Dads Are Not the Enemy

dad, father, stereotypes, men

Whit Honea was told that men are inherently dangerous. He disagrees.

We teach kids to look for a mommy.

I can’t recall the exact wording, hence the lack of quotes, but that is the gist of what I was told while sitting in a beautiful courtyard on a bright clear morning with nothing but beach and waves below us. All I could smell was juniper and ocean.

I was seated at a table layered in fresh, white linen and even fresher coffee stains with two other men that blog in the parenting space. We were attending an exceptional conference aimed at women in that same online community, and we had been welcomed by everyone with open arms and sincere acceptance.

The problem with teaching children that men are bad is that some of them might actually believe it.

Everyone, apparently, except the woman that sat down and asked if we were vendors. It was an honest mistake, and I chalked up her assumption to our snappy dress and boyish good looks. Surely dad bloggers couldn’t look this good.

She introduced herself and we followed suit. It turns out that she owns a company you have probably heard of, and they make a product you probably enjoy. She then, for lack of a better segue, started talking about lost kids and how the philosophy of her company is to tell kids to look for a mommy.

“So a lost child in a park should walk right past all of the dads in order to find someone they think to be a mommy?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, and then she started listing all of the reasons that men should not be trusted. She talked about the crimes men commit. The history of violence against children and women. She gave the facts as casually as if she were asking one of us to pass the butter, and we just looked at her with open mouths and disbelief.

One of the men pointed out that women have committed more than their fair share of crimes against children — in fact, the news is currently full of such sad stories.

She balked at the notion.

I explained that the problem with teaching children that men are bad is that some of them might actually believe it — children that have fathers and brothers, or those that will someday be men themselves. It was a terrible and ignorant weight to put on a child.

She nodded for a moment and then continued to make her point.

“That’s bullshit,” I said. Loudly. The shock was palatable. “You can’t prolong a potentially dangerous situation for a lost child by filling their heads with paranoid profiling.”

She didn’t respond.

“We,” and I indicated the men at the table, “have been working far too hard for that kind of nonsense.

“My kids know to look for an adult should they get lost, and an obvious dad is as good as an obvious mom when it comes to the welfare and safety of my children.”

She said something else after that, but I was too angry to hear her. I just watched her lips move, and behind her the waves as they crashed upon the sunlit sand and rolled back into the ocean, somewhat saltier and slightly more broken.

I had one more cup of coffee and a few deep breaths. The Pacific roared indifferent.

A version of this article first appeared on Honea Express

Image: W. Honea

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About Whit Honea

Whit Honea is the editor of the Dads & Families section on The Good Men Project. His book, "The Parents' Phrase Book" is now available from Adams Media. He currently resides in the greater Los Angeles area with his wonderful wife, two amazing sons, and a couple of silly dogs. His personal blog is called Honea Express, because Honea sounds like pony, which is actually quite clever when you think about it.

Comments

  1. You may never change her mind but it’s in speaking up and speaking out that you have the power to change the minds of whoever else may have been listening to the exchange. Sorry you had that experience but you are creating change.

  2. JJ Vincent says:

    Thank you for this, and for speaking up. I wrote a while ago about assumptions of men as predators, “boogeymen”, and it is exactly people like this, in positions of influence, who propagate this.

    She also makes the presumption of “woman as mommy” which is a stereotype in and of itself.

  3. @Whitt As difficult as it is to write this,I must.I can’t stomach these kind of ignorant asses.

  4. Tom Brechlin says:

    This was a women who represented a company which I’m sure employs many. Scares me to think that she more then likely reflects her views in her job hiring. This is obviously a women of means with position in life, so I have to wonder, how many more women feel as she does? You’d think that she would be educated enough that she would know better. Is she a sample of what’s really out there? Are the new age feminists kidding themselves in that perhaps the general perception of men is more like how this women feels?

  5. I was told to look for a police officer, park ranger, teacher, fire fighter, lifeguard, or similar. Most of those happen to be male dominated professions. So there. :-) But the fact is, we weren’t instructed to look for someone who looks parental (how do you define that?) but to look for someone who’s actual job was to help in an emergency, so that they would know what to do. Like the lifeguard. So she’s wrong, but in ways I think she doesn’t even realize. There are parental figures who don’t know cpr or the heimlich maneuver, but she also perpetuates the stereotypes of incompetent dads and also encourages the lower standards that dads are held to because of that stereotype. So damaging. Sorry you experienced this crap.

    • Making it even worse, not only did this person treat men as inherently dangerous, but her approach also downplays the threat that women pose to children. Children abused or in danger from women might be discouraged from telling anyone, because they keep being told that women are good and men are bad.

  6. “Yes,” she said, and then she started listing all of the reasons that men should not be trusted. She talked about the crimes men commit. The history of violence against children and women. She gave the facts as casually as if she were asking one of us to pass the butter, and we just looked at her with open mouths and disbelief.

    One of the men pointed out that women have committed more than their fair share of crimes against children — in fact, the news is currently full of such sad stories.
    I think at this point I would have asked her if the fact that only a small portion of men are rapists and the fact that most fatal child abuse is committed by mother would have any bearing on her assertions.

    And thanks a million for speaking up.

  7. Good.

    As a single dad I would be horrified to think a lost child walked past me because I was a man.

  8. *sigh* Plain bad advice. I’ve told my children that if they need and are looking for a good adult to approach (it’s not an easy thing to do for many children), try looking for someone who have kids about in your own age range; there’s a good chance that person knows how to help someone like you (and a good chance they are safe, too).

  9. I wonder if she understands that half of the children she tell to “look for a mommy” will grow to become men. Boys seem to be raised in an atmosphere of shame these days. And this shame had a corrosive effect on boys and ironically leads to boys and men with more issues in life.

  10. Wah?! Really?

    Now I grew up in small towns so we always knew everyone around us (No seriously!) but when we went to Vegas we were always told to go to authority figures (which included cashiers) which was good as my younger brother (always the one to get himself in trouble) wandered off and got lost and we ended up being paged.

    Seriously how does bad advice get handed around like this? Like it’s totally “obvious” that men should be ignored? Hell even before I had kids and was married I was still a better choice than nothing!

  11. John Schtoll says:

    This attitude is very ‘normal’ , I mean right here on GMP I have seen this attitude several times by people who ‘work’ for GMP. These are people who should know better but will still defend the “mom is good, dad is bad’ meme. Just some months ago, several people mentioned that moms commit the majority of child abuse and these people still had to chime in and say “but moms spend more time with kids’ as though that was a relevant fact which in fact it is not.

    There is a great need in society to defend mothers at all costs, even at the costs to children and fathers.

  12. I grew up in a really small town. When I was a pre-teen, some new people moved into town. Months later, the people left abruptly when it was discovered one of the children was kidnapped from California. It was a single middle-aged woman with two other kids of her own around the same age as the kidnapped girl. Does this anecdote prove that adult women with kids one’s own age are unsafe to ask for help? Of course not. Not trusting other humans–adults, children, police, etc.–is internalized, paranoid fear, which is the parent’s problem solely. I sincerely hope if any child is lost, they would ask for help from anyone, and not assume they’ll be kidnapped or molested for doing so. Adult irrational fears should not become childrens’.

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