Banning Children from Public Spaces
On multiple listservs that I’m on (including Prompt-ly!), the same article has been floated out for discussion. Adweek’s article on creating child-free spaces by banning children has a subtitle: “A new marketing movement aims to protect the childless from germy broods.”
I understand how it could be enticing, especially since I often go through phases where I simply don’t want to see babies. Even though I have children, it doesn’t mean I’m cool always being around children (especially stranger’s children; I’m usually always okay around the babies of friends and family), and babies can be salt in a very open wound. There are also times when we go out, let’s say to a film, and we don’t expect nor want to see children there. We’d like to see the film uninterrupted, and a child kept up past a normal bedtime is probably going to become disruptive. So I totally get that desire to know without a doubt that you will not be encountering a child in certain places.
And I still wouldn’t patron a business that made that decision for the parent.
This is my feeling on bans and how I gauge my feelings on them. I replace the word “children” with another group. Would everyone support a ban on Jews in movie theaters? Why not? We’re freakin’ loud as all get out and we talk through films. We leave our cell phones on and eat bagels in the theater, dropping the crumbs. Would everyone support a ban on Jews in first class on an airplane? Why not? Again, we’ll talk your ear off, and if you paid a lot for your seat and you want peace and quiet, don’t sit next to a Jew.
(For all the Jews who are sucking your breath in at this moment, I’m saying this to make a point — not because I think I should be banned from places… Though we do sometimes talk a lot, nu?)
I am pro-banning behaviours, but never pro-banning people. I am totally fine that our east coast trains have a silent car and you can’t use your cell phone there, and I would never be offended if an airline said that first class was a “silent cabin.” That said, I would hope they’d come down just as hard on chatty Jews, rock stars, AND children. But I wouldn’t support an airline that bans children (or any group of people) from first class, even though I have never flown first class and probably never will.
I like child-free spaces just as much as the next person, and there are plenty of days that I do not want to encounter children. But that’s on me. Again, replace the word “children” with another group. Would it ever be okay to say that we want Jews banned from a business just because we don’t want to see Jews? Because they’re too expressive with their hands and eat smelly garlicy hummus and speak their throat-clearing language very loudly?
When I really don’t want to see kids, I stay home. When I really don’t want to see kids but must go out, I try to choose a place that few parents would bring a child. And if they do, I have to suck it up to be part of society (and usually, if that child is behaving, I can even tune them out).
And if they do bring their child AND the child is disturbing everyone else’s meal/movie/activity, I have no problem addressing the behaviour or asking the management to address the behaviour. Because not talking in a movie, let’s say, is a given regardless of age.
Being part of society means dealing with all members of a society; not picking and choosing the ones whose main characteristics are palatable with my desires. It would never be okay to ban whole groups of people based on race, gender, or ethnicity. Therefore, I can’t support it based on age. I wouldn’t want elderly people banned, and I don’t want children banned. Though I’d totally support a noisy people ban and if that sweeps out children (as well as loud-talking, half-deaf elderly people and those pesky expressive Jews*), so be it. Ban the behaviour; not the person.
So those are my thoughts and they’re not set in stone if you can argue passionately. I truly do want to hear the other side as well as additional thoughts on banning children from public spaces.
* For the love, y’all know I’m Jewish, hence why I picked it as my example. I’m not hating on Jews but merely being facetious to make a point. Replace “Jews” with your group of choice.