One Small Voice: We need the help of all good men

I watched some of the Golden Globe Awards Sunday night. Usually I watch award shows more for the host than anything else. If it’s a comedian I like, I want to hear his or her take on Hollywood as it pertains to politics, our culture, current events, or just plain silliness.

This time I wanted to see how the #MeToo movement would manifest itself, and how a gentler comedian like Seth Meyers would address it.

While I enjoyed Meyers’ humor, and appreciated how well he handled such a tender (as in soreness) subject, I came away from the viewing a bit unsettled. Having written four pieces about sexual harassment for this publication, I have spent considerable time in thought about various aspects of the topic. And the feeling I came away with, despite rousing words from Oprah Winfrey, was dread; dread of the backlash that will surely come from protracted attention to the subject, and the morphing of it into #TimesUp.

During the 1970s feminist movement my women friends and I were outspoken, though not militant, about achieving more equal treatment throughout all aspects of American society. We wanted equal access to employment, and equal pay for equal work. We wanted a more enlightened approach to running the traditional American household than our parents showed us.

And as we married and embarked on the “new normal” nuclear family, we watched our husbands grow into and embrace the improved roles of men and women. But it was not without growing pains. There were men who resisted, who complained (sometimes bitterly) that if it was good enough for their mothers it was good enough for their wives. There was backlash against the inevitable achievement of women’s rights. It was an uncomfortable time for men in America.

The current climate regarding sexual harassment is no different, in my opinion. Just as there were men in the ’70s who were comfortable with their masculinity (to use a trite and overworked phrase) to the degree that they were not threatened by a wife who worked, or by having to share housework and child-rearing duties, there are men now who are, and have never been, sexual harassers, who don’t feel guilty by association merely because they are male. Their feelings are not hurt by the “male bashing” that may be felt by other men. But there are others who, understandably, will be slower to come around.

While watching the Golden Globes, I felt that toward the end, some of the men in the room had reached an “OK, I get it, and I agree, but can we please give it a rest?” level. I fear that if powerful, outspoken, Hollywood women don’t assume a more measured approach, we may lose the import and momentum of this opportunity.

This cultural shift is bigger than Hollywood elite. Much, much bigger. A few hundred stunning women dressed in black cannot represent the millions of average American women who, as Oprah so eloquently said, are raising children and going to work, and dreaming their own dreams. There is too much at stake to wrap this movement in celebrity award situations.

Like it or not, believe it or not, this cultural shift is heavily dependent on male involvement in making safe equity and safe equality happen. It depends on the men who have always been our quiet champions (our husbands, brothers, sons and employers) to continue to support us and correct those who would espouse thought and action that doesn’t lift women up and protect them from sexual predators..

I would implore all of you, men and women alike, to view the coming awards shows as anomalies in the battle. It’s the message, not the medium, that is important. If you like fashion, enjoy the chic and sparkly variations on the black dress. If you enjoy the acceptance speeches, enjoy any inclusive, uplifting and inspirational words.

But if, for you men especially, it gets too much “give it a rest,” just mute the set, and reflect on what this cultural shift means to the real women in your lives. Women can’t do this alone. And all men are not the bad guys.  (The bad guys are slowly being revealed for who and what they are.)

Men have a vital role in making this change happen, and I, for one, celebrate and depend on every one of you who stands beside us to make sure this shift happens for our daughters as well as for our sons.

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