No, I’m not suggesting we return to the 1950s. For those of you who just came here to comment on how we should or should not return to the 1950s.
But I am suggesting we revive a certain behavior founded on self-respect. Tweaking the ways we treat each other isn’t like waving a magic wand, it won’t solve everything. But when it comes to addressing recently dredged up issues of sexual harassment, adopting and demanding better behavior of everyone seems the best place to start.
Put simply: men should behave like gentlemen, women should behave like ladies.
Oh yes, I’ll be called a backward prude for suggesting such a radical, constricting idea of men treating themselves and ladies with respect, and ladies treating themselves and men with respect. But after witnessing the last two years of nastiness being exposed, discussed and debated, a change in personal conduct seems the best place to start in fixing these messy and sometimes dangerous issues which blot our culture. The same issues originating with bad behavior.
Yes, there will always be jerks, bitches, dicks, and shrews. As there have always been, so there will always be. From my experience with Twitter, where people can more easily remain anonymous, creepy men haven’t a clue they’re creepy men. Which means we’ll need to define what it means to behave like a gentleman. Similarly, as I’ve learned from Twitter, shrill women with ax-grinding agendas seem unaware they hail from the island of Total Bitch.
We are all of us flawed human hypocrites. I’m first to admit I’m hardly a lady of elegant refinement. Over many years I’ve made any number of screwups, mishaps, and have hurt people close to me. As well as total internet strangers who took what I wrote quite personally, even if what I wrote had little or nothing to do with them. Thanks for your messages of unadulterated hate, Bernie Bros.
My point is we’re going to fail and keep failing, but that’s no reason to throw out the entire exercise.
So where to begin? How about with the premise behind the now-famous line from the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” After reading what I found to be a heartbreaking account from a woman lost in the hookup culture, I think most women are hungry for actual romance, deep connections, and a meaningful relationship based on more than just the physical. But such romance isn’t possible when women spread their legs so easily. Oh sure, you ladies can sleep with whomever you want. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions.
This is one I hear all the time, bandied about by male talking heads of all varieties: “Men want to be respected.” Cool. Good women want to respect good men. But just as a bitter, angry woman who spews hate at every opportunity is friendless, alone, and unloved, so too will a slovenly, lazy, creep fail to attain respect from women or his male peers. Oh sure, you guys can watch as much porn as you’d like. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions.
If you want to be respected, meet us halfway and be respectable. This goes for men and women. Only in being respectable will we be respected. We all have the choice to become better people. Just as a woman hasn’t a right to be loved, so a man hasn’t the right to be respected. Embody that which you want to be.
In other words, become ladies and gentlemen.
Which brings us back to sexual harassment. All the MeToo movement did was push the issue of sexual harassment to the cultural forefront. Sexual harassment isn’t new, isn’t rare, and it needed to be exposed to air. But in discussing how we should address the issue of harassment, we’ve revealed a serious flaw in our culture: the anything goes, free for all sex romp. The sex-free culture, while not responsible for sexual harassment per se, has muddied the waters for people unclear on “where the line is.” It’s a somewhat fair point.
We need to draw a line somewhere. Some people will suggest a boundary is nothing but a fence meant to keep people confined. That’s the negative way to look at it. Boundaries outline where we can go, where we cannot, and protect us from outsiders hoping to charge.
This is just a first step in an issue which actually is nuanced. But making great again the notion of men and women behaving like respectable gentlemen and ladies needs to be resurrected in order for all of us to move forward in how we treat each other at work, at home, dating, and even in our friendships.
And it has to start with each of us personally.