Guest post by Emma: Public Space

Emma_in_oz has identified as a feminist for fifteen years. (And as an SF fan, and as a medievalist, and as a fan of crafts, and…) Emma_in_oz is a single mother by choice – Pearl is nine months old.

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I have a friend who says ‘being child-unfriendly is just the same as being women-unfriendly’. I used to agree, but now that I have Pearl I really agree.

I went into town the other day – to set up a bank account for Pearl.* Negotiating the streets is more difficult with a pram. Getting up and down stairs is ridiculously difficult. The architects grudgingly provide some alternative for those on wheels, but it is always way, way, way more inconvenient and difficult than the stairs. Ironically those with prams and wheelchairs wind up covering much more ground than those without.

Being in the bank was incredibly awkward. With the pram we took up too much space. People had to squeeze past us to get to the other teller positions.

I asked three times if there was some little room we could go to for our business, but no. It took nearly two hours to set up the account. Apparently it is an incredibly difficult process to set up a bank account for someone else, especially someone who has almost no ID apart from a birth certificate. It’s not like parents would set up accounts for their children every day.

I wound up having to feed Pearl and then when I was juggling her and the food I dropped the container. (Of course the counter was not wide enough to put her on).** It was glass and broke, so then the people queued behind us had to squeeze past us over broken glass. Allow me to repeat, over broken glass.

The bank teller then decided to move us to one side. I thought I could put Pearl on the floor there as she was bored because I had held her for over an hour. But it turned out that the section of floor I placed her on was directly in front of a door that the bank tellers suddenly started popping in and out of (lunch rush).

There was, in a literal sense, no space for us.

There might as well have been a sign up, saying that this area was for adults only.

Given that most caring work is done by women, that’s the same as saying ‘women, you are not welcome in public places! Go home with your children!’

It drives me wild.

* Yes, I went to a child-unfriendly place to set up a child’s bank account. Oh the irony, it burns.
** It would have been worse if I had been in a wheelchair because at least I was able to see the counter.



Categories: gender & feminism, Life, social justice, work and family

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56 replies

  1. This drives me to madness as well.

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Emma.
    I was thinking something similar when I was in a cafe last week — a woman came in with a stoller, and, because the cafe was crowded, had to squeeze past me to find a seat, and it struck me that having an infant is just another thing that women are expected to apologise for. I had a backpack with me, and although I had stowed it under the table, I had allowed it to fall to the side, so that it blocked the pathway slightly — I was clearly in the wrong for not keeping control of my belongings, and yet this woman was apologising to ME simply because she wanted (quite rightfully) a clear passage to an empty table.

  3. Great post Emma. The idea that public space is for adults only is implicit in so much urban design and planning. I think you are spot on about the result too – the potential for greatly increasing social isolation for both children and parents and as you point out, adding disability to the mix exaccerbates this greatly. A couple of years ago in Britain a family with a child with autism fell foul of new public nuisance laws – because the child made unusual sounds and bounced on a trampoline in the family’s back garden. This is something I have experienced and I was forced to move house. I find that really disturbing – that the discrimination against children, particularly disabled children is being enacted in private as well as public space. I think the decreasing visibility of children in public is part of the problem. I think that the expectation of adult like behaviour in public is leading to the pathologizing of perfectly normal child behaviour.

  4. Sorry to hear you had that experience Emma, I wonder how long it would take that bank to set up a new account for an adult without much id just as a comparison…
    On a similar note, I was in Medicare yesterday to claim a refund and those offices are amazingly un-child-friendly too, as are most doctors surgeries for that matter. What exactly does general society think children are supposed to do when there are waiting times (that are often caused by systemic stupidness)?

  5. “Public space is for adults only” is only part of it. The default Person Moving Through Space is adult, completely able-bodied, in no hurry, not carrying anything, wearing lightweight summer clothes, and slim. It drives me up the wall that so many spaces, from residences to bus seats to public buildings, don’t accommodate strollers or groceries or puffy winter coats or strollers or furniture, let alone combinations thereof. After all, we only move furniture once a year at most, so it’s fine to make that impossible, right?
    And when I ranted about this in front of my father the ambulance attendant, he added another case: medical stretchers. If the door or walkway or office won’t accommodate a stroller/wheelchair/couch, how will it accommodate an injured person being moved to the hospital?
    Please excuse the tangent; it’s one of my buttons.
    It is true that blocking children means blocking parents, usually mothers. And it’s not reasonable to block mothers from all public spaces for several years. (Or demand that the children be left with babysitters, when there’s so much hostility to mothers putting their children in someone else’s care for a few hours?) It’s not reasonable to block children from being socialized that way either.

