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Men, let's not take the low road to gender equality

By Mary Sanchez, Tribune Content Agency on

Editor's note: Mary Sanchez continues to fill in while Mr. Pitts is away.

After the dizzying rush of revelations and accusations of sexual assault and sexual harassment by movie moguls, actors, senators, editors, talking heads, bible-thumping candidates for office and all manner of other powerful men, American society finds itself at a crossroads. Women, by and large, feel a little vindicated. Men feel wary.

But if you cheered when Al Franken and John Conyers resigned from the U.S. Congress, step back a bit. If you felt satisfaction and validation when Time magazine declared the "silence breakers" on sexual assault and harassment as the 2017 Person of the Year, brace yourselves. Because #MeToo is about to meet #NotMe and #ItWasMeButForgiveMe and #WhoDoTheseBitchesThinkTheyAre.

Men and the places where they hold sway (i.e., just about everywhere) are due for a major attitude adjustment. More allegations will come, and more powerful, once-untouchable men will step aside or be cast aside. And it's hard to deny that all of this awareness is leading us somewhere positive.

However, social change to the degree many hope for -- a fundamental re-ordering of how men and women relate to each other -- will not occur without a lot of push-back, attempts (by men) to reclaim lost ground.

Men are feeling threatened right now. And that usually leads to circling the wagons, to consciously and unconsciously shoring up power before it can be taken away. It's what privilege does.

A male colleague recently commented, "There isn't a man in America today who isn't deeply rethinking his behavior." That's a positive step, for sure. But who are men speaking with, and what conclusions are they drawing?

Even those who might have the best of intentions in their self-assessment are often missing the mark when they reach out to women. This is purely anecdotal and certainly not a groundswell, but some women tell me they have heard from men who now feel they may have overstepped boundaries in the past, crossed a line with something that they said or did.

Phone calls, texts and emails have been sent (yes, I received one) apologizing or just touching base to ask, "We're good, right?"

Some women view this as men covering their tails, protecting themselves from being accused later. The message I received came across as thoughtful, although I did not recall the event that this former college acquaintance referenced.

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