My next door neighbour is currently renovating the bathrooms for the kids’ room. I say kids here but really, they are adults, the eldest son being 28 and the daughter 26. When I asked about the inconvenience of them sharing her bathroom, she told me her son moved in with his girlfriend for the time being.
“And you allowed it?” I asked rather naively.
She replied, “He is already 28, of marriageable age.’
“So that means your daughter could also move in with her boyfriend?”
“That I won’t allow,” she replied.
So age isn’t really an issue here, but gender is. Her reasoning, like many Asian mothers, is that how other daughters behave is not my problem, but my daughter must behave differently, more morally upright.
And this brings me to the current HCI issue of the relationship course that was conducted by an external vendor. Based on what I read in the press, the issue was the stereotyping of genders in the booklet that was given out by the course conductor. The facilitator himself also did not handle the objection appropriately.
HCI is an elite school with many outspoken parents (I am one of the parents, maybe not so outspoken) and students and things tend to get blown out of proportion when shared in social media. Unfortunately, such outbursts may be self serving and not taken into bigger context.
In this case, stereotyping of genders is inevitable when teaching about relationship and communication in general. Why do you thing Man are from Mars and Women are from Venus? Even parents have admitted treating their sons and daughters who are in relationship differently. Parenting books for parenting toddlers to teenagers are full of such gender stereotypes. Yes, there are exceptions but these are the norm in general.
As a past coordinator for family life events for schools, I applaud MSF for the initiatives to conduct such talks for students and parents alike. I did not have such opportunity when I was a teenager but it’s not to late to learn now as a parent. Yes, objections to any materials presented is subjective and discussions about them would have been a precious teachable moment. It’s unfortunate that this instead led to petitions and attacks on the course conductor by the public.
Many people assumed incorrectly that most parents communicate and teach relationship issue to their teenagers. Yes, parents should rightly be the best teacher, but how many effectively communicate to their children about everyday life affairs? Or any other topics for that matter? From my conversation with my neighbour, parents’ treatment of relationship issues already differ according to gender. Stereotyping is some cases is inevitable.