Smashing The Crystal Ball

2016-09-17 12:29

The drive home from school after picking my daughter up each day is undoubtedly the most precious time we get to spend together. It's the kind of Father-&-Daughter time that makes mothers envious of the special bonds between dads and their little girls. It's also the time my daughter and I get to discuss more intense topics; topics she has views and opinions about which always leave me fascinated.

Like bullying, and gender roles, and sexism, and chauvinism; and how they are all smeltered together in a huge crystal ball which glistens like a majestic souvenir to patriarchy. A crystal ball which needs to be smashed. These are the conversations we have. Conversations about smashing the crystal ball.

Her first experience with bullying and sexism and chauvinism may have come very early on. As parents, and more-so as fathers, we tend not to realize and address these things when they happen to our daughters. It's easy to overlook. It is after all our gender being the aggressor, more often than not. We'd like to think we stamp it out when we see it, or hear about it. We don't really though. We stamp it out with the same vigor and urgency we stamped out cigarettes we didn't want to get caught with, yet still wanted to smoke after the parents or elders had walked on by.

When our sons get bullied at school or come home in tears, we tell them to man up and fight back.

"Be a man! Big boys don't cry!"

When our daughters get bullied at school or come home in tears, we console them, we mollycoddle them.

We tell them everything is going to be ok. That we'll sort those kids out.

Is it really going to be ok though? Are we really going to sort anybody out? Or are we just pacifying them in the hope that the tears will stop, irrespective of the scars that need a deeper healing?

I asked her about her first experience with bullying.

It was at the hands of a fellow student. A bigger boy.

She's 10, with a small build that she compensates for with a sharp tongue. She could easily have sparred him in a verbal battle. A physical one? Not so much.

When it happened, she looked around to get some context and understanding from those who witnessed it. It's how kids adapt to situations. They see how society reacts. They base judgements and lay foundations based on those reactions. As adults we do it too.

The other boys cheered the bully on. Cheered his bravado. Cheered his prowess. Cheered his show of masculinity.

The girls were subdued. Uncertain. Afraid. Tense and anxious and waiting to be rescued from the uncomfortability of it all. Rescued by an elder. Preferably a male.

In one fell swoop, gender roles had been defined and battle lines drawn between the sexes.

At age 10, a group of children had just had their first taste of bullying, sexism, gender roles, chauvinism, structural violence and patriarchy.

The status quo was well and truly entrenched.

The matter was subsequently dealt with and resolved.

The aftermath led to numerous discussions on owning her space, her voice, her rights and her person.

The challenge for me as a parent is allowing her to own her person, without it being overcome by her ego. Knowing that her space, her voice and her rights are never to be denounced or minimized also means mutually respecting others for the same.

But I want her to be loud and not timid. I want her to be fearless, with her actions and her words. Demand the space she wants, and own it. Own her voice in a way that she never needs to apologize for her opinion. Own her voice so she never needs to say sorry when she's not. Own her voice so that 'No' will be enough, and never needs to be substantiated. I want her to consider others feelings, but never at the expense of her own. To know that crying is ok. It's never a sign of weakness. That silence is never ok. I want her to speak up, for herself, for her sisters in search of their own voice, and for anyone too afraid to. I want her to know that she should get angry. She must get angry. She must get furious and mad and and incensed and livid; and she must turn this rage into action.

She's turned me into a feminist, dare I say. She's forced me to look at how society is so skewed and biased towards males, that the males who do sometimes end up fighting this patriarchy also end up doing so from a position of power. They end up serving the role of protector. They end up being a different version of the very system they're trying to fight.

Like when I threatened to go to the school and unleash my fury.

And she asked "But what happens tomorrow when you're not there? Teach me rather how to unleash my own fury."

And so we learn.

I want her to fight the system. To constantly teach me how to as well.

To hold hands with her sisters wherever they may be and stand up against patriarchy.

And smash that crystal ball.

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