Wednesday, February 17, 2010

80% of kids say it's fine for Dad to beat Mum up if she's late making the tea.....

I bet that got your attention! It seems quite unbelievable at the beginning of the 21st century that 8 out 10 kids questioned think that it's justified for a man to beat up a woman if they're late with the tea! I can't imagine what punishment they think is deserved in this house, then, when dinner is regularly late as I finish a blog post, talk on the phone or, horror of horrors, expect my husband to make it himself.

So, if, like mine, your blood pressure is slightly raised, maybe it's time to look at it in a bit more perspective. It is only a tiny sample. Only 89 children across 5 primary schools in Glasgow, in Primary 7 which makes them a year older than my daughter. It is worrying, though, that out of those 89, over 70 thought that there were any circumstances in which domestic violence is justified. It certainly warrants further investigation. These 11 and 12 year olds are going to be forming their own relationships in less than a decade.

But wait. Maybe this can't be dismissed so easily. On the same day as this study was publicised, the Westminster Government launched an advertising campaign aimed at teenagers who were being beaten up or otherwise threatened by their partner.

That too was based on a study - one by the NSPCC this time, which showed that a quarter of teenage girls aged 13-17 had experienced some sort of violence from a boyfriend and, scariest of all, a third had gone further than they wanted sexually under duress.

As the mother of a girl rapidly approaching her teens, you can imagine that I worry a lot about the sort of pressures she's going to come under. Of course I can tell her about the complete oblox teenage boys come out with - they aren't going to die if they don't get satisfacction, it won't drop off and it really doesn't matter if condoms are uncomfortable, they're going to darned well wear one - but I can't protect her from a culture that sexualises young women at far too early an age.

You might remember last year I had a bit of a stress about Channel 4's excellent series The Sex Education Show vs Pornography. My daughter's generation will be the first to encounter boys who have had easy acceess to explicit pornography from an early age. The programme showed how in those images, boys would get imbued with the idea that the woman's role was subjugative, little more than a receptacle, rather than an equal partner in something mutually satisfying. And how do you combat that? It's going to be virtually impossible to stop kids who are way too young accessing that sort of stuff.

Of course this material isn't viewed in a vaccuum - there will be other cultural influences as well. Maybe not all of them will be as unhelpful as the one Sara reported on the other day in which 71% of a much larger sample of women questioned said that women bear some responsibility in some circumstances if they are raped.

These three separate studies together indicate that the world may not be as safe as we would wish it for our daughters. I'm not sure what the answer is. Certainly doing as much as we can to increase their confidence is essential - very difficult when all that's bombarded at them is a slew of magazines demonising some celebrity if she puts on a couple of pounds, or presenting an uttainable body image as Jo Swinson's Real Women campaign shows.

One last thought on the Glasgow study - it went on to show how girls had aspirations that they felt would be curtailed by marriage. One girl was quoted as saying that she wanted to be a doctor or a dancer but would probably end up with a couple of kids working part time in the local shop. Part of what that says to me is that we don't value motherhood enough as a society. One of my friends commented when I posted the link on Facebook that:

Also why are doctors more highly valued than mothers? We will always need children and they will need to be loved and nurtured as they grow.

I have a feeling I'm going to have a few sleepless nights worrying about my daughter over the next couple of decades. As a society, I think that these studies show us that something more needs to be done. After more than a decade of a Labour Government which has attempted to grapple with these issues, we're not making a whole load of progress.

Maybe it's time to seriously try to get a large scale feminist movement going again, maybe one that's a bit more liberal than its predecessor and really try and get it synched into popular culture. Maybe it's time to dust off "The Women's Room" and the like and ensure that our daughters read them. Let's get today's young women talking to the feminist icons of the 70s like Germaine Greer.

If you think the F word is scary, the alternative is far, far worse.


Steph Ashley said...

That is probably the single most shocking survey statistic I've ever seen, but I'd like to see the same question put to school leavers. I have to say I don't know how reliable the attitudes of primary school children are. Human beings take a looong time to develop any kind of awareness of others, and at that age they really are by and large unreconstructed little animals. Which is also why I think the whole idea of throwing our children together in one big building so young is kind of barbaric and strange, but that's more of a recurring muse of mine than a political opinion.

Clair said...

Not in my house.
At least three girls are (hopefully) going to go into the world thinking that women can do anything...

My five year old wants to have ten babies. But she also wants to be a teacher (she's five, thats exciting!) and when I asked who would look after her babies she answered "Calder" (her best/boy friend who she thinks she will marry).

They have such strong role models- my mum who races in cycle endurance races at nearly 50, their godmothers have between them 7 degrees and one phd.

But I know that my girls are very much the exception...most children they socialise with don't have that outlook and so will have to find it for themselves.

Domestic violence is another story but I hope they'll learn from their granny's experiences.

I think A will be fine because of the role model you have been and the exposure to what she can be and what her rights are!


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