An old friend and I were sharing with each other some of what we are grateful for. It’s a wonderful practice I’ve been sharing with anyone who will participate with me.
He said: “I’m grateful that in my 15 years of teaching I did nothing I have to worry about when it comes to women in the classroom.” He laughed. I laughed. He said, “I’m serious.” I said, “I know. So am I.” (Why do I feel relieved and lucky, rather than proud and judgmental of others?)
Before our catch-up call, my friend and I had been secretly doing what they call in the Catholic tradition an “examination of conscience.” We had been asking ourselves, “Do these allegations of #MeToo apply to me, too?” He said, “I can’t imagine how many guys are worried right now.”
And how many decades is this overdue? How many millions of times have women and girls and boys, too, wondered, “Did I do something wrong? Did I invite his disgusting behavior?” How wrong that they should have to ask, sometimes for years and years. It is right that we men are asking, as potential perpetrators, did I do something wrong? When it comes to these abusive males, is it Me Too? Whom have I cornered, ogled, minimized, objectified, even if God forbid, I didn’t fondle, assault or rape? Or how many times have I laughed when one of my “brothers” did or said something that made a woman – or a roomful of women – experience #MeToo? Or how many times I have I stood in silence, offended but afraid to stand up? If these questions apply to you, as they do to me, consider these five actions steps:
- Examine my conscience specifically. Even if it was 10 or 20 years ago. Own up to individual people. Ask if you’re not sure. Apologize.
- Recognize the perils of belonging to the male tribe. We don’t talk about it (see #5) but we all know it. Don’t kid ourselves.
- Say out loud: This is a new age. I will fully resolve to treat women as whole and full people. I will decidedly look beyond looks, for they are an illusion when it comes to things essential, to spirit and truth.
- See this as a men’s issue. This cannot be a women’s issue. We made it a women’s issue (much like white racism is continually made an issue that Blacks have to deal with). But it belongs to us. It’s our issue. We instigate the violence. Women have to deal with it. They shouldn’t have to figure out how to get us to deal with it. That’s our work.
- We need to talk to each other about how we get better. This means talking about discipline as the conservative traditions teach us. And it also means honesty, vulnerability and self-compassion as the liberal traditions teach us. Women have been asking each other for decades (if not eons), “how do you deal with guys who do . . . to you?” We need to talk to each other about “how do you deal with your libido…with porn…with your midlife yearnings…with your fantasies…with the locker room talk…with your shame…with your anger…with your loneliness.”
There are GREAT things about being acculturated as a man. One is not being afraid of hard work. Another is standing on principle. A third is protecting children and those for whom we are responsible (e.g., as managers). We should seize on these noble traits to become better men for ourselves as well as those we have or could hurt, as we strive to
Lead with our best selves.