Kris Girrell Guest Columnist
Disclaimer: This article is written by men for men. It is intended for men to read and understand in men’s language. It is a guide for men to navigate successfully in today’s society. This is Part 2 of a 2-part series.
When will it stop?
A buddy of mine called recently somewhat up in arms about the latest “fall from grace” of another man who has violated the boundaries of sexual impropriety. It was late November of last year. This was the last straw – Garrison Keillor, the pillar of American nostalgia and seeming as pure as the powder milk biscuits he hawked on his long-running NPR show, A Prairie Home Companion.
Aw, Gary, why you?
It doesn’t matter what he did – touch, grope, or double entendre – it reportedly crossed that line. And it doesn’t matter where the line is drawn either, except that the line is drawn by the person for whom it was unwanted. What matters is that it was Garrison, a good guy. Up till now men could say things like, “Yeah well power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Politicians and Hollywood producers are vermin.” It was about them, and we somehow could go on pretending that we were different, we hadn’t really crossed the line. And certainly not ALL men had crossed that line.
But Garrison? Him too? Yes, gentlemen, him too, you too, #me too. You see, from the man’s perspective this type of behavior has been invisible. And it is the same invisibility under which privilege continues its dirty work. It is the same invisibility through which white racism is perpetuated; subtle, not so subtle, or outrageously offensive. It is there, and for centuries women have secretly comforted each other while everyone, literally everyone else, told them it was their imagination or it didn’t really happen, or worse yet that she brought it on herself.
And now the lid has been blown off. The cover up is not working, and sexism, rape, date rape, unwanted advances, backroom antics and the whole lot is being exposed to the light. It had to happen. We are growing up as a people, and maturity has no place for this kind of humiliating oppression. So go ahead, men, get mad and feel insulted that you too are being swept up with all the other men who are being exposed. But at the end of the day the question is not did you or didn’t you somewhere, at some time, go further than she wanted. The question is, now what?
Sure, we can try to sweep this under the carpet or blame it on the few who are exposed and called out (hoping that we will have dodged the bullet). Or we can look it squarely in the eye and up our game. We can pretend that we are not part of the problem (just like we don’t really take advantage of our privilege – as male, as white, as American or whatever – right!) Or we can face the fact that it is so much a part of growing up male that we don’t even see it. Like did you ever wince in pain when Rhett Butler kissed a defiant Scarlett into submission? How about James Bond? He was so masculine that the Russian spies even succumbed to his advances. It is woven into fairy tales, books, songs (pick a genre) and every aspect of our masculinist culture. And we do not even see it.
So what – now what? This is a call to grow up. You cannot go back in time and right the wrongs you have done. I cannot do that; none of us can. And apologies are a dime a dozen, though I really do appreciate your remorse. But what can we do of a mature nature?
We can teach our brothers, and our boys growing up that it is unacceptable. That’s the easy part. The harder part is we can begin to recognize that our needs are ours, and that has nothing to do with the woman sitting beside you or standing in front of you. Of course, if you are in a mutually consensual relationship and it is part of your relationship deal to be intimate and sexual and flirtatious, have at it. But remember that your partner, your spouse, your friend or your mate, has the right to not feel like your advances are welcomed at any particular time. It is every human’s right to say what is wanted or not for them. No one can legislate that. A marriage certificate does not insure it, and no biblical literalism guarantees it.
The growing up part is to recognize that if you have needs, you need to figure out how to care for yourself. It is no one else’s responsibility but yours. But here is the fly in that ointment. It is not as easy to do as it is to say it. You and I are programmed to violate the rules and the boundaries. In men’s circles we talk about the rapist gene in each man, how, after 200,000 years of selective breeding we have evolved as violent, power hungry killers. Know for a fact that in the history of humanity there has never been an age where our numbers of men have not been reduced by war. And just ask yourself, who were the winners of those wars – the nice, gentle caring men, or the killers. Nope, not at all – in fact, as the saying goes, to the victors went the spoils, and that included the women. And you and I have inherited that programming.
The problem is not theirs – the problem is not women’s. It’s ours. We need to own it and we need to change the path. It is not about women. It is about men and men alone. Just like violence is not a woman’s thing. Look at the stats: as of the end of October there had been over 350 mass shootings in the US, and not one was perpetuated by a woman. Not one.
So repeat after me: I am a man. I can be violent if I do not learn how to keep that in check. I am a man and I can violate a woman’s boundaries if I am not aware. I am a man. And I will step up to turn the tide of male oppression and violence. When will it stop?
When we do something to stop it.
Kris Girrell admits to knowing Dave Plante, who writes the “Man’s Cave” column for the Legacy Magazine. Girrell and Plante cowrote an insightful book available for purchase at Amazon.
Kris Girrell and David Plante’s book is found HERE.