Lately, horrible stories of men mistreating women have infiltrated our news feeds and sometimes, it sounds like all men are bad — like all women should either be scared or definitively angry with them.
We shouldn’t be. Real gentlemen do exist and we cannot afford to forget that.
To clarify, yes, the frat-boy stereotype of a shirtless Chad sipping a beer and whistling at girls from his frat house porch is alive and well, but not every man is Chad, or anything like him.
Yet at the same time, we know that Chad does exist and that his behavior has consequences. Too many women have dealt with men who do what they want without asking, and it’s horrible.
The men who mistreat women live in darkness, fully responsible for their victims’ emotional and physical suffering, abandoning their accountability and clinging to their fame or status to protect them. The #MeToo movement, among other initiatives, has finally publicized this disgusting behavior, and slowly, things are changing.
However, it’s important to illuminate a group of people too often ignored: the gentlemen, the ones who do respect women and couldn’t fathom being a part of these situations we read about far too often.
Last semester, I started organizing a women’s march against sexual assault. Upon discussing ideas with a close friend, he told me something I haven’t forgotten. He said that the prevalence of sexual assaults made him embarrassed and uncomfortable because he’d never dream of doing anything like that.
And thinking it over, I realized I don’t have one friend like him, I probably have 15. And I’d tend to guess lots of women, at Miami and elsewhere, could say the same thing.
That’s why, this semester, instead of immediately doubting men, I’m paying close attention to the ones doing good things. And once I shifted my paradigm, I began to see countless examples worth noting.
Random boys holding the door for me as I clumsily try to balance textbooks, an iced tea and an umbrella. The boy in my psychology class who apologized profusely for assuming I was a junior. The boy who shook my hand and introduced himself before sitting next to me on the bus back to Chicago.
I’ve found boys who ask questions, who don’t take themselves too seriously and who are willing to admit when they’ve made a mistake.
Some of them are in fraternities and some of them aren’t, but I don’t know that it matters.
A recent New York Times piece, titled “A Frat Boy and a Gentleman” discussed how certain fraternities are changing to become stronger organizations with better intentions. It’s a solid article, and I’d completely agree that you can be a fraternity member and a good person at the same time.
It’s certainly enabling to be surrounded by a bunch of guys, drinking in a cluttered frat house, feeling entitled to do whatever you’d like with no repercussions.
Fraternities can make it easy to slide down the slippery slope of questionable behavior, but it’s not a one-way road. Frat boys always have the option to leave their egos on the front lawn with their empty beer bottles and be decent people.
On our campus in particular, the unwritten preppy dress code can be another enabler of arrogance and an excuse for pompous behavior, but it doesn’t have to be. Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible to be a considerate and respectful human being, even if you’re wearing a flannel, joggers and Timberlands.
I’ve seen it happen. And not once, but many times.
Some people might argue that the concept of being a gentleman sounds outdated and old-fashioned. I usually picture one of the boys in “Dead Poets Society,” dressed in khakis, a navy pullover sweater and a sensible haircut, offering polite “yes sirs” and “yes ma’ams.”
We all know that our campus hosts countless modern-day versions of these boys. And though Vineyard Vines and Patagonia have replaced what Neil Perry was wearing in the 1980s, it’s clear that having manners won’t ever go out of style. And, for that matter, neither will respecting women.
Being a gentleman takes intention, purpose and a sense of moral responsibility. Plenty of men on our campus exemplify these values every day, and they’re worth mentioning.