The Adult Privilege Checklist

Today, I came across this Adult Privilege Checklist, written by Anji on this wonderfully provocative blog from the UK. This is a really unique piece of writing, as it presents a child's view of the various ways in which they are commonly oppressed by adults, including their parents, and by society as a whole. I love the central themes of this post: that all children are entitled to be treated as human beings, respected for their unique viewpoints and contributions, and partnered with for the benefit of both the child and the adult. So many adults simply view children as an appendage, a bother, a trial or tribulation, or someone to be molded, controlled, and repressed. Those people just flat out suck, and do not deserve to be parents or caregivers. I'm glad to see that there are more people who believe that children have so much to add to the world if only the "grown ups" would allow them to shine.

Here is the entire post reprinted without permission (I'm more of an "ask for forgiveness" kind of guy.)


I am a firm believer in the personhood of children and that children are an oppressed group. It pains me to see so much child hate within feminism; not from all feminists of course, but there certainly is a lot of mother-blaming and child hate in some pockets of feminism. Many others have spoken eloquently and thoughtfully about this before me, so I’m not going to reiterate what they’ve said. Long story short, I believe that children’s rights are important, and that feminists in being progressive and advocating for marginalised groups of all kinds, should be invested in working for the rights of all oppressed groups – including children.
Reading a post by Elena Perez at California NOW made me think about privilege checklists (like the Male Privilege Checklist and the White Privilege Checklist, for example) and I came to the realisation that, as yet, nobody had written an adult privilege checklist. So with some help from my good friend Jenny, using some of Elena Perez’s ideas from the aforementioned post, I set about writing the Adult Privilege Checklist.
This one is a bit different from previous privilege checklists in that instead of being written from the perspective of the privileged class (the male person, the white person) it is written in the voice of the oppressed class (the child). We came to this decision because written from the adult’s perspective, intersectionality became a problem. Things like “Light switches, windows, sinks and toilets are positioned for me to be able to reach easily” are null and void when thinking about, say, an adult wheelchair user. So we changed it to “Light switches, windows, sinks and toilets are not usually positioned for someone my size to be able to reach easily.” It is our hope that, written from the child’s perspective, the list shows the ways in which children are disadvantaged compared to the majority of adults, as written from the perspective of the adult, some of these would not apply.
It is something of a work in progress, and I’m really hoping that people will chip in with their own ideas, and that this will spark more conversation about children’s oppression and respect for the personhood of children.
So without further ado:
The Adult Privilege Checklist
As a child:
  1. I am not legally allowed to vote, even though government makes decisions about me and people like me.
  2. If I need a caregiver, he or she will not be my peer.
  3. It is often considered acceptable, appropriate and even desirable for my caregiver to physically assault me if I do not please them.
    1. In many places I can legally be physically disciplined in my place of education.
    2. If I am hit, even once, by a loved one, that is not normally legally considered abuse.
    3. It is likely that I am smaller than the person assaulting me, and that I will be unable to defend myself.
    4. If I am behaving in a way others do not like (or my caregiver has decided they no longer wish to be in a certain place), it is considered acceptable to physically pick me up and forcibly remove me from the area/situation.
  4. If I am routinely yelled at, criticized, and belittled in my own home, this might not generally be recognised as abusive behaviour.
    1. My physical and emotional needs are often not treated as reasonable and important.
    2. If I am angry or upset, this is often not taken seriously and I am often condescended and patronised.
  5. I am almost always dependent on others for my economic support.
    1. I do not get to make choices about family finances, when to spend money and on what.
    2. If I am allowed to earn money at all, it will be at a lower rate than adults doing exactly the same work.
  6. I am routinely ignored or told to be quiet.
    1. If I am the only child in a group of people, I will often be shut out of the conversation or patronised.
    2. It is considered acceptable to talk over me or to interrupt me while I am speaking.
  7. When I display age-appropriate behaviour, other people find it unacceptable.
    1. I cannot be ‘noisier/more active than average’ in a public place without people questioning my right to be in that place.
    2. If I am ‘noisier/more active than average’ in a public place I risk myself and my caregiver being thrown out.
  8. I cannot speak in public to a group of people without putting people my age on trial.
  9. I do not have free choice with my language. If I use ‘unacceptable’ words I will often be punished.
  10. If I am suffering from mental health problems, I am often dismissed and have them put down to my age.
  11. Adults often feel they have the right to harass me.
    1. Adults feel it is their right to talk to me even after I make it clear I do not wish to talk to them.
    2. Adults feel it is their right to touch me (tousle my hair, pinch my cheek) without my permission.
  12. Society and the media often portray people like me in a negative light.
    1. The media often describes people like me as lazy, ignorant or criminal.
  13. People often make decisions on my behalf and tell me that they know better than I do what is best for me.
  14. The world is not generally sized to fit me:
    1. I am not usually able to find a seat which is made for somebody my size.
    2. Light switches, windows, sinks and toilets are not usually positioned for someone my size to be able to reach easily.
    3. I cannot be certain that I will be able to lock the door to my bathroom stall or reach the toilet paper once I’m sitting down.
    4. It is very possible that I might find myself trapped somewhere that I cannot leave without assistance.
    5. Silverware, plates, and glasses will usually not be sized to fit my hands.
  15. When eating out, or at a film, the wait time will probably not feel reasonable to me, and if I eat as I would at home I might attract stares and rude comments.
    1. If my wait time for food or entertainment feels unreasonable, and I complain, people will generally not be understanding and apologetic.
    2. I can’t talk with my mouth full without people putting this down to my age.
  16. I might not understand the unspoken rules of interacting in public spaces, they might not feel natural to me, and might not be able to follow them without causing myself distress.
  17. I may not be able to speak my native language with fluency and am often not understood by other native speakers.
    1. It is considered acceptable for another speaker of my native language to laugh at me for my language choices, or inability to express myself.
  18. I am not usually given a choice about my place of education (or whether to participate in education). If I am sent to school I am legally expected to attend, whether it is my choice or not. If I am home educated I might not be given the choice to go to school if I so wish.
    1. If I am late to my place of education I will probably be reprimanded, even if this is the fault of my adult caregiver.
    2. I am almost never permitted to choose my educational curriculum, materials, or pace.
    3. My educational evaluations will often be based on circumstances entirely outside my control–the actions of other students, or of my caregivers, or the learning materials available to me.
  19. If I am feeling ill, I might not be able to adequately express this to my caregiver. If I can, I might not be taken seriously or treated properly.
    1. If I need to see a health professional, I am reliant upon my caregiver to arrange this for me.
    2. Medical professionals often ignore me entirely, choosing instead to speak to my caregiver only about my needs.
    3. I am not able to make my own medical decisions. The right to make these decisions belongs to other people entirely (usually my adult caregivers).
    4. In some places, if I require an abortion, my adult caregivers must be notified, which can sometimes place me in great danger.
  20. I might not be able to attend to my bodily needs (housing, food, water, toileting, health needs, taking myself to bed) without relying on someone else to assist me.
    1. I am often forced to eat foods I do not like.
    2. People might advocate force-feeding me, and this is not often seen as abusive.
    3. My bedtime is set (often arbitrarily) by my caregiver, and I often do not have input on this.
    4. I have no choice about my living space – the house I live in, its decoration, the arrangement of furniture etc.
    5. I often have no choice about my outward appearance – haircuts, clothing etc.
  21. I am usually not given a choice about which religion to follow.
  22. If I wish to spend time with other people, I need the permission and sometimes the assistance of my caregiver to arrange this.
    1. If I do not wish to spend time with a certain person or people, I am not usually given the choice to avoid them.
  23. My sexual development is often not explained to me and sometimes actively discouraged.
    1. If my sexuality/gender identity is not cis and straight, I can expect to be told it’s “wrong,” and efforts will be made to change it. Use of force is considered acceptable in this situation.
    2. It is considered unacceptable for me to enjoy my sexuality.
  24. My belongings can be taken from me (often by my adult caregiver) and this is not viewed as theft.
  25. If I am in public unescorted by an adult, random adults may demand to escort me, and restrict my movements; this is considered acceptable, regardless of my own opinions or those of my legal caregiver.
  26. I am limited in what films I may see alone, regardless of my opinions or those of my caregiver.
  27. It is considered acceptable or even “prudent” for me to be discriminated against and regarded with suspicion when patronising a store or other establishment.
    1. It is often considered acceptable to force me to submit my belongings to a search before/after/during my visit to a store or other establishment.