  6. Oh, and Australia Post is one of the worst offenders – they block up the aisles, etc with so much bloody CRAP that it is virtually impossible to access the counter for anything if you are in a scooter/wheelchair or pram. And it’s not like there are any other options – there are a number of postal type things you CANNOT do anywhere else.

  7. Rozasharn@5 – just trying to imagine the residence that doesn’t accomodate furniture… 🙂 Actually, my house is so small and the entrance hall so narrow that I’d have trouble getting a stroller or pram in, let alone a wheelchair. When I did have a mobility issue I used an office chair on wheels, which isn’t a very safe option. However, the house is over 100 years old, with double-brick walls inside and out, and metal-framed doorways, so I guess I have to accept that it’s just not ever going to be possible to make it more disabled friendly.
    I think that private residences (especially old ones) are in a different area of accessibility from public buildings like banks and Medicare offices.
    M-H’s last blog post..

  8. Post Offices, yes! I block the space at my local post office when I go, but what am I going to do? Not post letters? Not pay bills?
    And cafes! It is almost impossible to find a cafe in town where you can fit a pram in.
    Perhaps a more constructive approach would be to think of places where I can go easily…. the library, the community centre, the child health centre, the zoo, the park…. that’s about it, I think.

  9. Our Medicare office is pretty good, it has a huge flat screen TV and a box of toys. Also chairs. I have sat there and nursed my (then) newborn. There is also heaps of space, way enough for prams/wheelchairs etc.
    Opening my daughter’s bank account was a 5 minute process. I didnt have her birth cert with me (or any other ID for her) but they let me open it anyway (I just can’t withdraw from it until I bring in the birth cert).
    I agree about the PO though, shocking. Totally.

  10. There are a couple of other places I have found to be routinely kid friendly – Chinese restaurants and (ironically) pubs. Not all of course, but they tend to be my default options when I have the kids with me.
    I love the fact that it is impossible to navigate a pram through the average Target’s baby department.
    I flew back from Japan recently on an overnight flight with a number of babies. The babies were very quiet really, but I felt so much for their parents. The urgency and anxiety in their voices when they were trying to quiet them made me squirm with discomfort. Yes, they wake you up every time they cry, but so what? It’s one night, and perhaps if some sort of sensible arrangement were made for families on planes it wouldn’t be an issue. I think the woman across from me thought I was a freak because I kept offering assistance and picking things up for her because I felt guilty on behalf of the whole plane. 🙂
    Ariane’s last blog post..From DINK to Family of Five

  11. So sorry to hear about that, Emma. It’s as though children (and therefore carers) are some nuisance threatening the comfort and peace of the innocent public. And there are often pretty simple solutions to this stuff: putting in more chairs, moving things out of the way and above all being accepting and aware of people.

  12. The amazing thing is that businesses that are welcoming to children and parents often make a killing. I don’t mean deliberately cutesy, kid-friendly cafes, I just mean places with wider spaces for pushers and space for kids to be and open sight lines so kids don’t get lost behind shelves and those kinds of things.
    And yes, you really notice the much further you have to go on wheels to get anywhere and the poky tiny little lifts and ramps that get put in as if you are a terrible waste of space and resources for buildings.

  13. Pen: Yes! Sometimes I see new buildings with three steps up to the door, and a ramp off to the side, where there was enough space in front to just have a nice wide straight ramp for everybody. But the default is to plan for stairs, and act as though the ramp were an unexpected add-on every time. Life is hard enough in a wheelchair; you would think we would not add extra inconvenience.
    Somebody elsewhere on the web commented that the more they tried to get around with a stroller, the more they realized that some ‘disability access’ (in the U.S.A.) was punitive: seemingly designed to be so difficult as to discourage disabled people from using it.
    And M-H, yes, private buildings are a different area of accessibility. It’s just that I see the same thoughtless design operating in new construction in both areas.

