The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, July 14, 2006

A very real fear

There's been a lot of criticism of Maia's post about baby boys, so far all from male commenters and bloggers (as far as I know).

What I took Maia to be posting about wasn't the negative man-hating rant that so many critics have intuited. I read it as Maia's thoughts about how it is that beautiful baby boys sometimes grow up to do terrible things, in particular rape. She doesn't quite ask the question, how can we nurture them in their childhood to avoid that, but I think it is implied in her post.

If we want to eliminate rape then we have to start with raising healthy children - emotionally as well as physically. Children who don't feel so insecure that they need to have power over others, through rape and abuse. Our babies need to grow up with love and understanding, not seeing violence as normal but instead as abhorrent.

The fear of raising a child who does something terrible is probably not something many people think about. But it happened in my family - one of my cousins did a horrific thing, and was in prison for a long time. The torment this has put my aunt through has been never-ending, not just because of how she feels for her son, but also the sense of responsibility she feels towards the victim and their family. I know that I've certainly wondered what I could have done differently, in my interactions with my cousin, that could have averted tragedy.

For Maia to raise this fear, to discuss it openly, may be unusual, but it is certainly not unhealthy, nor is it man-hating. It is simply the way that many of us feel when faced with a baby - hopefuly for it's potential and future, but at the same time fearful of the world it may encounter and how our society may shape the child for the worse.

Maia's post is short, but much has been read into it by those hostile to feminism (and, I would argue, hostile to women). All you really need to know about her post is summed up in this fragment:

I'm so scared of what this world will turn him into... How our world in
general, and the army more than anything, makes men into monsters.
How is it man-hating to hope that we can change our world and raise men who don't rape?

Update, 5.20pm Sat 15th July 2006: Maia has written a follow-up post about all this here.


backin15 said...

Span, Maia's comments seemed overstated to me. All parents are concerned about how their children will cope in an occassionally (increasingly?) hostile world, however Maia seemed to think there was an inevitability of violence particularly for boys - that's what I think people reacted to. Of course, many of the blog comments on the blogs you link to are extreme and choose the most extreme interpretation; it's how they get hits.

David Farrar said...

I've discussed Maia's post with almost a dozen females (not just friends - also friends of friends at a meeting) and without exception they have said they just do not ever see the world in the way Maia does, looking at a baby and wondering whether he might be a rapist one day etc.

This will sound patronising, and I don't know how to not make it sound patronising, so I'll say it anyway but I actually feel very sorry for Maia. She just seems to hate most things about the world, about society etc. I suppose it's how I would feel if I lived in a communist state. Now what one blogs about is not necessairly what you think about 24 hours a day.

You, Span, and I have massively different views on almost every issue but I have never had a problem understanding your world-view - it just isn't mine. But I have to say with Maia I simply can't even comprehend how one has a world-view which is so alien to most people.

Insolent Prick said...

It is legitimate to see a baby and wonder what the world will be like when they are older. It is also legitimate to think about the parental influences that are necessary to give that baby the best opportunity in life. It is further legitimate to wonder about some of the genuine dangers in the real world, and how to provide the child with the tools to deal with them.

The Iraq war is not a genuine influence that a baby child born in New Zealand today will have to deal with. Poverty, disease, and dysfunctional family environments are not normal issues that most children born to responsible parents face in New Zealand. Politicising those issues around a baby just shows how fanciful and deluded from reality Maia's world view is.

Any person who looks at a baby, and the first concern is whether that baby will grow up to be a rapist, or be raped, is completely divorced from human existence.

That post is extremely revealing about Maia's state of mind, and the sanity of the warped way she sees the world.

The real threat to that child is the utterly repulsive thoughts that people around him are putting into his head: to fear everyone and everything, and blame everyone and everything for any hardships that the child will face in life. Young children do not deserve to have Maia's kind of freak-show ideas foisted on them.

backin15 said...

Fella's ease up a little, it's not your view or mine or even a mainstream view but to decry to person who holds the view in the way you both have is unecessarily harsh.

David Farrar said...

I haven't decried Maia. I have simply said I can not comprehend her world-view, and that this is very rare for me as I can comprehend most world views from libertarian to socialist.

I can comprehend (as much as one can not being female) the fear of rape, domestic violence, harrassment, being judged on looks not ability etc. I often discuss these issues with female friends. What I can't comprehend is having that fear so large and over powering that it affects how you think about a one year old.

backin15 said...

Fair comment David.

I don't see the world in quite as stark terms either but who knows what her, or her friends, experience has been - I guess if you've been close to or through violence you might become overly wary?

I guess I'm not convinced that it is an irrational view, though it does seem exagerated.

stephen said...

It's also a polemical view. I don't know what Maia is trying to achieve with her blog but I presume that she is deliberately stressing her angle on the world - and why not? I don't see that Maia's world view is any stranger or more extreme than, say, Sir Humphrey's.

Fundamentally the issue seems to be that Maia is preoccupied with male abuse of women.Given the state of the world, that doesn't seem any odder than being preoccupied with tax reform or the welfare state...

Psycho Milt said...

Sir Humphrey's doesn't have a world view, I'd just like to point out.

Make Tea Not War said...

