Welcome to the first entry on the Illiterate Infants “Mums on Dads” guest posting series, where mums get to talk about Dads. What they love, hate, do and don’t understand, want to change and want to keep. Pre-conceptions, mis-conceptions or even conception. If you’ve got something to say I’d love to hear about it.
I’d like to introduce Danya from danyabanya.com who’s kicking things off with a great discussion on society’s (wrong, very wrong) assumption that all blokes are sick perverts. Once you’ve read this post get on over and check out some of her other posts here then connect with her on facebook, twitter and google plus.
As a parent, I understand the need to be vigilant about paedophilia. Of course. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. But I think that society has taught us to be vigilant in the wrong areas. And in our misguided vigilance, we are being discriminatory. But more than that, we are creating a sense that honest men are assumed to be perverts. Where good men are discouraged from being involved in the upbringing of children in our society.
You might remember the Seat Swap Outcry news story back in August where a man, who was seated on a Virgin flight next to two unaccompanied minors, was asked to swap seats with a woman, purely because of his gender. At the time, Virgin’s policy was that unaccompanied minors were not allowed to sit next to men, based on the assumption that sitting next to a woman is somehow “safer”.
Now let’s just point out that the overwhelming vast majority of men are not paedophiles. And it is totally demeaning to be treated as though you are a potential paedophile, just because you’re male.
But secondly, even if the man in question was a paedophile, that doesn’t mean that the children would be in danger. Because you see, that’s not how most paedophiles choose their victims. If you look at the profile of most paedophiles, they spend time choosing and then grooming their victims. They don’t just prey on any child they happen to be sat next to, especially in such a public space.
But whilst I don’t agree with Virgin’s then policy, I do understand that it is fueled by a public paedophobia (or paedophileophobia), which has gotten entirely out of control. To the point when you can’t be male and interested in children in any way without falling under suspicion.
Mr Banya (my husband) takes our Miss JJ to her weekly toddler swimming classes. JJ’s recently graduated to a class where she no longer requires a parent to be in the water with her, but of course, Mr Banya still sits by the side of the pool with the other mothers parents. Last week, one of the teaching staff sat down next to him asking “Now, who are you here with?” When Mr Banya pointed to JJ, the staff member said “OK” and promptly got back up and kept walking. There was no discussion as to JJ’s performance in the class or whatnot. It was bleeding obvious what she was doing – she was checking that he had a legitimate reason to be there.
Would she have stopped and asked a woman that question?
What if he wasn’t there with JJ – would he have been asked to leave?
What if he’d been waiting for me & JJ to arrive? What if he was scoping out swimming classes before possibly enrolling her? What if he had an interest in becoming a swimming teacher and was sussing out different swimming schools?
Would he have been asked to leave then? Would a woman be asked to leave in any of those instances?
A friend of mine, who is totally not paedophillic in any way mind you, was taking some photos at the beach one day. He was entering a photography competition, which incidentally he ended up winning with an awesome photo of some lifeguards out on the rubber ducky. Some of the photos he was taking were beach landscapes, which included a couple of kids paddling down by the waters edge. They had cossies on. They weren’t the subject of the photo. It was zoomed out – they were just incidental to the scene. But he was still asked to stop shooting. Like he was a dirty old man.
Would it have been OK if he was a female photographer? How zoomed out / out of focus does it have to be before photography is OK?
Would he have been asked to stop if he was painting instead of shooting? What about artistic freedom?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone paedophilia or child pornography in any way, shape or form. But these are situations where none of that was in play. And yet still, the first assumption is of perversion.
Paedophobia gone mad.
A guy came up to us in the park recently and asked if he could take a photo of Grace because ‘she’s so cute”. He didn’t appear to be with any kids and to be honest it totally freaked me out. I’m sure it was innocent, but it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t let him take the photo. I would have said no if it had been a woman too!
What you have said no if it was a reporter from the paper, doing an article on kids using park spaces for instance? If you would have said yes in that instance, then what’s the difference? A newspaper photo would be much more widely spread than any individual taking a photo, because it also appears on the papers website, but somehow this is perceived differently. (Not criticising your decision, just trying to look at it from a different angle). JJ & Bee have both been in the paper recently, which means that their photo is also on the paper’s website. But then I also spread their photos across my blog… Having said that though, I try to disassociate their real names with my blog, and Mr Banya is insistent that no photos of JJ or Bee appear in their undies, or in their nappies, etc because of the potential for the photos to be viewed by anyone…
It would be different though, if it was a reporter doing an article he would have had a reason to take the photo. This was just a random guy asking for a photo.. I’ve no idea what he wanted it for. It was the lack of reason/explanation that made me uncomfortable.
Totally agree re photos of kids in undies/nappies. I reached the same conclusion!
