Today I came across an article from a prevention-focused website in the U.K. The article discusses whether the British are a culture that is afraid of children and youth, and cites the Freechild Project website as the source for a politician’s usage of the words ephebiphobia and pediaphobia.
In some strange turn of events Freechild is suddenly reputable enough to be cited for it’s application of language many other sources are afraid to touch. It is only after 10 years of being involved in in the Youth Voice movement that I’m actually seeing widespread acceptance of the term adultism, which Jenny Sazama and Karen Young from Youth On Board continually promoted as a word defining discrimination against youth. Now, with my exploration and continual usage of the terms ephebiphobia (fear of youth) and pediaphobia (fear of children) we’re beginning to see a new wave of awareness about their implications and effects throughout society.
It was actually the librarians who put me onto the term ephebiphobia about five years ago. They used this term to describe why libraries were suffering so much neglect from the youth population, and essentially said that librarians en masse suffered an unreasonable fear of youth. I drew that application out and began challenging the fields of human services and education to pay attention to the effects of such prejudice, and have seen some results.
Pediaphobia actually has been long in usage, originally describing both the fear of children and dolls. Grouping those two definitions together for one word is just wrong. Alas, I alienated the dolls- let them eat cake- and applied the term to living, animated young young humans, only. I think its important to differentiate between the fear of children and the fear of youth, if only because I think there is such a massively wide difference about where the sources of these fears come from. For the fear of both I would suggest that adults are hindered by adultism and the fear of alienation and discrimination. For the fear of children though, I think it comes down to a very base, animalistic sense of protectionism- paternalism- that strikes the hearts and minds of a lot of well-meaning adults when they encounter young people out of their element. At the same time, I think that ephebiphobia is simply another sub- to completely-conscious control device thrust upon youth in order to keep them subservient and placid in the face of adult oppression; it is only when they become recalcitrant or withdrawn.
All that’s to say that it is exciting to see this language progress so steadily toward the future. It’s only through action do words really matter. Let’s see that at work- now!