Men for the #MeToo Movement
I really wasn’t sure how to begin this. How can I, a 17-year-old white male, write about the #MeToo movement without discounting the pain and sexual harassment that thousands of women reportedly face daily? How can I be an authority on a movement that I will never completely understand or explain gender inequality in 750 words?
I’ve learned that gender conditioning begins young, much younger than we could possibly remember. Baby boys wear blue, and baby girls wear pink, right?
I’ve seen talkative little 1-year-old dudes with wandering eyes, completely minding their own business, deemed “players” by many parents at an age where they are still fascinated by their fingers; their judgement really can’t be trusted at this point. Little girls are put in dresses that give them little room to play, with big bows in their hair.
As we grow older, we are continuously taught that boys act one way and girls act another. Boys have to play sports because sports are tough, so boys should be. Girls play with dolls because dolls are gentle and soft, so girls should be gentle and soft. This is something I’ve always seen and known, and I have often been frustrated with these limitations. What if boys want to be able to cry when we feel overwhelmed? What if girls love a good game of hockey?
Though society is generally becoming better at breaking these boundaries and allowing people to enjoy what they love, we still have a long way to go. This gender conditioning, where men are encouraged to get what they want while women are encouraged to focus on their appearance/sexuality, is a big part of the issue.
However, never was the nation’s understanding of gender roles so tested as the day that Harvey Weinstein, a well-known film producer with a wide net of movies, was exposed for his decades of sexual harassment in Hollywood. It appeared without warning, like a strike of lightning, sending rippling shockwaves that knocked everybody right off their stable ground. Suddenly, women were coming forward and sharing. As the pile of evidence grew, I felt boundless shame for our nation and for being part of a society implicit in the minimization of half of our population.
With the rise of the #MeToo movement and the exposure of thousands of sexual predators came confusion/fear. Many men even said, “Why didn’t these women just say something?”
And with that, I think we, as humans and specifically as men, need to look at our backgrounds. No, of course not every man has committed sexual harassment, or sexual assault. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every man hasn’t played some role in the minimization of women in society, whether it be through an off-hand comment or someone’s treatment towards the females around them; it’s not necessarily men’s fault, but it’s our responsibility to recognize this societal imbalance and work to correct it in any way we can.
Some men seem to think that they need to proclaim their innocence and their bountiful respect for women over social media or lash out in frustration at victims and tear down every detail of their story, hiding behind the screens of their computers. Some just stay quiet, maybe out of respect or indifference. People seem surprised when they see how passionate I am about the #MeToo movement, in less of a why-do-you-care way and more of a what-could-you-even-do way.
However, I am of the belief that men have one place in the #MeToo movement. It isn’t hiding behind women, letting Ashley Judd be the only voice of reason to the public; or refusing to face our own issues; or berating Rose McGowan and calling her a “lying b*tch”. It also isn’t in front of women because you feel that you need to protect them, because you still see them as soft little girls with their dolls.
I grew up in a household of strong women, with my sister, a Coast Guard cadet; my mother, a Navy spouse; my aunt, an entrepreneur; and my grandmothers, both former teachers and world travelers, all proving to me that women need anything but protection; they don’t just need respect, they deserve it.
No, our place in the movement is right by their side, with open ears and the understanding that we all have a stake in how our society is run and how our people, whether they be women, people of color, members of the LGBTQA+ community, or even other men, are treated. We all can try to learn from our past mistakes and to move two steps forward without a single step backward.