“Hey, why you so upset? It’s not your fault. I can’t help myself…”
At first, I found our Chief of Military Defense, General Tom Lawson’s public proclamation yesterday that “men are hardwired to sexually harass women” so ridiculous I could only respond with humor and satire.
But over the course of the day my head slowly started to crack – as the implications of what he said really started to sink in.
This fantastical notion that men “can’t help themselves”.
That sexual harassment is beyond our control! It’s built right into our DNA.
You may as well tell me not to fall asleep when I am tired, or that I cannot blink when I look at the sun, then to tell me not to grope a breast at work.
Women just need to accept that that’s the way we are.
I work in an office full of bright young women.
The General tells them that they need to blame God, the next time I grab their ass on the way to the office kitchen.
Don’t blame me for it.
I LITERALLY CAN’T HELP MYSELF!
But in using humor, I slowly realized that that humor also allowed me to distance myself from the comment. And in my distance I didn’t need to take this military quack seriously – as the comment was so patently absurd.
It allowed me that very post-modern escape route of ironic dis-interest, and sense of ethical superiority – my latte would taste especially smug today.
No man that I know would take such a comment seriously.
By the afternoon women’s groups across the nation had summarily dismissed the General’s statement – with a good deal of disgust.
The General’s idea was repugnant. It insulted women. All women.
It insulted the very notions of democracy and civilized culture.
It insulted our intelligence.
It insulted the teachings of the Bible.
And it insulted God –
for He gave us free will – that essential quality that elevated us above the animals of the forest and the birds of the sky.
By the evening, General Lawson had been summarily fired. And good riddance.
My fear however is that he will be treated as an anomaly. That other media-savvy men will try to say that he is a rarity, with an opinion far outside the box.
He’s not a rarity. At heart, he got himself fired for being stupid; for not being able to ascertain the political direction of public opinion.
I don’t really know how to seriously respond to such male attitudes.
I have been doing anger management groups with violent young men for almost twenty years now, and I still do not know how to adequately respond to such comments when I hear them.
Blaming God is so much easier for these men (both boys and generals), then it is to look at own attitudes and beliefs.
I would argue that the History of Man has been the history of division between those men who want to build civilizations, and those men who want to build empires.
Either through misguided gentleness, intimidation, or outright fear – civil man has been reluctant to fully take on his less civilized brother.
Civil man, in my opinion, gives too much ground to the uncivil man.
A young woman once asked me why men rape? (She had been raped at 17.)
I thought about it for a minute – I thought about all of the educated reasons I could give her – family upbringing, culture, PTSD, mental health – but simply said, “Because we can.”
Who knows what the world would look like if women were physically stronger then men? Would it be any different? Or only different by degrees?
But the world is the way it is – and men feel physically superior to women – and therefore feel entitled to take what they want.
Until we start to take seriously the notions spelled out in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights – that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” –
until we are willing to allow all people the glory of participating fully in that declaration –
until we stop allowing men to hide behind God, and notions of “helplessness” and “superiority” (chew on that Freudian nugget for a while) –
until we start teaching our boys the how’s and why’s of decent civilized behavior –
…we will continue to have men – men with real power – who will perpetuate rape culture attitudes by trying to assert such stupid notions as “men can’t help themselves when they rape or sexually harass women. There is nothing any of us can do about it. That’s the way God made us.”