About a month ago I wrote a post on this blog about the bathroom procedure at my daughter's preschool and my preference for her to be taken to the toilet by women, not the male volunteers in the classroom. I sited a statistic (Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study 2001, revised 2002) that I believed to be accurate to support my thought that men should not be in women's restrooms helping female preschoolers go to the toilet.
To be clear, I never accused any male volunteer of wrong doing. The bathroom at this particular school is separated from the classroom by two concrete walls and a hallway. My thinking was that I did not want my daughter to become accustomed to men taking her to secluded areas and having access to her private areas. A two-year-old is not wise enough to know that at school it's okay, but other places with different men is not. NOTE: These were not male staff, which are present and I have no problem with. They are literally men off the street with no childcare credentials beyond paying the school tuition.
The post received little traffic and a handful of supportive comments. I later updated the post with the decision from the school. They agreed to honor my request and in light of my concern, they became aware that their school policy was lacking any language in regard to the bathroom and formed a task committee to research policies at other preschools. I claimed victory that my daughter (the only child this women-only bathroom assistance measure affected) would be "safe" and that I had made a difference by inspiring change.
Also to be clear, the reason the school reexamined their policy because no protocol had ever been in place. Nearly every preschool has some kind of procedure in the bathroom with kids - sometimes it's a rule of threes, or that the caregiver must be visible from the classroom etc. This is all the school is doing. They are just aligning themselves with similar institutions. I think they have done an excellent job of being fair and in no way are they enacting a policy to keep men out of the bathroom or classroom.
This past Wednesday evening, the post was reposted on a men's forum on Reddit and the fallout was a hard lesson in modern life.
My original post was misguided. Worse was my initial reaction to harsh criticism. Out of the blue my mom blog was pounded with stern comments pouring in so fast the server couldn't keep up. These commenters were unknown to me. I just jumped with my gut instinct to fight fire with fire. I freaked out in real time because I felt ambushed. It was a mistake I regret.
I was unaware the people calling me a bigot had a broader message. I have since learned so much about Mens Rights Activists (MRA), a world view I had honestly never considered. I did not intend to be intolerant of anyone, I simply thought gender-assigned bathrooms made the same sense in preschool as they do in the rest of the world. I am sorry.
I do still prefer gender-assigned bathrooms, which includes children, for privacy reasons like adults are afforded every day. Some may argue public places should have mixed-gender bathrooms but many people are not ready for that. (Family bathrooms are nice of course!)
As for my misguided reaction to the volunteer dads in school, please try to be in my shoes. This is my first baby, the volunteer dad in class on the first day of school was a complete stranger to me. I couldn't even see his face. I had met all the moms and teachers before the school year started, but not all the dads including him.
For the record, I never suggested removing dads from class. I didn't address who should take the boys to the potty simply because I don't have a son and the only child I had an opinion about was my own. I don't govern other peoples' parenting. When I blogged about my experience it was just that - my experience, just like I blog about the apple pies I make and crafts my kids do. I did not consider personal posts to be anything other than a record of my experience.
Although I have been treated horribly by certain activists and threatened with violence (an FBI report was filed UPDATE - I have since moved from my home for safety reasons) I do have the wisdom to see that the broader message of gender rights is worthy of attention. Paternity fraud, unfair custody battles, certain child support procedures, false accusations and double standards that plague men are an unfair set back to everyone.
Feminism maintains a premise of "the radical notion that women are people". Men are people too. So are children. We all deserve fair treatment from the justice system and each other. Women are just as capable of committing crimes as men and should not be held less responsible when these instances occur.
I apologize for perpetuating the distrust men face in the world of childcare. Please know my fears stemmed from cultural osmosis and I never intended harm to anyone. The past few days have not been pleasant, but the experience has been a gift of awareness. The irony is not lost on me that my birthday is coming up. I am so, so much older than I was last Tuesday.
This is not just a parenting blog. It is a powerful tool for spreading ideas. I will be more responsible in the future with such a platform.
