My aunt once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness. (Penguin, p. 122)You're thinking two things right about now. First, as a man, how dare I enter the fray of current events related to sexual misconduct by men? Second, where do I get off using Jack Kerouac's words to make a point in this matter given his track record of misogynistic words and actions?
Well, I tend to agree with the first point. I acknowledge that, as a man, I cannot possibly fathom the trauma that women live with daily because of our bad behavior toward them. And, I will admit that I have certainly strayed over the line in the past with a crass remark or joke or even an action. Most definitely I have had and still have inappropriate thoughts that should never see the light of day. I could blame societal conditioning for it but the bottom line is that there is no excuse. Guilty as charged. Despite the danger of weighing in this subject, however, I think there is a point to be made here that may not get made otherwise. Perhaps it will add constructively to the conversation.
To the second point, I admit that Jack Kerouac is not a beacon of light where the treatment of women is concerned. But he did make the above comment, and maybe he was, on the one hand, admitting his flaws in this regard, and on the other, presenting a way forward.
That is, and this is big, men -- and in particular our treatment of women -- are the reason the world is a fucked-up mess, and the sooner we realize that and make amends for it -- by our actions and not only our words -- the sooner we may solve the existential crises facing us like war and ecological disaster and disease, etc. I swear if women were in charge of things we'd be a whole lot better off.
So, to every woman on the planet -- past, present, and future -- I ask your forgiveness for my failings in this regard and I promise to reflect on my thoughts, words, and actions toward you in hopes that I can be a better man -- a better human being -- and thus contribute to peace in the world. I promise to believe you when you claim sexual mistreatment by men. I promise to stand with you in your efforts to bring abusers to justice. I promise to hold men accountable for their actions toward women, in the voting booth, with my voice, and in any other way available to me. I promise to think about how I'd want my granddaughter treated and act accordingly. I'll fall short, but I promise to try and that is all I can do.
That's it. If I've missed the mark here somehow, I'm willing to listen and learn.
May men everywhere take this cultural moment to reflect likewise.