Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Her perspective

I picked my daughter up from dance class after work.  It's an easy ten minute walk home (going her pace) and we've been enjoying the brief alone time that it gives us once a week.  Tonight as we passed by the same corner that we've walked past several times, she asked me, "Who lives in that big house?"

I replied (pleased to actually be knowing the answer) that it was the Safe Home.

"What's a safe home?" She asked me.

And once again I found myself thinking, is she really old enough to handle this kind of answer?  "Well," I said, "the Safe Home is a place where women can go to get away from men that treat them badly."

She considered this.  "What do you mean?"

"Well, sometimes there are men that hit their wives, and hurt them in other ways.  And its dangerous for the women to stay with their husbands, so they have to leave. And they need a place to stay where they can feel safe, where he won't be able to come after them."

"Do they bring their children?"

"Of course," I said, "the home has room for children too, so the whole family can be safe." I decided to turn this into a life lesson and I told her, "You should never stay with someone who treats you bad, even if you think you love them."

"Daddy's never mean.  Sometimes he acts too silly and tickles us and gives us horse bites but he's just being goofy."

I nodded.  "Yes, we'll never have to go to the safe home.  You kids don't have to worry about that kind of thing."

She nodded.  And then in all her five-year old wisdom, asked me, "So if that's the house for women, where's the house that men go when the mommies are mean to them?  There has to be a safe place for them, too."

And I stopped walking. And I thought about it.  And I didn't have an answer for her. So I told her, "I really don't know. I don't think there is one."

"Well, that's not good," she replied, gravely.

And I have to agree.  She has a very valid point. I know that there are men out there who are victimized by their partners, whether those partners are female or male. But I never stop to think about them.  To light a candle and march for them. To declare a day of remembrance for them.  They are the hidden victims. The unpopular ones.  My world view has been shaped by my white, middle-class, privileged upbringing, with hefty doses of socialism and feminism thrown in to the mix to make sure that I'm the right kind of activist.  But my daughter, so far, has very little of that. And I marvelled at her ability to see things with a different lens than mine.  Her world view, not yet clouded by the realities of all the evil that people do to one another, still sees things with innocence and open-mindedness not coloured by sexism, or racism, or homophobia she hasn't learned about yet.

And its humbling.