You, Too: Some Advice for Decent Men
Sorry for the fem ‘splaining but please read on.
A male friend of mine just posted about how disgusted he is by the number of female friends who have recently (through the “me, too” status) revealed they have been sexually harassed. He recognized his privilege, of living in a society that rarely causes him hardship and grief. He wrote that he wants to support women who have been on the receiving end of these acts. He wants to help. He won’t forget. So the “me, too” thing is working. Men like my friend (and women, too) might find this advice a useful response to perceived predators.
First, I was in the military. I worked with many, many, many men. Many young, immature and naive men. Before that, I used to commute four hours a day on the subway when I was in high school. Of the hundreds of men around me every morning and afternoon for roughly four years, maybe only 15 or 20 were ever inappropriate or worse. The vast majority of men I have worked alongside or stood next to in a crowd have not done anything inappropriate. I consider these men to be the decent guys and they are in the majority.
Predatory men make certain that no one knows their other side. They are usually helpful to others. They are often seen as experts in a certain subject and they like to give advice. But they may like to be alone with women in ways that are difficult for others to notice. They are sneaky. So you probably won’t be able to catch any of them in the act of groping a woman’s ass or grabbing her. This means that any chivalrous scenario running through your head is likely to never occur. But thanks for having them. Let me give you another scenario.
My advice to you is to be wary of any man who likes to say that a woman is “crazy” or “too emotional.” This is their way of discrediting her in the event that she comes forward.
If another male says a woman is crazy:
- Ask him why.
- Ask him for specific examples of this “craziness.”
- Say something positive about her, something you respect.
Warning: He will likely become very defensive and angry. To prevent this, try spinning the topic in a new direction. (See below.)
Will he still be a predatory a-hole? Yes. But he will be a predatory a-hole who knows that this particular woman has an ally. This could give him pause. He might stop whatever he started with her or won’t start what he was thinking of starting. Now keep an eye on him.
Revisionist History Scenario
Everyone likes a chivalrous scenario. Women, too. We like to run through our heads what we imagine our heroic actions will be during a hurricane, wildfire or mass shooting. Here’s a heroic scenario worth running through your mind.
Picture it. You are a reporter with a big story. You are in a tour bus on a Hollywood set with a powerful man. He is wealthier than you. He could, maybe, open a few doors for you, if you ever get tired of your job. He begins talking about a former colleague of yours. He doesn’t mention her work, or her personality. He mentions her appearance. He discusses her anatomy in vulgar terms.
You might be uncomfortable. You might be nervous. You know that he might question your sexual preferences. You know he has power. But you are heroic. You are chivalrous. You don’t laugh nervously. You say:
“I never paid much attention to that, but she did a great interview with your buddy [I dunno, Don King?]. Did you catch that one?”
Crisis averted. Womanhood protected. Predator denied. Heroism achieved. But don’t tell her about it. That’s bad form. And don’t turn around and ask her out. This is one grand gesture that you will have to take for the team.
Predatory men are cowards. They are weak. If we all stand up for one another they will shrivel.