With sexual harassment allegations coming out at a dizzying rate, it would be easy to lump all men into the same aggressor group and condemn them equally. Such lack of distinction would, however, not be helpful, especially if we are trying to achieve the illusive state of equality that many of us desire.
When I look at the list of publicly accused men, I see, in addition to the fact that they share male chromosomes, that they are all men in powerful positions. Their actions are abuses of power. Just like when a male aggressor overpowers a woman physically, these men have used their stature to impose their will.
For personal reasons, I feel compelled to say that not all men are like that. In fact, I can go further. Despite of one avalanche of allegations after another, I still feel comfortable saying that most men are not like that.
Feminism and Spirituality
For me, this is personal. I am a feminist at heart. I believe in equal opportunity for the sexes. I have walked the talk, supporting my wife through her graduate and post-graduate studies and stayed at home with my children for the past seven years while she pursued a career.
Becoming a better man has also been a spiritual pursuit. Since I quit drinking in 1999, I have steadily made amends for my previous behavior and made an effort to improve my ability to love and care for others. So far, so good. I have been happily married for sixteen years, this November, and have been there every step of the way for my children, from the moment they were born.
I don’t expect praise or a medal for what I’ve done. My actions have been their own reward. But I am tired of being lumped in with less than admirable individuals just because I am a man, and I am betting that other men are as well. Generalizations like “men can’t keep it in their pants” don’t apply to anyone in my circle of friends. Even if they did, it seems unhelpful to equate promiscuity with sexual assault, which, as I mentioned before, is an abuse of power.
Not All Men Deserve My Apology
There are real sexual predators in our society. Some use physical force to impose their will. Others use money and power for the same purpose. These individuals should rightly be called out and prosecuted when possible. There should be zero tolerance for their behavior. Making the world safer for women is a priority.
But sexual predators are outliers. They are. And yet, many of them are trying to make it sound as if every man does something similar to what they do. When the general public repeats their excuses, such as “men will be men” or labeling it as “locker room talk,” it is tremendously demeaning to all men.
It’s a simple ask. Don’t lump us all together in a just condemnation of the few.
The Road to Gender Equality
The road to gender equality is strewn with obstacles, some visible, others still hidden. It is good when hidden obstacles come into view, then we can tackle them.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious issues.
We need to make sure that every person—both male and female—knows what the red line is that must not be crossed. It will be a difficult balancing act. The easy way would be to instill a sense of fear and hypersensitivity. The better way would be foster a culture of trust that has clear boundaries.
We are witnessing an important part of an ongoing conversation between the sexes. I hope that we will soon find the balance we seek, so that we can move away from generalizations based on chromosomes alone.
Husband, Father, Author, Interfaith Minister
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