  14. I’m nodding along here, although my experiences are with trying to navigate a wheelchair through tight spaces, not a pram.
    I went to a talk given by a blind woman once, and she made the point that she shopped at Wal-Mart, not because she liked it but because it was the only shop she went to that was fully accessible for her. When Don & I go to the independent bookstore, he can only browse the books up at the front because his chair just won’t go down the aisles. (The children’s bookstore, however, has movable shelving in the middle and anything can be moved. Too bad we don’t buy a lot of children’s books!)
    It really limits our shopping together to Big Box Stores, which we don’t like because we want to shop locally, and online, which has the same issues.
    It’s like they don’t want us around.

  15. Back when I was pushing a pram, my friends and I gave up trying to meet for coffee/lunch in cafes and started meeting at the local pub. Being traditionally male spaces, most pubs have plenty of room. Now that same pub has installed a kid’s play area so I’m guessing it’s a more common thing now.

  16. I agree PP, the fenced off beer garden can be a godsend with small children.

  17. There are some nice parks in Sydney (though very few and far between) that have a nice layout with play equipment enclosed and some seats for parents around the edges, what’s better is one is right opposite a cafe and near a train station, though I don’t think the train station had a lift! This doesn’t help if your kids are still babies. And it’s certainly not an attempt to invalidate all the points above!
    And yes, life with a pram and was incredibly difficult and as I didn’t drive, I’d have to get on and off buses, and every now and then you’d have some aggressive bus driver complaining about you ‘not being ready’, or ‘taking too long’.
    The other thing that would get to me is they’d ‘offer’ you a parents room and then you couldn’t get IN THERE without gymnastic manouevres that strained your back, or blocking the hallway cos the damned door was so heavy. Or they wouldn’t provide one and if you needed to use the bathroom you’d end up having to use facilities provided for people in wheelchairs so that *you* could go without leaving your child unattended and unsupervised out in a hallway (like that’s an appropriate thing to demand a parent be happy to do in order to be allowed a toilet break) and then once I got into trouble for using that facility from a store manager.
    fuckpoliteness’s last blog post..My, isn’t Sean Delonas in possession of a cutting-edge wit?

  18. You know, I’m in two minds here.
    A couple of years ago, we were in Thailand, and public space in Thailand is very kid-friendly; there are kids everywhere. Which is fabulous, and I’m all for it, and it’s wonderful.
    But the footpaths are incredibly narrow, and go up and down and are missing bits. And nothing at all is pram friendly. And in fact we only saw one pram in the time we were there – one. And it was being pushed by two westerners, who were clearly finding it extremely difficult.
    Babies and toddlers, up to quite large toddlers, were all being carried in slings, or just bits of fabric tied to an adult or an older child.
    Prams are a fairly recent phenomenon, historically. And are a definite symbol of affluence and privilege*. And in my opinion, a lie – another thing that has been sold to women as “necessary”, as something you have to have if you have a baby. Whereas in fact carrying a baby decreases their crying, reduces the stress hormones both they and their mother produce, and is all round easier because you don’t have to try to lug a pram around.
    I do understand that there are instances where they make life easier – my disabled nephew, for example, needs his. And if you have a condition that stops you from carrying a child, I understand that. But for the most part, I’ve walked around all sorts of public places with a baby in a large piece of fabric, and spare nappies in the handbag, and it’s a hell of a lot easier than trying to lug a pram around.
    * I have observed that the more affulent you are, the larger your pram needs to be. So around where we live, in a small apartment surrounded by the most part by million dollar plus homes, prams are outrageously large and are driven by their owners in much the same way as they drive their overly-large four-wheel drives. To the complete detriment of other pedestrians.

