“Are you a feminist?” a friend asked me when I was in college. I didn’t know what it meant back then and am not exactly certain even now. However, I candidly answered that I believe in women standing up for them and owning their identity. Any other definition of feminism is perhaps agenda-driven. Since then I’ve observed that there are men who understand and support this ideology too. Yet we often generalise and paint them all in one colour; black. Is gender-based trust and behaviour the right way to go?
I chose to write about #GenderTalks this year for #CauseAChatter since it’s a topic I feel closely about. I was raised in a home where I had more freedom, financial and otherwise, than my brother since I was responsible. My parents were the first true feminists and I never knew it! By God’s grace, now I’m a mother to a son and daughter and have their role to play. However, the world has changed and so has the way we approach parenting. We’re always in defense mode and unsparing gender-based trust has become a reality. It’s good to be vigilant but are we right in planting the seed of prejudice in the innocent minds of our kids?
Let me share an anecdote. When A Jr was 5yo I accompanied him for his Taekwando classes. He had an excellent male instructor who pushed them to exercise, tapped their limbs with a stick to improve their posture and gave them stretches after each class. While every child queued excitedly for his turn there was one girl, A Jr’s age, who clearly stated that she wanted a female instructor. One of the senior students was assigned the job. This incident got us moms talking and I was aghast to be the only one who saw the real problem. None of us had any knowledge of the backstory but poor Sir had already attained the image of a child abuser in everyone’s eyes. Were they right in judging him?
Misplaced priorities, personal vendetta and past bad experiences influence the way we feel about the opposite sex in an unhealthy way. Sadly, knowingly or unknowingly we pass these on to impressionable people (yes, elders included) around us. We cannot see the entire world through the same set of glasses though, can we? Gender-based trust is unfair, even undeserving. How can we teach our kids to trust the right people for the right reasons?
Teach more than good touch and bad touch
Shocking statistics reveal that even toddlers are often subjected to emotional and physical abuse in schools and daycare. Good touch and bad touch, although uncomfortable to talk about, need to be gently discussed with them. However, the onus of not limiting it to a gender falls upon us and is both conscientious and responsible. Driver Uncles aren’t necessarily bad and mawshis can’t casually ‘touch you anywhere’ and get away with it. Teach your kids to trust their instincts and raise an alarm whenever they feel threatened or violated.
Consider the long-term effects
We might not welcome the idea but the fact remains that some day our kids will grow up and get intimate with someone. I’ll talk about LGBTQ community in another post hence limiting my views to man-woman relationship for now. By teaching our kids to steer clear of the other gender we’re teaching them distrust. Will these kids grow up and have a normal relationship or married life? Will they be able to surrender themselves to true love or gender-based trust will affect it? Remember, kids have their own capacity to understand and interpret. Don’t push it.
Respect their privacy and preferences
Consent isn’t the privilege of grown-ups only. Kids sometimes refuse to acknowledge or accept the physical affection shown by friends and family. While this may put you in an embarrassing spot, firmly convey to them that you respect their privacy and so should they. Encourage your kids to hang out with their favourite Uncles and Aunts instead. I’ve been at the receiving end of this and was thankfully rescued by my mother until I learnt to say NO. Your kids need you on their side, please be.
Its time we come together for the greater good and make this world a better and safer place for our kids. I’m a mom blogger and have never shied away from expressing my honest views about parenting. I respect your opinion and am anticipating a healthy feedback on this post. Please do leave a comment and stay tuned for my next instalment for #GenderTalks.