How Reading can Prevent Sexual Harassment

I’ve been thinking a lot about Harvey Weinstein lately and how appalling he was to so many women. Mr. Harvey was like an incubus always searching for his next penile power grab. A lot of women have come out against Harvey, and the world has generally begun to talk more about the closeted topic of sexual harassment. Some of my friends on Facebook have written “Me Too” on their wall to show people that these disgusting acts are happening close to home. The question is how to fix this epidemic? Obviously, we must continue conversations about sexual harassment and push the message that it is never okay to take advantage of another person. That is an excellent starting point, but in my opinion, it falls short of what will actually help the problem.

giphy3

Let’s first point out the obvious – the majority of sexual harassment involves women as victims and men as predators. Not all men are like Harvey Weinstein, and not all men are predators, but a lot of men have a second brain dangling between their legs. This second brain is exceptionally persuasive. How powerful is it? Speaking for myself, when I went through puberty, my penis was like a mini-Danny Devito continually giving me commentary throughout the day. Suffice it to say, Danny Devito never really goes away because of the evolutionary urge to procreate. The primal default of a man is to spread his sperm throughout the world. The penis is constantly screaming “ME, ME, ME, ME, ME!!!!”

giphy4

These urges along with other primal tendencies, like aggression, are kept in check by societal norms, laws, and morals. Norms can only go so far; when push comes to shove, that second brain gives a rat’s ass about standards, punishments, or consequences. Sexual harassment usually occurs behind closed doors when the predator can get away with the act. So what can be done to control that second brain? I think a lot of men have a good handle on their Danny Devito because they were taught from a young age what was right and wrong. Maybe they had a great set of parents who modeled a healthy male/female identity. Maybe it was a community role model who exemplified the attributes of respect. Maybe it was a religious upbringing that taught the importance of the Golden Rule.

danny_devito_cover

Whatever the reason, some men have no problem shutting down that bald-headed beast. But, not everyone is so fortunate to be raised with these types of people or messages – and sometimes even with these efforts – some men miss the point. Speaking for myself, I was raised in a home with excellent parents who taught me morals, and I had friends who came from similar backgrounds; in later years I found out that some of my friends did sexually harass women. So how can we fortify this cracked roof of parental advice and community support so that young men won’t continue to slip through and cause irreversible damage? The key is empathy.

empathy3

In my opinion, empathy is the single hardest trait to master in life. Empathy entails stepping into the mind and body of another person: seeing what they see, touching what they touch, feeling what they feel. It is such a complex idea that no person will inadvertently acquire it as a skill – one has to be deliberate. So how do we become empathetic? One of the key ways we evolved to acquire empathy was through storytelling: stories allow us to use our imagination, gain knowledge and think more deeply about problems. Books provide the most in-depth opportunity for storytelling through first-person and third-person accounts; allowing one to fully understand the emotions and personalities of various characters. Reading permits people to step into worlds which are very different from their own and to explore divergent viewpoints. I was never very empathetic until I started to read the classics and entered the masterful characters of Dickens, Tolstoy, and Melville. These stories force a person to see, think, and feel what a character feels – empathy anyone?

giphy5

I never grasped the magnitude of rape, murder, harassment, and adultery until I took the time to sit down and open a book. This brings me to my ultimate point: We need to push young men** to read great works of writing so that they can begin to understand what it feels like to see life from different vantage points. Parents, teachers, and community leaders need to stop thinking books are for SAT prep or just entertainment and start realizing that they are instruments of empathy and deep-psychological understanding. For example, try to read Anna Karenina, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Les Liaisons Dangereuses without wrenching over the emotional states of the main characters. There is no excuse for not reading to your child, setting time for your teenager to read, or sitting down to read yourself – only a high source of empathy will allow a predator to stop – and step – into the soul of its prey.

This post started to get a little long (I actually want to turn this post into a book), but I would love to hear your comments on the effects of reading on your own empathy and how we should go about sexual harassment prevention. 

