I am a man—and I am beginning to be ashamed of that.
The great majority of men, it would appear, somehow manage to scrub from their minds the multitudinous, indeed incalculable, ways in which women have been subjugated, degraded, and scorned over countless millennia; it is, quite frankly, too horrible a prospect to face honestly. There is scarcely a field of human endeavor—from academic to the military to sports to business to (especially) politics—where women, for all their advances over the past century, do not face systematic prejudice, harassment, and at times actual violence at the hands of men reluctant to yield even an iota of power or influence.
Now, however, a fair number of men are running scared in the wake of the #MeToo movement, wondering if they will be the next ones to be scalped by vengeful women for sexual and other derelictions in the recent or distant past. And I, for one, am happy to be a traitor to my gender: I relish their fear and hope more of them will be disgraced.
The #MeToo movement may just be the latest wave of feminists rising up and not taking it anymore, but it feels different this time. And I think the reasons for that are obvious: women vote and earn money. The success of Democrats in the 2018 elections was largely a result of the women’s vote, and the increasing earning power of women (especially women of color) is leading to all sorts of handwringing by certain males who mourn the imminent passing of the male “breadwinner,” pondering the awful prospect that a wide array of gents will become unmarriageable because women simply don’t need or want them for anything—except, perhaps, a few drops of their sperm for the purpose of procreation.
And so the backlash is in full swing. Some disgraced celebrities are already attempting to resurrect their careers, claiming that they were unjustly accused by a band of viragoes or the victims of mob justice. What they fail to note is that women have and continue to be the victims of exactly this kind of treatment—and in far more virulent ways. Has it escaped people’s attention that we now have not one but two Supreme Court justices (both, as it happens, of the conservative persuasion) who have been credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault? I defy anyone to maintain that their accusers were treated with anything approaching fairness and empathy.
Meanwhile, other men, purportedly less brazen or partisan, are beset with worries about the future of male-female relations in the wake of #MeToo. The lofty elites of Davos have openly pondered whether it is wise to have any involvement with women colleagues, even of the most innocuous sort, lest they too become subjected to accusations of improper behavior. These fellows haven’t exactly followed the example of our esteemed vice president, who frantically avoids even being in the presence of a woman who is not his wife, but it would seem that they are heading that way.
Guys, is it so difficult not to behave like a jackass? Is it so hard to treat women with common courtesy and respect, to refrain from behavior that is obviously sexist and demeaning to your female colleagues or subordinates, to think of women as something other than objects for your personal pleasure? Perhaps it is difficult, because our culture continues to bombard us with messages that plainly urge us to judge women solely upon their appearance. (Of course, given how nondescript or actually hideous most men are, the idea of judging them solely on their appearance is so grotesque that it can be laughed out of court. We ought to be grateful that any woman takes the slightest interest in us at all.)
Then there is the lamentable fate of the “incels.” You’ve heard of these worthies, haven’t you? They are the “involuntary celibates” who blame the “monstrous regiment of women” for their inability to (if I may so flagrantly violate the norms of this wholesome family journal) get laid. It apparently doesn’t occur to these gents to bathe, shave, and otherwise make themselves presentable to the ladies they so desperately wish to lure into their beds. Instead, they and certain other like-minded males are now indulging in delicious fantasies of denying women the vote, preventing women from holding jobs, and so on.
These pathetic slobs would be merely the objects of derisive laughter were it not that a few of them take out their frustrations by violence directed toward actual women. An incel in Toronto drove his van onto the sidewalk and killed ten people (not all of them women, however) and injured several others. People such as this are only the tip of the iceberg: there are a lot of men out there seething with resentment and fear that they are being robbed of the privilege of their male birth by uppity females who, in increasing numbers, are smarter, wealthier, and more generally a credit to the human race than themselves.
Let me end this depressing column on an equally depressing personal anecdote.
Not long ago, as I was taking my usual late-afternoon constitutional around the neighborhood, I found myself walking behind a young woman who was evidently coming home from work. It quickly became obvious to me that my very presence was unnerving to her. (It doesn’t help that I’m a person of color.) I don’t blame her for her apprehension; it is simply a legacy of the long, sordid history of man’s mistreatment of woman. I wanted to go up to her and say, “Madam, I have no desire to assault you in any way.” But I doubt if it would have helped much.
What will help is a wholesale revision in men’s attitudes and behavior toward women. That may be a hopelessly long-term and utopian goal, but it behooves every man to get cracking on it right now.