Chicago author, Steve Silver, made an interesting post yesterday on Facebook. In it he asked men who have caused sexual harassment, or worse, to own it. He wants them to post a social media status beginning with I HAVE. This is in response to all the women who have been posting ME TOO and admitting they were sexually harassed or raped. I would caveat Steve’s brave thought with this; DO NOT name names when you make that post. Do not post “In 1986 I grabbed Cindy-Lou Who by the woo-hoo and made her squeal like a pig.” You do not get to pretend to take the high road while dragging someone else’s reputation down. That’s not how anything works. Still, Steve’s main idea is valid and I hope men, it’s almost exclusively men, own this. Only by dragging this into the light can we fully see it, understand it, and then kill it with fire.
As long as we’re on the subject let me jump on the throats of assholes who try to water down ideas and/or make them personal for all the wrong reasons. Let’s start with “Men get harassed too.” Yes they do. Do you feel better now? But the number of men who have been harassed pales when compared to the nearly 65% of American women who have reported unwanted advances, touching, or rape. Globally it gets worse in some countries. And that’s just the reported incidences. Most researchers I spoke with think the number is closer to 80% or higher across the board.
Let’s just look at the most common women in a man’s life; grandmother, mother, sister, girlfriend/wife. Out of just those four the odds are staggeringly in favor of three of them having suffered through this. Add in the fact that 10% of American women reported that such harassment led to rape and it becomes obvious that it’s maddeningly likely someone you love has been physically violated.
I know, that’s not a pleasant thought. Imagine being the woman who survived it. That incident is burned in her memory and she, often, has very little available to her in the way of recourse. Courts allow defense attorneys to routinely slut-shame victims, “What were you wearing Cindy-Lou?” Men in power are rarely challenged since they can ruin someone’s career in a phone call. So women have learned to grin, and I use that word painfully, and bear it.
That is not a good thing and, thankfully, it’s changing.
But, and this is important, what CAN NOT happen is for anyone to allow the focus to be removed from this core issue. It can not just devolve into “Let’s just be nicer” and move on. It has to stay laser focused. Otherwise it will get diluted just as Black Live Matters is right now.
For those who missed the memo, Black Live Matters is about one main issue. Black people are four times as likely to be shot by police than anyone else. Especially young black men. Many are killed for “Resisting Arrest” which sounds acceptable until you think about it. If the only charge filed is resisting arrest then what the young black man was resisting was being taken to jail for not committing a crime.
Just mull that over. Take as long as you want. While you’re there take a knee.
What both issues have in common is men abusing power. Yes, women abuse power too, #feminism?, but let’s concentrate on one problem at a time. Somehow, some way, we need to be able to educate men that this type of behavior is not manly. It’s cowardly and infantile.
I know what I was like in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I was a dick with a dick. There were a lot of reasons for that, but none are excuses. As I grew older, and got to know more people outside of my comfort zone, I learned. I learned that abusing people is not acceptable. That harassing them is wrong. That NO does mean NO and it needs to be respected.
If an old reprobate like me can figure it out, there’s still a glimmer of hope for everyone else.