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Armchair diapering.
July 30, 2013 12:32 PM   Subscribe

This discussion thread is disgusting, and it's not just the poop. The practicalities of working-class poverty are subtle and insidious. Poor people generally don't do things because they're systematically stupid. Seeing otherwise reasonable users lead with a cavalier attitude of "why don't they just…" is absolutely heartbreaking. Sometimes it really feels like we haven't evolved very far from the NYT online comments section after all.
posted by Nomyte to Etiquette/Policy at 12:32 PM (303 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

I think the commenters in thread are doing a good job of explaining why "why don't they just…" doesn't really solve the problem.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:37 PM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think the thread veered into a bad place but (mostly) recovered. A good example of both failure to imagine others' lives complexly and the only corrective possible to that failure mode: good faith discussion and sharing.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, it's a complicated thing because we're talking more about the intersection of very different lived experiences leading to some folks just grappling (whether lazily or earnestly) for the first time with the situation as, as much as anything, a problem they're inclined to try and help brainstorm solutions for.

Which practically speaking can make for some frustrating conversation for folks who are seeing that and understandably feeling like, "hello, catch up, it is not that simple and you're being blase about this in a way that's not great", but at the same time it can be difficult to see any way to avoid that sort of dynamic occurring even among well-meaning people when it's a topic showing up on a generalist site like this rather than e.g. a social policy and welfare discussion group.

It seems to be going pretty okay at this point, I appreciate people making an effort both on the guiding-the-conversation front and the trying-to-listen front.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nomyte: "Seeing otherwise reasonable users lead with a cavalier attitude of "why don't they just…" is absolutely heartbreaking. "

Sometimes, things that seem obvious to one person may not be obvious to another. There are a lot of people in that thread who are talking these issues out and giving helpful perspectives gleaned from experience. Stuff that might not occur to someone who hasn't been there themselves.
posted by zarq at 12:48 PM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think there's more than a few people countering those arguments. It sucks that people are making banal and dismissive remarks, but maybe people are railing back against that HURF DURF attitude a little bit? (eg, R. Shlock, saucysault, headnsouth, corb, etc.)
posted by boo_radley at 12:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think another big issue is that many people spouting ignorant stuff didn't RTFA.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was pretty discouraged at the beginning of that thread, but it did seem to improve. Parenting choices are all really hard, and have to be so individually tailored to a particular family's needs, that blanket judgments are really problematic. If you haven't walked a mile in those shoes, you just might not know.
posted by ambrosia at 12:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I see the "why don't they?" people getting shut down pretty thoroughly at this point. Certainly they appear vastly outnumbered. Given there's no rule against being wrong at the top of the thread I am honestly unable to see how it could have gone much better.
posted by atoxyl at 12:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey, as long as we're here and this is open: Is there a diaper charity mefites have donated to or worked with?
posted by boo_radley at 12:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The same thing comes up a lot with cooking. Why don't poor working people make nutritious food at home? Because the time and money required to develop the skills, buy the equipment, find the recipes, take time to do the constant shopping and food prep, and throw away the inevitable initial failures are not available to them. But since many people have ALWAYS had access to all of those things, they don't even see them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [31 favorites]


This discussion thread is disgusting, and it's not just the poop. The practicalities of working-class poverty are subtle and insidious. Poor people generally don't do things because they're systematically stupid. Seeing otherwise reasonable users lead with a cavalier attitude of "why don't they just…" is absolutely heartbreaking. Sometimes it really feels like we haven't evolved very far from the NYT online comments section after all.

I totally disagree with this metatalk topic; I would have used "youtube comments" instead.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2013


Which practically speaking can make for some frustrating conversation for folks who are seeing that and understandably feeling like, "hello, catch up, it is not that simple and you're being blase about this in a way that's not great", but at the same time it can be difficult to see any way to avoid that sort of dynamic occurring even among well-meaning people when it's a topic showing up on a generalist site like this rather than e.g. a social policy and welfare discussion group.


Well how about if mefites took a well-intentioned look at the basic rule: "I'm not an expert at this subject...heck, I know very little about this. How about I read more and post less on this one?" Some self-modding.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm glad people ask "why don't they just" questions. It's a great opportunity for the asker to be educated.
posted by Jpfed at 1:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'm just going through the thread favoriting anyone who points out that cleaning cloth diapers is either expensive, or labor intensive, or both. For a single working person without a washing machine, it would be prohibitively difficult.

In the 19th century, people washed diapers by boiling them in a large copper kettle. In a time when most mothers stayed in the home, any family that could afford it, even moderately well-off working-class families, had a servant. Those that didn't likely had female relatives in the household to help with tasks like this.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:02 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


I ultimately wasn't that discouraged by the thread. This just world fallacy stuff shows up anywhere comments are open, and the difference is that on Metafilter there's always someone there to point out how thoughtless it is, often in great and passionate detail. So good on those people for taking the time to do it.
posted by selfnoise at 1:03 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I dunno, not the greatest comments, but at least they aren't "poor people shouldn't have babies."
posted by GuyZero at 1:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


yet.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 1:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you are going to be upset that people are ignorant, then it's going to be a hard road. Metafilter spends the time to talk to people about it. That seems positive to me.
posted by josher71 at 1:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was one of those "why don't they just" people. I consider this question answered.

You can either have threads that engender discussion without fear of needing one's position to be ethically, morally, scientifically and socially correct, in which case you get to learn something. Or you can wring hands and get mad at everyone that doesn't understand the world the way you do and try to shut down discussion.

I honestly don't know what you want from this meta? A tighter clean up? Refutation of ignorance? What? I think the tread is going fine, think the discussion has been civil, and think people are honestly approaching it from a reasoned position (even if the reasoning and position is incorrect).

If anything, I think some of the hand wringing got a bit shrill with people making the case that people are monsters and hate women and want to shame the poor! You don't bring people to your side of an argument by calling them uncompassionate and ignorant.

I saw it as people genuinely looking for a problem solving solution.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [50 favorites]


Of which, please do not post "I can't wait for folks to post shitty 'here's my bad opinion!' comments in this thread" type comments to threads, it's like dropping fake dogshit in a punchbowl to criticize all the suspected punchbowl shitters you've got your eye out for.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:10 PM on July 30, 2013 [40 favorites]


Man, I am just never going to make punch.
posted by selfnoise at 1:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


Can I just say that it's really hard to diaper a kid on an armchair? They're very wriggly, those babies. Much better to do it on the large wing of a settee or perhaps the back of a chaise. And it's so hard for folks living in poverty to get access to a good quality chaise longue.
posted by phunniemee at 1:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Are there diapers for punchbowls? I don't think I get invited to those kinds of parties...
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:14 PM on July 30, 2013


cjorgensen: "I was one of those "why don't they just" people."

The problem is this comes across frequently as "you know what their problem is? Lemme tell you what their problem is, they don't..."

Not that you in particular did this, but it's a thing that some people engage in, and there's plenty of examples around.
posted by boo_radley at 1:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I kinda see cjorgensen's point. People came into the thread, didn't read the article, then glibly said 'well did they think of this?' Which is annoying, but not vile. I didn't see people harp on the same question over and over again.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:15 PM on July 30, 2013


Considering that there was a "boy, what a lazybones" within the first five comments, I think it's going tremendously well overall.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember there were some particularly awful comments; I didn't think they rose to the level of flagging but they were there. I think though that most of the comments were trying to share lived experience solutions and brainstorm ways for this to be better, because it's a really sad situation and we would prefer to have it not be that - which is not always poor shaming. You can say, "Hey, this might be useful or helpful" without being "So do it, you poor person!"
posted by corb at 1:17 PM on July 30, 2013


I often wonder the same thing as these question ask in my own mind because I have no idea what it's like to be completely, grindingly poor. And honestly I have only an academic interest in finding out what it's like to live that way. I see these questions as honestly ignorant and not necessarily as shaming or scolding. But that's because I share the same ignorance I suppose.
posted by GuyZero at 1:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Much better to do it on the large wing of a settee or perhaps the back of a chaise. And it's so hard for folks living in poverty to get access to a good quality chaise longue.

WHY DON'T YOU JUST get a divan.
posted by headnsouth at 1:21 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also instead of rtfa, I wish people would read the comments, especially if they're trying to accuse people of privilege that they do not, in fact, possess. Speaking for self, the people saying "you have no idea what it's like to hand wash clothes on a washboard" after I explained that I had, in fact, regularly hand washed clothes on a washboard when I was younger, fell into that category.
posted by corb at 1:25 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


How will this MetaTalk help? What do you want to discuss here, that some folks aren't aware of their privilege?
posted by agregoli at 1:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can either have threads that engender discussion without fear of needing one's position to be ethically, morally, scientifically and socially correct, in which case you get to learn something. Or you can wring hands and get mad at everyone that doesn't understand the world the way you do and try to shut down discussion.

I honestly don't know what you want from this meta? A tighter clean up? Refutation of ignorance? What? I think the tread is going fine, think the discussion has been civil, and think people are honestly approaching it from a reasoned position (even if the reasoning and position is incorrect).

If anything, I think some of the hand wringing got a bit shrill with people making the case that people are monsters and hate women and want to shame the poor! You don't bring people to your side of an argument by calling them uncompassionate and ignorant.


Seconded and thirded.

Just because someone has a different opinion does not mean that their opinion comes from a place lacking in empathy or because they are a cold hearted, terrible person. It doesn't mean that they are actively trying to poor shame, fat shame, or any other shame. Maybe they just have an opinion borne from their own personal experiences, not based on vague notions, from which they see the world. If you disagree with it, fine, say so. But calling the whole exercise 'disgusting' seems a little over the top to me.

Besides, what would MF be if it was a echochamber of perfectly harmonized opinions and thoughts?
posted by tafetta, darling! at 1:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


If you comment in a thread on diapering starts with, "Well I've never been a parent..." you should probably just stop there and move on to the next post. Even when you wife is 8 months pregnant with your first child you have no idea how diapers will take over your life for the next 2 years.
posted by COD at 1:27 PM on July 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


Maybe you're not a parent because you know you can't afford diapers.
posted by banal evil at 1:29 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


You can either have threads that engender discussion without fear of needing one's position to be ethically, morally, scientifically and socially correct, in which case you get to learn something. Or you can wring hands and get mad at everyone that doesn't understand the world the way you do and try to shut down discussion.

On the contrary, I have often learned something from having someone point out that there's more to the world than I've seen of it. I've sometimes gotten called out for obliviously stepping on someone's toes. You get to learn something by apologizing, stepping back and listening to exactly why people are suddenly so angry at you.

People don't owe you an education, but if you've poked them the least you can do is learn something. I'm not talking about self-censorship, I'm talking about becoming less clueless.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:30 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought that thread was useful, if only for the naked and crystal clear examples of privilege-blindness on display.
posted by planetesimal at 1:32 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's been a long time since I've been so frustrated and angry with a Metafilter thread as I was with that one. The absolute . . . glib is the only word I can think of. . . the absolute wide-eyed glibness with which people suggest that folks "just" undertake an extra thirty hours of backbreaking, disgusting, unsanitary, frequently prohibited labor per week absolutely astounds me. Folks who have probably never done any more true hand-washing of clothes than rinsing out a pair of underpants in a hotel sink, or MAYBE dealing with a wool sweater. Not everyone was being like that, there were people not speaking from ignorance, but the sheer unmitigated gall on display just floored me.
posted by KathrynT at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [73 favorites]


undertake an extra thirty hours of backbreaking, disgusting, unsanitary, frequently prohibited labor per week absolutely astounds me

Washing one baby's worth of cloth diapers is not "thirty hours of backbreaking, disgusting, unsanitary, frequently prohibited labor per week." It's not a great suggestion, but let's not blow things out of proportion. When I washed cloth diapers it was a couple hours of work a week, but that's not to say it would be practical for this woman for a bunch of reasons.
posted by GuyZero at 1:35 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think though that most of the comments were trying to share lived experience solutions and brainstorm ways for this to be better, because it's a really sad situation and we would prefer to have it not be that - which is not always poor shaming. You can say, "Hey, this might be useful or helpful" without being "So do it, you poor person!"

There's just so little most of us can do that would cut the Gordian knot of poverty in America, or even loosen it a little to give people a little breathing room, so we're left sitting her trying to do the one thing we can do: give advice. It's just that our advice is really hard to separate out from the larger message society sends that if you're poor, you're doing it wrong, and if you're a poor parent you're doing it especially wrong. I KNOW people mean well (and I think you in particular did a good job of trying to give it as advice, not judgement), but I've been poor stressed out parent, and the last thing I needed to hear was about how a problem that I've been stressing over, wasn't actually that big of a deal and it had an easy solution that I just hadn't though of yet. All I have to do is this one obvious thing (that was hard work, would eat up a big chunk of my time, and was really unpleasant to boot).

Also, like KathyrnT said, some people really were just judging people and doing so in the most insulting way possible.

How will this MetaTalk help?


Well, since it opened I heavily edited a large and originally angry comment that belonged in Metatalk and not the thread itself, and put it in the appropriate venue. So there's that.
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:35 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh, you were talking about the suggestion of handwashing all the diapers. Yeah, that was unrealistic. Sorry.
posted by GuyZero at 1:36 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe you're not a parent because you know you can't afford diapers.

Maybe the fact that we live in the sort of broken society where something as simple and critical as diapers is financially out of reach for poor people didn't occur to these women. Maybe they got pregnant accidentally and couldn't afford an abortion, or it's functionally illegal where they live. Maybe they lost their jobs because it's twenty-fucking-thirteen. Maybe their financially contributing partner left them or died. MAYBE NOT EVERY POOR PERSON IS AN IDIOT?!
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:37 PM on July 30, 2013 [49 favorites]


Yeah, guyzero, I meant the washing them by hand, in the bathroom sink. Washing them in the machine was a pain in the ass on the order of baking bread every day, but not much more.
posted by KathrynT at 1:38 PM on July 30, 2013


diapers are a lot less work than baking bread because if I left wet diapers in the washing machine they wouldn't burn.

As for that suggestion I guess it took me a second to realize what you were talking about because sometimes people suggest such unrealistic things that I just sort of mentally delete the comment. I mean, washing diapers by hand in the bathtub or a sink? It's so ludicrous that I can't even get mad for someone suggesting it. They might as well have suggested using a unicorn.
posted by GuyZero at 1:41 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


It's been a long time since I've been so frustrated and angry with a Metafilter thread as I was with that one. The absolute . . . glib is the only word I can think of. . . the absolute wide-eyed glibness with which people suggest that folks "just" undertake an extra thirty hours of backbreaking, disgusting, unsanitary, frequently prohibited labor per week absolutely astounds me. Folks who have probably never done any more true hand-washing of clothes than rinsing out a pair of underpants in a hotel sink, or MAYBE dealing with a wool sweater. Not everyone was being like that, there were people not speaking from ignorance, but the sheer unmitigated gall on display just floored me.

Yea i'm with you on this. The smugness of the comments reminded me of that Privilege Denying Dude macro. Like, the look on his face.

Just the shear "I'VE FIGURED IT OUT, I R TEH SUPAR GENIUS" of some of the snarkier smugger comments in there made me want to put a keyboard through my screen.

Between this thread and the thread about the woman getting her ipad back i'm starting to get the feeling that this site is slowly filling with assholes like reddit did when it started to suck a few years ago(not that it was ever amazing, but jesus christ it used to be 1000x better)

It makes me really sad, and also gets me truly wondering about the future of this site. The moderation is tight and good still, but i see more and more of these types of shitty comments stand even if they get called out.

Everywhere i've ever gone online that was cool, that's how the sucking started.

I'm not saying delete them, but i just wish a mod would have gone in that thread early on and gone "yea, we're not going to be doing this in here, shut the fuck up and take it to meta if you have an issue with that"

it's pure armchair quarterback poop slinging by smug assholes.
posted by emptythought at 1:42 PM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


But that's exactly what some people were suggesting. There was an extensive derail on just where one can procure a washboard.
posted by mochapickle at 1:42 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, my estimate of what it would take - at proficiency after you've been doing it for some time - is two hours a day. So at least 14 hours of work a week. And KathrynT is probably right in that it might take thirty hours of work a week for someone that hasn't been doing regular laundry by hand daily or weekly for years.

That should definitely never be taken lightly.

But to put it in perspective - there are people right now who are already doing it, and are really really glad to save that money. And people right now who would be doing it - backbreaking and all and it is - if they knew about it or how to obtain supplies to make it easier and knew it could be safe.

So there's got to be a middle ground between "So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this..." and "Here is how you can practically wash a soiled cloth diaper, it'd be awesome if those people who needed or could use that information could know that."

And yes, mochapickle, I suggested a washboard, because I actually used one for washing clothes for my family when I was younger and that was what we did. For real. Ludicrous as it may be, I will note that there was actually not a lot of laughing involved.
posted by corb at 1:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's genuinely terrifying to have a different opinion round here.

It's possible to rtfa and still miss a crucial line so I totally didn't get the cloth reference. Pointing out that cloth nappies can be cheaper than disposables kind of seemed like it was worth suggesting, and yes of course it was dumb because facilities, time etc. And its good to have things pointed out so you can gain a different perspective. But the only people who said "oh yeah it's all the poor people's fault for doing it wrong" we're the ones who were sarcastically attributing it to some general attitude which I didn't actually see anywhere. No one was saying people should be doing anything. The weird thing is I thought everyone was on the same side - I couldn't see anyone pleased that women on low incomes are struggling with this issue - so why would you assume the worst about someone's intentions? (I guess stupid-shaming is ok?)

Also you can not be a parent and still have an opinion (especially if you've spent 20 years changing the nappies of cousins, nieces, friends' babies etc.)
posted by billiebee at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Between this thread and the thread about the woman getting her ipad back i'm starting to get the feeling that this site is slowly filling with assholes like reddit did when it started to suck a few years ago(not that it was ever amazing, but jesus christ it used to be 1000x better)

It makes me really sad, and also gets me truly wondering about the future of this site. The moderation is tight and good still, but i see more and more of these types of shitty comments stand even if they get called out.


Eh... go look at the old archives sometime. I think you may be catastrophizing a little. I highly doubt that those sorts of comments are any more prevalent per capita than they used to be, in fact I suspect they're far less prevalent. There are just more people here now.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


But the only people who said "oh yeah it's all the poor people's fault for doing it wrong" we're the ones who were sarcastically attributing it to some general attitude which I didn't actually see anywhere. No one was saying people should be doing anything.

The first comment to bring them up was "So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this..." That's not just a polite suggestion that maybe there's a different solution, that's straight-up insulting. I don't think people would have gotten as worked up if it had begun with like "It seems like she could use cloth instead? Why doesn't she, is there a reason?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:48 PM on July 30, 2013 [24 favorites]


And yes, mochapickle, I suggested a washboard, because I actually used one for washing clothes for my family when I was younger and that was what we did. For real. Ludicrous as it may be, I will note that there was actually not a lot of laughing involved.

And the point is (and stated way more elegantly in the thread by schroedinger) that technology like disposables allows time & energy much better spent on interacting with a child.
posted by mochapickle at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also you can not be a parent and still have an opinion (especially if you've spent 20 years changing the nappies of cousins, nieces, friends' babies etc.)

The "you don't get to have an opinion about this if you're not a parent" is basically shorthand for "you don't get to have an opinion about this if you haven't done serious, day in and day out childcare", so there's that. And by "opinion" I mean "opinion which can be taken seriously by people who know the subject intimately, by doing it for years at a time".
posted by jokeefe at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


It makes me really sad, and also gets me truly wondering about the future of this site. The moderation is tight and good still, but i see more and more of these types of shitty comments stand even if they get called out.

I am not trying to be dismissive of what you're feeling here—I think there's plenty of stuff that could use work, for sure, and there are some threads that I see (whether while actively watching them or just after the fact) that drive me crazy in a "ffs, really, this is how we're doing this?" sort of way—but my feeling from my long time here is that Mefi's actually improved more in this respect than anything as time's gone by. There is no way with a large, basically open-door site to prevent occasional shittiness and somewhat more common conversational thoughtlessness, but the likelihood of prompt pushback on a lot of that stuff is greater today than it was five or ten years ago, easily.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


But the only people who said "oh yeah it's all the poor people's fault for doing it wrong" we're the ones who were sarcastically attributing it to some general attitude which I didn't actually see anywhere.

the comment 2 above yours was : "So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this..." and then there was the whole 'back in the olden days my mom/grandma/whatever did it so it seems totally obvious that working single mothers could do it today!' those weren't sarcastic to my reading...
posted by nadawi at 1:50 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't have a washing machine, and last year I bought a handcrank tub washer to keep my gym clothes from making my bedroom smell like a locker room between biweekly laundromat visits. I thought I'd use it all the time, but it turns out that hey, it's actually a lot of work dragging the awkward thing into the tub, filling it with water, hand cranking for several minutes, emptying the whole thing out, filling it with fresh water, repeating the process to rinse them a bit, emptying the whole thing out again, rinsing each one in cold running water, wringing each one out, and setting them to dry on a rack in front of my window unit air conditioner. If I'm lucky, they're dry two days later.

And that's just sweaty gym clothes-- not diapers you have to worry about sanitizing.

I can't criticize people who've done it themselves for suggesting to others that it's possible (yes, it absolutely is, it's just a tremendous amount of work), but I have a feeling that most of the people in the thread (NOT ALL) suggesting it have never done any such thing.
posted by matcha action at 1:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Between this thread and the thread about the woman getting her ipad back i'm starting to get the feeling that this site is slowly filling with assholes like reddit did when it started to suck a few years ago(not that it was ever amazing, but jesus christ it used to be 1000x better)

If you don't like the comment here any more I know some great sites called WordPad and TextEdit where you're going agree with 100% of the comments.
posted by GuyZero at 1:52 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Spending 14 hours a week plus the cost of hot water to wash diapers by hand is not economical compared to working a part time job at minimum wage and spending a fraction of that money on disposable diapers. The only way it makes sense is if you can't work a part time job.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:52 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


So there's got to be a middle ground between "So the woman mentioned in the FPP would apparently rather starve than wash a soiled cloth diaper. I can't get worked up over this..." and "Here is how you can practically wash a soiled cloth diaper, it'd be awesome if those people who needed or could use that information could know that."

I don't know, corb, I get that you're not trying to be shaming (and you directly said in your first comment that you weren't), but your suggestion still fails to take into consideration the fact that that's an enormous chunk of unpaid manual labor which presumes a certain amount of leisure time (for anyone, but particularly the single disabled mother in the OP) and initial cost. And I honestly found the tone you've raised these suggestions in kind of patronizing--as if, if only poor parents knew they could wash cloth diapers in the bathtub, of course they would choose these things.

I don't think that's the case, at all. And I think it's wrong to presume that the poor are largely making the choices they are out of ignorance.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2013 [39 favorites]


Wow i hadn't even hit the near-end of the thread yet, there's SO many "i did it myself jesus it wasn't that hard" and "BACK IN THE DAY MY MOM DID IT AND" posts in there.

It's like a missing the point machine, since nearly everyone(i'd bet cold cash on like, 75%) on this site grew up middle class or is middle class+ and that's been pretty well established as pretty much a fact for ages.

I should probably take a break, this is just too angering to look at.

If you don't like the comment here any more I know some great sites called WordPad and TextEdit where you're going agree with 100% of the comments.

I don't expect to agree with any, or even most of the posts on here. One of my favorite things about this site is that it constantly presents me with different ways of thinking about or looking at things, and differing opinions that just generally make me shift my brain in to gear.

This kind of dismissive "LOL I COULD DEAL WITH BEING YOU JEEZE ITS NOT THAT HARD STUPID POOR" shit that really kicks my balls. Really, basically any time people start talking about "entitlement" or anything that isn't an askme about like, computers when people go "Jeeze, i'd just do XYZ it's not that hard" that shit gets bad.

I wasn't saying this site was some clogged toilet in a public bathroom, just that there's been two pretty awful examples of this kind of badness recently. I'm not throwing in the towel or anything.
posted by emptythought at 1:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


And to be absolutely clear on this last point, i still love this site and nearly all the people on it. I even like it(and you!) when i end up going to mat on stuff, and when other people do so and really put their brain and back into it.

This is just, as Naberius said in the thread, not MeFi's finest hour.
posted by emptythought at 1:58 PM on July 30, 2013


I don't know, corb, I get that you're not trying to be shaming (and you directly said in your first comment that you weren't), but your suggestion still fails to take into consideration the fact that that's an enormous chunk of unpaid manual labor which presumes a certain amount of leisure time (for anyone, but particularly the single disabled mother in the OP) and initial cost.

If it came across that I was dismissive of that, I absolutely apologize. I do understand that there's an enormous chunk of unpaid labor involved in that - and I didn't mean to imply that someone doing this must have leisure time. And honestly, a lot of my own understandings about how you can do things do come from cultural factors - my family took it for granted that women would be doing enormous amounts of unpaid labor even if they did have jobs on top of that. And I do really hate those understandings in a lot of ways.

I myself have engaged in that unpaid child-related labor on top of twelve hour shifts and a three hour commute as a new mother. And I remember crying a lot, and hating life, and probably being totally insane from sleep deprivation as I doubt I got more than four hours a night. And if someone can do anything better, I would totally advise them to do that. But at the same time, I think sometimes you don't have that choice to do something better. Especially if you are a single parent, you know that if you fall, there's no one there to catch you, and you absolutely cannot fail, you absolutely have to keep moving even if you are dead on your feet.
posted by corb at 2:00 PM on July 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


anything that isn't an askme about like, computers

Not so fast. Seems pretty often (or at least there was a string of them a while back) people say, "I am looking for a basic laptop, my budget is $750, what is the best I can get?" and people are all, "a macbook pro really is the best value laptop you can get, I've had mine for 6 years," failing to take into consideration how wildly out of budget a macbook is.
posted by phunniemee at 2:02 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not so fast. Seems pretty often (or at least there was a string of them a while back) people say, "I am looking for a basic laptop, my budget is $750, what is the best I can get?" and people are all, "a macbook pro really is the best value laptop you can get, I've had mine for 6 years," failing to take into consideration how wildly out of budget a macbook is.

Yea fair enough, and true. I'm always the one dropping in to say they'd be doing themselves a disservice if they didn't look at used machines, and warning that used macs hold their value in an abnormally non bang for their buck-ish way, but are worth considering if you do specifically want one.

The entire place just skews (upper)middle class with a lot of myopia at times.
posted by emptythought at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I think it's wrong to presume that the poor are largely making the choices they are out of ignorance.

I don't know if corb's doing that, but I do think it's often a feature of this kind of conversation online and IRL. To some extent, it may come out of that (often gendered) communication stereotype thing where discussers and solvers can be at cross purposes. So the article calls attention to a problem situation people are experiencing. Solvers immediately try to find a hack for the situation, while discussers tend to focus more on addressing the causes, social forces, effects of the experience, yata yata.

This happens to me a lot in real life. I'll mention to a friend/coworker a problem I'm encountering or working out, and they immediately leap in with a suggested bit of advice, with very helpful intentions. Now, since I have been thinking about the issue for, like, hours-days-years already, I have already long ago considered and rejected their suggested solution, but they overlook that totally predictable likelihood in their desire to help, not really considering that they have only been thinking about the problem for, like 32 seconds.

I don't think it's at all ill-intended; it's just a culturally common communication style.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [25 favorites]


my frustration with the thread and suggestions of cloth diapers and such is that i think it buried the topic of, someone was creating a program to help with this and it was scuttled by asshats like limbaugh with glib statements about "pampering the poor" - and when the 'just use cloth' conversation really got going it included ludicrous suggestions about programs to educate, help with handme downs, diaper collection and cleaning services, etc - like - we won't put money out for 20 cents a diaper, but we're going to do a whole infrastructure change? i know it's the metafilter thing of look at a plate of beans and expand, but it was so far removed from the reality being discussed in the link it was hard to stomach.
posted by nadawi at 2:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think that calling the kind of interaction that happens in threads like that "discussion" is a stretch, and that saying that this kind of "discussion" is the only good outcome is sad. For example:

Or you can wring hands and get mad at everyone that doesn't understand the world the way you do and try to shut down discussion.

There are certain sociological facts out in the world: what things cost, how childcare works, and so on. Having "opinions" about these facts is incoherent and a sign of stubborn ignorance. If you don't know, ask for information, don't plow ahead. So there's one good outcome — awareness raising, and it shouldn't need to climb a barricade of smug flippancy to get heard. "I know what their problem is" is not a request for information.

Or, another example:

Besides, what would MF be if it was a echochamber of perfectly harmonized opinions and thoughts?

Yes, I wonder what MeFi would be if our "discussions" weren't an exchange of incoherent generalizations. There are facts. Let's learn the scope of the facts. The Earth is round, that's not the subject of opinion or discussion, and yet it's an interesting and valuable fact. Best MetaFilter results when people come in with stories, specifics, and facts. Definitely not from armchair philosophizing about measurable, real issues.
posted by Nomyte at 2:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


If it came across that I was dismissive of that, I absolutely apologize. I do understand that there's an enormous chunk of unpaid labor involved in that - and I didn't mean to imply that someone doing this must have leisure time. And honestly, a lot of my own understandings about how you can do things do come from cultural factors - my family took it for granted that women would be doing enormous amounts of unpaid labor even if they did have jobs on top of that. And I do really hate those understandings in a lot of ways.

I appreciate the apology, honestly. When you said this--"Cloth diapers are often marketed as a rich-people thing, better for the environment. And I think they're not often marketed as 'cheaper'. But they really, really are."--I bristled, hard, because it was very much a comment that didn't seem to take into consideration the number of unpaid womanhours not to mention other factors, but reading about your cultural background actually clarifies a lot. Of course, if you come from a culture where women are expected to shoulder these burdens unpaid--and where there might be, say, large families to help with labor, to pass down supplies, to educate on things like using a washboard--these costs might be a lot more invisible.

Man, this was really a thread that reminded me of how much of our society has been built on the invisible labor of countless women.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2013 [80 favorites]


I would like to humbly thank all the people who moved in to correct the "why don't they just" comments.
Who explained, argued, told personal stories and who even when furious communicated in good faith. It's a thankless job because with every new discussion different people turn up to say the same old infuriating things. So thank you because despite this you've helped me and other priveleged people understand better.

I did not post because I am clueless, middle class and can afford to use Pampers. I wish everyone could. We have diaper donation initiatives and I will donate money to that. Thank you for helping me understand.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe the fact that we live in the sort of broken society where something as simple and critical as diapers is financially out of reach for poor people didn't occur to these women. Maybe they got pregnant accidentally and couldn't afford an abortion, or it's functionally illegal where they live. Maybe they lost their jobs because it's twenty-fucking-thirteen. Maybe their financially contributing partner left them or died. MAYBE NOT EVERY POOR PERSON IS AN IDIOT?!

Maybe they had an unexpected illness or disability or their spouse/family member did. Maybe their child is special needs.

Maybe maybe maybe. No safety net, nothing at all, and yet we still blame the poor for being poor.
posted by sweetkid at 2:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is there a diaper charity mefites have donated to or worked with?

This was one of those threads that just lingered on because it's an emotionally fraught issue and, like a lot of threads about poverty and its effects, at some point you've calibrated yourself adequately and there isn't much more to be said, though there is a lot that you might do.

As I ruminated over the discussion this afternoon, I found myself wishing that there had been a great big: Concerned About This Issue? Donate/Volunteer Here button at the top of the page. Being able to click on that and move out of discussion and into action, instead of just grinding away, ever more finely, at the same core issues, would have taken a lot of the aggro out of that thread, I think.
posted by R. Schlock at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


There was an extensive derail on just where one can procure a washboard.

I babysat that thread all morning and while I agree that some of the comments were, to my read, pretty offensive (in more of a clueless than evil way, again, in my opinion) I did see significantly more pushback than traction for those sorts of comments. And I contributed to the washboard derail if only to say that people will problematize anything and that some discussions aren't really well served by a bunch of problem-solvey internet nitpickers.

But honestly, I agree with cortex and cjorgenson, we have to think about what sort of community we want to have here. If it's a place where people aren't allowed, or afraid to ask "Well why don't they..." types of questions. I feel confident that this community can, for the most part, respond to those questions "Here's why..." and I take it upon myself personally to do that as often as I can.

As much as I very very badly want to live in a place where people don't automatically over-scrutinize people's life choices, women in particular, that isn't where we are right now. And with a group of super bright, sometimes irritable, nitpicky online folks with some social and cultural blind spots, we're very much not there but can at least be moving in that direction. But change is incremental and there are often some ugly detours along the way. I totally understand why you're upset Nomyte, but I'm not certain there's any way around this other than through it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2013 [32 favorites]


The Diaper Bank Network has a list of diaper banks, some of which are also food banks.
posted by boo_radley at 2:35 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nomyte: Best MetaFilter results when people come in with stories, specifics, and facts. Definitely not from armchair philosophizing about measurable, real issues.

I agree with you and I don't think this thread is an example of the best ideal discussion of this issue ever but I agree with Cortex that this is a generalist website and if we get at least most people being well-meaning but maybe a little clueless I think we're doing really well, relative to other places online and IRL!

You say people should bring stories, specifics, and facts but I saw a lot of people bring specific stories into the conversation that were then contextualized by other users in a mostly civil way that pointed out that some of those specifics and stories don't really conform to reality as it is today for many people with limited financial means. People come from different places. They're not entitled to their own facts and sure people should stop and think before they post something flippant but I still feel good overall about the thread.

Having just finished typing this and proof-reading it Jessamyn just said it better.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:36 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe the fact that we live in the sort of broken society where something as simple and critical as diapers is financially out of reach for poor people didn't occur to these women...

I am sorry that I left my comment open to misinterpretation. I was responding to the comment above mine which was arguing that people who aren't parents shouldn't comment in these sorts of threads. And I know a few people who would like to be parents, and have experience taking care of kids but don't have the scratch to make it pan out, and IMO their contributions shouldn't be rejected out of hand because they don't have kids.

IMO the life of a child should be entirely subsidized from birth to college, diapers and all. I think it's vital that equal opportunity at all levels is afforded to all kids, and that begins with economic justice.
posted by banal evil at 2:38 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Zarq posted some very helpful links re: that "doing something pressure valve". Fast thread, and small comment so easy to miss... but also a very important thing to consider (sometimes closing the browser, walking away from the "why don't they just"s, and then just doing.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The need might be real, but this is another example of the LAT's rather shoddy reporting. That the reporter called a friend of a friend and got some quotes isn't exactly inspiring.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:41 PM on July 30, 2013


If anything, I think some of the hand wringing got a bit shrill...

If only we had known this was the precise arrangement of words that would end the
posted by emmtee at 2:43 PM on July 30, 2013


Ideefixe - what's shoddy is you dropping in the thread to say that you talked to someone no one else has access to and they shared personal info about a friend of a friend of a coworker which somehow puts the article into question according to you. i honestly can't believe that comment hasn't been deleted.
posted by nadawi at 2:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


OP: Are you kidding? That thread is great. elizardbits and corb are agreeing on stuff in there, the people who are shaming/judging the lower income moms are getting shat all over, and as far as I can tell no one has quit the site in a huff.

There's a lot of noise around the 3-5 people who are being judgmental, but the general thrust of the thread is right on. I (a childless high income 26 year old straight white dude) learned a great deal in there and am glad the thread was posted.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:51 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


i honestly can't believe that comment hasn't been deleted.

Serious question: why would we delete it?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:54 PM on July 30, 2013


Is there a diaper charity mefites have donated to or worked with?

Blahlala's comment is pretty buried in that thread, so it's worth linking too as well.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


jessamyn - the whole "here's a hint to the real story which no one can verify about the public assistance situation of someone mentioned by name in the article" seems to be mean spirited and ethically questionable for the LAT person to share it with Ideefixe and i don't love that kind of gossip being allowed to stand here.
posted by nadawi at 2:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


We don't really have any sort of "no murky hints of gossip" standard on the site. Someone making a post out of it, or going on a long-form performance art streak with it, would be a different sort of issue, but at that this level I think it's basically a thing to roll your eyes at and move on from if it's annoying you.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:01 PM on July 30, 2013


What I learned from that thread is that there are a surprising number of people who think that sleep or any down time is really unnecessary for mothers. Oh, and if only we all had washboards and washing lines and used them 24/7 the world would be a better place.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:02 PM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


i totally get that cortex. i will say that i think there's a difference between "i find this ethically questionable (of Ideefixe and her friend)" and "this annoys me." i think if the person in the article were a mefite that comment would have strayed into prohibited personal info territory and i don't see a bright line just because she isn't. but not my call to make. thanks for discussing it.
posted by nadawi at 3:07 PM on July 30, 2013


I know there are a lot of other Portland locals on Metafilter, so I thought I'd note here that the PDX Diaper Bank has an Amazon Wishlist, which makes donating a lot easier.

