As you know, countless women are coming out and talking openly about their experiences with sexual harassment, assault and rape (#MeToo). They’re speaking out in growing numbers against men who mis-use power—and for the first time in history, our world is hearing the women. For the first time in history, powerful men are being fired for behaviors that have been going on for a millennium.
I can only imagine this shift in tides might be disturbing to you on many levels. If you have been of the mindset that groping women was just what guys did, then you might be annoyed, dismissive or even enraged. If you’re one of the ones who didn’t believe it was all that common or that females didn’t really mind it, then you might be surprised and a bit taken aback. Perhaps you’re one of the ones who has known about this and watched it go on for years. If this is the case, you might be thinking, it’s no surprise or it’s about time or you may be thinking, “Damn, why didn’t I say anything all those times I saw it?” All men might be wondering, “What now? How the hell do we move forward?
Here’s the thing about all these thoughts, reactions and wonderings—the tide is turning—and you and women, alike, will need to step in differently. Sexual harassment/assault/rape and misogyny is a systemic issue. All of us will need to step in differently for any of it to change. Females will need to stop brushing these actions under the table, laughing at sexist comments and keeping silent about assaults. We will need to report these affronts, regardless of whether they are committed by our boyfriend, husband, father, brother, boss, athlete, famous actor, producer, news correspondent, president or [fill in the blank]. We will need to stop judging ourselves and other women. But, men, none of that work is your work—this is our work. You’re off the hook for the women’s part of the equation.
You’re not, however, off the hook for your part. Many of you have made life incredibly difficult for countless women—at home, at work and out in the world. You have whistled at us, told us what you want to do with our bodies in explicit detail, flashed us, groped us, commented on our body parts ad-nauseum and treated us as though we were objects rather than human beings. Many of you have called us bitches—or worse—when we’ve turned down your advances, failed to laugh at your dirty jokes or were offended by your actions. When females have been brave enough to report you, many of you have attacked them, blamed them and intimidated them. When frat boys, athletes or “popular” guys—many of your friends—have been accused of rape, you didn’t even bat an eye before you jumped to their defense and condemned the females. Male judges have let rapists go with a slap on the wrist time and time again. Men have been complicit in making the environment for women who dare to report so bad that only the strongest females dare to do so. Males at all levels have let men off the hook and held women hostage to their advances, comments and assaults. You have colluded with and created a rape culture that has made our world unsafe for your mothers, sisters, daughters and friends. And this men, is where your work is.
For those of you who are appalled—speak out. For those of you who are enlightened—speak out. For those of you who have colluded—stop colluding and speak out. Stop brushing off, laughing at or encouraging sexist comments, harassment and assault by your friends. Stop blaming the victim or staying silent when you hear other males blaming them. Stop staring at females up and down and making lewd comments. Don’t whistle at women who walk by you and think they should be thrilled with your attention—we’re not. Don’t comment about our body parts or sit back and laugh when your friends do. Become the kind of man females can, not only report assaults to, but the kind of man females can count on to step in when they’re occurring.
The tide is changing, and all the women of the world invite you to join us in the fight to keep them changing.