  19. I agree that the ‘stroller wars’ as I like to call them are completely out of hand. When I was pregnant with my daughter three years ago I remember seeing an ad for a denim Bugaboo stroller that retailed for about $1500 which I thought was quite frankly ridiculous, because there was nowhere to put the shopping. This link is for a UK shop, but at 635 pounds you get the drift.
    Which brings me to my next point about prams/strollers – at the times when I just couldn’t hack having the baby attached to me, or when I needed to do some shopping and have my hands free I found the stroller very useful. I could load it up with baby and shopping and then wander happily home. On rare occassions I loaded up the stroller and wore the baby so I could fit all my shopping in without having to get out the car.
    I think shops and shopping centres should re-think their layouts because if you can’t get through with a stroller, you sure as hell can’t get through with a wheelchair or scooter. While I had the option of not taking a stroller, most people don’t have the option of not taking their wheelchair.

  20. I think shops and shopping centres should re-think their layouts because if you can’t get through with a stroller, you sure as hell can’t get through with a wheelchair or scooter.
    Oh, often these shopping centres are very well thought out, in the worst way possible. The shopping centre closest to me was designed as a spiral shape, and if you have anything on wheels — a wheelchair, a stroller, a trolley — you have to either go around the entire spiral or use the slow, cramped, inefficient lifts. And it was designed this way on purpose to ensure that the maximum number of customers passed the maximum number of shops on their way through the centre. It’s disgusting.

  21. Mindy, I absolutely agree that shopping centres should re-design their layouts to accomodate wheelchairs.
    “when I needed to do some shopping and have my hands free”
    But you can very much carry a baby in a sling with your hands free – that’s one of the reasons why they’re so much easier than strollers – you don’t have your hands free with a stroller – unless you let go of it!

    (could someone pls admin magic picture kthx?)

  22. @ Rebekka, sorry I phrased it badly there. What I meant was not having bags of shopping hanging from my hands, plus a baby slung across my chest. I liked being able to put it all in the stroller and wander home without having to carry all the weight of the shopping. For window shopping trips I quite often used the baby bjorn with my son, as sadly I didn’t really look into slings until I had my daughter. She loved being in the sling, mostly.

  23. Ah, gotcha. I’m so used to lugging everything around because we don’t have a car (uni books, laptop, swimming gear, food shopping, sometimes all at once!) that I never even thought about pushing shopping around!

  24. I’m with Mindy – shopping in the pram, baby either in pram or sling. Carrying both just wasn’t going to happen!
    It’s also damn hard to sling a wriggly twitchy baby when you have an enormous abdominal wound, deal-breakingly uncomfortable in the heat for some, and dangerous when you have a hot drink in your hand; so there are plenty of possible reasons to use a pram some of the time. Public spaces should be accessible to wheeled devices full stop. The fact that there may be a way around it for _some_ wheeled-vehicle users – the most privileged ones – isn’t a reason not to provide accessibility.

  25. As a short person who is just able to see over a wheelchair, the thing that gets me the most is the fact that no matter how accessible neither me nor the person in the wheelchair can see over counters etc. Why does everything need to be so tall that it is uncomfortable for even my 6″11 boyfriend? Are we eagerly anticipating the day that all the added chemicals in our food make the average person 2 feet taller?
    Why is this necessary?

  26. Slings are great over short distances, particularly if you’re going from car to shop and only want one or two light things. They’re handy if you’re only going round the corner for a coffee, or if you’re getting on a tram and not planning to acquire anything while you’re out. But prams are very handy for carting home babies, toddlers and a week’s worth of food. I haven’t been to Thailand, but I gather it’s more common there to shop daily.
    My kid weighs nearly 14 kg. He will walk some of the way to the shop, but not all of it, and he’s likely to chuck a tanty at some stage (because that’s what supermarkets are designed for) and that means wriggling and squirming. I can’t carry him, and the shopping, without dropping or breaking something. If I had a second child it’d be even more of a juggle. My friend with twins basically can’t go anywhere.
    As for the Bugaboos: there’s no way I’d spend that kind of money on a pram (in fact, I didn’t spend any money on my pram, which also means I didn’t get to choose one I liked) but some of the parents in my playgroup chose them because they were the one with adjustable height handles (which I’d appreciate, as would my 6’4″ partner) and because they fit in the sort of small lifts you get in inner city apartment buildings. And they didn’t have any trouble getting all their market shopping in, the bag at the bottom is sort of expandable.

