“I hate children.” Acceptable discrimination?
Why is it socially acceptable to say you hate children?
My husband and I had a discussion about this yesterday. In our social circle, there are a few people who are child-free by choice, or simply uninterested in having children. Some are openly hostile about their dislike of children and this is usually tolerated or even found to be liberating or amusing. However, my husband brought up that a statement like, “I hate kids,” is essentially no different from saying, “I hate gays” or “I hate retarded people.” It’s prejudice against a group that has no control over its circumstances. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.
It hadn’t really occurred to me, because I generally count myself amongst the child-haters. But after further discussion, I realised I feel about kids the way I do about most people: I like individual ones; most of them are jerks and irritate the hell out of me; I can only stand being in large groups of them for a limited time. I would never say I dislike any other general group of people, so why is this sort of age discrimination socially acceptable?
It’s similar to how I’ve come to understand my relationships with other women, I don’t have a lot in common with most women, but the ones I do share values and interests with become close friends. It’s no different with men, actually, but I’ve just found more men share common values and interests with me. It doesn’t mean I don’t like being friends with women. I’ve even extended this to pets: I’m not really a cat or dog person, I get along with individuals in both groups, but I tend to find I’m easily comfortable with cats more often than dogs. It doesn’t mean I sweepingly say, “I hate dogs.” But I will say, “I’m more of a cat person.”
Maybe, if you’re a child hater, rather than blanketing ‘children’ as a group, you should reflect on why you don’t like kids and be more specific. “I don’t know how to act around most kids, and it makes me uncomfortable.” “I find children’s unpredictable behaviour and lack of social skills frustrating and nerve wracking to deal with.” or even “I prefer to be around people I can converse with, and so kids offer nothing to me socially.” Or just simply, “I’m more of a ‘grown-up’ person than a ‘kid’ person.” Ever since I had a child of my own, and have been subsequently forced to be around kids a lot more, I realised there is a lot more to kids than I thought, and there are a lot more types of kids than I imagined. They’re like any group, once you get to know them individually, it’s really hard to put them all into a general category. When you automatically eliminate an entire group from your life, when you say you ‘hate’ people, you’re cutting yourself off from opportunities to learn, and you close yourself off from experience. I’m not saying you have to open up a daycare centre or go up to every child in the street, but being open to the possibility that a member of that group might be tolerable at least, means you open yourself to potentially enriching experiences (and hey, babysitting occasionally might bring in a few extra dollars…just sayin’).
EDIT: Upon further reflection, I realised I neglected an important point.
This point of view is socially acceptable within my own social circle: geeks, contrarians and other non-conformists. The majority of society would probably indeed be quite offended to hear someone say they hate children. I would be remiss if I ignored the issue that for those who do not naturally enjoy the company of children that there is constant pressure to assimilate, to breed, or to “just wait until you’re older.” There is definitely a prejudice against people who choose not to have children as a ‘natural part of life’ or the ‘logical next step in life.’ I fully support my child-free friends and I certainly do not think anyone should have kids just because ‘it’s what you do.’
Most people I socialise with reject social norms, question societal assumptions and are often involved in some sort of alternative lifestyle or social group. However, when they take it to the extreme position of “I hate kids,” what could be simply a rejection of the assumption that everyone does and should like all kids always because biology (as I always meant it), it is also a rejection of an entire group of people based on prejudice. Something which, for most people I know, is otherwise not acceptable and something which I never considered before.