Fun fact: Female guppies have evolved to swim faster than their male counterparts to avoid being sexually harassed. My question is, if tiny female poecilia reticulata can evolve, why can’t male homo sapiens?
Harvey Weinstein’s too-little-too-late comeuppance has been the springboard for thousands of women to share their #metoo stories on social media. Apparently men have been taken aback and surprised by the ubiquity of sexual harassment in the workplace. (Personally, I’d be more shocked to hear of a woman who’s never been sexually harassed.) Some men’s response to the “bro-haha” brouhaha is to mourn the good ole days and worry about their behavior and that of their bros being unfairly exposed. Woody “I am obsessed with young starlets and had sex with my 39-years-younger-step-daughter” Allen’s response to #metoo was that he hoped there wouldn’t be a “witch hunt”. He also said, “No one ever came to me or told me horror stories with any real seriousness.” What distinguishes plain ole seriousness from not real or faux seriousness, Mr. Allen — the fact that the stories come from women? (Apparently nothing serious or wise can come out of the mouths of babes.)
As Lindy West put it so well, “the cultural malfunction that allows Allen to feel comfortable issuing that statement is the same malfunction that gave us Allen and Weinstein in the first place: the smothering, delusional, galactic entitlement of powerful men.” The “witch-hunt” those with penises and privilege fear is there being some sort of consequences paid for their ongoing lack of professionalism, decency, and respect for human beings lacking the good fortune to possess penises and the privilege they’ve always conferred. The aptly-named Woody’s remarks exist in that weird irony-free bubble that’s not only oblivious to his own history of perversion and predation, but also to the fact that witch-hunts were used to intimidate, abuse and assault millions of women through the ages.
But when men aren’t co-opting our empowering #metoo movement for their own peeny pity parties, what are they doing? Going about business as usual, I expect. After falling off the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill (look it up, Millennials), everyone said that would be a game-changer in the ubiquity and invisibility of women’s sexual harassment at the workplace. Uh, not so much. Years later, dozens and dozens of women speak up about being drugged and raped by Bill Cosby and he’s in prison naturally – oh right, he’s not. Then of course there was this vulgar millionaire caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, only to later slander the women who stepped forward to say he’d done it them, calling them liars and too ugly to be deemed grope-able by his diminutive digits. That guy got his comeuppance…right into the White House.
OK, so a lot of men – from Bill “God hates me” O’Reilly to the local GMC assistant manager, assault, threaten, pressure and intimidate women in the workplace. And a lot of men don’t. It is those men in whom I’m interested. While good women are tearfully, bravely stepping up to say #metoo, what are men doing? Besides all the “I had no idea” and witch-hunt bulls**t, what are all the men saying and doing? I don’t care, Matt Damon, if you have daughters, and I don’t care, General Kelly, how “sacred” women used to be in this laughable, imaginary world of yours. I care about a world where half the human population is safe and treated with respect, common decency and justice.
The #metoo has brought about “a positive deluge of victims speaking out,” Lindy West reminds us, “an uncountable number that represents not just the acute trauma of an unwanted touch or a dehumanizing comment, but the invisible ripples of confidence lost, jobs quit, careers stalled, women’s influence diminished, men’s power entrenched.” But as women tell their not-serious-enough-for-Woody-Allen #metoo stories, there’s been no outpouring from the mouths of men. Crickets.
What I want to hear is that men get it. That male human beings are women human beings’ allies, and that they’re going to listen to the bitchy-hunt chatter Mr. Allen and his ilk deplore. I know my #metoo stories; I know my sisters’ #metoo stories. Now I want to hear from men; I want to hear that they’re going to listen and they’re going to take action. I want to hear that the Weinsteins, Cosbys, O’Reillys will be punished in the court of public opinion — and actual courts. I’d like to hear that boasting pussy-grabbing bullies will not be embraced, cheered, and elected to the highest office in the land.
Men: step up and demand change. Don’t ignore, belittle, or run from our #metoo stories. They are all we have. We don’t have the courts, the corporations, or laws on our side. We only have our stories and our hope that you will speak out, speak up, stop putting up and start stepping up. It’s time you stopped turning a blind eye, colluding, enabling, or just keeping silent. Your old boys’ network is just that – OLD. And for boys. It’s time to be men. (Or at least a mensch.) Women — your mothers, sisters, daughters, friends – your fellow human beings, we need you and want you to be our allies.
Unlike girl guppies, we can’t do all the work; we’re already swimming as fast as we can, and we’re tired. Guys, only when you get involved can we at last turn the tide. Let’s go from #metoo talk to WE WILL action.
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