I imagine that most people don't consider donating anything other than infant diapers, but there is a need for adult diapers and incontinence supplies as well.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 3:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow i hadn't even hit the near-end of the thread yet, there's SO many "i did it myself jesus it wasn't that hard"

I wanted to post "Yeah, ok, YOU WIN!" to each of those comments but refrained, so I just said it here right now instead.
posted by sonika at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I could have used a pair of diapers yesterday. I was surprised, I could have sworn it was just a hard fart, but no.

Luckily I was at home. I'm glad those weren't my ceremonial white underpants.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:18 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


too much ice cream eh
posted by elizardbits at 3:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn socialists. Gotta share all their shit.
posted by maryr at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


infinite intimation: "Zarq posted some very helpful links re: that "doing something pressure valve". Fast thread, and small comment so easy to miss... but also a very important thing to consider (sometimes closing the browser, walking away from the "why don't they just"s, and then just doing."

Honestly, if it hadn't been for Lulu's Pink Converse comment I wouldn't have even known that diaper banks existed or thought to do a google search. All props to Lulu. :)
posted by zarq at 3:22 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Many food banks also take donations of diapers and wipes, so check with your local food bank(s) if there are no diaper banks in your area.
posted by needled at 3:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's pure armchair quarterback poop slinging by smug assholes.

I absolutely adore this sentence. Dancing alliteration. Multiple metaphors, but they all work together to form a thing of beauty. And there's poop!

From emptythought's comment above.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:28 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd suggest reading some of it more charitably. As with many derails, some of the discussion of cloth diapering is "My Mom did it, here's a story about my youth" which isn't the same as Why don't they just... Some of it is snarkish. There are some comments from people who are speaking from experience of using and washing cloth diapers, offering it as a valid alternative.
posted by theora55 at 3:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many years ago, the BBC had a reality series called "1900 House" in which a 1990s London family gives up the modern conveniences to live in a historic house using historically available materials. Dad rides off in a buggy every day to his modern office job and Mum lived the life. It wasn't beating the rugs or cooking on a woodstove that did her in. It wasn't using soap as shampoo and making her own moisturizer. Nope, it was keeping her daughters out of school TWO DAYS A WEEK to do laundry. It was backbreaking labor and resulted in painful arms and hands. Boiling water, scrubbing with lye, hanging things out to dry. Even when she hired a maid, it was too much.

When people above say that lot of history is built on invisible labor of women, that's what they're talking about. When my great grandmother took in washing to support the kids after her husband died, that's what she did. In addition to washing the floor on her hands and knees with bleach everyday so no one else died.

That's why I got an education and a well paying job - so I can outsource the things that would otherwise fall to me because I'm a woman. And that's why I'm baffled by the "extreme parenting" that takes pride in doing everything the hardest way possible as if difficulty equates to virtue.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 3:56 PM on July 30, 2013 [73 favorites]


The best and worst part about parenting is critiquing the parenting styles of others. If you don't have kids, though...
posted by KokuRyu at 4:06 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't have kids, though...

A couple of weeks ago, in my son's gymnastics class, I overheard one parent say to another "I was such a good parent, in my head, before I had kids." So true.
posted by ambrosia at 4:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [28 favorites]


Taking care of children is relentless and hard enough as it is. When mine were small disposables were my one luxury. The local diaper service had gone out of business (the popularity of disposables was responsible for that) and when I first had a baby I had no washer and dryer. Later on with three little kids and a washing machine that worked wonkily at best-I went without a lot so I could have disposables. I would have probably literally lost my mind if I had had to deal with diaper laundry on top of everything else. (Yes, I worked part time too.)

A lot of you wax nostalgic for the old days. Well, the old days, a heck of a lot of people used diaper services. Most of you are too young to remember them. Just sayin.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:19 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well, I'm probably one of the smug, childless wankers being referred to here, so I thought I'd have a word.
Several people have made comments that the offense in this thread came from ignorance rather than evil, and I would like to confirm that. As I stated in the thread, I'm a relatively privileged, childless white male. I've changed exactly one diaper in my life (my nephew), and quite frankly have no urge to repeat the experience. I've never given much thought to diapers at all.
Because of the generally intelligent but not particularly shy nature of most discussers here, I learned a lot from the exchange and, most importantly, have been reminded of how different many people's day to day experiences are from my own. Although I still believe everything I wrote, I can easily see how it would come across as offensive to some people.
So thanks.
posted by crazylegs at 4:21 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aandd that is what I get for posting in the wrong thread-I meant that for the original thread. But maybe it's just as well. That thread got me so enraged I had to walk away from it for a couple of hours. And for me that is saying something.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:21 PM on July 30, 2013


Aandd that is what I get for posting in the wrong thread-I meant that for the original thread.

That's OK, this MeTa is just a continuation of the FPP anyway.
posted by John Cohen at 4:24 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


That diaper thread, coming on the heels of the FPP about summer vacation where people were saying, "But we can't improve educational opportunities for poor children by changing the totally arbitrary and educationally suboptimal school calendar because SUMMER IS WHEN I BUILD MY AIRPLANES," filled me with too much rage to comment. Just, so so so much blind, unseeing, willful privilege, and I appreciate this MeTa giving me a chance to blow off some steam about it.

These are people who believe they have solutions to poverty but who truly do not even understand the problem. They're so smugly proud of themselves for having solved for X when X isn't even one of the variables in the equation. And when presented with information from people who are expert on the issue, they stubbornly insist their own life experience is the only valid experience and poor people must just be doing something wrong. I do not have the personal experience of growing up in poverty, but I have tried damned hard to understand what what impoverished urban children experience and why their educational needs are not the same educational needs that I had as a privileged suburban child of college-educated parents. What both terrifying and enraging about both those threads is that if this is how well-informed, sympathetic, generally liberal people understand the problems of poverty, we have hardly any hope of addressing the underlying issues. Any time you try to improve services for poor children (as I do locally) people come out of the woodwork to complain bitterly that poor people are doing it wrong and therefore should suffer. So it's doubly upsetting to see so many members of a site like metafilter behaving like the local cranks who turn up to city council meetings to complain that there should be no liquor licenses in poor neighborhoods because IF THEY QUIT SPENDING MONEY ON LIQUOR THEY WOULDN'T BE POOR.

All I can say is, some people better hope I never get my superpower (which will be punching people in the face through the internet). Summer is when I build my airplanes, indeed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:29 PM on July 30, 2013 [69 favorites]


You know, with a diaper service coming around the pick up cloth diapers and wash them for you, it's a hell of a chore, nevermind washing them yourself.

But to be a single parent trying to wash frickin' diapers? That's like a quarter of your waking hours, I would guess.

Disposables, on the other hand are convenient. But so expensive. Such a waste of money. Must cost about 40 dollars a month at least.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:32 PM on July 30, 2013


"That's like a quarter of your waking hours"

Not even close. I was a single working father. I had to use cloth diapers and hand wash them for a couple months. 12 to 20 diapers a day. 5 day supply overall. Toilet, bathtub, plunger, washboard, sink, detergent, occasional softener. A 2-hour process involving about 25 to 30 minutes of actual work.
posted by Ardiril at 4:40 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


crazylegs - i'm glad you learned some things, really. but, your comments made a hard thread worse. it's rarely useful for someone to rush in on topics they have never thought about with forceful snark and back in the olden days women just did all this work, what's different now?! type stuff. you keep saying you're sincere and learning things, but your actual participation is pretty crappy from where i'm sitting.
posted by nadawi at 4:47 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's OK, this MeTa is just a continuation of the FPP anyway.

It would actually be great if that were not the case, moving forward. Don't recreate the thread here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:55 PM on July 30, 2013


Well. So much for that.
posted by crazylegs at 4:56 PM on July 30, 2013


By the way, if you want somewhere to donate diapers, your local shelter for abused women is almost certainly in need; women with babies are often afraid to leave abusive spouses because they're unable to provide baby consumables (diapers, formula) on their own, and providing those sorts of necessities is crucially important. You can also donate free samples of formula there if you happen to be on new-baby mailing lists that send you formula you don't want. My local women's shelter takes "loose" diapers -- that is, the leftover ones you have when your kid outgrows a size halfway through a box. And relating to another FPP from today, they also always need feminine hygiene products. If I see a good sale or coupon on any of those items, I always buy a few packages for the shelter.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


volunteering as a teen at the abused women shelters was some of the most eye opening work i've ever done. i didn't even hear a lot of the details, i was just there to clean and play with the kids - but it still taught me more than i can even vocalize.
posted by nadawi at 5:11 PM on July 30, 2013


They're so smugly proud of themselves for having solved for X when X isn't even one of the variables in the equation.

It's a bit like how I feel in the "who needs libraries? Everyone has an iPad, and all the important stuff is online" threads.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:11 PM on July 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


"Must cost about 40 dollars a month at least." - Closer to $100 to $150 a month (20 to 25 cents each for disposables), depending on child's age and parents' choice of retail outlet. Cloth diapers run from $1.25 to $1.50 each. Disposable users pay a high premium for convenience over cloth.
posted by Ardiril at 5:18 PM on July 30, 2013


I'm serious, stop that part of the discussion or take it to MeMail.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:18 PM on July 30, 2013


Just coming in to say that, as a privileged, educated, middle-class person who does strive to understand the problems of the poor and has the resources and time to learn if I choose to use them, it NEVER OCCURRED TO ME that WIC is not applicable to diapers. Not that it would solve the problem if it did without significantly expanding the amount allocated, but damn.
posted by Morrigan at 5:28 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not even close. I was a single working father. I had to use cloth diapers and hand wash them for a couple months. 12 to 20 diapers a day. 5 day supply overall. Toilet, bathtub, plunger, washboard, sink, detergent, occasional softener. A 2-hour process involving about 25 to 30 minutes of actual work.

Well, my kid speaks French!
posted by KokuRyu at 6:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


This reminded me my friend just had a kid. I should email her my condolences.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


"my kid speaks French!" - I also homeschooled my kid. He speaks German.
posted by Ardiril at 6:18 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


This reminded me my friend just had a kid. I should email her my condolences.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:14 PM on July 30
[+] [!]


My grandmother once congratulated my mom for having a miscarriage, which is the other side of that coin.
posted by Area Man at 6:21 PM on July 30, 2013


Oh no its the parent olympics
posted by agregoli at 6:23 PM on July 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


You know who else spoke German?
posted by elizardbits at 6:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [23 favorites]


my gramma
posted by elizardbits at 6:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


You know who else spoke German?

Nietzsche?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, it's pretty mainstream at this point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


the invisible work of women

I've often wondered whether, without machines, there'd still be slavery. Something in that thread mentioned how industrialization was an important part of the women's lib movement. It's a fascinating angle, one that I haven't explored in depth. I'm glad the thread happened, for that comment alone. I worry about what might happen to civil and women's rights as the fossil fuels used to build, run, and maintain so many of our machines become harder to obtain. I suppose there will always be people whose labour is considered worthless, or labour whose challenges are never considered at all.
posted by windykites at 6:34 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


The need might be real, but this is another example of the LAT's rather shoddy reporting.

FWIW, this -- and your "since it's the LAT I expect vague reporting" comment(s) in the main thread -- do come across to me more as axe-grinding than as providing objective information.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Morrigan--WIC doesn't apply to diapers? Shit, I didn't realize that either.

WIC is only for nutritional needs, doesn't cover diapers. damn.
posted by inertia at 6:42 PM on July 30, 2013


I've often wondered whether, without machines, there'd still be slavery.

Um...there still is slavery.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:48 PM on July 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


I'd just like to thank my mom for raising four babies before there were disposable diapers.
posted by spitbull at 7:02 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


My favorite part of WIC was the nutrition survey and the mandatory advice from a nutritionist we got at every recertification. The nutritionist would say stuff, and I'd turn to my mom and translate. "Your baby needs to eat more dark greens. Your baby needs to eat more cheese."
posted by Nomyte at 7:04 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I meant in North America.
posted by windykites at 7:09 PM on July 30, 2013


Modern day slavery in North America.

[full report here].
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:14 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


What kills me about these threads is when people who are genuinely in these situations come in to comment and just get steamrolled because someone else knows better. When people leave comments like:

I mean, washing diapers by hand in the bathtub or a sink? It's so ludicrous that I can't even get mad for someone suggesting it. They might as well have suggested using a unicorn.

In response to me saying that I've been washing cloth diapers in a sink FOR A YEAR (Happy Birthday Baby Jungle!) and it's really not that bad. Is it the highlight of my day? Of course not, but it's 30 minutes of work that I do because it saves my family money. And if you don't believe me about the 30 minutes check out Ardiril's comment, we had very similar experiences.

Not even close. I was a single working father. I had to use cloth diapers and hand wash them for a couple months. 12 to 20 diapers a day. 5 day supply overall. Toilet, bathtub, plunger, washboard, sink, detergent, occasional softener. A 2-hour process involving about 25 to 30 minutes of actual work.
-Ardiril.

But of course instead of thinking, "You know, these parent's might be right, this might be viable." He gets snarked at because we can't listen to actual poor people, we just get to tell them what is and isn't doable.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:42 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


I hate that the thread turned into a big discussion about cloth diapers that didn't really address much of the link. The discussion basically took one sentence, "Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat" and derailed the whole thing. Not addressing much of the substance of the article concerning the racial and age disparities, or the stress, sadness and trauma and how these interact with the diaper crisis.

I don't know, I'm really thinking my own experience must be pretty idiosyncratic. Because I'm surrounded by poor people nearly all the time especially since I moved into section 8 housing. And the one thing I never really wonder is if poor people are willing to work hard or if they are willing to find any way they can to save money. That's why I don't understand why every thread involving an issue that hurts poor people has to become a big debate over whether or not they could just do THIS ONE SIMPLE THING to save money (it's always JUST ONE THING) that would make the problem go away. But it's a pattern that comes up again and again.

As I stated in the thread, I'm a relatively privileged, childless white male.

And honestly if you know you're a privileged dude could you try harder not to be so confident in your assumptions when the link and discussion is obviously about people who lack that privilege? Please could this happen. Please. Please try.
posted by Danila at 8:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [33 favorites]


It's just a damn shame that every thread about poor people has to be about THEY'RE DOIN IT RONG Y/N instead of the actual problem, which is not individuals' choices but a catastrophic systemic failure. I mean there is really no reason why in this day and age the necessity for food AND diapers should be an insurmountable problem for anyone. It reminds me of that video of the broken subway step and all the people tripping it over it over and over. We should have a whole thread about how all of those people are all making the wrong decisions over and over and how I have glasses so I'm good at paying attention to the steps in front of me so why can't they? instead of talking about fixing the damn step. You're all doin it rong.
posted by bleep at 8:12 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


Morrigan--WIC doesn't apply to diapers? Shit, I didn't realize that either.

Seriously?? Who should I write to? 'Cause that's absurd.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:13 PM on July 30, 2013


Jinx, Danila.
posted by bleep at 8:13 PM on July 30, 2013


"He gets snarked at because we can't listen to actual poor people, we just get to tell them what is and isn't doable."

You should have seen the reaction I got when I described how I fed myself and two teenagers for $100 a month from a disability check while living in Fresno a few years ago.
posted by Ardiril at 8:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


You should have seen the reaction I got when I described how I fed myself and two teenagers for $100 a month from a disability check while living in Fresno a few years ago.

What is your point? That you know better than everyone else who thinks that things shouldn't be so hard for working people trying to raise their kids? What do you think you are contributing to this discussion?
posted by mustard seeds at 8:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


My point is that I was and am a poor person, and Mefites claiming that poor people don't have time for this or are too tired for that or too dumb to figure out this other thing is pure rubbish. Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them, but the vast majority of us manage just fine.
posted by Ardiril at 8:26 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


People who have the actual experience of being in such a situation are allowed to share those experiences, and their viewpoints are just as important as anyone's. In fact, more so, I think you could fairly argue. Lived experience is legitimate.

I'm someone who reeeeeeeeeeally takes exception to the "And you can too!" school of thought, but implying that people who've been poor have nothing to contribute to the discussion is exceptionally shitty.

It is possible to acknowledge someone's individual experience while still recognizing that it may not be representative of everyone in that situation.
posted by Ouisch at 8:28 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


Now that we have a post on diapers AND on tipping, I feel like it's time to make popcorn and cancel all my other plans.
posted by jenlovesponies at 8:36 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's also a thread about Aaron Swartz, and another thread about Bradley Manning, depending on how much popcorn you have.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:39 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there were one on dieting there'd be some sort of unholy trifecta of 'this worked for me, so if only you'd do this, you'd lose weight/not be so poor/be a morally pure person/deserve my sympathy' threads.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:42 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


cortex: "my feeling from my long time here is that Mefi's actually improved more in this respect than anything as time's gone by"

I agree, but I also feel that there's more of these kinds of issues, and what I think it is is that there are a lot more posts about social issues (is that the right term? posts about poverty, about obesity, about police brutality, about misogyny, about various abuses), so even though the percentage of shitty comments in any given Big Issue thread is lower, the increase in the actual number of Big Issue threads means that there's a net increase in the physical number of shitty comments. I don't think it's anything that moderation can help, though.

But that's just my impression, and impressions and memories are often wrong.
posted by Bugbread at 8:52 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, lesbiassparrow, but we do have a fatshion thread.
posted by Nomyte at 8:54 PM on July 30, 2013


There is actually an obesity thread from yesterday that is going pretty well, I think.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:57 PM on July 30, 2013


You know, reading through this MeTa and the rest of the comments on the post, I can't help but be struck by how much a little faith and consideration could go a long way.

Listen to people's experiences, and don't tell them they're lying. Don't say "no one" can do something, or "no one" does something, or items can't actually be found, or people are being blind to realities, when these things are things that real people reading and commenting in the thread can and have done. They are aware of their own reality. When you say it can't be done, you are denying theirs.

Instead maybe try saying, "That sounds hard / I'm glad that worked out for you / I'm so sorry to hear that" + "but I think we need to think about the majority of cases, rather than the outliers." Because this way you're listening, but also pointing out that something is unfeasible for most of the people in the situation.

Most people here are not trying to be jerks. I don't even think most people here are secret jerks.

If we can't even be good to each other on one internet discussion thread, how the fuck are we supposed to change the world?
posted by corb at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


"I think we need to think about the majority of cases, rather than the outliers"

This article was about an outlier.
posted by Ardiril at 9:01 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


too dumb to figure out this other thing

So far the only person here calling poor people stupid is, ironically, you.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 PM on July 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


My point is that I was and am a poor person, and Mefites claiming that poor people don't have time for this or are too tired for that or too dumb to figure out this other thing is pure rubbish. Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them, but the vast majority of us manage just fine.

