I (Stacia) was at the park with Amalia a couple of days ago and there was a man there playing with his son and several other boys. The boys looked like they ranged in age from about 4-7 years old. I had seen this same man there before several weeks prior. This time like the last, he was very energetically involved in a game of tag with the kids. The boys were loving it and his attention as well. Then, one of the children accidentally got hurt and began to cry. The man ignored him and kept playing with the other 2 boys until one of the boys said, “Dad, he’s hurt” while pointing in the direction of the child. The man turned his attention to the crying child and said, “Oh you are going to cry. Should I bring you a doll and we can play some girl games?” The boy stopped crying and hid his face in his knees for a few seconds while the other boys looked on. He eventually got up and joined the game of tag again.
The man indirectly taught the three children that “girl’s games” are less valuable (and perhaps girls too) and that it is shameful to show feelings or admit to being hurt. There is a good chance that this was completely unintentional and that he does not have anything against women (it looked like he was a very engaged dad). These types of messages (“you throw like a girl!”) have been passed on from father to son, from men to other men, for as long as most can remember. They are for the large part unconscious and thought to be harmless. That is the insidious part of it all. Behaviors such as described above are viewed as socially “normal” and yet they help to maintain a culture of oppression where some people are perceived as more valuable than others. Boys are better than girls, straight people are more valuable than gay people, Americans are more important than…..well-anybody else! You get the picture.
This little encounter made me wonder what I say and do unconsciously to maintain a status quo that is unjust. Do I accidentally say things that prop up white privilege? Heterosexuality? Able-bodiedness? Ageism? Classism? I hope that I do not. But, just in case, I will keep learning, listening, reading, and just in general EVOLVING.