Saturday, 4 November 2017

Old dogs and New Tricks

In the wake of #metoo, more and more worms are munching their way out of the woodwork and revealing the rotten heart of our establishments. And there are the same tired non-excuses for crappy behaviour being wheeled out, of poor, confused men who just can't tell in the face of all this horrible, rampant feminism whether it's OK to call their assistant "sugar tits" or not. And the not-at-all lamented Fallon, claiming that “The culture has changed over the years. What might have been acceptable 15, 10 years ago is clearly not acceptable now.”

And while he may (and I only concede this very grudgingly and with serious caveats) be right that the culture has changed in the last 10-15 years, it doesn't actually mean that it was ever acceptable to the women involved to grope, harrass or outright assault them. Just because it was possible to get away with it without losing your job, doesn't mean it was acceptable. It merely means unacceptable things used to happen.

I have a friend who falls into that group of people who seem to be mired in this confusion about what is OK and what is not. He is a sixty-year old, overweight,  white man. For the sake of anonymity, I shall call this man Nigel.

Nigel describes himself as a racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynist pig. He says he was raised that way. But he is utterly aware that the way he was raised had flaws, he is aware that many of his knee-jerk views are wrong, and he makes a conscious effort to not allow his upbringing to drive his actions now. He admits that his initial reaction to the calls for gay marriage was that there was no need, marriage is marriage and is for one man and one woman, and if you're gay and want a partnership, have a different one. But he now says, "I listened to what everyone said, and realised I'd lost that argument. I'm wrong, and marriage can be for everyone."

Nigel torments himself over perceived transgressions. He was walking along the street recently when he passed a young, attractive, beautifully dressed woman. The sight gladdened his heart, not (according to him) in any predatory way, but just in a "isn't it lovely to see something attractive" way, and he smiled. He smiled at the young woman in question. And then he felt terrible. He asked me if what he had done had been wrong. Had he been lecherous, threatening, harrassing by smiling at her? Was it objectifying to find the appearance of a stranger a source of pleasure?

Nigel over-thinks things. But, despite his condemnatory self-description, he is a liberal, feminist, accepting man who is aware of his own potential to discriminate and tries not to.

Men - be like Nigel. It's really not much more complicated than that.

No comments:

Post a Comment