I'm not sure what you're doing here. You made two things work for you: hand-me-down cloth diapers worked for you, and you also fed your family on a pittance. Good job, congratulations. Your accomplishments are rare, and I'm glad you did well.

I get lost where you seem to be claiming that your individual example outweighs the experience of a large class of people. Because it seems to me that the second half of your comment can be summarized as "and if they can't do as well as I did, then they will die off and I'm OK with that."

For one, that's grossly inhumane. Maybe that's just how you want to be perceived: as an amoral mercenary. But even someone like that should be aware that places with a sizable population of desperate people tend to turn into rather unpleasant places to live for everyone.
posted by Nomyte at 9:07 PM on July 30, 2013 [37 favorites]


This article was about an outlier.

I stand corrected. People who aren't as accomplished as you simply don't exist.
posted by Nomyte at 9:08 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them, but the vast majority of us manage just fine.

So only the really dumb have problems with poverty?


This article was about an outlier.


Well I guess, yeah. It didn't say it was a majority, just 27% report having problems with supplying diapers. I do think 1 out of 4 is big enough to be a problem, but I guess it is possible these are all just the super-dumb Darwin cases.

So far the only person here calling poor people stupid is, ironically, you.

That's the whole problem I have with these "individual experiences". I interpret them as simply claiming that you could do it and if others can't then they are stupid and deserve their fate. Or it could be said nicely, as corb did, that the others just need education. No systemic problems, no inequality. In this case, no nuanced look into why hispanic mothers or grandparents raising grandchildren are especially likely to report financial problems affording diapers (or whatever the poverty issue of the day is, because the pattern is always the same). This same thing will happen if it's about food, or education or, in this case, diapers. This exact same "they're too dumb and that's why they're struggling" thing.
posted by Danila at 9:10 PM on July 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


Nomyte: "Seeing otherwise reasonable users lead with a cavalier attitude of "why don't they just…" is absolutely heartbreaking. "

Sometimes, things that seem obvious to one person may not be obvious to another. There are a lot of people in that thread who are talking these issues out and giving helpful perspectives gleaned from experience. Stuff that might not occur to someone who hasn't been there themselves.
posted by zarq at 8:48 PM on July 30 [7 favorites +] [!]


Yep, and that applies both ways. Some of the critical comments in that thread seemed like sensible suggestions, to me. The fact is that we have become programmed by years of familiarity to see things like launderettes and washing machines and disposable nappies as necessities, when they're really not. My folks were poor, had no washing machine, no access to a launderette and disposable nappies had not been invented. Yet they managed. Nappies were washed in a metal bucket of searingly hot water with the aid of some wooden laundry tongs. I would certainly not condemn anyone for not knowing about such possibilities but the fact is that they do exist, and they're worth mentioning. Automation, disposability and expectation has perhaps made people unaware that there are other ways. More labour-intensive ways, unfortunately, but you do what you have to do.
posted by Decani at 9:12 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree that the fact that the entire thread has become about cloth diapers vs. disposables kind of sucks.

The biggest problem is that people are going hungry because they can't afford to feed themselves and the basic necessities for their children.
posted by inertia at 9:13 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: I agree that the fact that the entire thread has become about cloth diapers vs. disposables kind of sucks.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:18 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, you do what you have to do, even if that means not being able to send your kid to daycare and therefore unable to work. No problem here, everyone go home.
posted by bleep at 9:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I would certainly not condemn anyone for not knowing about such possibilities but the fact is that they do exist, and they're worth mentioning. Automation, disposability and expectation has perhaps made people unaware that there are other ways.

And as someone who remembers such ways and my mother working nonstop because of them, in my experience they not only suck, but are a full time job for women. Sure, there are always old, traditional ways, but they're not necessarily better. Or, at least, not better for women. Or girls, who were expected to help with the labour of raising a family from early on. My mother cried with joy when she got a washing machine.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:22 PM on July 30, 2013 [22 favorites]


"Listen to people's experiences, and don't tell them they're lying."

Absolutely. But that's a double-edged sword in this case. Some people have experience with being poor and washing cloth diapers and say that it's a huge amount of work. Some other people have experience being poor and washing cloth diapers and say it isn't as much work.

And some people on both sides have been saying, aggressively, that what was true for them is true for everyone else. That's a problem. They should stop doing that.

As for the larger issue — speaking as someone whose income is below the poverty line (actually, genuinely below the US federal defined poverty income for a one-person family), my impression of MeFi about this kind of stuff is mixed.

On the one hand, it's certainly true that the majority here seem to lack any personal experience with poverty and so there's unintentional poor-shaming that comes from simple ignorance and just a general kind of obliviousness to what's it like to live truly in poverty. However, on the other hand, there's a surprising number of people here like myself who are currently very poor or recently very poor and, more to the point, there's usually quite a bit of push-back against poor-shaming and a lot of clueing people into the realities. It's less than ideal, it'd be nice if that thread hadn't included all that stuff, but it's still important to note that MetaFilter is still way, way more enlightened and informed on this sort of thing than most anywhere else, including other places that are otherwise progressive.

I mean, really, given how strongly the web — and this segment of the web — tilts toward people who really and truly don't understand any of this stuff at all and smugly throw their ignorance and judgment around willy-nilly ... well, I think that MeFi looks pretty great by comparison, even though we're far from perfect.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:23 PM on July 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


And some people on both sides have been saying, aggressively, that what was true for them is true for everyone else. That's a problem. They should stop doing that.

Yeah. Something can be totally normal for you and yet not be universal.
posted by rtha at 9:30 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Absolutely. But that's a double-edged sword in this case. Some people have experience with being poor and washing cloth diapers and say that it's a huge amount of work. Some other people have experience being poor and washing cloth diapers and say it isn't as much work.

When I read the original article, I assumed that the parents who were struggling to afford disposable diapers had considered alternatives to disposables, and knew it wouldn't work for them.
posted by inertia at 9:30 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole situation is difficult. Everyone wants to contribute to a discussion, but unless you're an expert on the topic, you're engaging in a big gamble.

I mean, on this topic, we're looking at four basic groups of people:

1) Folks with no experience, but common sense that tells them that for someone who is working two jobs, has no washer or drier, and lives far from a laundromat, it's just not feasible to use cloth diapers.

2) Folks with no experience, but common sense tells them that people did it for many, many years, their own parents did it, and it's totally feasible.

3) Folks with experience living in poverty, working crazy hours, etc., and for whom cloth diapers would have been an impossibility.

4) Folks with experience living in poverty, working crazy hours, etc., and who actually did use cloth diapers.

So group 1 and 2 think each other idiots, and claim that the other group is just postulating instead of listening to the experiences of actual people in these situations. Then groups 3 and 4 come in, saying they are the people in these actual situations, and that the people from the opposing groups are wrong and ignoring their reality.

If you put this into a science context, it's just laughable. You've got two people arguing the merits of their hypotheses based on zero data, just theory. Then you've got two more people arguing the merits of their hypotheses based on a single data point.

These threads usually go best when early in the thread you have an expert come in. "I work at the Center for Keeping Baby Bottoms Clean. Our 27 years of research shows that cloth diapers are better than disposables in climates with less than 17% humidity, as drying goes faster, but that disposables are better than cloth for people living in housing in which the bath tub is built in, instead of being free-standing. Additional factors include..."

If you don't get one or more of these people in, on any contentious discussion, it just becomes a lot of people arguing about how their opinion is based on common sense and is so obviously true that anyone who disagrees is an idiot or a bad person, or how their anecdote is universally applicable.
posted by Bugbread at 9:37 PM on July 30, 2013 [36 favorites]


"based on a single data point" - That is, if you want to call 16 or so diapers a day, of which 6 to 10 are crappy, a "single data point". :)
posted by Ardiril at 9:41 PM on July 30, 2013


Yes, I want to call it a "single data point", since we're talking about how many people could manage to go the cloth diaper route...Unless every time you washed a diaper, you were a different person.

Wait...You're not Scott Bakula, are you?
posted by Bugbread at 9:44 PM on July 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, just one of me is.
posted by Ardiril at 9:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Good example of the challenge of trying to discuss issues like this using only text. I can't tell if Ardiril is joking (the smiley would suggest this?), intentionally ignoring Bugbread's point (1 life experience = 1 data point) to be argumentative, or just being oblivious.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:45 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I think sometimes you don't have that choice to do something better. Especially if you are a single parent, you know that if you fall, there's no one there to catch you, and you absolutely cannot fail, you absolutely have to keep moving even if you are dead on your feet."

You know what? It doesn't have to be this way, and we, the public, can fix it.

That's pretty much why I'm a socialist.
posted by klangklangston at 9:48 PM on July 30, 2013 [26 favorites]


Absolutely. But that's a double-edged sword in this case. Some people have experience with being poor and washing cloth diapers and say that it's a huge amount of work. Some other people have experience being poor and washing cloth diapers and say it isn't as much work. Because this is a sensitive issue, we shouldn't dictate how anyone tries to live.

Isn't there an obvious middle ground here? Something like "Being poor is not a monolithic experience. For some, cloth diapers are too hard to do with their other stuff going on. For others, it is a valuable option." Do we really need the Great Diaper Balkanization?
posted by corb at 9:52 PM on July 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


"My folks were poor, had no washing machine, no access to a launderette and disposable nappies had not been invented. Yet they managed. Nappies were washed in a metal bucket of searingly hot water with the aid of some wooden laundry tongs. I would certainly not condemn anyone for not knowing about such possibilities but the fact is that they do exist, and they're worth mentioning. Automation, disposability and expectation has perhaps made people unaware that there are other ways. More labour-intensive ways, unfortunately, but you do what you have to do."

Dude, this is the kind of blithe condescension that's pissing people off. Your folks did that in a different social setting, where it's pretty likely your mom didn't have a full time job, wasn't disabled (like the women from tfa), and where that was a social norm. Ignoring those differences in order to prescribe your personal experience as a universal solution is pretty obnoxious, especially when it seems like — having not done that work yourself — you have little idea of how much it actually did suck.
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 PM on July 30, 2013 [28 favorites]


Also, while I agree with Bugbread's point that data and experts are helpful to debates like this, I am skeptical that it's as easily reducible a problem as he implies. Because it's not groups 3 and 4 in real life (though that's a decent summary of the specific thread). In real life its:

3a) poor but stay at home parent in stable partnership
3b) poor but both parents work...
3ci) poor but has laundry machine
3cii) poor has laundry but baby's butt is weirdly sensitive
3d) no laundry machine but gramma taught 'em sooper secret diaper squeeze washing trick.

and on and on. The variables multiply so much I question how useful it is to think of it in the sort of scientific context you describe, because you'd need a huge tree diagram to cover all cases. Unless I'm wrong and the data show that a big enough group of people fall into specific categories...
posted by Wretch729 at 9:55 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wretch729: "I am skeptical that it's as easily reducible a problem as he implies"

Yeah, sorry, I was curbing myself to prevent my comment from becoming a tome. Those four groups weren't meant to describe every possible group, but just a broad breakdown. And when I said "these threads go best", I didn't mean "we get an ultimate solution", just that threads about poverty, obesity, abuse, etc. etc. generally go better when several people who have really researched the problem come into the thread early.
posted by Bugbread at 10:05 PM on July 30, 2013


Wretch729, as far as I am concerned the original article was a monolithic joke (not to mention garden-variety linkbait), and the discussions have been the inevitable streams of punchline variants. FPPs that sink to this level of Newsfilter should be deleted immediately.

The discussions took their direction because the premise of the article is 'disposable diapers are the only option because cloth diapers are expensive and/or inconvenient', then the writer added a bunch of filler. Well, cloth diapers most assuredly are not expensive, so the article is misleading, another reason for deletion. Further, if inconvenience is the problem, then that is no more than plain lazy. My opinion, you don't like it, tough shit.

Forget sympathy for this woman; I suggest we call child services instead to perform an investigation on the welfare of her kid. Her ability to make decisions (not eating versus diapers) is suspect.
posted by Ardiril at 10:15 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please tell me that Ardiril's comment is some kind of subtly ironic joke
posted by jokeefe at 10:17 PM on July 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


Ardiril: "My opinion, you don't like it, tough shit."

If that's the kind of attitude you're going to take, why do you bother participating in discussions on this website?
posted by Bugbread at 10:20 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please tell me that Ardiril's comment is some kind of subtly ironic joke

I...don't actually know...
posted by corb at 10:22 PM on July 30, 2013


Based on Ardiril's profile page, where his photo is of some guy flipping the bird, and the free comment area, which consists, in its entirety, of "Got a problem with my comments? Too fucking bad. It's only a website. ;-P", I'm thinking it's not a subtly ironic joke.

Or the whole thing is a big Andy Kaufman performance art piece. 50-50 odds.
posted by Bugbread at 10:24 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is suggesting we call CPS the Godwin's law of parenting threads?
posted by inertia at 10:25 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some guy? That's Johnny Cash!
posted by inertia at 10:27 PM on July 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Holy shit, Ardiril is Johnny Cash?!

MeFi's Own! MeFi's Own!
posted by Bugbread at 10:28 PM on July 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hmm, Ardiril and Decani are the same age, their profile pics both feature guitars, and they both, uh…
posted by Nomyte at 10:30 PM on July 30, 2013


Automation, disposability and expectation has perhaps made people unaware that there are other ways.

See, this is exactly the phenomenon I mentioned above. You (and many others of us) have been thinking about this issue since we read TFA, and so this may seem an eminently logical point. You're just trying to help people by offering options they may be unaware of.

Except that the single parent who can't afford both diapers and food has been thinking about this constantly every fucking day since the bundle of joy arrived. Most people of all income levels are aware of the existence of cloth diapers, even if they've never used them. They are aware of the concept of hand washing, even if they've never done it, and nearly every woman I've ever known has at some time hand washed/rinsed an article of clothing because . . . lady reasons.

It just seems odd to assume that a potential solution so kneejerkingly obvious that it immediately leaps to your mind, and my mind, and the mind of 500 other assorted MeFites would not have occurred to the person actually experiencing the problem during the many stressed-out days and sleepless nights they've been thinking about it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:32 PM on July 30, 2013 [33 favorites]


Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them...

Tough break for their kids, eh?
posted by bleep-blop at 11:14 PM on July 30, 2013


Seems a lot of nastiness could be avoided with an 30 seconds to review and reflect before hitting post. Just a personal observation. For example: I've re-typed this comment seven times and it is now 70% smaller and contains 95% fewer curse words, dammit
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:28 PM on July 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


Well, if we ever wanted proof that poor people can be just as douchetastic as rich people, we have it.
posted by scrump at 11:29 PM on July 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ardiril, are you aware that your position is extremely dismissive of all the reported data in the article as well as the stated experiences of many MeFites in the thread? Do you not believe them because your experience was different?
posted by iamkimiam at 11:34 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tough break for their kids, eh?

I suspect if he's willing to argue that it's natural selection to choose buying diapers over buying food, he probably views the kids as wasted genes as well. (Not everyone has a bathtub. Not everyone has enough room to hang diapers to dry.)

I can walk up a flight of stairs. Not everyone else can, because some have physical limitations.

I can type "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "believe" without looking them up. Not everyone else can, because some have never been taught to read, spell or type, or they may not have had years of opportunity to practice those skills.

You can wash cloth diapers in your bathtub. Not everyone else can, because some do not have a bathtub, receiving blankets to cut into diapers (much less actual diapers), hot running water, disinfectant cleansers strong enough to clean up shit without hurting a baby's skin, a clean space to hang diapers to dry (whether a warm apartment and a box fan, or an outdoor clothesline), and the physical ability to churn or beat a pot of wet cloth.

Corb has been great in presenting this as a potentially novel solution for people in a bind. She's acknowledged that it's not a universal solution, and she's expressed sympathy and compassion for the people in that bind. Not everyone else can. I don't know why not.
posted by gingerest at 12:24 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think that it was inevitable that this was going to go bad - diapering is an issue about which many people get ideological. This article might as well have been about the problems of affording 24/7 babywearing, "family bed", or baby formula: "attachment parenting" and its drawbacks are just really hot-button issues around here.

I'm assuming that the mods are generally on this sort of thing like hawks, but it may be that (because the article didn't appear to be about pro- or anti- AP views) they were caught off guard in this case.
posted by Wylla at 2:29 AM on July 31, 2013


Just noticed that my point was made for me, since i had missed that the thread veered off into a tangent about whether the women in the article (and the women of Mefi) were breastfeeding long enough. As I said, anything that touches AP, even indirectly, seems to go badly wrong...
posted by Wylla at 3:22 AM on July 31, 2013


Is there any place on the internet where discussion of any aspect of being a parent goes well?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:46 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


diapering is an issue about which many people get ideological.

You can tell I'm not a parent, because I had no idea it was quite this fraught an issue - as fraught as breastfeeding, which I did know was an enormous sinkhole for people to prove their morality over. I knew there was the environmental side, but I really did not know that there was so much moral judgement over people using disposable nappies as being feckless wastrels who just weren't willing to put in some work.

So, thanks for that Metafilter, I guess, though I'd rather have found this out in another way.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:48 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


(And as a non parent, I'm not sure how people deal even with kids on their best days, let alone with a shrieking baby the disposal of whose pooh will be yet another way that I could be judged and found wanting. Even if I starve myself to ensure they have a supply of clean nappies.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:50 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


the darwin line is always weird for me to read because if i were born even a couple decades earlier, well, i probably wouldn't have made my birth and even if i had, i probably would have died either 3 months or 2 years after birth. reading other difficult birth stories on here throughout the years, i know i'm not alone in that. i wonder if people who use the darwin line mean to say to other people in the thread, "you don't deserve to live."
posted by nadawi at 7:49 AM on July 31, 2013 [23 favorites]


Without modern medicine I'd have died around age 20 and if I'd somehow managed to survive that I'd now be deformed. Dawinism applied to the singular organism doesn't work. It's the species as a whole. So the idea that Darwin takes care of anyone blows right past the actual point of Darwinism.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:51 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember sitting sketching out plans for building something in wood with my dad when I was about 12 or so. We were trying to solve some problem, sketching it out, and my dad idly said, "you know, I think I would have done pretty well if I were alive back in the 1800s, back when working as a tinkerer and builder and problem solver was something that you could do."

And I agreed, because my dad is a very, very bright guy, really good at figuring things out, a really hard worker, not afraid to get his hands dirty. He can fix just about anything.

