Joanna Schroeder explains that little boys aren’t the only ones who tease because they like someone.
The blog post You Didn’t Thank Me For Punching You In The Face from Views From The Couch has been floating around the Facebook pages and Twitter newsfeeds of my feminist friends a lot these days. And it’s a great little article, basically summed up by this opening paragraph:
I am sure every girl can recall, at least once as a child, coming home and telling their parents, uncle, aunt or grandparent about a boy who had pulled her hair, hit her, teased her, pushed her or committed some other playground crime. I will bet money that most of those, if not all, will tell you that they were told “Oh, that just means he likes you”. I never really thought much about it before having a daughter of my own. I find it appalling that this line of bullshit is still being fed to young children. Look, if you want to tell your child that being verbally and/or physically abused is an acceptable sign of affection, i urge you to rethink your parenting strategy. If you try and feed MY daughter that crap, you better bring protective gear because I am going to shower you with the brand of “affection” you are endorsing.
And I totally agree with this mother. I’ve been thinking the same thing myself since my eldest son came home from kindergarten with is first bully story. This child was pushing him, bossing him around, inviting him to play and then disinviting, calling him “Brainiac” (apparently this is mean?) and chasing him around when he was trying to hang out with his best pal Jake.
Of course I was livid! This is my Izz, the sweetest, smartest, somewhat-nerdy lovebug who is the favorite of all of his friends’ moms. Who was this jerk picking on him?
“Sienna Raye” he answered.
“Wait,” I said, “Sienna Raye is doing all these things to you?” I smiled. It dawned upon me the way I’d seen little Sienna Raye gazing googly-eyed at my Izz during my reading rotation in the classroom. She likes him!, I thought.
But then it occurred to me, just as it occurred to this mama blogger, that explaining to my child that this kid was acting shitty because she liked him was sending a messed-up message.
The Queen Of The Couch explained her feelings about this tradition like this:
When the fuck was it decided that we should start teaching our daughters to accept being belittled, disrespected and abused as endearing treatment? And we have the audacity to wonder why women stay in abusive relationships?
And I agree with her. It’s a jacked up message to send to little girls: that boys pull your pigtails because they think you’re cute, they snap your bra because they actually like you, that they call you a bitch or a slut in middle school because they want your attention. It all happened to me, too, of course. Boys followed me around in 9th grade singing the tune of “Dirty Diana” by Michael Jackson, putting my name in place of Diana. I wasn’t scarred, but it hurt my feelings for sure. Two of these boys have since confessed that they had mad crushes on me and that’s why they did it.
But this weird form of bullying, totally accepted by society, isn’t just boy-on-girl and it never has been. As far as I can remember, girls were tripping boys, teasing boys, whispering openly and pointing at boys, and chasing boys around the playground and then getting mad when the boys chased back.
And in calling behavior like this by either sex “cute” diminishes the damage that can be done. When someone does something that bothers a child, it should be recognized by the parent as simply not right. If it hurts the child, no matter why the other child is doing it, then telling them that it’s because the little boy or girl “likes” them, tells them, Your feelings don’t matter, someone’s giving you attention and you should just take it.
Some of my friends on Facebook see this as a feminist issue, but I see this as simply a parenting issue. Too often children of all sexes/genders grow up to believe that dramatics, name-calling and mistreatment are fundamental to a relationship, and they often don’t realize that the script that tells them they deserve it goes all the way back to the playground.
So did I tell Izz that Sienna Raye just thought he was cute, and she didn’t know how to tell him? Nope. I framed it as I do with bullying, that there are feelings inside the child that confuse and frustrate him or her and that the bully is making the wrong choice on how to express those feelings. Then we talk about what he should do in response, which is always about owning your own personal space, telling the other kid that you don’t like that, don’t think it’s fun, and that they need to stop now. Finally using a strong and loud voice to say NO! and telling a teacher.
I don’t know for sure that this is the right thing to do. Maybe I’m preventing my kid from knowing how to handle normal girl-boy relations. I hope not. What do you think? How should I have handled this? Do we all know how to flirt and tease because we were teased on the playground?
And is it any different because it was a little girl bothering a little boy instead of the reverse?
Photo Courtesy of libertygrace0