I mentioned Eve Ensler’s article, “Over It“, in my post called “Why I Care”. There were so many amazing points she made in that article and she brought up a lot of very serious issues for women all over the world. I loved every single word of it. Well…almost.
Let me just say that I really admire Eve Ensler and her work. In case you aren’t familiar, she is the creator of The Vagina Monologues. She is a Tony Award winning author, activist, playwright, and performer. She founded the “V-Day” movement, which is dedicated to ending violence against women and girls worldwide. Her powerful talk at TEDwomen is without a doubt, the most moving thing I’ve ever seen. I had to pause it quite a few times to collect myself while I was watching it. I encourage everyone stopping by this post to please watch it because it truly is amazing. I’m in no way picking on Eve Ensler. If I ever met her I’d probably collapse in a big, messy, sobbing heap at her feet and pray to God she doesn’t call security. She has an incredible gift to move people to tears or to action with her words. It’s why I found it very easy to connect with her article. There was one part, though, that I just wasn’t so crazy about, and I wanted to share my two cents.
Toward the end of the article she wrote the following:
I am over the passivity of good men. Where the hell are you? You live with us, make love with us, father us, befriend us, brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us, so why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of us?
I understand what she means by this. She’s asking that more men stand up more often on behalf of women. Here’s the thing, though. I know quite a few really amazing men. In fact, there are men I consider to be nice guys, and there is a tiny handful of men in my own life I consider to be “The Good Guys”. These are the men I trust more than anyone else on the planet, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of them. They are highly intelligent, kind, compassionate men who care very deeply about the women in their lives and they care about making the world a better place for not only their wives, sisters, daughters, and nieces, but for all women. These men most definitely are outraged and driven to the brink of madness and action by the rape and humiliation of women. And I can assure you: they are anything but passive. Sadly, they all have been touched in some way by sexual violence against women. It’s probably pretty obvious who a couple of them are, given the amount of blog space I’ve spent on them. Out of respect for their privacy, I’m not naming any of them. However, it is very likely they are reading this, so I will say this to all of them: You all know who you are. You all know how deeply grateful I am to each and every one of you, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
My most fervent prayer is that every woman has at least one, if not several, men of this caliber in her life. These men, and others like them, do more than support women. Through their actions they teach boys and young men how treat women respectfully, and they set the bar almost impossibly high as far as girls’ expectations in future partners. In a room of one hundred women, the only woman one of these men would ever notice is his wife.
Do I wish there were more high-profile men – celebrities, politicians, activists – who were speaking out publicly and lobbying politicians on behalf of women? Absolutely! But there are a lot of men who, like a lot of women, are not comfortable in the spotlight. They are the ones who prefer to work quietly in the background. They are the ones who are rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty. They are the ones who sit up with us all night while we cry and shake, helpless to “fix” it. They are the ones who somehow manage to stay sane after listening day in and day out to story after story of sexual violence, doing everything they can to help women heal. They are the ones who are hyper-vigilant over the safety of their daughters and granddaughters, who try their hardest to teach their sons, nephews, and grandsons how to be respectful of women. They are losing sleep, lying awake at night beating themselves up, wondering what more could they have done, endlessly seeking forgiveness where none is necessary, never realizing that they were long ago forgiven. They are in our classrooms fostering a love of math and science in young girls and giving them a chance to excel and a drive to stay in those areas of study. They are small business owners with women employees outnumbering men, who give maternity leave even though it isn’t required by law for a business that size and causes a tremendous financial strain. These are men who believe in the adage “Think globally, act locally.”
My husband ran across a website called “The White Ribbon Campaign“. It was started in Canada by a group of men who wanted to show support for women who have been victimized by sexual violence. They are in fifty-five countries, and they are dedicated to educating men and boys. Just as pink ribbons are used for breast cancer awareness, purple for domestic violence, and teal for sexual violence, the white ribbons signify men’s support of women in the campaign to end sexual violence. My husband wondered aloud what would happen if every man in this country with a loved one who had survived sexual violence (or even who hadn’t survived it) wore a white ribbon on a specified date. He posited that it would be harder to find a man without a white ribbon than with one, because it is just that pervasive in our society.
Are there bad men in this world? Most definitely. Are all men bad? Absolutely not. We really do need more men to be outspoken, because there is power in numbers. But please, never mistake quiet strength for passivity. Please don’t assume that because a man isn’t actively speaking out publicly that he isn’t doing enough. A lot of men are doing far more behind the scenes than anyone will ever understand, helping in ways that would make some of the most publicly active men crumble.
My husband read an article today on the Huffington Post by Ken Solin called “Men, Mentoring, and Macho Mythology”. He was most interested in a poem by Will Allen Dromgoole that was posted in the comment section. All humans should strive to leave the world a better place than we found it, but this poem was meant to illustrate a point about being a responsible man, leading by example, and making things better for the next generation. I’m posting it below.
To all of you men “out there”, you “Good Guys” who are quietly working so diligently behind the scenes to make this world a safer place for all of us and helping women and young girls to discover the power within them, thank you.
The Bridge Builder
By Will Allen Dromgoole 1860–1934
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”