In the aftermath of the 2018 Golden Globes, where women (verbally and sartorially) expressed their anger, hope and sadness surrounding the #MeToo campaign and the Time’s Up fund, there was a lot of criticism leveled at the male celebrities who, besides wearing “Time’s Up” pins, were noticeably silent.
Some men offered the explanation that they wanted to give the platform to women; they did not want to overshadow women; they did not want to mansplain. But what men don’t understand is that they, we, can use our various platforms to educate and call out other men to be better friends, allies, lovers and peers. We cannot, and should not, expect women to change an entire culture single-handedly.
So here are some things that I, as a man, think other men can do to express support.
1). If you hear something, say something:
Harassment takes a lot of forms. It can be sexual, workplace, verbal, nonverbal. It doesn’t even have to take place in front of women. If you’re with your male friends, and they’re speaking inappropriately, condescendingly or rudely about a woman or girl, say something. We have access to spaces that women sometimes don’t, and, unfortunately, we can have undue influence over other men simply because of our gender. So if you hear something inappropriate, your silence is a sin of omission. It doesn’t matter if you did not say anything. By saying nothing, you’re cosigning their action.
Men are born with such levels of privilege that we are often unaware of how much it plays into our everyday life. If a woman, person of color or gender-nonconforming person tells you something, just listen. You don’t have to fully understand why it’s upsetting, but you have to acknowledge that it’s upsetting to them. There are certain things I’ve experienced as a queer person that, when complaining to heterosexual friends, didn’t seem to cross that boundary. Don’t minimize or attempt to explain away. Just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen at all.
3). Seek consent:
This applies in a major way to sex. Seek constant, enthusiastic consent. Consent is not a one-and-done thing; keep asking, keep making sure that your partner is actively consenting to whatever you’re doing.
4). Understand your own language:
This in particular can be applied to gay men, and especially white gay men. We are oftentimes guilty of being misogynistic towards women. It might fall under the radar or be explained away by “cattiness” or “sass.” But being gay does not give you a pass to demean, disrespect or condescend women. Any man calling a woman a “bitch,” “slut,” or “cunt” is being misogynist, regardless of his sexuality.
5). Don’t cosign gendered behavior:
It’s easy to fall into gender tropes, and to pass those along to children can be incredibly damaging. It might be as small as complimenting a little girl on her clothing, but saying how “tough” a little boy is. Avoid romanticizing kids (i.e. “Is that your boyfriend/girlfriend?”). They’re kids, dude. Allow boys to be vulnerable; let them express their emotions. If we teach boys to suppress their emotions, say that being emotional is feminizing, or urge them to be “big boys,” what we’re really saying is, “You don’t deserve to have emotions.” That pain, sadness and anger comes out regardless, and can be leveraged against women and girls.
6). Promote women:
Look at your Twitter timeline. Is it all men? Is it all white? Starting small, like following people of different genders, races, socioeconomic statuses and political affiliations, can fundamentally change the way you think by exposing you to different perspectives. Read the work of women; retweet them; highlight them amongst friends.
7). Confront your own thinking:
There was a time when I realized that I was uncomfortable at the sight of my female friend’s nipples poking through her shirt. I ignored it for a while, until it came up in conversation and we talked about it. Even as you actively try to be feminist, you grew up in a society that suppresses female sexuality. It’s okay; we all did. Understanding why things make you uncomfortable does not make you a bad person. It means accepting that we all have been damaged by our upbringings; it means that, once recognized, we can change our thinking. Try to understand why you think something; analyze whether that’s valid or not; adapt accordingly.
Understand that, consciously or not, you have probably participated in harassment of women. Understand that, and work to change it.
I’m ending with the closing paragraph of an article Roxane Gay, a celebrated feminist, author, writer, and social commentator, wrote for the New York Times on October 19, 2017:
“Men can start putting in some of the work women have long done in offering testimony. They can come forward and say “me too” while sharing how they have hurt women in ways great and small…It’s time for men to start answering for themselves because women cannot possibly solve this problem they had no hand in creating.”
Below is a list of women that I follow on Twitter whose work, opinions and writing inspires me, challenges me and calls to me. If there is a woman who you think I should be following, please let me know!
Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for the New York Times
Roxane Gay, professor, writer, author
Janet Mock, writer, producer, activist
Ashley Nicole Black, comedian, television correspondent
Karen Attiah, Global Opinions editor for Washington Post
Ijeoma Oluo, Editor-at-Large of The Establishment