Ever since I wrote my first editor’s note in the July 2016 issue of Bakersfield Life Magazine, I’ve used the space as an opportunity to share some of the thoughts that run through my mind. That explains why so many columns mention my pug, Tina Louise.
I always try to write positive, uplifting pieces, but this time around I’d like to get a little serious.
October marked the one-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement, which drew attention to the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. With many of the victims being women and most of the accused being men, it’s hard not to be guilty by association. I’m not saying that society put me with those who think money, fame and title give them power over others, which they then abuse. The connection is self-made.
It makes me wonder if I’ve ever been in a position where I witnessed harassment and did nothing. When I should have raised questions but stayed silent. Even worse, am I guilty of crossing the line myself? As men, we often don’t think of the consequences our actions have on others, especially when there’s no harm intended. It’s easy to brush them off as no big deal – a classic case of “boys being boys.” But this shouldn’t be. Men should be men and, therefore, hold each other accountable.
At the end of the 2018 school year, a group of high school seniors I mentored – all boys – were set to graduate. During our last meeting, I told them that they really didn’t need my help. They were a bright bunch, driven and destined for big things. But I told them that if they were to take one thing from our mentoring sessions, it would be that they strive to be good men. Men who are respectful, who work hard and stay humble, and who are not afraid to stand up for others in the presence of wrongdoing. We should never stand idle in witness to inappropriate behavior because on the receiving end of those actions is a person much like you and me.
Women have found their voice and now we men need to find ours and speak out against those who perpetuate primitive behaviors, even if they are family members or friends. That is how we can put an end to the spiral of silence, where those who feel their views are in opposition to the majority say nothing. It may put us in the line of fire, but better us than our mothers, sisters, girlfriends or wives.
After all, is it not better to endure a little persecution in exchange for preventing injustice being done to others?
Men don’t need to protect women, because women are strong and independent and can take care of themselves. But we do need to treat them as equals – as fellow human beings. Regardless of your personal beliefs, I think that’s something we can, and should, get behind.