  27. Slings are good for very new babies, but my youngest weighed 6 kilos at 5 weeks, and the back-ache just wasn’t worth it.
    A pram, with lots of room underneath for the shopping, was great for long time-filling, sanity-saving walks, then at the end when he was asleep I could just leave him in it and go and stare at the wall for a while. Getting him out of the sling always woke him up.
    Rebbeka, lap-tops and trips to Thailand are probably symbols of affluence too, just sayin’.

  28. I deeply resent accessibility issues, with a girl in a wheelchair (she’s nearly 10) and a baby, we’re like the poster family for “can’t fucking get into that space.” What I notice is that despite our difference, and therefore visibility, we are actually Invisible to many people. And Inconvenient. And there are many, many public places where a woman wearing a baby and pushing a kid in a wheelchair can’t get into, and are therefore excluded from. Beyond pisses me off!
    Oh, and don’t start me on “disabled” parking and the abuses thereof! At one big shopping centre we go to, the lack of parking for wheelchair users is a disgrace, and the few spots provided are often in odd spaces and mean we all traipse along the road with the cars for up to 100 metres before the entrance! With regular parking closer. *sigh* To me, it’s just an everyday example of how caring work, parenting, and disability render women, children, and the different, invisible and unimportant to the general business of the capitalist patriarchy.
    Appreciate the space to rant. Rant over. Til next rant…
    Selene’s last blog post..Baby-wearing, a history of our travels in carrying our Lolly

  29. The biggest problem with disabled parking (apart from thoughtless placement) is the simple lack of it. Businesses and institutions stick to mandated minimums, if that, and those minimums are just completely inadequate for today’s population.
    Abuse of parking would be much less of a problem for PWD if there were simply more spaces. I’m going to be possibly mildly controversial here, and say that the allocation of spaces should take into account a realistic amount of abuse. Abusers should be heavily policed and heavily fined, absolutely. (You don’t need to get me started on that.) But if you only have two disabled spots for a large store, and one has someone in it who doesn’t need it – bang – the number of available spots is halved. That sucks, and it shouldn’t happen, and it’s avoidable. (Or minimisable.) Instead of saying to PWD “Sucks to be you, it’s that nasty person’s fault, bad luck”, we should say “This happens all the time; let’s punish the perp, but our responsibility doesn’t stop there. Let’s make sure PWD don’t get punished for it also”.
    I don’t think I’ve seen this said before, and I don’t know whether that’s a deficiency in my reading, or a genuine lack of this particular conversation.
    Actually, looking back, that really shouldn’t be controversial at all.

  30. I totally agree, L. It’s just another form of invisibility, to say, “well, it gets abused all the time, but let’s not actually DO anything real about it.” The number of spaces is also extremely poor, given the proportion of PWD in the population. Finding a disabled spot in peak times is a pain in the arse.
    I’ve also got a slightly controversial opinion about disabled parking: that red and blue zones should be separate and differently marked. Or at least, that those using a wheelchair or walking/mobility aid have specific zones. And that they should ALL be big enough to get the friggin thing out of the car. And they should actually have disabled access to the curb. And be near the entrance. And also they should come with a cappucino and donut. For keeping my energy up, ya know 😉

  31. That’s not controversial to me, Selene – wheeled-access parking and proximity parking are quite different things, and treating them the same hurts both camps. At UWA, for example, the library ACROD parking is a long, long way from the building, because they’ve put it next to a ramp. The proximity parking could be much closer. (Or they could build an actual ramp near the building…)
    I like the cappucino and doughnut ideas especially.

  32. I end up only shopping places I can walk to with a pram, where they let me in the door. Our post office isn’t great, but I’m fortunate not to need it often. Pretty much anything else I buy online, but not all websites meet accessibility standards so that’s not a solution for everyone (and hey, it’s not such a big ask to want to try clothes on before you shell out). I find op shops are generally pretty accessible to prams and are kid friendly, I can’t vouch for their accessibility for PWD.
    For people in Melbourne, the Queen Vic shopping centre has a pretty good family room, a bench seat for feeding, a big bench and sinks for washing kids (whole body washing if necessary) and an accessible toilet – room to park a pram where you can see it, and a toddler-size loo too. So you can all go together. Just like at home. The thing I particularly like is that it’s not up in a dark corner of the building, so far away you can’t be bothered walking all the way there, it’s just beside the food area, next to the Ladies. Myer, on the other hand, are the Shop From Hell.

