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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learning the right lesson about gender and violence

Something about this article at The Roots rubbed me the wrong way. The author of the piece related how she had taught her son not to hit girls under any circumstances and how this lesson was revisited in the wake of the Rihanna-Chris Brown controversy. This lesson is too simplistic to cover the many circumstances where her son should take measures to protect himself, no matter the gender of the aggressor. Also, the author leaves me wondering what she would have told her daughter (if she had one) about gender and violence. It's one thing to tell your daughter that she has a right never to be hit; but would you also teach her that it is not right to engage in physical violence herself? Like most sane people, I believe that men should not strike women because on average men tend to be bigger and stronger than women. So, for all those Chris Brown apologists out there, I'm not on board with you. Nothing Rihanna is reported to have done could have justified Brown's violence. And even if a woman is stronger or bigger than a man, a man should only take reasonable measures to deflect and not harm - unless he is truly in danger of physical injury. For example, if a woman assaults a man with a knife and he has to do more than just deflect in order to protect his life, then he should take those extra measures.

But somehow the underlying message in this latest sordid story out of Hollywood seems to have been lost on many commenters at various blogs and news sites. The real issue here is more than just gender politics; it is the violation of basic human decency and respect. No one, whether boy - or girl - should be hitting anyone. If I had children of either gender, I would stress this point: not to hit at all unless it is to protect yourself - no matter the gender of the other person. My son would be told not to hit girls or even smaller boys - unless he is subject to real physical harm. And I would tell my daughter the same thing. Outside the parameters of protecting themselves, my hypothetical daughter would no more have the right to strike out at another than would my hypothetical son. In other words, the strong should never prey on the weak, no matter the gender. So, no striking out against those who are smaller, weaker, or who cannot duly retaliate because of a moral or social prohibition. Again, this is just a matter of basic HUMAN respect, which too many people of either sex seem to be bereft of.

Again, this is not so much an observation on the Rihanna-Chris Brown fallout as it is a response to The Root article's author, whom I believe gave her son a faulty - or at minimal, an incomplete - lesson.


Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 2/17/2009 02:44:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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