A lot of focus on domestic violence this week. I’ve been challenged to think about this at a number of levels. I grew up in a household that had domestic violence. As a boy and young man I watched horrible men hit my mother, and I was unable to stop them. I grew up with anger, like many young men. I believe life has a way of putting things back in front of you that you don’t address. I now have three sons.
There is no reason to ever hit a woman, we are told.
We are also told to “be a man”:
I’m guilty of doing some of this with my sons, and I’m a man whom I would think most people think I’m a pretty progressive father. I encourage kids to do what they want regardless if our society believes it’s masculine or feminine. Hell, I sang falsetto in my high school rendition of Music Man as part of the barber shop quartet!
I’ve also screamed at my sons while coaching them to stop acting like a ‘girl’, to ‘be a man’, that ‘you’re acting like a bitch’. I’ve fallen into the masculinity trap in raising my own sons. I’ve actually told my wife, that ‘she doesn’t get it’. “Let me do this”, “they need this”. To her credit, she doesn’t.
I believe we fail boys by telling them “just never hit a woman”. Like that one statement, just solves it. Just, takes away years of us trying to make them aggressive, make them ‘men’. If we don’t show these boys that it’s okay to cry, to show emotion, when they are young, all we are doing is setting them up to eventually ‘pop’. My Dad use to say that to me. He could see the emotion building inside me, and me trying to hold it all in, because I was trying to be a man. “Eventually, that cork is going to pop and everyone better watch out”, he would say. And it did.
I was challenged with a question this week. What if one of my male employees hit his wife or girlfriend, like Ray Rice hit his fiancee? Would I do what the Ravens did and fire that employee?
It’s easy to say yes. That’s the politically correct thing to say. “Of course! You never hit a woman!”
Then you realize, I might be raising one of those ‘men’. I might be one of those ‘men’.
The better question to ask, isn’t “would I fire them”, it’s “what would you do to help them?” What would you do to stop this all together? It starts with boys. We don’t fix ‘men’ who hit women. We fix boys believing that the way to deal with their emotions is not through aggression and violence.