It wasn’t just a snowball
I remember the first snowball I ever threw at a girl – my childhood friend Elisha. We were both about 12 years-old at the time.
In my mind’s eye I see the white powder explode against the back of her black pea coat. I laughed out loud into the cold air and ran away fast through the snow.
But later, driving home, I felt terrible about it.
Even though Elisha quickly retaliated with a barrage of her own, she was obviously upset by my actions. The snowball wasn’t called for.
Further, it wasn’t how Dad taught me to act.
When it came to humility and treating others with respect Dad led by example. For example, when Mom was returning to the car from a store, he’d often turn from the steering wheel and say to us kids “here comes the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Growing up I saw my Dad cry, felt his crushing hugs, and heard him admit weakness and faults in meekness – actions and traits that are counter culture. In doing so, Dad imprinted footsteps of tender humility on my soul, setting an example of compassionate manliness, especially in the way he treated my mother, that I’ve desperately tried to follow.
Of course, throwing a snowball at a childhood friend is trivial. And I’m not saying that women are weak or can’t take a joke (that certainly wasn’t the last snowball I threw at an unaware friend).
But the underlying lesson I took from it is a good one: respect other people, put them before yourself – especially if you have the upper hand or are in a position of power.
When I threw that snowball at Elisha she was completely unaware with her back turned. It was a cheap shot. I had the upper hand.
These days, I recognize that I hold a powerful social position: I’m an educated white man who grew up with many advantages: loving parents, food every day, and a roof to sleep under.
I recognize it more acutely with every strong strong woman who steps forward to identify men in positions of power who’ve committed heinous acts of sexual abuse and violence. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to carry a burden like that.
To be frank: men disgust me. More specifically, concepts of manliness disgust me. So much so that sometimes I’m ashamed to be one of them. Because even I, raised by a humble and tender father, sometimes reflects the sexist machismo culture that I’ve grown up in. A culture that says men need to be strong, dominant, and authoritarian.
Sometimes I’m part of the problem because the problem is systemic within society. It’s a lot bigger than me.
Thus, the only answer lies outside of me, a man. Women hold the answer. Men must step out of the spotlight, a place they’ve been for all of human existence, into the shadows. Women must step from the shadows into the spotlight, take control and change society, calling out generations of oppression and deconstructing machismo social norms.
In the process, not only will women achieve equality, but men will learn humility – a trait that’s desperately needed by so many men today.