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I went to Pike Place Market in Seattle last week, where I had the fortune to act as a busybody and eavesdrop on a group of three millennials crowding the aisle of a small used bookstore. Dressed as Seattle hipsters do, in slouchy shirts and thick black glasses, the three of them were having an animated conversation about kicking dogs. This drew my attention, and I paused with a large book in hand and listened through the shelf in front of them.
“[Man] thinks it’s okay to kick dogs,” said [Girl 1].
“Look,” said [Man]. “If it’s biting me, I’m going to kick it. That’s how they learn.”
“Seriously?” asked [Girl 2]. “If a baby were to bite you, would you kick it?”
“I don’t like babies,” said [Man]. “I’d kick one unprompted”.
[Man] kind of sucks, but I do think that the occasional throw-the-baby-out-the-window joke is funny. Not his, though. However, I also think it’s interesting how a generation that’s consciously made the choice to not have or have fewer children for the sake of overpopulation and the environment turns that choice into darkly funny and/or violent rhetoric. The narrative nowadays isn’t that we don’t want children because they’re noisy, or take away from our free time, or even because we have a moral obligation to the Earth. The story millennials and older Gen-Z’ers are telling is one of not having children because we hate them, and then we piggyback our baby cousins and take our nieces and nephews to the park as if we never said such a thing (side note – why is there no umbrella term for nieces/nephews and aunts/uncles? I saw piblings once but that made me violently vomit on the metaphorical garbage can that is my TikTok feed).
Then, is there a reason we act like we hate children so much? I certainly love the kids in my life even if I’m on the fence about having my own in the future, but if a friend of mine says they hate babies I’m going to laugh and nod along. Is it simply an instance of bandwagoning, where one person made hating children cool and the rest of us simply followed along? Or is it a result of new-wave feminism, practicing total bodily autonomy and therefore condemning the idea of marriage or the baby as a whole? Honestly, I think it’s a mix of both – and if you have any other ideas as to where this trend came from, feel free to let me know.
If we’re on the topic of children/animals, I do want to touch on the concept of the horse girl (which has been around since I was young, and most likely much longer than that). In the American cultural lexicon – and honestly, who better to explain it than Urban Dictionary – a horse girl will “gallop on the track during gym class, is only friends with other girls who like horses and will look down on you because you are not a horse”. When I was in elementary school I knew a lot of girls who rode horses, but I never knew a girl who rode horses that also galloped on all fours and pretended to be a horse. I did know a girl that pretended she was a Pokemon at all times, but she had nothing to do with horses. So where, then, did the myth of the horse girl come from? I personally think many young girls show an interest in horses and horse riding, and anything that young women show a collective liking towards is villainized and/or loses legitimacy as an actual skill.
Which brings us back to dog kicking – the woman is expected to be nurturing and kind towards children and animals, and [Man] probably has an issue where he can’t be perceived as feminine at all (a lot of these self-proclaimed ‘woke’ hipsters are actually raging misogynists) and needs to kick dogs and babies in order to feel good about himself. We all know, though, that he talks a big game – in the end, he’d be too scared of the dog biting him to try and kick it in the first place.