By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
An Open Letter to Good Men:
Guys, it must be tough to watch the news lately. I’m sure you’ve noticed there are quite a few schmucks out there tarnishing the “man brand.”
Recent headlines make it seem like there aren’t many good men left in the world, especially since so many of those we thought were decent turned out to be imposters. But I know good men like you are out there. Maybe you don’t make splashy headlines but you’re there, quietly doing your work, raising your kids, and honoring the women around you.
I imagine it must be infuriating to watch people who claim to be men do things only spoiled teenagers would do and then try to pass it off as a misunderstanding. Good men know that, although there are many complex, difficult things in this world, keeping your hands to yourself is not one of them.
Good men learned this simple rule in kindergarten: “Don’t touch things that don’t belong to you.” Good men know that women aren’t things to be owned or handled. Real men don’t try to disguise sexual harassment, intimidation or plain old creepiness as a compliment or as “warmth and affection.” They’re not the same thing, and good men know it.
They also know it’s impossible to “accidentally” sexually harass another person. Good men don’t “accidentally” grope the most personal, private parts of a woman’s body. It just doesn’t happen. And the men who claim to have been confused about the rules of decent behavior? They make men look like idiots who can’t tell the difference between consent and fear.
I’ve worked for good men who never once made me feel afraid or who made me squirm out of an uncomfortable situation. I was one of the lucky ones. I pray my daughter will find good men in her professional and personal life, too.
But if she encounters some of the wolves in professional clothing, she will know how to spot them and what to do about it because I and her father – a card-carrying good man – will prepare her as much as possible. And thankfully, we’ve entered a time when women can more easily speak out against and prosecute what used to be dismissed as “guys being guys.”
Because you’re good men, I’m certain you’ve noticed the creeps and criminals in the headlines are careful about who they choose to harass. They never pick women who are in equally powerful positions or who have plenty of money, influence and connections. They don’t choose to expose themselves to Meryl Streep at the height of her career. They pick the young, struggling actress who is desperate to catch her first break – the one it would be easy to call a liar.
They pick the young assistants who are eager to work their way up and who fear being labeled as a troublemaker. These are manipulative, calculating predators who hunt the most vulnerable targets.
I imagine that good men look at these cowards with contempt and anger. Some of you probably wish you could punch their faces, to give them a taste of what assault feels like when you’re on the other side of it.
Face-punching might not be the answer, but good men are part of the solution. The world needs you now more than ever. We need you to know that 99.9% of women would never lie about being sexually harassed or assaulted. It’s not something we want to even think about much less talk about in public or describe in interviews.
We also need you to get in the face of any man who thinks he’s entitled to treat women with anything less than respect, and we need you to shut that bully down.
Finally, we need you to show the young men around you that there IS a right way to treat women, work with them, talk to them and talk about them, even when they’re not in the room. We need you to set the standard and demand that other men meet it, too.
As for me, I and my husband are doing all we can to raise two boys into future good men who will one day join your ranks. Until then, please know that I and plenty of other women realize that good men still exist. We know you’re nothing like the creeps and criminals, who don’t deserve to be called men at all.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. You can read more of Gwen’s work by clicking here to visit The Rockwood Files.