Becoming Libertarian, Feminism or Masculinism?, Childism (26m) – Editor’s Break 076

Editor’s Break 076 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: the choices we make along the way in becoming a libertarian, anarchist, or voluntaryist; does he claim the label feminist or masculinist?; why neither of those hold a candle to the way children are treated in many societies, including his own; and more.

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Feminism or Masculinism? Neither…

Bryan Caplan offered a non-argumentative definition of feminism in a February article. Therein he wrote:

What would a non-argumentative definition of feminism look like? Ideally, feminists, non-feminists, and anti-feminists could all endorse it. If that’s asking too much, all these groups should at least be able to accept the proposed definition as a rough approximation of the position they affirm or deny. My preferred candidate:

feminism: the view that society generally treats men more fairly than women

What’s good about my definition?

First, the definition doesn’t include everyone who thinks that our society treats women unfairly to some degree. In the real world, of course, every member of every group experiences unfairness on occasion.

Second, a large majority of self-identified feminists hold the view I ascribe to them. Indeed, if someone said, “I’m a feminist, but I think society generally treats women more fairly than men,” most listeners would simply be confused.

Third, a large majority of self-identified non-feminists disbelieve the view I ascribe to feminists. If you think, “Society treats both genders equally well,” or “Society treats women more fairly than men,” you’re highly unlikely to see yourself as a feminist.

I really, really, really like this definition of feminism. I think it fits very well with my overall experience with feminists from various “waves”. According to this definition, you correctly identify as or are identified as a “feminist” if you believe that society generally treats men more fairly than women.

Am I a feminist? No, I do not believe so. If I’m not a feminist, does that mean I’m a masculinist? Well, let us offer the same non-argumentative definition of feminism, but replace it with masculinism:

masculinism: the view that society generally treats women more fairly than men

That’s certainly something to think about, but no, I do not believe that I fit that definition. I suppose it would be most accurate to say that I am neither a feminist, nor a masculinist. What I am is somebody who believes that both men and women are treated unfairly, in different ways.

Men were/are drafted into military service to be used as cannon fodder, biased against in a custody battle or domestic violence dispute, treated as a pedophile if they associate with children, portrayed as bumbling and foolish fathers in popular media, told to “man up” instead of receive real help for mental and psychological issues, expected to work the most dangerous jobs, have their need for physical touch viewed as sexual only, routinely have their genitals mutilated, assumed to be weak or incompetent if they choose to be a stay-at-home dad, et cetera.

Women are constantly told they are victims, were/are considered property of their fathers and husbands, considered slutty if they show a desire for sex, presumed incompetent at many tasks commonly performed by men, required to wear top clothing (and cover up while breastfeeding), weren’t/aren’t allowed to vote in democratic government elections, often told they should prioritize the well-being of their husband and children over their own, have their insecurities over their bodies encouraged, communally pressured to bear children, et cetera.

In light of the many and varied types of unfairness that both men and women endure today and have endured throughout history, I can’t say that one gender has been treated more unfairly than the other. Both are and have been treated like shit for the benefit of others.

But maybe we can agree that the one group of people that is and has been treated the most unfairly… is children.

Is there a word for the view that society generally treats adults more fairly than children? I can’t find one, but here’s a related word: childism. Chantel Quick wrote about this last September:

Racism, classism, ableism, nationalism are all things so many of us want to understandably speak out on and bring awareness to, but hardly anyone wants to acknowledge where all the -isms begin, and that is childism: a systemic belief and prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs.

In addition to the two open-ended lists above on how men and women are treated unfairly, children in general must also endure such routine injustices as having their bodily autonomy violated, their curiosity punished, their passions and interests disregarded, their need for expression and emotional release disrespected, their desire to work, earn money, and learn responsibility made illegal, forced to eat when they aren’t hungry, forced to participate in activities they dislike, forced to associate with people they hate or fear, et cetera. The list could go on, and on, and on…

Goddamnit we humans sure have treated other humans like shit, especially our young. What the fuck is wrong with us? In any event, I’ve resolved to engage in childism no longer, and my children couldn’t be happier. Same goes for treating other men and women unfairly. Please consider doing likewise.