I will remove this post if any further negativity is directed at me or my family and I reserve the right to moderate comments.
UPDATE 11:20PM 10/24 And scene! That was a full discussion and only one person got banned (who was also banned from a main MRA site). Good work. Comments are now closed on this post and it will remain visible.
UPDATE January 9, 2012: The school's new policy has been published and I will cut and paste it below as proof I never made any efforts, nor was successful at making efforts, to exclude men from duties at preschool. Also, I NEVER said or even implied that "most men are child molesters" as was falsely stated by A Voice For Men. That type of statement is so harmful and untrue I'm surprised AVfM would even publish such a thing.
A very important point is that I never asked for a policy change at the school. The first sentence of my post started "You don't have to write it down . . ." because the director asked me if I needed it in writing. Policy change = writing, no? I just wanted a verbal confirmation that my own daughter would only be in the ladies' room with women.
TO BE CLEAR I still am firm on this. I believe in the dignity of gender-assigned bathrooms for boys and girls. I want my daughter afforded the privacy and modesty of an all-female bathroom.
ONTO THE POLICY CHANGE: Nearly all other preschools have protocol in place for the bathroom. Many of them have a "rule of threes" which is that at least two caregivers must be present when taking a child to the bathroom. Other institutions have a rule of visibility, which means the caregiver must always be visible from the classroom (many preschools have half-walls so the adult can be seen).
This school had no such rules and realized they needed them. The discussion I opened up prompted them to make a change - one that never addressed gender. THAT is where the policy change came in. You might imagine a school would have all their bases covered, but for whatever reason this school hadn't thought to put language in their official handbook that addressed bathroom procedures.
I will now directly cut and paste the new school policy on taking students to the bathroom, redacting the school name:
ASSISTING PARENT BATHROOM GUIDELINES
Each year, as [REDACTED] continues to evolve and grow, we further clarify the roles and responsibilities of assisting parents. This year, we have realized that many of our parents would like clarity on what role they should play in helping children in the bathroom. The board and staff have collaborated over the last month to develop our new bathroom guidelines. They reflect our research on best bathroom practices in other cooperative preschools as well as our commitment to fostering children's independence, comfort, and safety while remaining conscious of appropriately and effectively utilizing our teachers and assisting parents. Bathroom Guidelines: [REDACTED] strives to ensure safety and encourage children’s independence in the bathroom.
[REDACTED] asks each family to have their child practice bathroom procedures at home such as dressing/undressing and wiping. [REDACTED] encourages parents to dress their children in clothes that make it as easy as possible for them to be independent in the bathroom. We also request that parents/caregivers always take their child to visit the toilet before class to minimize interruptions and provide more time for play and learning.
The following applies while class is in session: All children, accompanied by a teacher, their parent, or parent assistants, should be taken only to the two-stall bathroom located in the hallway across from the classrooms. Adults should use the single bathroom, located closest to the lobby, so that the two-stall bathroom remains available for students.
Parents assisting in the bathroom should stand outside of the closed stall door, remind and encourage children to wipe and flush, and monitor hand washing to ensure children are using the proper technique. If a child needs assistance with clothing details such as pulling-up pants, buttons, zippers or snaps, assisting parents should help them outside of the stall, in either the sink area or in the front "powder room" area.
If a child needs any kind of assistance in a stall and can’t be prompted toward independence with things such as wiping, changing clothes after an accident, getting onto/off of the toilet, or generally learning how to toilet, teachers should ideally provide this help. To notify a teacher, parents can simply step into the hallway and alert an adult in the front classroom. If a teacher is unavailable, a parent may provide assistance if they are comfortable doing so. Teachers and assisting parents should make sure that stall doors remain open when they are helping a child in a stall.
If a family feels that their child needs special accommodations or support in using the bathroom, beyond what is outlined in this policy, they should contact the Education Director to discuss their child’s needs.
NOTE: [REDACTED] is not licensed to change diapers. Therefore, no Pull-Ups are allowed."