Overwhelmed. If, as a man, that's not what you are feeling after seeing the #MeToo posts flood your timelines, then there's a problem. If, as a man, you thought "won't these women stop it already", then there's a problem. If, as a man, you thought you could make a joke or a passive-aggressive witty remark in that "bro session" of yours, then there's a problem.
Now, as a man, I am not just overwhelmed. I am scared, angry, confused, all at the same time.
I am scared, as a brother, son and friend to women who have gone through this.
I am angry because I am not sure if I have done enough about this issue to say - 'hey, at least I am a good guy’. I have been a part of way too many "guys only" conversations where lewd remarks are very frequent. While I try to avoid joining in on such an occasion, I have never told a friend it’s not cool to talk about a woman’s body like it belonged to him. I know way too many guys - decent, well-educated men - who say the creepiest things among guy friends, because they can "never say that to a girl." I am angry that I have been part of such conversations for far too long, listening and not saying anything against it. And if you are thinking "that’s just harmless guy talk, sensible & educated men would never *actually* do the things they say in front of guys" -- you’re probably right. But if us educated folks are capable of thinking about it, what about the not-so-educated ones who can’t stop themselves from acting on it? Just look to the sheer volume of the #MeToo posts that talk about things that happen in buses and trains. Those are the guys who went from just "talking about it with bros" to actually doing it. I’m angered that I am a part of that system.
But mostly, I'm just confused. If these many women have, in some way or another, felt harrassed at some point in life, doesn't it mean, by natural mathematical extension, a majority of men are guilty of causing it some way or another? I think, logically, it does. It makes me wonder if, even without my knowledge, I ever made someone feel that way? That thought sends a chill down my spine. It makes me want to revisit pretty much everything I do in my daily life when it comes to interacting with a woman. It makes me question everything I have said and done that could have made a woman uncomfortable, in any which way. It makes me question how little my understanding of things are.
I know very little about feminism. I know very little about male privilege. I’m not a well-read person in these issues. But someone explained to me once that if my first reaction to a woman’s issue is "I’m not like that, not all men are not like that" then you’re part of the problem. I am fairly certain that this note will have numerous instances of hidden male privilege too. That’s just the reality.
Now, I have also seen a few men join in on the conversation about this in the past few days - mostly well meaning. But one guy who posted a lengthy message on how he was also a part of the #MeToo campaign because it affects everyone, often hangs around with girls at parties where he won’t drink and then at a later time, pulls their cheeks, among other "friendly" gestures. It made me question the motive of such a man joining in on this conversation -- is this about earning brownie points for being a "good" guy, for being understanding of the issue, for being sensitive? Are we that cheap?
If at any point while reading this, you, as a man, thought 's**t, that happens all the time’, then you should relate to it. The crux of it is this -- that even though 'not all men' are pigs, all men should be scared, angry and confused by this. And introspect, instead of just jumping on the bandwagon.
Maybe that next "bro session" would be a good place to start doing something about it.