Okay, now that I’ve said my piece about last night’s hilarious but unfortunate verbal battle, I can focus my attention on the OTHER Twitter kafuffle: the hot button topic of children at Northern Voice.
Contrary to what most people think, I don’t hate children. In fact, I was on the side of most of the parents contributing to last night’s debate – but it’s such an emotional topic for some that they’re blind to what’s actually being said and instead focus on preconceived notions like I’m a baby eating child hater who thinks all parents should be shunned and/or kept locked in a room with their spawn so the rest of us don’t have to deal with them.
Northern Voice has always been listed as a “child-friendly” event, with a room set aside for parents to set up some sort of day care system if they wish. The last three words are the important ones: it’s up to the parents to arrange something; not the Northern Voice organizers. They’ll provide the space; YOU work out the childcare yourself. As far as I know, that’s the way it’s always been – but this year, no one arranged anything. People brought their children, and there was nowhere to put them. Babies made noise, people were unable to hear speeches, and all of a sudden it’s a big war between the snotty douchebag child haters against the self-righteous entitled breeders.
Can’t we all just get along?
I am NOT against children being at Northern Voice. I do not, however, think that the panels or sessions are an appropriate place for your child, no matter how angelic and smart they are. Just like parents are entitled to attend any event they want; the childfree are also entitled to a space free from distractions. Why would you want to subject your child to Northern Voice sessions, anyway? Face it – grown ups are boring and a lot of the talks are completely inappropriate for kids.
Children don’t come with an off/on switch. How can anyone guarantee that their kid will be completely silent the entire time when someone is presenting? You can’t, and because you can’t, the sessions are not the place for kids. Everyone – childful and childfree alike – paid a great deal of money to attend, and everyone deserves to get the full experience from Northern Voice. You can’t tell me that your time there wouldn’t have been drastically different if you were trying to listen to Tod’s podcast talk while a baby cried 4 rows behind you, or a toddler ran up and down the aisles giggling while Steff was pouring her heart out. It isn’t fair to ANYONE – attendees OR speakers – to have to compete with that kind of fracas going on in the background, and that is why I think kids shouldn’t be allowed in the presentation/keynote rooms.
At the conference itself? Bring ‘em on!
If Northern Voice had child-minding services set up, there’s no reason why all sides can’t be happy. I understand that this has costs associated with it, which opens up a whole other can of worms: who pays for it? It’s not fair to make everyone pay more to cover the few who can’t/won’t find an alternative for their kid(s), but there’s potential for hardship (and non-stop bitching about being penalized for being a parent) if people had to pay extra to cover on-site babysitting. The only two possible answers I see would be to either a) collect and arrange volunteers beforehand to cover shifts of childcare (which could potentially bring about a whole host of insurance or legal issues), or find a sponsor to donate/pay for childcare. These are just two options; there could be more. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as people seem to want to make it.
As an aside, childfree does not equal child hater. Plenty of people who don’t have children like them just fine, and are childfree for reasons they do not owe you to disclose. During last night’s heated debate, it was repeatedly stated that children should not only be allowed at Northern Voice, they should be allowed to contribute to panels – then maybe all the asshole kid hating douchebag hipsters would see that kids aren’t so bad!
Really? REALLY? You honestly think the best way to change our minds about children is to force us to interact with them? Why on EARTH would you subject your child to basically performing for people who don’t care? Because that’s really it – I don’t *care* how special and smart and sociable and talented little Suzie or Johnny is. I’m sure your kids are lovely, but I go to Northern Voice to interact with like-minded bloggers and to meet people. I was astounded at how many times I saw someone say “parents went to the sessions of non-parents; they should have to come to OUR sessions too” – what? Are you serious? One of my favourite things about Northern Voice is the CHOICE offered to people; three or more simultaneous sessions running at the same time so you can attend the things that matter to YOU. I don’t actively look at the schedule and think “Well, I don’t really need to go to Facebook 101, but the only other session at that time is Quantum Physics and Social Media, which is run by a – ugh – parent. Facebook 101 it is!”. Even if I wasn’t the president of Team No Babies, why would I go to a panel entitled: Family Matters: Blogging For Mommies and Daddies? I wouldn’t. Just like I expect most of you won’t make an appearance at my Northern Voice 2011 session, “The Politics of Bukkake: Facials in Gay Porn”. And that’s okay – I won’t be offended. Why are you?
I don’t hate children, okay? Stop villainizing me and assuming everything I say is going to be 100% anti-child. I’m on your side. I think kids should be allowed at Northern Voice. I just don’t think they belong in the sessions – we ALL deserve to get everything we can out of the experience.
And the silence was only broken by the sound of his best friend’s zipper.