I was with the girls as they did a craft at an activity centre near where we were staying. The weather wasn’t great but they didn’t notice because they were having fun. The door opened and a woman rushed in with her child. She spoke to one of the women at the desk and started to make arrangements for her daughter, who was the same age as Ruby, to stay there for a couple of hours. She was quite loud and quite insistent that she be assured that during those two hours there would be a woman on staff. The activity centre has both young men and young women working there and she wanted to be assured that there be a woman on staff at all times and further that if there was a man on staff that there be two women there at all times. The young woman at the desk told her that during the next two hours there would be two women on staff at all times. That settled it, papers were signed and the woman left.
There had been a boy of about 11 at the activity centre who had turned, like the rest of us, to listen to the fairly loud conversation and the clearly stated demands. The implication that men were not safe was clear and damning. There was also a male staff there, one who had shown real skill when teaching the girls about lizards, he treated them with respect as girls but also as learners with curious minds. He’s a nice kid. He heard it too.
Me, I was there on my own. A disabled man, in a wheelchair, with two active girls. I was painted with the same brush by this woman, who had no fear about speaking loudly and clearly in a biased and bigoted manner against all males.
Now, I get she’s a mother and she wants her daughter to be safe. I also get that she may have some history that has made her even more protective. But I think that she could have spoken quietly to the woman at the desk and made the arrangements in such a way that …
… a little boy isn’t left feeling guilty for being a boy
…. a talented male staff isn’t convicted of crimes he never committed
… an older guy supervising two little girls isn’t left feeling like he has to justify his role
Men aren’t all bad.
Women aren’t all good.
Men aren’t automatically dangerous.
Women aren’t automatically safe.
Using that as your single measuring stick for a safe environment is a huge mistake. Huge.
She made that environment unsafe for the little boy who was there, who listened, who took in her attitude that he was somehow bad. I know it affected him, because when she came in he was the only boy at the table with about 5 girls. He had been laughing and talking with the others moments before the entry of the woman with her daughter. After the woman left and her daughter joined the table. He picked his craft up and went and sat alone at another table and quietly went on with what he was doing.
That’s not OK.
\A woman worried about the safety of her child, used her voice and her attitude to assault a little boy’s sensitivities and drive him to a place of aloneness.
That’s not OK.
The next day, at the pool, he was invited by Ruby and Sadie to play a game of underwater tag. He hesitated, only for a moment, and then joined in laughing and having a wonderful time. All of them did.
He’s a good kid.
He was having fun.
I watched them playing, hoping that these would be the moments he remembered.