#MeToo, we hear it almost daily, it's like a chant coming out of every dark corner, and we wish it never had to exist.
It has been almost a year since the first #MeToo was tweeted, and in so many ways it has been successful, but in other ways it has inadvertently lead to a divide between the sexes. Women are feeling empowered enough to speak out, which is good, but in turn, men are left feeling unsure of what they can or can't do. This then angers us further. "How dare they make it about them!" We scream. "We are trying to speak about our pain and the silence that we have been met with after years of speaking out about our injustices, and now when we finally are being heard, they react like this!" It is infuriating, I understand. But what if we put our anger and shock at their reaction aside for a minute. What if we look at them as emotional human beings just like we are and ask, "Why?" Not from the same place of anger from which we are currently fueled but instead from one of genuine curiosity. This is actually something I have been doing. Talking to men and understanding not their opinion, but the emotional place their opinion is coming from, and I realize that there may be a better way to recruit our brothers help into the cause.
We are angry, and we have a right to be. But in our anger we have lashed out at men. Not at just the aggressors who have done the crime but at the large majority of men who failed to do anything about the problem. Men who have had the luxury of enjoying a privileged place and look at us like we have two heads the second we mention something like "Feeling pressured." We berate them for not doing more. For letting these injustices happen. When really it is because they don't understand. And the more they show us they don't understand, the more we lash out in anger.
This also has made it far easier and common place for accusations against men to run rampant. We look at these men as monsters now. To the point where a simple accidental brushing up against a women when trying to get through a hallway can lead to him getting tagged with the career ending hashtag and placed at the scrutiny of so many. We have convinced ourselves that men are villains by nature and many have made that message to them loud and clear. It has left them feeling like they have to be on the defensive, how can they prove that they are willing to stand with women against sexual violence, if even standing near a woman could lead to an accusation of inappropriate behavior.
In this way, while #MeToo has done so much with bringing this very real problem to light, it also failed to take into account it's effect on men in general. This is not an unfix-able problem, adjustments can be made in order to ensure that everyone is comfortable working together to end sexual violence against anyone. Men have been standing up for women long before #MeToo. We don't hear these stories as much though, they don't play well to hear about the heroes who stepped up and did something to save someone. They are read and put aside within a couple news cycles rarely to be heard about again. It doesn't bleed, so it won't lead. One example that did make the news was a couple years ago, there was a story where two men came across Brock Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and they did something about it. They knew it was wrong and they took a stand. This was well before #MeToo. Men are out there willing to answer the call for help, or even just recognize when help is needed, as was this case. There are countless other examples of men stepping up to help, most of which never make it to the news.
While bringing awareness and making sure that survivors have a safe place to open up about what has happened to them is an excellent first step, we also need to be asking men to join with us in taking a stand. And we also need to remember that they want to help, if we could only open ourselves up to allowing them to. Seek out the "hero" in a man and he will step up, treat a man like a villain and he will fight against it. This does not mean don't call out the guilty, this simply means, just because there are some guilty doesn't mean we look at all men through the same lens. Just as we have legitimate fears of being assaulted, men also have fears of being wrongfully accused. I am by no means invalidating any one who feels they have been wronged, but we also need to be sure we are not being overly sensitive to any perceived injustice while seeking out justice for ourselves.
Men are trying to understand what they can do, if we can talk openly with them about our experiences, like we would one of our close male friends, instead of accusing them and getting angry at them for not taking action previously, it can help them see where things have gone wrong in the past and what to watch out for in the future. We have been blaming them for letting things happen, when in reality they just didn't even know what exactly was going on unless it was absolutely blatant and in their face. Lets bring understanding and come at this from a place of working together rather than blame and anger. By doing this we can affect change at an even faster rate because it will no longer feel like a one sided battle, instead both women and men will be standing together to stop sexual violence.
We as powerful feminine women can heal the wounds of society by showing everyone there is a better way. We can stand together for change, we can stand together for healing, we can stand together with men and say enough.