Men Are Not the Enemy — Bad People Are

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Given events over the past few months, it is easy to characterize men as evil, dangerous — the enemy of women. It is easy to think that all men are exemplified by people like Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar, who have committed evil acts and ought to be condemned. It is easy to cite instances of physical and sexual abuse committed by men against women in support of the argument that “men must be stopped.”

But is it really all men that are the problem? Or is it certain men — certain people who have perpetrated atrocious behavior and deserve reproach for what they have done?

Many people, including modern radical feminists, are quick to villainize men in this way on account of their sex, rather than on account of their individual actions. I recognize and commend the important role that some of these women play in calling out the injustice faced by women in a variety of situations, but at the same time, I believe it is critical to moving forward from this moment that we judge individuals based on their own actions, not those who share a demographic marker with them.

If we do not, we neglect the endeavors of men and women together to combat this serious problem. We ignore the efforts that numerous husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons have made to help victims of assault and harassment move forward in the wake of these tragedies. We disregard the gentlemen in the world.

Yes — gentlemen. It is a word that is seldom used in today’s society, due to changing norms of language and of culture; a word I’d be far more likely to hear from my father or grandfather (people who truly embody the term) than from a fellow millennial. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard a member of my own generation use the term, other than maybe in a theatrical rendition of “ladies and gentlemen,” aimed at getting a room’s attention. Nevertheless, it’s an important concept — men who are gentle and kind, who better the world in some way or another — whether by putting smiles on the faces of their families or by doing volunteer work to help people across the world.

Instead of envisioning a world without men, we should be thinking about how we create a world where men and women live peacefully side by side — as equals. We should think about how we can teach boys to be gentlemen, both explicitly and by example. How many headlines have been devoted to the appalling actions of men in positions of power, the actions of men who have exploited women in numerous ways? I can think of dozens, if not hundreds. Boys today are seeing these men called out and are hopefully seeing what not to do.

But how many stories can you recall about gentlemen in the world, about what they should do? One comes to mind — the story of the 600 men who showed up to Billy Earl Dade Middle School in South Dallas after one pastor asked for volunteers to serve as mentors for the young boys at the school’s “Breakfast with Dads” event. These men, with no existing connection to the boys at this school, responded en masse to a tweet asking for help, providing support and simple kindness to boys whose fathers couldn’t attend the event. I have no doubt that there are many more people who share this compassion and the conviction to act on it across the country every day. These are the stories that need to gain traction, and these are men that we need to celebrate.

This is what the Network of enlightened Women has aimed to do with its Gentlemen Showcase. The Network of Enlightened Women, also known as NeW, is a group of conservative university and young professional women who are active on their campuses and in their communities, discussing the value of conservatism for young women, and breaking the stereotype that all young women must be liberal — while all conservatives are old, white, men. We are a group that knows one can be pro-woman without being anti-man, and the Gentlemen Showcase aims to celebrate this fact by recognizing the many good men that exist in our communities. By nominating young gentlemen for the showcase, women are able to show their appreciation for positive contributions by men, which are then rewarded with charity dollars — the young men who receive the most votes are granted $1,000 to donate to the charity of their choice. 

In today’s society, finding a gentleman may seem like an insurmountable feat, but it does not have to be. If we are to make this change as a culture, we must come together to affirm our support for the brave women who have taken a stand against the violent behavior that has harmed so many people. We must continue to confront the individuals who perpetuate this violence. And in addition, we must encourage the men in our lives to be gentlemen, and recognize them when they are. This is how we can continue to work to change the prevailing culture surrounding what men should be.

By honoring the good men who are in our midst, on college campuses and in our workplaces, we can start to promote respect and gentlemanly values for the young men of my generation. By rewarding the people who deserve recognition, we can create the culture we desire and make the word “gentleman” commonplace for the new generation.


Emily Hall is a senior at Harvard College, where she is the founder and president emerita of the Network of enlightened Women. Follow her on Twitter: @emh731.