Ideas on How Men, Even “Good Men,” Can Respond to #MeToo

About one year ago, actress Alyssa Milano helped put a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault when she said #MeToo.

While a victim of sexual harassment or assault could be someone of any sexual orientation or gender identity, and while a perpetrator could be a person or any sexual orientation or gender identity, the fact is that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the victim is a woman and the perpetrator is a man.

Ever since that fact has become a central topic in American discourse, men have reacted in a variety of different ways. These reactions have ranged from vocal support of those who say #MeToo (and even a few male friends who’ve said #MeToo) to vocal opposition and even mocking of the movement (for reference, see: Trump, Donald and others).

But how should men respond, one year after the #MeToo movement went viral? Especially if any of us don’t necessarily view ourselves as “bad guys” who committed any form of sexual misconduct?

Here are a few tips I offer, as a fellow man, after much thinking and reflection about my own past actions (good and bad) as well as the actions of men around me:

  1. Listen to the experiences of the women in your life, even if it is painful to listen. Without listening to the women in your life, you might remain oblivious to how big the problem of sexual misconduct and assault is, let alone figure out what some of the solutions are. On the other hand, I can definitely say that I have been blessed to listen to the experiences of the women in my life (including painful experiences), and I am better for it. Others would be better for it by doing the same.
  2. Deeply examine your own actions. And when I ask men to “deeply examine actions,” it’s not enough to have not committed sexual harassment or assault. We men need to seriously examine whether we have, as individuals, treated the women in our lives with the respect that everyone deserves. Because if we don’t—if we make rape jokes, brag about sexual conquests, cross emotional boundaries, cross other physical boundaries (even if it’s an unwanted hug), defend the actions of known predators, consistently shut down and interrupt women, and/or do nothing when we see other men committing the aforementioned actions—then we are showing the same lack of respect for women that leads to sexual harassment and assault. Deeply examining your own actions toward the women in your life may be difficult—even painful—because you realize that some of your actions are not as good as you want them to be. (I can say that for myself, too.) But I also know that this is an important first step in changing your own actions for the better.
  3. Hold the men in your life accountable for their actions, too. I know from experience that this is oh so difficult when you feel the need to confront a friend you care about deeply. Maybe that’s why I’m often not good at it, even when it really is But it is also extremely important to show that tough love every so often if, say, you notice another male friend constantly interrupting women. And, if your male friend is willing to listen, it will make him a better person for your tough love.

These are just a few ways that men, even “good men,” can respond to #MeToo. I’m sure there are other ways men can respond to #MeToo in a productive and positive way. If you think of any of those ways, please reply in the comments section below!

The #MeToo Campaign

As readers of mine probably know by now, there has been a #MeToo campaign which has put a spotlight on how big of a problem sexual violence, particularly sexual violence against women, really is.

As such, there are a few things that I feel led to say about the organizers, participants, survivors who decided to not participate, male and nonbinary survivors of sexual violence, and men.

To the organizers of this #MeToo campaign, most especially activist Tarana Burke (who created the original movement) and actor Alyssa Milano (who helped make the hashtag viral)—thank you. Your goal was to make others aware of how much this nation and world has a serious problem with sexual aggression and violence. I think you all succeeded. Hopefully this awareness can turn into ending rape culture. But all of you, as the organizers, took a big step in this much-needed journey. As a result, “thank you” frankly feels like an inadequate thing to say.

To participants in the #MeToo campaign—thank you. Everybody involved in this of was extremely brave and vulnerable. Every one of you made others more aware of how enormous this problem is and all of you did that at the risk of everything from potential backlash to potential flashbacks. Once again, thank you.

To survivors who didn’t participate—your story is no less valid because you didn’t participate. To the contrary, maybe some of you didn’t participate at least in part because your story/stories is/are so fresh and raw. I hope that others who hear your story in the future (if you do ever decide to share your story) will not make your stories any less valid because you emotionally were not able to participate in the “me too” campaign.

To male and nonbinary survivors—your story is no less valid, either. Just because you don’t fit into the most common story of sexual violence (a man committing violence against a woman) doesn’t mean that your story is somehow less true, or that you are any less of a survivor than anyone else.

To fellow men—we need to hold ourselves and each other accountable. We need to realize how our own actions and the actions of those around us contribute to rape culture. Whether it be not always listening to others (an area I realized I was weak at) or making so-called “rape jokes” (not funny, by the way), whether it be the way many of us have been conditioned to be controlling or the way some of us may turn a blind eye to the aforementioned “rape jokes,” we need to improve. So let’s start thinking about how we can get ourselves and others completely away from rape culture and the toxic masculinity which contributes to rape culture.

Finally, to people who got to this point in my post—thank you for at least taking this issue seriously enough to get to this point. I just hope that we can also take this issue seriously enough to start actually addressing it.