If you consume any sort of social media, this weekend you probably noticed the #MeToo hashtag or saw women posting the words “Me Too” on Facebook. Doing so signifies that the woman has at some point in her life been the victim of sexual harassment and/or assault. I really started to see the trend on Facebook pick up early Sunday evening, so I decided to do something small to measure how many women I know have experienced this.
Though I like to think that I know how serious sexual harassment of women is in society, and how little men actually do to rectify it, I wanted to do something tangible to let women know that at least one guy had listened. I decided that every time I saw a woman on my Facebook feed post “Me Too,” I would write “Thank you for sharing this.” I wouldn’t click “like” or post one of those dumb emojis–I would type out a complete sentence to show that I had read what they wrote.
A few women I saw post “Me Too” didn’t surprise me–we had previously talked and she trusted me enough to tell me what happened. But many other women who posted the phrase surprised me–I honestly had no idea what they had gone through. After I wrote “Thank you for sharing this” 15 times, I stopped counting. And that was all on a Sunday night–there have been many more women come forward since then.
To be honest, the whole “Me Too” thing is backwards. Though it’s wonderful and brave of so many women to come forward with stories of how they were sexually harassed and/or assaulted, solving the problem requires positive action on the part of men, not women. It’s men who are doing most of the sexual assault in this country, and it’s men who need to stop it, much less acknowledge that it’s happening.
The whole damned country is infected with toxic masculinity that seems to be getting worse. Today I opened Twitter and saw Hawaii’s own Senator Mazie Hirono talking about a new survey that showed nearly 40 percent of National Park Service (NPS) employees have been sexually harassed.
“This report confirms what we’ve known for some time–there is a pervasive culture of workplace harassment in the NPS,” Hirono tweeted. “Continued silence & inaction are unacceptable. We must provide oversight & resources to ensure NPS employees have a safe working environment.”
Sure, intense media pressure–spurred by many, many women coming forward–is finally crushing Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whose actions are so loathsome and predatory that even he has admitted he has a problem. But what about President Donald Trump? The allegations of sexual harassment and assault from women against him are virtually the same as Weinstein’s, in terms of quantity and quality (they also date back years, to long before he won the presidential nomination). While Republicans are gleefully denouncing Weinstein–a longtime big money donor to the Democratic Party–they still loudly defend Trump.
Men need to stop doing this–believing one set of women because it’s politically expedient, while ignoring or insulting other women because what they say makes you uncomfortable. Then again, men need to stop doing all sorts of horrible behaviors–raping women, attacking women, insulting women, forcing sex on a woman even after the woman says no, forcing sex on a drunk or sleeping woman, groping women, catcalling women, blaming women who get harassed or assault, rationalizing that women who dress a certain way are asking for sex, belittling or ignoring the need for better healthcare for women, refusing to give women equal pay and authority in the workplace and so on. Seriously–the list of shit men pile on women goes on and on and on. This is the society we’ve built, where everything I just described is just considered to be normal. And I’ve probably forgotten a dozen things here, because I’m a guy who was raised in a society that values men’s leadership, thinking and priorities over women.
My understanding this doesn’t make me immune from its ugly effects. I said nothing when a guy I was hanging out with once boasted of having sex with a drunk woman who fell asleep. I’ve heard more than a few sexist, racist jokes in my life, and laughed like all the other men I was with. That I can say those events are in my past doesn’t make me a hero–it just means I’m learning.
Men, like me, can always do better. We must do better. Because until we do, the endless sexual harassment that women everywhere have to deal with, often on a daily basis, will only get worse.
Photo: Richard Potts/Flickr