Okay I got hooked on The Bachelorette this season. Reality shows are sort of like Lays potato chips with me. You can’t just watch one and be done with it. Without contaminating you too much into the universe of this show let’s just say they had a ‘reunion show’ last night. The Bachelorette, Jillian, and most of her male suitors were who had been previously eliminated in the show, were there.
As bad and scripted as they sometimes are, reality shows often reveal surprising realities of how badly men and women can behave and treat each other.
This year in The Bachelorette, more than any other, there was a bit of a controversy. You see one of the male suitors, Wes, had an agenda. He was a country singer who already had a girlfriend. He got on the show under false pretenses in order to further his career. Not something exactly new in the land of the reality show, but it wasn’t exactly what he did that struck me as curious. Apparently throughout the show he would brag to the other men that he already had a girlfriend and how he was going to hit it big with all the TV exposure.
All these guys knew, and kept quiet about it. They all were vying for Jillian’s love and affection, yet never said a word about Wes. Even as Wes made it through each ensuing round nearly to the end of the show. Until finally one guy spoke, only after being eliminated by Jillian.
During the reunion show there was this weird energy among all the men about this one whistleblower, Jake. They all spoke in a roundabout manner, but I got the impression that Jake had broken some sort of code among men by telling Jillian she was being played by another man. I call him a whistleblower sadly because in the culture of men, that’s what he did. He went against the convention.
Then the other guys began speaking up, but not condemning Wes’s actions on the show. They began making excuses for his behavior. One man even professed doubt that Wes was playing Jillian at all. Mind you, this is after we all watched video clip after video clip of Wes saying he was there to promote his music and how much sex he was going to have with his girlfriend after the show.
Wes, of course, didn’t attend the reunion show to answer for his actions. But he almost didn’t have to. Other men were piling on the defense for him.
So why is this important to us in the abuse community?
Well, it brings to light something that has been going on for quite some time among men. Men don’t hold other men responsible for alot of bad behavior. Most often this is out of fear of losing our own social standing in the process. There is this consistent scrutiny among men regarding how manly our behavior is in the eyes of others. We hold each other to this standard. We even have our own internal censor which comes as a result of all our younger years trying to live up to the male ideal that all of our early male role models instilled in us.
So we’ll see a male friend trick, manipulate, harass, and maybe even hit a woman and let it pass. We hold our identity so closely to that of our manhood that we will watch others do atrocious things rather than risk stepping in and being considered less of a man.
One male suitor actually spelled it out for us on the show. He called it the man code, that most bogus construct we wield to keep each other from speaking out and being our genuine selves.
You really want to know why there aren’t alot of men speaking out about abuse? Or even the millions of male survivors who won’t speak out about their own trauma? It’s the man code.
We would rather die broken and wounded than violate the unlivable set of rules which have been passed down from father (and mother) to son for generations. It’s the reason why men are often reluctant to seek medical attention, much less a therapist. I always think of the bullrider mystique, when a rider gets bucked off of a bull and, despite broken ribs, fends off medical attention and walks out of the ring of his own accord. We all clap for that don’t we? It’s harkens to the code. When I read of the genocide in WW2 Germany and Rwanda I see the man code all over it. Some say the man code helps keeps society running smoothly even as we destroy ourselves from within because of it.
I have my own man code. It’s rooted in men like Ghandi and in the marches of Martin Luther King Jr. In between all the status quo you can see it sometimes, if just for a second, in the Jakes of the world. Don’t blink because you may miss it. My man code is sometimes difficult to execute, as a man, so I try to execute it instead as a human being.
I have learned that physical courage is the easiest kind of courage to embrace. Moral courage? That is the most difficult. It requires true sacrifice. It requires us men to act, despite society, in order to save society from itself. From letting boys be boys as they hit, abuse, and harrass others, each other, and themselves.
Moral courage is the man code.
To my brothers out there, if you see it on display, don’t destroy it. Don’t try to judge it or censor it into submission. Get behind it. Remember there are alot of young boys and men who are watching us and learning how to behave like men should. Feed them the kind of courage that changes minds, rather than the one that reinforces old destructive habits.