UPDATE 2: Some childfree morons on LiveJournal (people still use LiveJournal?) have reposted this entry and are spreading the idea that I’m pro-breeder. Never mind all the antinatalist entries I’ve written, but how in the name of Bob can you be so stupid as to read an entry about the rights of children and believe that I’m pro-breeder? This just proves that being childfree does not guarantee a grasp of basic logic.
UPDATE: I first use the word “pedogyny” to talk about the hatred of children, but as someone in the comments pointed out, the correct word is “misopedia.” So I had to correct the entry title as well as uses of the word in the entry. Sorry for the error.
From Project Unbreakable.
For more entries of mine on the subject of childism, please see my childism category.
The hatred of children is so normalized that we don’t even use a term for it. It’s so integrated within our social institutions that daring to question it means to question the very premises of our society. To reject misopedia means to reject the family system, to reject the education system, to reject organized religion, to reject national and racial prejudice, all of these things being way, way outside of the margins of discourse, anywhere (except on a blog or two ran by crazy whackjobs like me).
I have already commented on the strange life children lead. Children are not considered, or treated, as human beings, they are not considered to be endowed with rights, and their exploitation (whether as unpaid workers, targets of abuse, trafficked persons, or anything else) is considered benign unless it’s featured as a Youtube meme (Kony for president, y’all!).
This lack of rights is a natural result of parental ownership of children and government ownership of children, the two forces which are engaged in a perpetual struggle for control over the body and minds of children. But no matter who wins out at any given time, one does not grant rights to an owned object, for that contradicts the whole purpose of ownership. To own is to control, and to grant rights is to relinquish some area of direct control (indirect control, of course, is always available, but requires a great deal of resources or influence).
The culture, religion, habits, and other beliefs of the parents subjugate the children’s values and communicate to the children that their opinions are worthless. Children’s lives and well-being are considered secondary to the parents’ beliefs. This is why it is difficult to differentiate the state of being a child from the state of being an indentured servant, parenting from child-hatred.
I hope everyone understands that misopedia is not new, but is rather a historical phenomenon that has been the dominant worldview on child-raising from the last century to the previous millenia. Like misogyny, it has been a near-universal principle of social organization.
The fact that parents are often nice to their children is not any more a rebuttal of child-hatred than the fact that some black slaves were treated nicely, and that most were paid, proves that they were not slaves (and seeing how badly children are treated on the whole, both by parents and by the State, this objection holds little weight). But even when parents are trying to be kind to their children, they are still cruel and damaging to them (see for instance Arthur Silber’s series on how even seemingly innocent ways of indoctrinating children are cruel and lead to terrible consequences). It is not that all parents are deliberately trying to be cruel, but that the concept of parenting itself is cruel.
In order to justify any system of exploitation, one has to portray the exploited as being somehow deficient and deserving of being exploited. Bigotry and exploitation are always self-reinforcing and mutually necessary.
In the case of children, we have the myth of the gullible, unruly, selfish and violent child1, exemplified by the famous novel Lord of the Flies, published in 1954, where children marooned on a desert island and come to torture and kill each other. It is not a coincidence that the author is British, because that sounds pretty much like any British boarding school in the fifties.
I’m joking, but there is a deeper point here: very often we confuse effects of the environment with human nature.
Yes, there are children who are gullible, but there are some who are not (studies also show that even very young children, down to 16 months old, doubt testimonies that contradict empirical evidence). Yet children are called gullible as a class. Like many other forms of bigotry, it is justified by pseudo-evolution: children are gullible because it’s evolutionarily good for them to learn the essentials of survival from their parents.
The fact is that children are entrapped in a family and basically have no ideological alternative. Up to a certain age, children depend on their parents for their lives, and cannot afford to antagonize them. In fact, because of the constant demands parents put on children, they are often psychologically motivated by the desire to not hurt their parents’ feelings (even in cases such as when a child is raped by some other person); they have to walk on eggshells in the same way that any person is forced to accommodate the feelings of a superior.
If we look at the example of religion, for example, we find that children adopt the religion of their parents (or the former religion of their parents, in the case of the atheist perverts who send their children to Sunday School) because they really have no other choice but to believe as well. They have to believe the “right” religion or risk ostracism from the community they grew up in.
The simple fact is that children believe their parents because they have no other choice. It is also the case that they don’t know any better, especially in terms of alternatives, and that they are not taught critical thinking. But these other factors are dependent on the first. It is the parents who refuse to teach alternatives and who refuse to teach critical thinking, and by extension the schools chosen by the parents to “educate” their children.
Children can root out contradictions at a young age. The mind of the child is often able to cut through bullshit because it reduces artificially complex issues to their real simplicity. Of course I don’t expect every child of any age to master things that actually are complex. But children can often come to conclusions that adults cannot, because they are not prejudiced. Prejudice is pounded into them by their parenting and their schooling. As a study in Science found:
The large majority of 5th graders were strict egalitarians, and, remarkably, there were almost no meritocrats at this grade level. In contrast, meritocratism was the dominant position in late adolescence, and the share of strict egalitarians fell dramatically. The share of libertarians was stable across grade levels.
Children become increasingly integrated within competitive systems, especially at school, so it’s no surprise that they want to succeed and ignore the natural impulse for fairness. As we “mature,” we realize that “fairness is nice but unrealistic” (i.e. it doesn’t fit the rigid conformity imposed by competition). It is a constantly increasing pressure inflicted on children.
A lot of people want to help reform the institutions that oppress children, to make them more child-friendly. But no one asks whether these institutions need to exist. To ask whether the family structure or whether the schooling industry should exist is basically a one-way ticket to Cuckooland.
Like all other forms of bigotry, it is true that misopedia is not as bad as it has been historically. As someone else has pointed out, “[a]t least we no longer bury children alive in the foundations of our buildings for good luck.” But children, even in our privileged societies, are still lied to, mutilated, raped, beaten, physically threatened, psychologically abused and emotionally blackmailed every day (and most of these actions are not considered criminal, even though they would be if committed against an adult). And even the relatively better treatment of children cannot excuse their status as owned objects. The objectification of children even extends to the media and political issues.
Misopedia and natalism go hand-in-hand. This seems to be confusing for some people, who associate “child-hatred” with “people who complain about the Duggars” or “people who complain that children are crying at the grocery store” (here is one example of such muddled thinking). That’s not child-hating, it’s parent-hating. The Duggar children never asked to be born, and children don’t ask to be dragged to the grocery store; the parents did it, and we hate them for it, not the innocent children. Associating antinatalism with child-hatred is just another form of projection.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but from the antinatalist perspective the desire to have children implies hatred for those children. If you love someone, do you voluntarily decide to subject them to an almost infinite number of risks, some of them fatal? And after you decide to do this, do you then assume near-total ownership over them under the pretense that you will be a benevolent owner? Even if you can’t possibly understand the world in any other way but with the family structure in it, you still have to admit that’s a pretty bizarre claim prima facie. Furthermore, the fact that all justifications for having children entail using children as means to an end is a pretty good sign of parents’ bad intent; people who use others as means to an end are not, on the whole, well intentioned, and even when they are, they still perpetuate evil.
1 The myth of child-as-barbarian is sometimes taken quite literally in a racist manner: “Isn’t it cute how these foreign people are just like children?” Africans, workers and sometimes women are associated with prepubescence or adolescence (see The Culture of Conformism p135 for more on this).