I generally try to avoid heavier political/cultural issues, as I feel there are many other entities much better equipped than I to discuss these topics, however, this particular one strikes a tender nerve for reasons I do not yet find myself fully equipped to properly articulate. I hope, then, that you might accept these rather raw opinions on a much less jolly story than usual.
I recently received an email from my alma mater which very simply requested that no current or past students discuss the ongoing sexual assault investigation. This, of course, begged the question “what sexual assault investigation?” which eventually was answered by digging through newspaper records and discovering that there were, in fact, two: one which involved one of the sports teams, and another which was an allegation that a certain young man had raped an unconscious woman. I looked no further into either case, and I still have no inclination to do so. It was, however, brought to my attention a second time when I logged on to Facebook to find a male classmate (let’s call him Ted for clarity’s sake) had posted the following:
“I can’t believe [name] would do something like this. He is such a good man, working tirelessly with [charity] and [community program].”
And it broke my heart just the tiniest bit.
Most people associate the term “rape culture” with “victim blaming”, and on face value, this man’s post was not victim blaming at all, yet I found it to propagate the same values. There were many things I wished to write on his post. I wanted to point out that of course this man would be nice to Ted, because Ted was not his type. I wanted to say that lots of people do good things to ease their conscience about doing bad things. I wanted to point out that he might not show his aggression toward women when Ted was around, because he knew Ted wouldn’t approve. I wanted to say lots of things, but I found myself struggling to pull together a coherent sentence.
You see, almost two years ago, one of my childhood friends was dealing with a similar situation, but this time, she was the victim. As with so many cases, the aggressor in her case was someone close to her, and he had a family which both she and I were very close to, and I had the painful opportunity to watch as sentiments similar to the ones Ted holds tore everyone apart. They tore my friend apart because people thought she was just making up lies to get her aggressor in trouble. They tore his family apart when they sided with her: people told his wife she was disloyal and a bad person because she did not support him, and he was a “good man”. And he still has friends who insist he was a good man because he never showed himself to be a sexual predator to them. Again, predators have preferences, and if their preferences happen to be female when you’re male, it’s quite likely you will never see that side of them. But people do not seem to understand that.
I know there are certainly cases where people cry wolf when there is no wolf, but to revisit the fairytale, the only reason people stopped coming to see if there was a wolf was because the child would always call wolf just for fun. If we see our court system as the litmus test to see if a person is a wolf or not, we might all be better off. Perhaps we won’t. I don’t know. But please. Please do not assume someone is good just because they have been good to you. “He was always nice to me when I worked with him” carries an entirely different mean than “he’s a good man.” Maybe he really is a good man. But by insisting a person is 100% good because they’ve been good to you, you infer that it is not possible that they might have done something bad.
So please, don’t call him a good man. Be sad, share your experience. But do not call him a good man.