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you don't own your kids?
just what are these people driving at?
this seems to be a weirdly prevalent emergent ideological stance that keeps cropping up, generally from gender activists but with some overflow into the sort of classic communist/authoritarian gang.
i’m honestly curious about where this is trying to go.
just what is their argument?
on the one hand, sure, this is basically true and long has been. you do not “own” your kids in the manner of a car or a goldfish. you cannot sell them. you cannot dispose of them by the side of the road if you no longer want them. in many historical cultures, you did own them and could literally kill them or vend them as chattel if you chose, but this has not been the case in the west for a very long time and pretty much no one seems anxious to bring it back. that which was très chic in sparta is monstrous to modern sensibilities.
there is a sort of specific contract civilization erects that places parents as guardians of their kids during the period of their minority before they are deemed “adults” in a society and gain the rights and responsibilities thereof. some of this involves forcing kids to do things they may not want to like eat vegetables or go to school or go to bed. childhood is, by design and custom, a period of limited agency and responsibility. not all choices are available and many actions fail to carry the more serious consequences that would accrue to an adult in similar circumstances. and this makes sense.
a 2 year old who accidentally commits manslaughter ought not be treated the same as a 20 year old and is simply not equipped to make or understand the same sort of choices that a college student would be expected to. “childhood” is a near universal feature of all human societies. parents have an obligation to their offspring and the offspring to the parents. apart from full blown communitarianism (all children belong to the tribe) it’s difficult to even imagine another alternative. human babies are not sea turtles who are born ready to scramble to the waves and take their chances in the open ocean.
but i do not think this is what this new movement is about and such ideas hardly seem the stuff of protest signs.
is “you do not own your kids” a sort of specious framing to use a statement that is literally true in a pedantic sense to support an specific agenda beneath it that it does not describe in accurate terms but rather seeks to pass off through false equivalence?
mostly, this movement seems to focus on issues of identity like gender or issues of education/indoctrination such as “who gets to decide what schools teach and should parents even be allowed to know what goes on there much less have input into it?”
and this seems like a very different kettle of fish than child chattelry.
so, i’m honestly curious to understand:
just what is the actual claim being made here by the “you don’t own your kids” folks?
are they arguing that someone else does? the tribe? the school? the state?
it’s an idea that’s been tried and is common in totalitarian systems like fascism, communism, or a variety of authoritarian or theocratic structures from kings to tibetan llamas (themselves prolific stealers of children and owners of slaves).
it’s a sort of bedrock notion to many autocratic systems where the kids are the property of the state and owe it and not their family fealty. dogma driven dictators do not like competing power centers.
if this is just that then we can simply dismiss it as more repugnant statism seeking to lord unjustly claimed power over the lives of individuals and claim primacy over the rights of we the people by indoctrinating our children and turning them against the family and one another. that’s just predictable and odious ideological overreach.
but what of the argument that “the children own themselves and should be free to do as they like?”
while one can certainly argue about just what the age of majority should be and when a child ought be vested with the full rights and responsibilities of the adult (and this can certainly change over time as childhood today is FAR longer than in past periods and can vary greatly from culture to culture) the basic idea there there ought be a distinction between child and adult seems pretty inarguable. how would one even undertake to posit that a 2 year old should be allowed to vote or to consent to sex or to own a firearm? yeah… so, there pretty much certainly has to be a demarcation in here somewhere.
it is not my intent to set in stone any ideas about ages of agency or consent here and frankly, one size fits all is always a bit fraught which ultimately presents a core aspect of the issue. some 14 year olds are more than mature enough to chose a job. some 20 year olds may well not be. we can find all sorts of examples and argue by corner case, but in general time and custom seem to show that the parents are the best ones to assess this on a child by child basis and this tends to evolve a reasonably good emergent compromise. like all things, it’s imperfect and not all outcomes are ideal, but it seems to outperform other options.
but if we are to start trying to make a case that “a pre or early pubescent human should be allowed full agency to make lifelong and irreversible choices about gender and that the state should help them and/or that parents should have little or no say (or perhaps even knowledge) then we have veered into some pretty complex waters and i think anyone making such a claim should first have to stand up to significant scrutiny.
to be 10 or 12 years old and to be entrusted, empowered, and enabled to make lifelong choices about suppression/elimination of puberty or the removal/modification of genitals or secondary sex parts is a stunningly extensive ask. (and no, puberty blockers are NOT reversible when used to suppress a timely adolescence; that is not what they were created or approved to do and it’s not how they work. miss a timely puberty and you do not get it back.)
adolescence is notoriously confusing for everyone and uncertainty and disorientation about identity is far from unusual.
it’s also normal for the big jolt of biologically appropriate hormones that come during puberty to wind up alleviating these issues. “undergoing adolescence” is by far the most effective and reliable cure for gender dysphoria (and a variety of other issues as well).
one could well ask some pointed questions about whether anyone who has not passed through puberty is actually in a position to have a useful view on how it will go for them and what the world may look like after. i certainly wasn’t. some things really need to be experienced to be comprehended.
this idea that children who are likely too young and lack the experience/perspective to understand that should be given the right to unilaterally roll the dice with their whole future of sexual development, sexual ability, activity, fertility, and engage in what can easily amount to lifelong chemical castration, stunted development, and possibly mutilation is an extreme position not in keeping with pretty much every other tenet of our societal structure and i suspect pointing out some of these incongruities is helpful in exposing the hypocrisy and special caseism of many of the so called “child activists.”
because this does not seem at core to be about “child rights.” that seems more like a figleaf used to justify a set of special interests distinct from more general youth prerogative.
consider some questions:
shall we allow 10 and 12 year olds to get married?
how about to get jobs as coal miners?
or join the navy?
or join a church?
how about getting a tattoo or moving out of the house and setting up on their own?
all of these things have, at some point, been common occurrences in human societies and some persist today in certain parts of the world.
all seem like far less radical decisions to me than “eliminating my puberty” or “removing/reversing my genitals and secondary sex characteristics and undergoing radical hormone treatments” and yet i would wager that few if any of these gender activists would support any of them.
but how can one pick and choose here?
how can one claim a child has the maturity and agency to make permanent gender choices while at the same time lacking the maturity and agency to choose to work in a textile mill or become a naval powder monkey as in the times of nelson’s ships of the line?
a boy can become a girl, but that girl would still not be allowed to have sex or marry?
imagine the outburst that “so a child should be able to refuse vaccination?” would likely elicit from whomever is holding that “you don’t own your kids” sign.
truly, the mind boggles at the contradictions.
that’s not how rights work, so this seems like some other agenda and however one feels about gender and gender dysphoria, some simple consistency about agency and prerogative seems required for any sound position on these topics.
if one were to say “sure, i support a 12 year old’s rights to make ALL these choices as a full adult” then at least one could have a reasoned and principled debate about what the age of majority should be. 18 is, after all, pretty arbitrary. should it be 16? should it be 20? reasonable people could disagree on such a topic and clearly, as history shows, such societal conventions are subject to change.
even if one were to argue that there ought be no child/adult distinction and that babies are born with full rights to choose everything, it would be consistent. (albeit absurd and essentially impossible to implement)
but to claim “well no, no 10 year old should be allowed to go to a church or get married or run away to join the circus or a baptist revival against his parent’s wishes but yes, by golly, they ought be allowed, encouraged, and enabled to prevent their own puberty with great permanent effect upon their life” seems like a truly extreme form of special pleading.
to hold such contradictory positions smacks of zealotry and oppressive ideological subversion.
i struggle to see how such people can or should be trusted to determine the fate of children.