Rabbis Without Borders
Rabbis Without Borders is a dynamic forum for exploring contemporary issues in the Jewish world and beyond. Written by rabbis of different denominations, viewpoints, and parts of the country, Rabbis Without Borders is a project of Clal – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
Up until now, #MeToo has been a women’s movement. Appropriately so. It is driven by us and for us. Our lives are perpetually derailed or at least impeded by sexual violence and the threat thereof all the time. It seems hard to explain what this is like to those who do not live with the indignities of womanhood in modern America every day. There is plenty of room for men in this movement to support to fight. There are amazing men who are doing so actively and vocally. However, they are fighting our fight. While I gratefully thank each and every one of them, I think there is a man’s fight that needs attention now as well.
Watching the events on last few weeks around the Brett Kavanaugh hearing, I keep wondering, where are the men? I read an article recently on this topic. One line stands out…”I would rather be accused of murder than be accused of sexual assault because there are excuses for committing murder but no excuse for sexual assault.” What particularly stood out to me about this line was how singular it is. I saw a lot of “boys will be boys” rationalizing for scenes like the one that Professor Blasey Ford painted for the Judiciary Committee. I saw a lot of “how terrible it must be to be accused of sexual assault” whether rightly or wrongly. I saw a lot of fear by men with power and privilege bemoaning that their lives could stumble if they are accused. And I saw so much effort put into just pushing the basic idea that a woman accusing a man of sexual assault should be believed instead of being dismissed, ignored, written off as crazy or just plain mocked. What was missing over and over was a condemnation of sexual assault by anyone, especially by men against women.
What this says to me is that woven into the fabric of what it means to be a man is that using force or power to sexualize, to overpower, to manipulate, or to penetrate is part of the deal. It is as if these precepts are so fundamental, we have forgotten to even argue about them.
These moments are defining what it means to be a man in America. And if I were a person who was a man, I would be mighty angry right about now.
I think this is the men’s fight and I am hoping they will fight it with deep passion and enthusiasm. Because what has come to light in your name over the last few weeks is appalling at best. Is this who you are? Is this what you want it to mean to be a man?
I want to see the #RealMen movement. Because real men don’t commit sexual assault, sexual violence, sexual malpractice of any kind. Real men don’t dismiss claims of sexual violence as anything other than true. Real men don’t do anything that might even seem like it was inappropriate. Real men don’t have sex with a woman who is too drunk to really be able to consent. Real men don’t get so drunk that they cannot tell if the people they are with are able to make decisions about their own bodies. Real men have emotional outbursts at appropriate times and in appropriate places which do not include during a US Senate Judiciary hearing or being patronizing towards a US Senator no matter how hard or stressful the situation is. Real men don’t laugh at jokes about victims of assault. Real men don’t talk about their wives or partners like they are property, servants, sexual conquests, nags, drags, or balls-and-chains. The dictum “happy wife: happy life” is not something Real Men say. Real Men think about their power and privilege afforded to them by the happenstance of being born male. Real Men do not use this power to serve the greater good. Real Men do not use their power to manipulate others for sex or use sex for professional advancement. Real men are polite, kind, and appropriate. Real men ask for consent. Every time. Real men know that the only thing that means yes is a sober, wide-awake, fully conscious freely offered “yes.” And, Real men call out all other behaviors for what they are wrong. Unacceptable. Sickening.
To all the Real Men out there, we need your voices. We need your courage. We need your bravery. Not just woman, but all humanity.