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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jason Morrison: Give us blokes the benefit of the doubt. You're a suspect when you're really no harm at all.

 
Editorial: Give us blokes the benefit of the doubt

By: Jason Morrison   January 27, 2014


THERE are always plenty of articles urging a better deal and a better understanding of women. Perhaps it's overdue to flip it around for a moment: it's time for a better understanding of men. The overwhelming majority of blokes are decent, respectful, peaceful and certainly not perverts.

It would be nice if we were extended the benefit of the doubt.

When we show kindness, we are not just after something and when we're around children, we should not automatically be the subject of suspicion. If you're wondering where this is coming from, the answer is personal experience and a growing mentality that says "man equals predator". And it's wrong.

On Saturday, I was at my local RSL for a family dinner. The place is a favourite because of the large children's playground next to the bistro. I took my little boy to have a go on the slide while we waited for dinner. Charlie had a great time, laughing and playing with the other kids. I was inside the fence that surrounded the play equipment keeping watch.

If you're wondering where this is coming from, the answer is personal experience and a growing mentality that says "man equals predator".

But that was apparently my crime. I hadn't noticed at the time but a group of women had become suspicious of my presence. One of them, quite assertively, walked over. "Are you here with one of the children?" she asked. The look on her face suggested this was not small talk.

I was lost for words and nervously laughed, pointing at my 22-month-old. That wasn't enough. She needed proof. Demandingly she asked, "Which one?”

In the shock of it all, I can't remember how I responded other than walking over and grabbing my son to convince her. Thankfully he responded.

I could feel the embarrassment building and so could she as she insisted, "I was just checking 'cos it just seemed strange".

What's strange about a father in a playground watching his son? Why was I different to anyone else? It was simple really. I was the only man.

They thought I was some kind of creep checking out the children. Do you have any idea how dirty that makes a man feel?

This is just a snapshot of a kind of paranoia many blokes experience in different ways. You're a suspect when you're really no harm at all. Men are no longer the protectors. To some we have all become "potential perpetrators''.



It's the same kind of suspicion that sees airlines almost always make sure that children travelling alone aren't seated next to a male passenger. The same mistrust that has schools and surf clubs banning photography by parents because "you'll never know what the photos are for".

A demonising that makes grandfathers and uncles want to avoid physical contact with children and an attitude that is driving men out of the teaching profession in record numbers.

It's largely unspoken - but scratch the surface and stories emerge. A good friend is the stepfather of two teenage girls. He's been married to their mother for over a decade. To them, he's "as good as dad" but he's twice been queried by DOCS and questioned about his motives. Investigations remain on file.

No one is denying the extent of the evils of paedophilia but have we swung too far with suspicion?

"I'm at the stage where I've lost confidence to show them any affection because of accusing glares." Who wins out of that?

A prominent man in the radio industry told me he was stopped and questioned by security for filming his own children playing on a shopping centre ride just a matter of weeks ago.

No one is denying the extent of the evils of paedophilia but have we swung too far with suspicion?

Society keeps saying men should be more hands-on with parenting but in reality, we're not really being given a chance.