‘What the hell is wrong with men?’
There are small, wet brown mushrooms coming up along the edges of the hilltop trail, a sure sign that autumn is in full flush. And I didn’t stalk and threaten even one woman on social media today.
The walk to work was uneventful, fat dark clouds full of rain and low on the eastern horizon, the sun cutting across my path, the pavement drying. I didn’t grab anyone by the ass because they looked good and they were walking in front of me.
An unsettled day, with clouds one minute, sun the next, wind up in your face quickly when you turn a corner. If it rains later and I take the bus to keep from getting soaked, I won’t press my leg up against an attractive seatmate, just because they are there and I feel that I can.
I had a ham sandwich, the ham left over from Thanksgiving, and that little green baby leaf lettuce that doesn’t ever have grit on it. Hydroponic, I guess.
I worked on the computer, researching and writing columns and editorials. I didn’t stop even once to use an anonymous Twitter handle to call a woman an ugly fat bitch.
I had coffee. Two cups. I didn’t feel the need to send threatening electronic messages because I felt rejected, because a woman didn’t leap at my advances within the arbitrary timeframe I’d set.
I managed to send out tweets on my Twitter account, and read other social media postings, responding occasionally, which seems to be my way. But I didn’t send out an unsolicited “dick pic” and then call someone a lesbian because they weren’t interested in a relationship with me.
Did I mention I work in an office full of people — people of both sexes?
I didn’t decide that what someone else was wearing was a clear invitation for me to propose we have sex. I don’t generally think of clothing as a mode of latent sexual invitation; I like to think of what people are wearing as “clothes.”
When I walked home, the sky was filled with the tufts of fat clouds that I think of as prairie sky, the kind of clouds that seem to make the bowl of the sky arch higher.
I didn’t catcall anyone, didn’t whistle at them. Not one “hey baby” crossed my lips.
Maybe you want to argue that men and women are wired differently, think differently.
But it doesn’t give anyone a licence to abuse their position or their power.
I have hired employees, have signed contracts, have given people a chance to show how hard they’d work. I didn’t proposition them, ask for massages, or feel that my hiring them gave me permission to comment on their appearance.
I have never once interviewed a woman for a position while wearing only a bathrobe.
What the hell is wrong with men? It doesn’t matter if I have daughters or not. Having a daughter only lets me put myself in someone else’s shoes more quickly. The important thing for you, for everyone, is to wear those shoes, just to imagine what it’s like to be the target of a predator.
All the things I didn’t do, weren’t really that difficult to avoid.
I didn’t do them yesterday, and I won’t do them tomorrow. But someone did. Lots of people did.
Ask any woman you know if they’ve been propositioned when they applied for a job, or if they’ve had someone randomly expose themselves.
Ask if they’ve been stalked or belittled or insulted on the internet by someone who either couldn’t take no for an answer, or couldn’t even come up with a cogent argument to advance their own point of view.
This behaviour — this behaviour by men — shouldn’t be matter-of-fact. It shouldn’t ever be acceptable, and it should in no way be normalized.
And if you’ve done it, you should be ashamed of yourself. Period.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 35 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.