Not a post title you thought you’d see around here, eh?
I came across this article about feeding your toddler vegan through, who knows, Facebook, Twitter, something. The article was fine, raise your kid vegan, don’t. I don’t really give a damn. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a kid person.
But I made the mistake of reading the bottom half of the internet, also known as the comment section. Unsurprisingly, there are a bunch of armchair nutritionists who have all the answers regarding the proper diets of toddlers. Also, unsurprisingly, none of them agree.
What I found really interesting was the number of people who complained that the author was shoving her beliefs down her child’s throat.
More commonly known as raising your damn kid.
It turns out, you get to interact with your children differently than you do other, random adult human beings. For example, if you force your child out of bed on a Sunday morning and take them to church and tell them Jesus is the Lord and Savior, that’s considered acceptable parenting. If you come to my house and do that to me, that’s kidnapping. Similarly, if you stock the fridge in your house with vegan products and that’s what your kid eats, that’s acceptable. If you come over to my house and throw away my milk and cheese, you’re an asshole.Ra
I don’t know whether or not a toddler needs to eat milk or meat or spinach or whatever to be healthy. I do know that just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean that you get to question their parenting abilities.
“Othering” is a pretty basic psychological trick used to create distance between people. “We are different from them.” “They aren’t like us.” “Those people.”
Its use ranges from the absurd to the serious. Sitcoms use to to poke fun at just how different men and women are. Racists use it to justify their hatred. The Nazis used it.
Othering is almost a verbal tic that creeps into our language whenever we want to separate some bad opinion we have from the person who falls into the category of owning the trait but whom we want to separate from it.
But it happens in everyday conversation as well. During a discussion I was having with a friend about watching sports, he repeatedly said “those people” referring to those people who watch professional sports. I replied, more than once, that it wasn’t “those people.” It was me to which he was referring. The negative attributes he was associating with the fans of professional sports didn’t belong to some amorphous blob of people, but to me, as a sports fan, who he was looking in the eye.
Othering is a cop out. It allows the speaker to say negative things without directly calling out the people they are accusing. It’s hard to say to someone you know that you attribute negative qualities to them. It’s much easier to exempt the people around you from the accusation. It happens on a personal level too.
A work, a subordinate was dissatisfied with my performance and wrote an email to my supervisor citing “a failure of leadership” and “the decision made by the leadership.” Though, clearly, I was the leadership they were referring to, they never cited me by name.
It’s easy to hate people when you think of them as not like you. As not yourself. As less than you.