In response to a blog post up at Feministe on radio shock jocks leveling insults at gender-nonconforming children, commenter preying mantis writes,
“I always have a hard time with stories like this one, because I just can’t understand why. What’s the point of terrorizing children?” [–Jill, in the original post]
I think it goes back to the “someone you raise” vs. “something you have” attitudes people have towards children. If you’re raising your kids with the idea that your job is to bring up a happy, healthy person capable of independent functioning and a successful life of their own with as little unnecessary baggage as possible, there’s pretty much zero point to engaging in abusive behavior toward them.
If you’re raising your kids with the idea that they exist for your benefit, they’re your property, and/or their primary function is to act as a status symbol for you, you’re probably going to feel entitled to act against their best interests to a much greater degree. If you see them as a reflection or extension of yourself, and you’re deeply invested in gender roles, you’re more likely to take it personally if your children fail to be sufficiently masculine or feminine, especially if they do it in public.
The question of adult attitudes toward young people — especially the children in their care — is obviously a complicated one, with lots of nuance and complexity dependent on particular situations. But I really like the way she articulates the distinction between these two attitudes and the quality of the interactions that follow from them.