I have been following a thread on a group Facebook page for The Good Men Project that was prompted by a video I had posted that showed a young woman being harassed by two young men while she was walking home from school. What happens next is conversation stirring. One by one, other men step up and make a human barrier between her and the ones who would do her harm. Some who see it feel it is heartwarming and reassuring while others feel it is paternalistic and sexist.
It had me thinking about the ways in which boys and girls are raised to become men and women. Are women by nature in need of male protection? Are men by virtue of size and strength obligated to protect women? What if a woman is capable of looking after herself most of the time? Is it still a man’s job to take care of her? Does it disempower her?
My take is that no one should feel unsafe walking alone, in danger of assault or harassment.
I grew up with an overprotective father who worried about me (I suspect until the day he died in 2008) and made sure that I could stand on my own two feet without requiring a man to provide for me. When I was married, my husband and I shared financial responsibility and since he died, I have been supporting myself and my son. We shared household tasks and there was no division of labor in terms of ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ in our home just as it had been in the home of my family of origin in which both parents did everything.
My dad raised (along with my mother who was not smothering) my sister and me as kids and girls. Frilly dresses and jeans. Acting ‘like a lady’ and digging in the dirt, riding bikes, flying kites, roller skating, learning to change tires and oil. He was a gentleman and treated women with respect; opening doors and holding out chairs. He was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy and worked out well into his late 70’s-early 80’s and could easily have been a body guard. He likely would have felt it was a man’s job to protect a woman. He wouldn’t have supported me walking alone at night as I have many times. AND he knew I would make my own choices without putting myself in harm’s way.
This song by Dar Williams called When I Was A Boy says it brilliantly. As men and women, may we all feel free to choose our own way to be.
Photo Credit- epSos.de/Everystock