Dear reader, you may have heard the oft-repeated idea that ostriches, when frightened, will bury their heads in the sand to avoid being seen. This belief is common, but sadly mistaken, which is a good thing for our Struthio camelus friends, as that would indicate that their already limited intelligence is even more limited than we once thought.
However, it may interest you to know that there is an animal on the great tree of life that does in fact exhibit this behaviour, albeit figuratively.
That’s right, I’m referring to those incorrigible members of the subtribe Hominina, a branch of the tribe Hominini and distant relatives to the great apes, Homo sapiens.
It’s true: human-flavoured carbon-based lifeforms actually exhibit the behaviour so often associated with ostriches and a fictional creature known as the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, which, in the words of author Douglas Adams, is “a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous.” (A description that one could find rather apropos to the conversation that follows, if one were entirely honest.)
So how exactly do we humans “bury our heads in the sand?” Primarily we use our otherwise fantastically powerful imaginations to pretend what is happening… isn’t, or that it doesn’t apply to us. These are so common in our modern society we don’t even notice any more, but they will have to wait for their own missive.
For the purposes of this explication, I’m going to focus on another way we avoid the unpleasantness of reality – by overcomplicating it.
Take the recent #MeToo movement. There’s been much wailing and gnashing of teeth among opinion makers, editorial writers and other such bright sparks about the aftereffects of the torrent of serious allegations and terrifying revelations that have come out of it.
Men are now “confused and worried” that anything they say will be used against them. I heard a director say recently that on a set where he worked, people would come in, go to their offices, shut the door and talk to no one out of fear that something they said would be misconstrued.
Allow me, if you would be so groovy, to bring this down to a more personal level. I recently had a conversation with a male acquaintance of mine, and the this subject came up. He complained bitterly that women were only now bringing up allegations from years before. He felt that since the women didn’t bring them up at the time, they obviously weren’t that serious. He suggested that women were “jumping on the bandwagon” of #MeToo.
I said earlier that humans often avoid unpleasantness by overcomplicating things. This is because once an issue becomes “complex,” there is an excuse to avoid it, or to “leave it to the experts.”
With the #MeToo movement and its aftermath, there is no such complexity to be found, aside from what’s being applied to it.
If men are worried that their behaviour will be judged as inappropriate, then there are two options:
- Walk on eggshells around women, never speak and live in constant fear, or…
- Take a long hard look at your own words and behaviour.
Just because you’ve been doing something for a long time does not mean it’s appropriate. Consider that slavery in the United States was legal for over eighty years. It was no more “appropriate” when it began than it is now. Longevity does not impart propriety.
As for the gentleman I mentioned earlier, the one who had the all-too-enlightened (to him) views on “bandwagoning,” I would say (and in fact DID say at the time) the following:
To the question of why women didn’t report past abuses and other inappropriate behaviour at the time… MANY OF THEM DID. Most often women were either ignored, or ended up being blamed themselves: “What did she do to provoke him?” or my personal favourite: “What was she wearing?”
Women have had to learn to keep their mouths shut as the system designed to protect the innocent now protects (and covers for) a very specific group of people we will call, for want of a better word, “men,” or, to use a slightly less broad but far more accurate word, “predators.”
The world we now live in, (the Post-#MeToo world perhaps?) is NOT the social minefield folks would have us believe it is. Yes it does mean that we have to examine our own words and behaviour more closely, but I see no real issue here.
The issue is not that social interaction between the sexes is complicated, it’s that we’ve managed to normalize predatory behaviour and demeaning language. There’s nothing complex about respect and simple decency.
At this point some clever personage will bring up the issue of false accusations. Certainly such a thing is a risk in any society, but we have to stop acting like it’s some new and horrible weapon created by vengeful women. The possibility of false accusations has ALWAYS existed, which is why our justice system is, ostensibly at least, designed to weigh the evidence of wrong doing, and not just the accusations themselves.
Side note: Even if it were a weapon created and used by vengeful women, it would perhaps be propitious for one to determine precisely why women would be feeling vengeful in the first place. Just a thought. Carry on.
Up to this point dear reader I’ve tried to remain diplomatic. I’ve done this, not to assuage egos or to avoid “offending” anyone (that little ditty is another tale for another time), but to ensure that my point got across as clearly and plainly as possible. With that done, there is one thing I would like to say, diplomacy be damned:
Men: You are not Fabergé eggs, nor will I treat you as one. We can, and MUST, join in these reindeer games. It’s time to stop acting (like a predator, or a wounded victim) and start listening. Being part of a conversation, whether about the #MeToo movement or any other, is as much about listening as much as it is about talking. We’ve said enough. Now it’s time to stop talking and start listening. From there… we might even begin understanding.
Ladies and gentlehumans, the human animal is an incredibly dynamic and multi-faceted hunk of genetic material, but as it stands, the society we’ve created is a poor reflection of its magnificence.
Not surprising really. It’s hard to see the faults with our heads buried so deeply in the sand.