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Do you have a feminist perspective on smacking children?

(82 Posts)
LRDTheFeministDragon Fri 26-Aug-11 23:27:11

I was just wondering about this one. For me, part of feminism has to do with thinking about the vulnerability of other groups, and perhaps especially about bodily vulnerability. And I hate the idea of smacking children, which I could justify on that basis, but which I must admit I hated long before I had any coherent feminist position.

So I was wondering, if you see yourself as a feminist, how do you feel about smacking children? And do you feel that your position is related to the fact you're a feminist, or do you think the two aren't related?

HerBeBolloX Fri 26-Aug-11 23:45:27

I don't think my position on smacking started out being related to my feminism, but it is now...

My gradual conversion to non smacking, was via the "setting boundaries" route. I gradually came to the view that if you want your children to expect their bodily integrity to be respected, then you er, need to respect their bodily integrity. And that ties in with feminist views of women's bodily integrity being pretty much sacrosanct, just like that of men.

LowLevelWhingeing Fri 26-Aug-11 23:48:08

um, you shouldn't hit people.

is my basic understanding of it.

why does it have to be feminist?

HerBeBolloX Fri 26-Aug-11 23:49:10

It doesn't have to be feminist.

But this is the feminist section, so that's why we're discussing if there is a feminist angle to it.

HerBeBolloX Fri 26-Aug-11 23:50:04

If it were the socialist section, we'd be discussing whether there was a socialist angle to it.

LRDTheFeministDragon Fri 26-Aug-11 23:57:28

LowLevel - I probably didn't phrase my OP that well, but that's exactly what I wanted to know ... how many posters would see it as an issue that grew out of the same kind of views that also make them feminists, and how many just think of them as separate issues.

I was just realizing (on another thread), that the people I know who think smacking is perfectly fine also happen to be non-feminists/anti-feminist, and I wondered if the two were connected. I guess I'd like to know if anyone who is a feminist would justify smacking.

LowLevelWhingeing Sat 27-Aug-11 00:04:20

ok, sorry.

i can see how it could grow out of other issues, but I see not smacking as a basic respect thing which applies to everyone, not just women.

are the kind of people who are feminists, the kind of people who are not likely to smack anyway? Is that what you meant LRFD?

LRDTheFeministDragon Sat 27-Aug-11 00:11:22

Oh, don't apologize, I didn't explain very clearly! smile

I was getting at that sort of thing - do feminists tend not to smack. I think I'd also say that for me, feminism is about basic respect that applies to everyone, not just women. Like that thread in AIBU today saying how crap and un-feminist it is when people make patronizing comments about men on here - it's all connected IMO. But not having kids of my own and having parents who're very sure smacking is right, I'm interested.

solidgoldbrass Sat 27-Aug-11 00:13:02

Well I am a feminist and I don't have a huge problem with the occasional smack for a naughty kid. But then I don't have a huge problem with smacking an adult who is misbehaving deliberately and persistently either.

LowLevelWhingeing Sat 27-Aug-11 00:15:42

what is it you're asking LRFD?

do you want to smack? do you need others to tell you what they do?

I think you know smile

LowLevelWhingeing Sat 27-Aug-11 00:16:56

hello sgb!

brilliant xpost

Theala Sat 27-Aug-11 00:19:38

I'm a feminist, but my not-smacking policy (if I had children, which I don't. I don't go around smacking random children either though) comes from my adjacent anti-violence conviction, rather than from a feminist theme.

SinicalSal Sat 27-Aug-11 00:20:10

I think the smacking issue is to do with legitimate authority. Good parents who smack do so because they believe they have the authority/higher up the hierarchy. Peers don't have hierarchy as such, and feminists in particular would not be enamoured with the concept of hierarchy, to put it mildly.
I haven't smacked (but then DC are very young still) but I don't particularly condemn it in limited circs and do believe I have authority over my children. So it hasn't come up for me yet in a real life non-pontification situation.

Obviously I am talking about a small tap on the hand or leg in limited circs, not a hard slap or anything worse. That disclaimer always need to be put in on threads of this sort.

LRDTheFeministDragon Sat 27-Aug-11 00:20:18

Thanks SGB, that's interesting to know! I don't agree, but I think it's interesting you point out you'd feel the same about adults and children.

Low - No, not at all - there's no point in me asking you to tell me what to do, I don't have any children! So the question is just theoretical really, out of interest. I just wanted to discuss whether or not people felt this was a feminist issue, and if so why, and if not, why not.

HerBeBolloX Sat 27-Aug-11 00:26:44

ROFL at giving recalcitrant adults occasional smacks.

Imagine the workplace if that was the generally held view of it.