5 comments:

  1. Fascinating viewpoint.
    I can see so much of this from my childhood, but more importantly from the viewpoints of my children.
    Much to think about...thank you

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  2. Thank you for this. While I disagree with a few points, I completely agree with the vast majority. As a parent, I try to give my daughters the opportunity to participate in as many decisions as possible: what to wear, where we go for fun, what we eat, etc. However, there are times in our family when we as parents have to make that choice - because it's about the family, and not about the individual. However, in nearly all of these instances, we do our best to explain to our children why they do not get a say in the matter, and why it is important to take others into consideration when they themselves make choices. So far they are doing well.
    Thank you!
    Emily

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  3. Thanks for this post. I just yesterday sat down eye to eye and gently allowed (and assisted) my 3 year old to express her anger with me over my picking her up without her consent. I was trying to get things to go my way (faster) and did this without consulting her. She talked for a few minutes, and I offered a few words that she might choose between to express her feelings. Once she felt heard, she asked me to pick her up and carry her. My children -all children- are individual people. And I'm discouraged by my own acceptance of many of the above "rules" when they are repeated often enough.
    I'm glad to be learning so much early on in my children's lives. Each step of the way I discover something new, as long as I am listening with my whole self.
    Thanks again.

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  4. Kimberly Sharpe-SlageJuly 11, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    Thanks for the blog post. Great insight that I wish more parents could emulate. I grew up in a strict military family even though my father was only in the Navy for two years...the ego thing. I detest my parents parenting skills and find myself thrilled to come across people like you.

    You and your family are a breath of fresh air. :)

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  5. What's interesting to me is how quickly many people object to this list. When I shared it on another site I was scoffed at and told it was a "parody". Even those more open-minded are stuttering, "But, but..." relatively early on.

    The first point of the AP checklist is to consider that no, really, these scenarios are how kids experience their daily life - even kids who no one would call "abused". What I as a parent/carer/teachersshould do about any particular child, scenario, etc. - given I have some responsibility of stewardship - is something to consider after I've considered teh child. When confronted with this list I found I needed to turn off my reflexive parent-as-dominator trained reflexes long enough to digest and think further.

    Thanks for posting!

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