What makes a good man?
The answer to that question has evolved in the last few years (and it’s about time). Yes, a good man should be kind, and honest, and fair, and good with plants. But that’s not enough. Now, to meet the definition of a good man, a man must not only NOT sexually harass or assault women, but also stand up and stop it when he sees it happening.
Wait a minute.
It’s 2019. Why did it take until now for basic human decency to become the standard? And why are there some people out there who still think that’s asking for too much? Did you know it’s “a tough time to be a man” these days? Never mind that:
- More women are in Congress than ever—but they still make up just 23.4 percent of the House of Representatives.
- At least a quarter of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, and one Equal Employment Opportunity Commission study found the number could be as high as 85 percent.
- Multiple studies found that reports of sexual harassment are often ignored. Worse, as many as 75 percent of those who do report face retaliation in the workplace, according to a report by the National Institute of Health
- While many deny the pay gap exists, the stats say it does—according to the Department of Labor, women who worked full-time year-round earned 79 percent as much as their male counterparts as of 2014. Experts say pay equity may not happen for another 100 years.
- According to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, worldwide, women do 6 timesmore unpaid care and domestic work than men.
- More than 90 percent of domestic violence against women is committed by men. However, domestic violence against men is committed by both men and women in comparable numbers, according to the CDC.
- The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that one out of six women has been or will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. For men (who, it should be noted, are far less likely to report due to the stigma associated with male rape) the number is one in 33.
- A study by a site called IHollaback.org looking at street harassment worldwide found that between 70 and 99 percent of women had been catcalled or harassed by strangers on the street. Meanwhile, reports by males were statistically negligible.
Remember the Gillette commercial that told men essentially that it’s okay to speak up against toxic masculinity? In doing my research for this column, I came across this particular gem by Jon Gabriel, opinion contributor for azcentral.com:
“The new era of masculinity isn’t going so well,” he writes. “More than one in four children live in father-absent households… Women outnumber men in college, 56 percent to 44 percent. Ninety percent of inmates are male, and men are vastly more likely to commit suicide. The American Psychological Association responded to these grim statistics by pathologizing maleness.”
Instead, he said, we should embrace “traditional masculinity.”
“Masculinity is less an ideology and more of a natural tendency demonstrated in diverse cultures around the globe for millennia,” Gabriel writes. “Instead of attacking traditional masculinity, our culture would profit from a lot more of it.”
In other words, woooosh.
Nowhere does he acknowledge the #metoo movement that prompted the zeitgeist behind the commercial. Nowhere does he address the actual position of the APA, which does not “pathologize maleness,” but instead offers guidelines for clinicians working with men and boys who have been harmed by attitudes that tell them they have to stifle their feelings, and “be a man.” Nowhere does he include the “toxic” part of toxic masculinity, characterized by the APA by “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression… Men socialized in this way,” the APA’s paper reads, “are less likely to engage in healthy behaviors.”
So what is the Gillette commercial is promoting (besides its own product) and what should a good man in 2019 be? Be an ally. Be an advocate. Raise your sons and your daughters to respect others. Teach them the concept of consent. Model equality in your relationships. Advocate for your female coworkers. Speak up about your salaries — openness in the workplace has been proven to help close the pay gap. Be a decent human being, and you’ll be a good man.
I married a good man. This summer we will have been together for 17 years, and I’ve watched him grow up — when we met, we were dumb kids (because, let’s face it, all kids are dumb), but in the intervening years, he’s become a good man. He works hard. He cares about his community. He’s a great dad. He never puts his laundry in the basket (I said he was good, not perfect). And he’s cute.
It’s not really that hard to be a good man. And good men support strong women. We need more good men.