Dear men: Time to show more respect

So I’m in the car the other day – the 2005 Prius, which I’ve yet to name because I can’t think of anything that works (What? Penelope Prius? Nuts to that) – and I pop in a homemade jazz CD, and on comes Billie Holiday singing “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” which is a fine song EXCEPT for when she gets to these lines:

“I’d rather my man would hit me, than he would up and quit me …”

“I ain’t gonna call no copper if I’m beat up by my poppa …”

And … WOW.

Right, the song was recorded in the ’30s, maybe the early ’40s, but still …

A couple of days later, I read a column in the Globe by Shira Springer, the headline of which was: “Danger follows female runners,” and it’s about the murder of Vanessa Marcotte, killed while out for a run, and how her best friend is remembering her, and I thought …

Things have changed, but only sort of.

See, women are still abused, but Billie Holiday, in her song, thought that was just fine as long as her “man” didn’t cut out on her. But reporter Shira Springer and Ashley McNiff, Vanessa Marcotte’s friend, don’t think it’s just fine, and that’s what’s really fine.

Here’s the question, though:

What the hell is wrong with men?

In her story on Ashley McNiff, and through her own experiences, Springer details the verbal and physical assaults on women runners and how so many of them fear to run alone, or fear to run in secluded areas, or fear to run at night, and you know they aren’t afraid of other women or dogs or mountain lions.

They are afraid of men, because it is men who harass them or men who follow them or men who just act like morons:

“Hey, baby, wanna run with me?”

No, schmuck, because if you think shouting at a woman is cool – or, weirdly, manly – you’re too stupid to bother with.

Why do men do it? Why can’t we just leave women alone? A woman is out running. So what? Do we harass men when men are out running? No, and you know the real reason why we don’t? Because men aren’t perceived as potential victims. Women are. Even by men who don’t consciously see women as potential victims.

Way, way in the back of our addled little brains there is this seed of the potential for victimization. I kid you not. It’s in all of us.

Somehow, either biologically or culturally – and I think it’s both – we’ve been set up to see women as targets. Not always as targets for abuse, although that’s always possible given the stupidity and cowardice of some men, but targets for our ownership or control or passion or lust or … pick a word. And we act on it, even if it’s only with:

“Hey, baby, out for a run?”

Or like the golf commentator commenting on the length of the skirt of Sergio Garcia’s girlfriend. Yeah, he thought his mike was off, but SO WHAT? Did he check out the tightness of Garcia’s pants, too? If Garcia had a different hairstyle, would he have mentioned that?

It’s like the old New York tabloid days: Something happens to a woman, she’s identified in headlines as a blonde. A man? Not a chance.

“Blond man found dead in alley.”

Yeah, the first time you see that, send me a clip.

But if it were a woman?

“Blonde found bludgeoned.”

Or, better:

“Blonde in short, tight skirt found bludgeoned.”

It’s changed a little now, but that kind of schmugah still crops up, if a bit more subtly.

I’m not sure how you get men to change. It’s better, sure, than it was in Billie’s day, and maybe it gets a little better every day, but when a nation has an Abuser in Chief, well, kids, what’s the message?

Women, don’t go running near the White House.

Oh, or near Fox News headquarters, either.


Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.