Thinking & Feeling

“The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.” Horace Walpole

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

On paranoia & demonising our men-folk

Being the mom of boys, I have over the years given a fair amount of thought to the fact that males are pretty much demonised in society. As are black people, Muslims and god forbid the trifecta of a black Muslim man! *gasp in horror*! Sure, some men (some black people, some Muslim people) are bad and have committed heinous crimes. As far as demographics, generalisations and profiling go the odds may indeed be statistically higher that a male (black person/Muslim you get my drift... so I'll stop now) may be more LIKELY to do something bad. Whether it be spitting, graffiti, vandalising, general thuggery etc. right up to perpetrating more serious crimes like arson, theft, GTA, drugs, abuse, muggings, murder and rape.

​​However that doesn't mean women (white people or Christians) are beyond reproach and do not have their fair share of miscreants among them either! And it also does NOT mean ALL boys are bad or will do anything criminal in their lives.​ There are a lot (probably a vast majority?) of boys who will never do anything particularly 'bad'...

​So my point though is, imagine growing up as a boy and immediately having the odds stacked against you and almost having a 'guilty until proven innocent' type label applied to you purely because you are a male. (And seriously I can only imagine how much worse this must be for the other 'profiled' groups out there which just compound the issue). Imagine what it must be like where just walking down the street raises suspicion and thoughts of: "What's he up to?", "I bet he's up to no good..", "Better keep an eye on him!", and worse defensive actions like crossing the street, avoiding eye contact, rolling up car windows and locking doors as they approach. How must that make a young boy feel..?

I tend not to be a paranoid person, and I don't live in fear and generally do not feel threatened or vulnerable. I also tend not to feel suspicious by default and generally assume good and innocent intent unless I have reason not to. I like to think I am pretty street smart and have had no issue with defending myself when I thought the situation warranted it. 

So here's an interesting situation I found myself in on Thursday night last week. There I was merrily walking home from yoga at about 19:00 in the dark, listening to podcasts on my iPOD, when this youngish white dude stepped out of his car, which was parked in the shadows down a side street. He approached me and asked me to help him. He told me his car had broken down and could I help him? I sussed out the situation, shrugged and said sure. He needed me to help him pop the bonnet cos the catch is faulty and it doesn't really release. So I was pulling the bonnet, he was working the catch. To no avail. Eventually he asked me to try the catch inside the car and he'd try from the outside. So I went around to reach deep into the car while he went to the front. He then came back and pushed the door closed towards me  - I will admit I had mini-alarm bells ringing then wondering what he was doing and how I was sort of getting into a slightly precarious position. Also he was a young dude, nervous and embarrassed and rattled that his car was not working - which could have been interpreted as someone up to no good and the weird nervous behaviour being suspicious. What he was really doing was making sure his dodgy door didn't swing closed on me and bash my legs. So he was actually trying to be thoughtful and caring.

It really was just a genuinely innocent guy in a pickle needing a hand. I know that MOST women I know would not have stopped and not have helped him. (Ok, or even been out walking alone in the dark either for that matter.)

I really do feel sorry for guys being demonised as much as they are and treated as guilty and suspect by default, even if they are honest and genuinely good guys.

BUT the story actually gets weirder and funnier because after not actually being able to help the poor guy, he said not to worry he'd make a plan somehow, but thanks for trying. So I bid him good luck and told him I'd look out for and then send the neighbourhood security vehicle over... 

I walked on and soon saw an ADT van parked under some trees. The (incidentally black) ADT patrolman was standing next to his bakkie in a bulletproof-vest and leaning on the bonnet. As I approached he stood up, walked to the door and got into the vehicle. As it became clear I was approaching him directly he closed and locked the door and rolled up the window! I was quite bemused. REALLY!? Perhaps it is protocol? But I really found it odd and rather funny.

When I gestured that I wanted to speak to him he opened his window a crack and I had to speak through the 2 mm gap. So there you have it, maybe lone unarmed white 'christian'* women are actually the scary ones after all!?

Anyway, it really drove home that feeling of being regarded as suspicious and threatening when you have done absolutely nothing to warrant that reaction. It must be awful to be faced with that constantly. 

As far as I see it, my role as a parent is to teach my sons to be courteous, respectful and considerate men and I hope that if they are they will be afforded the respect and courtesy to live their lives freely and openly and spontaneously without being cast in the role of the 'bad guy' simply by virtue of their given gender.

Has anyone else given this much thought...?
* I am not Christian actually, but most people assume I am.

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