Hi Readers — On the bus going across town today my husband and I sat behind a girl of about 13. No one sat next to her, even though a couple of folks were standing. This reminded me of my long-ago trip to Turkey. When I was there in the 1980s, at least, men were not allowed to take an empty seat next to a woman.
I don’t know if this was law or custom, but the thinking seemed to be that men are too rude, easily excited or perverse to sit next to women. In other words: Their entire gender is guilty, or at least gross. And I worry that that’s the direction we’re headed now, too. Except instead of worrying for our womenfolk, we worry for our kids.
Lately I have been hearing so many stories of people afraid of ANY men around their kids: Moms who won’t let their 9-year-olds use the men’s bathroom. Parents who won’t let their daughter be the first or last kid on the school bus, because the driver is a male (and God knows what could happen)! Even a parent who pulled her kid out of a pre-school class taught by a male teacher — because why would any man want to help kids for any decent reason? (For the record, my younger son had a male pre-school teacher — gay, even — who was the best ever!)
Last week I heard a horrible story from a mom — call her Ellen — whose own sister won’t let her son be around Ellen’s husband, ever. Why not? The sisters live several states apart, but on one visit Ellen’s husband taught this boy, his nephew, how to make shelves and then gave him some tools. A few years later the uncle saw his nephew again and wrestled with him. This was enough for the sister to assume he was “grooming” her son for a sexual relationship and now all bets are off.
So are all family visits.
Let us reiterate something here: Most people — male and female — are good. Prejudice is not. Do we want to become a country where we forbid men from sitting next to kids on buses? As one reader wrote so brilliantly to this blog: “being around kids while male” is the new “driving while black.”
I’m starting to feel bad for men. And kids. — Lenore