#MeToo (prologue)

Today I will be discussing the #MeToo movement, based on my own perspective, experiences, and opinions. My initial write-up was about six pages long, so I have decided to split it into two posts with different (but related) content. The first post will mostly focus on:

  • Men perspective on #MeToo movement
  • What they can do

The second part of the conversation will focus more around:

  • How we got to where we are today
  • The importance of speaking up
  • The consequences for speaking up

I want to begin this entry with a extract from my next entry (strange, I know, but bear with me):

Being a “feminist” does not mean you are against men. It simply means you want equal rights and opportunities as men, not that you are trying to take away rights or opportunities for men. However, I do believe that some men think that objectifying women, degrading them, threatening them, and even demanding sexual behaviours from them because of their position of power, IS somehow a right they have and that they should be allowed to continue to behave like this simply because they are men. It is not their right, and they shall not continue this behavior.

Many men have expressed their concern about the #MeToo movement, saying things such as “does that mean I can’t approach a woman at all?” “are they going to accuse me of sexual harassment just for buying her a drink?” “how will I know if I am crossing the line?”. These are valid concerns, but I hope they are short lived ones. I recently watched a very interesting round-table discussion, involving all men, about the #MeToo movement and what their take was on it. I strongly suggest you, too, invest the time to watch and listen to it, especially if you are a man. The discussion’s participants included Matt McGorry (actor), Tony Porter (activist), Lewis Howes (author), Scooter Braun (entertainment exec), Jamey Heath (activist), Susan Brison (professor), Alma Gonzalez (social worker), Karen Alston (entrepreneur) and Yazmin Monet Watkins (spoken word poet): Men’s discussion on #MeToo movement. 

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Screen grab from Wayfarer Entertainment #MeToo discussion uploaded on July 16 2018. All content is property of the uploader. 

The men I watched in this discussion were incredibly open, honest, and willing to do their part. They are men who would be labeled as “good men”, you know? Men that do not or have not assaulted, raped, or inappropriately touched a woman (as I imagine is the case for most of the men reading this right now). They also currently hold privileged positions in their work environments, and as such, they have the ability to influence many other men who listen to their conversation. They themselves are aware of their ‘good standing’, and as one of them put it:

“As long as we, individually, are not doing any of those things we keep that label of ‘Good Men’.”

And this is a good thing, of course, we do value and appreciate those men who can respect women! However, the importance of the discussion they had and the words I am writing today is to inform the world that it is no longer enough to just “not do anything to a woman”. The problem we have right now is that we live in a society, a culture, and environment, where attacks on women are not only possible but allowed to happen. Sure, maybe the ‘Good Men’ are not standing around and encouraging a man groping a woman on the subway, but are they intervening when they get an opportunity to? If not, why? Let’s raise the stakes even more. What happens when men witness this kind of behaviour from their own social groups, their own friends, their own relatives even? It becomes even harder to intervene, to step in, isn’t it? Many men struggle with this decision, whether to intervene or not, no matter if they witness a stranger or a colleague partake in abusive or disrespectful behaviour, but we need them to intervene, we absolutely need their help.  All of the men in the round-table discussion agreed that, as bystanders, they have the biggest role to play in this movement. As a man, you don’t have to necessarily organize a rally, a fundraiser, or even wear a shirt that reads “Feminist” to feel like you are helping or doing your share, and as the men themselves put it:

“From the boardroom to the locker room, you have a chance to interject. To say what needs to be said when it’s uncomfortable. Be OK with being uncomfortable, I think that’s where real change can really start”

“We can love each other, and hold each other accountable at the same time”