**We obviously also need young women to read, but this post is mainly targeted towards young men. 

An American Geisha

In one month Christina and I will be in the land of the rising sun – Japan. We will be visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, Hiroshima, Osaka, and Yakahana; all of this in 15 memorable and most likely exhausting days. Several city tours are scheduledalong with days for relaxation and days for cultural experiences. One of the most quintessential components of Japanese culture is the Geisha. When we are in Kyoto – the cultural center of Japan – Christina is going to get to experience what it is like to dress up like a geisha. She will get to pick out a kimono and wear the traditional white makeup and black wig. I almost even signed up for the “samurai” experiencebut thought $150 was overkill to hold a sword and wear a robe.

fk1qavlkxrdaldmloi5g

It’s funny to see pictures of white tourists dressed as geishas – it’s like a culturally insensitive Halloween party. Even though it looks odd for a white woman to be a geisha, there was actually an American woman who entered this veiled world back in the 1970’s. Liza Dalby was the only foreigner ever to become a geisha, and she details her experience in the Nonfiction/Memoir-Geisha. Dalby became a geisha as an anthropologist researcher; she wanted to accurately understand and dispel the myths associated with this secretive world. If you ever go to Japanread this book because the world of a geisha is a microcosm of Japanese culture.

menubanner

The first geishas appeared in the 18th century and were actually male entertainers. Eventually, men were replaced by women and by the beginning of the 19th century, the job of a geisha was seen as a female occupation. Geishas were revered in society as fashion forward and socially influential, like we see celebrities today. The role of a geisha was to entertain male patrons through witty conversation, dancing, singing, and instrument playing. The white makeup that a geisha wears initially accentuated their expressions and performances in dimly lit rooms before the advent of electricity. As time went on, the geishas maintained their makeup and kimonos because their traditional look was a sacred treasure to a nostalgic Japan. Before WWII, it was common for rural families to sell their daughters to geisha houses. These young girls would apprentice for several years before mastering all the artistic skills of the profession.

giphy9

With modernization, this practice stopped and the geisha of today join the business in their 20’s – the artistic requirements are not as strenuous due to changing tastes of clientele. The geisha’s job is to provide men (sometimes women) with a relaxing atmosphere where they can laugh, discuss, and enjoy picturesque entertainments. Japanese culture is very different from western culture in respects to the role of the wife. Wives in Japan are seen as modest mothers who are masters of the house – interactions with husbands are usually more serious and formal. The role of the geisha is to provide the other side of femininity – gracefulness, joking, and innocent flirtation. Geisha are not prostitutes and rarely have sex with their patrons. Of course, geishas can have sex with their clients, but it would be like visiting a bar expecting to have sex with a bartender.

giphy10

Geishas usually live together in a tea house which is led by a “mother.” The mother is a retired geisha who trains, mentors, and organizes the various patron requests. The profession of a geisha can be lucrative and long lived for women in Japan – geishas can work for decades if they choose. Many Americans see the career of a geisha as demeaning towards women. In reality being a geisha in Japan allows women the rare opportunity to run their affairs and escape the restrictions associated with raising a family – when they interact with men they are respected to a much higher degree compared to other service jobs. Geishas are revered as talented artists, stewards of culture, and educated conversationalists.

291ce86e63faad7d06d7841b65b646f4-western-costumes-old-west

There is no equivalent occupation in America. An American style geisha would probably be a well-educated woman who lived in a sorority house and entertained (maybe with a fiddle) while wearing high quality “wild west” garb. Making comparisons is impossible, but it allows one to understand the true idiosyncrasies of the profession. While in Japan I want to see a geisha, and hopefully, we will witness some walking in the streets of Kyoto; it costs $450 per person as a tourist to be entertained by a geisha. I’ll just try to sneak a dance with Christina after her transformation 🙂

Is 27 Old?