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Conservative or Liberal?, Guns, Feminism, & Quitting Things (34m) – Editor’s Break 062

Editor’s Break 062 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: having a foundation in principle, whether he’s a conservative or a liberal, the importance of disarming society toward an authoritarian agenda, what feminism is and if he wears that label, childism, why we quit things and why the desire for children to quit things should be respected, and more.

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The -Ism No One is Talking About.

Our country is sick.

No, I am not talking about Nazis or Donald Trump. Nazis and Donald Trump are the results of the ongoing illness of our society. They are the pain and the vomit and the blood when you have cancer. They are not the cancer. They are the alarms going off in our bodies screaming at us that we have ignored the signs and abandoned our souls for far too long.

The sickness I am referring to is the sickness of worshiping isolation and individualism. You vs. me. Almost everyone reading this was likely born into such a society so this isn’t about pointing fingers. Pointing the finger outward is what we all do in order to not look at and take responsibility for ourselves. Pointing the finger at others has it be that we never have to ponder the question,

“Where/how am I perpetuating the problem?”

Pointing the finger out leads to the same ole thing because there is no ripple effect of change quite like the one that inevitably happens when we change ourselves.

In terms of this societal illness, I want to address who it affects the most… and that is the children. Which also means it affects us all the most and we are all affected because we were all children at one time. It begins from the time we are born and seeps into our childhood and then children grow up to be the adults in the world today. The ones running it, fighting for it, the ones that raised you… and you… and me. Us.

“Pshh, me?! I’m fine,” you say. Here me out:

How do I know how deeply children are affected by a society riddled with foundational cancer?

It’s the way we make our problems about our child without recognizing that 99% of the time the problem is us. We expect a higher standard of behavior from children than we do for ourselves.

It is the way we pathologize kids so that we, again, don’t have to take a deep look into how we are creating the problem. If we did, this would likely mean we would have to drastically change the way we live and massively shift and realign our priorities. But we don’t, because change is scary, and our children suffer from our unwillingness to change and take responsibility for the fact that we have set up our society in a way that is mostly unsupportive and inconsiderate of children.

We slap labels on them like ADD, high needs, intense, sensory issues, and hyperactive instead of admitting that they are simply having a natural response to a society and to institutions that do not serve the human body and mind. If we admitted that, we would have to change, and too many people are benefiting from the way things are, and our children pay the price.

Now what?

First, we have to have a clear and confident understanding of the true nature of children. That is to say, the true nature of humanity. If we cannot see children for who they truly are, are trust what they actually need to thrive, then it will be easy to justify inflicting this mistreatment onto them. We will continue to perpetuate childism and justify it to serve our agendas. A total paradigm shift around how to view and treat children is essential, and to do that it requires us to take a deep look at our own wounds and admit how we were affected by and play out this disease.

Children are wild and free (we all are, but I digress). This alone can be very triggering to some people, but they are and that is the truth of their biology. They are meant to move, explore, be rowdy, run around, test things, play, and be in connection with other people. And not just for a couple of hours blocked off every day, but all the time. They are meant to live it. The problem is not children, the problem is a society that makes no room for them to be who they are. 

Most parenting experts will tell us how to peacefully handle car seat battles, bedtime protests, tantrums, etc (which definitely has its place in our current world), but almost no one wants to acknowledge that that being strapped down to a seat unable to move is unnatural and no fun for anyone, because maybe if we didn’t worship isolation, conformity, and individualism then we wouldn’t have to drive to play dates, grocery stores, school, etc. Because in a world that would deeply serve us and our children, our friends would wake up next to us, our food would be growing in our yards, and “school” would be life.

Someone once said that the image of a mother at home alone with her children is the most unnatural thing we allow to happen and at one point in history, this is something that would have never been allowed. I personally would be so bold to say that it is criminal and where the majority of societies problems begin. Growing up in isolation and then being brainwashed as a child to believe that it’s the dream to be had as an adult.

