The Education of Me(n)

“Two Men Conversing” by J. C. Leyendecker

Yesterday, I wrote this

The #MeToo thing…
Sadly, my assumption is that every woman has been harassed or abused in some way… by a man.
I’ve been asking myself is whether I have ever been the abuser, and I’m honestly unsure. But I’m a man, so I doubt the answer is “No.” In fact, if I open myself up to the inevitable guilt and other uncomfortable feelings, I’m fairly certain the answer will be an unfortunate “Yes.”
I’m working on that. And I’m sorry. And I’m ashamed.
The truth is, I doubt things can or will change unless *all* men are ready to admit, “Me too,” to having mistreated women. Only then can we have any hope of destroying the culture of abuse we so easily take for granted.

Just a few hours later, though, while sitting in a music store during my daughter’s piano lesson, I struck up a random conversation with another father sitting nearby. This man had one child — a son — a couple years older than my daughter.

The conversation was unremarkable in most respects, except its timing. You see, the man made a handful of off-color jokes about 25-year-old girls, and they made me squirm. For years, those types of jokes have made me uncomfortable, but in light of #MeToo, the feeling was far more palpable.

For the most part, I shrugged them off, tried to turn the conversation away from those jokes, and/or presented a hollow smile. But I felt awful.

Afterwards, I felt even worse. I felt — and still feel — like I should’ve said something, but I’m not sure what would’ve worked. Speaking up for my own sake isn’t enough. My words should make an impression. But this man was a stranger. He was at least as likely to “dig in,” as he was to really listen.

I’m sure I should’ve done better, but I wasn’t sure what I should have done differently. So, I (guiltily) decided to ask for help, and my dear friend Christina put to words what I couldn’t:

I think the best thing men can do is practice what they’ll say, so it comes easier.

Here’s the thing, guys. This isn’t a woman problem. It’s a man problem — it’s our problem. We’re the ones who have been fucking up for millennia. If you’ve been quietly listening or compassionately sympathizing: Stop! It’s not enough. Should women be expected to both suffer our sins and suffer the indignity of having to teach us how to be better?

We need to change.

We need to educate each other.

We need to stop tolerating this shit.

Let’s do this.

So, if you’ve got any ideas, words, approaches — whatever — please respond with them here. I’m sure at least some of them will help me (and maybe others) in the future.

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