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.