I was really dismayed and frustrated to read the transcript of this week’s #DadChat, a weekly Twitter chat about being a dad. I’ve followed the chat for a while, yet almost never take part, but it’s one of the hash tags I follow out of general interest. The host seems to be a good person trying to create real and positive momentum for fatherhood. Yesterday’s topic wasn’t about being a dad, but more about being a man.
The topic: “Can men and women be friends?”
The answer, of course, is yes.
While I know there are some individuals that are incapable of real friendships with members of the opposite sex, as a general rule it is easy for men and women to be friends. And there are plenty of healthy examples.
Let’s put that in less than 140 characters so the context is clear for Twitter: It’s perfectly normal for men and women—even married ones—to have genuine friendships with the opposite sex.
Being the open Twitterverse, I expected that there would be comments from both men and women to feed into the stereotype of men constantly thinking of sex and therefore incapable of thinking anything else about a woman. It’s a simple and easy opinion to own—and it often gets the laugh—but it’s silly and wrong.
However the host/moderator pushed it. The original question was a fair topic starter, but when some women wrote positively about having true male friends, or men claimed to be honourable in friendships with women, he challenged the comment with innuendo.
It’s okay to push for clarity or honesty in a discussion, but he never once pushed for honesty when someone fed into the cliche. In other words, he chose to feed the stereotype instead of hosting an honest discussion. By questioning the integrity of people—without any sense of proof or context—the moderator indirectly reduces all men to lustful conquerers, simply waiting for the right moment to move in. Essentially, men are something to be feared, or at least not trusted.
So as a dad, this frustrates me.
Some of my best friends are women. And some are attractive. And single. And I refuse to have my son grow up believing that he can’t be a true friend with attractive, single women. Worse, I refuse to have my son grow up with girl friends who believe he’s only their friend because he wants more, and shouldn’t be trusted. What a sad, empty world that will be.
As a final irony, yesterday was International Women’s Day. Instead of celebrating the day by recognizing and honouring women as whole human beings, some dads suggested buying flowers and avoiding any contact with a women other than their wife. You know, because they respect them.
Wow. Just, wow.