I have a beautiful son. I also have three wonderful daughters, but my advice to them was encapsulated in a different post. Sparked by recent events, I wanted to write down some mother-love for my boy.
It’s a dangerous world out there. There are heroes, and villains, and all sorts of in-betweens, some of whom mean the best but act the worst. I’ve done my best to raise all of you to be kind, respectful, compassionate human beings, living by the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sadly, I also need to tell you that the very qualities that I want you to have in your life as a gentle man will be the ones that will leave you the most vulnerable to the worst kinds of social injustice. You’re too young to understand why girls are being taught to hate – heck, their own mothers are too young to understand why they are teaching hatred toward all men. But they do, so you need to be on guard.
Because there’s a belief out there that equality means men are inferior to women. It’s not fair, and it’s not true, but it’s bitterly defended. What it might have come from is history – or at least some warped perceptions of history – what it means now is that you cannot defend yourself. As a male, you will automatically be suspect in any interaction with a female. You will be faced with false accusations even if you do nothing to warrant them. This is not an excuse for you to behave badly. I raised you better than that. Take the high road, let it roll off your back, and understand from the very beginning that just like school, there are bullies in adult life. Know that statistically, you will likely be accused of sexual harassment in the workplace. I’m sorry for this. I hope you’re the lucky one and escape that poison pill. But know this: it’s not your fault. If you’re behaving like you should, it’s not something you did. It’s just that some people, given a morsel of power, will wield it in any way they can. And currently, given the atmosphere of fear and suspicion toward males, women in the workplace have discovered they can have anyone they want fired at any time, without ever having to face the person they claim ‘harassed’ them. If it happens to you, hold your head high and walk away.
Protect yourself, my dear little man. Never be alone with a woman you aren’t closely related to. Not at work, not outside of work. If a woman tries to get you alone, retreat as quickly as you possibly can, understanding that even you trying to escape the implication of impropriety can be taken as aggression and reported. Get to someplace with witnesses who aren’t her close friends, and stay there. If she tries to draw you into conversation, keep it as brief and professional as you possibly can. Don’t let yourself get passionate over any topic, as this can be called being ‘intense’ and she can report you for it. Try not to look in the direction of any female colleagues. Don’t make eye contact. Do your best to keep any interchanges on some recordable medium, like email. And don’t think that any of this will keep you safe, it won’t. Remember, nothing has to actually happen, she just has to say that it did. And then you’re out.
Outside of work, as much as I’d love to someday have adorable grandbabies, you should never be alone with a girl. Even in parties, don’t lose control through use of alcohol, perhaps that should be especially in parties or social interactions. Don’t indulge in dancing where there is physical contact. For heaven’s sakes, stay out of pools and hottubs where women are present. Don’t accept drinks you didn’t watch being prepared, or that were opened out of your sight. If she wants to study, meet in the middle of the library, not in a study room or your dorm room and never ever in your off-campus apartment. Save sex for marriage, but understand that not even a marriage license will be enough if she’s angry enough at you. Understand that in our highly-sexualized culture, you hanging out with only your buddies will probably get you labeled as ‘gay’ and taunted by people who don’t understand that not all friendship involves intercourse – because for them, it probably does. Sex is supposed to be a beautiful thing, not a genital sneeze that you share for giggles with any available partner.
For my readers who are boggling at this post… Go back through it and swap genders and pronouns. Look familiar? Make you angry?
If you think that men haven’t been fired for absolutely no reason for ‘sexual harassment’ over the last few decades, you’ve been living under a rock. If you think that men shouldn’t be actively fearing women at any event, from parties to conferences, you are deliberately ignorant. In a society where accusations from a female bear more weight than any convictions from a male, our innocent young men are facing a tough uphill battle, and it’s not one they can defend themselves in. They are expected to take it on the chin and never speak back.
I really hope my son can find a wonderful woman who he can love, trust, and marry. Which won’t be any protection at all against the female in his workplace who will decide that because he is happily married and never looks at her, that means he hates her and she’s going to report him for harassment. Or that she wants his position. Or that she is mad at her boyfriend/girlfriend/daddy, and can’t hurt them, but she can hurt this other male who is in her power. And if you don’t think any of those scenarios can happen in current workplace environments, I have a bridge to sell you.
If you want to tie this to politics, go ahead. Frankly, I’m not tied to any party and look askance at any politician. What I am, is a raving fan of justice, truth, and equality. Sure, the American justice system is flawed. But is it better than pretty much any other extant system? Oh, hell yeah. Does it need repair? Yes. Does it promise the accused a fair trial and a chance to face their accusers? Also yes. And that’s the standard I fight for, and you should, too. Innocent until proven guilty. Don’t brush it off as ‘the system is broken and stacked against me,’ if you aren’t willing to fight for the system to be restored to what it ought to be, what it was originally designed to be. We don’t want to go back to the times of lynch mobs and evidence swept under the rug. We are better than that.
I don’t want my son to have to live this way. I don’t want my daughters to be eyed with justifiable suspicion by their workmates. I don’t want to have to be conscious of the men in my own workplace, so I don’t put them in danger. Hell, I don’t want to be in a situation where there is real harassment or assault, but if I report it I’ll be associated with the false reports. Or in a few years when the pendulum swings, not be able to report because attitudes have changed. I want my daughters to know that if something bad happens to them, it is their responsibility to report in a timely fashion because otherwise they are complicit in bad things happening to other women at the hands of that person. And it might be painful, but I’ll be at their backs, just like I would be with my son if he were the victim of assault or false claims. Equality doesn’t mean unfairness to one sex of the other. It means a level playing field. It means that feeling like ‘he’s creepy’ or ‘he didn’t pay enough attention to me’ or ‘I felt he paid too much attention to me’ aren’t enough to destroy a man’s life. It means that you must prove your case, because there is a process for that. We’ve gone from witchhunts to manhunts without a flicker of ironic awareness. And that is wrong.