In my work as a director for a boy’s camp, I was able to see some of the best examples of male leadership, compassion, and care. I was particularly touched by the multiple times I saw college-aged young men helping to comfort homesick ten-year-olds. These young leaders were some of the most caring and fun guys I’ve met, busting outside of gender norms to help be role models for the next generation of men.
Which is why it worries me to see articles like this one in the Wall Street Journal. To summarize, Lenore Skenazy shares stories from around the world that point to society’s growing distrust of men as caregivers. While I understand how men are the primary perpetrators in the majority of crimes, I think there are better ways to protect children than constant suspicion and vigilance towards half of the population.
It’s quite concerning to me that we demonize men like this, when there are many examples of positive male role models and caregivers in our society (one only need look at the White House to see that). While attacks, sexual assaults, and misogyny happen, we need to be aware that there are just as many men out there fighting against these things than who perpetrate these acts.
The trend pointed out by Skenanzy also relates to growing suspicion of other people in general, with folks locking their doors and avoiding neighbors. We as a society are more distrustful in general. Ask any typical parent today whether they’d let their kids go to the park down the street by themselves, and I’m guessing they would say no, for fear of their kids going missing from the “strangers” in their neighborhood.
What can we do? We need to remember that the potential for good and bad can exist in all people, and living in paranoia is an unhealthy practice both for us and for our community. As a staunch supporter of using a community to produce social change, this idea is difficult for me. When you and your neighbors (especially the male ones) lack a mutual sense of trust, it will be impossible to create those special communities that take care of each other. Let’s make sure that any males in our life are treated with cautious respect when it comes to children, and acknowledge that while any given male may be a sexual predator, the vast majority of them are not. Instead, they are great influences, role models, and caretakers.
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Photo thanks to rossaroni on Flickr Creative Commons.