As with all evolutions, the change sought by the #metoo movement to end sexual assault and harassment will be slower than we’d like. It’s a part of a culture of misogyny that is ever-present. Defined as “dislike, contempt, or ingrained prejudice against women,” misogyny is more obvious these days thanks to the discussions started by #metoo.
Last week, our county supervisors publicly admonished newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva for rehiring someone fired after a Civil Service Commission hearing over alleged assault of a female deputy. Per the Los Angeles Times, “Villanueva told the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last week that the reinstatement was justified and noted that the deputy’s accuser waited nearly a year to report her allegations and quit the department before she was to testify.”
Truly cringe-worthy. How dare a woman, reportedly physically hurt, sent nasty text messages, and stalked at her home, wait before saying anything or actually quit a place where the man she said did this worked? But, of course, I’m sure she just quit and disrupted her chosen career because, you know, women are emotional. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)
Over winter break, my daughter went to a local sports camp. The first day I went to pick her up, I saw a boy walking out, crying, complaining the girls were being mean. I asked about that and my daughter said he was picking on another younger girl and they told him to knock it off. The next day the boy was upset again, reportedly after insisting that he should be faster than all the girls and telling them they were not allowed to beat him. I literally froze in mid-sentence as I said to her, “You need to be careful around boys like that.”
Also in January we had the social media outrage-du-jour over a Gillette TV commercial. The commercial starts with typical “boys will be boys” images but ends with men stepping up to stop bullying and leering. The Gillette spot got some backlash and a “competing” video was developed by another company. It showed all the heroic and tough things men do every day. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
Here’s the thing: It is not OK to work hard all day and come home and punch your girlfriend in the face. It’s not OK to be into sports and belittle other kids trying too…especially those still finding their identity. I still remember being told “you’re not very athletic” when I was a chubby middle schooler. People remember these unhelpful things. You can be an expert at work AND still zip your lip when you feel the need to mansplain what a woman coworker just said. If you aren’t sure what is appropriate, I find the best, and funniest, advice comes from Anne Victoria Clarke (Medium, October 2017) “It’s as clear cut as this: Treat all women like you would treat Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.”
Men are not either strong “or” against sexual snark. We need to look for “and.” Women are not exclusively pretty or smart or strong. They can be smart AND strong. They can be female AND understand trash, concrete, cars or numbers just like men. Anyone can be brave AND bake a mean batch of brownies. Boys don’t need to get mad about girls beating them at sports. First, normally we aren’t in the same category at athletic races, and second, how about a simple, “Wow, good for you,” and move on?
Picking on someone else doesn’t make you smarter or faster or more likely to get a job. It’s time to realize we’re all in this together. Why can’t we all be treated as fellow humans, capable of great and varied achievements?
Of course it’s not all men (or only men) who act badly. Sometimes the silence in the face of slovenly behavior becomes deafening. Being respectful and standing up for others doesn’t make men weaker, it makes us all stronger.
The Gillette ad was viewed more than 70 million times and generated more than $34 million in media exposure, according to a January Chicago Tribune story.
“We believe in the best in men,” the ad says, “Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
It had strong positive reaction from women and Gen X and younger men. Baby boomers generally reacted negatively. Though this shows a division, it also shows change is on its way. Thank goodness.
Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among several local Democrats.