behold, thou art fair

I spent most of the day home in bed with a norovirus that’s been making the rounds. (I used to be a person who never got ANYTHING. Where did that go? How did I become the person who gets EVERYTHING?) Now I’m watching one of my favorite movies, “Keeping Mum.”

Context: wife feels sexually neglected by her vicar husband. The new housekeeper intervenes.

Look at this:

Rowan Atkinson is my dream man. Astonishingly, I’ve only ever posted anything about him once before! (Note resemblances between tall, thin, dark-haired, mild-mannered comedian and the romantic euphemism.) I like the nerds, I like the smart ones, I like the ones who apologize easily and spontaneously bring chocolate with them when they come over.

Having spent my last post griping rabidly about the men in the world who make this an unsafe place for women – the predators – how about a post about the good ones?

I just gave my first lecture of the semester (I totally half-assed it, ended early, and it was still exhausting.) I did this activity at the end, where I showed 105 slides with highly diverse pictures of different women on them, and we went down the rows and for each picture, a student said out loud, “She is so beautiful.” The goal was to begin undoing the cultural brainwashing that mainstream narrative around women’s bodies and what it means to be beautiful.

It was pretty great, hearing 105 women validating all the other women in the room.

But there was one male voice in the room – a 5 colleges student or a boyfriend of a student, I don’t know. And to hear that one male voice say, “She is so beautiful”… I mean, I’m all for women supporting women, but I could feel something happen to the energy in the room when that one male voice affirmed the beauty of a woman whose body absolutely did not conform to the cultural standard. It was almost painful how important that was.

Lesson: we need our good men. Not because we rely on men’s approval or even because they’re the gatekeeper allies, but because men bring an important and different energy.

I must acknowledge that for most of my life, most of my friends have been guys. I really, really enjoy not having to worry about hurting someone’s feelings, and for a long time my experience was that girls were terribly fragile, guys were made of rubber, and I am a bulldozer. And the good men were the ones who valued honesty over diplomacy.

Now one of my favorite things about good men is the extent to which they recognize their privilege, the extent to which they listen to women in the same way they listen to men, the way they keep their (inevitable) thoughts about how sexy a woman is to themselves. The good men are alert for the ways that a woman’s physical appearance might be impacting how they interact. They pay attention to making sure women feel comfortable in a social environment – not in a chivalrous way, but in a plain old polite considerate way.

(BTW, if you’re a good man and looking to learn what makes you good, the above list is a pretty decent summary.)

There are a lot of good men in the world. In fact, most of them are good. And only a minority of the ones who aren’t good aren’t good because of their own psychology, rather than some interaction between their psychology and their culture.

Kiss your good man tonight, if you have one. (I can’t kiss mine, I have this fucking virus.)