And then a couple seconds went by, he paused, and he followed up with, "except that I'd be dead because I wouldn't have all these drugs that keep me alive."

So yeah. Darwin.
posted by phunniemee at 8:06 AM on July 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


your dad sounds cool phunniemee
posted by sweetkid at 8:16 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Westside Baby, in Seattle, provides diapers for families that need them. You can donate money or directly buy diapers from their Amazon list for them.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:30 AM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]



The discussions took their direction because the premise of the article is 'disposable diapers are the only option because cloth diapers are expensive and/or inconvenient', then the writer added a bunch of filler. Well, cloth diapers most assuredly are not expensive, so the article is misleading, another reason for deletion. Further, if inconvenience is the problem, then that is no more than plain lazy. My opinion, you don't like it, tough shit.

Forget sympathy for this woman; I suggest we call child services instead to perform an investigation on the welfare of her kid. Her ability to make decisions (not eating versus diapers) is suspect.


You are really horrible at empathy, sympathy, etc. Also, yes, I am sure putting this kid through the social services system will be a really excellent idea.
posted by sweetkid at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


Oh, and I do want to give Corb a shout-out: I disagree with her about a lot of things, but she was considerate, she modified her positions when she got critiqued and spoke mostly from experience. She made that thread a better place, and if more had commented like her and less like Airedale, the thread would have had a lot fewer turds in the diaper.
posted by klangklangston at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2013 [53 favorites]


Ardiril: "Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them, but the vast majority of us manage just fine."

A number of studies have been done on the effects of poverty and the long-term stress it generates in children. Studies suggest that it may impact their health and also their ability to learn, resulting in lower school achievement. Which can in turn potentially affect their ability to earn money throughout their lifetimes.

Well Blog:
At the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies last week, there was a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty as a national problem, rather than wrestling with its consequences case by case in the exam room.

Poverty damages children’s dispositions and blunts their brains. We’ve seen articles about the language deficit in poorer homes and the gaps in school achievement. These remind us that — more so than in my mother’s generation — poverty in this country is now likely to define many children’s life trajectories in the harshest terms: poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and health problems from obesity and diabetes to heart disease, substance abuse and mental illness.

We've also seen recent reports such as this one indicating that it can be harder for people in certain geographic areas to move out of poverty, or to switch economic classes.

I'm glad for your sake that you were able to "manage just fine." However, your experience would appear to be an outlier rather than the norm. Darwin isn't the problem. It's a situation where many of the odds in our society are stacked against the poor and conspire to keep them impoverished.
posted by zarq at 8:36 AM on July 31, 2013 [16 favorites]


This threads are useful because now it means I never, ever, ever have to pay attention to anything ardiril says ever again.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:07 AM on July 31, 2013 [30 favorites]


What's really ironic is that mere seconds after Charles Darwin was conceived, his father lost the use of both testicles after drunkenly trying to do a backflip off the roof of his shed.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:20 AM on July 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them,

You know, I really hate that phrase, aside from the ethical implications of saying that some human beings don't deserve to live because they don't do things the way you would, it's just dumb. Darwin wasn't and isn't some merciless god of justice, killing those who that don't meet some absolute standard for worthiness. He's a guy who helped come up with a theory that explains the shifts in populations over generations of time.

Largely though, it is the idea that anyone (and what's always amazing is that, much like God, Darwin always seems to agree with the person invoking their will) is fit to judge what genes should and shouldn't get passed on based on decisions people make in situations that are largely beyond their control. Neither life nor natural selection as a mechanism for evolution work that way, and that makes me happy.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2013 [16 favorites]


I'm not sure how people deal even with kids on their best days, let alone with a shrieking baby the disposal of whose pooh will be yet another way that I could be judged and found wanting.

It helps to not give a shit about what people want to judge you about. Before I had my daughter, a friend of mine's older brother said something that stuck with me. The minute another parent starts telling you what you should be doing or shouldn't be doing and you didn't ask for it, just say nothing and walk away. Not angrily or anything, but like they're not even there. I haven't had to do this yet, but I have every intention of trying it when the time comes. I remember my wife wanted me to go to some kind of "baby expo" thing when she was pregnant so we could enter a draw for a free crib. There was a speaker in one corner explaining that you are not to use the word "no" with your children, and she had a decent sized audience, too. If I needed anything to drive home "I don't care what you think I should do with my kid because you are bananas", that was it. Maybe it worked for them, I don't know. But it's a good skill to learn to not give a damn about others' free advice and unsolicited opinions on parenting.
posted by Hoopo at 9:37 AM on July 31, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've said this before, but: it seems to me that, especially in the US, but maybe everywhere, the basic message for parents, especially new parents, is: whatever you are doing, you are doing it wrong. Now, some of that is undoubtedly well-meant advice delivered without grace. But the overall effect seems to be creating a continual air of uncertainty and self-doubt in parents which drives them towards buying more products and guides to "get it right." Once you see it, it's everywhere. And maddening.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:46 AM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


This threads are useful because now it means I never, ever, ever have to pay attention to anything ardiril says ever again.

I never understand the moderation system here. People flip out over cloth v. disposable but shit like this gets a dozen favorites and is left standing.

This is playground-level taunting.
posted by unixrat at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


You're parenting wrong!
You're eating wrong!
You're shampooing your hair wrong!
You're attracting men wrong!
You're drinking too much red wine!
You're not drinking enough red wine!
You're spending too much time in the sun!
You're not spending enough time in the sun!
Your children hate you!
The government hates you!
The media hates you!
Men hate you!
Other women hate you!
You hate you!
Side effects of Paxil include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stool, sexual dysfunction, birth defects, weight gain, weight loss, migraines, that thing like where you stand up too fast and get dizzy except it happens all the time, restless leg syndrome, urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence. Side effects are not covered by your health insurance plan. Good luck affording those diapers.
posted by phunniemee at 9:52 AM on July 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


I never understand the moderation system here.

Its pretty clear. Moderation is very lax on MetaTalk. The cloth v diapers debate was happening on the blue. I doubt any of the mods deleted a comment in this thread.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:54 AM on July 31, 2013


One, actually, but it was in the vein of repeatedly saying "get fucked" to someone, which manages to clear that otherwise pretty generous line of stuff likely to get deleted in here, yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2013


You're parenting wrong!
You're eating wrong!
You're shampooing your hair wrong!
You're attracting men wrong!
You're drinking too much red wine!
You're not drinking enough red wine!
You're spending too much time in the sun!
You're not spending enough time in the sun!
Your children hate you!
The government hates you!
The media hates you!
Men hate you!
Other women hate you!
You hate you!


Also, if you're single and have cats in your 30s (and are a woman) I mean basically why do you even exist
posted by sweetkid at 9:56 AM on July 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


I bet you circumcised your cat, too, you bastard.
posted by phunniemee at 9:57 AM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is playground-level taunting.

Oh it is not. It's troll-feeding, which is inadvisable and as such I probably shouldn't have liked it as disgusted as I am at the comments made by the troll, but it's not taunting.
posted by headnsouth at 9:57 AM on July 31, 2013


Once you see it, it's everywhere. And maddening.

I see it sort of like the weird generalized microaggressions that women get everywhere. I can understand why one well-meaning jokey guy might look at me with a cross expression on my face and tell me to smile and think nothing of it and truly not be a terrible person. At the same time, once you realize that people say these sorts of things, and worse, to women all the time everywhere (and I'm sure this happens to men and women as far as parenting goes) it becomes a lot less forgivable because it's an always-on constant hassle and headache on top of parenting which is time-consuming no matter how much you love it.

Additionally, parenting is done by a pretty general cross-section of the population some of whom may be better at worse at dealing with things generally, who have the normal distribution of external and internal stressors. So on the one hand I understand the non-evil aspect to the "Why don't they just ..." approach. At the same time it is pernicious, and maybe realizing that you are actiing like (whether intentionally or not) that super judgey advertising-driven not-that-great aspect to our culture might give people pause the next time they start down that path.

More to the point, I assume everyone who is the parent of a very young child is probably not getting optimal sleep. I don't like it when people get in my business when I haven't had enough sleep. I try to do the same for others.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:04 AM on July 31, 2013 [15 favorites]


It's troll-feeding

I didn't mean it that way, and I am completely serious in what I said.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:05 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe some are, and Darwin will deal with them

Charles Darwin cannot adopt anyone's children or call DCYS on them because he died in 1882.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on July 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well, I genuinely had no idea it would be so controversial. I thought to myself "maybe people will talk about cloth but the article addresses that, so it should be OK" Ha ha ha.

I have cloth diapered, elimination communicated, etc. when broke and unemployed and did not realize that people would consider it doable for babies who don't have a stay at home parent. To me that fact is obvious and not controversial. On another board, usually pretty fighty, people thought the article was interesting and did not flip out like mefites, another surprise. I am sorry it caused a shitstorm.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:23 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ardiril, I too would like to eat only $100 worth of groceries per month. Please direct me to this descriptive comment of yours, I cannot find it.
posted by windykites at 10:25 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean basically why do you even exist

Ever read the history of English royalty? Post-menopausal women were ... dead. Literally.
posted by Melismata at 10:29 AM on July 31, 2013


Please tell me that Ardiril's comment is some kind of subtly ironic joke

It's a low-rent Faze impersonation, except that Faze was entertaining.
posted by winna at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The white background needs a yellow cloud that slowly spreads until the screen is refreshed.
posted by buzzman at 10:31 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please tell me that Ardiril's comment is some kind of subtly ironic joke

Don't feed the troll.
posted by sockerpup at 10:31 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Online and off, I would like to see the banishment of phrases beginning with the following: They serve no purpose except to sound condescending and berate the listener for their ignorance.

Alternatives:
posted by desjardins at 10:45 AM on July 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


cortex: "One, actually, but it was in the vein of repeatedly saying "get fucked" to someone, which manages to clear that otherwise pretty generous line of stuff likely to get deleted in here, yes."

True, but respectfully, y'all can and have gently asked people, "Please don't do this sort of thing." in the past when they have done something similar. The case I link to here involved me and it was not only a totally appropriate comment on your part, but once I had cooled down it helped me take a step back and realize I was being an ass towards another user and sniping at them unnecessarily.
posted by zarq at 10:46 AM on July 31, 2013


the young rope-rider: "Well, I genuinely had no idea it would be so controversial. I thought to myself "maybe people will talk about cloth but the article addresses that, so it should be OK" Ha ha ha.

I have cloth diapered, elimination communicated, etc. when broke and unemployed and did not realize that people would consider it doable for babies who don't have a stay at home parent. To me that fact is obvious and not controversial. On another board, usually pretty fighty, people thought the article was interesting and did not flip out like mefites, another surprise. I am sorry it caused a shitstorm.
"

I found the article interesting, and sad, and all sorts of things. None of which made me think "ur doin it wrong" about the woman in the story.

And I went looking for more information, and found this Mother Jones piece about the actual study, and linked it in the original thread - but of course it got missed, because the "discussion" had gone far beyond any reasonable interaction. Lack of access to diapers - to basic human hygiene products, whether disposable or reuseable - has very real repercussions, long-term, and instead of discussing that, it had to go where it always goes, to "I did it (or know someone who might have done it), so I don't know why anyone else can't."

It's the case with diapers - "The study found that women who lack an adequate supply of diapers for their babies are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than other low-income mothers. Maternal depression and mental health problems, the researchers say, can have longterm and debilitating effects on children's well-being and their performance in school." It's the case with supplies for menstruation - girls can't go to school because they lack pads or tampons or whatever they could use to manage their menstrual flow. I'm sure if there were a post about THAT, there would be a very similar complete fail to address the real issues.

So, let's just go ahead and forget that it ACTUALLY MATTERS what this lack ACTUALLY DOES to people, short- and long-term - mostly women. Let's find our high-horses and ride them until they're dead, and then beat the corpses for a good long while.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:50 AM on July 31, 2013 [20 favorites]


but once I had cooled down it helped me take a step back and realize I was being an ass towards another user and sniping at them unnecessarily.

Sure, and as a general rule we'd like for folks to mostly just not be asses to each other, yes, and go more with the move-on-with-your-day gambit rather than the dig-in-to-the-shit-that's-annoying-you one. That said, we're not going to say something every time someone finds someone else obnoxious, and to some extent Metatalk is the place where it's most okay to voice your "man, I'm finding this behavior obnoxious" sentiments.

That's the difference between the idea that "we will sometimes say something" and the implied expectation of deletion in "shit like this gets a dozen favorites and is left standing".
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:54 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with these discussions about "the poor" and what they can and can't do and when they should be excused for not doing x and when not, is that systemic problems are made into a case of personal responsibility. Whenever somebody shares personal experience with whatever problem of "the poor" is being discussed now in which they found a way to make it work for them, like corb or Ardiril did here, whether this sharing is done in good faith or not, it further strenghtens this belief that any problem caused by poverty can be solved through personal responsibility and hard graft. As long as there is a solution for a problem (that solution never being "give 'em more money"), no matter how outlandish, time consuming or difficult, the real problem can be ignored.

The poverty problem becomes a problem of personal failing, when the truth is not that we should applaud Ardiril for managing to feed three people on just a hundred bucks a month, but we should wonder why that was actually necessary and making the effort to ensure nobody should have to do that. In the end after all not being able to afford disposable diapers is just a symptom of being poor and you don't solve the underlying problems just by creating coping solutions just for this one symptom.

Now MetaFilter is much better than a very many other sites and blogs in understanding the systemic nature of poverty and why asking "but why don't they" isn't perhaps the best thing to contribute to these discussions, but as this shows, we're not quite there yet.

We need to understand that a lot of these questions could be asked of ourselves as well, if somebody put our lives under the same sort of microscope as we do to those less fortunate.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:57 AM on July 31, 2013 [33 favorites]


When I was a kid I remember seeing "NO DIAPERS" signs in a Laundromat. So, there's that.

The "Why don't they...." questions are valid, even if they come from residents of snarkville, because they display the reality of disparity. We are not a pot full of melted bozos, blended into a national stew. We are a kaleidoscope of unblended tastes and sensibilities, having only vague notions about the other flavors around us.

Put another way, most of us like to tell ourselves that we feel our brethren's pain, but that's generally wishful thinking. When we reveal our parochialisms with a "why don't they...." we open the door to a little sympathetic magic. Whether we understand the response (or not) is a whole other discussion. Either way, the question provides the opportunity to share something. Related to this WDT response is the "there, but for the grace of god, go I..." sort of condescension that is particularly hard to resist, except by taking off one's shoe an rapping that person on the forehead with it.

Bitching about the disparate response is just another form of centrism--not wanting to hear a counterpoint. (This is a "we don't tolerate bigotry" type thing, and one ought to give thought to his response, rather than simply snatching the low-hanging fruit.) The snarky rebuttal only perpetuates the cycle: the Neener children romping in the playground.

I don't rule snark out. Sometimes wit carries resonance, but it often disturbs sensitive feelings, tender emotions, vulnerable phases.
posted by mule98J at 11:02 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


cortex: " That's the difference between the idea that "we will sometimes say something" and the implied expectation of deletion in "shit like this gets a dozen favorites and is left standing"."

Yes. I understand. It's just that I've seen y'all defuse pending (or actual) nastiness before with just a gentle comment. Every once in a while I wish it could happen more often. That's all.
posted by zarq at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2013


When we reveal our parochialisms with a "why don't they...." we open the door to a little sympathetic magic. Whether we understand the response (or not) is a whole other discussion. Either way, the question provides the opportunity to share something.

I'd have a much easier time believing this were true if the people who posted "why don't they...." questions actually bothered to read the "the reason they don't is because...." responses. It strikes me that the overwhelming majority of the time, they don't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would be really interested to know if any epidemiology or public health studies have been done with regards to disposable diapers.

There were many people who contributed to the discussion saying things like "I grew up rural/poor/in a developing country and we all used cloth diapers and we were fine!" However, if the handling of soiled diapers (which must be washed by hand, in some cases) lead to higher incidences of contagious diseases or contaminated water supplies, that's something to consider.

I found this online, when I was googling for a diaper bank, and while it's hardly a scientific source, it has got me thinking that having children without adequate access to clean diapers, is not just a poverty issue, but a public health issue.
posted by inertia at 11:13 AM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I grew up rural/poor/in a developing country and we all used cloth diapers and we were fine!"

I wonder how many of their mothers would have jumped at the chance to use disposable diapers if they were readily available and affordable.
posted by desjardins at 11:22 AM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder how many of their mothers would have jumped at the chance to use disposable diapers if they were readily available and affordable.


You know, I wonder if that's one of the reasons for the disconnect here. Because one group of people is trying to figure out "How do we solve this problem with the existing tools that we have right now?" and another group of people is trying to figure out "How do we solve this problem with tools we don't have, but would like to?"

Because yeah, everyone would have jumped at that chance. I would never advise another human being to use anything but disposable diapers if they have the chance to. But some people see that the chance isn't there, so they try to figure out what they can do, given what is.
posted by corb at 11:33 AM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which group is which? Because we already have an infrastructure of organizations that collect and distribute disposable diapers to families in need, whereas there is not, as far as I know, an equivalent organization dedicated to teaching families the art of hand washing cloth diapers in a bath tub, as well as supplying them to families in need, and providing working parents with day care organizations that don't require disposable diapers.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:01 PM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


If we were rural; and there was space for a series of soak/clean/rinse tubs; oh hell yah; cloth would be brainless and another weird albeit positive exercise for the body and the environment.

And; have to consider humidity. Stuff; especially a thick piece of cotton; does not dry in a humid environment; such as the south, or southwest States. - if a tub washed shirt takes two or three days to dry in 70% humidity; a one pound wet diaper is going to take ??? a week? four days?
posted by buzzman at 12:13 PM on July 31, 2013


Inertia, one of David Brin's novels ("Earth") is fictional scifi based in the near-future. He mentions in a scene that people had been excavating garbage dumps to find "treasures" discarded by previous generations that have now become rare. Which goes well until they trigger a rotavirus epidemic. Since many dumps are filled with used disposable diapers with contents that bypassed human sanitation systems, they act as a breeding ground.

I mentioned rota back in the main thread as an example of a common, contagious virus that might not be destroyed when washing out diapers by hand. I wonder if other bacteria or viruses which are destroyed when a diaper is placed in a washing machine or dryers could conceivably survive the hand washing process.
posted by zarq at 12:23 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


My take-away is that it's good to scale down your indignation a few notches - and never accept a glass of punch from cortex.
posted by Segundus at 12:39 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, if we ever wanted proof that poor people can be just as douchetastic as rich people, we have it.

