Cultural shifts and cultural norms don’t happen overnight. They occur very slowly with the gradual acceptance of one ideal or practice and the gradual nonacceptance of another.
One of the few qualities of Hollywood is that it can at times encapsulate cultural views of a contemporary era. For example, If you were to watch a few episodes of I Love Lucy, Leave It To Beaver, and other shows of the 1950’s you would get a view, not a perfect view, but you’d get a view of how society lived, acted and worked in the 50’s. While some of these shows caricature life in general, it still provides us 60 years later with a peek into how we viewed and portrayed life in 60 years ago. We could also say the same thing of iconic shows of each decade. Movies do this as well, perhaps giving a more accurate portrayal of that day. We can also look into the archives of newsreels, news shows, talk shows and print media from those eras to give us a snapshot of what our culture was like at different points of the past.
I think we should take some time once in a while to watch some old movies. Watch some old TV shows, look up some old news stories on the internet from different eras. It certainly gives us a glimpse into where we were, and also can give us some insight into where we are going.
It’s no secret that women of years gone by were treated much differently then than they are today. From legal standing, to the right to vote, to the quest for equality in the workplace etc. [I hate making blanket statements and generalities so please understand I say all of this with the presumption that not all men, and not all women have treated and acted in any way that I may describe.]
Men have in the past looked at women to take care of them. They expected a wife to keep things tidy at home, make the meals, be waiting with a smile on their face and supper on the table when they got home. Men expected the wife to deal with all aspects of entertaining guests and to handle everything having to do with the children. This was the 1950’s. The 1960’s for the most part was much the same but things began to change beginning in the late 60’s.
The 1960’s closed off with the rise of popularity of the birth control pill and women beginning to take charge of when they would have kids. [The debate of the morality of birth control can wait for another day. My view of it really isn’t relevant right now to this posting.] By the time I was born in the late 70’s more and more women were entering the workplace and we were seeing more and more dual income families. A question to ponder is, was this out of necessity for a second income? Or was this women buying into being a housewife and mother was beneath them? I suspect it was a little of both.
They learn by what we do.
By the time the 1980’s rolled around, it was far more culturally acceptable for women to be working. It also saw the rise of sexual harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately many of these cases went unreported. The men of the work place were the children of the 50’s where they observed how their dad’s looked and treated their mom’s and women in general. If their dad’s brought their sons to all male social events, their son’s may and often saw their dad by today’s standards acting inappropriate and saying inappropriate things about women. Our children don’t learn by what we tell them. They learn by what we do.
On the flip side of this, the daughters of the 50’s and 60’s saw their mom’s the first of the modern feminists stand up for women and carried that through to today.
Our fathers failed us.
I am thankful that I had very good paternal role models in my life. I don’t recall my dad or either of my grandpa’s acting out in ways that was indicative of their eras. But generally speaking men, our fathers failed us in setting an example of how we should look at and treat women. Not to be objects of our lust. Not to be our legal married servants. Not to be treated as second class citizens. Our fathers spent more time trying to look good in front of their friends by treating their wives and other women the same way as everyone else was at the time. I wonder if they had ever asked themselves, “would I want my mother or daughter treated this way?” If they had, perhaps they would have said and did some of the things common of that time.
The “me too” movement.
So here we are today. Women have finally begun to speak up about sexual assaults and harassment that has occurred in their lives for the past 60 years at home and in the workplace. It only took a few courageous ladies to begin making these claims and others stepped forward and said “me too”. Men, what did you expect? That it was going to just go away and not happen? We created this mess by not mastering our self control. We created this mess by not teaching and living examples to our sons about how to treat a woman.
We are at a turning point in our society. Women are being heard. Accusations are being made against men. Where we have to be very very careful though is we cannot let it become fashionable to blame men, especially the men of today for the sins of their fathers. Each accusation needs to be looked at on it’s own merits. Each accusation needs to have “due process”. We can’t throw out our justice system’s presumption of innocence because it’s now fashionable to hate men. Normally the vast majority of accusations are true. But we have to make sure that the few that are not, don’t ruin the lives of innocent men.
Making the change
Men, teach your sons how to treat women. Show them by how you act and what you do. Wives and mothers, demand from your husband and remind him of that. Men, you also need to hold your fellow men accountable. Be as courageous as these women coming forth with their stories of assault and abuse; and stand up to the fellow men in your life and hold them accountable for how they treat and look at women.
Oh, just one more thing: Protecting the dignity of your own daughters future starts with the men and boys of today.