After centuries of silence — or in many cases, speaking out, but not being heard — we’re in the middle of a cultural norm pendulum swing that is necessary, ugly, painful, detrimental, and probably the only way up from where we’ve been.
I’d like to begin by including some context around who it is that’s making so much noise:
- Women, who are half of the freakin’ population.
- Women, who must beg their male representatives for just the most basic amount of consideration… which, of course, is denied.
- Women, who bear the weight and the reality of life — but aren’t trusted with the decisions that go along with it.
- Women, who are handed off from Father to Husband, as a contract is sealed.
- Women, who are expected to foster what’s left of a household, but are actively denied the resources to do so.
- Women, who are taught from the youngest of ages how to deal with unwanted attention — and about the reality that it will exist in abundance — much of which is a matter of survival. Not joy, not peace, not dignity,… but rather, just surviving to see another day, or keeping a job, or enough food to eat, or having shelter.
- Women, who are geniuses at innovation — devising a gourmet meal out of the 3 ingredients in the pantry and a box of leftovers, or making 2 minimum wage jobs with no benefits, no sick days, and definitely no living-wage, support the entire family and get the kids into college, or navigating the hurdles and roadblocks intended to dissuade her from acquiring that degree, seeking that promotion, and impressing that Fortune 100 client, because that’s just not her place — all the while, paving the way and reaching back for others like her, or, you know, figuring out how to land on the moon.
- Women, who are largely denied an education, even when it’s freely available — especially when it’s being taken for granted by their counterparts.
- Women, who are better at reading a room than 80% of the top sales guys out there — because they have to.
- Women, who in spite of the environments they were born and raised into, are still expected to be the most gentle, nurturing, and kind specimens of humanity you could hope to meet — many of whom continue to rise to the occasion.
- Women, whose strength is that which world leaders could aspire to.
Women, who are so used to being treated as prey, that it’s considered “normal.”
Here’s the thing about “normal”: the word were usually looking for is “typical.” Not everything that is typical, is normal — nor should it be.
So, let’s look at “typical.”
One of the things that bears emphasizing is that men and women are raised and acculturated in the same place — though the specific messages might differ, the environment is the same — so, try not to get too haughty about how ‘the only reason this stuff is perpetuated is because women allow it.’ Many women (just like men) know all of this as simply ‘their environment’ or ‘the way things are,’ and lack the support, encouragement, and exposure it takes to believe otherwise. Not to mention, even those who believe otherwise, also know that the consequences for rocking the boat are generally severe.
You may notice that I said “just like men.” Here’s where it gets really interesting. You see, even men who are by-and-large egalitarian crusaders, allies of the highest order, or really good guys, were still raised in this environment and — while they’d never perpetrate the most egregious of offenses — they will, almost invariably, cross the line of consent or dismissiveness.
How could someone so ‘woke’ do such a thing?
Because a lot of things — actions, sayings, jokes, etc. — are seen as ‘typical’ and are so much further away from the ‘predator’ side of the scale that, at least to them, at the time, it appears harmless.
So, what’s this scale look like, anyway?
I’m sure it could use some refinement (let’s be honest: lots of refinement), but this is the gist of it (click the image to enlarge it):
One of the tricky parts of this whole thing is that the word “misogyny” is generally associated with the severe cases on the right, but like most things, it’s not binary. There are degrees of it. While shooting for somewhere around a “0”, most of the egalitarian crusaders are generally around a 1 or 2 — which, to their credit, is definitely better than the 3, 4, or 5 they were (collectively) encouraged to be throughout their lives — but it’s still not ok.
Most of the rather stellar examples of “the western male” that I know are somewhere in the 1-3 range, some of whom believe they’re a 0. I happen to think this is where much of the communication breaks down on the topic — the mis-match between self-image and actual behavior, as well as the part where women are just so collectively sick of all of it, there’s very little patience left for those who are just a little off-base.
So, who are the “good guys”?
The scary part to me — in the current climate of cultural-norm-pendulum-swinging — is that we’re not distinguishing between the 2’s and the 4’s, or the 1’s and the 5’s.
Is any of it ok?
No, it’s not.
But the men who are 1’s or 2’s, are now aware of it, and want to keep working toward zero…
- These are the men who can make a difference.
- These are the men who are now aware of their own missteps.
- These are the men who are more apt to listen and keep the discussion moving forward.
- These are the men who are likely to hold their peers accountable.
- These are the men who should be called out, but perhaps not pressured to resign.
- These are the men who are trying.
And we could do with a little more trying.
Why does all of this matter?
The vast majority of us have over-stepped as it relates to the opposite sex, consent, or dismissiveness.
I know that I have.
I’m also not excusing the behavior.
What I am saying, though, is that maintaining a perfect track-record is probably an unrealistic expectation as a starting point.
Which could also be beneficial, since those who are best at devising corrective actions are generally those who have learned from some mistakes, rather than those who’ve either not made any mistakes, or can’t own up to them in the first place.
I think that the challenge is (and should be) to find those who are trying, and work with them.
Which brings me to a very sincere plea: for those who have been called out as a 1, 2, or maybe even a 3, but who are willing to listen, to own their starting point and actively work toward zero, please stop resigning. If you go, and you’re really the only ones with enough integrity to know that you should resign, all we’ll be left with are the most egregious offenders who haven’t the integrity to step down. Yes, they still have some work to do, and as long as they’re up for the task, that’s completely forgivable, but choosing to leave us in the hands of those who are committed to making things worse… is absolutely unforgivable. Let’s do the work instead.
It’s time for some honesty.
And some steps in the right direction.
Let’s own our s#!t, then make it better.