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Sari, Charlie…

I’m listening to the Shostakovich 5th Symphony as I write this, so forgive me if I get a little boisterous at times. It will indeed be countered by some of the sweetest, most mellow thoughts you’ve ever heard. Relatively speaking….

 The chronology of what I have to say today started out in Las Vegas. As we took some time, finally, to jump in the hot tub in the last hour of our visit I got to watch something amazing. Not in its over-the-topness typical of Vegas, but rather in its simplicity.

 We were soaking there, enjoying the heat on our weekend warrior muscles when a family from India came over and began to join us. A teenage girl wearing a bikini, an older man, and a younger one, followed by the mother, I assume, wearing a sari. Slowly, the mother began to unwrap layers of fabric to reveal a complete under dress and the son held her hand as he guided her into the tub, still nearly fully clothed. They smiled and laughed and there was an intimacy there that seems so rare in American families anymore. They exuded respect for each other.

 This brought on a discussion later (read: heated argument) about the differences in our various cultures and how other countries see us. We have become so mistrustful of other cultures, even as we continue to mistrust our own even more. 

 Today I heard about a 14-year-old boy that I know who had the police show up at his front door yesterday. When his father opened the door to hear that his boy was being served with charges of “unwanted sexual contact”, he was dumbfounded. This sweet young boy, in the throes of adolescence, has not a thought of taking sexual advantage of another and yet, here he is being accused of such a thing. Apparently, as the boy recalls it, the girl instigated the encounter (a quick trip to 3rd base) and seemed unbothered in the midst of her peers afterwards. Something changed over the weekend. The parents of the boy must now hire a criminal attorney to counter the charges.

 Somewhere in the past 30-40 years of the feminist movement, things have gotten very distorted. Women had grown tired of their roles as mothers and housewives and demanded to be considered equal to men in the workplace. There was merit to this idea and over time women have been given many more opportunities to prove themselves in the professional world.

 But in a sense many of them have traded one level of respect for another and now look back somewhat wistfully to the days when a wife and mother was one of the most revered people in society. Some are headed back in that direction, but the loss of innocence can’t be replaced. It’s like trying to pretend to be surprised when you already know about the party.

 I wonder, too, what has changed for men. Once, women felt they had no recourse regarding the unwanted advances of men. Now, they merely have to mention a fantasy encounter in a diary and a man’s life is changed forever. Therefore, many innocent men are being falsely accused. This is not to say that legitimate assaults don’t happen. They do, much more often that we would like to imagine, but a new trend seems to have begun where a mere accusation can result in a visit from the police and worse. It is these unfounded reports that make it that much more difficult for the real incidents to be taken seriously.

 I have gotten in trouble for my opinions about this before, but I still feel that many women bring some of these situations on themselves. Perhaps not enough is being explained in sex ed classes in school about the hormonal rages of young men. It’s always been talked about in jest, but physiologically, adolescent boys can be ticking time bombs that ought not be fooled with. I’m sure there is great curiosity about the veracity of that and some girls just can’t help but try to find out. 

 Have we demonized men more than they deserve? It is always assumed that the woman is the innocent party. I have lived long enough and seen my share of flirtations to know that this is not always true. Our media culture has instilled in young girls a provocativeness that they’ll never be mature enough to handle, and then we blame men for responding to it. And we certainly haven’t done anything to help young men feel greater respect toward women who don’t seem to respect themselves very much.

 We deride other countries for their prudishness, saying that women are oppressed by their modest dress, but perhaps it is we who are the oppressed ones. Are women in these cultures not given a greater level of respect by their obvious respect for themselves? I’m sure there are plenty of women who might not choose what they have, but what about the ones who do, the non-feminists? Are they worthy of any less regard?

 If the 14-year-old boy was indeed falsely accused, I hope that the girl will come to understand and learn to manage the power that she and other women now wield, just as we have expected men to do. It is not meant to be used as a weapon and certainly not as a toy. It is for women to rediscover the inherent power of their gender with its gentleness and ability to conquer through nurturance.

 Let’s be better, more responsible, more compassionate women, shall we? 

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