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All this #MeToo stuff has me worried about stuff I’ve done in the past. Did I ever read a situation wrong and go for it when a woman didn’t want it? What about when we were both really, really drunk? What about jokes I’ve made, or when I’ve said words like “cunt” or “bitch” in front of women, or times I’ve laughed at jokes or even made jokes that, in retrospect, are borderline racist?
I never meant to be an asshole, and I’ve never raped anybody, molested anybody, harassed anybody or kept them out of a job because they were a woman or a person of color (if you couldn’t tell, I’m a white guy.) But sometimes I’ve been rude or said some fucked-up stuff. Part of me wants to just contact every woman I’ve ever been with to ask if we’re okay. I know that’s nuts. What am I supposed to do about this? I’m afraid to say anything.
Nervous As Fuck
I understand why you’re anxious. I think a lot of men have had a similar reaction. And those guys who don’t have anything to worry about may be the biggest worriers of all because they’re decent guys who don’t try to hurt people for kicks.
Unless you are genuinely concerned – not out of a fearful, anxious reaction to monsters being shown in the harsh light of day, but genuinely concerned that you hurt somebody– I’d skip reaching out. And if you are genuinely concerned, I still might skip reaching out until you figure out what you did, why you did it, and how reaching out to somebody you may have hurt might in some way help them. Some counseling sessions with a therapist well-versed in these issues (perhaps a gal?) would be a great idea. Don’t ask women to do the emotional and educational labor for free. Pay a woman. (I’m getting paid for this, so you’re already on the right track!)
When somebody hurts us, we don’t typically want to engage with that person further, right? Sometimes we are open to an apology, sometimes not. Typically, someone who apologizes is trying to make things right in his or her own heart. Forgiveness is an act of grace on behalf of the victimized, hurt or oppressed individual or group. It is never required and should never be expected.
I want you to ask yourself if you felt concerned about hurting someone before the current era in which our society is actually holding predators and abusers accountable. If not, why not? Did you simply not care? Or is the truth that you really didn’t do anything that awful?
In the future, I challenge you to do something that I’m challenging myself to do: listen and learn. Take your cues from others. Watch body language. Is somebody uncomfortable with you but afraid to tell you or simply being quiet out of politeness? Are there certain things you take for granted about your race, your gender, your income that you’ve never questioned before?
Let’s take some chances on essays, books, podcasts or personal conversations with people who might say some stuff that challenges our viewpoints or makes us uncomfortable. We don’t have to take it as law. We don’t have to believe it. But listening will make us better-informed people.
I’ll leave you with this very good thread by comedian, writer, and producer Jenny Yang. It’s about comedy, but I believe it can be applicable with modifications to other industries as well. I’m not saying you need to do any of this stuff, but I am saying you ought to read this. I found it very illuminating and some of these ideas are just plain great ideas.