Anitra “Always Ready to Share Her Opinions” Freeman: I was born in 1949. I was taught to not make a scene if a man patted my butt, whistled at me, or draped over me at a party and said, “Waddya mean ‘don’wanna?’ You frigid?” A woman had to gracefully get out of such difficulties without embarrassing others. And without hurting the man’s ego.
I’m happy to see those expectations change. I welcome a world where a woman can go to work to work, not to juggle being “professional” and “feminine,” discouraging advances and making every man in the office feel manly.
Wes “Anitra’s Husband” Browning: I, too, was born in 1949. I remember all that and also the pressures brought to bear upon me to become a “real man” and conquer women. Both my parents expected I’d seduce girls and make out with them in the basement. Peer pressure to that end continued into adulthood. “Let her know who’s boss, don’t be whipped.”
I think if males were allowed to grow up and age expressing tenderness and love as easily as domination, they’d be happier and much of the sexual harassment we see would fall away. Except for celebrities, of course. They’re incorrigible.
Anitra: Some women say you’re all incorrigible. Shoot every offender — or at least fire him — until you’re all mortally afraid of offending.
Wes: Don’t women do most child-rearing, still? Surely they could exercise that power with more finesse than putting bullets through heads of moral failures.
Anitra: Men are already changing. How women raise children is changing. But also women have more power in society — it’s easier to speak out, more likely you’ll be believed, and more likely he who offended will be punished, instead of you who complained. When power is shared more equally, responsibility is shared more equally. Men aren’t under as much pressure to keep up the he-man front. Men can safely show sensitivity, vulnerability. And you’ll have to be more sensitive, because we got power, baby!
Wes: I like that. I’m hoping though that when I’m all sensitive, tender and gentle you all aren’t going to be questioning my masculinity, are you? “Oh look, it’s a modern man. How PC. I wouldn’t date him, though.”
Anitra: So it’s back to being our fault after all, eh? ;)
You do have a good point: Women have to change, too. We have to reward the men who act with respect, not just punish the men who don’t. It’s easier to do that if we have more power!
Wes: Every little bit helps. I’ve seen a lot of change in that direction in my lifetime.
Anitra: I’ve seen it, too. I worry the present outrage on behalf of women won’t lead to women getting more power.
Sometimes making a big deal about punishing the person in the office who told the racist joke just avoids changing the way the company does business. Sometimes cries of outrage over men who act badly just avoids giving women more real power.
Is “He has offended our women! Hang him!” ever really a cry for more equal rights?
Wes: You know, I favor using real goats as scapegoats. One advantage is you still have to change the root causes of the problem. I know you’ve noticed the similarity between the drive to cast blame on individuals in this context and the drive to overlook root causes of other social problems we face.
Anitra: You mean “avoid making changes to the system that causes homelessness by getting everyone to focus on fixing the problems of homeless people as individuals and punishing ‘bad’ homeless people such as addicts?”
Wes: The problems are hardly equivalent but the instinct to blame without looking for solutions is. The homeless simply need homes. The sexual harassers need to take responsibility for their injustices, not just be condemned. They can and should take part in restoring justice.
Anitra: Responsibility does not subdivide. People are wholly responsible for their own behavior AND we are all responsible for how we contribute to the pressures on the behavior of others. None of us can make anybody change. We can make it easier for others to change, or we can make it harder. I don’t think we are going to make anybody change by hanging all the sins of society on him and driving him into the wilderness.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor and three times homeless. He has been involved with Real Change since he supplied the art for the first cover in November of 1994. This is his weekly column Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Anitra Freeman is formerly a computer programmer/analyst and (later) formerly homeless. She has been involved with Real Change since Wes invited her to an editorial committee meeting in November 1995. She has written Wes' column for him three times. This is the first time she has written it with him.
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