Real Girls F.A.R.T. is thrilled to welcome a new guest contributor to our blog, Karen Robles! Over two years ago, Karen was diagnosed with clinical depression, and has since embarked on a path to self-discovery and healing. She started her own blog after looking for a new way to connect with others who might be stranded by the same emotional storm. Visit her blog, License to Feel, to learn more!
Note from the Author: My original post can be found here; this version of my entry presented by Real Girls F.A.R.T. was edited for conciseness with my permission.
Today I will be discussing the #MeToo movement, based on my own perspective, experiences and opinions. The first post will mainly focus on:
– Men’s perspective on the #MeToo movement
– What they can do
The second part of the conversation, which will be published next week, will focus on:
– How we got to where we are today
– The importance of speaking up
– The consequences for speaking up
I want to begin this entry with an excerpt from my next entry, part 2 of #MeToo Prologue:
Being a “feminist” does not mean you’re against men. It simply means you want equal rights and opportunities as men—not that you are trying to take away rights or opportunities from men. However, I do believe that some men think that objectifying women, degrading them, threatening them and even demanding sexual behaviors from them because of their position of power, IS somehow a right they have and that they should be allowed to continue to behave like this simply because they are men. It is not their right, and they shall not continue this behavior.
Many men have expressed their concern about the #MeToo movement, saying things such as “does that mean I can’t approach a woman at all?” “are they going to accuse me of sexual harassment just for buying them a drink?” “how will I know if I’m crossing the line?” These are valid concerns, but I hope they are short-lived. I recently watched a very interesting round-table discussion, involving men, about the #MeToo movement, and what their take was on it. I strongly suggest you invest the time to watch and listen to it, too, especially if you are a man (psst…you can watch it here!). The discussion’s participants included Matt McGorry (actor), Tony Porter (activist), Lewis Howes (author), Scooter Braun (entertainment exec), Jamey Heath (activist), Susan Brison (professor), Alma Gonzalez (social worker), Karen Alston (entrepreneur) and Yazmin Monet Watkins (spoken word poet).
The men I watched in this discussion were incredibly open, honest and willing to do their part. They are men who would be labeled as “good men,” you know? Men that do not or have not assaulted, raped or inappropriately touched a woman (as I imagine is the case for most of the men reading this right now). They also currently hold privileged positions in their work environments, and as such, they have the ability to influence many other men who listen to their conversation. They, themselves, are aware of their “good standing,” and as one of them put it:
As long as we, individually, are not doing any of those things, we keep that label of ‘Good Men.’
And this is a good thing, of course—we do value and appreciate those men who can respect women! However, the importance of the discussion they had, and the words I am writing today, is to inform the world that it is no longer enough to just “not do anything to a woman.” The problem we have right now is that we live in a society, culture and environment where attacks on women are not only possible, but allowed to happen. Sure, maybe the ‘Good Men’ are not standing around and encouraging another man to grope a woman on the subway, but are they intervening when they get an opportunity to? If not, why?
Let’s raise the stakes even more. What happens when men witness this kind of behavior from their own social groups, their own friends, their own relatives, even? It becomes even harder to intervene, to step in, isn’t it? Many men struggle with this decision—whether to intervene or not—no matter if they witness a stranger or a colleague partake in abusive or disrespectful behavior. But we need them to intervene; we absolutely need their help. All of the men in the round-table discussion agreed that, as bystanders, they have the biggest role to play in this movement. As a man, you don’t have to necessarily organize a rally, a fundraiser or even wear a shirt that reads “Feminist” to feel like you are helping or doing your share, and as the men, themselves, put it:
From the boardroom to the locker room, you have a chance to interject—to say what needs to be said when it’s uncomfortable. Be OK with being uncomfortable. I think that’s where real change can really start.
We can love each other, and hold each other accountable at the same time.
