Not me. Not now. Not ever.
I got some great feedback on the story I wrote yesterday, “#metoo but not #metoo”. So many people. So many views. It’s been a long time coming but we’re finally talking about the uncomfortable, hard stuff. And that’s what is important.
Men are scared. As Conan O’Brien tweeted, “This week, 90% of all calls and texts are men contacting women in their past to say, ‘Are we cool?’” Most of the men I’ve talked with or heard from feel innocent of any sexual crimes but they are worried nonetheless because of that gray area I mentioned yesterday.
“Crap, when I told her she looked nice today in that dress was I saying it in a creepy kind of way?”
(What was your intent, to make a nice comment to a co-worker or to get lucky at the office Christmas party?)
“When my female co-worker texted me a picture of her eating a BBQ brisket sandwich I sent her back the emoji with the drool coming out of the mouth. I meant to say it looked good but then my friend informed me that that particular emoji has a sexual innuendo attached. I’m screwed now!”
(What was your intent, to comment on how delicious her meal looked or to let her know she’d look better with a different kind of sauce on her face?)
“We got into a heated debate during a board meeting and I told my colleague that her shrill protestations wouldn’t change the outcome.”
(What was your intent, to prove that a colleague had become unhinged during a meeting or to use a gender-biased word typically associated with the weaker sex in order to elevate your own position?)
It’s good for men to question how they have contributed to the undervaluing of women and to examine the motivations for their behaviors. Since the beginning of time women have struggled to achieve parity with their male counterparts. We’ve never been treated equally and this day of reckoning is long overdue.
I was driving my teenage boys home from school today and I asked them what they felt about all of the allegations coming out against men. It’s hard to get my boys to agree on anything so I was surprised when their answers all had a common thread: 1)“Why did those guys have to act like that in the first place?” 2) “Why did it take so long for those women to come forward?” 3) “It’s unfair that all men are being treated as pigs when there are a lot of us good guys out there.”
Feeling the pressure of answering for all womankind, these were my measured replies:
- Repeat after me, boys: No means no. Many of the awful cases of abuse were because men were using their sexuality as a means of power and control over people they felt were less than them. Some of the lesser black-and-white cases were because men have been systemically raised to view women as the weaker sex. Generations of sexist boys were raised by generations of sexist men. Just because it was a cultural norm didn’t make it right. Slavery was a cultural norm practiced by “good people” but it was still wrong. Part of evolving is questioning our behaviors and morphing into a better version of ourselves.
- It’s hard to put all women into one category. Some didn’t say anything because they were terrified for their physical safety. Others didn’t come forward because they were worried about losing their jobs and when you have bills to pay this can be a significant factor in your decision making process. Yet others were ashamed. They’d been made to feel insignificant and powerless. Nobody likes feeling that way and they certainly don’t want to announce out loud, “Hey, guys, I got harassed and was too embarrassed to say anything.” But know this, boys, a true victim has their reasons and you need to be sensitive to their situation.
- This last one was a little harder for me to answer. Frankly, it’s because I agree with them. Good men are now worried about everything they’ve said and done for decades. Things women themselves could easily be guilty of. “Did I make a joke I shouldn’t have?” “When I asked that woman out a second time was that being too pushy?” “Her dress was really low cut and I’m pretty sure my gaze rested on her chest region a second too long. Am I a perv now?” (In another article I will be exploring women’s role in moving us forward.) For now, though, I’m sure a lot of men would like a hashtag for #notme — I’ve never raped a woman, masturbated in front of somebody random, used my power as an employer to hold a woman hostage to my sexual whims, etc. #notme wouldn’t be claiming perfection, because perfection doesn’t exist in men or women. But it might be a way for the good guys to stand up with the women they love and respect and say, “I’m not going to tolerate any behavior that makes a person feel less than an equal.”
To address issues of sexism, rascism, and hate we are going to need everyone involved, regardless of sexual orientation or ethnicity. I look back on the Bible verse my parents used to make me recite when I got into an argument with my brothers and think it addresses this situation nicely: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31 Maybe if we all applied this Golden Rule to our lives we wouldn’t have to worry about hashtags at all.