It would be very noisy in my office. Slapping noises everywhere. grin

SinicalSal Sat 27-Aug-11 00:27:54

Oh God mine too HerBex! Not to mention those knobs on the bus with the too loud tinny ipods

LRDTheFeministDragon Sat 27-Aug-11 00:36:26

Oooh, it's a tempting picture, isn't it?! grin

In a way, I think it's more justifiable to think of slapping an adult than a child ... an adult can understand what you're doing (and will probably think you're an inarticulate knob for not explaining); a child probably can't. IMO.

HerBeBolloX Sat 27-Aug-11 00:42:59

Yes actually, it's far more reasonable to go around hitting adults.

But most of them are bigger and stronger than me, so I won't be doing that experiment any time soon.

And also, they are so conventional in their outlook. They probably wouldn't want to get with the programme - they'd complain to HR or the police, damn them.

LRDTheFeministDragon Sat 27-Aug-11 00:46:48

Yeah, besides which, being known as 'the mad lady who smacks hoodies on the bus' is probably not great. I imagine the response would be more mystified than actually annoyed!

solidgoldbrass Sat 27-Aug-11 01:18:15

I do consider myself as having legitimate authority over DS, he's only 6 and I do control what he eats, when he goes to bed, where he goes etc in a way that I wouldn't feel I had the authority to do with another adult. That doesn't mean I beat him regularly (and in fact I no longer smack him, 6 is old enough to use discussion and withdrawal of privileges etc as a disciplinary method). As to smacking other adults, I don't do that very often either, but (for instance) would slap someone who was touching me and wouldn't stop, or who was really invading my personal space in order to annoy me.

jasper Sat 27-Aug-11 01:22:07


ComradeJing Sat 27-Aug-11 01:45:06

My thoughts are the same as SGB on this one.

stripeybump Sat 27-Aug-11 01:53:12

I don't have children yet but don't intend to use physical pain as punishment or deterrent or training. The 'body integrity' and respect issue is key, I think, for me. I think being feminist doesn't cause or change these views, but makes it easier to identify with the idea of vulnerability.

Re authority though - we do all give our children very clear, firm instructions with no explanation or negotiation (well the vast majority of parents do) so obviously the relationship we have with them is different. We are in charge and have to assert this somehow. It's different to DV because the control element is already there, it's essential. The ideal I guess is for children to respect instructions from parents without fear of reprisals, especially painful ones.

I'm rambling a bit and feel somewhat unqualified not having kids, but this interests me.

sunshineandbooks Sat 27-Aug-11 07:59:10

I suppose my position on smacking came about from feminism though I didn't necessarily consider it consciously. I've never really been comfortable with the idea but once I'd become a victim of DV I found that I had trouble separating smacking from DV since both involve using physical force or the threat of it to maintain control. That's massively over-simplistic of course, but from a personal POV it just doesn't sit right with me.

OTOH, I think inadequate parenting and some non-physical forms of punishment can do far more harm than smacking. Smacking, when carried out properly (i.e. without anger and in a controlled fashion) is considered by many to be very effective. I think much of the trouble comes from the fact that many parents who smack do so as a last resort when they finally lose their temper with their child. Then it becomes about anger and retribution rather than a legitimate means of controlling a child's behaviour. I think the damage this sort of smacking creates is in part the reason why smacking is so out of favour now, but I don't think it's wise to assume that all smacking is like that.

I definitely feel that the older a child becomes the more inappropriate smacking becomes. Similar to SGB I think that any child over a certain age (assuming no behavioural issues/learning difficulties, etc) should be capable of being reasoned with and I firmly believe that it's a mistake to not do this and rely on force instead.

You could tie yourself up in knots really by over-thinking this though. I mean as feminists we wouldn't put up with men trying to control our physical movement if we didn't conform to their behavioural standards, but that's exactly what us non-smackers like myself do when we use the naughty step... confused

I love the idea of 'bodily integrity' put forward by HerBex, which is a beautifully articulate way of putting it and one I shall be stealing for future use. smile

skrumle Sat 27-Aug-11 08:45:09

i don't relate the two. i don't smack because i tried it twice with DD (who threw horrendous temper tantrums), first time worked - shocked her and left her a bit subdued, second time she looked at me with total disdain and said "didn't even hurt". i was soooooo tempted to slap her across the face to see if that hurt that I walked away and have never been tempted to try it again with her or DS.

IMO parents who smack generally don't have authority over their children, and smacking doesn't give them the authority either. While parents who are able to smack their children in a calm manner as part of an overall authoritative stance IMO don't NEED to smack so why do it??

I do have a friend who was smacked regularly by her dad as a punishment handed out by her mum - a "wait till your father gets home" type routine. I think that might be a feminist issue? wink

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