Dec. 7: Good
I’ve had a year blessedly full of work, but that volume has caused me to let my own blog mostly lie fallow. To make up for this, I’m going to try for a post a day in December. About just about everything. Funny. Serious. Anything goes. Here is Day 7.
Hannah Gadsby is brilliant at precisely articulating what the real problem is, inside big knotty emotional cultural messes. She did it again this week. And she is so right.
Two weeks ago I had dinner with my adored mentor. We were talking about an old boss who was notorious for his alcoholism-fueled mumblings and fumblings. As his young female employees, we’d experienced it. As his older managers and executives, we’d had crying young female employees come to us.
We called it out and protected them, and ourselves, as best we could at the time. Which is to say, clumsily, ignorantly, and insufficiently. The furthest down any official road I got was seeing a lawyer. He basically shrugged and told me to get a new job.
My mentor wondered aloud what our old boss thought of #MeToo and #TimesUp. She was surprised when I immediately insisted he wouldn’t think anything of it at all. Because I believe he would never see himself as One Of Those Men.
I believe he would have given it Hemingwayesque flair in his head, brushed some American Beauty, Lost in Translation picturesque bullshit onto it to turn it into a Moment. It wasn’t awful. Certainly not illegal. Not him. Because I’m sure he would say he was a Good Guy.
“You know why we need to talk about this line between good men and bad men? Because it’s only good men who get to draw that line. And guess what? All men believe they are good. We need to talk about this because guess what happens when only good men get to draw that line? This world — a world full of good men who do very bad things and still believe in their heart of hearts that they are good men because they have not crossed the line, because they move the line for their own good. Women should be in control of that line, no question.”
Just like the head of legal for a major pharma, to whose department of 100 I presented with flying colors – but in our follow-up discussion, asked me out, telling me we’d “clearly had an emotional connection.” (I made eye contact talking about grammar.) He was a Good Guy.
Just like my ex, who was known – though I tried to delude myself otherwise – for “trying things” with colleagues. He was a Good Guy.
Just like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who has claimed that allegations against him were either false memories or clumsy come-ons that were misunderstood. He was a Good Guy.
Just like all the others, in the news and out of them. Just like my other stories, your other stories. They’re Good Guys.
If you’re in a position of any real or potential power, it’s real easy for you to pretend that doesn’t matter. Until you’re in the opposite role.
(As Hannah points out, this general problem applies to all kinds of hurt perpetrated against all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. Race, religion, disability, etc. I’m talking about gender only because I’m fortunate enough to have that limited experience being up against privilege.)
I’m not saying the men above are evil. I’m saying they did bad things that, respectively, fall on a spectrum from inappropriate to illegal to evil. And those bad things need to stop happening. Not “stop happening when Bad Guys do them.” Stop fucking happening. And that’s never going to happen as long as we let Good Guys keep saying that it’s only Bad Guys who do anything wrong.