These are such a powerful statements. Men do have an opportunity to help us change the environment we live in, and we need them to be more proactive than some of them may feel comfortable with. You see, men are also victims of the hyper violent culture that surrounds women. In the discussion, men allowed themselves to be vulnerable and shared some of their own experiences as children and young adults that heavily influenced their actions (or inactions) towards mistreatment of women. When speaking about their childhood, some of them remember how as little boys they were “being taught that women are of less value”, that their peers “glorify the idea of crossing the line”, that kids and teens are “being taught to be misogynistic and they don’t even know it”. Seemingly harmless phrases like “get the girl” teach young boys and young men that women are a prize, an object to be taken, and that women have no say in this matter, they are simply there to be taken. As one of this gentlemen put it: “we all play a role in disregarding women, in mistreating them”. The majority of men who are now adults were raised with misogynistic tendencies, either as undertones or explicitly, so it is no wonder that we are living completely submerged in examples of mistreatment, but that does not mean they are doomed to be sexist or abusive or that they cannot be part of change. More and more public figures and celebrities are speaking up about the movement and some identify openly as feminist supporters. A group of celebrities and activists even started the hashtag #AskMoreOfHim as a way to engage with more men to get involved with this topic. You can check out their website and resources on their website.  

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Screen grab from the website for #AskMoreOfHim, all content property of The Representation Project.

But regardless of how you wish to express your views, it is in the interest of both men and women to work on this massive imbalance of respect in order for both genders to have a healthy relationship with each other, and with themselves. In the discussion another thing that was discussed in depth was how men felt like they had to constantly prove their masculinity, to fit in. As one of them put it, “many of us are being held hostage inside “The Box””, the box being the strict definition of masculinity, which includes but is not limited to showing no emotions, not asking for help, not crying, not being sensitive, etc. These men share how they were “conditioned my entire life to have an allegiance to men” and how they “just wanted to fit in”. This toxic view of “masculinity” is doing nothing but harming men and, sooner or later, women.

Alright so then what? All men are raised to be sexist assholes so we must hate them all? NO! That is not at all my message, I am just trying to start unwrapping the issue and identify the other underlying issues that have created the dangerous environment of our ‘modern world’. Men mistreating women is a pervasive behavior, worldwide, and it definitely did not start just this decade. In an interview with Emma Watson, Gloria Steinem touched on the role that gender inequality has on other “bigger” issues:

Emma: I often get asked, “in the face of terrorism, and war, and poverty, and climate change, is gender equality really what we should be talking about?”

Gloria: Because it’s the basis of all those other things. It’s what normalizes domination earliest in life, it’s what has created the bullshit idea that there is feminine and masculine, hello? There’s “human”, and, you know, men who have through no fault of theirs been born into this come to feel that they have to prove their masculinity, especially by superiority to women but also by superiority to other men.

Her statement had a huge impact on me, allowing me to take another step back and see the most devastating consequences of the patterns of dominant behaviour. Her passing comment  about “feminine vs masculine” also resonates well with the men from the round-table discussion. Such constructs and stereotypes, masculinity, ideal body types, ideal housewife, real men don’t cry, these are all extremely toxic and I sure hope we have reached the moment in time where enough men and women can take a step to the side and say, “Enough. This is BS”. The mistreatment of women is, unfortunately, not confined to being cat called outside a construction zone. At the extreme end of the spectrum lies the act of femicide, which is simply the murdering of a woman (see pamphlet by WHO here). According to the web, “66,000 women are violently killed globally” every year (source), and that number was from 2012.  This is why this conversation matters, because the normalized abuse and mistreatment of women is not only wrong in and on itself, but can also lead to murder in some circumstances. 

I want to wrap this first part of the topic with the following quote, which comes from one of the men that sat in the round-table discussion I have been referring to from the start:

“Our responsibility is to, number one is listen to them first, but I think it goes way back to when we were kids. You know that saying that goes ‘women and men they cant be friends’? Why is that? How sad is that? The idea that my son couldn’t have friends as women–how deprived would his life be? To make choices, to see the world, to know God, to know his own self , to just experience life, to have peace and unity and not get those perspectives from women? That’s, that’s some bullshit. I mean, I get it, cus that’s how we’re trained, but we gotta change that”

As always, thank you for reading, and I will see you for Part 2 🙂

Karen ❤

 

P.S. I am fully aware that referring to men and women may be perceived as not being inclusive, and I apologize if anyone is offended or feels left out by it. I am referring to men and women based on the traditional, cisgender point of view that a large part of society still uses (based on the anatomy at birth). Attacks on the LGBT+ community and transgender individuals is also important, but for the current posts I have chosen not to cover those (but I do in other posts). Please don’t hate!

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