This past week, we witnessed another prominent male media figure in the U.S meet his professional demise at the hand of his own behavior. As we were waking up to the headlines across the globe, it got me thinking a lot about a few things. Perception versus reality and the curtain that seems to be coming down around behaviors that were previously protected under the umbrella of the “good ole’ boy” regime.
Those days are clearly over as women are finding both their strength and their voice, collectively saying, “enough is enough.”
But, the other thing it got me thinking about was my husband and our son. My father, my brothers, my uncles. Male colleagues and friends who have been both supportive and encouraging through the years, all working as equals.
While I am beyond proud of the amazing women who have stepped forward to lead this dialogue, I want to equally bring attention to the fact that there are good men who walk beside us, who support us, and who also believe that “enough is enough.” Men who refuse to allow their daughters to fall under the same regime of bad behavior that perhaps their wives and sisters have. Good men who are also looking to find their voice as they stand next to the strong and amazing women in their life – in unity and as equals.
Equality is something we talk with our kids about a lot. And over the weekend, I found myself explaining to our son that as he becomes a man, it will be even more important for him to encourage and support the women in his life, as his equal. He is only 6 so a lot of this went over his head. I did my best to describe it in a way he could understand and simply said that for a very long time there have been people who have treated women poorly and that sadly, it was usually men leading the bad behavior. A history lesson on the oppression of women on a Sunday drive back from the beach.
I looked over at my husband, who was grinning. I know he finds these rants that I go on about with our kids amusing, but on the off chance they retain the information, I keep talking. My husband’s grin was more than just a mere tease. It was the look of a proud teammate, as we talk a lot about what it means to be a man on the backdrop of the current conversation.
Several months ago, I received a message on LinkedIn from someone. I was taken aback as I only use that platform for professional purposes. This person, who I didn’t know and had never interacted with previously, sent me a rather interesting note. It was anything but professional. I politely responded that I use the platform for business purposes and that I was happily married with two children.
Later, when I told my husband about it, he was upset. As we talked about it more and more, I realized he was disgusted and offended on my behalf. I figured I had handled it and moved on, but for him, it went a step further. He felt a need to protect and to hold this person accountable, as a man.
A few days later, he sat me down and told me that he had reached out to this person to tell him that his behaviors were inappropriate, to call him out.
At first I was upset with him and explained that as a grown woman and a strong woman, I can take care of myself. I don’t need my husband fighting battles on my behalf. But later, as I digested what had happened and really listened to what the intent was behind my husband’s actions, I realized he wanted to do his part in the situation. He wanted to stand up for his wife, but above and beyond that, it was about holding another man accountable for poor behavior towards a woman he happens to love.
While the current headlines have prompted us to talk about what it means to be a man during such a pivotal time, it has also brought up discussions about what it means for women. And something that is important for us as parents to both a young boy and a young girl, is that the dialogue doesn’t become about tearing one down to build the other up. For us, it is more about understanding that we are all equal and need to do our part to support one another. That when men behave badly it is up to all of us to hold them accountable and the same can be said for women.
True equality, gender neutrality.
I know plenty of men who have fallen victim to these behaviors as well, particularly with some of our friends in the gay community. I find it much more important to create meaningful dialogue that is about right versus wrong, as opposed to man versus woman.
Something my husband once said to me that has resonated both in my professional life and in our personal life is, “When you focus on the problem, you have a problem. When you focus on the solution, the problem goes away.”
What we are seeing, the fall of prominent men who have behaved poorly, is just the beginning – our turn from the problem, towards the solution. Women finding our voice is only part of the solution. The problem is more complex than that, so the solution also needs to be. Good men, wondering how they can come alongside the women in their life to help, need to be invited to be part of the solution as well.
I am thrilled to see the awakening that is happening in women across the globe, particularly post-election. The blatant mistreatment of and vulgar behavior towards women was particularly troubling for me, all played out on the backdrop of politics. It was a talking point in nearly every discussion we had with our children about right from wrong.
But now that we find ourselves here in this moment, what can we do to bridge the gap and help bring the men who want to be part of the discussion and part of the solution to our table? How can we work together to remind the world that good men exist, men who also want to hold bad behavior accountable?
For my husband and I, it is working together to be part of the solution and remind our children daily to do the same and that they are equal.
Sometimes the lessons we teach our children are exactly what we need to be reminded of as adults.
This week, I want to challenge all of us to look towards the good people in our lives and open important dialogues about how we can all come together – gender aside – leading conversations from a place of humanity first. Allowing both men and women to feel heard and to be part of the solution.
Cheers to a new week and building bridges, not walls!