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January 27, 2013

Mom: "I Don't Want My Preschooler to be a Gentleman"

What's this? Another post on chivalry and manners? Is this becoming the "chivalry and manners" blog? (Hmmm, maybe that's an idea...)

I couldn't help myself when I saw this post in the Style section of the New York Times (h/t: I believe it was Instapundit yet again, but it's been a week so I'm not sure).

In the "Motherlode" part of the Style section ("Motherlode?" As the name of a parenting column? Ain't that just adorable?), Lynn Messina writes "I don't want my preschooler to be a gentleman."

Messina opens the blog this way:
"My 4-year-old son, Emmett, swallows a spoonful of cereal and asks me if I know what a gentleman is. Surprised, I tell him I have some idea; then I ask what the word means to him.

“A gentleman lets girls go first,” he says, explaining that every day at naptime all the girls go to the bathroom before the boys."
She is horrified that her young boy "just got his first lesson in sexism" by a teacher who, she says, no doubt means well.

I personally would say that the teacher is making it way too simplistic, though maybe that's because of the age-level she's dealing with. I don't know.

Anyway, she goes on to lament that her views seem out of step with the mainstream. "Almost everyone I mention it to thinks it’s lovely and sweet. What’s the harm in teaching little boys to respect little girls?" (Because I guess respect is a bad thing?)

But wait, there's more! While she doesn't like it as a mother, she's horribly offended as a feminist. Because didn't we get rid of treating women differently thirty years ago? Perish the thought! It's horrible that men would treat with women with respect and courtesy even beyond what they would give to any man! You're an evil scumbag if you beat a woman, but you're also an evil scumbag keeping women down when you open the door for them or offer to lift a heavy suitcase!

Pure evil, it knows no bounds.

But she sees through men's evil plans:
"Letting girls use the bathroom first isn’t a show of respect. It is, rather, the first brick in the super high pedestal that allows men to exalt women out of sight. A true show of respect is paying us equally for the same work, not 77 cents on the dollar, which is the current average. That’s the world I want my son to live in and I seriously doubt it will ever happen as long as women believe men should hold the door open for them."
Yeah, because men just want women out of sight completely, and that's the only reason they would treat a woman with extra respect.

I want to highlight something Lee Habeeb wrote on National Review Online, called "The War Against Black Men," because I think it speaks to the cultural aspect of this issue.

Habeeb talks about how the nation (he's talking about Chicago, but I think it's a societal problem) doesn't have a gun problem, it has a father problem. Or lack thereof.

What pertains to my point is this:
"When young men don’t have fathers, they don’t learn to control their masculine impulses. They don’t have fathers to teach them how to channel their masculine impulses in productive ways.

When young men don’t have fathers, those men will seek out masculine love — masculine acceptance — where they can find it. Often, they find it in gangs."
He's not talking about how men treat women in this article. He's talking more about violence in general.

But it does bring to mind something that I also think is a problem in this society where men aren't taught to respect women, where misguided feminists think that treating a woman with an extra bit of respect and courtesy is somehow demeaning them. The combination of the two can be quite toxic.

When women aren't respected in society, you get this.
Fathers are an important aspect of that training. Boys learn from their fathers how to treat women, because they live every day seeing how their father treats their mother. There are other influences as well, of course. Evidently Messina's son's teacher is an influence too.

Of course, I'm not saying that it can't be taken too far, and some men do treat women this way because they don't think they are capable of doing anything themselves. Holding the door and carrying things for your wife doesn't mean anything when you also verbally demean her and treat her as useless and as somebody who should stay in the kitchen and be quiet.

But do we have to throw out the good stuff with the bad? Why does respect have to be thrown out with the condescension?

Messina goes on to say that in her mind, a gentleman lets other people go first, regardless of gender. "If two boys reach the top of the slide at the same time, a gentleman lets the other one go first." (why do I picture that and see two boys just constantly gesturing to each other for the other to go first, until they start fighting over who gets to go last?)

Her final paragraph is the kicker, though.
"It’s churlish to argue, so I let it go, and when, a few hours later in the park, I see him grab his soccer ball from a girl his own age, I feel a ridiculous rush of relief at his ungentlemanly behavior. Then I cross the field to remind him yet again how to share."
Why she seems to think that treating women with respect takes the place of basic civility in general, I don't know. Can't a boy learn to share without also losing the basic respect for women?

It is possible to have both, you know.


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