The Breeder Shoe On the Other Foot

Check out this post on The Childfree Life.  What poster “selfishwoman” experienced exemplifies what can happen when people make assumptions, and why some childfree  can get criticized for  “breeder” talk….

First, here is “selfishwoman”‘s post:

“I was baby sitting my friend Babb’s 14mo old today to give her a little sanity break, and I took him to the park. We were playing in a shady area of the lawn, and some people decided to come by, and started to play catch. One of the wussier guys failed to catch the ball and it rolled within about 10 ft of the baby, who started to try toddling towards it, but I picked him up before he reached it and started walking back to our blanket, and this jerk said ‘You washed that kid’s hands, right?’

I stopped and said, ‘Don’t worry. He didn’t touch your ball.’

The guy said ‘F-ing breeder.’

So I said, ‘No, I’m child free by choice, and watching this kid for a sick friend, and He didn’t do a F-ing thing to you. If you’re so worried about germs, why don’t you learn to catch the ball, so it doesn’t roll in the F-ing dirt.’

His eyes got wide when I said ‘child free by choice.’ His friends laughed, and I overheard his friend say later, ‘Well, sh*t. You blew that. Offended the only child free woman you’ve ever met in person.’

4 AgreementsOK the guy was out of line, to be sure. But seeing her with the child it’s easy to assume that she was the child’s mother, yes?  This idea brought to mind one of Miguel Ruiz’s “agreements” his book, The Four Agreements: “Make No Assumptions.” This is a very powerful book, and living by this assumption can be particularly challenging. It’s so easy to assume we are interpreting a situation correctly and then behaving according to that assumption, only to find out we are wrong about it. In this case, had he not made the assumption she was the mother, he would not have chosen such a bad way to communicate with her.

And in this case, the guy’s assumption was not only wrong, but his response was one of the reasons the childfree get flack for the “breeder” talk.  I have never been a big fan of the “breeder” lingo–because it seems to only serve to continue a divide between those with children and without, and connotes judgment, which doesn’t foster mutual understanding.

Selfishwoman experienced what it might be like for parents to get the breeder bit in a bad way, and rightly put this rude guy in his place.

I ponder what would happen if we abandoned the breeder lingo altogether–at least calling parents that in public forums–do you think doing this would foster more acceptance of the childfree?

11 thoughts on “The Breeder Shoe On the Other Foot

  1. I’d like to see the “breeder lingo” a little less prominent, simply because it is often used in such a hateful, discriminatory. However, I don’t believe making it disappear completely would have any impact at all. People will always find new terms for expressing their displeasure at a situation. If it isn’t a new series of derogatory slang terms, then it will be “proper” language that is just as disparaging, even if the words are arranged more prettily. That goes for a lot of social situations, well beyond the one in question.

    The words being used may not be lovely or accepting, but they are a reflection of the situation, not the cause. People who feel persecuted will find a way to lash back, even if it is with less than classy word choices. And, as much as I hate to play the victim -on my own behalf or that of the CF community- we ARE the socially persecuted minority in countless little interactions. As such, I don’t think the onus is on the CF to soften up our terminology or to make the first move in seeking acceptance.

    As society makes its oh-so-slow shifts toward acceptance of more varied lifestyle choices, and the CF feel less persecuted, the “breeder lingo” will become less and less common. The proof of that future already exists. As you interact with the CF community, notice the terminology: The majority of those who do not use “breeder lingo” at all or only within the framework of a specific rant are usually the ones who don’t feel overly persecuted for their choice in their own social circle. They have less to lash back against. As time passes, more and more people will fall into that category.

    It’s simple: feeling less like a mistreated minority = less need to express anger toward the majority with harsh words. We just need some time (as a society) to catch up to the changes therein and cool our tempers about it. Unfortunately, it’s the majority that needs to make the first move, and they’re being a little slow about it.

    1. Awesomely put! Thanks, Stacey.

      I do think that the childfree do have some responsibility not to work against acceptance of this choice. It is up to the majority, yes, but the minority reacting to this by lashing out slows the acceptance train further….

  2. What Stacey said. Look, a lot of parents (breeders or no) are probably always going to hate us. They have plenty of terrible things to say about us, and often right to our faces. And parents are the majority…so yeah, I think it’s on them. Maybe change will come in the next generation or so.

