Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What Gandalf Has Taught Me About Raising Boys

I can't be the only person upset by the recent reports of women's abuse around the world. Now, don't get me wrong. Just because I tend to blog about cute men and shoes doesn't mean I am a total airhead. I know what goes on in the world. Hell, I even listen to Radio 4 and not just for Woman's Hour. I know that women do not have rights equal to those of men. But why? Why in the name of all that is feminine do we exist in an era where women are treated as lesser beings than men? Is it ignorance? Apathy? Weakness? Social order? What?

As a woman raising sons I am conscious the example I set for them will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They will see the way I interact with their father and the way I conduct myself in my everyday life and this will form their early opinion of the role women have in the home and in the world. Experience may shift their opinions as they get older, but I believe it is up to me as their mother to show them not only should there be no discrimination between sexes, but why.

Obvious examples of a gross imbalance of rights that of 23 year old Jyoti Singh Pandey who died of her injuries after being gang raped in India, and Malala Yousufzai who was shot in the head because she wanted the same access to education as her brother, but we can also look much closer to home. As if choosing to terminate a pregnancy wasn't already a difficult enough choice for some women, two states in America - one of the most modern countries in the world - force women to hear the heartbeat of the foetus to personalise it before having a termination, and those in another state must be asked by law whether they wish to hear it. These are laws passed in 2012, not 1912. Not only that, women who have fallen pregnant as the result of rape or incest in South Carolina are no longer entitled to have an abortion paid for by the state they must find the money themselves. This, from a country that apparently spent $100 billion on weapons that didn't work. And I know the UK isn't blameless. Women managers earn around £10,000 less than their male equivalents here, and even forty years after the Equal Pay Act was introduced women still only earn around 85p for every £1 a man earns. Ok, I appreciate these figures are just skimming the top of some larger issues but I am using them to highlight the fact that the issues are there.

I spent the past two weeks watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit (twice) which is perhaps why this quote from Gandalf sticks in my mind: "Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay". Hours of watching grown men with funny ears and hairy feet has helped renew my determination to do my bit for future generations by continuing to raise my sons with the knowledge that there is no dominant sex. Whether I am raising future leaders or not, I am raising citizens. Just as it is a parent's duty to teach daughters to respect themselves, it is the duty of those with sons to show them that physical strength is not a right to dominate and they need to respect the rights of all women, and in return be respected by women as their equals. We have the power to help women of the future by teaching the values of equality, tolerance today.