Craig Henningfield: Men, time for a change
November 16, 2017
"Sex harassment is not just a women's issue," wrote Nicholas Kristof in an Oct. 28th Steamboat Today commentary, for "we men can be more than passive observers, and a start is surely to be better at listening." Listening is good; changing is better.
Recently, I was listening to the insightful comments of a man I consider to be "very wise." Female-male relationships would be transformed if his counsel and direction were heeded – by everyone.
What was his counsel? He begins, "deal with anger." His reason was incisive: anger often carries within it the intent to harm another. Anger cultivated turns to contempt, expressed through words and in actions that diminish, demean, despise and devalue.
Sexual harassment is the demeaning attitude that objectifies women, viewing them as objects useful for selfish, personal gratification.
This degradation assaults her, initially, through a man’s eyes. The eyes, as my friend points out, are the conduit through which a man's lustful fantasies are prodded. "Pluck your eye out," he chides, knowing full well that a man can devalue a woman with his eyes closed. Sexual harassment begins with a heart attitude before turning into an bodily action.
"Time for a change,” I say. Listening will help. Sensitivity training might improve matters. Greater development and enforcement of sexual harassment guidelines may curtail the problem. Peer pressure among men might be of some benefit.
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But, these efforts can only go so far. How many men in their home and workplace today didn't "break the rules," but did allow their heart-fantasies to devalue the women around them? How many men go home or to work confident they did nothing "legally" wrong, but savored their "I'm undressing her" imagination?
Experience suggests that men either will not or cannot deal with the real issue: the heart. Dealing with the issues is complex, difficult work … and necessary.
I know personally of a young woman who was sexually harassed in our local high school. She was devastated; the boys moved on. Sadly, the young men are learning from the adult men around them.
For the men who are willing to deal with the real issue, it takes a community of like-minded men, cultivating a meaningful vision of masculinity and femininity, offering support and understanding, counsel and guidance, forgiveness for failure, encouragement for success and a willingness to discover the abundant love we men are designed to give away.
Where there is a community of men who practice a love that seeks the benefit and blessing of the women in our lives, life can be different. Finding such a community of men might be difficult; calling together such a community is needed. Men just have to want to.
Hey, men, time for a change.