Our regular contributor Rick Pidcock has a young son who, like his father, wears beautiful long hair. Recently, his son came out of a restaurant’s men’s room crying because an adult man told him he wasn’t allowed to be in there because he’s a girl.
Rick wondered: “What century will it be when adults stop telling young boys with long hair they look like girls?”
Fair question. But there’s a deeper question here: When will family members and friends get the courage to tell their loved ones to stop acting like insensitive idiots?
That man in the restroom — the man who is so narrow-minded that he assumes all boys must look the way he thinks they should look — likely does not live in isolation. And he likely didn’t just blurt that horrible sentiment out of thin air.
People who are this loudmouthed with their bigotry and misogyny and homophobia almost always have a track record. They act this way all the time. At home. At work. At church.
And they typically get a free pass from the only people who reasonably could change their behavior: family and friends.
We’ve all heard the lighthearted excuses: “Oh, that’s just the way he is.”
“People who are this loudmouthed with their bigotry and misogyny and homophobia almost always have a track record.”
These excuses are enabling behavior. They make light of a serious problem as though it isn’t really a serious problem.
Meanwhile, people are hurt by their insensitive language. Yes, actually hurt. Please don’t say others should just “get over it.” That’s about as unhelpful as telling a long-haired boy he doesn’t belong in the men’s room.
By the way, after that incident, Rick’s son kept insisting he didn’t have to go to the restroom even when he actually did. When his father went with him, the boy would look around tentatively at the other people, apparently hoping he wouldn’t be confronted by another adult man.
I’m sure most of us can recall hurtful things said to us or about us when we were children that left a scar. If these are “no big deal,” why do we still remember them years later?
The whole line of “Boys will be boys” or “Men will be men” or “That’s just the way it is” is a form of toxic masculinity. And we need to call that out when we see it.
Yes, it will be uncomfortable for adult children to tell their bigoted or misogynistic fathers they’ve got to change. Yes, it will be uncomfortable for spouses to tell their bigoted partners they’ve got to change. Yes, it will be awkward for longtime friends to call out the stupid things their peers say.
But this must be done. It must be done if we’re ever going to make progress toward a humane and loving society, a peaceable kingdom.
If your father or husband or coworker or friend goes around telling little boys they can’t use the men’s room because they look like girls, you need to set them straight. You’re likely the only person who can make a difference.
If your father or husband or coworker or friend goes around telling racist jokes, you need to set them straight. You’re likely the only person who can make a difference.
If your father or husband or coworker or friend goes around belittling women, calling restaurant servers “honey” or “sweetie” or “sexy,” you need to set them straight. You’re likely the only person who can make a difference.
It’s past time to stop excusing bad behavior because “that’s the way it is.” It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be that way.
Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. He is the author of the new book Honestly: Telling the Truth About the Bible and Ourselves.
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