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click opera - Tavi: children should be scene but not herd
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Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 12:37 pm
Tavi: children should be scene but not herd

One of the problems with liberal mantras like rights and freedom is that they're meaningless unless you specify rights to what and freedom from what. Once you get into the habit of specifying rights to and freedoms from, things get more murky, more complex, because not everyone agrees on what it's desirable to have a right to, or a freedom from. Bush told us that Bin Laden hated freedom, for instance, but one of Bin Laden's stated goals was the desire to free sacred sites in Saudia Arabia from the proximity of American troops. They both believe in "freedom"; the difference comes in what they think we need to be free from.



It's the same with rights; the important question is not "do you believe people should have rights?", but what you think those rights should be to. That's where the differences, and therefore the politics, come in. The default liberal position in the West is that children have a right to non-agency, rather than a right to agency. In other words, contrary to previous centuries and other cultures which see children as smaller versions of adults, we maintain that they need protection. That word, though, also requires a qualifying from, and in general we think children need protection from work, from sexuality, from intoxication, from punishment and from agency. The problem with that view (which clearly has a lot to recommend it) is that when children do become actors on the stage of society, they have a ghostly, problematical status. They're there, but not really there, people but not really people.

We saw in The search for clean cotton and pure childhood some of the contradictory knots this attitude leads to; outraged by a violation of Uzbeki children's perceived right not to work, some British consumers banned cotton from Uzbekistan, apparently oblivious to the fact that the well-being of all Uzbekis depends on the cotton harvest, and that a ban would hit the welfare of Uzbeki children (along with all other Uzbeki citizens) by hitting the Uzbeki economy.



A similar ambivalence emerged in responses to the death of Michael Jackson; while Joe Jackson emerges as a villain in most biographical accounts for having made Michael work so hard so young, most commentators agreed that Michael Jackson, by starting so early, had packed more experience (not to mention money) into his six decades of life than most of us will fit into eight. He did this by eradicating the barrier between childhood and adulthood which liberals take to be sacred; Michael Jackson was both a hard-working adult all his life, and a child all his life, and both of those options defy the liberal belief that a clear barrier -- a barrier on either side of which attitudes to agency reverse -- should stand somewhere between the ages of 16 and 21. (Jackson also avoided the physiological token of that transition barrier; his voice never broke.)

At the beginning of John Ware's TV essay, shown last week on BBC 2, The Death of Respect (available to those outside the UK here), CCTV footage showed kids throwing stones at firemen at the scene of a blaze. "Why don't you just turn a hose on them?" Ware asked a fire superintendant. The man replied that once upon a time they would have done just that, but now "If you turn a hose on a young person, that's assault... I have a sense of responsibility in my actions, I have a sense of what I can and can't do. That isn't reciprocated by the child or young person. They're secure in their belief that they are untouchable." Later, the documentary raises the Bulger case, in which children murdered another child. The theme (apart from the right-wing motif that "the country is going to the dogs") was that children can act as badly as adult criminals, yet enjoy a state of legal non-responsibility. This legal protection -- based on a conception of them as ghostly non-agents, not responsible for their actions -- actually becomes a danger to a society in which children are acting, in fact, pretty much the way other citizens -- including criminals -- act.

I've noticed a similarly negative attitude to the agency of children in some reactions to a young style blogger called Tavi, "the new girl in town". My sister drew my attention the other day to Tavi's elegant and articulate fashion blog Style Rookie, where Tavi describes herself as a "a tiny 13 year old dork that sits inside all day wearing awkward jackets and pretty hats, scatters black petals on Rei Kawakubo's doorsteps and serenades her in rap. Rather cynical and cute as a drained rat. In a sewer. Farting. And spitting out guts."



Tavi has appeared on the cover of Pop and Love magazines. She isn't just a model, though; for Love she interviewed conceptual artist Jordan Wolfson, managing to edit a 4,431 word interview with him down to 208 words. She also impressed the bloggers at The Moment.

But while one coterie applauds Tavi and delivers her the fame she so obviously craves and deserves, others express doubts. When Tavi scored a feature in New York magazine aged 12, writer Jessica Coen said: "We're not sure if a 12-year-old is actually doing all this or if she's getting some help from a mom or older sister (some of the photos of her were definitely not self-shot)." Comments ranged from "when I was 12 kids were drinking and smoking weed" to "totally not 12... Tavi is around 10 and the person writing her blog is in her 20s". Later coverage in New York was more positive after Coen received a comment-lashing from people (many of them 12 year-olds themselves) demanding to know why a tween couldn't write well and have cool style. T Magazine was only marginally more respectful: "Not bad for a 12 year-old," wrote Elizabeth Spiridakis in a feature entitled Post Adolescents. "As an almost-30-year-old style blogger myself, I have to ask: Whom will I envy next? Kindergartners?"



