This is a tale of two parents.
The first is Sarah Blackwood, who also happens to be a member of the Juno-nominated Canadian band Walk Off The Earth. Last Wednesday, she was kicked off a Vancouver-bound United flight leaving San Francisco. She says it was because her 23-month-old son, Giorgio, was crying.
Skywest Airlines says it was acting “out of concern for her son’s safety.”
An airline spokeswoman is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, “The child wasn’t seated on her [Blackwood’s] lap; he was repeatedly in the aisle and on the floor. Noise or crying didn’t factor into the decision.” This is all very interesting, considering Blackwood was seated in a window seat. (Because Giorgio is still considered an infant, he was traveling lap-held. It’s worth noting that Blackwood is seven months pregnant.)
By the time the plane had taxied back to the gate, Giorgio was asleep.
What Blackwood experienced is awful. Flying is uncomfortable as it is; imagine what that experience is like for a pregnant mother of a baby. People too easily forget that — especially when they are retelling the same anecdote everyone seems to have about a transatlantic teether who “ruined” their flight. I always get the sense that the person telling this story thinks the baby did it on purpose. Because, you know, babies are unrepentant assholes.
Plus, it’s pretty hard to ruin an experience that literally comes with a barf bag.
But the public backlash Blackwood has received has been just as shitty. While there have been a few opinion pieces published by media outlets that defend her and traveling mothers everywhere, I’ve lost track of the number of comments I’ve read that praise the airline — which has zero plans to apologize, BTW — while calling out Blackwood for being a terrible mother.
Here are some sample comments from the Toronto Star article:
And someone, PLEASE, wash that poor boy’s hair ! It looks like he hasn’t seen the soap or the tub in a week or 2 !
Sad. He looks like the trailer parker his mother obviously is.
THANKS FOR THE RELEVANT COMMENTARY, JERKSTORES. Many called into question her capabilities as a mother for even traveling while pregnant/with a small child. Others accused her of leveraging the situation into publicity for her band. Others still were more smug, stating that Blackwood simply should have been able to “control her child.” WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE PAYING PASSENGERS.
Our second parent is NBA MVP Stephen Curry, whose daughter Riley has become a viral sensation in her own right for making boring post-game press conferences 110 per cent more adorable.
Many Very Important Sports Reporters Who Have Deadlines, You Know took issue with Riley’s presence at the press conference, saying she was a distraction. But many other writers and commenters alike celebrated Curry for being a great dad, holding him as a shining example of work/life balance and a reminder of what “sports is all about.” Riley’s since made a cameo at a second presser. (ETA: this contains several actual LOL moments.)
Yes, both Blackwood and Curry were told by various people to “control their children” — and, in both cases, the phrase “free-range children” was bandied about a lot — but the vitriol being volleyed at Blackwood stands in sharp contrast to the love being shown to Curry.
Both are parents trying to do their jobs. But while some have been critical of Curry’s decision to allow precocious Riley on his lap during a press conference, very few have called his parenting abilities into question. In fact, it seems like more people took issue with the journalists who complained.
Blackwood, meanwhile, has been called everything from entitled to irresponsible.
Blackwood is a touring musician whose job requires travel; is she not a good mother for bringing her baby along? I mean, that’s what society expects of “good moms,” isn’t it? Because we all know she’d be flamed for leaving her son behind while she went on a tour.
WHY IT’S ALMOST AS IF WOMEN CAN’T WIN.
Clarification: This post isn’t meant to suggest that Curry hasn’t received his share of criticism, because he certainly has. It’s also very important to note that Black athletes negatively stereotyped in the media ALL THE TIME.
In case it wasn’t clear above, I agree that he’s a great (and very patient!) dad and whiny self-important sportswriters should STFU. We need to see more images of parenting like that in sports, not fewer. Here’s a great piece from Salon about just that.