What About Me(n): Men's Role in the #MeToo movement
The #MeToo movement has gained a lot of attention over the past couple of months and for good reason. The hashtag has not only created an online community where women feel they can open up about their experiences with sexual assault and harassment but it has also lead to many women coming forward with accusations IRL.
Like many other digital activism efforts and online movements there has been a backlash. Similar to the #AllLivesMatter response to #BlackLivesMatter, male identifying individuals are feeling a pressure to tweet and respond with hashtags like #NotAllMen and #NotMeToo. There have been responses about not being able to make well-meaning jokes anymore and how men should just stay home from work all together to avoid being accused of sexual harassment.
Like the #AllLivesMatter hashtag, these responses to the #MeToo on the outside are well meaning and without proper context and understanding can seem to make sense. It's true: not all men sexually harass and assault women. There are good guys in the world and many of the men using the hashtag are among those good guys. But what these men are doing is making a movement meant to raise the voices of a consistently, systematically silenced group about them.
So what can men do to be a productive part of the #MeToo movement? Here are some ideas:
If a woman discloses to you their experience or shares something online, believe and validate them. Comment and say "Thank you for sharing. I believe you and stand with you." If someone tells you something in person, say the same thing. If you see a celebrity come forward, even years and years after the fact, believe them.
Reflect on your own treatment of women
This can be incredibly difficult and is something I have found myself struggling with when reflecting on my privilege. As a white person I have had to reflect on the comments I have made, the moments I did not say anything because I did not feel like it and the times I have denied or deflected my privilege. You may be thinking "I have never assaulted or harassed a woman and I never would!". But try to get past the reflex to be defensive and think if you've ever been coercive, had sexist thoughts, and think about how you may have participated in rape culture even without meaning to. Things like supporting athletes and actors who are abusive, citing false accusations when a victim comes forward, or saying that only some rapes are “legitimate”.
Call out the other men around you
Has your friend talked about having sex with a girl while she was "so drunk"? Has your brother cat-called a woman walking alone down the street? Has your uncle ever talked about women in a degrading or stereotypical way? Did your classmate say that the final exam "raped" him because it was so hard? All of these small things that men let go of day to day all up to the continued perpetuation of rape culture. Call your friends and family out. Do not allow your friends to be predatory or misogynistic. Do not let things go because it would be awkward to say something.
What are some other ways for men to be a productive part of the #MeToo movement? Comment below or share!