20 Things Men Can Do RTFN to Support Women, Beyond Just Literally Ceasing to Sexually Harass Us

A boat on a lake, honestly how do you choose art for something like this? // Viswanath Duvvuri/Flickr

A friend of mine, who is a man, reached out to me privately earlier today to say how paralyzed he felt seeing the flood of “Me too” posts on his Facebook wall, a phrase women are posting to indicate that they have been the victims of sexual harassment and assault. This is a good dude, as far as I know. (Here we are, now, having to say “as far as I know” about our good dude friends, because the truth is that probably plenty of guys are good dude friends unless you’re the one or two or fifteen women they crossed a line with, whether or not they realize they crossed a line. I haven’t been personally assaulted by this guy, I guess is the only thing I can really say. This is terrible for him and it’s also terrible for me. Everything is terrible.)

Anyway. I replied to him that I’m glad he’s having these realizations, but that he should be talking about these feelings to other men, not looking for affirmation or absolution or support from women, who are dealing with their own shit when it comes to men and their feelings about sexual harassment and assault. He’s a good dude, so he didn’t respond by telling me that if I was gonna be that way I’d just lost an ally, or whatever; he actually heard what I was saying and (I think) internalized it and realized the irony of asking a woman to emotionally support him as he processed all the burdens he and his cohort have asked women to bear.

Then I felt kind of bad. He was looking for things to do. Most of them are pretty obvious but maybe he needed the weight of a woman pointing those things out to him — maybe you do, too. So I shared a version of this list on Twitter. It is neither comprehensive nor without flaws. But if you’re a man unsure of what you can do right now to support women, instant changes you can make this very second in your daily life that will make life better for women (and, bonus, for men too!), here you go:

  1. Overcome your own transphobia. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Accept the lived truth of NB and GNC people, whether or not they are women.
  2. Be pro-choice and be vocal in support of reproductive rights. (And generous! Give to the National Network of Abortion Funds!) Understand that the opposite of reproductive choice is forced childbearing.
  3. Support subsidized birth control. Support women’s healthcare. Support women’s preventative healthcare. Support medical trials that include (or even prioritize) women.
  4. Support nontaxed menstrual products. Ask your workplace if tampons and pads are free. If they’re not, advocate for them to be free. Get over any embarrassment you may have about menstruation.
  5. Vocally advocate at your workplace for longer and more egalitarian paid parental leave, whether or not parenthood is part of your life. Advocate for lactation spaces. Advocate for on-site or subsidized childcare.
  6. Tell your elected officials that you are a man who votes and you prioritize women’s issues when you decide who to vote for. Then actually prioritize women’s issues when you decide who to vote for. Understand that women’s issues are your issues.
  7. Whenever you are in a group composed of only men (whether it’s social, work, church, or whatever) ask yourself why there are no women present. Then ask out loud why. Force an honest answer.
  8. Cultivate genuine, intimate, nonsexual friendships with women.
  9. Seek out women to be your heroes and mentors.
  10. Any time you see a building, street, institution, etc. named for a man, see how long it takes you to spot another one named for a woman. (Any time you see one named for a woman, check to see if it’s on something oriented specifically toward women, children, or families. Odds are good it will be!)
  11. Ask yourself what things you don’t do, for whatever reason, that you also think of as something women tend to do. (Sew? Send birthday cards? Care about skincare?) Try doing it for a while, just to see what it’s like to be a person who does the thing.
  12. Talk less. In all spaces. At all times. At a lower volume.
  13. When you need support, reach out to men as well as women. Work to be a person your friends of all genders can reach out to when they need support. Create a culture of openness around yourself.
  14. Consume media marketed to women. Don’t perform your consumption.
  15. Deprogram your beliefs about thinness being an optimal state of feminine beauty. Deprogram your beliefs that your desire matters in determining a woman’s worth.
  16. Jerk off without porn for a while. EDIT: This really should be “Pay for your porn.” In particular, seek out (and pay for) porn that’s made by women, queer people, and people of color, and that’s produced ethically. Consume sexual culture as thoughtfully as you would consume any culture. (Thanks to Jillian and others for helping me reframe this.)
  17. Learn about racism and intersectionality, and do everything you can to empower and amplify black women and NBWOC.
  18. Detach yourself from straw-man definitions for hot-button issues (intersectionality, cultural appropriation, political correctness, preferred pronouns, etc.) and learn what they’re really about. Unpack the real meanings behind phrases like “SJW” and “feminazi.” Believe people when they say they’re in pain.
  19. Prioritize kindness.
  20. Befriend children.

There are infinitely more things you can do. This is just a start. Pick a few that seem easy — and at least one that seems hard — and start doing them today. You can start the rest tomorrow.