Avoiding Male Role Models?

By Beacon Staff

My parents broke the rules.

I had a male babysitter. I had male coaches. I went to friends’ slumber parties where their fathers were present.

I’m glad my parents broke the rules.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Zaslow has recently written some pieces about the stereotyping of men as predators unless proven innocent. Fathers’ rights advocates and educators in Zaslow’s articles say we’re teaching children that men are out to hurt them — leaving men afraid of being around children, children afraid of men, and leading to overconfidence in women.

Yes, it’s true that most predators are male, and good parenting means minimizing children’s risks. But, there’s a point when trying to prevent predators turns to preventing male role models. When I read Zaslow’s articles I can’t help but think if my parents had enforced some of the “rules” suggested, how much I would’ve missed out.

Child advocates advise parents “to never hire a male babysitter.”

His name was J.D. He was a 6’6’’ living jungle gym that, as soon as my parents left, turned our house into a safari – he would crawl around the house on his knees while my brother, sister and I “hunted” him – or a campout, complete with tents made of blankets and couch cushions. He even taught us to spin a pizza; though he probably should’ve done it before the pizza was cooked, thus avoiding sticking it to our kitchen ceiling.

“Some men are opting not to get involved with children at all, which partly explains … why just 9 percent of elementary-school teachers are male, down from 18 percent in 1981.”

Mr. Whalen went through at least six dry erase markers a day. Spit flying, arms flailing his marker board reenactments led a class of 15-year-olds through the battles of ancient Greek city states, memorization of every country in the world and the Once and Future King…willingly. He’s the reason I can still locate Guinea-Bissau on a map.

A male soccer coach said “young girls often want a hug after scoring a goal, but he refrains.” When girls are injured he comforts them without touching them, “a very difficult thing to do.”

Bucky. Frank. Jim. Jodi. Mark. Laurie. Dick. These are just a very small number of the dozens of male coaches that volunteered hundreds of hours to help me through Little League, club sports and high school volleyball, softball and basketball. They worked with me after practice if I couldn’t get something right. When I struggled through several knee injuries, they were the first on the court to provide comfort, and often the ones who carried me to the sideline. Some of these men are the type, that if I ever needed anything I knew I could go to them and they’d help me like I was their daughter.

An advice column on Slate provided a worse-case scenario: A young girl wrote in because parents of her younger sisters friends wanted to relocate her sisters slumber party to a friend’s single-parent home, so there would be no male in the house.

That’s it. They just stole all-night binges of caffeine, chocolate and Hanson’s MMMBop from my childhood.