In this case, it’s not my place to express my feelings, but to acknowledge and appreciate that women are taking the lead in the MeToo movement conversation. I’m paying attention. At least from my experience, we men haven’t had a lot of direction. My experience is what I’ll call a Marlboro Man upbringing, and as a result, I painfully stumbled into manhood. Besides smoking Marlboro’s and thinking it was what healthy men did my stepfather was the status quo of what the MeToo movement is fighting to change. With me my Dad didn’t talk about women with respect—when it came to women his conversations were more like, “hey, check out her parts.” I used to think my behavior was biology, but now see socialization is how I saw women as objects and felt I was acting acceptably.
Maybe “part checking” is some combination of social behavior and biology? Do women check parts, and if they do, do their older female peers slap them on the back in approval? The understanding of biological urges and social behavior is something I never understood as a kid and honestly, haven’t heard much of in the years to follow. Its been a lesson by fire kind of education for me.
I distinctly remember calling home from college and the discussion on the phone with my dad eventually lead to whether I got laid and how many times. What I imagine he thought was fatherly mentorship was a lot of pressure for a kid who could barely hold a conversation with a woman let alone mark her as another conquest for his dad’s approval. I won’t even try to explain the impact those conversations had on my image of women.
The Marlboro Man failed me miserably in many awkward and honestly painful situations. I’m hopeful in my case it was only painful for me, but regret on an emotional level it was likely uncomfortable for many. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to relive those stories. Thankfully I have never been aggressive in any way, but I wasn’t who I am today. My point is that I wasn’t alone in not thinking that women probably saw sex as something more than affirming my manhood. Thankfully for my manhood, it wasn’t confused with a desire for control or power, but I knew even back then at some level of consciousness that was a problem for some men in my circles. How I drew a line and grew into an understanding of respect I’m not clear. As corny as it sounds I suspect respect came to me from seeing the soul in a woman’s eyes.
I’m ashamed of myself and the status quo because some of what the MeToo movement change will rightfully define as bad behavior was okay only yesterday. It’s likely of mine, my fathers, and their father’s conducts that I will bear the shame and guilt and it will carry for generations. Maybe I’m writing too dramatically, but where I am clear in regard to this period is what we lost while objectifying women. As a people, we can use new insightful leadership with the clarity of voice, compassion, and intelligence. I’m hopeful MeToo opens doors that will allow those kinds of leaders to come forth. I look forward to the new wisdom that can tell the difference between the desires of ego and the truth one can find in looking into the eyes of the soul. I’m paying attention.