  33. I’d like to get my hands on this book. My parents live in a village/community where kids can’t actually reside, but they are welcome to stay over on the holidays / swim in the pool / potter in the garden allotment / help out if they’re doing something down at the communal hall. I wonder if the communities in this book exclude kids full stop – that would suck mightily.
    Just as an aside, in my parents’ community pets aren’t allowed except in certain limited circumstances, e.g. you already own an elderly small dog when you move in. That would get me down, seriously, as well as the absence of children. (My parents aren’t dog people so it doesn’t bother them.)

  34. I like a sling, but I use the pram whenever I do any shopping or have library books or whatever.

  35. I don’t have children, but I’m 100% with you, Emma. I’m often horrified at the frequency I see women made to feel guilty for expecting to use public spaces with their children (and associated prams, equipment, etc.) If this is how often I notice it, how often must it happen to these mothers and carers? If I catch the eye of these women, I’ll smile in sympathy or encouragement, and where appropriate move/offer help/shift things out of their way. I feel even worse when they feel the need to say sorry or are surprised that someone is smiling rather than frowning.
    This intolerance is completely unacceptable, and further adds to the stigma of public parenting. Women being expected to disappear when they have children is another symptom of women being unwelcome in society when they are no longer simple, sexualised objects. If you can’t be young and attractive, can you at least stay out of the way?
    madeinmelbourne’s last blog post..I shouldn’t be ashamed, I haven’t done anything wrong.

  36. I’m going to risked being flamed here and talk about it from a different perspective – people I know who work in retail, especially in cafes and the behaviour they see as being annoying and sometimes dangerous and the shit they sometimes cop from parents.
    For instance; talking today with a woman who also has kids and owns a cafe. She tries to make the cafe child friendly. But it drives her nuts when parents let kids draw in the picture books she supplies, when the parents allow kids to draw on tables and walls with the crayons she supplies, when parents get pissed off with her when she asks them to arrange their prams in ways that would make life a bit easier for her staff.
    Her worst experience was with a table load of parents who allowed their toddlers to run around her cafe unsupervised. One child was only at the crawling stage and was running the danger of being tripped over by waiting staff and actually crawled into the kitchen area. Whenever she asked the parents to look after their kids, she was met with apathy and finally rudeness.
    There’s also a friend who works in a bookshop and is sick of kids damaging stock by grabbing them and hurling them on the floor and another who works in a plant nursery who had the strange experience of a young child who started hurling pot plants on the ground. Too often when they ask the parents to stop the child’s behaviour, they’re met with a shrug.
    None of these people are child unfriendly, but they all have their horror stories. So, all I’m saying is it cuts both ways. If we live in the city, we all have to crowd in which sets up inconveniences all round.

  37. When I’m working, I find adults far more annoying than children, as very few children have ever come into my hotel drunk, or tried to rob me at gunpoint or knifepoint for cigarettes (not that I’m bitter).
    I have all sorts of horror stories about customers being jerks to me and my staff. We don’t make it difficult for adults to go into businesses. We don’t discourage people from coming into the hotel.
    Yes, of course, everyone has stories about children behaving badly (or, more specifically, parents behaving badly). We don’t tell the stories about children who behaved in great ways or parents who decided that if their children weren’t going to behave they would leave. Those stories don’t really stick with us because they’re not irritating. (I can’t tell you the details of a single non-dramatic night at work, but I can talk for hours about working NYE.)
    To say “we live in a city, so we have to crowd in” sounds a bit like those who can’t “crowd in” (like Don and his rather large wheelchair, or my friend who’s using crutches right now, or anyone with a pram) should just stop going out because it’s too inconvenient for other people. We live with people of a variety of sizes who have a variety of spatial needs. Instead of demanding one-size-fits-all, I think the answer is realizing that one size doesn’t fit all, and adjusting accordingly.

