Boys will be boys: a male perspective after the month of Weinstein

I suppose we could take some consolation in the October media storm over revelations of sexual predation by men in powerful positions and the cascade of women’s voices in response. I mean, at least it gave us some relief from everything always being about Trump … oh. Well. Never mind.

Actually, consolation might come in the form of fewer women being assaulted or harassed. That seems possible, perhaps even likely, given the strength and numbers of those voices. Ground is surely being gained. But the path is uphill and it gets steeper the closer you get to the top.

Why have women been fighting this uphill battle for so long and still we have countless, nameless Harvey Weinsteins and Bill O’Reillys in workplaces everywhere?

Why are women still fighting for autonomy over, and the safety of, their own bodies?

Why were the Suffrage Movement and the Feminist Movement not enough to have brought us further than we are? For essentially the same reason, I think, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement did not get us beyond the plaintiff cry that Black Lives Matter.

Martin may have been able to see the mountaintop, but his assassination illustrated the salient lesson. Those who already reside at the top will do everything in their power to prevent losing their place. Or even sharing it.

Though some deny it exists, “white privilege” explains a certain mountaintop status in racial terms. It exists in extreme form as white supremacism or the underestimated anger seething in many who helped elect Donald Trump. For most of us with proper skin tones, though, we tend to favor social and political progress so long as we sense no threat to our own personal place on the summit.

Then there is male privilege. When exercised to the extreme, women are raped and physically abused, harassed and demeaned. And subjected to ridicule and shame when they testify during a Supreme Court nomination. But, the “milder” form is even more pervasive and the foundation, the underpinning for sustaining our status as the ruler of the workplace, the lord of the castle.

The danger I see after this “month of Weinstein” is that winning battles against sexual predators, as vital as that is and as despicable as they are, might substitute for the progress needed on the far broader front. Here is what I mean.

I, like other men of my generation, grew up and came of age during the 50s and 60s, a time when Rosie had left riveting and returned to the kitchen and the nursery. Rosie and her husband modeled for their children the roles and relationships that they would internalize for later use. Of course, they also had TV and other media to reinforce their gender education.

Consequently, when I launched blithely into marriage, fatherhood, and work, I knew what to expect, what the rules and roles would be. It wasn’t exactly the world according to Mad Men, but it was a world where I never questioned my right to reside on the mountaintop. It was some years before I began to consider that the women around me may have grown up in the same world, but their rulebook and assigned roles were far different. The short version of the rest of the story is that, like Fagin in Oliver!, I have been “reviewing the situation” time and again ever since.

Those on top think they occupy the prime real estate, but they are deluding themselves. They may reside above others, but they have been focused so long on their status and on not being knocked off or crowded out, they have not realized that the mountaintop was not the actual destination.

In his last great speech, Dr. King said, “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

He was alluding to Moses leading his people to the Promised Land and that damned mountain was just something in the way! They had to go over it to get to their destination, where there was plenty of room for all.

The wonderful woman who has been my wife for twenty-five years has helped teach me what a wide-open space there is for sharing our lives. We each have qualities that help compensate for what the other may lack. I am better with her than I am on my own. And I know we are not unique in finding the value of true partnership.

And why shouldn’t this principle apply elsewhere?

When men jealously guard their status and position in the workplace, they act to their own detriment. By creating an environment hostile to half the staff, they diminish themselves. By withholding opportunity and undervaluing contributions, they sabotage the potential that would benefit them all.

What if the ugliness of the Weinstein et al. disclosures could be turned to a milestone? It will require more than a few high profile stars speaking for all women. It will even require more than a movement. We have had those. It will require greater numbers of men who finally abandon the already crumbling ramparts of their supposed primacy. Not in surrender, but in recognition that we will do better as allies and partners. In our relationships and in our jobs.

And wouldn’t it be sweet to see little pockets of change taking place against the backdrop of Trumpian misogyny, where it is accepted and excused and even promoted that boys will be boys. It is about time for adult boys to become men.

Exclusive Interview: Bob Dylan ‘Reborn’ After Nobel Prize

The Nobel Academy shocked the world last fall when they announced that the Prize for Literature was being awarded to songwriter, Bob Dylan, the first American to be so honored since Toni Morrison in 1983. That reaction was mild compared to the one that greeted Dylan’s silence following the announcement. After being skewered in both the US and Swedish press for two weeks, Dylan finally released a statement explaining he had simply been rendered speechless and would attend the ceremony to accept the award if possible. But, Patti Smith ended up standing in for him. The saga comes to an end this weekend, as the academy has announced they will hold a small private ceremony with Dylan.

