More proof that we are stranded in a culture marked by crass, hysterical fear-mongering about male sexual predation and violence. Last week, Nicole Sprinkle wrote a piece that appeared in a New York Times blog called Seeing All Men as Predators.
She starts out just fine: "When it comes to our kids, men get a pretty bad rap. As a society we talk ad nauseum about racism and other forms of discrimination. But when it comes to men, no one seems to have much to say."
But then she veers off into dark and scary territory. She relates how she recently was looking for a regular babysitter for her preschool daughter. One candidate was a 23-year-old man who sounds like Superman. Sprinkle writes: "He was well spoken and exuded a quiet friendliness over the phone. He was studying to become a paramedic (great to have around in case of emergencies), lived his whole life in the neighborhood, had a mother who owned a local daycare, and worked as a summer camp counselor at the very preschool my daughter was now attending – and got rave reviews from his supervisor there."
Read the next passage carefully. What is both infuriating and chilling is that Sprinkle doesn't have the first clue how offensive it is:
"I told him frankly that I liked him best of all and yet still wasn’t sure I could make the leap of letting a man watch my daughter: one who might have to help her wipe, clean her up in case of an accident, who would be alone with her everyday for several hours."
Sprinkle ended up hiring a woman over the best candidate, solely because the best candidate is male.
After this unpardonable display of misandric pyrotechnics, Sprinkle feigns sensitivity toward the plight of good men. "I . . . told him that I felt really awful about having to feel this way, and that it was such a shame that society forced us to discriminate against kind, competent men as caregivers for our kids."
I can just hear Sprinkle telling a black person in the 1950s: "It's really awful that I have to feel this way, and it is such a shame society forces us to discriminate against good people like you, but I really don't want my daughter being in the same school as your child."
Sprinkle backs up her unbridled prejudice with an offhand comment that "statistically a man is far more likely to molest a child than a woman," blinking at the fact that the vast majority of child abuse is committed by women, and that a child is more likely to choke on pretzels than to be sexually molested by a man. But of course, we ban men, not pretzels, from our children's lives.
Sprinkle ends her hateful piece with the following attempt to paint her as an enlightened good parent: "I can’t help feeling saddened by my well-meaning bias . . . ."
As one comment under the story astutely pointed out, there is no such thing as "well-meaning bias." It is either bias or it isn't. You can't gussy up bigotry as good parenting by hiding behind the argument "but it's for the kids!"
In an era when we are telling men that they need to unshackle themselves from their masculine stereotypes and spend less time being breadwinners and more time being fathers, somehow Ms. Sprinkle, and a number of women commentators under the story, are perfectly OK with the view that men can't be trusted around children.
But why am I surprised? Maleness itself has been under attack in this society for several decades. Ours is a culture that insists rape is of biblical proportions when the facts don't support it; it prevents men from sitting next to unaccompanied minors on at least two airlines (a third, British Airways, apparently is reversing its policy after being sued); it chases men in droves from the teaching profession and it prevents most men from assisting a crying child in the mall because the fear of false allegations outweighs the reward of helping kids; it mandates college freshman males undergo sexual assault indoctrination, one such program is appropriately titled "She Fears You"; it puts public service announcements on the side of buses depicting a happy girl saying: "One day my husband will kill me," and a happy boy saying: "When I grow up, I will beat my wife"; it tells women, who are assaulted far less frequently than men, that they need to "take back the night" and that they should feel safe only if they have their own hotel floors, taxi cabs, beaches, gyms, train cars, and buses.
And we could go on and on and on. Let's face it, ours is a culture that regards masculinity as inherently flawed, morally depraved, and downright dangerous to women and children.
And unlike any other group in America, somehow it is perfectly OK to paint all the members of this group, merely by virtue of the fact that they have a penis, with the same brush we use to paint the tiny percentage of members who do bad things. Try doing that to women, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, or Muslims and watch the frankly justifiable outrage. When men complain, they're "whining," because, you know, we're all so "privileged" -- again, just by virtue of the fact that we all have a penis.
If men are legitimately scary, Ms. Sprinkle, shouldn't we make it a crime for fathers to be alone with their own children? Logically, that has to be the next step, doesn't it?
Frankly, I fear for Ms. Sprinkle's daughter. It's not the new babysitter who is a concern, it's Ms.Sprinkle herself. She can't help but pass on to her daughter a wildly unreasonable fear of almost half the population of planet earth.
Ms. Sprinkle's hateful piece is found here: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/seeing-all-men-as-predators/?partner=rss#preview