Jane Caro

Not ladies, not gentlemen – act grown up

I see it every day in this country, in the matter of gender, one invariably blames the other. I suggest we not get caught up in that, and start being responsible for our own actions.

 

 

I blame religion. For millennia, it has been encouraging men to be under-responsible and women to be over-responsible, and by doing so has stopped us all from growing up. What do I mean by this? I mean patriarchal religion’s absurd idea that women are somehow responsible, not only for their own behaviour but everybody else’s as well. This idea that women must control male responses to them was illustrated again recently by a catastrophically misjudged “motivational” sign in the hallway of an American high school (I think they call it “middle” school over there). Emblazoned for all to see, the purse-lipped finger-wag aimed only at female students read as follows: “The more you behave like a lady the more he’ll behave like a gentleman.”

Just imagine for a moment the possible reaction of immature young men to such a free-pass for bad behaviour from their school. They have literally been given tacit approval by their teachers to catcall, harass, humiliate and even feel-up female students and then blame the girls for that behaviour. If the female student objects, the boy can merely claim she was not being ladylike enough and he will be absolved of responsibility. This is awful for the girls and must – as it was no doubt intended to do – make them feel vulnerable and constrained. But it is catastrophic for the boys. It literally encourages them to behave like sexual predators and get away with it. If I had a son at that school I’d be removing them forthwith.

I have always been wary of the idea that men “protect” women…It has always been women who have been expected to protect men from the necessity of taking responsibility for themselves and their own behaviour.

Frankly, it shouldn’t matter how unconstrained a girl or woman’s behaviour, or how much or how little she wears or how “unladylike” she is. Men and boys – if they expect to be taken seriously – remain, at all times and under all circumstances, responsible for their own behaviour. That is what being an adult means. We already have far too many immature men in positions of power and influence all over the world and their inability to take responsibility for themselves has brought us to where we find ourselves today – increasingly descending into armed camps. The last thing we need is supposedly educational institutions, like schools, encouraging men to remain emotional adolescents all their lives.
Once and for all, women are not responsible for anyone’s behaviour but their own. They should not have to spend their every waking moment thinking about how to avoid inflaming any men they may come in contact with. If men are incapable of controlling their responses to women (and I don’t believe that is true for a minute) then, frankly, they should not be allowed out. Men (and women) can have any thoughts they want – or even don’t want – but all of us are responsible for whether we act on them or not. This is why I have always been deeply wary of the idea that men “protect” women. After all, who are they protecting us from if not themselves? In fact, as the middle school sign makes crystal clear, it has never been men who are supposed to protect women, despite the relentless propaganda. It has always been women who have been expected to protect men from the necessity of taking responsibility for themselves and their own behaviour.

Time to stop that. Time for us all, including men and boys, to properly grow up. The world needs adults in charge, whatever their gender.

 

Jane Caro

Jane Caro has a low boredom threshold and so wears many hats; including author, novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster and award winning advertising writer.

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