I was reminded of this today when I found this article by Emily Peck in Huffington Post about the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal, and specifically the number of men who have rushed to denounce him and his behaviour -- often prefacing their remarks with the qualifier phrase "as a father/grandfather/husband..."
"The implication behind these kinds of statements is that women are only worthy of basic respect in relation to men," Peck points out.
Surely we don't have to be parents (or grandparents, or spouses) to find this sort of behaviour abhorrent. Surely we should be able to empathize and relate to others simply because they're fellow human beings who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect -- not because of their personal relationship to us.
Of course, having children is extremely meaningful. And, yes, some parents feel a heightened urge to guard their offspring that also leads them to feel heightened empathy for other kids. At least, that’s been the case for me personally. And the truth is, for men, having a daughter can be somewhat transformative.
But that’s simply not a prerequisite for feeling empathy for victims of sexual assault.
(Or just feeling empathy for others, period.)