Thursday, October 1, 2009

Unattended Children are Subject to Violence and Dehumanization

There are a few sites I peruse when I am bored or just in need of mindless entertainment. My favorite is FoodGawker. If you like food blogs you will love this site because it is basically a best of collection from a vast array of food blogs. I waste hours on that blog thinking up great recipe ideas. I also enjoy FailBlog and occasionally PassiveAggressiveNotes.

This particular post at PassiveAgressiveNotes really got me thinking. Now I am not one who wants to have children and when I am around other people's children I am uncomfortable and seldom know how to interact with them. In fact, I have occasionally been heard to utter "I hate children." I suppose it would be better to say, "I don't understand children, I don't particularly like their presence and the less time I spend with them in my day to day life the happier I usually am." The exception, of course, being my amazing 3 year old nephew (funny how that works).

Anyway, that post made me think about our patriarchal culture of domination and the ways in which creatures deemed other, weaker or less than in any way are subject to all sorts of violations, abuses and violence. (Be warned, the comments on that post are pretty atrocious). My usual interest is the way in which women have been historically othered and dehumanized because of it. I have discussed here the connection between domination of land and animals and the domination of women and people of color. The connection seems so obvious once one really examines the evidence.
What I saw when looking at the images I linked to was a similar wanton dehumanization of children at the hands of adults. In this world, adults have total control and power over children. Children have few legal rights of their own and are wholly dependent upon the (however unqualified) adults to whom they were born. Childhood is not the same as race or gender as a unit of analysis but there are certain similarities that it would be irresponsible to overlook. The sheer violence of these signs was horrific. Imagine if it said "unattended women will be sold as slaves" or "unattended black men will be placed on hooks and tortured" or "unattended women will be served as sausage" or "placed in dumpsters."
Stand back and think about that. It is pretty horrific. Why is it even remotely acceptable or funny for that matter, to say these sorts of things even as jokes. (Yes, I get that they are intended to be jokes, please do not comment on how humorless I am.) When you imagine a class of people that are legally dependent and unable to defend themselves because of age and ability, being symbolically violated in this way, it really is not remotely funny. The sign below reminded me of the Hustler Magazine cover that I wrote about for one of my undergrad media studies courses. The image of the obvious female form being pulverized in a meat grinder is perhaps one of the more horrific examples of mass media's symbolic annihilation of women.
In case I have not made my point well enough, I will provide this quote from I Blame the Patriarchy. I think she says it quite well:
"I have stated on numerous occasions (following the materialization in my personal sphere of a pair of nieces), children are an oppressed class. Their universal and legitimately reviled unruliness is not natural. It is a product of neurosis generated by patriarchy’s two main replicatory units: the nuclear family, which directly supports male dominance, and the single mother household, which indirectly supports male dominance a) by acting as an underclass dependent for its survival on paternalism and b) by incubating a ready supply of disadvantaged candidates for membership in the all-important working and military classes."

5 comments:

Marina said...

I dont read failblog or passiveagressivenotes but i do spend a lot of time on food blogs and recipe sites. havent heard of food gawker before. nice! It looks alot like www.tastespotting.com which i visit every day. I also like www.FoodBlogs.com and www.TastkyKitchn.com.

notemily said...

The nuclear family makes children unruly? Huh. I always thought it had something to do with the fact that they're never taken seriously or respected as full human beings. :P

Cortney said...

I think you are right on Sophie. I just think that the nuclear family is the primary site of patriarchal reproduction.

onsundaymorning said...

I have never thought of it in this context and honestly you gave me a lot to think over. My thoughts about why it is that is has become culturally acceptable to say something like that. Coming from a retail background many times I see unruly children let to run wild and parents tend to think it is the responsibility of the employees or management to watch them. This though process has lead to some horrific things happening to these kids (minor and major accidents, kidnappings, and in one case I'm familiar with rape). These signs to me are a way for people to try to grab the attention of these parents and get a point across. Is it right? Maybe not.

onsundaymorning said...

I have never thought of it in this context and honestly you gave me a lot to think over. My thoughts about why it is that is has become culturally acceptable to say something like that. Coming from a retail background many times I see unruly children let to run wild and parents tend to think it is the responsibility of the employees or management to watch them. This though process has lead to some horrific things happening to these kids (minor and major accidents, kidnappings, and in one case I'm familiar with rape). These signs to me are a way for people to try to grab the attention of these parents and get a point across. Is it right? Maybe not.