Died With A Smile
by Paul Goetz
Parenting has been one of the most interesting, challenging, and
rewarding experiences of my life. The gamut continues. With my son now 10
and my daughter now 7 memories of leaking diapers in public places have
taken a spot in the long-term memory bank.
I'm an only child, so the multitudinous dynamics of sibling rivalry
and interaction are somewhat new for me. It's intriguing to watch my kids
tease each other, and get each other's goat. Both are equally talented,
and usually quite successful. Various forms of physical contact and
related antagonistic measures seem to come equally to both my son and my
daughter. After years of observation, dismay, and mediation, I do not
believe there are any gender related differences. Only, perhaps, some
culturally learned gender strategies. My daughter has the same propensity
for hitting, etc. as my son. However, she is more apt to resort to the Ali
"float like a butterfly sting like a bee" strategy, as opposed to the
Tyson, "I'm comin' to get ya mo fo" approach, although she's capable of
They love each other dearly, and frequently cuddle. But, sooner or
later, one of them is hitting the other, or they're wrestling. Nothing
vicious, or really violent, but just sport. And, of course, one always
tries to blame the other for starting it. One of the most interesting to
watch is when one does something non-physical, like taking something, or
using favorite antagonistic or teasing words, or encroaching on the other's
space, that they know will cause the other to start something physical.
Drooling is one of the more nebulous ones. "I didn't hit him first," I've
heard. They can give new meaning to the term "escalate."
Just before the start of the new school year they both had a
classmate/friend sleep over. We were all watching a movie and talking (two
7 year old girls, two 10 year old boys, and me) when the conversation took
an interesting turn. My daughter's friend, quite matter of factly, kind of
out of the blue, stated, "girls can hit boys, but boys can't hit girls."
I just sat quietly for a bit to see where the conversation would go, while
my mind raced, wondering if someone had actually taught her that, or
whether it was something that she had just picked up.
The boys (who are going into 5th grade) began talking about how the
girls in their classes are often not disciplined for doing many of the same
things for which the boys are disciplined. I found that sort of
interesting since I know they have both had predominantly female teachers.
They mentioned things like girls talking while standing in line (after
being told not to), talking out of turn in class, and getting out of their
seats to visit a friend at their desk. Also discussed was the subject of
"headdress." Hats are not allowed to be worn in class. Of course baseball
caps are the currently popular form of male headdress, and the boys are
sometimes caught violating the rule. Girls, on the other hand, are into
ribbons, bows, and other doo-dads. So, the rule effectively says that
girls can decorate their heads, but the boys can't.
I finally asked the girl where she had learned that about who can
hit who. She refused to answer my question, but smiled quite coyly.
LEARNING BY EXAMPLE 101
The previous day the local newspapers had an article about DFL
Senator, Kevin Chandler. Much to the chagrin of some, the state
legislature had just decided not to pursue an ethics complaint against him
for slapping his wife. Chandler had recently pleaded guilty to 5th degree
domestic assault for slapping his wife outside a St. Paul bar, toward the
end of their divorce proceedings.
Chandler's wife apparently readily admits that she hit him first,
and instigated the physical contact. I've seen assorted pieces in the
local papers several times about various aspects of the matter, including
articles about "wife-beating," and "violence against women," and
"battering," but I never remember reading anything about any governmental
agency considering filing charges against Chandler's wife for assault.
And, I don't remember reading anything whatsoever even hinting that
Chandler's wife had even done anything wrong. And, I wonder, if Chandler's
wife were a legislator, whether there would be any considerations given to
filing an ethics complaint against her. Like my daughter's 7 year old
girlfriend says, "girls can hit boys, but boys can't hit girls." I guess
that's just part of "Minnesota Nice." Maybe some of you, especially from
the Midwest, have heard that phrase. Or maybe it's "United States Nice."
Earlier in 1995 there was the case of St. Paul attorney, Jeanne
Chacon, and her fiancee, Peter Erlinder. After a physical confrontation
between the two of them she called the police, and he was arrested, and
charged with assault. She readily admits that she first assaulted
Erlinder. After she initiated the physical contact he apparently used
physical force to restrain her. However, later, even after she tried to
turn herself into the St. Paul Police, and admitted to two counts of
assault, the government refused to arrest or prosecute her. He also stated
that while she was assaulting him, a second time, beating him about he
head, cutting his lip, and scratching him, he did not even try to restrain
her, out of fear that he would be arrested a second time.
I've come across countless articles in newspapers regarding violent
acts by women against men, women, and children. From the Susan Smith,
Pamela Smart, and Loretta Bobbit incidents, to a woman delivering a baby
into a toilet and stabbing it, to mothers throwing children off bridges, to
a woman waiting in a car, with a gun, for a man to come out of a building.
One of the most novel was a woman who put out a contract on the mother of
her daughter's cheer leading rival/social competitor.
Just the other day, there was an article about an incident in
Minneapolis, where the police are looking for a woman who allegedly entered
the residence of her former boyfriend, stabbed him and his new girlfriend,
and then took off. What struck me as odd was that the police, at the same
time they claim to be looking for the suspect, failed to release either the
identity or description of the suspect to the public. I guess they don't
want any leads. It seems to me that when the suspect is a male there is
usually an APB with descriptions all over the media.
All of the articles, besides having to do with violent acts by
women, also have one other common characteristic. They never contain any
emotionally charged connotative terminology that is used by the media when
the violence is by a man, such an "battering" and "wife beating." And
there is no subliminally suggestive terminology whatsoever linking the one
specific act to any pattern of occurrences, such as suggesting "violence by
women." In fact, even the words "domestic violence" are never used.
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LEARNING BY EXAMPLE 102
Copyright © 1995, 1996 by Paul F. Goetz
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