Bad Jokes, Shopping Malls, and Domestic Violence

The mercury hit 106, today, and I made my escape. Air conditioned car to air conditioned mall. Not really looking for anything except not sitting home all day, and maybe some vague distraction. People watching and a sandwich. Nothing too ambitious.

For some prime people watching, you’ve gotta get out of your small town and into one of your bigger cities, so off I go to Omaha.

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A Classic in Humorous Terroristic Threats

So, you can imagine the scene. Middle American Mall in the Middle American Midwest. Busy, but not over crowded.

And then, there’s this t-shirt on display.

Okay. So, the general threat is that you can kill your daughter’s boyfriend (or maybe just some guy who looks at her) and get away with it.

And this is in a very mainstream, middle-of-the road, mall.

Huh.

A mass-produced t-shirt in which a grown man threatens a boy’s life (at least, I hope the daughter in question isn’t a 45 year old math teacher) on display in a mall, and it’s supposed to be cute, or funny.

It’s not cute or funny.

It’s actually, pretty demented.

And it wasn’t that long ago that I heard someone bragging about making the same kind of threat in real life. In that case a woman told her daughter’s new boyfriend that if he broke the girl’s heart, she’d break his legs.

I’m not even sure what that means. Don’t… what? Leave the relationship as long as the other person is happy? Don’t… what? How do you guarantee an unbroken heart?

The boy responded–fairly maturely, in my opinion–by informing the mother that he wasn’t dating her. He was dating the daughter. And he had no interest in interacting with either of the “parental units.”

Naturally, the mother was insulted beyond words. Angry. You know–as if she’d invited him to a nice dinner, instead of offering to break both his legs.

Seems like now would be a great time to thank all my ex’s parents for not threatening bodily harm. Or, I could just thank them for being nice.

I don’t think young men need to be threatened in order to get them to treat girls with respect. I don’t think they need the message that they’re all just a bunch of horny rapists, either.

I don’t think the world needs another contribution to the violence-as-normative paradigm. And that is what this is. The idea that in order to date the pretty girl, you have to put up with violent threats from her father, and you’d better toe the line. And it’s okay. In fact, it’s great. Someday, when you have a daughter of your own, you can continue the cycle.

Let’s be honest, it’s not good for the girl, either. She needs to hear that she has worth, and that she deserves respect in her own right. Not that she needs Daddy standing over her shoulder with a gun to make men respect her and treat her well.

If the only reason your boyfriend treats you right is because he’s afraid of your father, you need a new boyfriend.

And I don’t think that if something does go wrong in a girl’s relationship, she should be able to go to her parents without having to worry that her father is going to react violently.

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