’s not like illness and injury only affect people who are “old enough” to handle it. That girl’s been a patient in the ICU, after all.

Further down in the comments, Ellie, a restaurant owner, talks about the flip side of the “child-free spaces” issue:

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.

She further pointed out that if parents are asked to quiet a disruptive child, it can be taken as telling them how to parent or being child-hating. Another commenter talked about how she was talking REALLY LOUDLY in a restaurant. The waiter asked her to quiet down, and she did. Meanwhile, a two-year-old behind her was screaming and jumping up and down in her high chair, eventually tipping it, which resulted in even more screaming.

On BitchPhD, Sibyl Vane has a post about why “not liking kids” is bigoted, similar to any other dislike of a big group of people (a race, religion, nationality, disability, etc., though she points out really clearly that she’s not saying “being a kid is just like being Minority X”). She points out, and is annoyed that she has to point out:

[Children] are human beings. Actual members of society. Who, yes, happen to be in a dependent position. Nonetheless, inasmuch as they are members of society, they have a claim on society to help care for them in their dependence so that they do not starve.[…] you do have to deal with his presence in public spaces, even if he’s acting like a little turd; […] you do need to deal with the times when I bring him into work because there is work I can’t put off and there is no one else who can care for him on that day […] And in exchange, my friends, I and he have an obligation to deal with you when you have had a shitty day and are being a turd in a public space

So, okay, lots of conflicting needs and issues to reconcile and try to address. There’s the fact that certain activities, like drinking, have a legal age limit. And because people providing alcohol are held responsible if someone underage gets some from their establishment (even if they provided a really good fake ID or were given a sip on the sly by an adult who was carded), it’s reasonable for those business-people to ban kids all-together. Some don’t, particularly bar & grill restaurants, because a lot of their customers are families, but that’s their call to make.

For any public space where there’s not a law being broken (or likely to be broken) by a child just *being* there, it’s not reasonable to ban kids or set arbitrary age limits. A library or a hospital or a restaurant shouldn’t have the right to kick someone out for being the wrong age. This is not only discriminatory towards children, but also effectively sexist. As tons of people pointed out, restrictions on kids end up being restrictions on women, who still end up doing most of the childcare.

What they *should* be allowed to do, however, is enforce behavior requirements that are appropriate to that space. If I’m at a library trying to do homework, I have a reasonable expectation that a kid running around and screaming will be asked to leave. I have the same reasonable expectation that a grown-up couple having a loud argument, or an adult talking loudly on their cell phone, will be asked to leave. Similar thing for a fancy restaurant. If I go to a busy, popular chain and I’m annoyed by loud conversation (kids or adults), too bad for me for going to a characteristically noisy space and expecting quiet. But if it’s a swanky restaurant where Mr. Thinkstoomuch and I are celebrating an anniversary, yeah, we do have a reasonable expectation of our dinner being quiet and peaceful.

That doesn’t mean that kids shouldn’t be *allowed* in that space, just that the standards of behavior for a space should be adhered to. Kids aren’t always to blame for not adhering to those standards. They don’t get to choose where they go, and they have shorter attention spans than grown-ups, and babies especially don’t have a way to make discomfort or anxiety known other than screaming. But, if parents are in a space where there’s an expectation of quiet, and they can’t get a kid settled down, it’s not unreasonable to ask the group to leave. It sucks, because it’s not the kid’s fault, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable as long as the waiter or librarian or hospital staff waits til there’s an actual problem, points out the problem, and only kicks people out if they won’t or can’t solve it.

The idea of behavior rules rather than age limits pretty much strikes a balance between the right of kids to be in public spaces, the right of parents to actually have lives, and the expectation of certain public spaces to be quiet, or conducive to adult conversation, or other requirements.

I say “pretty much” because people certainly use behavior requirements as a sort-of-but-not-really subtle way of discriminating against a group. You could certainly still discriminate against kids by making behavior requirements so stringent that no kid could ever follow them (like kicking a family out the instant a child cries, even if they’re soothed in thirty seconds and it never escalates to full-volume screaming).

Overall, I don’t think we integrate kids into society enough. We separate them, putting them with just their age group most of the day, and then expect them to know the rules and expectations of mixed-age groups, without ever really being taught. So, the more chances kids have to be in public spaces and learn to navigate them, the better. And this has the added benefit of not screwing over parents, mothers in particular. So it should be a win all around.

Blogroll Addition

This really well-written post by Attack Laurel reminds me that I need to add her to my blogroll.

I like the fact that she talks about religion being used and twisted by abusers, without implying that religion in general or Christianity in particular are bad things.

I read this , which Attack Laurel linked, and I felt disgusted, but also angry.

All that stuff about Eve being flawed because she wasn’t part of the original creation–it’s a thin and cheesy fake theology justification for hate and evil and abuse. God made Eve because Adam needed her, remember? He was *alone* and that was *not good.* She was important, valuable. Not some slapped-on, second-rate afterthought.

