As the #metoo movement continues to roil the American landscape, males are seeing the world as we have known it changing before our eyes. Men who believed themselves to be evolved have stepped on their own tongues with statements that inadvertently endorsed the patriarchal society that we live in. Women were quick to condemn such statements, pointing out the fortress of male privilege that has sheltered us from the day we were born, lottery winners for simply being born white and male in America.
As a result, a lot of men are staying on the sidelines, afraid to say or do the wrong thing. “I’m just working on ‘me’ right now,” they seem to be saying. “I’m not really looking for a movement right now.” I’m not just referring to some fictional other…I’m afraid to write about it. I’ve never been afraid to write about anything. I initiated conversations with different women of different ages, classes and family situations, trying to educate myself. “I’m going to write about it,” I insisted to my friend Marlena.
“You’re gonna get killed,” she declared flatly.
I insisted she was wrong. Yet these are the first words I’ve published about #metoo after all these months and I see myself at this time as more of a reporter.
Marlena often feels like SHE is standing on the sidelines of the struggle. She finds it frustrating having others who share the same goals telling her how and where she should protest. How loud and how high and how long, and aren’t we (as women) doing to EACH OTHER one of the very things we are accusing the men of doing?
So she sees herself as being in the reserves. She is not on the front lines but will respond to the bugle’s call. She told me recently about being called up for duty.
It happened at one of the grand old theatres, during the intermission of a play. The restrooms were jammed with people, though the men’s lines moved much quicker in and out of the swinging doors. Calculating a shorter line on another floor, Marlena took a chance on a lower floor, and then the basement level, finding only an even longer line, filled with other women who had, like her, gambled and lost. The other floors were now out of the question. It would be the basement or nothing.
Waiting behind the other impatient, disgruntled theatregoers, one of the women in back said, “Look at that.” All heads swiveled to the men’s room across the basement, where there wasn’t a soul in sight. The Instigator said, “I’ll bet there’s not even anybody in there.” Then she followed with “I’m going to go see if there’s anybody in there.” She strode across the basement lobby and peered inside the restroom door. She turned around and shouted to the other women, “There’s two guys at the urinals. I’m goin’ in!” She wasn’t alone for long. Three other women…and Marlena…got out of line for the ladies room and went to infiltrate the male domain.
“We all go rushin’ in there,” Marlena told me, “and one-by-one they ran into those stalls and locked the door. SLAM-CLICK, SLAM-CLICK, SLAM-CLICK, SLAM-CLICK…and suddenly it occurs to me that we are going to be one stall short, and that someone is me.”
No one chooses to be a part of that moment. That moment chooses you. It is your fate calling and asking, how will you respond? I suppose you’re wondering about Marlena…
“Well, have you ever seen a bird caught in the house?” she asked. “I was trying to fly this way or that way, and there were these two guys at the urinals and they were SCARED and then I couldn’t figure out where the door was…”
By this time, more women had abandoned the line outside the ladies room to join the resistance. Seeing that there were no more stalls, they all retreated from the men’s room to wait until the remaining men had departed. The men did appear in short order. They were a little freaked out, which seems understandable. But the women didn’t back down, either. They stood up straight and they held their chins high as the men returned to their seats and the women took over the restroom in its entirety. No one summoned an usher or called a cop. The battle was over without a single shot being fired. Still, Marlena was invigorated by the action. “I was at the revolution,” she said, “but I still had to wait.”
Which might be as good a report as I can make at this time. Gains are made every day by women who are no longer going to accept the status quo under any circumstances. They are doing it themselves. Sometimes, they are going to have to wait. But they are not going to wait long or suffer in silence at all.
Let’s face it, boys, they’re smarter than us in any practical way I can think of, they’re tougher than we give them credit for, they are the only ones that can create life and, for goodness sake, they even LIVE longer. They are not going to back down because they don’t want to and they don’t have to.
So in addition to ‘working on ourselves’, we should really be engaging with the women in our lives and becoming more familiar with what they are seeing and hearing from us. We need to celebrate their successes. We have to call our buddies on their bullshit because it’s not funny and it’s not okay. Not because we love women or because they’re pretty but because it is the right thing to do.
Male or female, someday, someone may ask, “What did YOU do during the #metoo movement?” What will you say? Your answer may be very important. As many of us are already aware, there’s nothing worse than hearing that “SLAM-CLICK!” …and finding you’re on the wrong side of the door.