Thanks Danya Banya for a thoughtful post. Of course no one condones child abuse in any form but society’s panic about this issue is way out of proportion to the actual dangers. I blame the media for over sensationalizing the cases that do unfortunately occur. Just look at the orgy of coverage of the Jimmy Saville debacle. Now decent men are reluctant to work with young kids as soccer coaches, scout leaders etc and society is much poorer for it.
You know when you are on the train or whatever, and your young toddler is smiling, waving, being absolutely adorable and looking for attention and there’s some man in a suit basically staring at his newspaper and ignoring said young toddler? I wonder if that’s because they’ve learnt that it doesn’t pay to show interest. That if they interact with young kids people will look at them funny, pull their kids away, and they’ll end up feeling like they did something wrong. If so many men shun the attention seeking behaviour of youngsters, is it any wonder that young kids so often get shy around men (who are bigger, have lower voices etc anyway)…
My husband regularly takes our 2.5 year old daughter out for walks, to play in the park or to the grocery store by himself, and it has crossed my mind before to wonder whether people give him the stank eye. Especially because she’s…high-spirited, shall we say…and I’m know he’s had to carry her around kicking and screaming before. I worry that someone will think he’s abducting her. But I love that they have such a good relationship and that he’s a complete partner in parenting. I would rather have someone question him, than assume the man with her is her father and not say anything if she really were in trouble.
Our Miss JJ is, hmm, a bit spirited herself. 🙂 Mr Banya has had to carry her off kicking and screaming before and has wondered what people think. But in that situation I would rather someone question too. Because the potential for that to be a real abduction is much greater. Just as I wouldn’t mind if someone questioned me if I were the one (as I often am) carrying off my kicking and screaming toddler. (Although in the moment I would probably swear because it’s wouldn’t be easy to stop and have a conversation with a screaming toddler in your arms). I would also look twice at anyone who is enticing kids towards the back of a van for example, regardless of whether they were male or female…
Nice post Danya – I think you’ll get some spirited comments on this one.
I’ve actually just finished reading a post over at Free Range Kids about someone calling the police on a Grandfather – http://www.freerangekids.com/thanks-for-assuming-im-a-pedophile-just-because-i-was-out-with-my-grandson/
I think most people are just trying to do the right thing. We’ve come a long way really – at least we’re talking about about child sexual abuse now. I believe paedophobia is natural – I fear them. At the end of the day, the statistics are awful – the majority of reports I’ve read estimate that 1/4 Australian girls and 1/7 Australian boys are victims of child sexual assault, most at the hands of people that they know well.
With the advent of the internet and child porn rings, I reserve the right to be vigilant around images of my children – if I saw someone taking a photo that included my kids in their swimmers, I’d ask them to delete them and move on – regardless of artistic focus.
Thanks for including that link, I hadn’t read it before. I think people’s concern is off kiltler. Sure be concerned about paedophiles. But be concerned about people that your child repeatedly spends time with one on one, rather than random men they might interact with within a public environment.
Having said that, I respect your decision not to allow photos of your kids in their swimmers. It’s your kids, and you have to do what you feel is right by them. But I guess it’s just the double standard that gets me…
Very interesting topic. There are two primary schools nearby on our way home and I get the same feeling when I’m driving alone and have to slow down to 40 through the school crossing, that people are staring at me and judging me. Weird. Plus, when I was 21, I was Santa Claus at a local shopping centre and I replaced a lovely old man who’d been Santa for over 20 years. He loved the job and relished it immensely. The story goes that he’d kept a photo album of random pics from when he’d been Santa for all those years as a treaured memory of his experiences bringing joy to kids every year, and that someone had heard about this album, reported him and he was duly fired. What is UP, society?
It’s all a bit bonkers. But like other comments have said, maybe with the the ease of posting stuff on the internet we all need to be a bit more wary. I think the trick is to g.t some balance, easier said than done.
Isn’t that crazy. All you are doing is driving your car according to the road rules and you feel like you are being judged. And even if you aren’t actually being judged, it is still reflective of the society we live in today that that’s the way you feel. Better keep your head down and not smile at any of the kids lest you get reported!
A very interesting post and subject. Society seems to be so quick to assume the worst in everyone, but it wasn’t always like this really was it? Life is so different because of the internet, social media, computers, digital technology. Our kids are growing up in revolutionary times, just like our parents who saw a man walk on the moon and the TV invented! Emily
I’m so glad that I don’t have a teenager in these revolutionary times. (Thinking of Saturday Morning Ogre Mum’s post from last Friday). At least by the time my kids are older they can learn from the social media mistakes of today’s teenagers…
wow! I never thought of that before! My husband loves kids and frequently comments on how cute a child is, if he sees one in the store or elsewhere!! Of course, we usually are together, but I wonder if the parents would have given him the stink eye had he been alone!