I really don't think it is abnormal if, as in the case, a friend has recently been a rape victim, to look at a baby boy and hope he never does such thing. It's probably not something to dwell on much but still everyone wants their children to grow up to be good people and, of course, our hopes are effected by what is happening in our surroundings.

I think people have overreacted to her comments and don't really understand why some of them feel a need to attack a woman that (I assume) they don't know who has done no harm to them or as far as I can tell to anyone. If you don't like her blog don't read it.

Genius said...

Maia indicates she doesn't dwell on it that much.

But if she did there is a danger that the presence of the concept in your mind will almost inevitably be passed to the child as a sort of expectation.

The concept that men are rapists or blacks are criminals etc might be of that nature.

stef said...

I think the thing that bothered me about her post was that because *some* men rape, she should be protecting the boy from being a rapist. Rather than just introducing postive male rolemodels for the boy to look up to.

Put it another way would the best way to set your girl on the right path be to expose her to all the negative images of women and tell her not to be like them. Or surround her with postive images of women to aspire to.

I know which one I'd give my kids.

stef said...

Sorry last sentence shoudl say. I know which one I'd be worrying about giving my kids.

libertyscott said...

"How is it man-hating to hope that we can change our world and raise men who don't rape?"

I NEVER said Maia was man-hating and indeed explicitly said that I did not think she was. My primary concern has been a view that sees male children as initiators of violence (not potential victims as well), and female as only victims.

It is a peculiarity of those who hold onto identity politics that those who question the philosophy behind it are somehow thought of as "minimising" the horrors of violent/sexual crimes against women.

I pointed out that boys get raped too, and got accused of being a "mens' rights troll". Well pardon me if I don't find the fact that a family member was raped as a boy as important as a girl being raped - there is no hierarchy of victims, and I don't hide from the fact that men commit the majority of those acts, but that does not make me responsible for them - anymore than women are responsible for the minority of murderous, abusive mothers.

Most of the comments I have seen do NOT minimise rape. They do not tolerate it one iota.

I agree essentially with all you have said - parents will worry about their children and what will happen to them - be they victim or abuser or neither. I also think Maia has good intentions.

However, the perspective appears to be a "boys become men who could be abusers" and "girls are the victims". Sometimes boys do, sometimes boys are victims, girls are more often victims than perpetrators - but all should be treated as innocent and loved equally, and protected equally. I know as a child, if I had the message as a young boy that I had to be vigilant that I wouldn't hurt anyone, I'd start to be paranoid. I'd worry that girls would be scared of me, because they might think I'm one of the bad men.

By the way there have been female comments, I know at least Lindsay Mitchell (who has a son) commented on Maia's blog directly about this.

span said...

I would encourage commenters here to read Maia's original post and her follow-up as well. I am concerned that many may have read the posts by others criticising her before they read her actual post, and thus they have read in to her words a rather extreme view, IMHO.

LibertyScott - where do I, or Maia say you are man-hating? It was another commenter entirely who called you a mens rights troll, and given some of the context of her comment I can understand why she may have taken that view, although I do tend to think you aren't of that ilk myself.

As regards Lindsay Mitchell's comments - I did wonder if that was a she Lindsay (I know several male ones). Mitchell is not exactly known for her feminist views however.

I do agree that boys and men can be the victims of rape. However I maintain that being aware that it is predominantly (by a massive majority) men who are rapists and being responsible about endeavouring to raise young men who do not become rapists is not unhealthy. Just as we try to avoid, as people involved in the raising of children (ours and others), babies growing up to become murderers, or thieves, or drug-addicts, or thugs.

I believe that the debate on Maia's post has been quite hysterical by some (much less so here, and thank you to commenters for your restraint). Some of the language that has been thrown around by some male commenters and posters has been unnecessarily abusive and I imagine that this whole incident will have a significant chilling effect on what some bloggers, in particular feminist women, will post in the future. All in all, a loss for the 'sphere IMHO.

Single Girl in Londontown said...

I have read Maia's post.

I do not in any way shape or form understand a female who can look at a child and hope he doesn't turn into a rapist.

That is just not the way I think or my group of female friends that I discussed this post with over the weekend.

I actually feel sorry for Maia. Because I honestly think that to think like this - you would have had to have had something pretty awful happen in your life. I don't really see any other explanation.

libertyscott said...

"where do I, or Maia say you are man-hating"

Never said you did. Span I think you're largely right, although some sobriety by some on both sides would be helpful. Then both side might listen and understand why the other gets angry. The feminists get angry because rape is something to get angry about - there is plenty of good reason to think that. Feminists feel that is diminished when another perspective, that shows men being victims in some cases, is suggested.

The men get angry NOT because they like rape or endorse it, but because they feel branded by a stereotypical brush. They are collectively accused when they are not collectively at fault - innocent people get angry when they are implicitly thought of as being to blame for someone else's victimhood.

Being responsible to raise children to not be violent towards others is something I doubt anyone disagrees with. This is what frustrates others - who actually thinks that the fundamental point is wrong?

However, to start painting girlchild as potential victim, boychild as potential harmer is insulting to both. They are both innocent - as is everyone, until proven guilty.