While others see Tavi's age as the most interesting thing about her, Tavi herself sees style as a way to transcend age. "I like creating characters," she told T Magazine, summoning images of Cindy Sherman or Sophie Calle. "Example: I’m wearing a long sweater, glasses and a colorful blazer. I am a 23-year-old living in D.C. and I like to visit quaint coffee shops. My mother died when I was 3, and my father remarried this woman who is always buying me perfume I never use."

Australian fashion blog Frockwriter pinned the liberal dilemma in their Tavi coverage: "Now look I know David Jones is doing his darndest to head off at the pass any future underage model scandals – by banning runway models under the age of 18. Some have applauded the decision. But what is one to do when cashed-up, tech-savvy kids are getting onto the net posting pics of themselves in their latest outfits?"

It's a ticklish issue: do kids (like french muslims wearing veils) have a right to be seen, or a right to be not-seen? How, amidst the universal self-mediation of the internet, do you prevent children from asserting their agency and beginning the kind of work they'll no doubt be doing all their lives? And why would you want to?

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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 10:54 am (UTC)
irre-spouse-ability

In the netherlands the news is all about a 13year old girl laura dekker who wants to embark on a sailing trip around the world on her own for two years. her parents has fully given their consent about the trip, now the youth council wants to put them out of their parentship for iresponsebility.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8226196.stm


erik
rotterdam


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
Re: irre-spouse-ability

Ah yes, that's very relevant! I'd seen that story, but didn't include it here.

The ironies really swarm in this tale: the girl -- incredibly brave -- wants agency and as a result gets put under state care. She wants freedom and therefore has it taken away. She wants to be responsible, and the Child Protection Agency says it's "irresponsible for such a young girl to make a two-year solo trip around the world".

"The judges agreed, ruling Miss Dekker would face mental and physical risks if she were allowed to go ahead with her planned record attempt." If only they were as concerned about the Dutch teenagers being sent to Afghanistan!


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krskrft
krskrft
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)

In America, some states have laws on the books that treat children as adults in the case of murder and things of that sort. Generally speaking, I think many Americans--certainly those in more moderate/liberal pockets of the country--find this sort of thing appalling. Where do you stand on this, Momus? If a child can do an "adult" crime, does he/she deserve an "adult" punishment for it?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 11:30 am (UTC)

This is one of those topics I find interesting precisely because I don't know what I feel about it. Is childhood a state of diminished responsibility? In some cases yes, in others no. I think that in general I'm less interested in the emotive extreme cases where the law has to intervene, and more interested in the general sense you get as a child that you're not really taken seriously as a person.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
Boy A

In that regard, checking in on "Boy A" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VaSQNUt9H4) and "My Kid Could Paint That" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j46V9wclBaw) as well...


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)

That is a brilliant headline.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 12:04 pm (UTC)

On the question of how this works out practically, on an everyday level, I think of my rabbit.

I don't have kids, but I do have a rabbit. I'm a very indulgent "parent" to this rabbit, which is a very aggressive alpha male. He has free range of the house (and, daily, the garden) although he actually damages the infrastructure quite a lot, gnawing wallpaper and shitting everywhere. He also bites humans. When he does that, I mop up the blood, swearing, but never retaliate. Clearly, if it came to outright conflct, I could annihilate my rabbit in seconds. But I take his "diminished responsibility" so much for granted (together with the knowledge that punishment doesn't really work on rabbits) that I let him emerge from conflicts thinking that he's the boss and has taught me a lesson.

And the thing is, at some point -- because I don't retaliate, despite being "objectively" so much stronger -- the rabbit really is the alpha male in the house. My refusal to retaliate, based on the perception of his diminished responsibility, makes him, for all intents and purposes, the strongest animal in the house, and the dominant male. Only my sense that this objectively isn't so makes me continue to let him get away with this. Oh, and the hilarious cuteness of Pok's sense of self-importance.


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thegooseking
thegooseking
Barnyard Royalty
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 12:41 pm (UTC)

Isn't "diminished responsibility" a misnomer, though? There's no diminished responsibility; only transferred responsibility.

In bunny's case, the responsibility is transferred onto you, the owner. In some senses, that's (presumably) the law, but it's also what happens when you don't retaliate -- you're saying "the buck (ha!) stops here" and taking it upon yourself to transfer the rabbit's responsibility to you.

