One of the things I’ve been struck by over the last several weeks during the explosion of unfounded accusations about Brett Kavanaugh is this pervasive idea that victimhood is nearly inevitable for women, all men are predatory by nature and that accusations should be as good as a conviction.
Now this isn’t exactly a new narrative by the left, earlier this year when Federal Department of Eduction Secretary Betsy DeVos suggested changes to Title IV provisions to require a higher standard of due process, clarifying details on what constitutes an assault and protections for universities themselves, the reaction by some was swift. Women accused her of protecting rapists and abusers, neither of which were based in fact, but that didn’t stop critics. The idea that men simply accused of sexual assault, harassment or discrimination (even when the terms aren’t well defined) deserve nothing was a prominent theme in the rebuttal of the changes.
Everything about these two narratives — Men should all be considered capable and possibly willing predators, and an accusation by a woman should equal a conviction — offends me to my core. Yes, statistics show that significant numbers of women are victimized in their lives (using a broad scale to define victimization) I am neither disputing that fact nor am I defending actual assailants or dismissing actual victims. What I’m saying is that we need to be careful to not teach our daughters to fear all men and to teach our sons that they have to walk on eggshells every moment of every day.
I see very few women speaking out as supportive of the men in our lives and the positive ways that strong, protective men provide physically, emotionally and financially for their families. You’d think that these men, the good ones are an afterthought to the feminist who would have you believe that being male is in itself bad or wrong. You’d think that the good ones are the exception and the assailants and predatory ones are the norm. This is just not true.
Before this narrative goes any further; before the loud drown out the reasonable, we need to push back (we being the women friends, colleagues, mothers, sisters of men who cannot defend their own honor without being attacked further). We need to reject the premise and stand firm in the truth that no not every man has or is going be sexually aggressive. Not every man has or will sexually harass women. Not every man has a hidden past or is capable in the future of victimizing women.
I think it’s sad to read about or hear women talk about leading their lives in constant fear of men. If your ability to go about your daily life is impacted significantly by a fear of men, you need to seek professional help and I don’t say that flippantly I say it because that’s a terrible way to live.
Yes, I want my daughter to be situationally aware. I want her to be able to defend herself. I want her to be able to recognize that there are bad men out there. But I don’t want her to fear every man that she comes in contact with. I don’t want her to fear person who asks her on a date. I don’t want her to fear every moment of every day and to look at each man as a ticking time bomb.
And I don’t want to teach my son that he’s going to grow up in a world where he has to be cautious of being portrayed as a potential offender. I want him to be contentious of treating women with respect and respecting their boundaries and their wishes. As a mother, it’s my responsibility to teach my son, about to be sons, to do so. It’s the responsibility of the men in their lives to provide an example for them to follow. This is something I feel like I’ll be doing from the day they’re born until the day I die.
One of the things that has come out of the Kavanaugh and Roy Moore conversations is the change in social norms from previous years and times. In my short lifetime, I’ve seen changes in the way in which women and men in the workplace, classroom and in public interact. I’ve also seen bizarro world happen in terms of the lines some women draw and what they find offensive that I don’t. I welcome complements. I welcome a man holding a door or pulling out a chair. My confidence or strength isn’t diminished if a man recognizes my femininity. It takes time for me to look my best and for a man to acknowledge that doesn’t offend me. For a man to kiss me at the end of a date without asking permission if I am giving him every indication that’s okay is okay by me – no he doesn’t need my verbal or written consent. Call me old-fashioned, but I like for the men in my life to act like men. Not to be too scared to hurt or offend me to talk or touch me. Trust me if something makes me uncomfortable, I’ll let them know.
The way some men spoke to women and in some ways behaved towards them in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and even a bit of the 90s is now seen as by some completely unacceptable. And some of it was, but not all of it. I recently had a conversation with a gentleman who was probably 60 years old who told me that every man in his generation could worry that someone from 20-30 years ago could step forward today and say they were discriminatory for comments or behavior that was socially acceptable and the normal back then. Now I’m not talking about or defending sexual assault that was never okay but other behavior like telling a woman she was beautiful or looked nice. Buying flowers for women. Asking women out on dates who would be considered subordinates at work. The number of things that used to be okay and aren’t now are staggering… think of the cliche of how many men would marry their receptionists or secretaries. Those things now are seen as horrific and unacceptable.
I think we need to not criminalize all behavior. We need to not make assumptions and decide all motives are nefarious. We need to understand there’s a difference between malicious or disrespectful intent, and men without it. We need to understand there are good men and not paint them all with a broad stroke as bad. The men in our lives deserve that and we’re not doing the women of the world any service by continuing to flame the fires of a gender war.
Here’s to strong, confident men may we raise them, may we love them, may we respect them, may we honor them.
For good measure here’s a scene from the West Wing this post made me think of: