We could be sitting at a crossroad. We could be actually entering a postmodern world, but it’s going to take some changes.
As men, we have to start to figure out and appreciate our power and privilege. Then, we have to start to help others to step up, or let go of what is not really ours alone. It begins and ends with power and the use/abuse of power. I say use of power because it isn’t “abuse” until someone calls us on it. At least that’s how it has been. While this isn’t just a white guy thing, other men do it, women do it, white women do it, but not in the same privileged way, and, if I may say so, that may be more about doing what it takes to succeed in this traditional, modernist world. It is now our conscious choice of what the future holds.
Using your power, authority, leverage, influence, etc, to get what you want at the expense of another person is abuse. It is a form of rape, because rape is a terrible manifestation of this type of abuse. But the more ‘acceptable’ forms — emotional abuse, shaming, bullying, etc, are more insidious because they are more invisible and more ‘acceptable’. At least they are less vulnerable to challenges or less clear.
Change means we understand where this is happening (everywhere), and we let go of these practices. A third of the abuse in Hollywood, and ALL of the underlying low level abuse, happens because it is the system. Changing that, in Hollywood, Washington DC, Omaha, or Ottumwa, means that EVERYONE has to stop playing, stop ignoring, stop allowing, and stop DOING. Which brings us to Al Franken.
I love Al’s work. But he is a participant in the problem, whether by accident or design, and that doesn’t matter. These are not, or are no longer, crimes of degree. Fondling is no less than rape, shaming is no less than bullying. Because of that, for the win, we have to let Al go. If we don’t then we are still part of the problem. We cannot trade on his good, and then ignore his bad, because his ‘acceptable’ bad allows the Trumps of the world to get by.
And it is not just us men. Since we have all this power and privilege, it IS up to us to lead the change. Since we cannot always see the privilege or its damage we have to listen and learn. We have to act. But, no one else gets a pass to stand by. Women cannot rest, even though they have borne the brunt of this. I’ve seen women call each other out, and as painful as that may be, it is completely necessary, because otherwise, they are complicit in the act. And that compliance is what the power holders use against us. It is their strongest tool. Because it causes that uncertainty that breeds acceptance.
All of the women that voted for Trump are compliant. Some of them weighed their options and, if they did so consciously, then they are choosing to stay in this modernist, traditional place. Women in congress are complicit in this if they take no stand. And here is the hard part, the women in congress, in this most modernist of modern settings, have SOMETHING to LOSE. They have power and authority. They can choose to act in a traditional way, or they can take the risk to change things. The very same risk we men have to take to change things. There are also no degrees of power — where it is ok not to act.
I learned, a couple years ago, a lot about my privilege. I never knew it existed. I’m sure I’ve used and abused my power. My ignorance was wrong and my arrogance contributed to that. I’m still making mistakes, but I’m working on changing, recognizing, and correcting those errors. It is not easy, I often need help.
It is on us, men, white men, to understand and figure this out, then begin to work against it. But it is not up to us to decide where to go. That is no longer our privilege, that belongs equally to everyone. It is their right and their responsibility. It is up to the rest of our society to hold us, and each other, to those standards and not accept what is not acceptable. Whether that means your butcher has to go, or the President has to go, that is what change is, and believe me, we are not going into this postmodern society without a lot of painful, but necessary, change.