Let’s Say It Together: Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too (Airplane Edition)

The Consumerist has a story from a man (who–for extra irony–happens to be a nurse who already goes through background checks to make sure he can work around children) who was asked to switch seats on a plane because it’s the airline’s policy not to have men sit next to unaccompanied minors. …For the minor’s safety. (And it’s not just this airline with such a policy.)


This reminds me of Gloria Steinem’s quote,

“We know that we can do what men can do, but we still don’t know that men can do what women can do. That’s absolutely crucial. We can’t go on doing two jobs.”


Sometimes when I’m out walking and pass by a playground, I like to pause and watch the kids play because it brings back a lot of memories of the playgrounds I loved as a kid (especially this one big wooden one that almost looked like a castle).  It’s so sad though, to think about how for so many men, if they were to pause as I do and look wistfully out at kids scampering around, they would be viewed with suspicion and possibly even disgust.  I know I’m complacent in this, too: we get suspicious if a man takes any / too much of an interest in children.  (What is “just enough” interest in children?)
That is so messed up.

4 thoughts on “Let’s Say It Together: Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too (Airplane Edition)

  1. Even if they were going to have such a silly policy, wouldn’t the proper action be to move the minor instead of the adult man? With many U.S. carriers (I’m not sure about Australian ones), folks are able to select their own seats. When I choose a seat, I’m rather inclined to stick with the seat I’ve chosen unless there’s a very good reason to move. And this doesn’t constitute much of a reason.

  2. So … to ensure that I never have to sit next to someone else’ unsupervised child on a plane, I just need to dress as a man when I travel?

  3. I’m definitely not up on the stats but all of this sort of extra caution is directed toward strangers right? Hmm. So this says:

    Some have taken issue over the response to the supposed threat of stranger abuse. A number of commentators have pointed out that 80-90 per cent of sexual abuse is perpetrated by persons known to the child such as family members, other relatives and neighbours, with strangers accounting for only 10-20 per cent of cases Grubin, 1999. Kidscape 1993 cites official figures which show that between 1987 and 1991 40 children were killed by strangers compared to 231 who were killed by persons they knew, often parents or carers. Misconceptions over the threat posed by stranger abuse place children at greater risk Furedi, 2001.

    But I’m having trouble interpreting their results:

    Prevalence of stranger-perpetrated incidents. In respect of the ‘last’ sexual incident, the largest group 44 per cent of perpetrators consisted of ‘known’ persons. Table 3 shows that strangers were responsible for an almost equally large proportion of these incidents 41 per cent. Persons whom the child had only ‘seen before’ made up a relatively small proportion of incidents 13 per cent.

    If ‘last incidents’ are representative of all incidents-and taking into account that 22 per cent of the sample experienced some form of sexual incident-then the proportion of respondents enduring a stranger-perpetrated sexual incident would have been 9 per cent. In the recent prevalence survey carried out by NSPCC, 4 per cent of respondents stated that they had been sexually abused as a child by a stranger Cawson and others, 2000.

    Oh, I see. The 9% is out of all children.

    This research shows that the debate over the seriousness of stranger-perpetrated sexual abuse is complex. On the one hand, the findings offer some reassurance, with only a small minority of children experiencing such incidents and with many of the reported incidents involving ‘less serious’ acts. That children were almost nine times more likely to hurt themselves through an accident when they were out, than be accosted sexually by a stranger, also helps to put these incidents into perspective. Having said this, some children were ‘touched’ by, or were made to ‘touch’, perpetrators; others were subject to attempted ‘abductions-some of which were completed; and almost three-quarters of all victims said they had been ‘very’ or ‘quite frightened’ by their experiences Gallagher and others, in preparation. Levels of victimisation were higher among girls than boys, and for children from inner city areas and peripheral council estates, compared to those from the outer suburbs and rural areas.

    Other results call into question commonly held notions concerning stranger abuse. For instance, being accompanied by their peers did not protect children as much as might have been expected, and children were as much at risk from other children and young people as they were from adults Gallagher and others, in preparation.

    Hmm. This still seems to suggest that moving people in the highly controlled environment of an airplane is nuts.

    Huh! I just realized that I’ve been asked to move on! I was in the kids section of a bookstore looking for some stuff, reading snippets of old favorites, killing time when I was eventually asked to leave. I thought it was weird but I didn’t twig that it was a ‘safety concern’. I was just miffed at being discriminated for being without a child (which is how they sold it).

    (The place was mostly empty. I wasn’t even near any kids.)

    By the by, I don’t think this is the biggest deal. It’s bonkers, obviously, but very much of a piece with security theatre in general. People convicted of sex crimes (and other felons) are a much trickier issue with, on the one hand, the persecution levels rising quite high but, on the other hand, real worries about recidivism.

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