What if I told you there was an article going around Facebook called 26 Reasons Women Shouldn’t Be Scientists, with photographs of women doing dumb things? And that the comments were full of men gleefully agreeing that women were idiots and they sure counted themselves lucky that they were able to work in a woman-free industry. What if I told you that some men are calling for a return of Male Only Dining Clubs and restaurants because they don’t like the fact that women talk and laugh loudly at restaurants. Or that they want Male Only flights because men are tired of women being late and causing flight delays? You’d think it was outrageous, right? And utterly wrong. It would be wrong even IF women ARE noisy at restaurant or late for flights. Right? I’m glad we’re all in agreement here. And I for one am glad that circulating such an offensive and misogynistic article would result in an uproar.
There is no such article. But that doesn’t mean discrimination is dead.
I recently happened upon 26 Important Reminders Why Birth Control Exists being posted on Facebook. It features 26 photos of children making giant messes. At first I assumed it was meant as a joke. Because, surely, some unexpected Crayola art on my wall is an infinitesimal inconvenience in light of the infinite worth of a human life. I mean, nobody ACTUALLY thinks that “they might spill paint on the floor” is a reason kids shouldn’t exist. Or so I thought until I saw the comments. And then I felt physically ill.
Because, for a lot of people, it wasn’t a joke. Statements like, “Exactly. This is why I’m never having children.” or “This is why animals are better than kids.” or “Thank God I’m sterile.” “This is why the only children I want have paws.” “Kids are sticky and they smell bad. F*** that.” graced the combox.
I’d like to write it off as just a handful of offensive internet commenters. But it’s not just a few people. There’s a whole movement promoting child-free spaces. I’m not talking about couples who choose not to have children. That’s a separate matter and it’s not any of my business. What I’m talking about is widespread and accepted discrimination against children. Blanket statements such as “I don’t like children” as if the millions of kids all over the world are all exactly the same and simply not to your taste. What I’m talking about are the pushes for child-free restaurants, airplane flights, church services, you name it. The idea that it’s fine to just “not like being around kids” giving you the right to never have to brush shoulders with any of the little beings who may inconvenience you with their messes, laughter, shenanigans, and wonder. It baffles me.
Kids are just people and people are inconvenient. The lady with the shrieking laughter at the quiet restaurant. The man taking up the whole grocery aisle with his wheelchair. The teenager with Tourettes who keeps interrupting the church service. The waitress with an irritating voice. Wouldn’t it be nice if everywhere we went, we could avoid being inconvenienced or annoyed? Unfortunately, humans are inconvenient. But it doesn’t make them any less worthwhile. Should we ban irritating laughers from public places? Of course not. Should we ban wheelchairs in grocery stores because they might getting down an aisle more difficult? Obviously, that would be ridiculous. Can we request that the teenager with Tourettes not attend church with us because it’s distracting? No, that would be awful. Can people with irritating voices be removed from the food industry? C’mon. Every human soul deserves respect and dignity.
But what about the ill-behaved children with the bad parents? Can we exile them? Sure, parents hold a lot of responsibility here. Parents should use good judgement and teach children to be thoughtful of others. That certainly might include not bringing a two-year-old to that fancy restaurant after bedtime when he won’t be at his best. But banning children from restaurants won’t guarantee you an annoyance-free evening. The way that woman in the next booth eats her peas might just drive you nuts. Unless you want to become a hermit, you’re going to have to live beside other people.
And not wanting to be around children because you don’t like them is not “a personal preference,” as a commenter claimed on a post about my regrets over not inviting children to our wedding. A personal preference is taking your coffee black instead of adding cream and sugar. Disliking a huge swath of humanity is called a prejudice. And we wouldn’t stand for it if the horrible things said about children were said about any other group of people on this earth. I mean just imagine someone saying, “I don’t want to invite anyone over the age of 80 to my wedding because I just have never liked old people.” That’s not a personal preference, that’s ageism. Or “I don’t like eating at restaurants that serve people of X ethnicity.” That’s not a personal preference, that’s racism. Or, “I try to avoid women because I don’t like them.” That’s called misogyny. Why is it then acceptable to discriminate against children and say hateful things about them?
Life is messy. Kids are messy. But there’s no mess or inconvenience that could ever compare to the infinite worth of a human soul, made in the image of God. I don’t know how we’ve forgotten this. Never in human history have children been viewed as inconveniences instead of gifts, blessings for a whole community. People who spill paint, drop their sippy cups, and smear toothpaste on the bathroom wall are still people worthy of love and respect. No one has the right to an inconvenience-free life, but children do have the right to be treated with the respect due any human being–and that means you just might have to sit next to a child someday when you’re out and about. Who knows. You might realize that one quarter of humanity is cooler than you thought.
UPDATE: COMMENT POLICY
After receiving numerous comments from the “brat free” community I’m unfortunately going to have to place some guidelines here. If you use hateful language about me or my family or other parents and children (that includes the offensive terms “moo” and “breeder” for mothers and “sprogs” for children) or offensive hate speech about racial minorities or the LGBT community, your comment will not be approved. Such language has no place here. Disagreement is fine. Hate is not.