In the past 24 hours, a viral phenomenon has swept across social media, dominating all of our Facebook and Twitter feeds. In response to the sexual assault and rape charges that are being leveled at Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, and at increasing numbers of other celebrity men, women in the millions are tweeting #MeToo, or posting it as their Facebook status. It seems that every single woman in our society, without exception, has had to deal with some level of sexual harassment, assault, or attention from men that has made them extremely uncomfortable or afraid. It is vitally important, at this pivotal crossroads in history, for men to understand what this movement means for us, the culture at large, and what it has to say about toxic masculinity.
In our effort to pat ourselves on the back for not being monsters like Harvey Weinstein, I think we men are mostly missing the point of the #MeToo wave that is sweeping the country. Women are telling us, very loudly and very clearly, that virtually every one of them have been sexually harassed and assaulted. By us men. By all of us.
How many of us men can say that we have never done anything in our entire lives that could be considered harassing or abusive to women, or to make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable? I certainly can’t. Have you never urged a woman to have a few extra drinks in the hope of sleeping with her? Have you never had sex with a woman you knew to be intoxicated and who you knew might very well regret it in the morning? Have you never continued to ask a woman out after she’s made it clear that she is not interested? I could list a hundred more examples that women are discussing in their #MeToo posts.
Even if you are one of the men (extremely rare, I imagine) who has been pristine and flawless in their respect for women, you’ve definitely known about other men who’ve used their positions of power to take advantage of women and done nothing to stop it from happening.
What is needed from us men, at this point, is far more than any tone deaf #NotAllMen excuses or blame shifting. We need to start an #ImPartOfTheProblem campaign. We need to say to the women in our lives that we listen and hear them, and that we will promise to closely examine our own behavior, to discover how we could have done better in the past and how we might do better for them in the future. Saying “I believe you” and “I support you” is wonderful but it is not enough.
If we don’t use this moment for self-examination as men, then this moment will pass and nothing will change.
[Featured Image by RTN McBride/Media Punch/IPX/AP Images]