Anyone who grew up poor, or at least lower middle class enough to know plenty of poor people has pretty much known this forever.

There's plenty of people out there who while they don't deserve a lot of the shit they have to put up with since society in general has this "lol if your poor its your fault glhf" attitude, definitely have shitty and possibly even entitled attitudes that makes it pretty damn hard to have much sympathy for them.

Or are just like, generally pricks. Lots of that too.

I understand some of it, people want to believe that they succeeded until their own steam alone on their own merits and through their own intelligence, because that's the dream that was sold to them that the few, the proud, bootstrap themselves to whatever success they can muster.

But to bring up that old "punching up, punching down" thing again, a lot of them tack an "and" on the end just like several people have in this discussion and go "And if i did it, why don't or can't they?" with a huge elephant-in-the-room unspoken dollop of "they obviously just feel that they're above that, or shouldn't have to, or are morons and don't know any better" which doesn't fucking help anything.

There's quite a few tiresome middle class+ people who constantly go "its so easy! they just need to do XYZ!", but the annoying thing is that there's also a lot of poor people saying the exact same thing and just contributing to the problem, and fucking themselves over in the process since they're so excited to cast themselves as the shining beacons that the people above them want to see and use as justification for how these people don't deserve help because they're swimming, but they're not doing the backstroke like the good poors we just showed you.

no one should be expected to wash cloth diapers in a bathtub in 2013 because it's "efficient" unless they want to. There shouldn't be some goddamn set of rules that don't apply to anyone else and higher bar you have to clear to be a "good" poor person. if people are this desperate for basic supplies we should be looking at why the fuck that's seen as ok, not how they can get by without them "so easily!"

This is of course not even getting in to how everyone in communities like this that are full of Social Justicey Left Wing BrainThinkers Who Read Books seems to be convinced that cloth diapers are like, totally better for the environment man because disposable things are gross and american and like, totally a sign of our mcdonalds grab it and go disposable culture maaaan* when it's really murky as was brought up in that thread if they're more environmentally sound at all.

Which is of course also ignoring that doing things the "better" way is like running. You start trying to do it after you can walk, and there seems to be some huge expectation all the time everywhere that poor people are being lazy and just need to get up from barely crawling and start running or they're not trying hard enough. Let these people figure out whether cloth diapers would be better for them when it's a personal choice being made from a position where they can actually make the choice. This gets right back in to the whole "do it my way or your doing it wrong when you had the option to do it right and you don't deserve any sympathy! look, this person turned the wrong way at the fork in the road, stop giving them any sympathy or help!!!" attitude that comes up all the goddamn time.

*Which is a whole other thing that really grinds my fucking gears that i see on this site and elsewhere constantly. The expectation that although 1st world middle class society was built up to the level it's at through decades of slowly using more efficient, but more complex and expensive methods of doing basically everything from large scale stuff like generating power to small scale stuff like this... But that developing countries and poor people in general have to skip right to doing it the new/efficient/environmentally friendly way and aren't allowed to pollute or waste a bit to catch up with the big boys in utopia. From the big stuff to the little stuff it's always looked at as "lazy" or like, "a shortcut" to do something the old way or create some waste, or use something disposable when you're essentially getting to home plate from 3rd base and they have to go all the way around. This is not an uncommon shitty attitude, it's prevalent and widely held.
posted by emptythought at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2013 [21 favorites]



I mean basically why do you even exist

Ever read the history of English royalty? Post-menopausal women were ... dead. Literally.


posted by Melismata at 1:29 PM on July 31 [+] [!]


Er...women in their thirties are not post menopausal.
posted by sweetkid at 1:09 PM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


mule98J has a very charitable read on the "why don't they" questions in the thread. The thing is, they're not really questions. They're not asked in good faith. The askers don't want to know what's standing between poor mothers and their own solutions. What lies between is a lot of ugly truth about our society and how we treat those who we wish didn't exist but since they do, they ought to at least have the decency to not draw attention to themselves.

I had my niece on a roadtrip not long ago and we stopped at a truck stop where there were a ton of parked trucks but few truckers walking around, and I explained to her that they were probably sleeping in their trucks. "Why don't they just sleep in a hotel?" she asked, because although she had actually just woken from a nap in the car, adults sleeping in vehicles was outside her experience & didn't make sense. So I said they save time & money that way & cabs actually have built-in bunks. And she was satisfied with that answer, and learned something new about a group of people who are not in her day-to-day life.

So yes, "why don't they just" can definitely be asked in good faith. Unfortunately I don't think that's happening here.
posted by headnsouth at 1:10 PM on July 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


"he study found that women who lack an adequate supply of diapers for their babies are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than other low-income mothers."

Or maybe depressed and anxious mothers are unable to figure out how to have an adequate supply of diapers? There's no way to tell from either the LAT story or Mother Jones.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:15 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd add to that, a lot of "why don't they just" almost sounds like "why don't they just have their chauffeur pick them up?" in that it's a GIGANTIC FLASHING NEON SIGN display of privilege.

It might be asked in good faith, but even when it is it's nearly always bordering on offensive how myopic and separated from the reality of the person whose actions they're questioning they are.

It's very easy for it to come off as not just ignorant, but insensitive. A lot more thought and deliberation should go in to it than i nearly ever see, and you and others are asking quite a fucking lot for us to assume the amount of good faith you(and i mean this in the plural, not just you headnsouth, we're on the same page here) want us to.

You just don't see this degree of putting peoples lives under a microscope with any group of people that isn't poor, or LGBT/a minority or women. It's always the "other" whose lives are suddenly up for examination and criticism. "Just asking questions!" is shittier than it sounds and generally not much of a defense. If you're going to claim good faith, you're going to have to put in a lot more effort and really show it. And really ask yourself "Wouldn't this person have thought of this? Am i making a shitty assumption that i'm just oh so much smarter?" and also "How many fucking times has some n00b like me asked them this question?"

Especially the second one. Seriously.

And don't be surprised when you get pushback and go "Jeeze, i was just asking questions. Just trying to help!".
posted by emptythought at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2013 [13 favorites]


Here's a link to the actual study, rather than the press release that Mother Jones linked to.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:24 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I read the article, I made a good faith assumption that the parents who were struggling to afford disposable diapers had already considered cloth, but it was not an option for them for many of the reasons listed in both of these threads. It's not like cloth diapers are some novel recent invention that poor people are too ignorant to have any knowledge of.
posted by inertia at 1:34 PM on July 31, 2013


I understand some of it, people want to believe that they succeeded until their own steam alone on their own merits and through their own intelligence, because that's the dream that was sold to them that the few, the proud, bootstrap themselves to whatever success they can muster.

But to bring up that old "punching up, punching down" thing again, a lot of them tack an "and" on the end just like several people have in this discussion and go "And if i did it, why don't or can't they?" with a huge elephant-in-the-room unspoken dollop of "they obviously just feel that they're above that, or shouldn't have to, or are morons and don't know any better" which doesn't fucking help anything.

...but the annoying thing is that there's also a lot of poor people saying the exact same thing and just contributing to the problem, and fucking themselves over in the process since they're so excited to cast themselves as the shining beacons that the people above them want to see and use as justification for how these people don't deserve help because they're swimming, but they're not doing the backstroke like the good poors we just showed you.


Going from Rather Abjectly Poor to Slightly Less Abjectly Poor can really mess with your head in a PTSD way. That can make the Just World Fallacy kick in big time. You don't want to believe that the world is such a rondomly shitty place where Person A is RAP for no good reason and lives next door to person B who is SLAP for no good reason, because, my God, who wants to live in a world like that? So that brain starts looking for patterns and reasons, even if they don't really exist - or even if they don't happen to be the ones that do exist.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:41 PM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know i just thought of what these types of questions and these several recent threads reminded me of actually. Rather a bit like Charles Mudede's article in the stranger about a shitty ugly library, but mainly his point therein about the white guy jiving while wearing the immigrants hat he snatched off of his head.

I once dated a girl who was solidly in the 1%. Let's call her Pony, since that's not very identifying and it was her nickname for a while. Pony's mom was a famous rock star in the 80s who still regularly toured, and would pull in 5mil in a few weeks on deals/touring/licensing/royalties/etc regularly. She lived in a gigantic secluded mansion that had been a speakeasy during the prohibition and had honest to god secret passageways and shit. The place had wings, it was like honest to god downton abbey type of wealth.

Now her mom grew up in a fucking trailer, poor as shit, and was all about pretending she was high class. Pony on the other hand had been raised with an absolute determination to make her high class. She rebelled against this a bit, but the forces and current pushing her towards this by her family were just too strong.

I, on the other hand had just transitioned from living in a place(which i went in to in the ipad thread) where an undercover cop got shot basically on my front steps, which was right behind the shitty motor inn type motels on a highway full of sex workers... to being homeless and sleeping on my friends parents couch full time. We were all broke as fuck for various reasons and barely had any food, the house was falling the fuck apart, and things would regularly happen like our phones or the internet service or once the water getting shut off.

The divide in lived experiences, lifestyles, attitudes, approaches to basically everything here were huge.

She asked a lot of questions like this.

She had never ever ridden the bus. One of her moms "personal assistants" would drive her around in a lexus whenever she needed to go anywhere. Her fridge was always FULLY stocked like a grocery store, with actual rows of things so that they would never, ever run out.(they threw away a lot of food, and would never let me take anything they were throwing out because it's THEIRS and that's gross and what poors would do anyways don't act that way emptythought!) They had a separate fridge just for liquor/wine/beer and soft drinks. It was large, and looked like something you'd see in a convenience store. There wasn't a single thing that kitchen didn't have, food or equipment wise. I've lived in apartments that were smaller than that kitchen.

Her entire life was like that kitchen. everything was just right there, and the mechanics of how that was maintained were completely obscured. Intentionally, of course. She'd spill a drink on her laptop, go to school, and come home and there'd be a brand new laptop right where it had been on her desk with all her data recovered and transferred over. Same story when she accidentally shifted the car in to drive instead of reverse, goosed it, and destroyed the back wall of the garage and damaged the house pretty badly, not to mention the car. It was repaired in hours. I saw the car spotless and back again a few days later.

She had absolutely no sense of consequences of nearly any action, since in her life there were no such things as consequences. They amounted to "getting yelled at for a few minutes". Get caught selling weed at a fancy private school and "asked not to return next year?" Entire problem vanishes, from legal trouble to everything else. Now you go to a different school(which ended up being a weird alternative public school, as "punishment" for fucking up at the private school. mine). She regularly bumped in to problems or ended up in situations that would seriously fuck over any normal kid, and ESPECIALLY any poor kid. Possibly with consequences that could span their entire lives like convictions, injury, debilitating debt, etc. It never, ever touched her.

She would lie, cheat, steal, be a general fuck, do tons of drugs, sell them, whatever she wanted just because it was there and it was all a game and lets have a laugh! Sometimes i'd catch a glimpse of something really sad inside there, some part of her that realized she was trapped within a tiny walled garden and wanted to actually grow and get out because that much separation from reality is probably seriously unhealthy on a psychological level to the human mind. But 20 minutes later nope! Privilege! Let's say some more ignorant shit that sounds like what i'm probably supposed to say to be "cool" in this situation! Aren't i sexy?

Where I'm going with this, if i lost you when i kinda rambled on there, is that everyone has a little bit of Pony in them, the more privilege you grew up with the more Pony is in there. Growing up, my parents never owned a house, but they could have bought one no problem. We always had a couple cars, i had all the nintendo games, and our furniture/place was pretty awesome. The fridge was always stocked, and there never some kind of "oh god how are we going to pay that" concern until i was in highschool and everything suddenly went to shit and the wheels fell off. While i've had some experience being poor as fuck for a couple years and surviving on crappy food, stuff from the foodbank, and EBT i've only been poor poor briefly in that typical "grew up middle class and passes as white" way where i now live in a nice apartment with a flat screen tv and all the toys i wanted and work in IT.

Dating pony, and seeing how she approached these types of questions has really made me stop and think for more than a few seconds every time i'm about to ask a question in any situation like this. Because i think "Fuck, am i going to sound like Pony?" which is a legitimate concern. I already covered what can be fucked up about these questions, but seriously, just realize that you're likely asking them with that massive of a divide between you and them(i mean for fucks sake, i'd bet the average poster on this site makes >50k a year, pile it on above that if they live in NYC or something). Especially when you're just posing the questions not even to the people, but just broadcasting them on a site like this as "Lets lambast this person for doing The Wrong Thing when they can't even respond or defend themselves, because whats the point anyways? this kind of logical failure is indefensible!"

Because there's such a very fine line between asking why someone wouldn't use cloth diapers, and asking why anyone would ever ride the bus.

Don't be Pony.

You don't want to be anyways, It's a bad look.
posted by emptythought at 2:28 PM on July 31, 2013 [106 favorites]


oh man. i grew up poor - white trash arkansas trailer park, getting castoffs from the chicken plant, shopping at the 10 cent dented can store poor - and then there was this bump in my late teens to dad's salary and we moved to one of those rich communities that makes the news with their opulence and idiocy (wrapped in a nightly news scare story about the kids and their drugs). i still lived on the wrong side of the tracks, but the tracks had gotten much, much nicer. i got friends who were given run of a wing of their house with their own private entrances. one kid threw a fit because the very nice car he got for his 16th birthday didn't have the leather seats (and, of course, the leather seats appeared on the car he got for his 18th birthday). i knew a lot of Ponys and, like you, being near it but not part of it has made me see privilege in a whole new way.

i went back to poor and then back to solidly middle class, but i still try to remember what it felt like to be a kid and not have food, and then be a teen and watch how so much is just pissed away by boredom. keeping both with me is important, i think.
posted by nadawi at 3:20 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ideefixe: ""The study found that women who lack an adequate supply of diapers for their babies are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than other low-income mothers."

Or maybe depressed and anxious mothers are unable to figure out how to have an adequate supply of diapers? There's no way to tell from either the LAT story or Mother Jones.
"

Well, you found the original study. Think the researches at Yale had a way to tell when they REACHED THE CONCLUSION? The stress of not being able to meet basic hygiene needs for their babies couldn't POSSIBLY increase the incidence of anxiety and depression? Really?

I give up.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:24 PM on July 31, 2013 [12 favorites]


That Pony comment made me feel bad. I grew up kinda poor as well but I just bought a beverage fridge and I'm going stock that thing with Arizona ice tea. I promise however, if I ever have kids never to let em near my Arizona fridge. I will make them drink out of the fire hydrant like any self respecting kid from New York.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:43 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know that anyone's still reading this thread, but San Francisco's Homeless Prenatal Project could really use some diapers right now, especially in larger sizes (4 and up).
posted by judith at 5:45 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: "maybe everywhere, the basic message for parents, especially new parents, is: whatever you are doing, you are doing it wrong."

It comes up in the weirdest of places, too. The one that still sticks in my craw is the West, Texas explosion thread, where a dad and his son are sitting in their car, filming the fire from what I considered pretty far away. Then the explosion happened, and the kid is screaming that he can't hear, and the dad and kid hightail it out of there. And then a bunch of MeFi commenters say that it's child abuse for the father not to know the safe distance from a chemical fire — to not know the "move so far back you can cover the fire with your thumb" rule of thumb. And, considering I had no idea, either, I know that I would have done the same thing. And it really sucks being told by a bunch of MeFites that not only am I not a particularly good dad, but I'm actually a child-abuser at heart.
posted by Bugbread at 5:58 PM on July 31, 2013 [9 favorites]


Heh, there's definitely a lot of ground to cover between having a beverage fridge, and having a beverage fridge life. I don't think you have much to worry about.

That, and i honestly miss that fridge. I'd try a different flavor of iced tea every day. They also had all kinds of soda with real sugar in it...

Also those mini babybel cheese wheels. O my god, i can still eat a thousand of those.
posted by emptythought at 6:31 PM on July 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's it, I'm getting babybel cheese too, those things are delicious and after you eat them you can pretend the wax cover is a red PacMan.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:35 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can squish the wax up in your palm and make little red wax roses. Or sculptures of your choice, I suppose.
posted by purpleclover at 7:38 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you enjoy both performance and visual art, you can squish the wax up in your palm and then painstakingly recreate its original PacMan shape.
posted by Bugbread at 7:42 PM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


I know what I'm doing for the rest of the night.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:44 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ideefixe: ""The study found that women who lack an adequate supply of diapers for their babies are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than other low-income mothers."

Or maybe depressed and anxious mothers are unable to figure out how to have an adequate supply of diapers? There's no way to tell from either the LAT story or Mother Jones."

Well, you found the original study. Think the researches at Yale had a way to tell when they REACHED THE CONCLUSION? The stress of not being able to meet basic hygiene needs for their babies couldn't POSSIBLY increase the incidence of anxiety and depression? Really?

I give up.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse


Well, I'm in ideefixe's corner on this.

Did anyone else here read the actual study? Because I did, and it is not only really poorly done as far as determining any correlation vs causality whatsoever, it is also being freely embellished upon in both the Mother Jones article and the New York Times one. Ideefixe is right to question the conclusions being made.

1. Diaper need was assessed by asking pregnant or parenting women, “If you have children in diapers, do you ever feel that you do not have enough diapers to change them as often as you would like?”

Note the vague wording in that enquiry. It doesn't even address the cost issue. There is no way, from this question, to determine if the women were unable to buy diapers because diapers were cost-prohibitive, or because the women didn't have transportation to get to the store, or if they might have just misjudged how many diapers they might need and didn't buy enough in the first place. Any mother who had at any time run out of diapers could conceivably answer yes to this question and be considered as having a "diaper need".

2. Nowhere in the study did any mother indicate she had attempted to make "one diaper last an entire day", nor was there a format provided for any woman to do so. That's just wholly embellished by the reporters.

The facts: Around 30% of the mothers in the study indicated "diaper need" from that first question. These women were given 4 choices and asked which applied to them when they were faced with not having as many diapers as they would like. The choices were: (1) borrow diapers or money from family or friends, (2) get diapers from an agency, (3) stretch the diapers I have, and (4) other “please explain.” Then --and this is important!--they were told to feel free to pick as many answers as applied. Thus each mother could pick all four, making the statistics for each answer pretty much meaningless, unless maybe one answer was overwhelmingly picked by the majority if the women. Guess what wasn't picked by the majority? #3, the "stretch the diapers" option. Only 8% of the women "diaper need" women picked that answer at all.