Today’s my wife’s birthday and she is turning 27 years old. The last few days have been interesting because she has been obsessed with health documentaries on Netflix. Along with the documentaries, I started to notice her piqued face during wrinkle-cream commercials. My wife is like a small-skittish bird that needs to be closely observed in her natural habitat. I started to put the pieces together and put on my explorer cap – diving into the quagmire of the female brain – I discovered that she feels OLD. To better understand this thought, I tried to step into her shoes. The world as a woman sucks – plain and simple. Men have it easy for a million reasons. Men never have to worry about wrinkles. No man ever put on wrinkle cream. Most men embrace their wrinkles as a badge of honor, “I like those forehead wrinkles…you look like Clint Eastwood.” The same goes for the gut. The gut on men is standard practice and usually denotes some state of maturity. When a guy doesn’t have a gut you usually wonder if he is sick or has cancer. Men also don’t have to put on makeup or do weird things to their hair. I literally wake up 15 minutes before work, brush my teeth, comb my hair, and slither into my car half asleep. Christina’s morning routine is similar to the preparation needed for Good Morning America. There are lights, fans, and I swear ten people in the bathroom getting her ready for over an hour. Men also don’t have periods, don’t have babies, and don’t have to wear bras.

Society is too harsh on women. When I watch TV there are so many commercials of beautiful women advertising some “must need” product. Do you have split ends? You might as well be Chewbacca. Is your moisture barrier crap? You might as well be a human lizard? Are you five pounds overweight? You might as well be on My 600 Pound Life. Marketers are very good at making up products for women to buy. Does anyone really like whitened teeth? Who in their right mind is comparing the brightness of their teeth to a napkin? All of these social pressures make for a bittersweet birthday experience. Christina is not old and shouldn’t feel like her beauty is diminishing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think my wife is sexier than ever. If you are a woman, please take a moment to give yourself a compliment. Don’t focus on the negatives because you want to know the most attractive trait? Confidence. There is nothing sexier than a woman who owns her age, her body, and her personality. To all my women readers, I’m going to tell you a secret about men. We don’t care about split ends, arm fat, black heads, or even wrinkles. In respects to sexual arousal, men care about the big picture – boobs and butt. In respects to general attraction, men care about confidence and personality. Just be you and don’t let society push you around. Once you embrace your true strengths you will never dread another birthday again – or even a wrinkle.

Image result for funny birthday

MLK Day as a White Man

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Let’s be honest for a second. Have you ever done anything to celebrate Martin Luther King Day? I for one have done squat nothing. Usually for me, MLK Day in the past entailed no school and a visit to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet with my Mom. As a privileged white youth, I didn’t have a lot of personal connection with a black pastor from the 1960’s. To me it was difficult to relate to the struggle of African Americans throughout the history of the United States. I was taught that after the 1960’s, everything was essentially peachy in respects to race relations. There was no longer slavery. There was no longer “separate but equal.” There was no longer systemic institutions that oppressed a race. What made my ignorance worse, was the fact that I thought racism only existed in the south. Michiganders weren’t racist. We helped free slaves during the Civil War. We never had Jim Crow Laws. We were the safe haven- Pure Michigan.

Of course, you are probably thinking to yourself, “…what the frick, this guy is the whitest man alive! Did he really think that racism was over? Was he that obsessed about the Pizza Hut buffet that the hate of the world never hit him in the face? I for one was not ignorant and always watched Roots on MLK Day.” Yes, I was a sheltered fat kid who had rose-tinted glasses of the world. Please refrain from your Roots ego trip to hear me out for a second. My ignorance has been decreased through my journey of seeking wisdom. Racism is still an ever-present thing in America. Racism was not reversed after the Civil War. Racism had no borders between North and South. Racism was not extinguished by Martin Luther King Jr. I know now that the United States has systematically targeted the black population through policing measures and mass incarceration (click here). I know now that there were and still are policies in place that keep black and white children from intermingling in schools (click here). I know now that we are psychologically predisposed to fear black men because of cultural imagery (click here). To put it another way, I know now the importance of MLK Day.

As a white man, I feel responsible to acknowledge these wrongs and to do my part in identifying ways to reduce racism in today’s world. How can I personally reduce racism? I think one key way is to educate others about the systems in place that oppress African Americans. As a white man I do not fear getting pulled over by a police officer (click here). I do not fear imprisonment because I lack the money for a reputable lawyer (click here). I do not fear for the quality of my future child’s public education (click here). These systems are in the spotlight currently and I am glad that people are talking about them. What I think we shouldn’t do is downsize them and imagine that all things are equal. Growing up as a white male in a suburb, all things being equal, provides a much greater advantage in life compared to growing up as a black male in the ghetto. Is it possible to become a doctor as a black woman raised in Detroit? Of course it is. But the path to get there is so much harder because of the general environmental differences between white and black. That woman may not have had access to the college prep high school because of her address. She may not have had a Dad because of “search and frisk” quotas. She may not have had access to summer education because a lack of funding.