A play date or two a week isn’t enough. A night out a week with your girlfriends isn’t enough. We need to be living in communion with one another. This is our chance at healing on a fundamental level.

The worst is the way we punish children who have the awareness in their bodies that something isn’t right, but lack the words and comprehension to communicate it. These children know somewhere deep down they are not getting what they need, what their bodies were expecting to feel on a basic level when they entered this world. This shows up in children we label as “sensitive, disrespectful, heathen,” etc.

They are acting out their dissatisfaction of life (rightfully, so) and then we punish them for it which only perpetuates the thing in which we feel justified in punishing them for.

Children come into this world knowing nothing of isolation and individualism. They expect their needs to be met and to be part of something bigger than themselves. Growing up being the center of one or two adults attention is confusing, at best.

I think the reason it is so hard for us to enact true change in our society is because it would require an inventory of self, and from there things that we cling to would have to be dismantled, starting with the way we raise humans and the beliefs we hold that we impart to them.  Institutions that play out the systematic roles of childism and no longer serve our new world view would have to radically change or come down completely. There are people who want to desperately keep things mostly the same, so we are locked into the idea that we can move things around, so long as they stay in the box. The truth is, there is no box, there never was.

Racism, classism, ablesim, conservatism, and nationalism are all things so many of us want to understandably speak out on and bring awareness to, but hardly anyone wants to acknowledge where all the -isms begin, and that is childism: a systemic belief and prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs.”

It runs so deep we don’t even know we are doing it. The ways we control and enslaved them are seen as normal to a society who sees children as less than. It is pervasive and not even I am immune to it.

So tell me, how are you perpetuating childism and how were you affected by it?

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Are You Disrespecting Your Child with this Type of Attention?

This past weekend was the 4th of July, and I went to visit my mom and her husband with my 2.5 year old.

There were many people there from both sides of the family, and while I don’t blame them (ok, maybe I do a little), I couldn’t help but notice how unconscious so many people are about how they interact with children. I don’t blame them because the very culture we are all brought up in has a fundamental phobia and lack of understanding around children. If you look around, childism is covertly operating all throughout society from the way we speak to kids, to the way we educate them, to the way we don’t allow them to go many places, etc. In this post I want to address the way we speak to them. It is ironic because when people do it, they actually think they are being friendly or engaging the child in a respectful way, but they are actually mocking and belittling them because they are coming from the stance that the child is dumb.

The child being dumb may not be the conscious thought had by the other person, but remember, childism is unconscious, mostly. It is woven into the fabric of society. One (of many) exchanges between my bright 2.5 year old son and another adult went a bit like this:

My son picks up a hat, examines it, and puts it on his head,

Adult immediately gets up in his face and says, “What you got there buddy?! You got a hat? You like putting hats on your head?!”

My son stares back with a furrowed brow.

“Look! I got a hat on, too! Do you like my hat?! Do you have a lot of hats back at home?!”

My son takes the hat off, throws it on the ground and walks away.

“Haha! Well, ok! Fine then…”

Upon first reading this you might think, “What’s the big deal? Seems like a nice guy trying to talk to your kid.”

And yes, I do not doubt the good intentions, but ask yourself, do you think he would have spoken this way to another adult who put a hat on? The likely answer is no. My son was simply minding his own business and modeling what he sees adults do (putting on hats without a fuss) only to get put under a huge microscope and have someone make a big deal about him putting a hat on. I often see that adults have this way of abrasively intervening on children when they are in the midst of things like exploration, thought, and imagination.

Another example is when my son was in the family room alone and totally focused on this helicopter toy. He was completely absorbed in this helicopter and it’s functions when this same adult walked in and exclaimed, “You got a helicopter?! Can you make the noise a helicopter makes?! Can you go WOOOSHWOOSHWOOSH?!”

To which my son replies, “Noooo!”