How much hate do you have to have inside to believe that the God you worship made half of all humans

a perversion of the original creation[..]Only a piece, scrap, made of a man, to deceive him by

Evil, hateful, blasphemous words. Funny how Jesus spoke to a lot of women, many of whom were the immoral women that this pastor rails on about, and such ugly words never crossed his lips.

Superbowl Stabby

Reblogging: If Fatshionista can do it, I can too, right? I originally posted this on the Shapely Prose forum, and since I haven’t been posting much of late, recycling things I wrote before I had this blog is better than nothing, right?

I was supposed to be hosting a Superbowl party last night. Because of the massive snow, the “party” turned into me and the hubby watching the game and playing World of Warcraft. I mostly watch the Superbowl for the commercials, some of which were funny and awesome. Particularly the Budweiser clydesdale making friends with the cow. And everything about the house made of beer cans but the last bit with the girl in the shower.

Two ads in particular made me very very stabby*. FloTV and Dodge can both bite me. Because we all know that what every woman wants is a husband or boyfriend who she can control. Because we’re evil and heartless like that, and totally have all the power in the world.

The FloTV ad has a narrator talking about how this guy’s girlfriend has “removed his spine” and you see him go underwear shopping with her, advising her on what scent of candles to buy, etc., all when he really wants to be home watching the game. So, he should get a little TV so that he can watch football while he’s being dragged around by his mean, evil girlfriend.

I don’t know about you all, but I totally want a guy to follow me around like a puppy on a leash and have him jump when I snap. I mean, isn’t that every woman’s goal in the universe? /snark

The Charger one had the tagline of “Man’s Last Stand.” It featured a bunch of guys saying things like “I will be civil to your family…I will take out the trash.” etc. etc. etc. “And in return, I’ll drive whatever I want” (or words to that effect).

What’s especially stabby-pain inducing about the Charger one is that these guys are talking about what are mostly common decency relationship things (and things that *she’s* probably doing as well) as though they’re some kind of horrible slavery. Wow, you’ll be civil to my parents? Thanks ever so much, my knight in shining armor. And you’ll actually do some of the work of maintaining a household? I think I’m about to swoon. Oh, *and* you’ll resent everything you ever do for me deeply and bitterly, to the point where you figure your “sacrifice” is equal in value to a $25,000 car. That’s twoo wuv right there.

I think the combination of the two makes it even worse. On the one hand, an exaggerated portrayal of a woman keeping her guy so “whipped” that he’s helping her shop instead of watching the game he wants to watch. On the other, the idea that taking out the trash or not being rude to the woman’s family is some horrible sacrifice. Those two things go together, so a woman can’t even make a reasonable request, however small, without having to worry about slipping into “nagging controlling bitch” territory. And then be told that she has all the power. Gah.

*Both that this stuff gives me a stabbing pain and that it makes me want to stab something.

Beautiful You

I hear this song all the time on Christian radio, and I want so very much to like it. The first verse is fantastic.

Little girl fourteen flipping through a magazine, Says she wants to look that way
But her hair isn’t straight, her body isn’t fake, and she’s always felt overweight

I remember feeling that way at fourteen. And at sixteen. And at twenty. And every now and again at twenty-nine, though it’s getting better. I think those couple lines beautifully sum up how hard it is to be an average-looking girl in a world where we’re bombarded with unrealistic beauty all the time. I like the way the “her body isn’t fake” bit alludes to silicone and airbrushing—the girl in the magazine doesn’t really look that way either.

I also like how it says that the title girl has always *felt* overweight. We don’t know if she’s fat or not, and that ambiguity lets fat girls and thin girls alike relate to her. It also hints at the way nobody can ever be thin enough to feel like she’s beautiful.

I’m even more in love with the end of that first verse:

…you were made with such care your skin your body and your hair Are perfect just the way they are”

Not just “beauty is on the inside,” but your body is perfect and beautiful as-is, flaws and all. We aren’t told this nearly enough, women especially and young girls most of all.
But when we get to the second verse is when I start to have severely mixed feelings. “Little girl twenty-one” annoys me because a female 21-year old is a woman, not a girl. And the “things that [she’s] already done” seem to consist largely of sex. Why is it always sex that’s the biggest, most horrible sin there is? Not lying or cruelty or greed—always sex, especially for a woman.

And we’ve got two guys in this scenario, both pretty stereotypical. Her current boyfriend, who’s just using her for sex, and the mythical guy who’s out there somewhere and “will love [her] for the jewel [she is].” There’s a lot of problematic stuff there.

First off, what if she doesn’t find True Love Guy? In a song that tries to build young women up, it bugs me to see the subtle implication that her worth and happiness should be dependent on finding a guy to love her.

Secondly, the song comes off as patronizing—a combination of referring to a grown woman as a little girl and the slut-shaming, I think. That it’s sung by a guy only adds to that effect—we have a man standing in a position of authority, telling the little girl woman how to fix her life.

I still want to like this song. I’m all about the body positivity and the message of forgiveness; I just don’t need a bunch of sexist tropes alongside that. (This is not to rag on the songwriter, by the way—there’s a lot there that I like. But the problematic stuff is worth talking about.)