Where have all the bad men gone?
i know i’m not friends with any of them, because none of my friends have come forward with a #MeToo signifying they were the perpetrator and not the victim.
In case you’re not sure what we’re talking about, this is a response to a Twitterer campaign that went viral after actor Alyssa Milano posted this tweet:
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
And then social media exploded…
If you have not yet done so, and particularly if you are a man [if you are a woman, i imagine you completely get it] do yourself a favour and spend some time on the #MeToo on the Twitterer or even on Facebook. In fact, if you have not seen it in your social media feed today at all then you are most likely a bot and should have yourself checked.
The idea behind the tweet was to demonstrate the magnitude of sexual harrassment and assault that pretty much all women have had to go through typically on multiple occasions for much of their lives.
i responded by hosting this Facebook Live chat around the #MeToo tag and invited men to come and engage.
Some of the points we covered included:
# Not needing to frame this conversation through the lens of ‘someone’s wife/daughter/sister’ which tends to put the man at the center of the conversation again and suggest a woman is only worth something in relation to a man… but rather saying let’s confront and reject these acts because they are being done to women, period.
# The unhelpfulness of a #NotAllMen tag which typically comes from someone feeling defensive and not wanting to be mistaken for ‘one of them’ while actually causing huge misdirection and a smokescreen from the issues at hand. While men do get assaulted and abused and while that is serious and needs to be addressed and dealt with and rejected as well, it does not happen nearly to the same extent as it happens to women and is more then exception than the norm and so that needs to be a whole other conversation, rather than highjacking this one.
# The links to power and how often these words/looks/attacks happen in a space where the man has more power and how just looking at Trump in Americaland and Zuma in South Africa instead of holding them responsible, we have chosen to elect them to power and pretty much condone and almost applaud/celebrate/reward their actions.
# The place of rape culture in all this which i have written about here in terms of definition and in three posts here in terms of the experience of my wife and others – the tendency to blame the victim or throw the spotlight on the victims and make a list of possible solutions when all we need is one: Stop raping women!
# The call to men to a #NotOnOurWatch mentality as we have done with race in terms of calling men to commit themselves to interrupting these words and actions when they see them playing out in front of them. One of the big places this stuff seems to breed is in the conversations and jokes that take place in the locker room/at the braai or barbecue/in the gym changing room/at the office water cooler and we need more men who will step up and say, “This is not okay. Stop it!”
The Invisible Men
But where are the men in all this? As i mentioned before, it surely can’t be anyone i know right?
Well firstly, looking at how the conversation takes place, this helpful quote by Jackson Katz is something we need to think seriously about:
But an extension of this problem is that no-one is owning it.
Which gives me dejavu back to my own country and the apartheid laws that we had which were officially abolished in 1994 and yet try to find anyone who admits to supporting apartheid and you are looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. A system that successfully dehumanised millions of South Africans for decades and yet no-one that anyone knows was ever part of it.
As many women have been saying on social media, it is one thing to have them bearing their scars and sharing their pain to alert us to the fact that this is a thing, but where are the men who are doing these things?
Suddenly crickets. Because no-one i know would do something like that.
Yet, this stuff is not happening in a vacuum with no men attached to it. The extent and depth of the stories being shared suggest that this stuff is happening every day all over the place. What we need is for some reformed men to speak out and let us know that it was them.
My Facebook friend Tim Fish Hodgson [no relation] had this to say:
#MeToo is not about other men who get caught or called out.
It’s about me and you and how we make women feel on a daily basis. We all present real threats to the women we interact with daily.
Men who sexually assault and sexually harass women are not exceptions.
They are our friends, our fathers, our brothers, our colleagues. They are the men that we admire and hero worship within our political movements, social movements, religious institutions, NGOs and companies.
Do not scroll passed women posting #MeToo and shrug. They are acknowledging a painful and all-too-common reality of being a woman.
i am not innocent
When i read horrific encounters of race and sexual misconduct, i like to comfort myself in thinking that it is not me. And when it comes to women, i cannot think of a time when i have touched someone inappropriately and i hope against hope that i have not made a suggestive comment even in jest that could be interpreted by someone as a sexual attack or assault.
But i absolutely know that my eyes and my mind are not innocent. For example, i was addicted to pornography for many years which i think is a huge part of the problem in terms of how women are objectified and used for the pleasure of men outside of any form of relationship. And it sickens me. But i know that i fed that beast for a long long time. i am part of the problem.
And even now in my desperately-trying-to-respect-women way of living i am sure that i am not completely innocent of all this. My eyes and my mind will continue to convict me and i need to constantly be fighting against them to train myself to do and be better.
It starts with me looking into the mirror identifying how and when i am to blame. It moves on to me keeping an eye on the men around me in life and refusing to allow any of this rubbish to happen in front of my eyes uninterrupted. It continues to the place of me using whatever platforms i have to constantly echo the call for men to be doing better in this stuff.
Men, this is our mess to fix
i came upon this super helpful and challenging photo montage by Liz Meriwether which sums it up pretty well for us:
[White people, as we read this, please let’s see how the race conversation overlaps into this as well – expecting black, coloured and indian people to educate us on how to not be racist shows a messed up understanding of the work we need to do in ourselves to work towards unity and reconciliation.]
Liz also wrote an article titled, ‘I’m a coward’ where she speaks of an encounter she had with a powerful man that she managed to escape, but didn’t report. The final line says so much:
Yes, I am a coward, but let’s be clear: The man in the hotel room is to blame.
i have shared this graphic before which is an excellent illustration as to how insiduous the response to someone who has been affected by sexual assault can be. How no matter what you choose with the wrong audience can be a Lose-Lose-Lose situation:
We have not always been so kind to those who have been brave enough to share their stories:
Just “men being men” or “boys being boys” – that is a statement that needs to be unlearnt and recrafted and relaunched to the point where
Men being men becomes a statement that is all about men respecting women, about men treating women as equals, about men being led by women and stepping away from the microphones so that their voices can be heard and echoed… and so much more. When did ‘men being men’ become synonymous with ‘men feel like they have the right to do something douchey!’?
i think Nathan Thompson on the Twitterer gets it to some extent:
When it comes to the #MeToo movement, I see men wondering what they can “do to help.” This is my list.
1. Be quiet.
4. Lead/teach young men by example.
5. Stand up to friends and family who act in an abusive manner.
6. Stand behind women, not in front.
— Nathan Thompson (@natepthomps) October 16, 2017
This tweet by female comedian Lane Moor caught the world’s imagination as a place to look forward to and an indictment of the present state of our world:
i hope i live long enough to see the day when my female friends are writing #MeToo on social media to mean”i finally feel safe in the world”
— 🎃Lane Moore🎃 (@hellolanemoore) October 15, 2017
While Liv reminds us of what should be an obvious truth, but sadly isn’t:
Friendly reminder that women shouldn’t have to collectively relive their trauma for men to take them seriously. #MeToo
— Liv ✨ (@oawoodward) October 16, 2017
It is absolutely horrific that women felt the need to have to rally around a cry of #MeToo to hope that they would somehow get the attention of men who would hopefully somehow ‘get it’ and act and behave differently. But it has got people talking. And hopefully action will follow. There are no men who can say with any type of conviction in this that they didn’t know.
Question is, what are we going to do about it?
Actually this status on Facebook from my friend Kerri-Leigh pretty much sums a lot of that up:
I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single woman I know who can’t say #MeToo. And although I know a few men who will admit that it’s true, I also know very, very few men who are willing to call each other out on their “bro banter”, their day-to-day objectification, their tales of conquest and rapey jokes. Perhaps there’s a correlation.
Come on men, let’s do this!