Gender conditioning begins before we are born. Follow me through a journey of twins Sam and Sally.Wonderful news the new mommy to be is carrying twins, a boy and a girl. So much to do to get the baby rooms ready. His room blue with a boarder of trucks and cars, her room pink with boarders of baby dolls and tea sets. It’s going to cost more that we planned for layettes, double everything with one blue and one in pink.
Today the twins, Sam and Sally have been born and we rush to the hospital to see them. Immediately we can tell them apart, Sam has a blue knit cap and Sally a pink one. How wonderful of the hospital to separate them for us. Let’s be really quiet and listen while daddy picks his son up for the first time.With a deep and rugged voice daddy says: "Man, look at those foot and hands. You are gonna to be a great runner and with those long fingers, wow, a great ball player one day I can't wait to see you on the field. You're dad’s big boy”.
Daddy lays Sam down and picks up Sally. With a low and tender voice, almost a whisper dad says: “look at daddy’s little girl. What a sweet little button nose, and your tiny little fingers. You are daddy’s little girl and Sam and I will watch over".
Daddy, mommy and Sam and Sally all go home. As the twins grow we begin to see other conditioning and different treatment between the two. Sam and Sally are now five and playing in the backyard. Both fall down and skin their knee. Dad is nearby and sees the mishap, and rushes toward them. As he reaches Sam and Sally, dad leans down picking up Sally, trying to dry her tears, dusting off the dirt and kissing her cheek. “It will be okay baby, let’s go get it washed off and put a band aid on it.” As dad starts toward the house he looks back and Sam is still standing there crying watching as daddy carries Sally to the house. Dad yells over his shoulder, “What are you crying about? Big boys don’t cry, rub it off and stop that crying, Stop acting like a girl.”
Our sons learn early to hide their feelings, and to believe there must be something wrong with being a girl. The message to Sally is because she is a girl something must be wrong with her, dad just told her little brother to stop acting like her.
So what's wrong with being a girl?
As we grow older, the more and more societal thinking puts men and women in boxes of particular behavior, belief systems and competition of our own genders. Men are conditioned to be brave and unemotional (don’t let anyone see you cry), and women are urged to be an unrealistic image of sexy, (not too sexy if you are a wife), needy and helpless. In this process the responsibility for men’s violence is laid on the shoulders of women. We even make statements like “why does she stay with him? I wouldn't put up with that if it was me? Is she crazy or what? She must like it she stays.” This thought process would have us believe the simple answer is just walk away. The honest truth is; she can’t just walk away. She feels bound by vows she took, by other’s telling her not to provoke him, stay out of his way when he gets like that. “What did you do to make him so mad at you?”
Domestic violence is not a “women’s issue”, it is “everyone’s issue". Every father, police officer, judge, neighbor, teacher, doctor, health care specialist, store clerk, mother, every single one of us has the obligation as human beings to be advocates for “No More”. We all have an obligation to speak up and speak out and when we see injustice.
As we head farther into 2014 it is unacceptable to not take a stand and speak out against violence and speak up for equality for all human beings. We have the responsibility to change the facts that one in every four women will experience violence in her lifetime. We can no longer stand back and be a silent bystander. The next victim could be your daughter or son, your niece or nephew, your grand-daughter or grand-son or your neighbor’s daughter or son. We need you to be a part of this change process. Together can make a difference.