Good guys don’t need to “hold themselves accountable.”

“Good guys hold themselves and other men accountable, in public and in private.  That’s a high standard to meet, particularly for the young.  But it’s only by meeting that standard that men can help to change the culture.”

Hugo Schwyzer

There are so many things wrong with the above quote it’s hard to decide where to begin.  But let’s start with the proposition that men need to hold other men “accountable.”  Now, in one sense that is certainly true.  If you are a man, and your friends happen to be nasty misogynists, then, yes, you should definitely hold them accountable.  Or better yet, get new friends.  And certainly nobody could read a story like this one and not feel outraged, not only toward the truly awful men involved, but to the friends and bystanders who enable them.

But most men would rather not have crass and boorish friends, and I have a problem when pro-feminist men such as Mr. Schwyzer describe their own experiences and then assume these experiences are shared by all men:

“When I’m hanging with the guys, and one of them cat-calls a girl and I say nothing, I am as guilty as he is…  [L]ike so many young men, I was guilty of that “double life.” Sweet and sensitive with women (at least, trying to be sensitive); crass and boorish with my fellow males.”

A “cat call,” as I understand it, would be something such as yelling a vulgarism out of your car window when you pass a woman.  Charming.  I don’t know who Mr. Schwyzer’s friends were in high school, but for me, and for a lot of teenage boys, having friends who yell crap out of your car window is not very appealing.

I’m disturbed when Mr. Schwyzer describes his youthful “boorish” and “crass” behavior as being typical, as being like so many young menIt isn’t, and it’s profoundly insulting to young men to say that it is.

A memory of my high school friends:  In the summer evenings we sometimes enjoyed sitting on the roof.  We would brew some tea, drink tea on the roof, and talk.  A few times my friend had gotten ahold of some cheap Mexican schwag, and we would sit on the roof drinking tea and smoking ditch-weed.  And talking.  About what I don’t remember, but our conversations were not filled with crude sexual vulgarisms.  We weren’t boorish or crass.  One of us had a girlfriend, sort of, the rest of us did not.

And so I find the notion that teenage boys need to “hold themselves and other men accountable” to be absurd, sad, and more than a little cruel when you are talking about socially marginalized adolescents who would never “cat call” a girl, and who would tend to feel very uncomfortable in the company anyone who did.

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One Response to Good guys don’t need to “hold themselves accountable.”

  1. Danny says:

    As one who tries to be a good guy thanks for this. While I certainly understand the need for change I find it dismaying at the least when I come across the attitude that Schwyzer displays. In addition to what you say I think this attitude invokes male guilt. As if by the very virtue of the random mutation that gave me a Y chromosome I’m responsible for what other men do and say. That whole “Am I my brother’s keeper?” thing.

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