Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the computer screen of the passenger in front of me. I was flying back from an exhausting conference in Las Vegas and looking forward to an hour of blissful nothingness the glass of wine in my hand and music from my headphones were promising. That was not meant to be.
A man was writing an email to his wife, who it was obvious things were not going well with. I knew I should look away, but didn’t.
“I’m sorry for the way things were when I left”, he wrote. “I’ve not been the husband you signed up for and you deserve so much more than I’ve been giving. I’m so very sorry if I’ve ever made you feel threatened or unsafe, thinking of that even being a possibility just kills me. I promise to do what I can to fix things and all I ask in return is that you don’t become indifferent. Please fight for us. Get mad at me, punch me, pull my hair, do whatever it takes to show me that you care enough about our relationship to risk doing something outrageous.”
Now I’m paraphrasing from memory here, but the gist of the message I think is on target. This man was in complete anguish over his failing marriage and desperate to make things right. Every so often he’d stop typing, clasp his hands together and stare intensely at the seatback in front of him. Soon his fingers were back at the keyboard, deleting things here and adding things there. Finally he called it quits and closed the laptop, probably because the creepy woman in seat 13C wouldn’t stop looking over his shoulder.
The whole episode was both disturbing and touching and not just because I was witnessing a broken marriage in action. That is not an uncommon event unfortunately. It just struck me that when we hear of scenarios like this, or of any kind of flux between a man and woman, we tend to view the man through a one-dimensional lens and paint him as the “bad guy” who is always at fault.
This is plain wrong of course. Men, just like women, are individuals with different personalities, morals and motivations. They suffer too when relationships collapse and also feel intense emotions and pain, each in their own unique way. And they are certainly not always at fault when breakups happen.
Yet culturally we seem to disallow this, as men’s individuality is slowly being erased in favor of a generalized group of lunky, dimwitted cavemen who lurk in corners waiting for the right opportunity to take advantage of and/or attack women.
The whole grievance industry that saturates today’s politics really pushes this narrative and it’s been just poisonous for male/female relationships. It strips people of their humanity (thank you Julie) and labels them “oppressor” or “victim”, making it easier to demonize or idolize them for no reason other than what their group identity represents. Men are bad and always lie, women are good and are always to be believed.
The #MeToo movement, which I believe has done a lot of good, has been so corrupted by this that it’s difficult to take any new allegations seriously anymore. Who can be guilty when everyone is? And the whole Brett Kavanaugh fiasco just reinforced what many of us have known for awhile; that destroying a man’s reputation and career mean nothing to a fair amount of people in this country as long as the right ones gain power in the end.
None of this is good for men or women. Men are being made to feel defective just for being born male and women with valid claims of sexual assault are getting lumped in with those wishing to push an agenda over the truth. In other words the trend of men disengaging from society is only going to get worse and the callousing of opinion towards women will continue to harden. And then what?
More women need to recognize that swinging the pendulum too far against men in the otherwise honorable quest to stamp out sexual assault is actually harming the cause. As a wise person said to me recently, the cause of women in their honest claims cannot be advanced by those who blindly champion women in their dishonest ones. Certainly the road to women’s empowerment does not stem from tearing down men.
I really hope the man from the plan was able to reconcile with his wife. While it was morbidly fascinating for me to witness such a personal and touching scene, it made me think twice about the judgements I might make of people because of their sex, race, income level, political affiliation, etc…
Both men and women matter, we all do, as individuals with unique qualities, characteristics and a personal history that makes us who we are. The identity politics crowd tries desperately to deny this as they shove us in to predefined groups pitted against one another. We should stop letting them do so