3. The Moms who picked the "stretch the diaper" answer didn't get to explain how they interpreted it, so it could mean anything from changing diapers once a day to changing them just one less time a day then usual to occasionally letting the child go diaperless to starting potty training early to...well, you get the idea. That, and the multiple choice,option, make this pretty much worthless as a data point, certainly not conclusive enough to base the contention that women are stretching one diaper to last an entire day on.

4. Only if the women picked OTHER were they given a chance to explain how they coped with diaper shortages. This would be a great place to explore the resourcefulness of these Moms. Did they switch from disposables to cloth, or vice versa? Did they make their own diapers? (Believe it or not, apparently there are templates for doing this quite cheapy, which I just learned today). Frustratingly, I have no clue, as the Yale researchers did not include either in the actual study or their own write-up of the results any of the comments included in the "Other" section.

5. The authors allege that "diaper need" is a predictor of depression because they asked the mothers three questions about coping strategies and then had the mothers grade themselves on a scale of 1 - 10, where 1 indicated not being able to cope at all and 10 meant everything was utterly fantastic. If a Mom had an answer below 5 for any of these questions, she was considered depressed. IMHO, that's a pretty low bar, honestly, given that sleep deprivation alone might make a Mom choose a low score when everything else is fine. In other words, the depression, if there was any, could be from a myriad of sources, not just "diaper need".

So, did Moms with diaper need meet the criteria? Yes, though 2/3 as many without diaper need scaled as depressed by this metric as well. But Moms with multiple kids routinely scored higher on the depression scale, too. In fact, there was a MUCH higher correlation between having more kids and depression than in "diaper need" and depression.

6. This probably goes without saying, but not one mother in the Yale study mentioned going without food or stealing diapers, either.
posted by misha at 8:05 PM on July 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


misha, could you please post your comment in the MeFi thread where it belongs and not here?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:11 PM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jessamyn wrote: I see [unsolicited parenting advice] sort of like the weird generalized microaggressions that women get everywhere [...] once you realize that people say these sorts of things, and worse, to women all the time everywhere (and I'm sure this happens to men and women as far as parenting goes) it becomes a lot less forgivable because it's an always-on constant hassle and headache on top of parenting which is time-consuming no matter how much you love it.

It is! It really, really is. And it's not just fact that it's patronising; there's often an implication that you're cruel or thoughtless or stupid. We regularly got told that we would give our children brain damage by jiggling them, or make them dull by swaddling them, or that we should wake them up, or put them to sleep or whatever. My neighbour lectured once us about how our use of formula would stunt our child and doom her to a life of sterility. If that sort of thing happened today I would ask her who the hell she thought she was, the effing Queen of England? But you don't say anything because it's meant well and you're desperate to be seen as a Good Parent who wants the best for their child, so we didn't say anything, even though my wife was literally in tears from the whole lamprey-rasping business of running a home dairy.(*)

I knew I was really a parent when I saw a woman shopping late at night with a baby and I thought, "Good for her, not easy to get out of the house with a little one."

(*) Go on. Ask us about the La Leche League or if we tried a nursing consultant or a pump or what have you. Because everybody else did.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:35 PM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I knew I was really a parent human when I saw a woman shopping late at night with a baby...

Compassion happens when you try to be the best person you can be, regardless of whether you have children. While these threads have indeed been eye-opening in their specificity, I don't think it's fair to assume that all non-parents lack an appreciation for the hard work and difficult decisions parents face every day. Statements like the above imply that those who cannot (or will not) have children lack meaningful insight that makes us all human.
posted by mochapickle at 10:47 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really agree. There were things that I just didn't realize as a non-parent. And, talking to friends who are parents, I've found that many of them also experienced difficulties which hadn't even occurred to them before becoming a parent.

I doubt it's the case that Joe in Australia, myself, and my friends were all compassion-less people before being parents. You can be compassionate and yet not realize certain parenting difficulties, and have your eyes opened to them through parenthood.
posted by Bugbread at 11:24 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep. It's one thing to say that you, personally, were able to something in a different light when you became a parent, but it's entirely another thing to say that one must become a parent to sympathize or identify with the specific challenges another person must face.
posted by mochapickle at 11:41 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


The latter, obviously, is my objection.
posted by mochapickle at 11:42 PM on July 31, 2013


Ah, ok, agreed, then. I just took Joe's comment to mean "I knew I was really a parent when I saw this woman shopping late at night with a baby and my reaction was totally different than what it would have been before I became a parent", and not "I knew I was really a parent when I saw this woman shopping late at night with a baby and had a reaction that no-one but a parent could have."
posted by Bugbread at 11:48 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh no, I meant that previously I would have virtuously thought that she must be a Bad Mother for keeping her child up and not establishing a Regular Sleeping Routine, preferably involving lavender rubs and soothing ambient music. After a while I realised that as a parent you do what you can, and that's quite hard enough.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:05 AM on August 1, 2013 [13 favorites]


Before I opened the thread I was on the verge of saying 'well, my Mom blah cloth nappies blah 1980s blah' when it occurred to me that I'd (quite rightly) be beaten to death with the contents of my invisible backpack if I actually made such a comment, and so started to think about the article properly, rather than doing the old skim 'n' kneejerk.

I think this means MetaFilter has made me a slightly more thoughtful person, but it might just be a sign that threads on social issues inevitably devolve into a vigorous and competitive round of privilege-checking :-)

I know there are a lot of other Portland locals on Metafilter

Unless there's evidence to the contrary, I just assume everyone on MetaFilter lives in Portland.

What's up with Portland, anyway? I honestly can't tell if it's a full-on proper US city like, I dunno, Detroit, or if it's an Athens, Georgia/Akron, Ohio/Olympia, Washington/Austin, Texas type place that's more famous internationally than it 'should' be for cultural reasons.

I mean, there's a whole telly programme devoted to taking the piss out of the place, but it appears - with apologies to the many thousands of Portland-based Mefites reading this! - to be a bog-standard medium-sized city with no discernible claim to fame. It can't just be the unusually high number of microbreweries, can it?
posted by jack_mo at 1:33 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


jack, portland is definitely one of those places thats rep outsteps it's size. I'd say if you're going to pick any town, it's more like Austin judging by what several of my friends from there have said. It's not a big city, but it definitely isn't a small town(olympia, WA is a hole. It's where dreams go to die. it's like one tiny mm on the gauge above the area twin peaks was filmed in or something). It has character, but it also has small town "everyone kinda knows everyone/this place is an infinite loop" vibe going on.

And i say this as someone from seattle, who honestly thinks seattle is like the quintessential "not actually a big city, just really good at pretending like it is and being famous for weird reasons" town.

Portland, and to a lesser extent Seattle are only "proper cities" because there's nothing else in the area to pick up that slack or to compare them to. And of the actual big "full on proper US cities" are WAY larger and have more city things going on in them. Seattle's actual mass transit is just barely finally starting to get built, and while Portland already had that going it's kinda only because you could bike across the entire town in like a half hour.

It's one thing to say that you, personally, were able to something in a different light when you became a parent, but it's entirely another thing to say that one must become a parent to sympathize or identify with the specific challenges another person must face.

Yep, and it's dangerously close to that whole rage inducing, ultra smug "you'll understand when you're a mother/parent" and the even worse "Well, as a mother..".

That type of presentation always has my finger pushed in to the ignore button, waiting for any further shittiness to cause me to actually release it and discard what they're saying. It really has to be a great, not condescending or judgmental statement following that to redeem it. Because way, way too often that's just the marker light on a whole freighter full of tiresome bullshit.

This site tends to be good about that type of thing in general, but the "As a parent" thing is a bit of a weak point and has already spawned a GIGANTIC MeTa in the past(which i'd link, but i don't remember what exact search terms to throw in to google. "people being a dick about parenting advice site:metafilter.com" isn't working). I really think we don't need to repave that road again here, there aren't even those little tire canyons in it they warn you about in the motorcycle training course...

Basically, from my point of view it seems like if discussing something neutral starts off at say, a 5, metafilter tends to add +1-4 to that discussion. On difficult contentious stuff i'd say it's usually closer to a 4, putting you at a starting score of 8-9/10.

Stuff like this that people really love to fight about is like, a -3-4. The thing is, you still end up at about a 5. Which is why i love this site. A lot of discussions are great, but even the discussions people would usually punch eachother in the face over usually go pretty generally ok with only a person or two flying off the handle. And only very occasionally does jessamyn or somebody need to set down their newspaper and go "Now kids, if you're going to fight over whose turn it is on the nintendo its gonna go on a timeout".

Parenting advice is one of those ones, right up there with like... declawing cats and stuff. But it's still better even now than it was in that thread way back when.
posted by emptythought at 4:06 AM on August 1, 2013


I knew I was really a parent when I saw a woman shopping late at night with a baby and I thought, "Good for her, not easy to get out of the house with a little one."

The whole "that baby should be home in bed!" thing has always seemed especially irrational since babies who keep you up all night, 2:00 am feedings, people having to drive their infants around to get them to sleep, etc. are such commonplaces that they're sitcom tropes. Everybody knows that babies never sleep at the times they're supposed to, but if you see a parent with a kid up at midnight, you assume they're going out for cocaine and hookers? What.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:29 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


My big shift on becoming a parent is going from believing that all badly behaved kids in public, especially kids obnoxiously begging their parents to buy something, were spoiled kids, and that their parents were to blame, to realizing that some kids can obnoxiously plead for something, be turned down, and repeat that process for literally years without ever realizing "hey, begging doesn't work on my parents". Even if their parents were scrupulously consistent. Kids are just wired different, and kid behavior does not necessarily indicate anything about how they were raised.
posted by Bugbread at 7:04 AM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: it occurred to me that I'd (quite rightly) be beaten to death with the contents of my invisible backpack if I actually made such a comment
posted by inertia at 7:10 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: going out for cocaine and hookers
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:12 AM on August 1, 2013


My mother, who has many fine and some not-so-fine qualities, often at the same time, used to love to tell me stories of people who were weird or jerks to her when she was just out being a mom with her baby. We were a slightly hippie-looking family, I wore a lot of home made clothes and it was the 70s. One time in the supermarket some woman looked at me and remarked that I was really young to be out of diapers and how interesting that was and blablabla. My Mom fixed her with a steely gaze and said "WHY ARE YOU STARING AT MY DAUGHTERS BUTT? WHY IS THAT YOUR BUSINESS?" Conversation closed.

I was raised by wolves in many respects but the "My family, my business" ethos has stuck with me, even though I can be less confrontational in how I'd play it out in public. And there are some challenges because with the "It takes a village" mentality, we are supposed to keep an eye out for kids who may be being mistreated, but at the same time that doesn't (shouldn't) just give people carte blanche to be nosy. Figuring out where to draw the line and how to respond to people whose lines are in different places, is often challenging
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on August 1, 2013 [10 favorites]


When I worked as a receptionist at an office with a lot of children coming through, a woman came in with her boy and girl and, while they were waiting, started talking to me about the way things are today. She'd seen a baby in her neighbourhood walking in front of her house in nothing but a t-shirt and underwear, and gone over to say, hey, baby, go inside and put some pants on. She was concerned because any kind of man could be walking by, peeping - oh my god. The baby's parents got all huffy about it - excuse me, who are you? what are you doing giving our baby instructions? Well, whatever happened to It Takes A Village? When we were little, everybody looked out. Things were different. What is wrong with so-called adults now? Like, she's at the supermarket with her children, and a crazy lady just stops and smiles and goes hello! at her daughter. And her daughter doesn't know what to do. The lady says hello again. So she grabs her daughter's hand and tells her, DO. NOT. TALK. TO. STRANGERS. And they all hurry away. Of course, the lady looked all offended. Well, I'm sorry, what does she expect? Don't talk to my kids! People! And as usual, I was like mmmhmm yeah so here's your receipt.

I think there are no reasonable people, especially when it comes to all-consuming things like raising children. How to forgive utter folly in other people, while staying sane and seeing it for what it is, and remembering to guard against it in oneself?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


The application of this idea would not go amiss.
posted by theora55 at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2013


Empress: I'd have a much easier time believing this were true if the people who posted "why don't they...." questions actually bothered to read the "the reason they don't is because...." responses. It strikes me that the overwhelming majority of the time, they don't.

I agree. My motives are selfish. It's easier to deal with the text, rather than try to define the subtext--why should I do the heavy lifting for them? Besides, snarkers usually have to back-pedal if you take them literally. Or they attack you for not getting the point. It's a win-win. This only works if you are on solid ground, though. Personal experience is a good ally. I have been surprised over the years, that people exist who've never had any direct connection to stuff that was part of my everyday life. Sometimes a good anecdote broadens a horizon here and there. I know that's happened to me (for example, here and on the blue, when I've been afforded the chance to rethink a bit, some of the "axioms" that defined my world).

Anyhow, I hate it when somebody kicks my own snarky prose. Nothing to do but yelp and crawl back under the rock. Sometimes it's worth it, though, just to get in a couple of nips to the ankle.

The short response to your comment (above) is that it's about me, not them. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy, at least until someone reminds to not let the fuzz turn to smug.
posted by mule98J at 11:05 AM on August 1, 2013


two or three cars parked under the stars: "Well, whatever happened to It Takes A Village? When we were little, everybody looked out. Things were different. What is wrong with so-called adults now? "

Help is one thing. Judgment is another. I mean, most parents are going to bristle if they feel they're being judged or looked down on, right? And it can happen so often that some of us may be defensive.

I was lectured at a supermarket after midnight when my son was a just a few months old by someone who was upset I had him out so late. A woman in back of me on the checkout line yelled at the woman in front of me and told her to mind her own business. "That baby has no idea what time it is! Leave the man alone!"

When my kids were 6-12 months old and not very mobile, I used to take them to the mall and push them around in the stroller. When you're a guy caring for two little kids at once by yourselves in public, people tend to notice. Would sit with them in the food court and spoon feed them. People would come over and talk. It was interesting. Sometimes they said things without thinking. Which is fine, I've been guilty of that myself in other situations.

"Is their mom in the picture?"
"Twins? I don't know how you handle two."
"Wow, you've got your hands full. Are you sure you can handle them?"
"They look tired. Shouldn't they be napping?"
"Kind of late to be out with them, isn't it?"

Etc. It took me very time to learn the lesson Hoopo talks about here. First time dad, two kids at once -- I was insecure and worried that everyone was judging me. And who knows, maybe they were.

When they happened, the random acts of kindness were awesome, though. My daughter spit up all over herself once like Mt. Vesuvius and a woman at the next table instantly got up, grabbed a roll of paper towels from a restaurant at the food court, and helped me clean up. Without being asked. No fuss. No drama. No judgment. She saw what had happened and gave me a hand. Was so grateful for her help.

To stretch the metaphor, that's the village I want to live in and be a part of.
posted by zarq at 1:33 PM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


My mother, who has many fine and some not-so-fine qualities, often at the same time

I'm totally plagiarizing this.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:24 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I had to stop reading that thread, it was making me so white-hot angry that I was literally shouting at my screen at the many dismissive, "why don't they just..." comments. "My mom did/my friend did/I did...blah blah blah", with no concern for context was driving me out of my skull.

We were broke as hell when Elder Monster came along. Lived in an apartment with no laundry facilities in each building, rather, in a separate building about 2 blocks from mine. I don't drive. Maus had a full-time job, and we decided that it made more sense for us economically for him to pick up a second, part-time job and have me at home, because child care costs for an infant were more than what I brought home in a week. It would have cost us money for me to work outside the home. I feel like we were very lucky to be able to manage that, even though it was hard. We took an income hit, but not as large as we would have if I had returned to work. We took a HUGE time hit.

We cloth diapered, not because we could afford the initial outlay - we couldn't - but because Maus' work friends threw him a diaper party and bought us 10 dozen cloth diapers and cute velcro covers in several sizes, and several sizes of disposables for travel/out of house time. Problem solved, right? Well, there was still the fun of putting Baby Elder Monster in his sling and wheeling the diaper bucket to the laundry facility every couple days, rain, snow, or shine. It was difficult and it was expensive, but we realized that we were incredibly lucky to be able to do that. It wasn't as far as going to the nearest launderette.

Breastfed, availed ourselves of WIC and food stamps, made our own baby food (which really was just grinding up whatever we were eating). Yep, even with Maus busting his ass at two jobs, we still qualified. Took Baby Elder Monster to his WIC appointments, ped appointments and such on the bus. And felt very lucky to have access to the damned bus to begin with! Bus service is even worse now than it was then, and I marvel at the folks who still manage to make it work for them.

So, yes, we were quite poor, but we still managed. Not because we were Better Bootstrappers or whatever that narrative is, but because we caught some incredibly lucky breaks - supportive colleagues who wanted to help out in a real way, laundry facility within walking distance, access to halfway decent public transportation. Even an affinity for and skill at cooking on a super tight budget, which I learned from my great-grandmother, was a lucky break. That's the thing that made me the most frustrated with that thread. People who got by and just hand-waved "why don't they just..." without considering that maybe they, too, had some lucky breaks that helped them do what they did. Damn, peeps. Someone ALWAYS has it worse than you do, even if you think they don't.
posted by MissySedai at 6:28 PM on August 1, 2013 [20 favorites]


Thanks, emptythought - I obviously have a completely skronky idea of American cities, and am gobsmacked by your Seattle analysis! I totally had it down as a major and businesslike city, presumably embarrassed by its mercifully brief stint in the limelight as the home of plaid shirts, unwashed hair and smack.

olympia, WA is a hole.

As someone who was belatedly converted to the charms of indie music in the mid-1990s that sentence doesn't make any sense at all ;-)

I really want to draw a map of the US as understood by a British music fan now, but don't know how you'd, e.g., render Belleville, Michigan at a suitably huge scale without making West Grand Boulevard in Detroit the size of the fucking moon.

How on earth did I get to moon-sizing Detroit streets from a cloth nappy practicality controversy? Sorry for the derail.
posted by jack_mo at 12:03 AM on August 2, 2013


the secret of olympia is that all that coolness is tempered by lacey, wa which is much more like eastern than western washington. still - olympia has some incredible thai food and it's really, really pretty.
posted by nadawi at 7:07 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Probably the first and last time that I'm going to approvingly link to an article from The American Conservative here, but this article on shame and Middlemarch gave me a lot to think about.

And mostly, it's about how shame really only works when it's coming from those that you trust and respect, who understand the context that you live in, the people who can help you do better and the people who can make you believe that you can do better. If it takes a village, then some random stranger in the supermarket who thinks they know better about breastfeeding or cloth diapers or whatever isn't part of that village.

