Everyone needs to watch this video so that the next time someone – almost invariably a man – tells “a harmless joke” or makes even a vaguely derisive comment “only in jest” about women and girls, perhaps you’ll remember this video and muster the courage to tell that guy that that’s not acceptable. Not to you. Not to half the human population.
I don’t know how, but some people might watch this video and not be moved. Others may watch it (and read these words) as just more liberal bullshit about being politically correct.
They’ll be wrong.
The issue of violence against women isn’t about being liberal or conservative. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about how we raise our boys into men, and how we men then think about and treat girls and women. It’s about the example we men set for our boys and the rest of society. It’s about whom we choose to be our political leaders, and whom we choose to follow as cultural and spiritual leaders.
It’s about how we men want to influence and to help shape a world in which our daughters, our sisters, our wives, and all women must also live.
I don’t know how anyone can deny that violence has at least some of its roots in the morals, values, and ethics we as adults use in raising our children. If that’s true, then violence against women, therefore, must also be rooted to some degree in how we adults – again and in particular, we men – teach our boys right from wrong.
Given that, doesn’t it seem reasonable to conclude then that what our society ultimately values comes from adults who once were children, and that what those adults come to value has its roots in some significant way from what was learned as a child? After all, that is the influence we as adults hope to have on our kids, is it not?
That’s why I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not just what we try to teach our boys when it comes to their thinking and attitudes about girls. It also is about the actual examples we men set in our day-to-day lives.
I say with complete confidence that we men want to believe that we’re doing our best. We teach what we think and believe to be right; however, we need to be even more cognizant of the fact that what we *show* our boys everyday through our words and our deeds has a huge influence in what they learn as acceptable and admirable traits and behaviors.
Now, some men may complain (as certain kinds of men all too often seem to do these days) that they are being put upon yet again by society and by liberal ideals of political correctness. They may complain that they’re being told what to do and what to say and what to think.
They may even watch the video and think, “That isn’t me.” They’ll say to themselves. “I wasn’t that boy growing up, and I’m not that guy now.”
That may, in fact, be true on varying levels, but the experience of 50-plus years tells me that all of us men have at least some measure of responsibility, at the very barest of minimums, for giving cover to misogyny by staying silent in its presence.
I don’t personally know any men who have physically abused a woman. What experience tells me, though, is that it would be the rare male indeed who hasn’t made a joke or used an ugly pejorative like whore or cunt when referring to a girl or woman. Sadly, that includes me, and so to all of the girls and women I’ve hurt with my words, I am sorry for the pain I caused.
To any men chuckling at the idea of issuing this kind of public apology, let me say this. It can’t possibly make up for the harm caused, and it doesn’t make me any less of a man. In fact, I believe that what it does is to make me more human. To those men who may still be snickering, I hope you’ll rethink your reaction. I don’t care if you laugh at me. I just hope you’ll think more about changing your attitudes and behavior going forward toward women.
I truly think that we men need to abandon our antiquated notions of “manhood.” We need to reconcile how we deal with human emotions that cultures the world over have been intent on breeding out of us over millennia; emotions like kindness, empathy, compassion, tenderness.
Young men like my son give me hope. His recognition and understanding of problems like violence against women is proof that men of the 21st century are looking at things differently. That’s good news because, honestly, I don’t have nearly as much hope for my fellow Baby Boomers. Not enough of us seem willing to acknowledge our faults, our responsibilities, and the need to evolve and grow in our thinking about so many things.
And, I hate to say it like this, but the other good news is that we Baby Boomers won’t be around and in charge much longer. I say that because I see it with my own eyes on a daily basis. Say what you will about the Millennials, but they didn’t fuck things up. We Baby Boomers have done that.
When it comes to questions about violence against women – and so many other issues that affect women, like a woman’s right to have an abortion and that laws should require women to be paid the same as men – the men of the Millennial Generation are showing that they have a far greater and stronger grasp on the source of our problems and what to do about them than we Baby Boomers. They have the courage to acknowledge the reality of cultural misogyny that previous generations have created. To their great credit, they aren’t willing to accept it as the norm.
Look, it’s simple reality. Women don’t attack themselves. Women don’t rape themselves. Women don’t brutalize or ridicule themselves. Men do that to them.
Yes, and to be sure, it’s not all men. I’m not saying that it is. I’d like to think that it’s the tiniest percentage of men, but it’s men nonetheless, and any percentage above zero is too many men.
What the rest of us men must do is stop giving them cover.
Unless we start when our sons are young; unless we set good examples for them to follow as they grow; unless all the rest of us men who aren’t physically abusive and violent to women are willing to speak up against written and spoken words that are misogynistic and the first possible steps toward violent behavior, then we’re really not doing enough to reduce the risks that some men represent to our daughters, our wives, our sisters, and to all women.
This isn’t about being politically correct or less of a man.
It’s about us being real men in ways that make women safer and which help to make us a more modern and peaceful society.