It seems to me that the question is only partly whether children should have diminished responsibility, and how far that should go. The other part is: to whom should that responsibility be transferred? Who should decide what rights and protections they have and don't have?


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand






(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC)

Momus, what happened to the art residency you were doing in Norwich? Is this still happening?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)

No, it was somewhat bungled, on both sides. The person who invited me quit before CAN09 began, saying I'd hear from her successor, but by the time I did, the period we'd agreed I'd be there had passed. What's more, the performance I'd planned to give -- Widow Twanky's Deathbed -- turned out not to be appropriate: what they were offering was a working space, not a space for public performance.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)

Meanwhile, as the documentary Consuming Kids makes clear, the capitalist juggernaut sees kids as consumers like any other:



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krskrft
krskrft
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC)

Not really. The parents are the consumers and the children are the mechanism by which they reach the parents.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)

You're not saying her parents are going to kill, cook and eat Tavi if she doesn't score 50k in marketing deals, are you?


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slime_slime_sly
slime_slime_sly
slime_slime_sly
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:31 pm (UTC)

Loving this Tavi kid. Before innocent, playful childhood became the sacred institution it is today, kids used to be smart like that. I have the memory of seeing picasso's sketchbook from when he was 6 years old engraved in my brain - he drew better than i do today after years of practice. Not that I'm completely against some freedom to be silly and fool around when you are little, but today's standards are kind of ridiculous.

I often have the fantasy of starting my life again as a child with all the knowledge i have now. After seeing an exhibition last week about the widespread early 80's phenomenon of gypsy pre-teen car hijackers and bank robbers in spain, I played the fantasy all over imagining using my legal inmunity for those purposes, as well as messing with young girls big time, and raping my kindergarten teachers among other fun things. But of course, I thought, how would I get away from parental control?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)

raping my kindergarten teachers

Oh Slime Slime! How could you!


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kuma-san - (Anonymous) Expand





milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)

america as usual... is very hysterical about children/young adults.
and with regards to sex and drinking...

I'm thinking the age to drink (most places 21) and to have sex (18 is adult),,,
is too old. Its fostering an artifical barrier and keeps 'people' in a state of childishness. So when they go off to college they can act like idiots.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)

I don't think drinking/legal age has much to do with how people act.

In Mexico, for example, the drinking age is 18, but it is not enforced. Teenagers 13-17 can very easily buy alcohol or cigarettes in stores, and yet all too often keep acting like teenagers well into their 20s.

Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that our society doesn't encourage some highly desirable qualities of childhood, so we tend to throw tantrums and act irresponsibly (the presumably undesirable qualities).

Playfullness should be encouraged uncritically, children are still far ahead.


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milky_eyes
milky_eyes
milky_eyes
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)

I'm not sure how your example relates to your opinion...

? (I think your example mirrors US, except the laws are enforced: but I drank and smoked when I was under 21 as do most kids)

I think my point is, that in a society (US) that is so heavily policed... we end up with little ability to self monitor. Or consider what is actually fun, considerate and useful.
Is places that the policing is left more up to the community and individuals, people naturally begin to act with more humanity...

when I was in Germany during highschool, I of course hung out and enjoyed drinking with German teenagers, I was amazed at how they acted so different then teenagers in america. The focus was not on getting "shit faced" it was more, having a good time, enjoying a good beir, and it was integrated with the family, and community.






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(Anonymous)
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
As Foucault said, we are the new Victorians

This entry is soooo Victorian.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 07:58 pm (UTC)

Oh, did you, Ghadibadichinchilladarlingkwakipoos? I missed it!


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faunflynn
faunflynn
Mon, Aug. 31st, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
Bunney

Bun Bun may be possessed by an evil spirit who wants to steal your lady love.
Bad BunBun ! You need a taoist exorcist !
Poor momasu !


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Sep. 1st, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)

Mmmm, policy. This post convinces me that parallel-universe Momus is a law professor and is now trying to overtake the Momus we all know and love... he's jealous of Hisae and your bohemian lifestyle. Don't look in the mirror for the next 5 hours!


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Sep. 1st, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)

Small thing: I'm pretty sure Jackson had a "real" voice under his childish squeek, from most accounts.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Sep. 1st, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)

ルイスと私のweddingだから、素敵なカードやplace cardでもいい?


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Sep. 1st, 2009 06:19 am (UTC)

$500以上もするなら、自分でカリグラフィーのフォントを使って作ろうか?


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eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Tue, Sep. 1st, 2009 08:05 am (UTC)
She gets my vote

for "drained rat"


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