I am a white, middle-aged male — the very demographic that has been at the center of the firestorm over sexual harassment, discrimination and worse. I have not been elected, appointed or hired as Women’s Spokesman.
In fact, that’s my new favorite oxymoron.
But the ongoing discrimination against, and harassment of, women in the workplace and elsewhere is not just a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. Permit me, then, to speak as a member of the vast majority of men who do not, have not, and would never use power or position to take advantage of a woman.
I have a mother. I have a wife, aunts, cousins. Daughters. Friends and family who are female, whom I love deeply and for whom I wish only the best. A faith that teaches me to see women as people, not objects. Children of God.
Certainly I have not always treated women as I should have. I did stupid things as a young man, fumbling along at the prodding of hormones, brain disengaged. I can only apologize, and offer no defense. Fortunately, finally, I learned to behave. Having a good mother, who prayed regularly, and going out with nice girls (my own age, by the way) taught me what I needed to know, helped prepare me for the strong, smart, amazing woman I married.
I thought the tone at the Golden Globes the other night was a tad preachy (like you probably think of this essay). I’m glad all these women who’ve been abused are finally speaking out, and the creeps who abused them are getting tossed out. But it should come as no surprise that a disproportionate number of these accusers come from the entertainment business. Historically, it is a business which exploits and objectifies women.
The media made a big deal about the black dresses. But many of them were also skin-tight, see-through, backless or plunging to the navel. I’ve been to lots of journalism awards dinners, but I’ve never seen that kind of display. In Hollywood, that’s the norm.
Certainly women have the right to dress however they want, but wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t a requirement? Especially when the point is, “Look at me as a person, not an object. Look at my work, not my chest.”
But this isn’t about sex or sexiness. It’s about power. It doesn’t matter how a woman looks, or how she dresses, no real man would ever use a position of power — as a producer, a director, a CEO or a star — to try and coerce a woman into a sexual relationship. No real man would ever demean or humiliate a woman, use size or strength, wealth or fame or the threat of physical violence, harass or make a woman’s life miserable in some twisted effort to get something from her, sexually.
If that’s what it takes for a guy to have a “relationship” with a woman, he doesn’t deserve a relationship. He needs to go off by himself somewhere until he learns how to treat people. For some, including our nation’s chief executive, that somewhere should probably be a prison cell.
Not all of us merit prison, but all of us — men and women — are long overdue for this wake-up call. Our entire culture is way too focused on appearance. We need desperately to get beyond that, to change the way we look at, think about, and treat people.
We’re celebrating Martin Luther King Day Monday. How about honoring his legacy by dealing with each other based on the “the content of our character” — not skin color, gender, nationality, looks or anything else that’s merely superficial? How about we start looking deeper, living worthy of respect and treating each other with respect?
Maybe Hollywood should lead this fight. But it’s everyone’s fight.