Today, I’m calling parental sexism and hypocrisy out. If you’re of the mindset that your parents can do no wrong and shouldn’t be criticised by strangers on the internet, stop reading now – you will only get offended. This is going to be offensive.
Parental sexism as a particular brand of nonsense involves parenting your sons and daughters differently. It involves stereotyping and bias based on gender and is often justified by concerns for the female’s safety or under the umbrella of what is‘culturally appropriate’ ‘You don’t have freedom for your own safety!’ – does this sound familiar? It seems to be a recurring theme in the region.
I know we’re really not at the point where Gender Neutral Parenting is the norm, or has even been heard of, but giving boys significantly more freedom than girls is not something that should be allowed to continue without vicious criticism. It’s not only hypocritical, unjust and damaging; it’s straight-up dangerous.
By denying daughters the freedoms that are readily and unquestioningly granted to sons, we are contributing to their consistent victimisation. We are further embedding the idea that women, regardless of their age, will always need to be protected. We are telling women that by being out late, or wearing what they want, or just by having the freedom to make their own goddamn decisions, they are courting harassment. We are blaming them for potential attacks on their person. Ultimately, it contributes to the problem you’re trying to protect your precious daughters from. More on that later.
There are two kinds of sexism: Benevolent Sexism – where you believe that women are wonderful but weak and in need of protection from a harsh world – and Hostile Sexism – which is the kind of aggressive behavior directed towards women that you’re trying to protect them from (harassment, abuse, violence). By deploying and using Benevolent Sexism, it has been proven that you are reinforcing the ideas and ideologies behind Hostile Sexism.
On the whole, our parents are pretty amazing people. They did their best, but there comes a point in our adult lives where we all have to ‘recover’ from our childhoods, especially those of us raised with ‘Egyptian values’. It’s OK – they’re human and make mistakes, we need to be able to see that. If you’re discriminating based on gender, whatever your rationale (what will the neighbors say? It’s too dangerous for you to be out at night), you are wrong, and you are being a terrible parent. You are the problem.
We should be teaching our sons and daughters to stand up to inequality and injustice. This isn’t going to be done by scaring the bejesus out of women who are out after dark; it’s going to be done by helping your progeny become confident, articulate, and strong-willed people who will not stand for being told that half of us should be treated differently. By ‘allowing’ your sons to have girlfriends, but policing and restricting your daughters, you are confirming a destructive narrative that places the worth of women on the flawed notion of purity.
Now, before you jump down my throat for not respecting parents, culture, tradition, and this country enough, I have to tell you – no, I do not respect nor can I condone a culture that demeans and sexualises half of its population, whilst tolerating the most atrocious behaviors of the other half (‘Boys will be boys, eh?’). I absolutely cannot accept the idea that the people who love you most in the world and want what’s best for you are unable to see how backwards and detrimental this approach is, and that the people who are being subject to these archaic parenting approaches are unable to stand up for themselves and escape these vicious cycles of having little to no autonomy.
Beyond the short-term economic/political/social consequences of ‘protecting’ your daughters from becoming fully-functioning adults, we’re raising an equally ignorant generation that will make the same exact mistakes, and the problem will remain or grow. By controlling your daughters ‘out of love’, you’re teaching them to conflate repression with love and intimacy, and this is a mind-set that will carry over into intimate relationships. Would you like your daughter to be treated like this by other men and women? Stop normalising and justifying female oppression.
On a purely practical note, the demographic most likely to be victims of crime is, surprisingly, not young women – it is men aged 18-25.
We’re pretty touchy about perceived disrespect, but for once in our recent history, let’s think critically. After 18, or 21, whether you’re male or female, you are a legal adult. If you commit a crime, you will go to proper prison. You are entirely responsible for yourself and it is your right to make whatever decisions you see fit. Say it with me now: You are an ADULT.
We are all responsible for inequality. Basic freedom is long overdue. We know enough to demand it.
By Noor Salama