I like to think of myself as a “sensitive” male. That doesn’t mean I always live up to my own billing, I’m sure. But it’s what I want to think about myself.
After all, I’ve never groped a woman, never catcalled a woman, never made unwanted sexual advances on a woman, don’t make a habit of commenting on the physical attributes of women — and I generally try to be nice to most everyone I meet. At least I think I do.
And I like to think that I’m sensitive enough to treat women and men equally, to not act out of any gender bias. I can give you a long list of ways I think that’s so.
But these days, that’s not enough. What I think about myself and what may be true about myself could be two visions of the same person. It is time for serious soul-searching.
The easy response to all the allegations of sexual abuse and “locker room” talk swirling about the presidential campaign is to say: “That’s not my problem. I never do that.” And then with self-satisfied justification walk away.
I’ve reminded myself that as a young professional I had to learn the hard way that not every joke a guy might want to tell is actually funny. For example, it’s wise to avoid any joke that mentions PMS and livestock in the same sentence. I was 26. And boy, did I learn a lesson that day — one that has stuck with me for nearly 30 years.
As I’ve listened and read the stories of women coming forward to tell about the sexual abuses and gender biases they’ve experienced in the workplace, at school, at church, I increasingly realize what a sheltered life I’ve lived. Honestly, it is unfathomable to me that this stuff goes on and goes on apparently as frequently as it does.
And then comes the searing question: What has kept me from seeing this? The answer, of course, is simple: I have not had the eyes to see or the ears to hear. Living happily in my own world of male privilege, it seems I have not paid enough attention, not listened carefully enough. And most of all, I have been silent.
I’m a bit weary of the responses lately that begin, “As the father of daughters, I am appalled at what is going on here.” Men shouldn’t be required to have daughters to see there’s a problem here and to speak up about it. As a human, I am appalled at what is going on here.
And I am further appalled that some prominent male Christian leaders are tying themselves in knots to rationalize why their political agendas are more important than speaking against sexual abuse of women. There is not a single way in which I can imagine Jesus taking their viewpoint. In fact, to paraphrase Jesus, “What will it profit if you gain the Supreme Court but lose your soul?”
But back to me. I may not be guilty of such a public sin as those male pastors who turn a blind eye to abuse. And yet, what have I done to foster a culture where sexual abuse and gender bias are called out for the evil they are? When have I spoken up to say this prevailing attitude is not right?
If never before, then now. Right here. And I invite men everywhere to join the conversation — regardless of how “sensitive” you think you already are.