By Karen King
I received a holiday well-wishing text from an old friend from out of town the other day. After we exchanged the usual happy holidays, what are your plans, how have you been and what’s new stuff, he asked me a very telling question: Who was I more surprised about, Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer?
My response regrettably was that I wasn’t surprised by either “revelation” of their predatory behavior followed by a succinct rant on male privilege … he did ask.
I was picturing his face, wincing or rolling his eyes the same way my 17-year-old daughter does when I try to tell her anything.
His delayed response of I wish you well ended our text exchange. I thought to myself, did I share too much?
As a woman working in the world for over 30 years in a variety of professions, including years spent studying, researching, teaching and thinking about the pervasive ways gender-based oppression impacts our lives has not afforded me the luxury or privilege of being surprised by too much.
All this text chat about the holidays and predatory men got me thinking more deeply about the real spirit of giving and the recent preponderance of men who have been named publicly by their very brave victims for their predatory actions.
The list of these predatory men includes actors, politicians, news journalists, entertainment executives, comedians and more. Some have acknowledged their behavior, and offered lame apologies; others continue to vehemently deny allegations of their sexual misconduct.
While they represent a varied cross section of political and cultural ideologies, some known for their progressive beliefs and others for their conservative leanings, they all share three key significant commonalties; arrogance, positional power and male privilege.
These men have used this heinous combination to unleash a devastating swath of destruction on all of their victims, most notably the women and men they target; preying on their perceived lack power and banking on their victim’s silence and the complicit silence of friends, family and colleagues around them.
There is the collateral damage too; family, friends, employees … all of us.
What do I tell my 17-year-old daughter? What are the messages to be gleaned from all of this? What words of wisdom can I share with her about the larger world she will soon be navigating and the men she will encounter? I am enraged and saddened by this daunting task and I take no comfort in knowing that I am not alone.
Is there a takeaway message of hope here? Yes, there is. 2017 has been marked by an unprecedented response to this long-standing predatory behavior. Large numbers of victims have found the courage to share their story of predation publicly for the first time, many empowered by the #MeToo movement.
Their courage to go public is emblematic of the true holiday spirit of giving and represents a most selfless holiday gift that they have given to all of us, one that has come at an incalculable cost to them, but is the one gift we actually really need; the gift of shattering the code of silence and complicity that has allowed all predatory men to use their arrogance, positional power and male privilege to commit these acts for too long.
Karen King, Ph.D., of East Amherst, researches popular culture’s impact on identity development in women.