“It’s an all-ages event”

Back in college, back when I was a nanny and worked in a child-care center and

knew everything about raising kids, I read Carol J. Adams’ book: “The Sexual Politics of Meat.”

I’m not your chick, either.

As a fledgling vegan, and student of psychology and linguistics, this book opened my eyes to the connections between patriarchy, sexism, meat-eating, and language.

Common stereotypes that reinforce the associations between manliness and meat:

Men eat meat, women eat salads…

Men hunt, women gather…

Men call women “chicks”…

Women get treated “like a piece of meat”..

Men consume women with their gaze, their wallet, their attitudes…

Just think of a Carl’s Jr. commercial or a steak-house ad.

A few months back, I was very excited to discover the book’s author, Carol J. Adams, on Facebook.

I was doubly excited to learn that she was conducting a lecture tour marking the 20th anniversary of her book.

I was triply excited when she told me that she would be speaking in our city… and that the lecture coincided with a “date night.”

My husband is a fledgling vegan himself, and I wanted to share this concept with him (and go on a date a little outside our usual dinner-and-conversation routine).

We go on dates once or twice a month, if we’re lucky.

The lecture was last weekend.

Our babysitter fell through–the couple who had offered to babysit had forgotten about the birthday party and swimming lessons they had to take their sons to.

I checked the event page. It was sponsored by a feminist university group. It said it was “all ages.”

We decided to take our Little Guy with us, but I had a sinking feeling.

As we were taking turns getting ready, my husband declared he didn’t have any pants. I hadn’t washed the batch of laundry that included his two pairs of casual pants. Why does he have only two???

He emerged from our room in work-worthy wool pants and a button-down dress shirt. And shiny leather shoes.

“You can’t dress like that! We’re going to a lecture with a bunch of feminist, vegan, college students!”

He found some jeans.

We left, and I returned an overdue call to my sister. She said she was just pulling up.

Huh?

“It’s our uncle’s 75th birthday party.”

“This is the first I’ve heard about it! Well, we are going to an event. We’ve had plans for months! We’ll stop by afterward if we can.”

Something was telling me we just shouldn’t go. But I really wanted to do this. I had been looking forward to it. I wanted to share this experience with my husband. And it was supposed to be all-ages.

“Should we still go? It says it’s all ages. But maybe it’s college students’ idea of all ages… babies sitting quietly on their mother’s lap, nursing sweetly at the breast. Well, we’ll show them what kids are really like!”

We drove downtown. Circled around, and found parking. We were a little early, so we let the Little Guy walk along some walls and climb stairs to kill time and burn off some of his energy before going to the lecture.

At ten-til, we went inside and found the lecture room.

Our son was the only kid.

We found a couple of seats in the already-packed room. Then, we traded seats with people so we could sit next to the white board (so he could color), near the doorway (so we could get up and leave easily), and well away from the light switches and projector controls (so he wouldn’t shut down the slide show).

Just as the author was introduced, he gave out a high-pitched squeal. The room looked back, a joke was made about the audience’s excitement. People laughed. Maybe it would be okay.

The author began with a slide-show, featuring her early years. She highlighted a picture of herself holding her two-year-old son in front of a banner at a Civil Rights march. I thought, “Yes! Involve children in the life of the community… that is the only way we can make progress as feminists.”

The Little Guy colored on the white board for the first five minutes. Then he got squirmy.

I took him out to the hallway to run around. When we returned 10 minutes later, my husband had given up my seat to a young student with her bike gear.

He got up to stand in the doorway, and I sat down next to the girl and nursed the Little Guy for a few minutes to buy time. When he started kicking and squirming, I sent him out to the hall with his dad.

Five minutes later, I gave up. I gave my husband the look that said, “Let’s go.”

And, with that, there were no more children at this lecture. And perhaps, there were no more mothers of young children.

I thought dark thoughts about how hard it is to stay engaged with the world when you have small children…. how even at a feminist event, there is no infrastructure to support the presence of children or the ability of mothers to participate.

I hoped those young women were taking note, and thinking about how they could help change things.

Back at the car, we found a $45 ticket on the window. Apparently, they charge for parking downtown on Sunday afternoons now. Who knew? We don’t get out much!

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Part of the solution since 1973.

6 thoughts on ““It’s an all-ages event”

  1. The only place I have truly seen a children-friendly, all-ages culture is within Native community/ Native events (even Native workplaces!). Where squirmy kids and squealing responses to speakers and all that other kid related behavior is completely expected and doesn’t distract anyone from the reason for gathering. I really valued that when my kiddo was younger, cuz I didn’t feel like I had to miss out on things because I was a mom. I have not experienced that anywhere else. “Family friendly” in the broader community seems to mean “kids allowed if they don’t act like kids and we don’t know they are there.”

  2. Yeah, I have been saying for years that we are NOT a family-friendly culture. People like to think we are, but when it comes down to it, you get a lot of dirty looks if you try to actually put it into practice. I remember when we lived right by Trader Joe’s and taking a fairly well-behaved 2 and 4 year old who did normal 2 and 4 year old things that may have caused a childless liberal to have to pause their cart for an extra 5 seconds and getting glares that made me want to go home and cry.

    1. It’s the hardest of all for single moms. What drives me nuts is the assumption I see over and over that parents aren’t trying, that we’re just being lazy, that we’re just letting the kids run amok. I invite anyone who thinks that of me to try to parent my children for a week.

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