A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with some friends at my apartment. As we worked our way through the usual conversation fodder, someone brought up the recent internet chaos, which was brought on by a Christian blogger’s choice to abstain A few weeks ago, I received an email from a friend. It had no subject (a good sign, in my eyes). Just a link to a student run blog called the Badger Herald, and the words “sexual harassment” in the URL. I followed the trail to a blog post so good, it merits a haiku:
“Men without any class
Cancer to equality
Respect is needed”
First, I’ll say that I was really taken by this article. From the start, I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen. As I burned through the paragraphs, I found myself compulsively nodding along to the author’s points, and smiling at her candor. For me, this article was like listening to a friend rant over coffee (which is something I really enjoy). So take my bias into account as we move forward.
Also keep in mind that the concepts of “manliness” or “male culture” are far from defined. So my thoughts are just general theories, based on my own experiences and observations. Generalizations can be frustrating, I know.
The headline, “Let’s Talk About Sexual Harassment” concisely captures the spirit of the post. From then on, the author goes on to highlight the spectrum of harassment, what her feelings are about being a woman (the typical target of harassment), and questions what the hell we are going to do about it. The article is well worth the read, so go here and find out for yourself.
I was taken by the whole article, but one part particularly caught my attention. Erin (the author) says, “guys…have a fundamental gap in understanding on what it is to be a female.” For me, this suggests that men should be investing more time into developing an understanding, and through that empathy, for women. While I agree with the end goal, mutual respect and ability to empathize with women, I think the route to get there is different. I think men need to understand what it means to be a “man.” Respect and empathy tend to go hand-in-hand with knowledge and reflection.
Earlier in the piece, Erin concedes that she doesn’t have a “10 Step Program” for addressing the problem. The answer lies within that idea though. There isn’t a “program” or prescribed experience in order to become a man anymore. We don’t have any societal codes of honor or ethics. Gone are the institutional rites of passage, which proved that a boy was an asset to the tribe or community. For the past century or two, there hasn’t been a standard by which American men have been trained and held to. As always, education is the key. In the absence of shared knowledge and community, apathy and unruliness take over.
So where do we learn from? We reflect the behavior of our parents, mostly. We’re also inundated with ideas from media; most of which is guilty of objectification in order to cater to their audience of young, testosterone driven, males. There are also still plenty of institutions which color the lenses young men look through such as fraternities, sports, and religion; and they don’t tend to be associated with progressive views on women.
The key is education. Learning from the good (and bad) examples from the past, facilitating self-discovery, and challenging young men to prove their worth is what I believe will breed more “good” men. The resources are out there too. I’m a huge fan of The Art of Manliness, which is dedicated to sharing positive habits and attitudes for men. The information is there, the challenge is getting it where it needs to be.
It starts with an idea, then a conversation, which builds to action. Kudos to Erin for kicking things off.