I know my son enough to know that he isn’t being a brat to this person, he is simply objecting to his abrasive attitude the only way a young child knows how.

Don’t get me wrong. I think attention is a wonderful commodity and the anecdote to so many of the problems that arise with our children. The key is to understand what kind of attention is helping and what kind of attention is hurting.

The type of attention that is hurtful is when the giver of attention (usually an adult when it comes to children) wants something in return. They want a certain response, like for the child to act cute or give them certain feedback. Normally,  I see the adult responding with something like, “fine then,” in a bitter way when the child doesn’t engage back in the way they desire. They come to the child with an agenda to entertain and expect to be entertained back by the child on some level. It is given with the assumption that they are smarter and the child needs their input. That what the child is doing in that moment isn’t “enough” and they need to add more to the situation by asking obvious questions and dumbing themselves down “for the child.” I see this in adult relationships, too. When people dumb themselves down for others, what they are saying is that they don’t trust the other person to “play on their level,” so to speak. This behavior is actually unkind because it doesn’t give the other person the opportunity to learn and grow.

Helpful attention is unconditional and without agenda. It is simply present to where your child is emotionally and open to their feelings and thoughts. It is available when they need it, and it is trusting that when they need it they will ask for it (assuming that they have been made to feel safe in doing so). It is not abrasive and it is not unwarranted. It is understanding that sometimes the most respectful thing you can do is allow space. I know that if my son wanted to show me helicopter noises, he would. Oh boy, would he! He doesn’t need coaxing or prompting. It is a sense of radical trust in your child. That they have their own built in system that tells them when they want you for things like play, presence and attention.

Think of it like this: What if your friend was walking her dog? Would you walk up to her and say, “What you got there, Sarah? Is that a puppy dog?! You like dogs? What do dogs say, Sarah? Can you say, ‘RUFF RUFF!?'”

I won’t even go into how someone tried making my son say, “magic words” before handing him a toy boat that he asked for. That is for another post, but it is important to note the many ways we treat children that we would never dare treating our peers.

“Hey Chantel, can you bring me my book?”

“What do you say, Tim? What are the magic words? C’Mon…what do you sayyy???”

I would never honestly say this to my friend, Tim. So why would I say it to my child?

I understand that some people will think that I am being extreme or thinking too much about this, but I ask that you really consider these ideas. Why do we speak to children so radically different than we do each other? Sure, they don’t fully understand everything that adults do, but they understand so much more than we often give them credit for, including the nuances in how we treat them differently. There are ways that you can speak to them in a way that meets them developmentally, without undermining their intelligence. They might not have the language to explain what is happening for them when we do this, but trust me, they feel it.


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Childism as a Missed Opportunity

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“Living with Wild Abandon” is an original bi-weekly column appearing sporadically on Tuesday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Breezy V. Stevens. Breezy is a long-time radical unschooler, an advocate for children’s rights, a crazy dog lady, a crafter in various mediums, a lover of all things tropical and beachy, and the designer of “EVC in Color“. Archived columns can be found here. LWA-only RSS feed available here.

When I’m out in public places, I see an awful lot of instances of people treating their children rudely and disrespectfully. Sometimes they’re just flat-out mean. Every time I see it, it breaks my heart, and it’s easy to get stuck in the thinking that the world will never come around to kinder ways of living with children.

Occasionally, though, I witness an adult-child interaction that warms my heart and gives me hope. Recently I was at the post office, in an awful hurry. I came rushing out toward my car, noticing that the door of the car next to mine was open, preventing me from reaching the driver’s seat.

Just as I started to get irritated that I would be delayed, I noticed the people behind the open door – an older woman and what was presumably her young grandson. The woman was carefully unpacking the box she’d just received, in order to pull out a big air bubble packing cushion. She handed it to the boy, all the while talking kindly and attentively with him.

Seeing this, I relaxed, remembering all the times I’d paused in the middle of my busy day to talk and play with my wee ones, and wishing dearly that more people were able to push aside their busy-ness and impatience, and spend more moments connecting with their kids. Instead of pushing past them to my car, I hung back and watched.

