using children in feminist or political rallies/ads

(22 Posts)
VictoriaOKeefe Fri 01-Jan-16 22:02:13

I was just wondering... is it ethical for parents to use children as props in political rallies/protests/ads when they have no say in the matter, do not really understand and cannot meaningfully consent. Not to mention that it might embarrass them later in life when they do form political opinions.

Exalted Fri 01-Jan-16 22:10:18

Forcing your political views on a child without the capacity to comprehend them and form their own opinion is inherently immoral. We should be teaching children to critically analyse the ideas and ideologies they encounter in the world, that they might find/develop their identity and belief system on their own.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Fri 01-Jan-16 22:15:48

Are you thinking of a particular example OP? I think of course you should encourage your DC to think for themselves although it is natural that they are affected by your beliefs.

That is true of religion as well as of politics.

BertieBotts Fri 01-Jan-16 22:16:32

What do you mean? Do you mean taking children on a peaceful march? Because I have done this and I don't think it counts as using them as a prop. It was just a fun day out and they were too young to understand the arguments anyway.

If you mean using them e.g. by writing a blog about them, I think it's okay provided the child is anonymised.

Or in photographic form as part of an ad campaign maybe? I think that is questionable.

OTheHugeManatee Fri 01-Jan-16 22:25:11

I think people are kidding themselves if they imagine they can avoid communicating their political and religious views to their children. In the end the kids will make up their minds if they agree or not but it's pointless trying to leave then 'free' as that's just not how being influenced by your parents and upbringing works. So from that point of view you might as well drag them along to rallies - they may rebel against your views in later life or go the other way and become Ed Miliband but that's not really up to you. So you might as well be open with your politics, and involve them. That said, it's not ethical to take your kids to a political march where they might be in danger. And it's a bit crass to make any kind of spectacle of them.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Fri 01-Jan-16 22:33:10

"I think people are kidding themselves if they imagine they can avoid communicating their political and religious views to their children."

Absolutely. And one's views often don't feel necessarily political or biased, but just common sense.

TeiTetua Fri 01-Jan-16 23:23:29

Much as I wish I could, I'm unable to forget seeing a picture of an American anti-abortion demonstration, with a child holding a sign saying "Thank you mommy for not aborting me".

VictoriaOKeefe Fri 01-Jan-16 23:39:25

Even taking them out on "peaceful marches" when they are too young to understand or comprehend the political views of the parent or parents that are using them is unethical and immoral i feel. It doesn't matter if a woman thinks a local pro-choice rally is the bee's knees, it does not give her the right to involve her small child/children in her personal political views.

My parents let me be used in a political TV ad when i was small. I was not asked whether i wanted to promote the politician or even understood his views.

slightlyglitterpaned Fri 01-Jan-16 23:39:32

I went along to marches, helped paint banners and placards, helped to deliver election leaflets, and in early teens can remember taking a petition round to ask people to sign it. My siblings and I all watched the different parties election broadcasts for each general election and argued passionately about their merits/drawbacks with our parents. We also tended to argue (very politely) with teachers in school (who loved it) but were too shy to argue with our parents' friends.

Being exposed to political debate, and participating in it is how you develop your opinions. If you have parents who expect you to unquestioningly accept their opinion as the one true way, it doesn't seem to much matter whether you go on a protest or not.

slightlyglitterpaned Fri 01-Jan-16 23:47:17

Cross-posted Victoria. Interesting how different our experiences were. I honestly believe that being excluded from my mother's political activity would have been a loss - it helped our confidence and understanding massively. Why do you think it was so harmful for you?

VictoriaOKeefe Sat 02-Jan-16 00:25:25

I Just feel that taking your children to marches/letting them be used in political campaigns and ads is wrong considering that small children cannot consent to anything. I did not ask to be put in that political ad. The producers of the ad also did not care that i was not girly and princessy and put me in this cutesy dress to blatantly tug at the viewer's heartstrings.

MrsTerryPratchett Sat 02-Jan-16 00:27:51

I went to a peaceful teachers' strike here in Canada with DD, when they were striking. I was a SAHP so it was take her or stay at home. I'm pretty sure that she didn't want larger class sizes, terrible SEN provision and reduced funding.

I would never use her in an ad or similar. But then I don't put her face on FB so I'm weird that way.

slightlyglitterpaned Sat 02-Jan-16 01:54:12

The ad sounds like they should have paid an actress, if they wanted a role not a real person. It doesn't sound like any attention was paid to what you wanted - that sounds very disempowering.

In contrast, my experience was that I got to see an important part of my mother's life, felt like I was important, and my opinion was important and that adults would listen to it (whether they agreed or not). To me, it doesn't feel like that involvement required informed consent as it was just part of normal life - similarly I was quite naturally exposed to tons of feminist literature as a kid, grew up reading my mother's Spare Rib & Dale Spender et al. Not because she encouraged it, but because it was there and I read everything I got my hands on. It feels to me the same as other personal decisions like what school you choose, what foods you eat. E.g. do you raise your children eating the same food as the family - vegetarian say, or halal? Or do you teach them that families shouldn't be allowed to differ from the community norm by not feeding them family food, because they're not old enough to consent? (The latter appears frequently on AIBU threads related to vegetarianism so it's not a made up example. I don't understand the mindset so I can't really represent it well - that's essentially how it always comes across to me).

