The incredible thing about the conversation around sexual harassment and assault is that we’re still talking about women. We’re still asking women to raise our hands, lay our souls bare and relive our trauma, all in the hope that this time it will be different.
That the sheer number of the harassed, assailed, violated and abused bravely taking to social media to declare #MeToo will finally reach a tipping point that inspires real change.
The status quo is a living hell, so we comply.
We tell our stories, defend our outfits, our presence and even the time of day because something has got to give. Eventually the men picking through our pain, callously blaming the victim and urging us to testify in the court of male opinion will understand.
We’ve been here before, where naysayers rummage through our ruin, but this time, unlike the last, the world will change.
Our cries will be so loud and our voices so hoarse that everyone on the planet will finally comprehend that the person to blame for sexual harassment, assault and abuse is always the perpetrator, never the victim.
I hope so just as much as anyone but maybe amidst these vital testimonies and gauging of trauma, we need a little more focus on men.
The boys we raise, the men we grow and the socialization that allows rape culture to flourish.
While our stories have poured in from across the world – harrowing, sordid and devastatingly familiar – I’ve seen a growing number of women rallying around the idea of #YouToo.
Eager to tighten a tourniquet on the theatre of our individual and collective bleeding and incensed that men fail to see what they have to do with the rise of sleazeballs like Harvey Weinstein, they’ve began to ask men: what about you?
You too enable men like Weinstein through your everyday performance of toxic masculinity.
The rape jokes, the slut shaming, the catcalling, the following, the stalking, the inability to respect the word “no,” the unsolicited dick pics, the aggression, the violence, the harassment, the degrading. The one, two, countless times you have let your own, your friends, relatives, colleagues and fellow man’s inappropriate behaviour slide in workplaces, nightclubs, supermarkets, bookstores, in schools, your home, your church and in the street.
And only because boss.
Because asking for it.
Because boys will be boys.
An alarming number of them will also be harassers, abusers and rapists.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in every 3 women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Look around, count three women, focus on one, get the picture.
Most men know a trans or cisgender woman or man who has been sexually harassed or assaulted, the numbers say you probably also know a perpetrator. Work with them, eat with them, drink with them, laugh at their jokes while contributing the silent bricks that constitute our prison.
This is happening.
Women are not exaggerating.
Worse, it has become an almost normal part of a woman’s life.
But it isn’t okay.
Women walking around in fear is not okay. Professionals afraid to decline their superior’s sexual advances is sick.
Men unable to speak up, call out and stand against men demeaning, sexually harassing and assaulting women in their presence are complicit and part of the problem.
Now is not the time to get defensive. It’s time to be a part of the defense.
Your silence and inaction is the soil in which people like Weinstein thrive. Don’t be dirt.
There are no medals. There are no perks. You may even get punched in the face but what men do today and proactively every day beyond the viral campaigns can change the world.
It can create discomfort and real consequences for perpetrators who, much like women who choose to speak out, suddenly find themselves short on friends, social invitations, work and opportunities.
It can encourage men to think twice before valuing their own ego above a woman’s right to peace, freedom and bodily integrity.
Parents, educators, policy and lawmakers, there’s work to be done.
There are archaic notions of masculinity to refute, there is patriarchy to dismantle and perpetrators to condemn.
France has has already begun.
Legislation permitting fines for men caught catcalling or harassing women in the street is on the table and the hashtag #balancetonporc “expose the pig” has seen over 86 000 women share their stories.
If you’re afraid of such a movement gaining traction in your home town, it’s time you to take a good, hard look at yourself and the way you treat women.
Because the reality is that every time we don’t call this kind of thing out in words and disciplinary action, perpetrators think they can go further. Toxic attitudes in favour of men become more entrenched.
Cheering on lewd comments is the gateway to invasions of personal space, blind eyes and the end of that is a fade to the black of a victim’s shame, possible dysfunction and distrust.
Men, it’s time to draw the line in thoughts, words and deeds.
It’s time to do better.
It’s time to do something.
It’s time for some deep introspection and to be a part of the solution.
In your home, in your office, your street, your bar and your mind.
Women everywhere have had enough. We’re up and we’re coming.
Oh, and just for the record, #MeToo