Men protecting men
I know that in the current climate of the #MeToo movement, there is social unrest. I’ve observed and understood the feelings of men and their vulnerability caused by this movement. From a female perspective it is almost comical; the men are afraid. For the first time ever, men in leadership positions are wary of interacting with women. They finally understand what it is like for women who have to engage with men.
When I say I find this comical, I do not mean I enjoy their discomfort, it’s the irony that I cannot ignore. Men have always dismissed the claims of women and their discomfort when interacting with men. If you wonder what I mean by “discomfort”, I mean that constant scrutiny every woman must exercise with men. There are so many things we must be wary of: “Is he being too friendly?”, “Does he have a romantic interest?”, “Will he assault me if I reject him?”. On and on our thoughts go. We must always be careful to never be caught alone with that creepy co-worker who can’t keep his hands to himself, or that uncle who loves to comment on how “mature” you look.
The tables have turned. Men are now nervous to be alone in a room with a woman, lest he be accused of sexual harassment. It’s funny because if you’re a man, and you’re sure that you respect women’s boundaries, then you wouldn’t be nervous. If you have always kept your hands to yourself then you wouldn’t have to worry about groping accusations. See where I’m going? Most of the men who are nervous, should be nervous. Finally, there are consequences for their bad behaviour.
However, this is not lasting peace. Making men afraid will not create permanent social change. We need allies. We need men to hold each other accountable, but if we pull out the pitchforks for every single indiscretion, we won’t have any allies left.
This is not to say that bad behaviour should go uncorrected or unpunished. Alas, we need clear distinctions between the severity of punishment, whether social or legal. We should not punish the serial rapist and “that guy that pinched a bottom” equally. Both crimes are violations against someone, but of different proportions. We should not crucify every man that pinched a bottom along with the paedophiles and rapists. Quite frankly, we won’t have any men left. This is not to excuse their crimes, but we must be realistic. We are on the precipice of social change. What was socially acceptable or tolerated five years ago, will get you fired today and many men are still catching up. Social change takes time, and if history has taught us anything, it is that shaming and punishing all crimes equally solves nothing in the long term.
It pains me to say this, but we have to forgive some of them. We have to give them room to learn and change. Many of them won’t, but I believe a lot more will accept the olive branch. Sometimes the only way forward is to air your grievances and move on. We talk about teaching children consent, but unfortunately, many grown men must be taught as well. It’s a terrible job, but someone has to do it.
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