Lindsey and I went to the Museum of Science and Industry yesterday, largely because that’s where they’re keeping some of the People’s History Museum‘s displays until it reopens this autumn. (I’m very excited about this. I love the People’s History Museum. If you think you’re bored of hearing about it now, just imagine what I’ll be like when it’s open again.) They had a badge-maker. We made badges for each other. Here is mine.
Yep – last week was pretty awful for us Harriettes, with not only the Daily Mail taking another opportunity to lay into her, but John Prescott missing the point (as if we didn’t already know feminism had passed him by somewhat) and Rod Liddle spewing such disgustingly misogynistic bile that even the internet was shocked.
I’m not going to write a long post in defence of Harman, or of the fantastically controversial suggestions (the make-up of the government should look a bit more like the make-up of the country; children should be taught that violence is bad) she made during her week as Gordon’s stand-in, because a) this has already been done, very articulately, by Jess McCabe at The F-Word, Liv Bailey at LabourList and Tanya Gold in the Guardian amongst others; and b) I’ve done it before, at least once.
However, after a very uncomfortable conversation this weekend about domestic violence – with an astonishingly strong woman I know who survived child abuse at the hands of her father only to be physically, mentally and financially abused by her husband, the father of her child – I wanted to make a point that no-one seemed to be making during the debate about teaching kids about domestic abuse.
The point is this: a lot of children as young as five are already taught about domestic violence. But, currently, they’re not likely to be taught, in a safe classroom environment, that relationships require mutual respect and that hitting people is wrong. They’re more likely to be taught at home: by watching one of their parents hit the other; or listening to a parent crying; or, of course, by being smacked, slapped and beaten themselves.
Children learn by imitation. If a parent expresses their frustration or anger by lashing out, a child may see this as acceptable behaviour; if a child grows up watching his father beat his mother (and it is still, overwhelmingly, men who abuse women; although men who are abused by their partners face an extra stigma) he may believe that is an acceptable way to treat a partner; while his sister may believe this is the life she has to accept. I believe Ms Dynamite got this one right – listen to this from 2.50 onwards in particular 🙂
If these patterns of behaviour are not challenged from a young age, what hope do we have of breaking them?