I believe that my parents did their very best when raising their children. They were very serious about their duty as parents to instill character and moral values in me and my siblings. Everything in life was an opportunity for a lesson. My parents were both very quick to lecture, but it never felt onerous. I remember my mother talking to me about fair play, probably after some kind argument with one of my brothers, and it quickly escalated to her explaining that if she allowed me to be unfair as a child I would carry that flaw into adulthood and eventually treat my family, friends, and coworkers unfairly. I remember these little lectures. I find myself appreciating them. I’ll think to myself, “where did I hear that? Oh yea, my mom told me so when I was seven.”
One thing that my parents taught, especially my father, was that a man should never, ever, harm a woman. A common scene in our house, when one of my brothers or I were giving our mother a hard time, was for my father to take our hand and ask us, “what is our job?” The answer, we all knew, was “take care of mom”. When our sisters were born (after six boys in a row my parents finally got the daughters they wanted), the canned answer changed to, “take care of girls”. We could tease our brothers, but never our sisters. We could argue over what television shows to watch, but when one of the girls sat on the couch they had free reign of the remote control. None of this felt forced or unfair, at least not from my point of view. I adored my mother and my sisters and all I had ever known about women was that I was to care for them. It was like looking both ways before I crossed the street or keeping my elbows off the table.
When I was seven years old I came home crying. A bully from our neighborhood had pinched my arm until it bled. They dug into my forearm with their fingernails. Not once, but four times. In a row. While I stood there. While they laughed. My mother asked, after I explained to her everything that had happened, why I hadn’t struggled or run away. The reason was because it was one of the Testa sisters from down the block, and I knew that I was not supposed to hurt girls. Similar things happened to my brothers as well. When a girl pushed us around we didn’t retaliate. Even as I get older I find myself thinking that I’m glad that those girls had an opportunity to feel strong.
I’m getting lost in all this. Let me focus in.
I worry that the ingrained sense of protecting and caring for women is patriarchy dressed up in it’s best suit. Hold the door for women, carry their bags, give them a piggy back ride when they’re tired of walking. These were things that I was taught and believed in and am now (over the last several years) recognizing as demonstrations of power over women. It’s kind, but is it the right kind of kindness? The best I can do, the best I suppose any of us guys can do, is shut up and listen to the women around us. But it weighs on my mind, like, a lot. I suppose it should, these are very serious issues that effect real people and ultimately, if I want to honor the spirit of what my parents taught me about caring for women, it’s up to me to find out how that actually works in the real world.
It doesn’t help women to make them think they can do no wrong or that they should be listened to based on their gender alone at all times or to make them think a disagreement is an offense. Women are strong enough to take criticism. Individuals who believe the things you’ve been taught actually think less of women. Legitimate rape and domestic violence statistics show men are victims just as often, especially at the hands of women. If women want whatever rights they think they don’t have, they should take the same responsibilities that men have also. They should fight to abolish the draft instead of excluding themselves from it. They should expect retaliation and self-defense against the abuse they may inflict. They should expect the same criminal consequences. But they don’t. You can still respect women without disrespecting or disregarding yourself. Your parents had good intentions with what they taught you, I don’t criticize their character. But you have to look at all people as equal, and I believe you were raised to give privileges to women. It’s things like this example of a household that women really aren’t disrespected as much as society believes they are. Government is a lot of the source for both genders’ oppression. I’d recommend watching this video and this video, they’re really eye opening to people who try but fail to see gender issues on both sides.