As the hideous narratives of everyday sexual abuses women face continue to emerge, we men need to think on our own actions. We’re all culpable. Our silence is what needs to change, and we all need to get better.
I wrote something similar to this last year after reading Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl, but with the #MeToo hashtag making the rounds, I feel it’s important to talk about it again. All these women around me, more every day, who have suffered. It’s heartbreaking.
I saw a post, from where I can’t remember, talking about how #MeToo places the onus on victims/survivors to display the scale of the problem, forcing them to “out” themselves to affect the social change necessary to stop sexual assault and harassment from being such an epidemic. I can see it from both sides.
On the one hand, seeing just how many women in your life have suffered at the hands of men like and unlike you will certainly show the scale of the issue, which may then cause you to stand up where before you may not have realised the intensity of the issue. On the other hand, it shouldn’t take innumerable women sharing their stories for you to act in a positive way towards women, or help them or speak out when you see them being mistreated.
Other posts I read – some from women, some from men – turned it back around on the men, bystanders or offenders. It stated that men should be posting #MeToo, accompanied by the times they did nothing when a man was making a woman uncomfortable, or when they did something to make a woman uncomfortable.
And that’s hard. And it should be hard. Just because you seek forgiveness, doesn’t mean it will be given. The important part is being self-aware and trying to become a better person. I’ve already seen a couple of men in my feeds do this.
There were times when I pursued a woman despite her insistence of being uninterested. Pop culture teaches young men that “no doesn’t really mean no, you just have to be persistent”. This is wrong. We are regaled with tales of men “wearing women down” until they said yes, or other such manipulations. This isn’t okay. We can’t keep teaching men this.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Me too: One actor’s observations facing Weinstein’s Hollywood
- The Weinstein post-mortem: Boys will be boys, but seldom men
There were times when I said nothing when I knew a friend of mine was being harassed. I was a teenager and my friend’s boyfriend was being cruel to her and I did nothing, because I was scared of him. I counseled another one to leave her boyfriend because he was becoming violent, but again he was older and bigger than me, and I was scared. I never confronted him or her other friends to help her.
I’ve spoken about a woman as if she were an object, once right in front of her. Young and stupid and drunk is no excuse. I knew better. I should have been better, but I wasn’t.
When I was a teenager, I used manipulative tactics to try and get a girl to be with me, and then was angry when she refused. I felt I was “owed” something. I didn’t really realise what I had done until years later when I reflected on it, learned more, tried to be better. It doesn’t change what was done.
Growing and becoming a better person involves re-examining uncomfortable truths about who you are, who you were, and who you want to be. It sucks. It hurts. And the people you hurt may never hear how sorry you are, and even if they do, they may never forgive you. That’s okay. You just have to work at being a better person, every day, all the time.
This was hard as hell to write and my guts are roiling and I want to cry, but it’s important that we, as men, own up to our shit. We have to call our friends out on it too, because if we don’t, we are complicit. We have to help ourselves, and each other, #BeBetter.