By: Iyabo Onipede – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
An older man I know told me that he has behaved himself over the last 40 years or so, but when he was a teenager, and into his early 20s, he did some pretty awful things to women. He was reflecting on how he was socialized sexually. He said if a woman said, “No” that just meant she needed to be convinced. He was taught that women play games. He said, “Good girls don’t but good girls do” just meant that he had to convince the girl that she was still a “good girl” in his mind and then she would be game for sex.
He talked about what fed his concept of women. He openly talked about objectifying women’s bodies and just not having the sense of presence or the tools to think differently. He was “supposed” to be that guy. That was a measure of his manhood. He grew up with sisters. He grew up with his mom. They were nice women. He respected women. This was a reflective conversation and he was being tender and vulnerable.
He has daughters and I asked about them. I asked if he would want someone to treat his daughters like he treated women. He said he would not but that he has frank conversations with his daughters all the time about how men behave. I asked if having daughters made him change his behavior towards women. He said they did not. He felt he changed long before he had children.
I asked what drove his previous behavior and what made him change.
He paused as he thought about it.
He said, “You have to understand. This behavior was normal. That is just how men behaved to women back then. Nobody thought it was bad. It was actually expected of us. I think I changed because I just got busy with being a responsible adult and I had to be focused on my work and I did not have time for women. Once I got married, I was focused on my marriage and that was the end of such foolish behavior.”
I probed and queried.
He continued, “Look, you want to hear that I had some great big epiphany. I did not have an epiphany. It does not mean I intended to disrespect women. It was not about women. It was about me. To feel that I was a ‘man,’ there were expectations that I ‘had’ to behave a certain way. Do you women ever consider the pressure we are under to be ‘men?’”
He went on to tell me how we women talk about things that stir up our consciences and drive accountability but when he was young, men did not. He talked about how his mother or his father never had such discussions with him. He literally walked around the planet thinking it was normal to get away with as much as he could with women. He thought it was his obligation.
Readers, this is one of the kindest, most loving men I know. He is brutally honest, and I knew he would tell me the truth and not what I wanted to hear. I was shocked on his perspective but I wanted to sit with the discomfort of it and figure out where I missed it.
You see, I was so hurt and disappointed about Morgan Freeman and the #metoo movement. I love Morgan Freeman. Of course, I don’t know the man. I just know the image he projected as the president of the United States in Deep Impact, God in Bruce Almighty and a prisoner in Shawshank Redemption. I naively thought it was a reflection of his personal character and nature.
Beauty! That’s why!
This is why we get in trouble. All of us. Art, including excellent acting, moves us and stirs beauty in us. That beauty, for me, is a deep moment of connection with All That Is. So, then somehow I mistook the channel for All That Is itself and this channel becomes scared, right?
Morgan Freeman was just the channel to The Beauty Of All That Is.
And so I was disappointed in his fragility as a human.
I sit with the discomfort of knowing that someone I admired from afar has behaved as a complete ass! It is not acceptable to me. Yet, I know that yelling and screaming about it is not what creates change.
I wonder how we, as women, have contributed to this society where men feel they are not men unless they grab and reach for what is not theirs. I wonder how many mothers looked away when they saw their sons acting like their fathers. I wonder how many of us felt powerless to tell young men how to behave to women.
I also wonder what it would take to heal this wound without destroying everything about the lives of these men as well as the lives of the women who have the courage to say they were violated.
I think of a movie I watched about restorative justice. It was about a native American community in Canada where incest and rape by family members was an epidemic. If all the men went to prison for these crimes, over 80% of the male population would be missing. Restorative justice experts came in and created a process of accountability. They created circle processes where the victims could face their rapists. Sometimes, it was their fathers, brothers and grandfathers. It turns out that many of the men were violated when they were young. Eventually, the restorative justice processes did bring a significant degree of healing and changed behavior to the community. What was interesting is that many of the men would have preferred to go to prison than look at their victims in their eyes. The men were scared of their own humanity.
To face your humanity means to come in contact with your own frailty and failure. It means to accept that you are broken and that you have tender places. It means to accept that you do not have all the answers. And you do not have to.
You see, precious reader, violence always begets violence. I think, as a community, we are also responsible for putting men on this pedestal that they are supposed to live up to. And they can’t. They are just human. It is violent to ask a person to be more than human.
I don’t have answers. I don’t like the idea of dragging any of these men through the court system. Even more than that, I don’t like that these victims also get to be dragged through the court of public opinion. I don’t believe that our judicial processes create long-lasting solutions for the victims or the perpetrators.
Yet, if it brings healing to the hearts, minds and bodies of the victims, please go right ahead. Wholeness is important for our victims. But wholeness is also important for the perpetrator of the crimes.
Peace onto the fractures that reside within each of us. May we be tender with our own fractures. And those of others.
More by Iyabo:
Iyabo is a Leadership Development Coach whose work focuses on the soul of the leader. She moves leaders from thriving careers into discovering, crafting and living into their life work. By helping successful people integrate spirituality into their leadership roles, they become more engaged with their work, expand the connection of their work to social justice issues and experience more satisfaction in their life work. Using the power of narrative and reflection, she helps leaders fine tune the sacred “work their souls must have” (Alice Walker).
Iyabo is located in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Goucher College (B.A.), Georgetown University Law School (J.D.) and Candler School of Theology at Emory University (M.Div.).
Iyabo’s home on the web is at http://www.coachiyabo.com
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