Of course it is. Have I been reading a Daily Mail article on domestic violence and gotten confused by the mixed messages contained therein? Heaven forfend.
But a question was posed by its article on Nurtureshock, viz: if your daughter comes home from school in tears and admits she’s being bullied, what do you do? Unfortunately, The Male never actually answered this question so I have no model from which to deviate and do the opposite.
And it’s a question that I have thought about regularly over the past couple of years (not obsessively, you understand, but in a ho hum kind of way), and I’m still not sure I know the answer. As the kind of parent who has to physically restrain herself from lecturing on politeness when some snot-nose snubs Boogie by not returning her Hello (but restrain myself I do – I’m not that kind of parent), this is clearly a question to which my instinctive reaction (throw them through the nearest window) may not be appropriate. The Male article suggests that the horribly touchy-feely parent of the type who has fucked with gender roles to the extent of actually wanting the father of her children to erm, be a father to them would ‘hug her tightly and promise her that it will never happen again – and you’re going to make sure of it.’ The other given option – which it’s implied is the better option – is to tell your daughter that ‘she needs to sort this out herself.’ Now, I’m a feminist; I understand that the myriad tentacles of the Patriarchy encourage not only violence against women but also between women, so I’m reluctant to jump on the bandwagon, hootin’ and tootin’ and peopled by all the beautiful people though it is. But my instinct is the latter – followed by detailed instructions as to exactly how she could achieve that aim. And I’m more and more convinced the more I think about it that I’m right.
I’m not an advocate of violence but I am big on self-defence. I know the line between the two is sometimes difficult to see, but not so much so when somebody is giving you Chinese burns for fun. Again, I think this is an issue that’s important for over-all self-esteem. I don’t want to teach Boogie to acquiesce to the patriarchal model of being frightened her whole life. I want her to understand that it is always possible to fight back, hell, I want her to be confident at all times that she can fight back, whether physically or otherwise, when she’s being attacked. And that the chances of her winning are pretty good.
I did it all according to the book at first. If somebody was hitting her, she had to say Stop! in a loud, authoritative voice, accompanied by the clear body language of a hand out. If said somebody didn’t get that message (and how many two year olds do? they have no idea that there is such a thing as personal space never mind when somebody is telling you to get out of theirs) and hit her again, she had to tell the nearest adult – me or a carer. But what does that teach her I thunk? To always look to others to protect her is what. Passive, passive, passive! Do I want to teach my daughter passivity? What, do I think that the rest of the world won’t do that well enough? Ha! No, what I want to teach her to is take the world by the throat if it’s fucking with her. Which it will. I want her to understand that she can protect herself. So, now I’ve changed my modus operandi. Now, the hitter still gets the warning, but then all bets are off. Boogie has been instructed to hit them back. At first this did cause me some concern, but now I’m unrepentant. Currently, Boogie has proven herself singularly unable to follow the amended second instruction; in fairness, she still has difficulty with the first, being, whether by nature or nurture, an unaggressive child. I feel my approach is validated by this fact.