In a rare coup for such a new publication, this blog is able today to report this exclusive behind the scenes story. A set of odd circumstances gave me the opportunity to interview someone with first-hand information about how drastically Bob Dylan’s life has changed since last fall. Speaking on condition of anonymity, because his office is only two doors down from Dylan’s agent, Brian Greenbaum at Creative Artists Agency, and he doesn’t want to lose his job, this person painted a picture of a late life renaissance, a Boomer reborn if you will. (Yes, he was born in ’41, but we gave him honorary status in the 60s.)

The timing of the Nobel announcement was key. “Bob had just received the results from his MyHeritageDNA test.” (Note: my source kept referring to Dylan as Bob, which is mainly what convinced me of the authenticity of the account.) “As a Minnesota native, it should have come as no surprise, but the results indicated he was at least 80% Swedish.” Still, Dylan had spent his entire life believing his family had come from Russia. He was stunned and still processing his newly realized heritage when the Nobel announcement was made.

Although his first impulse had been to question the DNA results, Dylan saw this award as some kind of divine confirmation of his Swedish roots. “How else to explain that he was getting the Nobel Prize for friggin’ Literature?” my source asked reasonably.

Dylan, who was at the end of a tour, immediately went into seclusion to reflect on the revelation. Those close to him were used to this kind of thing, so did not think much of it. The Nobel people, on the other hand were livid. When word of their reaction reached him, Dylan went even deeper into contemplation.

The singer/songwriter is reborn

When he contacted his agent two weeks later, it was with an enthusiasm that had been missing for many years. Dylan had been rereading his autobiography, Chronicles, Vol 1, to review his early life in this new light. One result of this was for him to drop his initial theory that this book was the reason for the Literature prize.

More importantly, though, he now realized his life had been full of foreshadowings pointing to this inevitable cultural rebirth. For example, there was his boyhood best friend who had moved away from Duluth, to the little town of Stockholm, Wisconsin, just east of Minneapolis. He spent many weekends there, and had fond memories of the stacks of paper thin pancakes his friend’s mother made. Also, his early folksinging days in the Village are legendary, but few people realized he lived with friends in a flat across the Brooklyn Bridge on Stockholm Street.

Greenbaum arranged for a private meeting between Dylan and the president of Gustavus Adolphus College, in St. Peter, Minnesota. Dylan proposed that the College, the foremost Swedish language institution in the U.S., immediately begin a project to translate the entire Dylan songbook, nearly 400 songs, into Swedish. In return, the college has received a $10 million contribution to establish the Bob Dylan Chair for Folk/Rock Literature.

There was a brief period when the agency had to push back on their star’s new-found Nordic obsession. Dylan, who refuses to text or use email, had sent them a note, saying he needed to change his name. My source gave me a photocopy, which says:

God dag, Brian. Please have your attorneys start paperwork for a legal name change to Robert Allen Johanneson. You see, I Was Young When I Left Home, and I thought I would be Forever Young. But now I Feel a Change Comin’ On. Who I’ve been up to now, well, It Ain’t Me Babe. Ever since the Nobel Prize, that Simple Twist of Fate, I’ve had the North Country Blues. Then, last week, I was feeling Like a Rolling Stone so I got in my car, man, and it was like Highway 61 Revisted. I drove most the night until I saw the thunderclouds and thought, “Whoa, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It was a sign, like I’m Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door. OK man. Thanks. I mean tak.  Bob

Turns out this is a thing with Dylan. I suggested the note was probably a kind of joke, since it was mostly composed of his song titles. I was assured it is common and he takes it pretty seriously.

They have been stalling him on the name change, but have not been able to dissuade him from insisting on singing in Swedish from now on. The students at Gustavus Adolphus have several dozen songs completed and Dylan has been using a phonetic version of the translations to rehearse for this weekend’s performance at the small Nobel ceremony.

I expressed doubt that this would go over very well, but my source just laughed. “I’ve heard several of the session recordings,” he said. “Mumbling in Swedish doesn’t really sound much different from mumbling in English!”

I need to post this before someone else gets wind of the story. But, I did do some additional research and found there are some “fake news” versions of Dylan’s foray into all things Swedish. I’ve confirmed, for example, that there is no truth to the rumor that he has had a giant dragon tattooed across his back.

On the other hand, watch for an announcement in the coming days about Bob Dylan’s upcoming tour. Starting sometime in June, he and his band will perform free outdoor concerts throughout 14 northern states in IKEA parking lots.