    I don’t refer to all parents as breeders, because some of them aren’t. But in my experience, even those who are thoughtful and considerate are still pretty entitled. Dealing with it gets old. Dealing with their kids gets old, too. I generally don’t like kids and feel that I shouldn’t have to put up with them–their noise, their messes, whatever. Too many parents (even the non-breeders) seem to have this idea that we all have to deal with kids in our space or kids disrupting our quiet times or kids yelling in public places and disturbing everyone or even just kids wanting to talk to strangers when we’re in a store or something. When those parents get over themselves, control their kids, take responsibility for their children’s actions, and accept that their kids are not the most awesome people ever to anyone but to them, then we’ll see a change in the discourse, I suspect. But that will be a long time coming, I fear, if my observations are in fact the norm.

  3. Wow. I’ve never run into anyone who bashed a breeder before. I do view it was a derogatory term, so I avoid it. I *might* be tempted to pull it out and use it on someone who’s bashing my choices to be childfree, but…I think it’s a “give what you get” deal. I tend to respect them and the choices they’ve made. I never say, “Kids? Ugh! No thanks! Never wanted them.” Most people tend to respect if I say, “That wasn’t a lifestyle choice that appealed to me.” BUT…they’ve also usually seen me with kids and know that I actually like them and enjoy being around kids. I just never wanted to take on the role of being a parent.

    So sorry this lady had this experience. It is interesting to see it from this side. I have noticed more of a tendency for restaurants and such to be less kid-friendly these days. I sympathize with parents who have to suffer for that. However, I think there was a point in our society when people knew there were certain places you just didn’t take children because children wouldn’t know how to act right and parents didn’t want to monitor them or put anyone else out. These days people don’t seem to care about inconveniencing others. Everyone feels entitled to do what they want when they want. It all boils down to respect…or maybe lack thereof these days…that’s causing some of the problems.

  4. I don’t use the term breeder. It just seems silly to me. Some people want kids, others (like me) don’t. I wish my preference weren’t such a big deal, but I’m not going to start a war over it. Honestly I think the parents who are most judgmental about the childfree just feel that our choice is somehow an implicit judgment of them. I try not to take it personally. (They’re probably just tired…OK couldn’t help myself).

  5. What Ang said. Thankfully, I don’t encounter many young children in my everyday life. Even in my rather limited volunteer work in some area schools, I work with kids who are ages 10-14 who are well behaved so that is not a big deal. My apartment building has few children. None of the apartments adjacent to mine have any children living in them.

    My biggest beef with the childed is with the tax code, particularly with how local school taxes are determined. And that is more a beef with the politicians (I write them often on this) than with the childed themselves.

  6. Laura, to answer your last question, I’m honestly not sure if it would make any difference to narrow-minded parents who are determined to dislike CF folks. They’re probably going to dislike them no matter what words are used by CFers, so I don’t think eliminating the “breeder” word will help much.

    As an atheist and now single-by-choice person, I’ve been bingoed many times for one or both lifestyle choices by a member of the Bingo Brigade, and sometimes I just have to vent. I’ve learned by experience that if someone is determined to take offense at something, he/she will use any excuse to do so. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for me to censor myself to avoid giving offense.

    I believe Elizabeth Cady Stanton (another of my feminist favorites) once said, “I never write to please anyone.” Plenty of people took offense at Stanton’s views, but she never let that stop her from writing what she felt on a subject. I’m with Stanton on this one. 🙂

  7. I first learned the term “breeder” as a term that some (SOME!) gays and lesbians used to refer to heterosexual people. It was meant to be a counter to the existing slurs about gay people. So, to me, it’s always had that connotation. Nowadays it is actually much less commonly used as a slang term for heteros, because there are plenty of LGBT people who are not only adopting children but also becoming biological parents, so it doesn’t quite make sense as a term separating straight people from gay people, when both of them can “breed.”

  8. Did anyone else catch the slight against childfree people, where the friend says that women who are childfree by choice are so rare that he’s only met one in person? Like childfree women are mythical creatures, so don’t blow it when you meet one, because it could be your only chance. You know, like unicorns or leprechauns.

  9. I really hate self-help books.

    “Make no assumptions” is antithetical to the practice of engineering. We *have* to make assumptions under a lot of circumstances.

    It’s *baseless* assumptions that should never be made.

    Personally, I don’t feel the term “breeder” is particularly ugly, but then again I don’t label all parents with it. Face it. Some people really do deserve it. Trust me. I’m from Utah.

  10. “The guy said, ‘F-ing breeder.’ ”

    This might have escalated things, but you could have pointed out to him that his mother was a breeder. I would have said “your mama was a breeder.”

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