Yes I Did!
Yes I Did
The current wave of accusations surrounding sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct etc has hit a nerve in me that I need to write about. Much of that need stems from my experience as a denier of my own complicity and my observation I have made in many settings that I cannot accept that denial any longer. I believe that any male brought up in this and many other cultures has been indoctrinated with the notion that he has the right to a woman’s body and in an even broader sense the right to her experience. I have discovered in my commitment to self knowledge that I can no longer deny that on many occasions I have crossed that line in action and/or in thought, neither being acceptable any longer. The only method I have to deal with this character flaw is to admit it and take responsibility for my thoughts and actions.
How then do I know I am complicit? I learned early on in my preteen years about my father’s interest in naked women. In looking for something at his desk one day I discovered a small plastic item that looked like a telescope. I discovered that when I put the thing to my eye I saw what I believe to be my first view of a naked woman with the emphasis by the photographer on her breasts. In late grammar school and early junior high school my friends and I would study at the library and would spend a good portion of our time there on National Geographic magazines particularly those issues with pictures of naked African women. Somewhere in high school or college Playboy magazine hit the newsstands and the emphasis there was on bare breasts of beautiful women. All of this early learning became more complicated by the way in which I looked at women, thought about women and ultimately treated them by seeing women as parts rather than whole beings. I conspired with like minded males to keep women in their place with their parts available for instant gratification and/or as a source of power over their participation with us. All of this while at same time interacting with girls and women who I deeply respected and enjoyed. There in the irony that while doing that there was a tape recording running in my brain that colluded with the other guys in demeaning thoughts and behaviors that sometimes got labeled the Madonna whore syndrome. Do not touch her, grope her anyway you like.
Another piece of tape that runs in my brain is the assessment tape- would she or would she not.
These is an extension of my right to, in spite of my scared shitless, who in making an assessment of maybe, has to then man up and go for it risking that she will say no. Then the power of persuasion has to kick in. It is here that I am at risk of deep trouble as the power of persuasion can manifest in many ways depending on how well I know myself. I cannot get the tapes to stop running. These have been programmed over decades of kidding myself not only about the power inherent in the tapes also the power behaving in concert with them. This power is fueled by my position, learned as it is that I have the right to women’s bodies and by extension the right to their experience. What then am I to do about this tape of mine? I need to and hereby admit my complicity. How do I think we men in this culture might deal with our tapes, behaviors and actions?
Tapes- own them and understand the consequence of letting them control my judgment.
Behaviors- recognize and deal with the discrepancy with what I say and then do.
Actions- recognize that thinking about groping her breast with the intent to is assault and touching her breast without her permission is battery plain and simple.
A little quiz to begin your search for your own tape about women.
You are a boy on a boys little league base ball team and are confronted with the possibility that a highly skilled girl baseball player asks to be accepted as a player on your team.
Do you get to vote? How do you vote?
Do you agree to continue to play on that team?
Do you welcome her?
She is a better first baseman than you are, are you willing to step aside?
How would it FEEL differently if it was a boy who was better?
You are a highly skilled male professional and are hired to fill a public sector position on a team of 7 equally trained and experienced professionals one of whom is a woman. You discover that one of the team members, the woman, is compensated significantly less than you while holding equivalent standing educationally and experiential?
What is your reaction to this discovery?
Are you tempted to take any action as it relates to this discovery?
If you do, do you still have your job?
You are a man having spent years in the military sometimes in harm’s way and you see on the evening news a woman in full combat dress heading into a hot zone in some conflict.
What is your very first reaction to seeing her in this way?
If you were there would you trust her to watch your back?
Would you watch hers?
Lot’s to ponder!!