How Men Can Change #MeToo

Ajax and Cassandra by artist Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

Huge thank you to all the women sharing their #MeToo stories. I believe you.

To my fellow men, it’s time we own up to our end and make a change. These stories should not be surprising. This is constantly happening around us. It is perpetuated by actions and speech that we do not notice because they are sadly second nature in a world built within the confines of a toxic definition of masculinity.

I’m not an expert on any of this, but I have read some feminist literature this year. I was inspired by one woman in particular to do so. For me, an interesting aspect while learning about feminism has been the many men who consider themselves feminists, but are unwilling to pick up a book about feminism and learn more. It’s as if something in feminist literature will make them feel stupid, weak, or embarrassed. As if something in a book may challenge their core. And the thing is, these men are not wrong. Reading feminist literature very well could make a man feel these things. Yet, what they are wrong about is that feeling these things is bad.

It is not bad. It took me 26 years and a period of deep reflection (prompted by a huge change), to realize certain toxic behaviors had been ingrained into my personality. I get it. I understand where many men are coming from. I understand being unwilling to put in the effort to see how one’s behaviors might be harmful. It doesn’t feel good to critique yourself. It doesn’t feel good to be wrong. It will hurt. It will be embarrassing, but doing it is not bad. It is good.

I can never understand what it means to grow up as a woman, but the first step in my journey to understanding the female plight was acknowledging that the way society raised me as a man could be wrong. For many men, this is a frightening idea. It’s an idea that can flip the world as we know it inside out. But I also believe it is only frightening because as men we’ve been raised to believe being wrong means being weak, and being weak is bad. This is not true. It’s a toxic way of thinking. In fact, it is okay to be wrong. Being wrong and being open to changing your thought process is one of the strongest things a person can do — no matter what gender.

Society’s definition of “masculinity” is toxic. Hands down. Fortunately, it’s something we created, which means it’s also something we can change. Instead of a definition that creates fragile glass-men that can crack at any moment, we can redefine “masculinity” into something that builds everyone up. A definition that as a society makes us stronger and less afraid. Wouldn’t that be nice?

For men, I think the first step is knowing it’s okay to be wrong. That yes, we have been taught otherwise, which is not our faults, but it has caused much pain in the world. That we were carved from a society thousands of years in the making, that we do have the option to change this, and if we don’t, that is our fault. After that, maybe the next step is being willing to listen and learn. Being willing to open oneself up to the possibility that there is another way to experience the world. That 52% of the population doesn’t see things through our male-colored glasses. And to do this we must listen to women, read, and learn about their experiences because they are very real. And once we start to hear them, maybe we can peel off our glasses and actually see the injustice we’ve unknowingly accepted as second nature for far too long. From there, we can become allies in this current and necessary tidal wave of change.

There’s no denying that the majority of the #MeToo abuse stems from men. This needs to stop. And while much is being done to bring certain matters to light, I believe the world cannot be free until men are free from themselves. To quote James Baldwin (who was talking about white people, though it could be applied to men in general) men are “trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” Only when men accept what they are, will they be able to accept that their truth in this world is wrong. Then we can work together for change.

If you’re interested, here are some books that hooked me into this never-ending journey of understanding the female plight. I’d love some more recommendations or if anyone wants to have a discussion let me know:

“We Should All Be Feminists,” 
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Men Explain Things To Me,” 
by Rebecca Solnit

“Bad Feminist,” 
by Roxane Gay