It seems every day there’s a new story about men in power engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct, discrimination, misogyny, abuse and worse. I’m heartened by the bravery of the women and men coming forward to expose this behavior, and even more so by the strong stand taken by so many leaders and organizations in stripping these abusers of their power. I have no doubt this is just the beginning of our shining a light on the darkness that lies beneath our systems and relationships. For many, we’re just starting to scratch the surface of the gender injustice and inequality that still plague us today. It’s important work that needs to continue.
And yet, I fear we may become overwhelmed or disheartened with each new revelation, some surprising, others less so. Where are the good guys out there? Were there any to begin with? And if so, are there any left?
For me, the answer is a resounding yes. For every bad actor out there, I believe there are more of the male persuasion who embody integrity and respect and who actually possess a functioning moral compass. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by so many men in my personal and professional lives who are the real deal. They are diverse in their backgrounds, perspectives and temperaments, but they share a common decency and goodness that transcends their differences.
They are husbands, fathers, teachers, friends and coaches. Colleagues, bosses, mentors and employees. Neighbors and strangers alike. They are the men who have always done the right thing, just because that’s who they are, and this is my thank you letter to each of them.
This is for the men who’ve stood for equal rights, equal treatment and equal pay in the workplace without needing the threat of retribution to make their voices heard.
This is for the men who have no problem working with – or for – women, and who are comfortable admitting how much they learn from us.
This is for the men who promote and develop women in their careers, not because they believe there’s a quota to meet, but because that’s what you do for smart, talented and hardworking members of your workforce.
This is for the men who still open doors, not because they believe women are helpless or subservient, but because they are gentlemen. (For the record, even a feminist like me appreciates chivalry).
This is for the men who say please and thank you in a restaurant, without assuming the server is actually their own personal servant. Because, manners.
This is for the men who listen to us when we share our hopes, dreams, concerns and fears, and who actually hear us, without trying to fix anything.
This is for the men who get up in the morning, make breakfast for the kids, pack the lunches, do the school drop off and head off to work, without thinking twice about it or looking for recognition because they know their wives do exactly the same thing every day too.
This is for the men who come home to a messy house and a spouse teetering on the edge of sanity after a day of satisfying the nonstop needs of their children, and instead of rolling their eyes, jump right into the chaos. (Likewise, this is for the men who are home reveling in the daily beauty and challenges of the mundane moments and important milestones as primary caregivers).
This is for the men who are comfortable sharing their feelings, compromising and admitting when they’re wrong. Full disclosure: we ladies deserve some kudos for this as well. It’s HARD sometimes, but relationships certainly are easier when both parties are coming from a place of openness, kindness and respect.
So to all of you men out there who lift up the women in your lives, who support and celebrate us, we see you. We recognize your goodness and we’re grateful to have you in our lives. In fact, we need you to stand a little taller right now. We know you’re not looking for parades, accolades or awards, but you’re the ones we want to stand out in the crowd these days.
I hope that we reach a point – and soon (actually, how about NOW?) – where you’re the only standard we accept from the Y chromosome. Until then, we’ll continue the work of raising the bar on our collective expectations and grooming our sons to be good men just like you. Because you’re pretty awesome.