I watched as the grandmother handed the cushion to the boy, took his hand, and walked with him to the sidewalk. I watched as he placed the bubble on the ground and tried to stomp on it. It skipped out from under his feet, and grandma smiled, patiently placing it back in position for another try. Their car door was closed now, and I’d been spotted, so I continued to my own car and got in. As I slowly drove away, I continued to watch them.

The last thing I saw was the grandmother look up, as an airplane flew overhead. She pointed it out gleefully to the little boy, and his eyes grew wide as he watched and listened to her words. There was a palpable air around them, of love and joy in each other’s company. The grandmother had taken what could have been just another boring errand, and made it into an adventure.

I drove home in a wonderful mood, feeling that I’d just witnessed a small miracle. And I wondered to myself why this is a comparatively rare occurrence in our current culture. I remember when my own children were young, the way their wonder was infectious. Being home with them was a shockingly rejuvenating experience, as my own eyes were reopened to the almost magical possibilities that lurked in everyday experiences, most of which had long since become boring and routine. Living moment-to-moment in the presence of small children allowed me to be more present, to notice so many of the fine details of life and the world around me that I’d unconsciously learned to tune out as I’d grown older. Their relentless energy and enthusiasm, while at times overwhelming or even exhausting, changed and renewed my overall outlook on the world and humanity. I feel blessed that I was able to witness and participate in so much of my children’s childhood. Now that my kids are so much older (one grown, and the other a teenager), the energy and enthusiasm is less apparent. Small things are no longer new and exciting. I find myself missing the moments of awe at “the little things”: the first fall leaves and snowfall; the excitement of running from frozen puddle to frozen puddle, relishing the crunch of the ice as we jumped onto it with all our might; bending low to examine an insect we’d never seen before; staying in the warm house on a cold winter day, doing science experiments, or baking something wonderful… it’s a list I could add to all day. And though we don’t really do these things anymore, we will always have these memories to cherish, and hopefully, my own children will endeavor to fully engage with their children as well.

These kinds of experiences, I believe, are not only foundational to the children we share them with, but also transformative for the adults that share the childhood adventures. We are given an opportunity to see the world through children’s eyes again, and if we embrace the opportunity, we are the recipients of great and lasting gifts that can remind us to see the world with an outlook of innocence and wonder.

It’s a profoundly sad thing, to see so many people missing such an amazing opportunity, as they brush aside their children’s questions, hurry them from one “important” errand to another, and shush or shame them (or worse) when they disrupt the ingrained busy-ness of the adults around them. What could be more important than to savor every moment, and every experience with these precious, amazing tiny people, as they learn to navigate the world around them? Being present with our children, paying attention and taking them seriously, and allowing them to act like the children they are – even in public – has the potential to contribute to a radical change in the way our culture treats children. I worry about the consequences of locking children away from the rest of the world, for their own sake, as well as for adults’ sake. We all miss out on mutually beneficial interactions, to everyone’s detriment. I believe the world would be a better, happier, more compassionate place to live if people of all ages were free to mingle, to work, to play, to explore and investigate, and to share companionship together, in our daily lives. This will, of course, require some attitude adjustments from adults, both in our philosophical beliefs about children’s rights and place in the world, as well as in our day-to-day interactions with them: it’s all well and good to believe that children should be treated equally and with respect, but we have to learn to live this belief, every day.

In our crazy, busy, stressed-out world, more of us are finding that we need to slow down and connect with the truly important things in life. It’s easy for life to become a blur, to get stuck in a rut, to lose touch with our values and forget to see the wonderful-ness in the world around us. I think including and connecting with kids again is likely to do everyone more good than we can even imagine.

I am heartened each time I see someone like the grandmother from last week, taking the time and energy to enjoy and appreciate the small moments with children. More and more people seem to be embracing a new way of living with children every day, and I am hopeful and grateful for each and every one.

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