  38. I agree Anna. Adults behave badly all the time. In fact in the stories I told, it was the adults behaving badly. The children are way too young to take any responsiblity for their behaviour. Children behave well too, of course. My point is that parents behave badly at times and to know talk about that ignores part of the issue. Some parents are very self-entitled. Should that not be mentioned?
    As for drunks in pubs. Horrible to deal with and it’s against the law to serve an intoxicated person. You have every right to ask them to leave. So, where’s the analogy?
    The stories I told weren’t about kids being irritating. The people involved wouldn’t make a fuss about that. They have kids themselves. It was about kids damaging property and behaving dangerously, which is a different kettle of fish. And the parents not caring.
    As for the squeezing in comment. What’s wrong with a waitress working in a small space (which inner-city cafes usually are) asking for someone to rearrange their pram so she can do her work? Consideration cuts both ways and some of those prams are huge.
    Yes, I have friends in wheelchairs and scooters. I know that the built environment usually doesn’t work for them and I know that should change.

  39. My point is that parents behave badly at times and to know talk about that ignores part of the issue. Some parents are very self-entitled. Should that not be mentioned?

    Indeed, this is not an essential part of any post or thread about the lack of accommodations for parents and children in public spaces, Fine. Do I talk about how some disabled people act in nasty ways sometimes, every single time I post about disability accommodations? Should I place a large flashing disclaimer that some feminists weren’t very nice to someone once, every time I post about feminism?
    You’re concern trolling, it’s annoying, and it’s rude to our guest poster. Please stop.

  40. Why should all people who bring children into so-called public spaces be punished because some are poorly behaved? Some people get belligerent or obnoxious when they’re drunk. Are we closing the bars?
    No one here is saying that it’s okay for adults who are supervising children to be rude or dismissive of people who are trying to work. Of course servers should be able to ask folks to please move their prams, just like servers often ask Don if he could shift his chair a bit forward or backwards so they can get past him. But if he refuses, the person being rude is Don, and that shouldn’t affect whether or not public spaces are made fully accessible. They often have to ask me to move my bags. If I refuse, I’m being rude. This shouldn’t reflect on all women with long hair and glasses.
    Saying “Well, some parents are rude” isn’t really a counter argument to “we should have public spaces for adults and children”. Of course some parents are rude. So are some non-parents. So are some servers. So are some bank tellers. So are some people with disabilities. How is this relevant to anything?

  41. Lauredhel, I don’t believe I’m either being rude or concern trolling, because I’m not immediately agreeing with everything which is being said. I think that’s an incredibly silencing attitude. Of course the fact that some parents are very self-entitled is relevant to the post. I also think there’s quite a bit of hyperbole and misreading about my comment going on. However, it’s your space and I respect that, so I shall depart.

  42. Ok, I’m just going to throw in my two cents here: I don’t think Fine was intentionally trying to derail the thread. There are some backs up, and that’s okay, but lets not get angry with each other. We all agree that people don’t behave as they should sometimes, let’s leave it at that can we?

  43. Ok, my comment crossed with Fine’s.

  44. I agree. My understanding of concern trolling (which is based on the wikipedia definition and may be false!) is that it is usually engaged in by people who are actually of the contrary point of view, using a sockpuppet identity, as a form of baiting. I don’t think Fine is trying to do that; she is trying to express a point of view. I was accused of concern trolling here a few weeks ago, which really upset me at the time as my internet identity and history is open for inspection in many places and I would never, ever play games like that. Disagreeing with a post is not concern trolling. Pretending to partially agree for the purpose of undermining the poster is. And I don’t think that Fine was trying to do that either.
    M-H’s last blog post..A boost to the ego

  45. Mindy: actually, yes, I am angry. Because many, many times when people try to have a conversation about the BASIC CIVIL RIGHT for public accommodations for parents or for people with disabilities, someone feels compelled to stick their derailing oar in and talk about how some parents or PWD are inconsiderate, as if it makes a difference to the point of the post. As if perhaps society shouldn’t accommodate PWD and families just because of some people’s memories of the behaviour of a few. This is classic, classic, classic bigoted behaviour. “Good blacks and bad blacks”. “Good gays and bad gays”. “Good women and bad women”. Can you see the link?
    Fine’s history here on this blog is available for all to see, and I know it well; and if anyone has a problem with any moderation of this thread, I’d thank you to email me, as per the comment guidelines.

