#MeToo: Breaking It Down for Men
Lisa Hickey, the publisher and CEO of the Good Men Project has a simple point to make about #MeToo.
The #MeToo campaign was originally created in 2007 by activist Tarana Burke in response to stories of sexual assault she was hearing from girls and women. #MeToo had a huge upsurge in prominence on October 15, 2017, when the actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, “If you have been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ in response to this tweet.”
The resulting outpouring of #MeToo stories exploded across social media, eventually numbering in the millions. For Hickey, the singular intention of Milano’s tweet was fulfilled — demonstrating the scale of the problem.
#MeToo is about witnessing and solidarity among victims of sexual harassment, abuse, assault or rape. Any person who takes issue with #MeToo is taking issue, first and foremost, with people saying “Yes, this happened to me, too.”
In the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “Approximately 1 in 5 (21.3% or an estimated 25.5 million) women in the U.S. reported completed or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.” Globally, that number is much higher.
There are some men who will insist that rape statistics are inflated. Some among us wish to debate how many millions of rapes are actually taking place. Is it actually fifteen million? Ten million? What kind of culture of masculinity is capable of hosting a debate on rape framed in terms of how many millions are actually being raped, instead of how to stop it?
Imagine ten women you know personally. Statistically, two of them are likely to be rape survivors. Which two? We don’t know, do we? Now imagine your child’s or any child’s classroom. Picture any ten of those little girls. Which two of them will be rape survivors? Or perhaps already are? Are we there, yet? Are we feeling a little sick?
Because this is the place men need to get to on the question of #MeToo.
The challenge men need to address is how we collectively normalize lesser versions of sexual violence; so called cat calling and locker room talk. Accepting these “lesser” versions of abuse towards women as “no big deal” is what enforces a view of masculinity as being denigrating of women.
When a man at the office says to a group of men around him, “She has a real nice ass,” it’s important to understand this kind of public statement for what it is, for the function it serves in our culture. Of course, good guys like us are rolling our eyes or walking away thinking, “Some guys are jerks and will say stuff about women, but what the hell, I’m not going to get into it.” And in our silence, we allow to remain in place the ongoing assertion that the degradation of women is just part of manhood. “Some men are just that way.”
A while back, a guy posted this on my Facebook feed: “Locker-room talk is just that. It is all talk and does not make you a predator.” The idea being, that locker-room talk is harmless. It’s just what men do.
Engaging in locker-room talk doesn’t make us predators, but it most certainly perpetuates a culture in which predators can hide. The term “locker-room talk” is literally designed to grant permission, even encourage men to denigrate women, as if locker rooms are somehow magical man-only spaces. Every male social space that exists has an impact on women’s lives because our words as men go with us, change us, inform what we do next. Our denigration of women, or our choice to remain silent when others do so, takes place in a world populated by the women and girls who must coexist with us, along with the words, ideas, and predators we grant refuge to.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual man to decide when he is ready to stand up and put an end to the idea that denigrating, abusing and attacking women is just part of how we collectively define manhood. We can demand a new culture of masculinity based on the simple moral imperative that all of us are equal, deserving of equal rights, protection and dignity.
If you are a man who has not yet taken a clear and public stand against the abuse and denigration of women, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s your reason for staying silent?
- If you remain silent who else will be harmed?
- When you remain silent, how do you feel about yourself?
This article is an excerpt from Mark Greene’s The Little #MeToo Book for Men, available at Amazon.