I know I’m late, but the new thing I love is podcasts. I’m addicted. Serial. The Read. Freakanomics. I even sub to a wedding planning pod cast. They’re entertaining, informative, and they help me get through my long commute home, so I’m always looking for a new show to subscribe to.
I recently started listening to Death. Sex. Money. , which describes itself as “A podcast about the big questions and hard choices that are often left out of polite conversation.” Since I newly discovered this series, I’ve been catching up on past episodes. So far, an excellent pod cast and quickly becoming a favorite.
Today’s catch up episode was from April 25, 2015. An interesting interview until the subject uttered this sentence: “I think people without children should not be allowed to vote”
Insert record scratch.
The person speaking was W. Kamau Bell. Comedian, blogger, and former talk show host. Now to be clear, I know that it was said in jest, because, he is a comedian. However, I still found it not funny and incredibly insensitive. I was offended, and actually a little shocked. I don’t think he was trying to be an asshole, but that’s definitely how he came off in that moment.
I admit, I don’t know a whole lot about Bell, and I wasn’t very familiar with him before his talk show, Totally Biased. I know he’s a comedian. I’ve liked most of what I have seen from him, which is why I picked that episode to listen to. I wanted to learn more about him. From what I have heard from him in the past, and even in that particular interview up to that point, he is an intelligent and aware individual.
So why then, even as a joke, would he say something like that?
What he was trying to say, in a horrible, inconsiderate way, is that parents see the world differently than they did prior to becoming parents, and make most, if not all decisions considering the lives of their children, knowing even the smallest decision affects their lives. I get it, but the premise is still a little off.
Now, it’s really not my thing to be the comedy police. As they say “everything ain’t for everybody”, so if I don’t find a comedian (or comedienne) funny, I just don’t listen to their comedy or watch their shows (I’m looking at you, Kathy Griffin and Martin Lawrence. Black Card revoked for Martin, I know). However, some things, to me, are universally not funny: racist jokes, violence against women centered jokes, sexual abuse jokes, etc. I say all this to say that I’m not bashing Bell as a comedian, or even as a person. I am simply saying that he is representative of what the world thinks of us child free women, and men: We are some sort of selfish, not-fully-formed, adult-type person.
Yes. Being a parent changes you. I don’t think anyone would argue that point. And yes, I’m sure as a parent, your decision making shifts. But the implication here, is that somehow, by not being a parent, you are incapable of making quality, well thought out, long range decisions. Which then implies that by not being a parent, you are some how less of an adult.
I haven’t even gotten to the sheer insensitivity this shows towards the 1 in 8 couples who literally can’t have children.
So even as a joke, he’s essentially saying that because someone consciously chooses not to, or is unable to procreate, They should be denied a civil right? Cut out of a crucial function society. No better than a felon to him I guess. (BTW, I am not someone in favor of felons losing their right to vote once they have served their time)
So the soldier who cannot have children because of the injuries he sustained in Afghanistan, and his wife shouldn’t have a say in choosing the person who shapes the foreign policy of this country? You know, because he has no ideas or insights about such things because he’s not a father.
The couple that has spent thousands upon thousands of dollars just to become parents doesn’t have a stake in the healthcare system here in this country? I mean, they only have been navigating through it for years. What could they possibly know since they don’t yet have any children?
“Its just jokes.” “Why are you going so deep with it?” “Calm down.” You might be saying.
I get it, he’s a comedian, and a new dad, so its just for fun, and he’s experiencing the world in a new way right now. Cool. But I should hope those two things don’t instantly render you insensitive or arrogant.
For so many people, that was just a flippant, funny thing to say. But for the couple who just suffered a second miscarriage, or is on the fourth round if IVF, its painful.
To the women and men who have made the choice not to become a parents, it’s down right insulting.
To Kamau I say:
Come on, bruh.
In the words of one of my podcast faves, Crissle, Words mean things. Even as a joke, words can be painful. You as a Black man should know this. Choose your words wisely.
Being child free, rather by choice or circumstance, does not invalidate ones humanity or adultness. For those who are childless by circumstance, that type of statement can be painful.
If you have an issue with my child free status, take that up with God.
Update: Per Kamau’s twitter I stumbled upon this conversion. Looks like he stands by his “joke”, which is unfortunate.
Listen to the full podcast episode here.