A Good Guy

This post started me thinking. I often write about the hypocrisy of certain zealots of feminism and the double standard by which they seem to operate (bear with me, this post isn’t going there). Rather, I’m thinking about a different double standard.

Millions of people object to the status quo believing it limits options and prevents equality for women. Other millions object to a cartoonish, one-dimensional perspective of complex, multi-faceted gender-equality issues that will actually require a stunning degree of cooperation and collaboration to solve.

But let’s talk about Society. The cultural water we swim in – in this instance I’m speaking about North American culture here but the principle applies in every culture. There is much about Society that encourages, facilitates, models, teaches, and enforces the stereotypes so many of us object to. That capital ‘s’ is not an accident. There are very few individuals I know who will admit to espousing cultural norms which perpetuate an unjust or oppressive status quo, and yet, here we are, Society somehow making its presence felt in the most significant ways.

1184206946_3-c504284b-b657-46cc-8b77-18ce411104cdTake the column that started this post. Men, apparently, are bumbling (or ignorant) but well-intentioned, and women are mean. Society will evidently excuse men for inexcusable things because they’re ‘well-intentioned’ or ‘basically a good guy,’ but whatever a woman’s intentions might be are irrelevant, because as soon as she says anything vaguely authoritative, or declarative, she’s a bitch. Again, Society must be perpetuating this issue, because it’s happening everywhere – from the school playground where adults devilwearspradathumbare supervising children, to the boardroom.

So. No stats about women and leadership, or the total unfairness of castigating a woman for being authoritative (“Stop using your ‘mom’ voice”), or the irrefutable data that proves that a man and a woman can say exactly the same thing and he’s perceived as “trustworthy and collaborative,” and she is perceived as “shrewish and difficult.” No. Let’s not go there.

How about we talk about ‘Society.’ You know, you and me? The ones who stand idly by and give this crap a free pass? THAT ‘Society.’

“He is basically a good guy,” confirms one of our most pervasive biases. A colleague who made a sexist remark in a meeting? Well, we think, he didn’t mean it. He’s basically a good guy. The young man who insulted his date in front of his friends? He didn’t think she would take it so personally. He’s really a good guy. 

Being derogatory toward women is not the behaviour of a “good guy.” It is a slip of the tongue revealing values mostly kept hidden.  There may be a willingness to practice humility after the fact and apologize, but this does not change the reality that somewhere, deep in that man’s internal framework, women are ‘less than.’ The source of life’s problems. A convenient whipping girl. Not worthy of respect as an individual. Take your pick. But the rot is there …evidently. Maya Angelou famously stated, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The root etymology of the word ‘violence’ means “with words.” Make no mistake, Fellow Humans. Calling your partner a ‘stupid bitch’ is violence.

I have 54 years’ experience with men. I’ve had a father for that long, brothers for 51 years, and a husband for 35 years. They have done nothing over those years except demonstrate over, and over, and over, sometimes in the most trying circumstances, that women are worthy of the same respect they themselves enjoy. Even women trying really hard to disqualify themselves as worthy of respect were still treated with dignity (not that they appreciated it at the time) by the beloved men in my life. It is normal for good men to have an unshakeable conviction that every human being, regardless of gender is worthy of respect.

Here’s my take (and it is mine). ‘Society’ is you and you and you …x 7.5 billion …and me. When we, that is, ‘Society’ speak up and say, “Good men, real good men don’t refer to women in that way, E.V.E.R,” we become part of the solution and agents for change. The point is, when people don’t speak up, they become part of ‘Society’ which maintains, facilitates, perpetuates, and encourages this behaviour as the acceptable norm. Since ‘Society’ is you …and you …and you …and you …and me, when will you stand up… speak up… IN THE MOMENT when these unacceptable and demeaning behaviours happen?

I suspect that cultural norms would change a lot more quickly if ‘Society’ spoke up often, consistently, vociferously, and implacably.

Be a part of the change you want to see. ~Mahatma Ghandi

Kuwait 2014
Me, and my good man. Photo by Chris Loh Photography

More interesting/relevant stuff here, and here, and here.

And here, here, here, and here.

Fixin’ to Make a Change

 

I was thinking recently about the process of lifestyle renovation. For many years, when one heard about ‘lifestyle change’ or ‘turning over a new leaf,’ the town rumour was that the person in question was a problem drinker or had given up some unsavoury activity. I thought, when I was growing up, turning over new leaves was something only people who did bad things needed to do!

These days, the buzzwords in vogue are all about lifestyle change, life renovation, renewal, rejuvenation, or restyling. Upscaling, downsizing, going green, vegan, bohemian, or organic. All of which make sense in the right context. There is a commonality underlying these concepts, and it’s not new. Leaving aside possible issues with political correctness and the gender police, Coco Chanel hinted at this when she made her famous observation. There are stages of change and a significant action is evidence of a decision. Evidently, a woman cutting her hair qualifies as “significant.”

We humans tend to follow an identified, and much researched pattern when considering  making a big change in our lives or circumstances. The Stages of Change are Precontemplative (not ready) Contemplative (getting ready) Preparation (ready) Action, and Maintenance. This process seems to be true particularly when the change is perceived as difficult. Most often, the impetus to shift from “not ready” to “ready” is a deadline or crisis of some sort.

The majority of the world lives on autopilot, following those routines which require the least amount of cognitive investment allowing us to mentally live somewhere else while we go through the motions of existing. Why do you think Red Bull Sports is so popular? We park on the sofa, turn on the TV, and mentally go elsewhere, vicariously living an adrenalin-filled life.

So the point of this post is this… where are you stuck in life? When do you wish things different? When do you contemplate what it might like if _________ happened? Or stopped happening?  Using the model of the Stages of Change, where are you with relation to that issue? If you’re in the Precontemplative stage (not ready), what would it take to move you along to getting ready (Contemplative)? To taking action?

Sometimes, all we actually need to do is sit down for 10 minutes and really look at the thoughts we usually brush aside; Those wishes, unexpressed yearnings, and raw spots of dissatisfaction in our inner landscape. Asking questions about those thoughts – ‘Do I really want to hike to Macchu Pichu?’ ‘Why am I wishing for ________?’ ~ and then taking the time to figure out the answers. This is, by itself,  action which can move us past the stuck place.

With apologies to Coco Chanel, it isn’t necessary to cut your hair to signal a change. Just get on with it.

change

If you’re inclined that way, there’s a helpful app available on iOS and Android called “Unstuck.” It’s free and the Unstuck peeps maintain a groovy website.  More good stuff on the Stages of Change here