What Comes After #MeToo?

 

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If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that we are angry. The #MeToo movement is a verbal confirmation of one of society’s worst kept secrets: sexual harassment and assault are everywhere. Like actually everywhere: middle schools, offices, Hollywood, the military and even the White House. Like a dam bursting, the first #MeToo tweet unleashed sexual assault and harassment victims to come forward with literally millions of heartbreaking and gut-wrenching stories. Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement has been met with mostly silence and angry defensive posts from men. Few male leaders are speaking up about the ways #MeToo is also a men’s problem not only because sexual assault victims can be and frequently are men, but also because the elements of patriarchy that encourage sexual harassment/assault and hyper-masculinity are bad for men too. There’s been few articles and little discussion about how men can step up calling out other men for sexual harassment, participating in consent education, and empathetically listening to the stories of victims. The outpouring of stories from sexual assault survivors, coupled with male silence can lead us to a few basic conclusions: 1.) Sexual harassment and assault affect everyone in some way. 2.) The culture and rhetoric surrounding masculinity is toxic for everyone. 3.) We need to pay more attention to the narratives of victims.  But what comes next? Now that we’ve established that there is indeed a problem, and that problem is pervasive- where do we go from here?

  1. Transform your anger: Getting angry and speaking out has been a huge source of relief for victims that have been historically silenced. And getting angry alongside victims has been a way for allies to show their solidarity. But we simply can’t stay angry forever, no matter how justified our anger might be. Not only is permanent rage unsustainable, but it also offers few solutions. Getting angry is the first step, and the anger of victims and allies manifested through the #MeToo movement was responsible for bringing awareness to this huge issue. But awareness isn't a cure. It’s the beginning of a larger conversation that needs your ideas, not just your anger.
  2. Get Passionate and Get Involved: Transform that anger into productive passion. Join clubs and organizations that empower victims of sexual assault, like the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center. Read about how to be a good ally to those around you. Refuse to give your money to companies that have a poor record when it comes to sexual assault and harassment. *Cough* UBER *Cough*. Be openly critical of TV, movies, and books that romanticize assault narratives and do not financially contribute to their success. Call your congressman about improving Title IX protections on college campuses. Vote for political leaders who care about sexual assault and harassment. Encourage good leadership in organizations that you’re a part of (and maybe even consider taking on a leadership position yourself) and act when you see signs of sexual harassment or sexual assault.
  3. Love People Well: This idea can often get lost in our anger. As you get excited about taking action and calling out harassment, make sure you’re also remembering to be kind. Listen to people who decide to share their stories with you- and actually, empathetically listen. Don’t victim-blame, don’t suggest that their assailant was just “ignorant” and don’t merely nod along while you plan what you’re going to say next. Sharing your experiences can be scary and difficult, and it can be traumatic to tell intimate details to loved ones and be met with deaf ears or blame. One of the best ways to support and love people to just sit with them and quietly listen. Meanwhile, when discussing this issue with the people around you, particularly people without a strong understanding of the realities of sexual assault, speak kindly. A calm, thoughtful explanation of the problem will be received much better than emotional yelling. No, it’s not fair that we still have to be patient with people about this issue, but a patient demeanor will lead to a dialogue rather than a debate. Approach your message with the goals of sharing and explaining rather than arguing. This can be difficult, and it often requires showing grace to people who we don’t think deserve it. However, it will lead to more understanding and thoughtful discussions about sexual assault and harassment, which is a step in the right direction.