By Rod Van Mechelen
Feminists complain of a sexist double standard. But their complaints ring false when they ignore the sexist double standards that harm men.
A Tale of Two Rapists
1995 Bellevue, WA - Second chances. You make a mistake, and sometimes nothing becomes so important as a second chance.
I got to thinking about that one night while watching a program on a local channel about rage. They were interviewing a man who said he couldn't get a job to save his life. "I go for a job, I tell them about my (criminal) record, I got no job."
"The guy's a crook," we might think. "He doesn't deserve a second chance." Okay, what about that?
During the past two years, two similar cases made starkly different headlines. In 1993, Joseph Gallardo, who had been convicted of having sex with an underage girl (who later went on national TV with her parents to say he was welcome in their home), was released back into his neighborhood just north of Seattle. Mobs gathered, and one of the witch hunters torched his home. It made national headlines, and no matter where he went from there, mobs gathered. (All that was lacking were the pitchforks and torches.)
At about the same time, Laura Foster, a school teacher working in a community just south of Seattle, confessed to having sex with one of her underage students. The student reluctantly consented to the relationship, but when Foster went to trial, she was sentenced to one month of community service and counseling, and a suspended fourteen-month prison sentence. Foster also lost her teaching credentials. No howling mobs. No prison time.
These two cases underscore an important truth about our society -- many women get second, even many chances where men sometimes don't even get one, let alone a second chance.
A Manager Scorned
I know about this from personal experience. As I have mentioned in these pages before, I was charged with "behavior that would be construed as (hostile environment) sexual harassment" while working at Microsoft.
I told a female coworker she didn't need to wear a lot of makeup to be beautiful. Jealous, our powerful pop-feminist department head, Nell Miller, put me on permanent probation, and when I submitted a detailed appeal to the director of Human Resources, she fired me. Since then, second chances have been hard to come by.
After almost a year without a job, I signed on with a Temporary agency and eventually landed work that turned into regular employment. Then, when Corporate HQ laid off almost everybody and moved operations to another state, I hoped that with my recent work history finding a new job would be easier, but it wasn't. Increasing job responsibility and stability faded beneath the black mark of my termination from Microsoft.
Finally, one interviewer ended our meeting by suggesting that I find a way to tell the truth about what happened at Microsoft without going into details. I took her advice, and almost immediately landed a job with a company that is very high on my list of desirable places to work.
A (Temporary) Happy Ending
For me, the story ends well enough. I have a new job, I can eat on a regular basis again, and continuation of The Backlash! is assured for the time being. But the question remains -- why don't we give men second chances? Why are we so eager to condemn men as irredeemable?
Out of all the factors that contribute to male rage (what, ten years ago, we would have called, alienation), surely we cannot overlook the significance of not giving men a second chance.
A few months after I wrote the article above, on Valentine's Day, 1995, following a full page article about me and The Backlash! in The Seattle Times, the director of my department at Egghead Software called me into my manager's office and gleefully announced she had made a "business decision" to "eliminate" my job position. And men are the only ones who possess and abuse power? I don't think so.
Rod Van Mechelen
Rod Van Mechelen is the author of What Everyone Should Know about Feminist Issues: The Male-Positive Perspective (the page now includes several articles by other authors), and the publisher of The Backlash! @ Backlash.com and Cowlitz Country News. He is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and served for 9-1/2 years on the Cowlitz Indian Tribal Council.