Misogyny is generating a lot of headlines these days. And so it should. It’s a deeply entrenched impediment to achieving a world built on respect for and equal opportunity for all people, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
A little context…
The hunter-gatherer period of our history, which lasted 400,000 years or more, humans found meaning in the seasons, and other rhythms of life. Women were revered for their direct connection to the mystery of child birth. Men and women shared their daily struggle for survival, more or less as equals. Then, around 12,000 years ago, things began to change when humans transitioned from the nomadic to living in permanent settlements. When we started growing our food, the superior strength of men gained added value in tilling the soil. A specialized warrior class emerged with the need to protect a settlement’s food stores against thieving, murderous marauders. This was the beginnings of male dominance as a driving force in cultural evolution. Women were relegated to a reduced status that grew ever more rigid and oppressive as time went on.
When organized religion took hold two thousand years ago, it was dominated by men. The Bible was codified by men, for men. The Bible tells men they have dominion over the land, and nature, and also women. The Bible tells men to treat women as property, and that women are untrustworthy. It warns women repeatedly that they must obey men, or else…
Powerful men have been calling the shots for all of recorded history. They have shaped the imperfect world we know. Our current, seriously dysfunctional political system is a product of unscrupulous men using their power and influence to bend public policy to serve their own self-interest.
Sexism and misogyny have been part of the fabric of history for centuries.
It was only a hundred years ago that women got the right to vote. Some good things have happened for women since then. In the U.S., women are running and getting elected to political office in unprecedented numbers. Half of the students in American law schools and American medical schools are women. More women are working in the sciences and as engineers than ever before. In our schools, 75% of the teachers are women. All Good.
In the U.S., women have progressed well down the road to equality, but obstacles do remain. There is still the matter of equal pay for equal work, and for the moment at least, reproductive choice remains under withering attack.
Sexual abuse, assault, and harassment by men against women are widespread.. This issue is getting a lot of attention now that some prominent men – Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and just recently, the movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein – have been exposed for using their power and wealth as a form of entitlement to sexually abuse women.
One powerful response to the attention focused on sexual abuse has been a campaign in the social media, which is referred to as #MeToo. Within a few days of its appearance, more than half-a-million women had shared #MeToo as a reflection of their own personal experience with abuse, violence, or harrassment by a man. That shows just how pervasive sexual abuse is in our society.
As a man, I am offended by men who behave badly toward women. The good news is I am not the only man who feels that way. As a way of complementing the #MeToo campaign, another social media initiative has been picked up by men. It is #How will I change? It encourages self-examination, with regard to how men relate to women.
I consider myself a sex-positive, feminist man. That’s not to say I have a perfect history where women are concerned. When I am intensely engaged in conversation, I have at times been guilty of talking over people. That includes women. I am aware of this failing, and I try to be on guard against my own bad tendency in this regard.
Nobody is perfect. Having said that, there are many overt steps a man can take that demonstrate good will with women. Here are just a few that I try to apply in my life…
- Give attention to being a thoughtful listener
- Be aware of and show genuine regret for the male dominance that has oppressed the lives of women for centuries.
- Support equal rights for women, including universal reproductive choice, access to education, and equal pay for equal work.
- Celebrate and support women, who work hard, elevate themselves and achieve great things.
- Be willing to follow women, who choose to inspire and lead with worthy ideas.
- Recognize that women are sexual beings, and that their choices sexually should not be subject to moral policing.
- Support women, who are victims of men. Condemn bad behavior by men toward women and, where necessary, stand up and protect, when you are witness to sexist behavior by other men.
Being a man, to me, is not about bulging muscles and dominant behavior. First and foremost, it is about being worthy as a human being by accepting the part of yourself that is kind, and caring.
The best way to blunt the behavior of the bad actors of the male gender is to be a man that Is happy to celebrate and share life equally with women.