Toxic suspicion of men
When did we start to dislike men so much that we're happy for them not to be part of our children's lives? That's the question posed by the latest ridiculous assault on the integrity of all males. It comes in the form of a ban on schoolboys using a public pool change room after swimming lessons because men fear they will be falsely accused of pedophilia.
Of course, the fact that many men support that decision is understandable; any man now knows he is automatically viewed with suspicion. That's why our children might sneak through the entire education system now without a male teacher. It's why men stopped jogging along bike tracks, when the city was on the lookout for the bikeway rapist. It's why airline staff try not to seat adult males next to children. And it's why most fathers I know won't supervise their young daughters' play dates, unless there is a female adult present.
The distrust of males has been creeping up on us, fanned by the sick minds of a few who have stolen the innocence of children, and left heartache in their wake. But can you now be guilty simply by gender?
Alan from Brisbane has this story: he was at South Bank when he saw a small girl, about four years old, wandering along the river's edge and crying. He watched as more than 30 people walked by without helping. He stopped one of them, a woman, and asked her to help him help the child. "I told her why - I'd be accused of being a pedophile," he said. "If that little girl had fallen into the river and I dived in after her I'd be on the front page as a hero; but when she was only 30cm from falling in I'd be called a pedophile." How did we allow ourselves to get to the point, he wrote on a Daily Telegraph blog, where caring people are considered pedophiles?
Just stop reading this, and ask the man sitting nearest to you. His reaction would probably mirror Alan's - because society has made men feel that way. This is another Brisbane man on the same blog: "I know a teacher who was accused of rape by a schoolgirl because he refused her advances, and he lost his job, his wife, his kids and his life. Never mind that she admitted it and cleared him. This culture has to change, or this sort of rule will become more common."
It seems it already has. After revelations of the Sydney pool decision, several people joined the debate, saying it had become standard practice in Brisbane. Rory said it was happening at his children's school: "The poor little buggers were freezing coming home from the pool - about 10 minutes drive - and had to change into their dry clothes at school. "It's ridiculous! If society keeps running on fear, its going to become a pretty hollow environment to live in."
Ann of Brisbane: "Our school has been doing this for years. The kids wrap themselves in towels and sit on the bus for 20 minutes in wet togs." These are boys made to feel bad because of their gender.
Allan, from the Gold Coast, explains it this way: "Why would a male teacher want to put himself in that position? All it takes is for some smart-alec kid to joke about a male teacher perving on him and (his) professional life is over . . ."
Matt of Perth: "I like this rule. You're in more danger of being falsely accused than you are of actually being a victim."
Aaron: "The last thing you want to be doing is changing from your swimming gear to work clothes or vice versa and find out a couple days later you've been accused of exposing yourself or something of the kind."
The Doc of Sydney: "I cannot get out of the pool change room fast enough if children are there as I have no defence against a false allegation."
Clancy: "I would have thought banning parents from taking pictures of their children at the beach would have been enough to wake people up from this insane pedophile mania . . . but apparently not."
Someone else: "Why don't you just stop males from being teachers to protect the student, or just stop fathers from being parents to their sons, in case they get branded a pedophile."
John from Alice Springs calls it "pedophobia", but its consequences are bigger than that. We're creating a generation of young boys who don't have confidence in their own sexuality; sons who think their gender marks them as bad; and daughters who grow up with few, if any, male role models. And in that scenario, men and women lose out.