“We don’t hit women,” I told my son as I held his hand. His face was flush with frustration. My daughter was being a textbook kid sister and had antagonized him about something they were watching on television. As is common with kids, the dispute elevated into yelling and then hits were exchanged. My 5-year-old daughter was the aggressor in this instance but I pulled my 11-year-old boy to the side because a) he’s older and I expect him to know better and b) I wanted to use this opportunity to reiterate my feelings on men hitting women.
I chose my words carefully. “WE” don’t hit “WOMEN.” I included myself in the declaration because I wanted him to know that this was not a parental decree to “do what I say, not as I do.” I needed him to know that this is how the MEN in this family conduct themselves. I needed him to know that this was not acceptable behavior for me either, which is why he has never seen me hit his sister. Of course he rebutted that “she hit me first,” but I told him that I expect him to be more composed than his pre-school-aged sister, that he was much older and bigger and that his hitting her back was not equivalent to what she did to him. I also made sure to tell his sister in front of him that she was not to hit her brother. Did I give her the same wording as her brother? No. She’s five and my wife and I will be reiterating with her when it’s necessary. But as my son enters junior high I felt a sense of urgency as his social interactions become more complicated. There are so many hurdles to prepare him for as he comes of age and it’s hard to know what to address first, so I reacted in the moment. I looked him in the eyes and held his hand. I didn’t want him to feel scolded as much as I wanted him to feel that I was imparting wisdom. Nothing good can come from you hitting a woman.
I can already hear the resounding cries of “women shouldn’t hit men either!” dripping with false equivalency. On the same day that we reported about Greg Oden allegedly punching his girlfriend another report surfaced about Da Band singer Sara Stokes being arrested and charged for domestic violence. She stabbed her husband back in 2009 and was on probation for that offense. So she is probably going to jail for this latest assault on her husband. They are both wrong and my advice to my son would be the same as to my daughter, the first time your spouse hits you, LEAVE. Don’t hit her back, don’t argue. Get the hell out. A woman who will hit you is not worth having, so don’t give her another chance to do it.
Why am I so focused on my son? Because boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and as a society we don’t speak to boys about their interaction with the opposite sex enough. Time after time when issues of rape, domestic violence or harassment come up we caution the women to adjust their behavior, their state of dress or how they speak to their men—I’m looking at YOU Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen A. Smith. When you are faced with reports of men beating women and you throw in “Well, women shouldn’t hit men either” you are not addressing this imbalance and absolve men of responsibility for their actions.
Violence against men does happen, but 85% of domestic violence victims are women. For every Solange in an elevator we get five more Ray Rice’s in an elevator. We can’t live in an imbalanced society and call for equal treatment when it serves our cause or view point. Lest we sound like all of the opponents of affirmative action who don’t weigh in their 18 or so years of privilege when criticizing applicants of color.
Counter measures are needed now. Our boys have enough enemies at the gate without making women one of them.
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