  46. So…you don’t think there is such a thing as a parent who is less than perfect? Or, if there is, no-one has any right to say so? Well, I’ll hold my hand up: I’ was not a perfect parent. I made mistakes, and as a result my kids pissed people off sometimes. As other people’s kids do to me sometimes.
    M-H’s last blog post..A boost to the ego

  47. M-H: Please read what I wrote. No person is perfect, and no group of people is composed entirely of people who are perfect. _This has no bearing on the point of the post_.

  48. I said I’d depart, but I just have to say one thing, because I’m feeling most aggrieved about my behaviour being described as bigoted.
    The post was about mothers and children in public spaces. I wrote about a cafe owner who’s a mother and OMG a feminist. She wants her cafe to be child friendly, both because it’s good business ansd because it’s the right thing to do. Just today, she expressed the frustrations she was feeling because of the problems it caused for her, which she wasn’t expecting. She was actually trying to work out those issues for herself. What’s a reasonable standard of behaviour from children? What are her responsibilities in this issue as a feminist?
    I have no idea about how this comment could be termed irrelevant or bigoted. It’s about the original post from the perspective of someone who operates such a space and has some issues
    Bigoted, rude, irrelevant? Nah.

  49. It sounds like Emma’s experience in the bank wouldn’t have been much different whether she was using a sling or a pram. I used a sling a lot with both babies. Slings don’t help much if you have to spend 2 hours in a bank with an older baby/toddler. Neither of my children would spend a long time bound to me when I was sitting or standing still. The fact is, whether you use a pram or not, as soon as you have children you exceed your allocated boundaries. You spill over. There is the dream of the sling, where they nuzzle, they’re close and safe and part of your body. There’s the fact of slings where livewires like Freckles struggle to be free and explore the world unfettered.

  50. Fine, at the very least your comment is irrelevant, the post is about accommodating people on wheels. The only way your comment could be relevant is if you are arguing that people on wheels should not be accommodated because a few of them are rude and obnoxious. Otherwise people’s bad behavior is a totally different subject. Just because one or a half dozen parents don’t keep watch over their children doesn’t mean the hundreds who do should just stay home.

  51. “Fine, at the very least your comment is irrelevant, the post is about accommodating people on wheels.”
    Bullshit. The post is very plainly about mothers and children in public space. The discussion then moved onto people on wheels as well. Not the same thing. I was addressing the initial post. I gave the perspective of someone who identifies as a feminist, works in retail and talks about the issues that raised for her. Talk about deliberate misreading.

  52. Fine, please stop commenting here until you have made a substantial, good-faith effort to understand the reasons behind the objections are to your comments, and we can see evidence of same.

    Perhaps we could abandon the derail now and get back to the point of the post.

  53. What Fine’s comment reminds me of (excluding the city point, can’t say I agree with that) is that kids have been excluded for so long, no-one really knows how to deal with them in a public space any more. Some times it is the parents failing utterly, sometimes it is the people around them. And some times it is the kids themselves. They get so few opportunities, they just don’t get the chance to learn how to behave well in a public space.
    I know this is a limitation with my kids, and it frustrates me immensely that it is so difficult to find places in which I can socialise them until they are much older than I would prefer.

  54. @ Fine:

    “Fine, at the very least your comment is irrelevant, the post is about accommodating people on wheels.”
    Bullshit. The post is very plainly about mothers and children in public space.

    Bullshit yourself. You surely can’t have been commenting here for as long as you have without realising that derailing a post about disparities in access with Just-So stories about Folks Behaving Badly (implying that Therefore Access Demands Are Unreasonable) is ten different kinds of fucked up distracting tactics.

  55. @ Ariane:
    Good point. I think that more retailers should take the option of requiring Parents Supervising Badly to pay damages costs and perhaps barring them to show the consequences of bad behaviour to both the onlooking kids and their parents.
    This is not to say that there can’t ever be problems with ostracism/isolation/exclusion as a socialising tool (see the whole Jim Crow era for a recent example), but applied to actions rather than classes of people it is a very effective socialising tool.

  56. Apologies Lauredhel, my two cents didn’t help at all.
    If I may make a suggestion for an addition to the comments policy: If you have a dissenting view or who want to explore a particular facet of an issue more closely write up something on your own blog and link to it in comments.
    Apologies if this is already in the fine print.

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