Content warning: quotes the Daily Mail.
I had somehow missed this phrase of Richard Littlejohn’s in his blustering polemic against Lucy Meadows, a transwoman teacher in the UK who died recently — allegedly as a result of the press hounding of which Littlejohn’s spew was a part. Anyway, the phrase was this:
“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter?”
Oh man. “Those who really matter” are, of course, the Children™, a tool regularly pulled out in arguments by conservatives and liberals alike. By no means, however, are the needs of actual, real children considered — such as the students of Ms. Meadows who now have to live with the fact that because they live in a society* where transphobia is rampant and whose media consider it no more than another ploy to get eyeballs and advertising dollars to mock and hound a transwoman to her death.
I hate, hate, hate the “what about the CHILDRENNNN???!!!” nonsense because not only do most adults who use it don’t really believe the actual child matters — it’s only the adults’ ideal of “childhood” they’re concerned about, as well as the face-saving status game of being someone who Cares About The Kids — as an argumentative tactic it’s not about solving any problem, it’s just about shutting up the opposition. Don’t like someone’s position on something? Trumpet “Well, YOU clearly DON’T CARE about the Children™!” Sit back in smug triumph as your opponent splutters, because in this setup the only response is “Do too!” and there is no way of not making that sound like a weak rejoinder according to the ways of Western-style debate.
The Children™ are used to shut people up, to let everyone know that the status quo will continue unchanged. It has nothing to do with real children.
Now let’s move on to the other part of that phrase that is also a lie: “that REALLY matter.” (Caps mine.) Oh I love it when white conservative Western males try to pretend they’re sacrificing themselves for the little ones. “I don’t really matter, I’m just a useless grown up, here, kill me and dine on my corpse, kids!” Does anyone believe for one minute that Richard Littlejohn, or anyone who pulls out this sobsister phrase, really believes it? “I don’t matter! I’m just thinking about the kids!” the man sobs, then he presses “send,” shuts off the computer, and goes to enjoy another childfree afternoon at the pub or golf course. I see you, Men Who Care About The Kids. I’ve got your number.
The idea that adults are just useless husks, their concerns to be considered secondary in favor of children, or infants, or in some circles, zygotes and fetuses, is horrible, but not because anyone who expresses it actually believes it, but because it’s a pretty good technique for controlling the underclasses. Poor people who ask for help from their own rich society’s government instead of starving quietly in their hovels “don’t care about their children.” Women who want control over their own bodies instead of being potential baby-making machines “hate children.” Trans* people are “selfish” and “freaks” who will “traumatize” the “children” because they’ll “confuse” them by living their own lives. As for the children, they’ll learn the lesson that having to conform to someone else’s idea of how you should live doesn’t end when you become a grown-up.
*Even though this occurred in the UK, I consider that in instances like these “society” encompasses Western society, which of course includes that of my own country, the USA.