12 July 2009

Resentment towards the privileged: inability to take responsibility

In the New York times article, 'Dangerous Resentment,' Judith Warner takes up the battle of fellow elitist Bridget Kevane, a mother who perceived herself as being unjustly victimized by her local shopping mall, the police, the prosecutor, and women not so privileged as herself. In her own explanation of the events, in Guilty as Charged (Brain, Child 2009), Bridget Kevane closes with these words:

"For feeling constantly torn between so many daily demands, trying to make it all work, but knowing that I sometimes fall short, I am guilty. But of knowingly putting my children in harm’s way by letting them go to the mall alone? Not guilty."

Perhaps this is the crux of the matter, for she didn't simply allow her kids and friends to go to the mall. She drove them there - in her words, to "a safe place". In this magazine for 'thinking mothers', she emphasizes the closeness of her community, how the children "wander to each other’s homes," going "from one house to the other, to the park, or walking around the nearby university." She also mentions her own childhood, telling how she developed her independence in a family of eight siblings altogether. She says, "In many ways, I raised my youngest sister, walking her around the neighborhood, taking her to the local neighborhood store, and more."

Her mother, she says, "believed in the power of allowing her children to gain independence by depending on themselves." But Bridget driving her children to the mall for the afternoon had nothing to do with the manner in which Bridget gained independence as a child, getting familiar with her neighbourhood, making decisions about where to go and when to leave for home.

The mall Bridget drove her children to was not within her local community, and it was not mentioned how far away it was if the children had decided to walk home. It might have been better, if she had wanted to lie down for an hour or two, to let the children go for a walk to the park, or to the corner store for an ice cream, than to drive them outside their local area to a mall so she could take a nap. That way, at least, if the children had had a disagreement, or one felt tired or unwell, they wouldn't have had to disturb her at home to come back to the mall to pick them up.

It's also not rational to assume that because an 11-year-old is capable of babysitting within the confines of their home that they can safely assume responsibility in a public area such as a mall, with a Macys and other stores, a movie theatre, and dining areas. The children were placed in a situation of not being able to make certain decisions, but were entirely dependent on the shopping mall being a 'safe place' for kids.

I know that educated women can sometimes be treated unfairly. But I think that women's upbringing can be what counts against some of them, if they fail to comprehend the lives of other women and the subject matter they have been given the privilege of researching and writing about. Unfortunately, too many women who do so don't know what they're talking about.

Judith Warner, the author of Dangerous Resentment, the NY Times article about mother and professor Bridget Kevane, argues that the incident in no way could be called 'child endangerment,' the charge brought against the mother. I wonder if Judith has a better suggestion, perhaps 'abandonment,' or should the wayward mother simply have been let off if there was no appropriate name for this error in judgement. What is clear, however, is that Judith Warner is out of her depth.

Some of the 259 comments on this article, Dangerous Resentment, have dealt with these issues, and are well worth the read, including how a poor mother in shabby clothes would have been dealt with by the police, and some of the mindless assumptions made by Bridget Kevane, privileged due to her elitist position as a professor to believe that it is her right to let children in her care spend the day alone at the mall. The resentment some of us feel, about women like Kevane, and about Judith Warner, is that they use their position to take advantage of others while avoiding responsibility. In other words, they don't have a clue what this world is all about.

Guilty as Charged
By Bridget Kevane
Brain, Child magazine
July 1, 2009

Dangerous Resentment
By Judith Warner
NY Times
July 9, 2009

links updated May, 2012

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