My Brain Is Bigger Than Your Brain, And I Have A Very Very Very Big Brain
So, I have a problem. I think that Bridget Kevane actually is kind of a supercilious asshole, irrespective of gender, for her insistence that the only problem with leaving two 12-year-olds in a mall with three younger kids, and then the 12-year-olds dumping the younger kids off to go do something else is that people hate educated women.
Kevane is a college professor, and chair of her department. She was tired one day, and so decided, for some reason, to leave her daughter and her friend, both 12, in charge of an 8, 7 and 3-year-old at the mall. Kevane mentions that nobody’s ever been abducted from the mall, which would be fine, except that kids in the 3 to 12 range are perfectly capable of doing stupid, irresponsible things absent parental supervision minus the omnipresent predator with their windowless van. And guess what? The 12-year-olds did something stupid: they left the other kids by the cosmetics counter in Macy’s and went to go try on clothes. And those kids, left alone, weren’t going to get abducted – but they could have liked the way something looked and put it in a pocket, or in the three-year-old’s stroller. They could have knocked over a display running around the store, run out into the parking lot, or, hell, maybe they could have started a ribald stand-up act that would launch them to perversely corrupting fame based on both the novelty and this great bit about how a Capri Sun is harder to get into than a woman’s pants.
The younger kids were found, police were called, mom was charged with criminal neglect.
But, mind you, the 12-year-olds took a babysitting class, which should have made all of this impossible, just like kids who take swimming lessons never dive into the shallow end of the pool, and 16-year-olds who take driving lessons never get into accidents.
Did authorities overreact to Kevane because she was a professor? Possibly, possibly not – it’s hard to imagine that Kevane, a highly-educated white woman, wouldn’t have faced the same punishment, if not worse, if she’d been working minimum wage jobs instead of chairing a department, if she’d been black instead of white. Even if she was Professor Brad Kevane, the kids were still at the mall unattended. Perhaps her being a professor did open her up to a different form of criticism, but reading over her article, it’s hard to say that it isn’t at least somewhat justified. Kevane barely admits that her trust was broken by the 12-year-olds, that they actually did something wrong. She never admits that there may have been alternatives to dropping them off at the mall, and that her own childhood experiences don’t mirror the decision to leave five children alone in a large shopping complex. What she does show, in spades, is the ability to look with unremitting disdain on anyone who might think she made a bad decision along with the ability to presume that because she thought it was a good idea, it must have been.
Judith Warner claims that this is a part of a larger cultural sexism against uppity, educated women, and also Sarah Palin is bad. I’m not sure how that fits in, but it does. Both Warner and Kevane are hiding behind a legitimate issue – sexism generally and anti-education sentiment in particular – to mask the fact that Kevane is openly declaring that She Knows Better About Parenting and that when she screws up, it’s everyone else’s fault but her own. This is how Warner ends her post:
The hatred of women — in all its archaic, phantasmagoric forms — is still alive and well in our society, and when directed at well-educated women, it’s socially acceptable, too. Think of this for a second the next time you’re inexplicably moved to put an “elite” woman in her place.
The classism here is redolent with the smell of savings accounts, furloughs and important magazine subscriptions. The most put-upon women in our society are its most well-educated, facing problems that lower classes would never encounter. (And yes, Warner puts this forward as a standard attack on educated women, which makes it even stranger that she would actually turn around and do it.) I’m writing about this not because I’m denying that educated women do face sexism and misogyny for their accomplishments, but because Kevane and Warner are using the privilege inherent in Kevane’s position to mask a very simple truth: Kevane screwed up. And unlike the vast majority of other women, she gets a feature piece in Brain, Child, promotion by a prominent advocate of a certain theory of child-raising and vocal (if somewhat misappropriated) support from a writer for the New York Times. Other forms of sexism and misogyny are also socially acceptable, and their victims may not even have cars to get their kids to the mall, or the resources for a lawyer and a mock jury or, hell, the education to write a measured piece on how great and admired of a parent they are besides this one little boo-boo.
A degree is not a “get out jail free” card.