True Equality

Sorry @LaLegale to have sent you merely a short tweet and having been so long in formulating this response. 

I am extremely sympathetic to those who have to care for children alone. That is a very difficult task indeed. I have immense admiration for the many people who do this hard job very well.

However, at this point in time, with women struggling again for some sort of equality and fighting against misogyny, I think we have to be very careful in inadvertently suggesting a female superiority regarding the rearing of children.  That men cannot breast feed is unequivocal. Other than that men can do, and often take responsibility for, all other rearing tasks relating to children and this should be acknowledged by women in the same way that we expect acknowledgement of our own equality in other areas, particularly that of paid employment.

I agree with @LaLegale that being a person alone trying to bring up children is very difficult and needs a supporting hand from us both financially and otherwise.   Except in a minority of very difficult and sad cases which need all of our help, however, most children have two parents and this must not be forgotten. I also agree that a significant majority of parents on their own with children are women but there are some men also doing it without much fuss. And many more could. It is still much more of a societal issue than an issue of real choice for many men after a divorce. Also, sadly, those women who have agreed that it is better for children to live with their fathers, or for the fathers to be the primary carers in a two person household, are often treated with reprehension by other women rather than with regard for what may have been a difficult or self sacrificing decision.

There are other issues that parallel this discrimination against men as far as children are concerned, such as the recent announcement that unaccompanied children on aeroplanes must sit next to women and not men. I have also known of fathers turning up to help on pre-school excursions etc. and having mothers object to their child being in that group. This is just discriminatory and very insulting to almost all men and restates a common myth that women do not assault children. In my experience sexual assault by women is still very under reported.

Both parents are, and should be in most cases, financially and otherwise responsible for their children. (Of course I acknowledge that it is much more expensive to run two households). The state should always remain a back up in cases of hardship to protect these children. But we must always remember that it is a choice, only available in some parts of the world and in some levels of society, and not a right, to be able to stay out of paid work to look after children.

If women and men are equal this must include an acknowledgement of equality in the area of responsibility for their children both physically and financially.

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About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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2 Responses to True Equality

  1. I was able to lie in bed early this morning reading this on Kindle, but not to reply. It’s a very thought-provoking post. You chose your words carefully and well. There is a societal issue about men solely raising their children. Your aircraft/pre-school examples are eye-openers. Even for me, who with my wife raised two wonderful, perfectly adjusted daughters, my first reaction was that it was probably a sensible idea. See? Mea culpa!

    I suspect the inequality is generated by the many examples now coming more and more to light of children who have been abused by a man or men in their family, or know someone who has been and seen the emotionally crippling effect it has had on that child’s life. That makes it easy to jump to conclusions when a man on a bus puts his arm around the child next to him. That child may be his, in need of reassurance at that time, or it may be simply a gesture of affection repeated for the thousandth time. But it may well be interpreted from outside as suspicious. There is no way that I would think of putting my arm around the child of a stranger. I usually stop short of even talking to a stranger’s child, which is sometimes a great pity.

    I’d be looking first and foremost at the child’s reaction to any public intimacy like hugging or kissing. If they start to shrink away or look uncomfortable, that would surely set off warning bells. If they simply nestled in and looked at ease, just as they would if it were a woman e.g., their mother – then we might need to re-examine our own values if a man’s publicly hugging a child seems wrong for no reason other than his gender.

    On no evidence I can produce, I suspect that the male child molester is far more likely to be extremely circumspect in public, so that he arouses no attention to the crimes he commits in private. I have not the faintest idea about women sexually molesting minors, except for the stories usually about adolescent children that come to public attention.

    Yes, it’s time to look again, with more generosity of spirit and less pure prejudice, at this issue.

    @deniswright

  2. Anne Powles says:

    I agree with you that sexual abuse as a child can be emotionally crippling and should be regarded very seriously. It is very good that we now have a better culture for reporting abuse and recognising abuse than there used to be. I also agree that it makes it difficult, especially for men, to decide whether to talk to strange children. I tend, myself, to do it only when I can include any adult they are with in the conversation or perhaps another nearby adult!

    At the same time this must not be a fear that inhibits the showing of affection, including physical affection, towards children or that makes children generally fearful of other people. A fine and difficult line for society to walk.

    Here I must give a disclaimer that I personally probably have been biased by my own professional experience – but sadly perhaps mine is not merely a biased sample. As a psychologist my first reporting of sexual abuse after mandatory reporting was introduced was about a mother with her little boy. The worst case I knew, and the memory still haunts me regularly after all these years, involved a mother, and the only abuse I have actually witnessed was when a male welfare worker, expecting some problems, asked me to go with him on a home visit. That time it was a very young teenage boy and his mother and the window of the home was uncurtained!

    I have, of course, also known of the situations you mention of teenage boys and older women and I suspect these will always be under reported. After all teenage boys have their pride!

    But all these are abnormal situations. As bad as any sexual abuse is, we must be able to recognize that most men and women love their children, respect other’s children and want the best for all of them. And, in particular, fathers are usually quite competent, as undoubtedly you were, to raise their children.

    Fortunately there are many more really caring people of both sexes in the world than the other sort.

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