Macho, Macho Man!

Why is it that the men most invested in their machismo (I study Spanish on the side) are the ones with the greatest need to demean and subjugate women? Is fear the basis of their actions? Take the recent kerfuffle in Texas, with its new draconian law to control women’s reproductive lives. Of particular note during the legislative session was the search for and banning of tampons and maxi-pads from gallery spectators, while those carrying guns were ushered right in. Does the phrase “vagina dentata” have any resonance for these guys? Likely not.

Another recent manifestation of this trend occurred in my new favorite country, Australia. In June 2010, Julia Gillard became the first woman Prime Minister. Breakthrough? Yes! Time to loose the hounds? Absolutely! During her three years in the office, she was under constant attack for her hair, demeanor, and dress. Most recently, just before she was deposed, attacks on PM Gillard included an interviewer asking her if her male partner, who is a hairdresser, was gay. And at a fundraiser for a political opponent, the menu included “Julia Gillard Quail”, described as having “small breasts, huge thighs, and a big red box.”

Australia is also dealing with a military sexual assault and harassment mess, but Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army has made a much stronger response than any heard here. Our military brass seem more interested in preventing any attempts by Congress to move the prosecution of military sexual assault outside their chain of command. Pay no attention to the dismal job they have done in handling these cases until now.

For an interesting historical perspective, one need only review the film of the 1967 Boston Marathon, the first time a woman ran as a competitor. The rage on that official’s face is shocking, even these many years later.

Yet these are not women’s issues. They impact all of society. The burden of an unwanted child falls upon all the members of a family. The inability to obtain birth control makes it more likely that there will be unwanted children. When children born to unprepared parents are neglected, the burden, social and financial, falls on all of us. Still, that Aussie General gives me hope. Let him be the first of many men to speak out against sexual assault. Let more men address the issue of sexual harassment and access to birth control, and rape, and violence against women.

It is long past time to see these issues as human ones, and to recognize that as a society we all are affected by the fears of a few.

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