Men think it’s a scary time for them.
Ok. I can get that.
Remember fearing the wrath of your parents and facing the consequences when you messed up as a kid? Yeah, that’s a natural part of growing up … for most.
And it’s part of adulting.
Unfortunately, for many men (not ALL men), they’ve never been held accountable for their inexcusable behaviors of how they think about and treat women.
So the deer in headlights look I see on your faces,
Makes sense to me.
It’s totally an Oh Shit moment.
Oh shit moments are necessary. And really important.
We (the collective community and culture) have failed. In some serious ways.
We do not teach boys how to treat girls.
So, men don’t know how to treat women.
We have not enforced consequences.
We have not redirected boys who begin this behavior early in elementary school.
My first memories of being mistreated by boys begin in second grade. That’s 7 years old.
Maybe that’s just me though…
Instead, we dismiss and minimize the trauma inflicted by saying “boys will be boys,” “it’s locker room talk,” “They don’t mean harm,” “It’s really not a big deal. Perhaps you’re over reacting.”
I grew up hearing all of these statements.
From family, teachers, coaches and other parents.
From most of the adults circulating in my world.
That’s not ok.
But I just found that out. That this is not okay.
33 years later, educated and with lots of privilege. And I’m just beginning to deeply learn this …
That’s SO not okay.
But, I’m an adult now.
And I get to change this pattern.
We can get angry and point fingers. Find blame and spread some shame.
But I’ll shoot you straight,
That will never have the impact needed to change this harmful culture.
What we need to be,
Are examples of integrity and honesty.
If we focus on our own selves and our own roles, I am then confident change will take effect.
Put the pointed fingers away.
Extend a hand that wants to help instead.
Because when we start to pull the boy aside who is talking negativity about his classmates and sexualizing their bodies,
To talk to him. NOT SHAME HIM.
Then he will hear you.
If we instruct him, guide him and show him
Through our own words, actions and beliefs.
Then he will trust.
Then he will learn.
When we empower women to learn to use their voices and say, “That’s not okay.”
And to hold their power. To hold confidence about their worth,
In ways I was never taught but had to learn (And still am learning).
Then we can complete the cycle of change.
This isn’t an Us vs Them situation.
The more we make it this way, the more damage we are all causing.
And play your part.
Jessica Heaney, LCSW, is a Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist based in Vail, CO. She is the founder of the Vail Relationship Institute where she and her team of clinicians specialize in healing relationships through counseling, training and events. Jessica is a dog lover and mountain explorer. Learn more about her and her work at vailrelationshipinstitute.com.