The individual is always responsible for decisions but the United States is responsible for making the playing field fair. My aim today is to inform everyone that there is still a lot of work left to do on a system wide level. We shouldn’t be like my younger Pizza Hut self and think everything is just dandy. We should never say, “I overcame challenges so they should stop whining and work harder.” It is that logic that was once used to argue for “separate but equal.” It is that logic that makes people passive observers to everyday racism. So, as a White man I for one thank you Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for making the world more understanding and fair for all Americans. To celebrate this day, I honor you through this post and will make it a goal to educate those about the present-day inequities of the world so that one day a Pizza Hut boy may be correct in wearing his rose-colored glasses.

 

Two Types of Men

Being a man in today’s world is really hard. There are two types of men out there: the doer or the payer. The “doer” is the type of guy who gets his hands dirty and gets the job done on his own terms. The “payer” is the type of guy who pays others to get the job done so he can pursue other activities. I fall into the category of the payer. I would much rather pay a person to put up a fence for my squirrel-like chihuahua than spend the whole day cursing at wooden posts. The problem with my “man” status is that I am a cheap frick. Being a cheap payer is the worse combination because I don’t want to change the oil myself but at the same time I can’t stand the guy asking me if I want an upgrade to synthetic for $89.99. This always gets me in trouble. Just today, I spent 2 hours snow blowing my driveway. A true payer would have someone plow it while he sat in a chair reading Esquire. Me on the other hand, spends the whole time dreaming of sitting down to a good magazine while I begin to pummel the side of the house with a bunch of pine needles that I never got around to raking. A doer would have cleaned all the pine needles off the house, laid a bunch of salt, and put orange markers near the grass to ensure snow removal accuracy; instead, I cursed those pine needles, left the job 80% finished and spent the next hour arguing about planting grass in the spring with my wife.

As a cheap payer I struggle with a constant envy towards the doer type. I say to myself, “Wouldn’t be nice if I enjoyed tinkering on a car?” or “Wouldn’t it feel good to shoot an animal dead?” Instead of enjoying the raw aspects of masculinity I spend my time looking for tire rotation coupons and informing my Dad about the health benefits of dark chocolate. Being a cheap payer is like being in masculine purgatory. I go into projects like a moaning preteen – in the end, the project never turns out sufficient and I can’t boast of any success to my wife. Here is a familiar play:

-Christina: “Jon, can you fix the paint chip on my car?”

-Me: “Um…I am actually writing a blog post so I don’t think so…”

-Christina: “Do it or I will get it professionally done.”

-Me: “Alright…” Three weeks later “I fixed your paint chip!”

-Christina: “Great how did you do it?”

-Me: “I bought some car-spray paint from Auto Zone. Do you like how it looks?”

-Christina: “I’m going to reread my Wedding Vows to see if there are any loopholes!”

So what is a cheap payer to do in a masculine world where you either wear Carhartt jackets and ride 4-Wheelers or wear fancy sweaters and drive golf carts? Honestly, I don’t think I will ever get rid of my cheapness and I don’t think I will ever enjoy working with my hands. My solution is to overcompensate my manliness in two ways: communication  and accepting help from others. I think men are lacking in these two areas and they fit right into my hobbies of reading and conversing. Many times the doers can fix material things but fall flat on their faces when it comes to emotions, conversations outside of sports, and asking for directions. I need to play to my strengths and be the guy who knows the right thing to say at the right time. The guy who knows what he is talking about but also knows how not to be a “know-it-all.” In respects to asking for help, I am going to use more YouTube tutorials, my Dad, and random strangers if I am in a quandary. Instead of feeling like a hopeless terd when trying to figure out a project, I can use the advice of others to empower myself and become motivated. Of course, the ultimate goal is to be a man who knows when its worth it to pay and not worth it to pay – a doer with the right priorities and the humility to seek out a friend. For now, the pine needles will stay and I will look online for DIY tree sap removal.