Sunday, March 12, 2017

Childism: Can We Please Stop Referring to Babies as Half People?

"Two and a half?" the waitress asked, after my husband, our baby, and I entered the restaurant.

I chuckled. Because she meant it as a joke and I was being polite. I don't want to be one of "those people" the world is rolling their eyes at because I'm too sensitive or take things the wrong way. But after a year of hearing this joke, I don't think I'm overreacting. I get that this is "just" a joke. Many family and friends and strangers have made this joke, and I'm not angry with any of you. You don't mean to play into childism, but you do. So here's my gentle plea to stop referring to babies as less than a whole people.

What is childism? 

First of all, let's define childism since it's a relatively new concept. Childism is a prejudice or discrimination against a young person based on their age. (Just like sexism is prejudice/discrimation based on sex, racism is prejudice/discrimination based on race, and ageism is prejudice/discrimination based on mature age.)

What does childism look like? 

Childism looks like adults ignoring a child's attempt at adding to a conversation "because the adults are talking."

Childism looks like hitting a child in the name of discipline even though it's never okay to hit any other person.

Childism looks like making a child sit at the kids table during Thanksgiving even though the child feels more comfortable eating and talking with the adults.

Childism is forcing affection (hugs, kisses, etc.) even though it's never okay to force affection or touch on an adult.

There are endless examples, but at it's basic root, childism looks like treating a child with less respect than we would give an adult.

What if we treated other people the same way we treat children? 

Imagine you're talking with a group of friends, and another adult approaches and has something to add. Would you stop them and say, "Not right now. Go do something else. We're talking." No, right? Because it's dismissive, rude, and shows you don't value that person's thoughts. If you were that person being turned away, how would you feel?

Picture you're having a bad day. Maybe you're tired and hungry, so you snap at someone or forget to take your coffee mug into the kitchen. So, to show that you need to be kinder or more responsible, someone hits you. Not okay. Never okay.

Your Uncle Harvey comes over and, for whatever reason (any reason at all), you don't want to hug him. You tell him no, but he wraps his arms around you anyway to hold you against your will. When he lets you go, you're upset, but everyone else in the room tells you not to be so rude. That's so messed up.

Now let's go back to the restaurant scenario. Let's call a woman half a person. Let's call a black person only half a person. Let's call Great Grandpa half a person. "Two and a half of you?" No one would chuckle. We'd be outraged. We'd talk to the manager and take our business elsewhere because sexism, racism, and ageism are unacceptable.

Yet it's okay and even funny to do this to young people? I do get the joke. Babies are small and cute. They can't talk yet. They'll throw more food than they eat, and they think fart noises are funny. But...none of these things make babies less than a whole person. This joke is a tiny tip of a giant iceberg called childism.

So just like I did in the restaurant yesterday, if someone asks me, "Two and a half?" I'll say, "No, three of us."

More on Childism

If you're interested in furthering your understanding, some other bloggers I love talk about childism too. Check out their posts!

"Childism: Not a Call to Action, Just a Beginning" by Our Muddy Boots

"We Need to Talk about Childism" by Happiness is Here

Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts in the comments and check out my Facebook page for more on crunchy momming with faith, gentleness, and boobs!


  1. Childism? Oh please! We already have ageism and sexism and racism. Let's concentrate on combating those first before rushing out to invent a whole new thing to get offended over. Sheesh.

    1. Anonymous, I can't think of a better way to combat ageism, sexism, and racism than to raise a generation of people who inherently appreciate a person's worth regardless of differences than to raise that generation to feel worthy and respected regardless of THEIR differences. There's one reason we absolutely should fight childism.

  2. I am a bit mixed on this one but I love that you made me think this morning!

    1. Thinking is always good. :) Thanks for commenting!

  3. Thanks for this Food for Thought! Certainly the list of "What does Childism Look Like" is something that I have thought about before and work diligently to avoid as a parent... but I hadn't considered the "and a half" as being part of this issue. I more considered the "and a half" as a cute way to tell the hostess at a restaurant that we don't need an extra large booth for a full body because my children are small... so they only take up about half the space... we can squeeze into a smaller table... I will definitely consider my use of language in the future!

    1. Yeah, I totally see how someone would use it in that way. I think that's what people's harmless intentions are. But it still might send kids a message that they're less.

  4. This is an interesting concept. I don't have kids and I'm not around them much but I do try to be aware of the impact my words and actions have on them, when I am around them. If I ever do have kids I hope I don't belittle them and their existence by using any of the 'childism' things. Thanks for sharing this with everyone.

    1. If you do have kids, I'm sure you'll do great! You already sound so respectful of children. :)

  5. It is easy to treat children difrent the other people because of their size. But your right, we need to be better at remembering that they are not any less then us just because they are kids.