The #MeToo movement started as a hashtag campaign on social media, resulting in the increased awareness of sexual harassment and abuse that takes place in institutions, workplaces, and in society, in general. Alongside women, this movement against discrimination, abuse, sexual harassment, and all forms of violence against women and girls cannot succeed without men playing an important role in the solution.
As a man, it may seem like there isn’t much you can do to facilitate change.
However, to put an end to this prevalent evil, we men should also stand up for the cause and play an active role. For all the men out there, here is some guidance on how you can help the #MeToo movement:
Listen to the women around you
One of the first steps to help the #MeToo movement is to really listen to women around you. Whenever you come across a person sharing their story of abuse or sexual harassment, listen to their account with compassion. Hear them talk about how sexual harassment and abuse impact their emotional, mental, and psychological faculties. This means that you need to be empathetic and understand the different kind of experiences women go through. Only when you are willing to hear out and believe these stories, will you be able to align with what the movement is trying to achieve.
Find out what makes women feel unsafe, fearful, and uncomfortable
Another important thing is to stop distancing yourself from the experience of women and girls. This means you need to to see and understand how worried, careful, and watchful women have to be every day. Whether it is walking down the street alone or standing at the bus stop, there are times when women can easily feel unsafe.
Since you have probably never been in their place, it may be likely that you do not know (and may not be able to fully relate to) what women fear and experience every day. However, by going through the #MeToo stories that women share, you can try to understand those aspects. This way you are able to bring a change to your behavior and play your part in making this society and environment better and safer for women and girls.
Avoid being judgmental or defensive
If a man gets run over by a car and yells at the driver in pain, do you go up to him and say, “NOT ALL DRIVERS” instead of helping him?
If you as a man will just roll your eyes when you hear an account of sexual harassment, you are actually part of the problem too. Don’t say things like, “Are you sure it was harassment?” or “Not all men are like that” when they come to share their experiences and fears. Someone who has been harassed definitely knows the difference.
And even though not all men are like that, you cannot deny the fact that abuse and sexual harassment do exist at a large scale, and many women and girls become victims of it every day. Only when you will not be judgmental, will you be able to understand and address the issue.
Avoid laughing off sexist jokes or comments
A friend sharing a sexist joke on social media or a colleague making a perverse comment about the sexual attractiveness of one of your female colleagues are also very concerning problems. When you laugh off such comments and jokes, thinking ‘it’s only a joke’, the predators in the group see it as permission, which ultimately plays a role in normalizing offensive talk and abuse.
Speak up when you hear offensive comments about women
Whenever you hear any of your male friends or colleagues making disrespectful or offensive comments about women, you need to speak up. Even when women are not around, your friends or colleagues need to hear from you that such behavior is intolerable. It is high time men hold other men accountable for whatever wrong they say and do.
It can only be as simple as saying ‘that’s not cool’, but you have to send them the message that their comments were inappropriate. You do not necessarily have to be in attack-mode. Simply telling them how their behavior harms women or why you do not find their comments funny will do the job.
Speak up when you witness harassment
If we really intend to create a lasting change, then it is significant that we begin challenging the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that disrespect and demean women and girls. Whether it is in public places, workplaces, streets, or social media, wherever you witness everyday sexism, gender discrimination, and disrespect towards women and girls, you need to raise your voice against that. If you choose to stay silent now, it is highly unlikely that things will change any time soon.
Voice your support on every platform.
Though it is a hard topic to discuss and talk about, it is high time we take every opportunity to do so. It will not get any easier if we continue to avoid it. Engage in the conversation with some solid points and talk about it in an authentic manner.
You can play an important role in educating your social circle about how we can stop devaluing women and, ultimately, prevent various forms of violence and discrimination to persist and harm all of us.
Share content that can help in increasing awareness of this problem
Boost and share positive and constructive articles, books, speeches, and posts around this topic so that more and more people are educated regarding this issue.
Every educated man needs to use the #MeToo movement to learn. Above all, To spread knowledge. To be inclusive and to be aware. I vow to try.
— Vir Das (@thevirdas) October 17, 2017
Re-examine your own behavior
For this movement to be successful, it is also really important that you re-examine your own behavior and educate yourself to better. If you have been part of a group who talk about women in a distasteful manner, or who pass comments on their physical appearance, or you have been sharing sexist jokes for fun in the past, it’s time to flip the script.
Assess your attitude towards women and adjust the way you talk, behave with, treat, and address women you come across.
Men: if #MeToo doesn't have you frantically searching your memory and thinking "Did I?", you're either inexperienced or The Problem.
— Andrew McHale (@CSSDuke) October 16, 2017
Avoid minimizing violence and blaming victims
It is also really significant that you do not belittle stories of harassment and blame victims. Whenever a friend or a colleague report or disclose an experience or attempt of sexual harassment, believe them and try to do something about it. Do not dismiss it or respond lightly by saying:
“Oh yes, he’s just like that”
“He cannot do something like that”
“Boys will be boys”
NO! Don’t normalize harassment by saying such things! Nothing can justify this heinous act.
Man/Possible Offender = Innocent until proven guilty (even after so.)
Woman/Possible Victim = Instant LIAR (until the man is proven guilty and ever after.) #MeeshaShafi #AliZafar #MeToo
— NZehra (@NZehra_) April 19, 2018
So, these were some ways and small adjustments in your daily life through which you can help the #MeToo movement and bring a real, meaningful, and lasting change. Any other thing you feel men can do to help the #MeToo movement? Let us know in the comments below.
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Cover image via cbc.ca