A thought experiment

This is a thought experiment directly related to bluemilk’s A couple of things to bear in mind with the ‘slacker mum’ movement post which is also cross-posted at her blog and a comment left on her Twitter stream last night. (you can follow @bluemilk). Also read this great post by Michelle at Crooked Fences (@ mamabook).

So lets say you are a parent.  There are going to be a few people judging you about that choice simply because you made it (regardless of the circumstances it was made in).

Now lets add in: occasionally your child  goes out in public with unbrushed hair. Here come a few more judgements.

Now, your child is out in public with unbrushed hair and clothes that are a little oil stained but still look as though they have been washed recently. Can you feel the weight of judgement mounting?

Now lets add some judgements about your child’s bodyshape (regardless of what zie’s parents look like because the judgers don’t care).

Now lets add in another child.

Let’s stop there for a moment – at this point although there are going to be a few judgy people about no one is that likely to be dobbing you into DOCS/Child Services or whatever. This is where I sit on the spectrum, and I suspect that many people talking publicly about themselves as part of the ‘slacker mum’ movement sit too. I don’t know this, it is my ‘feelpinion‘.

Okay, so you can be a slackish parent and no one takes that much notice, except for the judgy people who are just judgy.

Now lets add in some more factors:

You believe in homeschooling or unschooling. You will probably be labelled ‘hippy’ or ‘feral’  and have the judgments that come with that on you too.

You have more than two children.

You have two or more other parents with whom you created these children.

You are a single parent.

You are a single parent with shared custody.

You have a step child/children.

You have a disability or one of your children does.

You are trans.

You are not heterosexual.

You are unemployed or underemployed.

You receive welfare.

You are non white.

None of these things make you a bad parent (just as not ticking any of these boxes necessarily makes you a good parent). But in the eyes of the judgers your children are at risk. Anyone down this end of the scale is probably in danger of being reported to the authorities. Not because you are a bad parent, but just because of the judgement society makes on people who don’t enjoy the privileges of money, white-ness, able-ness, cis-ness and all those other things that people seem to find so important when raising children as if well rounded human beings have never come from parents who aren’t perfect models of white/able/heterosexual-ness or that really fucked up kids have never come from  cis white het parents.

The reality is the less your privilege the more your choices come under scrutiny, regardless of what is actually happening with your children.


SoTBO: people who don’t have children whether by choice or not are also judged, often harshly.

Categories: Life, parenting, relationships

Tags: ,

7 replies

  1. I definitely remember going out with a toddler when he was still at the age where he would get filthy in between getting dressed in the morning and getting out the door (and I sure wasn’t dressing him all over again) and thinking about how I could get away with it because people see a grubby white child and think “adorable urchin”, whereas if I was, say, Aboriginal, they would be thinking “she doesn’t keep her child clean”.

  2. OT: I love the picture you chose for this posting.
    Mindy: I thought the article you linked was very good and to the point, even though I’d never heard of Chrissie Swan. (I assume it’s because I’m on the opposite side of the planet.)
    Maybe it’s just my Western, over-educated, white male privilege speaking, but it struck me how many of the incidents that article described involved people acting like the rules of polite, decent behavior suddenly no longer applied. E.g., you don’t need to know anything about disability issues to know that making snarky comments about someone’s sex life — or someone’s spouse — is a jerk move. Or that snatching a stranger’s baby is (*shakes head*) just plain _wrong_ in more ways than I can count.
    I can’t help thinking that if somebody wants to not be a racist, classist, sexist, etc. (or not be accused of it), a good first step is to increase the set of people you won’t be a jerk to to include the whole human species. IMHO, this (don’t act like a jerk) shouldn’t even need saying. Isn’t this what you’re supposed to learn in kindergarden? Or maybe in Sunday School?

  3. @AMM – it’s a great picture isn’t it?
    I agree simply not being a jerk to people seems simple enough and certainly you would expect people to learn it in kinder if not before. Where is all goes wrong, I’m not entirely sure.

  4. Although the reason I think the ‘don’t be a jerk’ thing doesn’t always works is that I bet that women who picked up the child thought- ‘let me help the poor disabled woman’. She didn’t think she was being a jerk; she just didn’t realise that her actions didn’t accord that woman the same respect as would have been granted to able-bodied woman. And a lot of ‘jerk’ behaviour is about people who don’t recognise their unconscious priledge/preconceptions/*isms, and think their behaviour is unexceptionable.

  5. And a lot of ‘jerk’ behaviour is about people who don’t recognise their unconscious priledge/preconceptions/*isms, and think their behaviour is unexceptionable.

    Good point. I actually wondered if she realised that the mother was able to pick up and care for her own baby or if she simply assumed that the carer was also the baby’s carer.

  6. Yes, this is what I’m coming to realise as I’m untangling (some of) my own racism and ablism (and probably sexism). I have learnt how to treat people well, but I’ve also been taught a bunch of racist, ablist, sexist special rules for how to treat “others”, and for so long and so thoroughly I didn’t even notice/realise and it’s subconscious/automatic.
    And it’s a lot of work to start to notice and try to do better. But it is very enlightening; I understand more and more why eg African Americans identify so many things as racism and not just ignorance/naiviety. It’s like that essay by Amanda Marcotte about how men who don’t respect women’s sexual consent do know the right thing to do because they’d have been locked up long ago if they applied that approach in other aspects of their life.

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