I will never be able to fully appreciate the anxiety, trepidation, frustration, fear and anger women experience because of the inappropriate conduct of men, but I should do my part to understand, best as I can. What I can do is make sure my own conduct is above reproach. I can also work to create an environment where women are safe and respected. I can use whatever influence or privilege I have to hold men accountable for their unacceptable behaviors and actions. This should not be my concern just because I have a wife or daughters, it should be my concern because I am part of the human race. Everyone is entitled to dignity and respect, everyone should feel free from unwanted sexual advances. Perhaps I should feel even an increased sense of responsibility because I have sons. This a problem perpetuated by men. It’s my obligation to teach my sons how to see people as people, how to see women as equal, to treat everyone with dignity. More than that, I must teach them how to speak out when they see things that aren’t right. As I think back on my own life, there are moments of pride when I spoke up and spoke out when men were behaving badly. There also moments of regret where I know I could’ve done more but did not out of fear.
The high-profile cases of sexual misconduct over the last year or so are inescapable and hopefully will awaken a public sense of shame, outrage and desire to improve the situation. I am proud of the women who are brave enough to come forward. I am proud of the men who have supported them. I am alarmed by some who justify or excuse the behavior. Political tribalism is no excuse for looking the other way. Shaming and blaming women for political expediency is a stain on all of us. As an adult, my first exposure to a high-profile example of sexual misconduct was Clarence Thomas. I cannot believe, looking back, how poorly Anita Hill was treated. Clarence Thomas should have never been confirmed. The Clinton campaign took lessons from the Clarence Thomas hearings–blaming women became the means of excusing candidate Clinton’s behavior. The hyper partisan climate and hypocritical moral superiority of the Clinton impeachment caused many to overlook or minimize the President’s shameful conduct. He should have resigned from office. His conduct in the workplace with a subordinate shouldn’t have been so easily dismissed as ‘consensual’ and a ‘personal matter.’ It was behavior that should have resulted in his leaving office—not as a reward for the investigation, but as a collective public acknowledgment that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated, that as a public we would demand better.
Yet here we are. New allegations surface almost every hour concerning politicians, celebrities, business leaders, and journalists who have engaged in terrible misconduct. To dismiss the women who are making these allegations is not an indictment of the women, it is an embarrassing indictment of our own lack of moral character. Mr. Trump should never have been elected. The fact that millions of people could overlook or see past his abominable behavior towards women is reflective of the sad time we live in. If you think Al Franken should leave the senate but Mr. Trump should stay in office, you’re part of the problem. If you discredit Bill Clinton’s accusers but believe Donald Trump’s your part of the problem. Mourning the loss of Charlie Rose and celebrating the firing of Bill O’Reilly is more than just hypocritical, it’s dangerous. If we digress to the point where we view your guy as a sexual predator and my guy as a victim, we have lost our collective soul. There have always been and always will be those who use someone’s fall from grace to their own political advantage—their opportunism should never justify our hypocrisy, such behavior is wrong. We all need need to find the moral courage to fight against it.
This can be a bipartisan moment, a chance for serious reflection, a chance for moral character to be of more value than political expediency. We owe it not only to the women who have and will come forward in these high-profile examples. We owe it to women everywhere, especially those who will not get the sympathetic ear of the media. Women who lack the power in their schools, work places, and churches. We have a responsibility to take women at their word. Our united effort, women, men, employers, employees, liberals, conservatives, should be to provide greater security for victims, greater accountability for abusers, and a more moral environment for all of us.