I really hate the term “love child”Posted: May 19, 2011
There are all sorts of stories floating around the news machines about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the fact that he had a kid with a woman who was not his wife about a decade ago. I don’t really care about this (except maybe for the fact that part of his campaign for his position as California Governor was apparently based on how much of a problem it is that some kids have parents who aren’t married to each other, and I think hypocrisy sucks), so I haven’t been paying much attention to it and I really don’t know any of the details. But there’s one thing that I want to say about it.
I don’t like it when people say “love child”.
It might be because, when I was a kid, someone told me that calling a kid born out of a brief affair a love child implies that people in long term romantic relationships aren’t actually in love with each other, and that that’s a harmful stereotype. It might be because I think it sounds kind of silly. It might be because I always hear it phrased like, “She had this guy’s love child,” and I don’t like hearing about women having other people’s kids, as though they’re just vessels that hold babies for nine months and the babies really belong to the fathers. Maybe if people said, “These two people had a love child,” it would bug me less. Anyway, I’m not sure what the reason is, but the term bugs me.
I don’t know the etymology of the term. Yahoo answers tells me that it was coined by Diana Ross and the Supremes (in their song “Love Child”) to show that kids who are born out of wedlock are still loved by their mothers. (It doesn’t say anything about how their fathers feel about them.) I guess that’s a good thing, and it’s certainly better than calling someone an illegitimate child, but that only makes it kind of better for me.
Maybe my real problem is that I don’t think we need special names for kids based on the kind of relationship that their parents have or had. If someone says, “I had a baby with this guy, but he didn’t want anyone to know so he paid me a bunch of money to keep me quiet” (or something like that; I know that’s not how it always happens), that might take a little more breath, and might be harder to fit into a catchy headline, but at least it doesn’t say anything about the actual kid. It doesn’t send the message that the identity of the kid is somehow different because their biological father is not a part of their life.