By now we’ve all seen the #MeToo posts all over our social media. Like us, I’m sure you were upset, heartbroken, and perhaps surprised at the nearly half million times the #MeToo hashtag was shared within 24 hours of its creation.
Unfortunately, we were not surprised. At YWCA, we work with women every day, both as colleagues and clients, and have heard the very real stories of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. In response to the #MeToo posts, the overwhelming feeling we’ve heard coming from men is a feeling of “discomfort.”
If you are a man who felt uncomfortable because you haven’t had to think about this topic before, good. We felt uncomfortable, too. If we felt uncomfortable reading the posts, imagine how uncomfortable women and trans people may have felt both during the assault and when they wrote and read other posts. We cannot allow our discomfort to keep us in a place of inaction. Inaction is unacceptable.
The temptation during this time is to distance ourselves from these stories, to claim “Not all men” or “I would never do something like that.” However, those responses do nothing to address the issue. Instead, we need to grapple with the ways our actions or inactions have contributed to the problem.
What are we doing to examine how our own actions have made women feel uncomfortable?
What are we doing to educate ourselves on the challenges women and trans people experience every day?
What are we doing to educate ourselves about the specific ways sexual assault affects women of color and other marginalized communities?
What are we doing to support survivors of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment?
What are we doing to shut down other men when we see them sexually harassing other people?
Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment. One in six women and one in 33 men experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime, and the numbers are even higher for women of color. In cases where the victim is a man, the overwhelming majority of offenders also are men.
The #MeToo posts started as a way to create awareness about these issues. But is the problem really that we weren’t aware there’s a problem, or have we consciously chosen to turn the other way and remain silent?
By in large, the men responsible for this behavior aren’t obvious monsters or storybook villains who are easily detectable after a short interaction. They are our brothers, our drinking buddies, our sons, and our friends. We can’t stand idly by and let this happen any longer.
Men, this is on us.
If you’d like to find out how you can get involved in the fight to eliminate sexual assault and sexual harassment and begin to create a community where our women, girls, and trans people can feel safe, please contact us at YWCA McLean County at (309) 585-3620 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.