They came prepared with thoughtful reflections, statistics, and abundant love for the women in their lives. The Boyz (Men’s Breakfast Group) knew in advance that we were going to be discussing a serious subject: the current allegations of massive sexual abuse and harassment against women, and the strong voice of women who are saying “Time’s Up.” They did not minimize the subject by bringing up frivolous examples of minor acts of misconduct, nor did they change the subject by applying humor where it does not belong. Instead, they came prepared with thoughtful hearts, and became fully engaged in a straightforward conversation they later said could have gone on for hours.
I asked them what they taught their daughters/grand-daughters/ great-grand-daughters about how they should be treated by men, and RESPECT quickly emerged as the main theme of the conversation. They want their daughters to respect themselves and to be respected by others. They put forth the unanimous opinion that a father’s main obligation to his children is to love their mother, and that young women would learn from their father’s treatment of their mother. We all agreed that people learn their strongest lessons through observation, and that manners, respect and love need to be demonstrated in order to be learned. These were the qualities the men wanted to pass on to their sons regarding the treatment of women.
We raised the difficult question of what we would want our daughters to do if they were assaulted or harassed, and the overwhelming and immediate response was: tell someone. Hopefully, an abused child/teen/woman would tell a parent or contact the police. It was mentioned that grandparents often play a critical role as receptive listeners. We did not have an answer about why the young gymnastics athletes were not believed, but it was sadly suggested that perhaps it had to do with the perpetrator being a doctor, not wanting to hurt the medical profession, men sticking up for men, even the possibility of “stage parents” protecting the secret or the Good Old Boys forming a team. All agreed that these teens deserved to be believed.
Young women are demonstrating strength and achievement, and are doing things that are new and exciting like being goalies on hockey teams and mixing motherhood with careers we never heard of, “cyber security” for example. However, there was still considerable discussion by group members of the “glass ceiling,” and this is where statistics came to light. For example, one of our doctors pointed out that 72% of pediatricians in training are women, but of the 151 training centers for pediatricians, only 32 (21%) are chaired by women, demonstrating that the glass ceiling is not only related to equal pay for equal work, but also promotion opportunities. Women CEO’s in Fortune 500 companies were only 6.4% last year. Our men think that time’s up for these kinds of discrepancies.
The men shared their own learning curves, and said that in business they became more intelligent and learned that it was bad business not to use the talent of women. Many of the men acknowledged the strong influence of Title IX on making them better fathers as they found themselves cheering on their young female athletes. Abusing these young athletes in any way is simply unacceptable.
The word that emerged over and over again during our conversation was RESPECT. It was quickly evident that this group of men has tremendous respect for their wives, and that they are rather in awe of their daughters, grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters. A look of perplexed sadness came across their faces when we spoke of women and girls being assaulted and harassed. They firmly deny that words are enough to make amends, acknowledge that perpetrators must be held accountable, and they make a strong argument that respect is a quality that must be demonstrated each and every day. As one of the members aptly opined regarding how men treat women, “Our children need to see a sermon every day.” Amen to that. May God bring healing and justice to all of the women and girls who have been abused, and bring strength and support to those who have had the courage to speak out. May the church continue this conversation, because time’s up.
Thank you to the Boyz (Men’s Breakfast Group) for showing leadership in discussing this important subject with dignity, faith and respect.