I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most men are good, decent, kind and think of violence as a last-last-resort.
I’m going to go further out on the limb and say that we absolutely need to start talking about this and celebrating it. We absolutely need to start talking about the majority of men who do not engage in violence, in misogyny, or in other socially derided “bad” behaviors.
I’m going to break the limb by saying that celebrating and honoring the vast majority of men who are “good” does not in any way diminish or distract from the many conversations about gender violence, sexism, misogyny, and rape culture that are concurrently taking place.
I believe to the core of my being that we not only CAN simultaneously condemn violence and celebrate non-violence – we MUST.
People who know about my absolute train-wreck of a dating history are usually surprised by a few aspects of me as an adult.
They’re shocked that I am married, to a man.
They’re shocked that a slight majority of my friends are male.
They’re shocked that I am comfortable in a room full of men and at male dominated events and that I have worked in male dominated fields.
They’re shocked, in short, that I trust men.
After all, my personal history alone could be cited in any study of male violence as proof-positive that men are violent.
Except, um, it can’t. Because that’s not actually what it proves.
It can prove, anecdotally, the same thing statistics already tell us – the majority of violence against women is perpetuated by males. BUT the majority of males are NOT violent toward women.
So when a woman gets attacked for taking a moment to give a shout out to the many, many good guys out there, I’m going to come to her – and their – defense.
Because she’s right.
Most men are good. They far outweigh the bad.
And it’s important for us to talk about it, to celebrate it, and to remember it.
Violence and fear beget violence and fear.
This does not mean that we should tolerate violence, misogyny, misandry, sexism, racism, hate speech, or any form of abuse.
It does not mean we should excuse bad behavior.
But if that is all that we focus on – the bad, the negative, the ugly – that is what we perpetuate.
I’m going to do a risky thing and bring Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman into this conversation because they are the most recent and well-known example of what I am trying to illustrate.
Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman was socialized to expect the worst from young black men with hoodies who walk at night.
But what if the image we had of young black men was this story about a couple of teens who rescued a young girl from her abductor? Or these young men who rushed in to help a little girl.
What if that was the norm that we heard about, instead of just the silent norm that actually is?
Perhaps then a young black man with a bag of skittles wouldn’t seem so threatening.
Lenore Skenazy over at Free-Range Kids talks about this all the time – this constant demonizing of men, and how it is harming our society, our nation.
I do not take violence against women lightly.
But I refuse to believe that it is the default setting for half of the world’s population.
That’s why is it so important to talk up the majority of men who are “good.”
To lower the fear, to change the dynamic, to empower women to walk into a conference, or into the world, confident and able to assume good intent from her fellow humans, rather than walking in fear, looking over her shoulder, seeking an attack, wary of all males.
To empower men to be good guys, to give them not just an example of good behavior (I don’t think most men need this, I think most men live this) but also to give them the expectation of good intent – that is to say, to set high standards for all our citizens.
So that we don’t normalize fear and violence.
So that we don’t create a culture – at conferences or in the world – where people shiver under the expectation of violence.
So that we remember that violence is the exception, that’s what makes it newsworthy.
We must shine light after light after light on the good guys, and gals, so that we can hold them up and say – THIS is what real men and women look like.
THIS is what we expect from our citizens.
THIS works. This is what we want more of.
Are we rewarding men for doing what any decent human should do? Perhaps. But I’ll be honest, I like a little positive feedback myself. I like knowing when I get it right. It helps me be better, and I share the knowledge with others – so the goodness can spread.
In my book, we can’t have too much goodness.
So yes, let’s celebrate what’s right in our communities. That doesn’t take away from trying to fix what’s wrong, in fact, it helps make the whole community stronger, which makes it easier to identify and fix any problems.