15ish years ago after a near death experience with a charter bus roof exit hatch (I’m not exaggerating the near death aspect, I still have scars on my arms from the event) Pam and I developed four things that we wanted the boys to remember concerning what it means to be a Terrell man. We figured we wanted the boys to have something easy to remember just in the morbid case that something happened to us.
The four things are:
- A real man loves God
- A real man loves his family
- A real man protects women
- A real man protects those who are weaker than him
I struggle with rephrasing the 3rd real man statement because I worry that saying “protects” can imply that women are somehow inherently weaker than men. That’s why we as a family have been thinking through trying to figure out a word that conveys the same meaning. We don’t have it yet but we are leaning toward “respects”. We’ll get it eventually. The important thing is that I wanted the boys growing up understanding that not only were they not supposed to do anything that would hurt a woman, they were supposed to stand up and protect a woman if they saw another man trying to harm a woman. I used to ask them, and still do, to repeat “the four things a real man does” to me whenever they or I were leaving home for awhile (i.e. when they were home it was when I was on trips and now that they are in college it is when they leave to go back to school).
Anyhow all the sexual harassment stuff is driving me nuts. First, I don’t believe anyone should have to deal with such behavior. Second, it violates what I believe a real man does – i.e the third thing listed above, protect women. Finally, I think the guys who do it are trash. Yes, trash is a harsh word and these guys are still made in the image of God and in need of redemption, but right now I’ll just let my anger at their actions have control of my writing for a little while.
One of my favorite scenes in Harper Lee’s book “To Kill A Mockingbird” is when Atticus says the following to Scout:
“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”
These sexual harrasers are taking advantage of the power they perceive they have, or actually have, over their targets. They are using this power to justify highly inappropriate, definitely immoral, and often illegal behavior against their subordinates or those who are less than them in power or prestige. Then outside of this behavior they try to lead lives of assumed dignity.
I am presently reading Walter Wink’s book “The Powers That Be” and in his discussion concerning Jesus statements in Matthew 5:38-42 he describes Jesus’s statements concerning turning the other cheek, giving your coat, or walking a second mile. Wink says that Jesus’s statements are a means of shaming the powers that were looking to take advantage of those who were weaker. To quote Wink, “The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity” (p. 105). Following Jesus’s statements would heap shame on the powerful and prevent them from living the dignified lives they wanted to lead.
It saddens me that so many women, my wife included, have been able to say #MeToo in regard to sexual harassment. It is amazingly brave of these women to say publicly what they have experienced and deny their harassers the anonymity they had hoped for. By saying what has been done to them these brave souls cast light on the ones that sought to harm them. Light exposes evil and that leads to redemption … but it usually shames the perpetrator fist.
To paraphrase Atticus “if you see a man take advantage of his position or power to harass, make advances, or even rape a woman, man, or child who he has some power over, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that man is trash.”