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Mon, Oct. 14

Glassman: Regular Joes need to be more aware, decent
Talk of the Town

In response to the Danny Tyree “Mother’s Day” column from the May 4 Courier, first, congratulations to Emma, niece of Danny Tyree, on the birth of her son, Carter. For her first Mother’s Day, I offer her the best bit of wisdom I ever got on being a parent: “This, too, shall pass.”

The rest of Mr. Tyree’s column (“Mother’s Day in the time of toxic masculinity”) left me somewhat puzzled. I expect he was trying to be amusing, for the most part. And for the most part, I suppose he succeeded.

There is no shortage of hilarious things to say about being a mother … and yet he chose to blend these witticisms with an incompatible and rather churlish commentary on the concept of ‘toxic masculinity’ and a recently published book on raising sons.

It is true that the names or labels we attach to ideas often provide the easiest target for undermining and dismissing those ideas out of hand. They can, as in this case, provide a means to avoid any serious thought about the idea on its merits or to engage in any sort of empathy towards people whose experiences might be significantly different from one’s own.

It’s possible Mr. Tyree is thinking that he has never engaged in any sort of toxic behavior (excepting, perhaps, the writing of this column) and that most of the guys he knows are Regular Joes and it therefore follows that anyone suggesting that there are behaviors generally associated with men that are harmful to others (particularly women) must be an “extremist.”

This does a disservice, I think, to the millions of women around the world who have suffered at the hands of men simply because they were women and the men were ... men.

Mr. Tyree mentions the clobbering of communists and battles against the Vietcong (and, inexplicably, a “Sioux uprising”) as (I’m guessing) examples of the strength and heroism of men. There is no denying that men have done most of the official fighting and dying in wars. There is also no denying that rape — as weapon of terror or demonstration of victory and conquest — is also a time-honored part of war; women near battlefields rarely emerge unscathed. Is every soldier a rapist? Of course not. But is sexual assault of women in America’s own military, by their comrades-in-arms or superior officers, on the rise? Absolutely.

Are women significantly more likely to be killed by their husbands and boyfriends than are men by their wives or girlfriends? Absolutely.

And we don’t even have to go to those extremes: there are plenty of examples of toxic (there’s no other word) school and work environments that have nothing to do with courtesies like holding open a door, and this is true whether or not Mr. Tyree has ever been a part of or witness to them.

“Not all men” is a fun phrase that seeks to deflect any discussion of a clear and present problem by suggesting that “extremists” want to tag every male person on the planet with the label of “predator,” and since that is clearly absurd (witness Tom Hanks, Danny Tyree!) no further conversation is warranted.

I am reminded of the college professor who asked the young men in his class what actions they took on a regular basis to avoid being sexually assaulted. After some uncomfortable laughter and puzzled silence, one of them volunteered “Don’t go to prison.”

The professor then asked the women in the class the same question ... and the multitude of ready answers they had filled the rest of the class time and all the chalkboards in the room ... and astonished the male students in the class.

Are Regular Joes truly so unaware? Shouldn’t a Regular Joe, who would never do any of those terrible things, stand with women, rather than mocking or dismissing them?

Mr. Tyree is right that “love, patience, common sense, and the help of extended family” are things of great value. I would add that treating others with decency (commonly re-branded “political correctness” by some) is another thing of great value, not at all incompatible with those things he’s listed.

It does seem, however, that there just isn’t enough decency to go around.

Kimberly Glassman is a research molecular biologist, teacher, and writer, originally from the Twin Cities, now living in Prescott.

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