These are such powerful statements. Men do have an opportunity to help us change the environment we live in, and we need them to be more proactive than some of them may feel comfortable with. You see, men are also victims of the hyper-violent culture that surrounds women. In the discussion, men allowed themselves to be vulnerable and shared some of their own experiences as children and young adults that heavily influenced their actions (or inactions) towards mistreatment of women. When speaking about their childhood, some of them remember how as little boys they were “being taught that women are of less value,” that their peers “glorify the idea of crossing the line,” that kids and teens are “being taught to be misogynistic, and they don’t even know it.” Seemingly harmless phrases like “get the girl” teach young boys and young men that women are a prize, an object to be taken, and that women have no say in this matter—they are simply there to be taken.
As one of the gentlemen put it, “we all play a role in disregarding women, in mistreating them.” The majority of men, who are now adults, were raised with misogynistic tendencies, either as undertones or explicitly. So, it’s no wonder we are living completely submerged in examples of mistreatment. But that doesn’t mean they’re doomed to be sexist or abusive, or that they cannot be a part of the change.
More and more public figures and celebrities are speaking up about the movement, and some identify openly as feminist supporters. A group of celebrities and activists even started the hashtag #AskMoreOfHim as a way to engage with more men to get involved with this topic. You can check out their website and resources on their website.
Regardless of how you wish to express your views, it’s in the interest of both men and women to work on this massive imbalance of respect in order for both genders to have a healthy relationship with each other, and with themselves. In the discussion, another thing that was discussed in depth was how men felt like they had to constantly prove their masculinity to fit in. As one of them put it, “many of us are being held hostage inside ‘The Box,’” the box being the strict definition of masculinity, which includes, but is not limited to, showing no emotions, not asking for help, not crying, not being sensitive, etc. These men share how they were “conditioned [their] entire life to have an allegiance to men” and how they “just wanted to fit in.” This toxic view of “masculinity” is doing nothing but harming men and, sooner or later, women.
Alright, so now what? Are all men raised to be sexist jerks, and we should just hate them all? NO! We’re just trying to start unwrapping the issue and identify the other underlying issues that have created the dangerous environment of our ‘modern world.’ Men mistreating women is a pervasive behavior, worldwide, and it definitely did not start just this decade. In an interview with Emma Watson, Gloria Steinem touched on the role that gender inequality has on other “bigger” issues:
Emma: I often get asked, “in the face of terrorism, and war, and poverty, and climate change, is gender equality really what we should be talking about?”
Gloria: Because it’s the basis of all those other things. It’s what normalizes domination earliest in life, it’s what has created the bullsh*t idea that there is feminine and masculine. Hello? There’s “human.” And, you know, men who have, through no fault of theirs, been born into this come to feel that they have to prove their masculinity, especially by superiority to women, but also by superiority to other men.
Her statement had a huge impact on me, allowing me to take another step back and see the most devastating consequences of the patterns of dominant behavior. Her passing comment about “feminine vs masculine” also resonates well with the men from the round-table discussion. Such constructs and stereotypes—masculinity, ideal body types, ideal housewife, real men don’t cry—are all extremely toxic, and I sure hope we have reached the moment in time where enough men and women can take a step to the side and say, “Enough. This is BS.” The mistreatment of women is, unfortunately, not confined to being cat-called outside a construction zone. At the extreme end of the spectrum lies the act of femicide, which is simply the murdering of a woman (see pamphlet by WHO here). According to Small Arms Survey, “66,000 women are violently killed globally” every year, and that number was from 2012. This is why this conversation matters, because the normalized abuse and mistreatment of women is not only wrong in and of itself, but can also lead to murder in some circumstances.
I want to wrap this first part of the topic with the following quote, which comes from one of the men that sat in the round-table discussion:
Our responsibility is, number one, to listen to them first. But I think it goes way back to when we were kids. You know that saying that goes ‘women and men, they can’t be friends?’ Why is that? How sad is that? The idea that my son couldn’t have friends as women—how deprived would his life be? To make choices, to see the world, to know God, to know his own self, to just experience life, to have peace and unity and not get those perspectives from women? That’s some bullsh*t. I mean, I get it, ‘cus that’s how we’re trained, but we gotta change that.
A huge thank you to Karen for her informative, powerful contribution. Click here to read part 2 of “#MeToo Prologue.”
Want to share your thoughts? Have a question for Karen? Leave a comment below!