Storify: On Childhood as a Privilege

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[TW: Child Abuse]

In the gentlest possible way, I want to talk a little about childhood and abuse here.

Childhood as a concept is not some absolute that spans all cultures and times. Many societies have treated children differently. But it is important to understand that treating a child IDENTICALLY to an adult can be itself a form of child abuse.

That does not mean that you can't treat a child with respect, etc. I use the word "IDENTICALLY" up there for a reason. There are extremely valuable conversations to be had about children and rights and responsibilities in our society.

But it's important to understand that WITH rights come accompanying responsibilities in many cases. And there are valid, non-stigmatizing reasons to not want to load children up with the same responsibilities as adults in all cases. "Identical treatment" is not somehow fair or desirable in all cases for all situations for all groups. Nor is it stigma or prejudice to note that some groups need accommodations or have different challenges than others.

We talk about "centering" a lot in social justice, and privilege, and invisible defaults. It is important, when we talk about oppression, not to center against an invisible default as though that's the Only Way. Very young children can make profoundly unsafe decisions. Adults have a responsibility to prevent permanent harm or death. An adult who allows a child to make deadly decisions without intervention is neglectful.

So again there are valid conversations to be had about oppression and children, but I want to avoid centering adultness as the One Way. There is also a race intersection that white activists need to be aware of: children of color are often unfairly perceived as adults. Children of color are legally tried as adults, shot by police as adults, and sexualized as adults as a form of racist oppression. Please be aware of these intersectional concerns as you pursue activism!

It is not okay to hurt other marginalized groups in an enthusiastic rush to help the one you're advocating for. Coming back to this, that is also why I'm a little uncomfortable with the term "adultism". Reminder that *isms require system-wide oppression. So while I am very much onboard with discussing the real marginalization of children in our society, please let's be intersectional.

I also-also want to note that nothing of what I am saying above is new or novel. There have LONG been ethical concerns with how to market to children, for example, and over education vs. propaganda. Not to mention MAJOR concerns over how our legal system should intersect with children, and guardianship, and criminal records. I don't like to see those snarls swept simplistically aside, which I realize is easy to do in a 140-character medium. :)

So I urge people to be careful with terms like "adultism" when childhood itself is a privilege denied to many. And when "adulthood" is sill wielded as a weapon against children from marginalized groups. Be aware of that, please. Thank you!

@alketrolyat: [re: voting] it's not FAIR to make young kids make decisions that might affect them for yrs when they don't understand them. And then there are votes for more complex issues, like bonds and funding, at local levels.

YES, I think possibly some people forget that "voting" isn't just a once-every-4-years presidential thing. And those things (growth, learning, play) are a privilege denied to SO MANY. The presence of a childhood has historically been a GOOD INDICATOR of oppressed class status. School. Television. Marketing. Commercial. Candy cigarettes. These are COMPLEX issues!

PS, this was not a thread specifically about suffrage for children, but since people are talking about it, I have this to add: Please spend at least 10 minutes on voting disenfranchisement of disabled and POC adult voters for every 1 minute you spend on white children. We're disenfranchising people of color in Texas right now and I see very little talk about that, either in news articles or on the twitters.

I expect a lot of white activists feel like the situation is obvious and feel helpless to help, but we still need to make noise about it! And coming up to November, we need to organize to make sure that people have options to get to the polls and won't be turned away. That's hard work and it's not sexy, but it's GOT to be done. Please help do it, if you can.


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