"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Parents as Teachers

Sage over at Persephone's Box has an absolutely fantastic post up about moms teaching their daughters about potential dangers from men as they grow up. She notes that not talking about this stuff is putting your child out into the world with less information than she ought to have:
So, maybe, because I’m out there a lot, I’ve gotten more than my share of harassment. I’d like to think that’s the case because the stories are really piling up, and I’d hate to think it happens with this frequency to every woman. That’d just be too much to take. La la la, I can’t hear you.

But what really concerns me, is that I was never educated about this reality by anyone along the way. My parents didn’t like me wandering the streets at night, so I snuck out after they were in bed. But that’s not really the issue at all because harassment happens in broad daylight all the time. And I think we need to tell our kids all about it. We can’t just keep them locked in their rooms. They’ve got to be let out at some point. So they need to be really prepared for potential issues.

This just makes good sense, it seems to me, although I wonder how difficult it is to walk the line between giving good information/warning and encouraging a culture of fear--it's got to be hard to give your daughter all of the information without just scaring the stuffing out of her. Sage acknowledges this implicitly above when she says 'la la la, I can't hear you'. (Maybe you can't really inform without causing a tendency for fear?)

Part of Sage's strategy was to make a sort of ritual rite of passage with her daughter--they spent some time away together talking about these things, and also bonding and having some fun. What a great freakin' parent.

I'd like to say that it's got to be the case that dads need to be having similar conversations with their kids, boys and girls alike. Similar, but different in important ways--I think 'purity ball' thinking needs to be avoided, for instance. And what sorts of conversations ought dads be having with their sons? Presumably, one hopes one's kid learns not to stalk, like some of the men in Sage's stories. But what sorts of stories might a dad tell his son to encourage him to respect himself, to respect women, and to make this a less dangerous world for women and men, and those of various genders?

I'm not a parent, and I doubt that I'll ever be. But it seems to me that one thing dads can teach their sons is to speak out against the oppression of women when they see it, both on a day-to-day level and on a more grand scale. If I were to have a son (and I am an uncle, so I may get to do this), I'd tell him a stories about my mother, who stood up to sexist jerks her whole life. I'd tell him a few stories about how I or another man stood up to other men, resisted violence and the like. Come to think of it, I'd probably tell the same stories to a daughter, if I had one.

Those of you who are parents, or want to be (or are uncles and aunts), what lessons would you want told?
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