Men, where did you learn how to treat women?
I grew up in a locker room culture. Hormonal young men pretending to know who they were and what it was like to be men.
One way we tried was through the objectification of women, upholding “normative” examples from culture, that women were something you tried to game, or to win — whether it was for social capital, sex or power.
In this culture, I saw and took part in this objectification. To give some context, it was almost always through verbal harassment. Firstly, as a bystander — I dared not speak-up for fear of social suicide. And secondly as a perpetrator — with my share of locker room talk. I find it was all a defense mechanism, to either inflate my sense of self, or to feel valued by my male peers.
We are seeing a wave of sexual harassment complaints in the media with the stars in the limelight for all to judge, bringing us face to face with the prevalence of harassment.
The time is now for MEN TO COME FORWARD with the bravery and courage exhibited by women, to say, this is not what being a man is about.
I would like to use this critical moment in history to raise a fundamental question. Have boys matured into men? Or did these actions and conversations simply get sidelined to the normalcy of adult life?
What about those that simply stayed true to the shared narrative among young boys, and grew into men walking the limits of sexually appropriate behavior? Often times not knowing better, or knowing better but not getting checked. I don’t believe that men are a ‘single story’ but I do believe that too many of us have rarely been taught what it is to understand what we need (sexual or otherwise) and how to get what we need without violating the needs of others.
After spending 25 years as a competitive athlete. I left a world dominated by men and their views. And over time evolved into more matriarchal social circles —filled with girl bosses — to see women in a new light, to see the love, and strength in women that ran beyond my prior comprehension and objectification.
This journey is greatly aided by a continued search to learn and understand. Recently in a movement educators forum with mostly women dancers, I heard again, especially in the backlash of all what has been going on with #metoo, women speaking up and sharing the impacts of sexual harassment and lack of consent in their lives today. These voices along with the work my beloved is doing with women around abuse and its pervasiveness in our cultures expands my sensitivity.
While I might have left the locker room, much of my work continues to be with young men and through this, I realize that my experiences of the locker room continues. And the narratives of what it means to be a man remains unchecked.
The normalcy is dangerous, we have seen it in the sheer scale of voices coming out.
A current status quo is to judge and vilify these men being called out. However, this makes it all too easy for most men, including myself to distance ourselves in a failure to acknowledge that we too might have been, or might still be a perpetrator upholding the norm. After all, no one wants to see their reflection in the deplorable acts of those being called out.
But a pure focus on judgement will continue to lead to too many men denying their roles en masse.
Healing, learning and a change in behavior, is necessary but it doesn’t come from punishment alone.
We need now more than ever for MEN TO COME FORWARD with the bravery and courage exhibited by the women to say, this is not what being a man is about.
We must all stand up for a different behavior — men and women alike.
In tandem, can we create space to ask, where do I go from here? A space for men to reflect, with the knowing that we fucked up and come forth with the intention of growing out of a destructive pattern. A space to go the distance together.
What does it mean to be a man right now?
In seeing that we are not who we were told to be, can we be strong in who we can be.
So, men, brothers, can you reflect on your life, and without judgement remember a time or times when you have taken part in the objectification, harassment or abuse of women and ask.
Is this the man I want to be?
Do I have the strength and courage needed to change my behavior and or stand up when I see it happening?
If you are having a difficult time with how to create space for you and others to heal, I will be holding such spaces for just this — dialogue and understanding. Please DM me.
Alone, you can change, together we can heal.