On last night’s BBC Question Time the acclaimed feminist Germaine Greer came under a lot of fire for suggesting that little girls flirt with their fathers. Her statement was met with outrage and derision by the audience and Twitter alike.
Greer knows her stuff when it comes to ideas regarding sexuality. I didn’t agree with her comments that the only clothes commercially available for girls are pink, sparkly and vampish (she’s never heard of Boden obviously 😉 ); plenty of high street retailers do sell other items of clothing, it’s not a difficulty I have ever encountered. The reaction was particularly vociferous from men, no-one likes to think of their daughter play-acting in a sexy fashion with them or trying to get sexual attention from them, particularly in a society that has lost it’s innocence, with awareness about the dreadful crime of pedophelia reaching paranoid proportions in certain sections of the media.
Fact is children DO rehearse adult behaviour in a safe environment with parents and siblings. They may not be consciously aware of it, but it is something that happens.
We nodded with recognition because coincidentally, literally 2 hours earlier, daughter whilst saying goodnight had put on a silly voice, said “I’m mummy, I’m Caroline, give me a kiss darling” put her hands on her hips and wiggled in an attempt to portray herself as me. Given that I don’t walk around the house like Jessica Rabbit, on a subconscious level she sees the sexual and romantic side of my relationship with my husband and was copying it! Whilst it was a little uncomfortable for my husband, because he is her step-father and is hyper aware of boundaries, he screamed with laughter and called me to witness. “Go on, do your mummy impression again it was hilarious”. He was right it was hilarious and spot on! It demonstrated Greer’s point admirably.
Children are very perceptive which is why we need to give them examples of positive loving adult relationships. They pick up and copy the behaviours and relationships exhibited by their parents. A child who witnesses a violent domestic relationship is infinitely more likely to end up in a relationship of a similar type, regardless of gender. Greer focused purely on girls as have most commenters on the notion of sexualisation, I did for the simple reason I have girls, but it goes without saying boys also learn ways of behaviour from their parents and are just as likely to be affected by ‘sexualisation’.
Greer’s point illustrated precisely why a safe stable relationship between two different gendered parents is believed to be the ideal, not only by the Catholic Church but by millions of others with other faiths and none.
Single-parent families are not “bad”, people must not be stigmatised, often they are the only safe option and parents who have been deserted or bereaved have no choice. Single parents tend to have it tougher without the support of a live-in partner.
Supporting and acknowledging Greer’s comments, no matter how uncomfortable they are, means recognising two difficult truths. Children use their family environments to develop, explore and practice their relationship behaviour and psychological development. If we want them to develop balance then ideally they need a parent of each gender, as different genders have different qualities. Gender is not a purely social construct. Two parents of the same gender will not provide the same balance. Children will not witness a male/female romantic relationship from which they will draw subconscious lessons. It does not mean that they are more likely to develop same sex or bisexual attraction, but if we accept the ONS’ latest statistics that 1% of people identified as LGBT in their last survey, it does mean that children will most likely be growing up with a one sided version of sexuality and relationships and less awareness of how to form, conduct and behave in relationships with those of a different gender; not witnessing or be able to copy it at close quarters in a safe environment. Unless of course you believe that people exhibit the same types of behaviour with their partner regardless of gender. Men and women’s sexual behaviours are interchangeable? Two women or two men in a relationship behave in exactly the same way as a man and a woman?
On picking up the example of the little girl kissing her father goodnight, Greer hit a nerve hence the outrage. Most children practice their sexuality at home and ideally need a parent of each gender. That is a fact, regardless of religious belief and it is not homophobic to say so.