For a long time, old white men like me have presumably been in charge. However, that was mostly BS. We just acted like we were in charge. We were taught from a very early age that we should take control of the world. And of course that world included women.
We wanted women to tell us what they wanted, but at the same time dismissed it with inane, sexist comments bemoaning the mysteries of the female mind. We were rewarded for not telling anyone what was going on in our own minds. We often wished women had more power and control of their lives, but we rarely admitted it. Our trickery and deceit was often praised by our peers. When women were deceitful, apparently we were supposed to exert more control over them.
But let me be as clear as possible. Rape, sexual assault, harassment in all forms is horrible, inexcusable, disgusting. The need to state it here is yet another indicator that such behaviors remain a menace. Hopefully, decades of justifiable anger and bitterness can serve a useful purpose, leading to a major cultural shift – at minimum, further criminalization and enhanced prosecution of sexual assault and harassment in all forms. (Doesn’t it seem like we’ve been at this awhile? Shouldn’t we have made more progress?) As we fully confront the issues of sexual predatory behavior, inevitably there will be collateral antagonism.
If you are a man, you’re an asshole. If you are a man of a certain age group, you are an extra special asshole. Us old white guys will just have to deal with this. However, some of the animosity and blowback seems a little misguided and might be worth addressing. (Black men of course have it much worse, but I am in no way qualified to say anything about their plight.)
Once, after telling a friend about one of my risky youthful activities, she suggested I must have been suffering from “testosterone poisoning.” I chuckled. As if being a man was a physical abnormality, as if men can’t help it, because, well, you know, they have that testosterone, and they can only think with one head at a time. Doesn’t this provide another convenient and dangerous excuse?
Recently, I read a “suggestion” to stop saying “I have a wife” or “I have a daughter” because it objectifies the female. While some guys might purposely use this phraseology to subjugate “their” women, I’m pretty sure most do not. What should we replace it with? I have a friend who is my daughter? Right. I also have a black friend and a gay friend. Oh wait, weren’t we focusing on sexual assault? This sort of semantic jungle only serves to muddle the puddle. (And makes me cringe at my own syntax. But as a man, I sometimes say dumb things. See how that works?)
In response to women speaking out, men who, as far as I can tell, are not sexual predators, have posted blanket apologies. Apologizing can be a tricky business. Are they feeling guilty because they’re worried they might have been a rapist? That makes no sense (except maybe in a psychological thriller). Are they saying sorry just in case? Because as a man, they must have harassed a woman at some point. Are they apologizing to make themselves feel better? Typical selfish male behavior. Must be the testosterone.
Is it an absentia apology, apologizing for all men, for all the rapists, harassers, and mere assholes, in an effort to make women feel better? Apologizing to make others feel good can be commendable. But sometimes it rings hollow. Gee, sorry you got raped.
Are they apologizing for being a man? I am a man. And I make no apologies for that. Most men are decent, caring, and appropriately courageous human beings who share similar concerns with women. To varying degrees, we want influence, purpose, love, respect, meaningful relationships, and so on. A good man will champion women’s rights, which are, after all, basic human rights.
In defense of old white men, while we are at times assholes, not all of us are creeps, molesters, harassers, abusers, or rapists. And clearly not all of us are predatory movie moguls or pussy-grabbing presidents.