In Germany in general and Berlin in particular, it is really, really cool to hate kids. Kids are loud, kids are annoying, kids are stressful, kids are kind of disgusting. People complain about kids on the U-Bahn, people complain about kids at the lake, people complain about kids in the supermarket and people complain about kids in the Hinterhof. People complain about Prenzlauer Berg yummy mummies, those smug slags with their Kinderwagens bigger than an SUV. People complain about bad parents, those useless losers whose kids are totally out-of-control on public transport. People complain. About kids. A LOT.
So: kids are loud. They are. My son once saw a kid with the same rucksack as he had at the McDonald’s on Hermannplatz. He screamed at the top of his lungs: “I’VE GOT A RUCKSACK JUST LIKE THAT!” Like, he fucking screamed it. I stared at him, petrified, and whispered, desperately: “Don’t shout.” He looked at me and brought his head close to mine and then mouthed the words almost silently: “I’ve got a rucksack just like that…” I mean, maybe they have something wrong with their ears? I don’t know. But they can be loud. It’s quite annoying.
But lots of people can be loud. Men, for example. Men, groups of men. Neo-Nazis, football hooligans, but also business men, too. They can be really fucking loud on public transport. Really fucking loud. And they don’t have anything wrong with their ears, do they? They just think they have the right to exist in public. They think they have the right to be there. Which they do, of course. Men have the right to exist.
But you – you people, who complain about kids – writing your sarcastic kinderfeindliche texts about loud kids at the lake being drowned and stupid kids on the train being tossed out the window – or your hand-wringing totally bollocks comment pieces about mothers in Prenzlauer Berg sipping nonchalantly on their latte macchiatos at 11 o’clock in the morning – you don’t think kids have the right to exist in public. You don’t think kids have the right to take up any space. You don’t think kids have the right to make any noise. And the reason why you think that? It’s because children have no power. You’re just futile little power-junkies, that’s all you are.
As a Lesebühneautorin and Poetry Slammerin I have to listen to a lot of bullshit texts about how loud and annoying kids are. Some of the things people complain about aren’t even kids making an abnormal amount of noise – not children shouting or screaming or fighting or shrieking – but really normal processes, like a mum reading a kid a story on a train. What can the mum do, other than a read a kid a story? What other options are there? Maybe a Playstation with headphones in, but I don’t think that’s what you really want. What you really want is to keep families – i.e. children and women – at home. Out of sight. That’s why the Prenzlauer Berg Kinderwagen looms so large in your head. It’s almost a phallic symbol of women’s mobility. What you want is: women and children at home, and silenced. Men at work, men in pubs, cafes, on the trains, loud and alive. Childless women out and about as well, almost seen as token men – but quieter than the men, of course. Think about how we associate “kreischen” with women, with cackling hen parties, for example – childless women are allowed out after dark, but they shouldn’t make any noise, danke schön. What you want is that our already almost unbearably patriarchal society becomes even more patriarchal than it is at the moment. What turns you on is power. What disgusts you when you hear the sound of kids playing in the Hinterhof is their lack of knowledge about their own powerlessness. It is, essentially, TOTAL BOLLOCKS.
The other thing that annoys me about the whole kinderfeindliche texts is how they always assume that the people – the families – in the story are rich. They always assume that. Then the writer can associate themselves with ‘freedom’, with being alternative, with being non-spießig. Often they’ll have a hangover and every time the kid sings “Fuchs du hast den Gans gestohlen” their headache will get worse and they’ll have to wince with pain. This really fucking annoys me, because it is the exact opposite of what is really happening. Most children in Berlin are poor. A substantial amount of them live in single parent families. They’re on public transport because they don’t own a car. They’re at the lake because they don’t have a fucking garden. And what do you do? You huff and you sigh and you tut and you shake your head with disgust. You enjoy it, but for a mum on her own with a kid at home, that’ll often be her only adult contact for the day. You’re doing it for pleasure – for an almost sexual, sadistic pleasure – but the stress and pain Kinderfeindlichkeit causes young families in Germany is brutal and physical and hugely, hugely distressing. “Können Sie Ihrem Kind sagen, dass er mal leise sein soll?” And what do we do – the most powerless people in society – poor women – poor mothers – we’re like fucking slugs – there is nobody in society with less power than us – apart from our children! What do we do? We cringe and we bow down, we say sorry, we shrug our shoulders apologetically, we whisper to our kids to be quiet. We basically try to take up as least space as possible. Because we know we’re the most worthless people in society. Because we know we don’t ‘deserve’ to be here.
It’s pathetic. But not as pathetic as you are. You hate children because you love power. And we might be weak. But you’re cowardly. So there.