Scary stories from a lovely place
Usually I write about how things are unfair for women, how we get the raw deal, and men are the ones who are advantaged because of their gender and physicality. Well, not today. Today, I want to write for young men, mostly for my two little boys, my nephews, and all the sons of my friends.
It annoys me when fathers are allowed to protect their daughters, but when mothers seek to do the same for their sons, they are ridiculed. Daughters of such fathers are considered princesses, but sons of these mothers are mumma’s boys.
No doubt you’ve seen the ubiquitous list of ‘rules for dating my daughter’. People generally post these on social media, but surely some have made it onto hardcopy and are displayed at home or the office. (There’s even t-shirts if you want to be a really cool dad.) The list includes ‘get a job’, ‘she’s my princess, not your conquest’ and ‘whatever you do to her, I’ll do to you’. (Really? Tongue kiss?). Besides the obvious patronising tone and the violent element, this list demotes the daughter to a piece of property and takes away all her agency.
Now, obviously my objections to this list don’t apply in serious circumstances. Young men do commit awful deeds against young women. They rape and manipulate and mislead, causing serious damage. Clearly, those things need to be rallied against, and young women need to be protected from such grievous harm. But if someone you suspect is a rapist or a thief surely you wouldn’t let your child hang around with them?! Also, it’s partially intended as a joke, and humorous treatments of protecting people from rape aren’t really appropriate.
This week I was lucky enough to be introduced to the list of ‘rules for dating my son’. It includes ‘he is not your ATM’ (assuming that men have more money than women, which is surely increasingly untrue), ‘if you show up to my house looking like a stripper, I will send you away’ and ‘he is a gentleman. I taught him that. You better act like a lady and deserve that’. Again, besides the patronising stereotypes of gender roles, it makes the guy sound like a fool! If my son is freely giving away cash or blindly getting married, then something has gone seriously awry in my communication with my son and in my raising of him.
Besides these objections, I think what bothers me most is the different reactions to these lists. The fathers who publish the list are applauded for protecting their daughters from all the losers who would seek to deflower them. The mothers who like the son list, are criticised for raising a mumma’s boy and told they need to cut the umbilical cord. Why should the innocence of sons not be protected? Why are young men always the villains and the young women the hapless princesses? Young women can be very manipulative and cruel towards young men, humiliating and rejecting them. I will try to protect my sons from any such treatment, and I don’t think this is tantamount to being overbearing.
Finally, these lists are just horribly unkind too. Of course, those who intend harm to young men and women need to be crushed in their tracks, by parents, friends and aunties. But, in the case of more foolish actions, where there isn’t evil intention, these friends of our sons and daughters could be shown mercy, rather than the door.