I also think it's a matter of degree. I don't think I'd be comfortable with my DS being in a political ad, but a political march would be just fine as long as it was safe and he was enjoying it. My comfort levels might well be different if my experience was different.

VictoriaOKeefe Sat 02-Jan-16 02:19:20

In America, you have children being exploited for political purposes frequently, for example, both Lyndon Johnson and Walter Mondale. Often little girls, too, as they can be prettified and cutesie pooed for the intended viewers of the political advertisement in a way that little boys cannot. I wasn't a child actress but i was on the books because my mother had put me in child modelling (again with no regard by the adults to my desire).

I think it's vital that the still common belief that children are their mother's or parents' property and their desire or consent is not relevant needs to be challenged substantially.

onahorsewithnoname Sat 02-Jan-16 15:03:46

Does that experience have anything to do with the political belief of the parents, other than they think children should be working?

VictoriaOKeefe Sat 02-Jan-16 21:21:29

My mother knew it was a political ad. She could have refused to have me in it.

BertieBotts Sat 02-Jan-16 23:16:25

Honestly the main reason I took DS on the march was because it was easier than sourcing childcare, nothing to do with wanting him to experience it actually. I still disagree that it's exploitative. If it was likely to be a dangerous protest or it was too far to walk or something, that would be different, and it would be unfair to involve children. But when it's physically neutral to them, and the concept is over their head, then it is the adults' decision.

I do think children's consent is important. It's hugely important, actually. I just think that it applies to smaller individual interactions, like whether they want to be tickled, not something as broad as what their parents are interested in or whether they get taken on a march. Otherwise you'd be involving very small children in decisions like whether to go on holiday or move house which is just nonsense - they are too young to be part of those kinds of decisions because they don't understand all of the factors involved. So the adults around them have to make the choices, while, of course, avoiding unnecessary distress to children, and the children get to watch and observe this tapestry of life. That is, after all, how they learn to be adults.

You can't spend your entire life avoiding anything that your children might not understand. That's not practical, it's also isolating to women, who tend to be the main child carers, and also how the hell will they learn to understand things if they are never exposed to them?

VictoriaOKeefe Sun 03-Jan-16 00:00:58

Attempting to give the impression that young children support the political beliefs of their adults when they are barely out of nappies leaves a sour taste. There was a recent news report about some gay activists bringing children along to their thing at a parliamentarian's office. I doubt the children even understood where they were, let alone "We're here! We're queer...".

triafemm Sun 03-Jan-16 00:29:28

Using children is a very cheap and distasteful way to score points when trying to advocate for something political IMO

"I don't really have anything of much value to say, but look! Here's a young kid holding a banner I made! Doesn't that want to make you go awww and be more likely to support my agenda?"

slightlyglitterpaned Sun 03-Jan-16 00:47:22

I don't understand how a toddler is supposed to be viewed as "supporting" some political activity. All that seeing small children at marches tells me is that some of the marchers have children.

I agree with Bertie, suggesting that carers shouldn't bring children to political activities means excluding them from participating, and it will mostly be women who are excluded.

It also means excluding children from the life of their community. I think this is also problematic.

FreshwaterSelkie Sun 03-Jan-16 07:54:33

I don't know that it's always even deliberate. I went on a pro-choice rally and one of the women I went with had to bring her slinged baby. She wasn't trying to make any kind of point, but he was still breastfed, and her husband was at work, so it was either bring him or not attend. The press there took a lot of photos of them, as it was an easy way to say "look, mothers support abortion rights too", even though that wasn't really her intent. She was a bit peeved about that, because it wasn't her message, but she just accepted it as the consequence of her attendance.

The baby will be brought up in a strongly feminist and left-leaning household, so the beliefs that took him on the march will be all around him for all of his childhood. It's possible that he could grow up, get religion, become anti-choice and deplore that his mother took him to the march, but that would be a conversation for them to have and resolve in the future. OP, have you discussed your feelings with the parent involved? It seems like it should be a relatively easy issue to resolve by stating that you didn't like it. Has it impacted your life in some way?

museumum Sun 03-Jan-16 08:04:35

I'm not strongly political but often go on the pro-cycling rallies in my city which have loads of kids. Also "make poverty history" neither are contentious and I think it's relatively safe to say most kids are pro bike riding and anti poverty but also I doubt anyone really believes the children themselves "support the cause" - their presence more says "ordinary families" <boak> Support the cause.
Whatever the cause is I think that's important because there is a powerful part of society who wants the public to believe that all rallies are only attended by violent anarchist extremists and do it's ok to kettle then or use riot police to "control" peacefully walking along the street people.

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