WE must change the way we treat women.
History is full of examples of great men and women. Of course, as a many of us who watch the History Channel or documentaries on PBS know, History has largely been filled with story of heroic men doing heroic deeds. And the occasional evil man triumphing over good, but that is only ever for a time in which the good people around him allow it to happen.
Something I have noticed lately is beginning to gain so much importance to me, however, that I feel like I have to write something about it. Of course I would like everyone reading this to agree with most of it and take my points into consideration in their daily lives. Alas, I know I can not force that to happen. But as a husband and a Father of a Daughter, as well as a Son, I feel like staying quiet about it only exacerbates the issue.
As most of my friends who have been here for a while know, I decided I would no longer discuss politics on Facebook. I am extremely passionate about what I believe and I find that I don’t take time to think about my responses before I give them online and that damages friendships as much as it can make for interesting conversation.
So I offer that in lieu of what I am about to use as the recent event that sparked my desire to talk about this subject. Michelle Bachmann, a candidate running for the Presidency in 2012 made an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon Show. As she was coming onto the set, the band played a song while she waved and smiled at the audience. This is customary as anyone, who has ever watched a “Late Night Talk Show”, knows. It was realized by those who know the song immediately, and by those who don’t (including Mrs. Bachmann) that the song which was played was entitled, “Lyin Ass Bitch”.
I feel like another disclaimer is necessary here, so indulge me please: I do not endorse Mrs. Bachmann for the Presidency. In fact, I do not like any of the candidates who are running. This is not about politics. This is about the way we (and by “we” I do not mean Men exclusively) treat and view women in our society.
The incident was reported in the news as the best controversy of the day and some small smattering of journalism followed a few days afterwards. The formal “excuse” was that it was a joke and that no one meant Mrs. Bachmann any disrespect. (Of course, can I interest you in a bridge or some water front property in the middle of the Atlantic?) And I’ll admit my internet searching ability may be rusty and pathetic but, I can not find anything further that was discussed about it.
So with that example outlined for you, I’ll get to my point.
WE as a society have come to accept that sort of behavior and in some cases encourage it and find joy in it.
This terrifies me for two reasons:
The first is that I believe, and have always believed, that women are the most important ingredient in a stable society. They are the mortar that holds our morale bricks together. I’m not ignorant enough to believe that every woman is born to be a vessel of virtue. Neither am I defeatist enough to believe that our situation is hopeless. But every man or woman that walks this earth was born from a woman and I believe that each of us maintains some, if not all, of her spirit. Yes, I realize that is Mysticism. Yes, I realize that it is considered primitive thinking on some level. Each man or woman is their own person, they create their own destiny……Yes, yes, I understand all of that. But I will submit that if we change the way we view women and their role in society more of them will pass on those views to their children. Thereby, changing the overall structure of the daily lives of our children and their children.
I view myself, as a Husband and a Father, to be my family’s blacksmith. My position in life, from the time I married my wife through the time when I pass on to whatever awaits us beyond death, is to provide my family with the things we need to survive. And to repair the things I can with the skills and talents I have been given. I have a Son as well as a Daughter and I’ll get to him later. But for now, understand that I have to provide my Daughter with the weapons and armor she will need to make it to the stage where I am now. If I achieve that, I have accomplished everything.
Every human possesses a gift. For my Daughter, I believe it is her intellect. I do not need psychologists or professors to tell me that she is extremely intelligent. I see it in her everyday life. The way she talks. The way she moves. Most importantly how she behaves when she thinks no one is watching her.
She is ordinary in many ways as well. She gets into trouble. Her room is always a mess. She fights with her Brother. All the things that make up a child’s life are just as much a part of her as her ability to understand and do things that are far beyond her age level.
Yet her intelligence will be her weapon and I’ll explain why. In a lot of ways I found it to be mine as well. I was a C student (sometimes lower than that!) but I didn’t have to be. My parents told me for a long time that I could do anything I wanted to. I believed them but I only recently proved to myself that it was true. Was I lazy? Perhaps a little. But I think that my philosophy was the real culprit. I didn’t like to perform. I liked to do things that made me happy. Receiving grades for my work in school was a type of performance. I think I rebelled against that idea and as a result I settled for things being “good enough” and in most places only applied the effort that was necessary to accomplish what was required. In other things in my life; writing, reading, art, listening to music, playing games, I strove to do better. Probably because I did those things for me and no one else was going to decided whether I did them to the point that could be associated with one of the letters of the alphabet.
So how will she use her intellect to protect her and (God Willing!) others? I have already begun teaching her these basic principles:
1) You are smart.
2) It will hurt you as easily as help you.
3) It will hurt others as easily as help them.
4) You are responsible for what you do with it.
5) You should never be ashamed of it.
I’ve done my best, so far, to make her understand those 5 things. I believe that she understands most of them or at least has a basic understanding of the concept behind them. One of the things that “we” are teaching children is that being smart is something that you keep to yourself because it makes others who aren’t as smart as you feel bad. I agree and disagree. You should always do your best and if your best leads you to a goal or an award, be proud of it and hold your head high. You should never ridicule another for not achieving the same goal or winning an award or point out that they did not do as well as you did. Always congratulate your opponent. And this most importantly, sometimes you lose. How you lose is more important than how you win. It is easy to smile when you win; smiling when you lose comes from something deep inside you that is called, “Character.”
