Friday, November 3, 2017

Thoughts on Harvey Weinstein and Male Socialization

Any man who has not been shook up by the Harvey Weinstein revelations or think his actions have nothing to do with you is engaging in a certain amount of self-deception or wishful thinking. Virtually every man in this society- and for all I know in most other societies- has been socialized to judge his masculinity on his ability to attract and exert power over women. To be sure, not every man acts on those pressures by engaging in acts of violence toward or overt harassment of women, but every man felt them growing up, and quite likely feels them now.
As a teenager, my major goals, other than keeping my parents at bay, were gaining the respect of other men and attracting female attention and the latter two were often hopelessly confused. 
I fretted endlessly over my appearance, thinking that wearing glasses was a fatal flaw in my attractiveness to the opposite sex, but that only added to my fanaticism in trying to excel as an athlete, thinking that charisma on the ball field, or tennis court, would compensate for my lack of it off it. It also made me work hard on my dance moves, and even my singing, hoping that those skills would gain me the female attention i craved
But what did I want this attention for?. I was hopelessly confused about that. There was sex, such as it was in the 1950's, there was love, which I longed for, but didn't really expect to find. And there was prestige, which was probably the only clear motivation. In short, i was a confused mess, pulled in many different directions, with women as objects of my attention without their subjectivity having much impact. And in that state, it is easy to turn mean.
I didn't. Thank God. And to this day I can't figure out why. Maybe it was that, when it came to sex, i needed love more than power-since I had ample access to power through sports, and even academics. Maybe it was that I was so scared that women would reject me that i couldn't be aggressive. Maybe it was that somewhere along the line, i had morals. Or really craved women to talk to since I couldn't really talk to men
So I kind of stumbled through my teenage and college years with lots of dates, most of which didn't turn out all that well, until two things happened- not exactly at the same time- I fell head over heels in love and was exposed to the Women's Liberation movement. The former taught me that being loved was the best thing ever; the latter gave me a moral and political commitment to women's empowerment that i could use to fight off more destructive elements of my male socialization, launching a lifelong battle between how I was brought up, and what I knew was right.
But early socialization never goes away. Through my entire life, I have never been immune to how other men judged me based on my relations with women. And that can be a pretty destructive impulse.
From a woman's point of view, the situation has to suck. Knowing that even the most respectful, sensitive men-- not that i would put myself in that category- are fighting off pressure to make women extensions of their own quest for power, prestige and recognition.
I have no solutions to offer. Being a decent person requires constant struggle, and a firm moral compass, because what is inside us, emotionally, is anything but firm and trustworthy