It has been a year. For those of us who have had to retell our own stories of assault using the #MeToo hashtag, or for those seeing nearly 100 men of influence being accused of varying types of assault and rape, the year has been bleak. It’s also been confusing for a lot of the men both in my life and those online, worried about what the onslaught means to them. Will they have to stop giving hugs? (No.) Can they continue to give women compliments about their appearance? (It depends on the situation, actually.) How will they ever know if a woman is flirting or not? (I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out, gents.)
One thing that’s been constant in this post-Weinstein world has been the way so many dudes have centered themselves in the conversation. Some, I’m sure, have been out of sheer fear of what questionable moments from their past may come up and ruin their families or careers, but others are just not used to the conversation not being about men.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or unsure of how to deal with the weekly collapse of another famous man that you looked up to, there are ways you can get involved and help make the playing field a little more level in 2018.
SET ASIDE YOUR FEELINGS You may have seen “Male Tears” memes floating around the internet in the last few years. It has been used to help point out the irony in men complaining about women reclaiming space for themselves. But here’s the thing: Women aren’t looking for a takeover, women are looking for true equity. And if that bothers you, it might be a good idea to figure out why. Many men feel afraid of what may be said or done to them by women if they make a mistake, which is something that women have had to deal with, well, forever. If your feelings are dreadful, imagine how many of us have felt our entire lives. Set your fears aside, let women speak and center the emotions of others over your own.
BE REALISTIC IN TAKING STOCK OF YOUR PAST For some men, there may be behavior in your past that you are a little embarrassed by. What you may not have thought was assault when you were 20 was, in hindsight, a form of it, so be realistic. Obviously, not all men have committed violent acts against women, but with millions coming forward, chances are you may have been inappropriate in the past.
So, what do you do about it? Be realistic. Since you’ve already set aside your feelings, you can come at this with a clean perspective. Unsure of a previous misstep? Be frank with someone you trust (even a woman, we can offer insights you or another man may not have considered). No one is asking you to contact the girl you dated in high school, but being honest about past behavior is a good way to move forward.
LEARN HOW TO PROPERLY APOLOGIZE Obviously, not every person is going to get the chance to make amends with someone who they may have wronged in the past, but even just a proper apology to those around you today can make a difference. All apologies require these steps: Saying “sorry,” admitting responsibility for your actions, making amends where possible and working towards ensuring the behavior isn’t repeated. If you consider saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I didn’t mean to,” it’s not an apology. Chef Mario Batali’s apology after he was accused of assault is where you should look, not Louis C.K.
GET HELP IF NECESSARY If these frank discussions and honest apologies have lead you to realize that you may have a deeper issue, say, anger toward women or fear of intimacy, it’s important that you get help to resolve these feelings. I know what you’re thinking: “You just asked me to put aside my feelings, but now are asking me to embrace them?” Yes and no. The feelings I want you to put aside are those knee-jerk ones. Pushing those away will hopefully help you see if you need greater supports. Just because we’re focusing on better equality between the sexes doesn’t mean that any woman wants to see a person suffer with hurtful emotions.
SEEK OUT MORE WAYS TO SUPPORT WOMEN-RUN BUSINESSES, INCLUDING PAYING FOR PORN PRODUCED BY WOMEN When possible, support businesses run by women. There are many smaller businesses across the country being run by smart women offering amazing products. It’s as easy as Googling for two minutes before making your purchase. Supporting women in business doesn’t just mean products and services, either.
There are some amazing women in the porn industry. While some companies run on the old Hollywood-style system, many women are breaking the glass ceiling with their work. Paying for porn made by women will help tell studios women-made porn is a viable income stream—and the style, though different than classic porn, might be just what you need to shake up your rotation.
SPEAK UP “If you see something, say something.” This Homeland Security request shouldn’t be relegated to suspicious packages. If you see a woman at work being harassed, or if your friend won’t leave a woman alone at a bar, speak up. It can be hard to tell someone you know that they may be acting a little too extra, but supporting victims of harassment sometimes means speaking up against our friends. This also goes for sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic jokes. The more we let these slide, the more they will continue.
ASK WOMEN WHAT YOU CAN DO, LISTEN TO THE ANSWERS YOU GET Ask the women around you what they need to feel safe, to feel supported and to feel respected. Stop arguing with straw man fallacies, don’t play devil’s advocate and learn to believe women when we say we’re hurt.
There are so many things you can do going forward to help create change. Start with one, or make big changes to your life. It may be hard, and it will definitely take time, but women need you to step up to the plate.
After all, we’re all in this together, and there’s no time like the present.