Our Lifestyles columnist, Joe Weaver, lamented in print on Saturday that it has been a hard week for men.
Although he was talking about a general lack of civility from all quarters, mostly on social media — we had a little email chat about the column — his comments put me in mind of the new GOP line that if women can complain about someone as solid and true blue, although not in the politically partisan sense, as Brett Kavanaugh, then no man is safe from critical scrutiny or false accusations.
And I suppose he isn’t, but it isn’t because of the#metoo movement or anything else that has happened recently. It’s because some people lie, as some people have always lied — although women tend not to prevaricate about being assaulted. They just tend not to report it.
Let me diverge a minute. I’ll come back to the point later.
Looking back as the mother of four daughters and one son, now all adults, I see that I have run a little social experiment, of sorts, with five captive subjects. And I don’t think I would be bragging about my and their father’s achievement to say that the five have turned out well.
Two of the four girls are happily married and amazing mothers. One daughter has a great job with a top university and looks as if she might soon be asked to marry a really neat guy who lets her be who she is. (Or maybe she will ask him.) The youngest daughter doesn’t seem to care a whole lot about romance at this point, instead cashing in some of the stock options from her job to visit countries around the world. A couple of weeks ago, it was Norway.
My son, who I thought would become either a gynecologist — because he knows a little more than he wants to about women — or a priest, to live apart from them, was in the Army for 10 years and now is in college learning digital animation. He is his sisters’ greatest admirer and defender, not that they need him to be either.
And he defends me, too. He offered to do so this week when, yet again, a man assumed he was in charge of my actions simply because he was a man and could talk louder and deeper than I can. I didn’t do things the way he wanted, so he called me stupid and pledged, in a threatening tone, to “visit” me in my office.
I told him he could come, but I wouldn’t be seeing him. (He never showed.)
This occurred one week after another male acquaintance whose column used to appear on the pages of the Daily Journal told one of our reporters that I was a … Well, let’s just say he made colorful use of the alphabet from “B” to “W.”
It has been this way off and on since I moved here, something not unexpected. When I look back through the 40 years of my career, I see that most of the negatively critical comments about my work have been made by men claiming I behaved badly or unprofessionally, as if they knew what that was. A couple threatened to sue. (For reporting the truth but not as favorably as they wanted.) Another called me out in public for making up a quote. (My editor made him apologize for his lie.) One even threatened to do me physical harm. (He, too, never showed.)
In Richmond County, in performance of my duties as a reporter and an editor, I have been called a conniving liar by a mayor and businessman from one town, stupid and a liar by a council member from another — this fellow yelled it standing near the dais until the veins popped out in his head — and an old biddy by a “fan” on Facebook after I succeeded the former editor, who remains my friend, by the way. (I will admit I did not comport myself well during the episode at City Council and raised my voice, too. But I just laughed at the “biddy” label.)
All of that is old news. And I’m not complaining. As most women know, this is par for the course for women in authority.
I never have been sexually assaulted, but I have had to play dumb a number of times when propositioned by strangers, or touched inappropriately or mock-threatened with violence by a supervisor.
Now, here’s my point about living in a threatening world.
I don’t worry about myself anymore. I’ve been at this game awhile and know how to bob and weave metaphorically. Plus, I grew up around mental patients because both parents were psych nurses. Even the things that should scare me never have — although I will admit I was happy to see a police officer enter council chambers during in the screaming incident.
As for my daughters, two have been sexually assaulted — one in middle school and the other, in college. We took the first boy to court. My other daughter never reported her experience and never told her father about it either. (You dads could have some interesting conversations with your daughters, if you and they dared.)
But mostly, I don’t worry about my girls too much anymore either. They’re smart. They know how to protect themselves in most circumstances. (And they have a brother who will kick butt if needs be.)
I do worry for almost every other woman, though, because I know there are dangers out there that many women are unequipped to handle.
As for people I should worry about … It’s only some of the men, no matter what Joe might think. Usually, such men set off what some have called the spidey-sense, so I can avert disaster or discomfort.
I find that men like Joe, who are aware of their potential to be brutes or insensitive or rude, usually do not have to concern themselves with women’s retaliation, as long as they yield to their better natures. And they usually do.
It is the men who are so sure they’ll never be questioned who are the danger — the ones who demand that things be done their way or else, the ones who insult, the ones who posture or puff themselves up, the ones who yell, the ones who spout invective or profanity.
And the ones who lie or merely “twist the truth” to save face.
Those men, I see everywhere, making the world a more dangerous place. They’re far from the majority of men, but they are worthy of worry — because, as the GOP reminded us this week — they are our fathers, our brothers, our bosses.
You should worry about these men, too. Even if you’re not a woman.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]