My kids and I found a copy of The Muppet Show at the library. In one “Pigs in Space,” Fozzie Bear steals Miss Piggy’s costume
and stands in for her. Captain Hogthrob doesn’t notice who Fozzie is and asks for a “smootchipoo,” then chases Fozzie around the space ship. When I saw this, I turned to my kids and said, “It’s everywhere. There’s sexual harassment in The Muppet Show! ”
I have been experiencing a kind of personal crisis since the beginning of the Me Too movement. I have been thinking about my behavior with the women I work with. Have I behaved badly? Have I done or said things that were inappropriate? As the father of a teenage daughter, I deeply feel the threat of men who take advantage of innocent girls. My heart aches for those girls, so much like my own, who have experienced this terrible trauma.
In the public conversation about sexual harassment, the focus has mostly been on predatory behaviors of men like Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar. While I find these crimes horrible, I believe that the vast majority of men are not monsters, and I believe there are men grappling with how to behave appropriately with women.
I believe that this movement is vitally important to our culture. Women have had to negotiate and bear the pain, fear, and indignities of aggressive and subtly manipulative sexual behavior from men since Zeus raped Europa in the guise of
a white bull. But, I believe I am responsible for my actions, even in a culture where sexual harassment is so commonplace that it appears in a children’s television program.
I know I have made mistakes. I have done things and said things that are not appropriate. My current crisis has come in reflecting about how to navigate this new landscape of social interaction.
What is my role as a man in this society? I think this is an essential question for the time. We certainly have some good examples of men who are not helpful or e ective in their relationships with women. Even though there are some very high-profile people who fall into this category, they seem like they should be dinosaurs, from a different age. The image of the self-suficient, emotionally repressed, overbearing father gure who is in control, seems like an anachronism. But he’s not. He is with us.
Along with a different paradigm of what makes a healthy lifestyle, we need a different paradigm for who a man can be. Maybe we need an image of a man who values kindness before advantage, listening instead of demanding, sharing before self-aggrandizement.
There is a new ski instructor I work with who has the easiest natural way of relating with children. He often works with the four-year-olds and has this gentle way of hanging out with them. They say things and he says “Oh yeah?” without judgment, then gently steers them back to going skiing. When not teaching he is high-spirited and full of life. I watch him interact with these kids and his peers and I see a very different image of how a man can move in the world than what is conventional.
With all the news about sexual misconduct, I worry that men will be seen only in the light of what a few men have done, and all “male” behavior will be demonized. I don’t want to see the freedom to act in a male way to be curtailed. Those behaviors of confidence, linear thinking, drive, and risk-taking, are essential to our society and to personal development. But I do believe that examining how we as men relate with women, and developing skills of emotional exibility, attention, differentiation, and kindness can make a difference in a world that is troubled.
Positive human connections are essential to our health and well-being. Great things can come from improving the way men behave and relate to women. I’m grateful that our culture is questioning these things, as we move toward a healthier society. Are you a man who is reflecting on his role in a world where sexual harassment is pervasive? Me, too.
David Singleton, ABM, teaches NeuroMovement classes weekly in Dillon and Breckenridge and is available for private Functional Synthesis lessons by appointment. He works with children with special needs, older adults, and high performers. He is the editor of Listen, Share, and Be Kind, and is an alpine and Telemark instructor and trainer at Arapahoe Basin. (970) 389-6480, email@example.com.