Down with Childhood and Adulthood

This is a kindergarten they turn us into children and then tell us we must learn to fend for ourselves they diminish us and accuse us of lacking self-esteem they steal our dignity while offering admonitions of our failure to confront reality.
[Michael Moorcock, Mother London]

Adults gave girls a pile of nonsense supported by childlike logic, while at the same time they make our “lord and masters” swallow little balls of science until they choke. For both of us, a ridiculous education.
[Louise Michel, quoted by Anne Boyer]

Man hat uns nicht gefragt / als wir noch kein Gesicht / ob wir leben wollten / oder lieber nicht
(Nobody asked us / when we had no face yet / if we wanted to live / or would rather not)
[Friedrich Holländer, Wenn ich mir was wünschen dürfte, sung by Marlene Dietrich]

1. A plague on both your playpens

Down with childhood and adulthood: one anathema entails the other, as Shulamith Firestone explained patiently in her famous tract, although her title stops before the ‘and’.
The mother who wants to kill her child for what she has had to sacrifice for it (a common desire) learns to love that same child only when she understands that it is as helpless, as oppressed as she is, and by the same oppressor: then her hate is directed outwards, and ‘motherlove’ is born.1

But why did Firestone fail to spell out from the start that kiddiehood’s demise would take grown-upness with it? Perhaps she thought her essay – or even her book! – might be read all the way to the end. For the sake of those who missed it the first times, then, let us repeat here: repudiation of childhood is not a matter of extending adulthood’s reputed privileges to children (or vice-versa). Each term presupposes and reproduces the other. Both live off the theatre of their pseudo-opposition. [Read more →]