Maybe our villages have fragmented as an inevitable consequence of urbanization, industrialization, globalization, and all that; or maybe that's just me imagining a past that never existed (and certainly living in a village where everybody knows everybody had bad consequences for anyone who lived too far outside mainstream values). But it does take a village to raise a child, and it takes real work to be part of that village, not just sitting in judgment of somebody else.
posted by Jeanne at 8:53 AM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jeanne, that comment and article have triggered a response and retort from me - but it may end up being a blog post instead. (Nothing bad - just some epiphanies about how the size of the village in question may affect things, for good OR ill.). Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on August 2, 2013


It's not like cloth diapers are some novel recent invention that poor people are too ignorant to have any knowledge of.

Even though I was raised with them myself, I've never actually seen a baby in one. I think it's entirely possible that many people - especially younger parents - don't actually believe they exist other than in cartoons where the baby has a safety pin on their butt. It's not ignorance, more that disposables are so ubiquituitous that people think nappies = Pampers. After all, you can't buy cloth nappies on the shelves at Asda or Tesco, but you can easily get disposables.
posted by mippy at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


mippy, I was thinking that if younger parents hadn't heard of them, there would be grandparents, great-grandparents, neighbors, friends, etc. who had.

But I think you also raise another good point, where do you buy cloth diapers, seriously? I've never been in the market for them myself since I have no kids, but I've never seen them on the shelves at a store. I know you can buy them online but that requires a credit or debit card and a reliable shipping address (if you're at work all day, and don't trust your neighbors not to steal your packages, ordering things online could be a problem).
posted by inertia at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2013


I was thinking that if younger parents hadn't heard of them, there would be grandparents, great-grandparents, neighbors, friends, etc. who had.


Inter-generational support networks are great, but not everyone has them.

I think a big part of what people are trying to get across in this and that thread are that the things other people assume as part of how they would make a solution work aren't there for everybody.
posted by Gygesringtone at 10:44 AM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm trying to imagine my grandparents willing to hold a baby, let alone change a diaper or babysit... hmmm. Nope, can't picture it.

What is this extended family you people speak of?
posted by small_ruminant at 11:16 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I think you also raise another good point, where do you buy cloth diapers, seriously? I've never been in the market for them myself since I have no kids, but I've never seen them on the shelves at a store. I know you can buy them online but that requires a credit or debit card and a reliable shipping address (if you're at work all day, and don't trust your neighbors not to steal your packages, ordering things online could be a problem).

I actually got curious about this - some Babies-r-us outlets may carry them. At least in the US.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on August 2, 2013


Cloth diapers at Costco, just for a data point.
posted by phunniemee at 11:22 AM on August 2, 2013


Wow, those things are expensive.

Cloth Diaper Kit Includes:
3 GroVia™ Kiwi Shells
3 GroVia™ Cosmos Shells
3 GroVia™ Organic Cotton Soaker Pads


From what I've heard from the parents in this thread, babies are a nonstop geyser of poop and pee. This would last what, like an hour?

In all seriousness, I can't imagine how difficult it must be to struggle to keep your kid in diapers, this is a really complex problem without a simple one-size fits all solution.

Also, I should probably call my mom and thank her for putting up with baby me.
posted by inertia at 12:07 PM on August 2, 2013


You can find kits at Target and Walmart too. Plus flats can be made out of almost anything, including, say, spit-up towels you get at ikea.

I guess I should actually say "thanks" to all the moms who reached out and gave me really, really good, non-condescending diapering advice, including those who linked to information about the "Flats and Handwashing Challenge." Those blogs are a wealth of information, including how to get supplies for cheap and including videos on how to actually wash diapers by hand--yes, in a bathtub, technically, but also in a small bucket with a manual handwashing agitator. I grew up in a family where my mother hasn't had to go to a laundromat in probably 40 years and so my reaction to the suggestions as they were originally phrased in the thread was "I can't even." Practical demonstrations, though, are really helpful.

Still not entirely sure what we'll do, but I went ahead and asked my friend for her hand-me-down cloth diapers, because, well, what's the harm in trying? Worst comes to worst we go out and buy some disposables and pass the cloth along to someone else.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:22 PM on August 2, 2013


and am gobsmacked by your Seattle analysis! I totally had it down as a major and businesslike city, presumably embarrassed by its mercifully brief stint in the limelight as the home of plaid shirts, unwashed hair and smack.

Here's a good one for you then: more people live in Austin than in Seattle.

I shit you not, it's true. Pulled this right from the city of Seattle site and stuff. Seattle is like, 620k people estimated last year, Austin is way over 800k. Portland btw is very very close to Seattle at about 600k.

And it's not that seattle was embarrassed. The place was actually a shithole before that and Microsoft and other tech companies. My family is from here, and still jokes about how sketchy downtown/Capitol hill(if you're not familiar, a pretty popular just outside downtown area) were. I remember the place still being sketchy and shitty as fuck like everywhere even in 1995.

Seattle now is like the scruffy child star all cleaned up going "look! I can still act and stuff! I'm relevant! I still make music!" Sorta awkwardly struggling for its place in the world.

It's a bit of a tween. It's definitely not a "big city", but its decidedly not a small town either. It's stuck in the really awkward stage of puberty between the two and having some serious growing pains. There's not just a housing shortage, there's like an EVERYTHING that involves a building shortage. There's a severely limited amount of rentals, good venues, anything you can imagine. And stuff keeps closing and getting knocked down to build condos with a panera bread on the first floor. Ugh.

Oh, and another funny one is that the housing costs in Olympia are getting fucking stupid(not to mention seattle, which is approaching what several friends pay to live in Brooklyn). It costs from what I've seen/heard from friends more to live in Olympia than Portland. Yea, seriously.

Oh, and to put that one in perspective Olympia is TINY. Like under 40k people live there iirc. It has a couple very cool bars, and some great house shows go on there... But it does suck and it always seemed like a shitty, incestuos(by this I mean everyone knows everyone, and everyone is always fucking or dating their exes best friend or sister/brother and shit) place to live. And I've spent a lot of time there.

Oh and not to totally shatter the image, there totally is a shitload of junkies and snack heads here. And everyone is always hammered as fuck even on a Tuesday, year round(but especially in the winter. When it gets dark at 4 and its been raining for 3 days everyone is drunk unless they're a cop or driving the bus you're currently pissing your pants on), and there is a lot of good shows and music, both local and coming through.
posted by emptythought at 12:36 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


it always seemed like a shitty, incestuos(by this I mean everyone knows everyone, and everyone is always fucking or dating their exes best friend or sister/brother and shit) place to live.

I live in Seattle and have had many friends in Olympia, and I can confirm that this is 100% accurate.
posted by KathrynT at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Here's a good one for you then: more people live in Austin than in Seattle."

That's misleading.

In the ways that matter the most, Seattle is notably larger than Austin. For US metropolitan areas, going just by the core city population alone, as in your example, can be extremely misleading because some cities are less dispersed into sibling-city and suburban populations than others. Seattle is an particularly bad example for direct core-city comparisons because of Tacoma and Bellevue.

For example, using the core city alone metric and the 2010 US census, the population of Seattle was 608,660 and ranked 23rd, while Austin's was 790,390 and ranked 14th.

The top 10 cities in 2010 by core city population alone are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose.

But if you look at the more representative "Metropolitan Statistical Area" metric, the 2010 census population for Seattle was 3,439,809 and ranked 15th, while Austin's was 1,716,289 and ranked 35th, confirming jack_mo's impression that Seattle is a large city.

The top 10 cities in 2010 by metropolitan statistical area are: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, Washington, Miami, Atlanta, Boston.

Note how Dallas moves up in the MSA list (because of Fort Worth) compared to the city-only list and that Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and San Jose drop out. And that Washington, Miami, Atlanta, and Boston all appear. Boston and San Antonio are opposites, in a sense, in that the city of Boston has only 617,594 people but the MSA has 4,552,402 while the city of San Antonio has 1,327,407 but the MSA has 2,142,508 — which is quite a bit more, but still only ranked 26th.

I think that generally the metropolitan statistical area is the best metric for most purposes and will fairly closely match intuition with regard to how we think about relative city sizes in the US. However, note that California's "Bay Area" doesn't appear on the MSA top 10 list, which defies intuition about the largest cities in the US. We might want to think of San Francisco and Oakland and San Jose as one unit and do the same sort of thing elsewhere. In those cases, the "Combined Statistical Area" metric might be useful.

So here's the CSA 2010 population rankings:
  1. New York — 23,076,664
  2. Los Angeles — 17,877,006
  3. Chicago — 9,840,929
  4. Washington — 9,051,961
  5. San Francisco — 8,153,696
  6. Boston — 7,893,376
  7. Philadelphia — 7,067,807
  8. Dallas — 6,817,483
  9. Miami — 6,166,766
  10. Houston — 6,114,562
Atlanta drops out and is replaced by the Bay Area. Both the MSA and the CSA lists should be pretty much what Americans and non-Americans would expect, I think, but with one exception: Washington. I suppose that many non-Americans would expect the US capital to be large but historically it's not been a major city. On the city-alone metric, it's only 601,723 and ranked 23rd (just below Seattle) but the metro area is in the top ten and fourth by the combined statistical area metric. The growth in the DC area over the last two decades has been quite large.

As emptythought has mentioned Austin and I lived in Austin from 1996 to 2004, I'll add that the growth in Austin over the last twenty years is pretty much only exceeded among larger US metro areas by Las Vegas. In 1990, the population of Austin (city-alone) was 472,020 and in 2010 it was 842,592, almost double. I'm pretty sure that the metro area more than doubled over that time. These days, Austin is really in the second-tier of large US cities, more comparable to Kansas City (459,787 city-alone and 2,009,342 MSA), where I live now, than to, say, Albuquerque (545,852 city-alone and 887,077 MSA), where I'm originally from and lived from 2004 until last year.

But a different but quite revealing bit of data about Austin and its growth is that the two tallest buildings in Austin's downtown skyline, both built in the last ten years and at 56 and 43 stories, are both residential.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:08 PM on August 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Oh, and Portland city-alone in 2010 had 583,776 people and ranked 29th, while the MSA was 2,226,009 and ranked 23rd, and the CSA was 2,921,408 and ranked 17th.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:14 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Olympia is TINY. Like under 40k people live there iirc. It has a couple very cool bars, and some great house shows go on there... But it does suck and it always seemed like a shitty, incestuos(by this I mean everyone knows everyone, and everyone is always fucking or dating their exes best friend or sister/brother and shit) place to live. And I've spent a lot of time there

I lived there for six or seven years and it wasn't a shitty place at all. I have the impression that downtown has declined dramatically over the past few years, partly due to stupid new policies about parking and partly because the economy is bad, but when I lived downtown it was great. I could walk to work, to coffee shops, to restaurants, to bars, to my friends' apartments, to movies at either the art house theater or the $1 theater, to music shows, all kinds of good stuff.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:59 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah - i had a great time in olympia - but i've spent most of my life in hippie college towns. different strokes, i suppose.
posted by nadawi at 3:36 PM on August 2, 2013


I lived in Seattle in the 90s and dated a guy who lived in Olympia. As much as the grunge thing was part of its charm "shitty as fuck" isn't how I would describe the places I lived which were Ballard, U District, Fremont, Wallingford and Madison Park. Agree totally that the incestuous thing and the inferiority complex were a problem (I left when my friends started becoming millionaires and they built s second sports stadium that the voters didn't want) but maybe it looks differently to someone who grew up there. I had only lived in small towns before (and visited big cities), so it seemed like a decent city to me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:00 PM on August 2, 2013


Oh, Seattle is lovely. Olympia also has many lovely aspects -- but the part where there's one or two enormous circles of friends, all of whom are sleeping with one another, is a pretty solid characterization.
posted by KathrynT at 4:11 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's entirely possible that many people - especially younger parents - don't actually believe they exist other than in cartoons where the baby has a safety pin on their butt.

I don't know of anyone who doesn't know they exist. I know plenty of people who just don't think it's for them. Maybe they're lazy. Maybe they don't care about environment. Or maybe, just maybe, they've thought about it and come to the conclusion that disposables are better for them.

I used cloth, then hybrids, than disposables with my first. This second baby has been in disposables from the get-go, and the improvement it's made in our quality of life during these early weeks has been immeasurable.

When people talk about cloth diapering or breastfeeding or making your own baby food as if it's a slam dunk, I feel they're forgetting to value parents' time. I don't care if it's just an additional hour; it's an hour when I could be sleeping, cleaning, or spending time with my 2-year-old. When you've got a newborn, whatever doesn't harm the baby and gets you through your day is fine.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:13 PM on August 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I lived in Seattle in the 90s and dated a guy who lived in Olympia. As much as the grunge thing was part of its charm "shitty as fuck" isn't how I would describe the places I lived which were Ballard, U District, Fremont, Wallingford and Madison Park.

I didn't intend to convey that I didn't like Seattle, I grew up in Fremont and I love it here. I just think it tries to punch above its weight as a major city and falls short.

I also wanted to exclude the "greater metropolitan area" type measurements because I think they can be a bit disingenuous.

Very few people live in Tacoma and commute to Seattle. Similarly with the east side. A lot of people commute from the city to outside it but not so much vice versa.

I also think that metric is a bit off since a lot of the areas outside of town are just suburb. In a lot of large, especially east coast city the outer areas continue to be serious like, city with multi story multi family structures and lots of businesses and stuff. It's almost entirely residential single family home stuff outside of city limits here, and even in many areas within city limits(see: basically anything west of sr99/aurora or north of 45th/market st). The population numbers paint an unrealistic picture when it's just like, a little bit of city and a TON of suburban stuff.

It's like the Wesley crusher of major cities. Ill get off my hobby horse, but I grew up here and it's just started to feel more and more that way over time and with travel.
posted by emptythought at 6:36 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The population numbers paint an unrealistic picture when it's just like, a little bit of city and a TON of suburban stuff."

I don't understand that reasoning at all. It's not as if the people in the suburbs aren't contributing to the economic and cultural activity of the city-as-metropolitan area, because they are. For one thing, I know that your Austin-Seattle comparison with Austin as "larger" is wrong. As big of a footprint, economic and cultural, as Austin has these days, it's still smaller than Seattle's.

A good example is comparing Kansas City and Albuquerque. When you add KC, MO and KC, KS together for the core city population, you get 605,573 as compared to ABQ's 545,852, which is just slightly smaller. But, clearly, Kansas City is a much larger city than Albuquerque. That city-alone KC number is smaller than Austin's and that's also not representative of what both cities are like.

And then there's the examples of Boston and San Antonio, which I mentioned earlier. Boston has a relatively small core city, but is a top ten metro area. And San Antonio is 7th in terms of the city alone, but around 25th as a metro area. In both cases, the metro area number is much more representative of these cities in terms of their economic and cultural "footprints".

"In a lot of large, especially east coast city the outer areas continue to be serious like, city with multi story multi family structures and lots of businesses and stuff. It's almost entirely residential single family home stuff outside of city limits here..."

You don't see the error you're making? If anything, what you're describing would have the inverse relationship — where the suburbs have a lot of manufacturing and business, they'd have little to do with the core city's economy and culture, and where the suburbs are only residential then they would have a great deal to do with the core city's economy and culture.

I grant you that there's variability in how much the metro area number reflects the reality because of the kinds of things you're describing. But it's a lot more accurate than the city-alone population number. Even if Seattle is a case where the metro number overstates the feel of the city's relative size, I feel certain that the city-alone ranking of 23rd — smaller than Indianapolis, Columbus, and Charlotte! — badly understates it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:33 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Almanacs had a slightly unhealthy influence on my young mind, making me (among other things) weirdly obsessed with population stats and rankings. Something I used to tell people when I was a kid and which is still true is that the difference between New York and Los Angeles would itself be the second largest city.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:48 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Austin is a good-sized city but it is surrounded by a whole lot of nothing. I think Ivan is probably correct that when factoring that in, it's not nearly as high up the rankings. I live in more or less the dead center of the city and if I drive ten minutes east or west there are no-shit cacti and cattle. There just isn't the suburban sprawl a lot of cities have.

(I can't compare it to Seattle - I've been there a bunch but only for PAX, so as far as I can tell the city is entirely populated by 18-35yo costumed gamers. Same with San Diego, although San Diego is bigger obvs.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:15 PM on August 2, 2013


It's like the Wesley crusher of major cities.

If the implication is that Portland is the Jake Sisko of cities then we are going to have words and those words will be part of a novel that Jake writes under the creativity-boosting influence of a weird non-corporeal energy vampire and oh god what have I done with my life
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:07 PM on August 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


it might just be a sign that threads on social issues inevitably devolve into a vigorous and competitive round of privilege-checking :-)

Let's not kid on here Jack, you're quite well off - nice try at derailing the conversation though :-)
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:02 PM on August 3, 2013


An interesting thing that I just learned: the "cloth diapers" of today are much different than the cloth diapers of 30 years ago. 30 years ago, they were sort of quilty bar mops that were multigenerational hand-me-downs. And I think the ones my family used (I believe the asses of my entire generation of cousins were swaddled in those same diapers, transferred from family to family in garbage bags) were the fancy ones that didn't need to be origami folded- they had an extra quilty middle area such that you could just pinch the sides tight and safety pin them together.

Now they are Entire Systems® for Rich People® to discover at Costco. No wonder there is a cultural and generational disconnect. It took me a surprisingly long time to figure out how to search for just regular old cloth diapers.

(I was also horrified to find out how much disposable diapers cost. No wonder this is such a Hot Topic®.)
posted by gjc at 4:04 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a lot of friends who have cloth diapered -- some successfully, some less so -- and my observation is that cloth diapering would be a lot more feasible for a lot of families if the conventional wisdom was "Use disposable for the first 12 weeks, the switch to cloth." The first twelve weeks are miserable with frequent feedings, unstable sleep schedules, incessant poop, etc. and infants grow so fast. Just doing disposable until you're over that first hump of parenthood would be one less thing to worry about. Then when baby is three months old and the parents are like, hey, we might survive this, switch to the cloth diapers. You'd need fewer sizes and miss the "12 dirty diapers a day" phase. Cloth seems a lot easier once the baby is out of the infant stage and I think more parents could manage the cloth that way.

A popular thing around here lately is baby showers for dads that consist of hosting a gathering at a sports bar where the "cover" is a box of diapers, no other presents. That seems nice, I think it should catch on more widely.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:35 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow that is pretty much just like this episode of "I Love Lucy" that I watched the other night where they have a Daddy Shower for Ricky and all the gifts were bottles--of booze.

I couldn't decide whether that was progressive for its time, or not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:04 AM on August 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


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