Big Shoes to Fill

I love men. I know them as lovers, thinkers, comedians and protectors, to name a few. There is not a man with whom I work or socialize who does not conduct himself by exemplary standards. I trust in the goodness of men. And I would never exclude them as feminists. 

In other words, the men I know fill big shoes. I know they are listening. And that they, like me, abhor the violence oppressing women and girls.

If only this included all men.

On this page is a different pair of shoes to fill. For the steps through life are likely to be treacherous for a female.

Once again headlines have swelled with accounts of rape and murder, as well as other physical and emotional violence against women and children. It's an unending story.

So, little girl, soon enough you will learn: Don't drink at a party. Button up your blouse. Don't look too attractive. Don't walk alone. Carry mace. Careful who you look in the eye. Hold your key ready in your hand. Check your back seat. Keep your gas tank full. Don't look at the driver next to you. Park under the streetlight. Keep the porch light on. Lock the front door behind you, and never open it without checking. And don't forget to pull the blinds. In other words, never lower your guard...ever. For in the eyes of far too many, you are culpable for the violence against you. 

It's problematic. For your vulnerability is at once an expectation of and an indictment by this culture. Too confident? Then you risk being labeled a man-hating feminist, a prude, controlling ... or worse. Whatever works to put you back in your place. Too vulnerable? Then you should have known better. Actually, you must have asked for it. Our culture is a @#%!#*! mess of mixed signals. Buy, buy, buy the lipstick, the makeup, the scents, the bras, the heels, the alcohol, the illusion of glamour, ad nauseum. Add for men the glorified violence and machismo on the big screen and playing field and it's a perfect storm. Men, likewise, are pressured. Incessant images of "masculinity" make them fearful of negative labels, as well. Ultimately, we are all prone to this influence. And if adults can't resist, how can young people? 

As we manage the ramifications of this bombardment, how do we begin to construct a definition of consent? How do we continue to enjoy our increasingly consuming and seductive entertainments while creating an environment of protection? Our cultural distractions are not going away. Nor should they. Instead, let's ruthlessly champion awareness. Zero tolerance. When a female says no, the answer is no. She is not secretly hoping to be overpowered. Unconsciousness is not an invitation. If that's the only way a man can gain access, that's sick. And that means prosecution. 

I know strong men will pick up this fight. I know they have. They will take on the label of feminist, openly. They will boldly broach the subject with young men they know, if they haven't already. They will vote for the protection of women.

I know smart young men are also aware. I know they love young women as people. As friends. I have witnessed this with my own daughters' friends.

I think this younger generation is smarter than us in many ways. I am endlessly impressed.

Let each of us begin to educate in order to make them all, boys and girls alike, less vulnerable. 

Activists all. 

Like I said, I love men.