I wasn’t able to completely make this weapon for her, but I can at least teach her how to use it! And I hope she uses it more to “disarm” than to wound. Sometimes wounding will be necessary.
So we move on to the things I can make completely for her. Her shield and her armor.
Her shield will be her attitude about her beauty. Why the shield? Because it will be the first thing people attack and her first layer of defense. Sometimes a blow will get through and she needs something deeper. I’ll get to that in a minute. I do as much as I can to tell her she is beautiful. I am the man, in this stage of her life, she looks to for approval and to comfort her when things go wrong. I believe that she should at least grow up hearing from me that she is a beautiful woman. I tell her this not to inflate her ego, I tell her this to make her understand that it is not everything in life to be attractive. I know that sounds a little confusing. Won’t she grow up to think that if she hears it all the time from you? I don’t think so and I’ll tell you why. I believe that when she gets older she will realize that just because she is attractive it can not keep her out of trouble, get things (of real value: LOVE, HAPPINESS, PROSPERITY) she wants without working for them, and triumph over someone who is better than her at something that does not involve looks, or cause miracles to happen. After all, it never did in her childhood while she was in my care; therefore it should not translate as a truth to her adult life. It is important as she grows older that when her physical appearance is under attack from other people (especially others whom she calls friends) that it has never been what defines her or enables her to be successful. She will easily be able to fend off those attacks by dismissing their comments for what they are and when the attacks are so harsh they get through that first line of defense she can rely on who she is to carry her through that incident.
Which brings me to her armor. This is something I work on constantly. I believe that in order for someone to accomplish their goals and be a useful member of society, THEY MUST KNOW WHO THEY ARE!
The way I am trying to forge her defenses is by pointing out, to her, those things which I respect and admire about her. Teaching her compassion and honor. Teaching her to be like me in some ways and better than me in a whole lot more. Some key things I talk to her about:
1) Her ability to help and protect her little brother.
2) Her gentle nature when dealing with other kids.
3) Her sense of fairness when competing. (The biggest part of this one is the fact that there is no honor in winning against someone else that was unable to compete with you from the beginning. The reason for this was, she used to set up competitions for her and her brother to do, in which he was not fast enough or strong enough to pose a real threat to her possible victory. To my knowledge she has stopped this behavior. But I still continue to point it out!
4) Her drive for being excellent at the things she does.
5) Her imagination
6) Her compassion for all living things.
7) Her curiosity
8) The fact that people can, and will, let you down when you depend on them. Sometimes voluntarily. Learn to find the ones that do it less often and never on purpose and maintain your connections to them.
9) Human beings make mistakes, you must learn from them.
10) Actions, all actions, have intended and unintended consequences.
11) You are the person you choose to be.
By focusing on those things I am confident that, when her initial defenses are breached or fail her completely, knowing who she is at her core will help her recover and avoid the same problem in the future. It’s not important that she understands my motives at her age. It is only important that I continue them and do my best to not fail her in this endeavor.
So what about her brother? That sort of brings me back to talking about the way we treat women.
My job is the same for him as it is for her, but we’re not talking about him. So what I will address is what I am doing to educate him on how I expect him to behave.
First and foremost, He has a temper. Though I am sure it is not any different from any other child, he has had problems with lashing out physically when things don’t go his way. He is a little guy who is home most of the time with his Momma and his Big Sister so as a result they have been the victims in some of these physical tantrums.
I can see no greater opportunity than now to impress upon him while he is so very very young.:
“Lashing out with physical violence as a means of expressing disappointment is neither acceptable nor tolerated in my home. If the target of such physical expression is another human being it is reprehensible and deplorable. If the target of such a physical expression is a female it is catastrophically despicable and the consequences will be equally catastrophic.”
I understand it is necessary for him to see my relationship with his Mother and his Sister as nothing more than extraordinary. He must see that a woman not only deserves to be loved but that she is just as strong as he is (sometimes more so) and that she is ever his equal.
I do not believe that Chivalry is cliché, old-hat, something to be dismissed, and something that will only make a woman angry or feel incompetent. Those things only happen when it is used for the wrong purposes. Instead, I believe that if he is taught properly he will stand out as a man who respects and appreciates women.
He opens doors for her, lifts things up and down from places she can’t reach, stands from his seat when she leaves the table, restrains his use of vulgar language in front of her, defends her when necessary, assists her when she asks for it and when she doesn’t. He doesn’t do these things because she is incapable or she is not “allowed” to do them for herself. He does them as signs of respect and affection. That is the true intention behind Chivalric ideals. To honor a woman and make her feel loved and appreciated.
WE have forgotten these things in our society. It is seen in our everyday lives just as plainly as if it were written in black and white everywhere we go. WE have accepted too many compromises already as to what a woman is and where she belongs. WE have taken what would appall previous generations of Americans and allowed it to be common place. Even in some places, preferable to what should be.
What happened on the Jimmy Fallon show is only more “testing the waters” as to what people will dismiss as no big deal. It is a big deal. And I feel that if we do not correct it soon in the very near future it will completely destroy our ability to turn back.
WE must change the way we treat women. It starts at home and it starts by standing up and saying this is no longer acceptable. We will not stand for it. It ends here.