If you use any form of social media whatsoever, you’ve probably come across the #metoo hashtag, where women share their experiences of sexual harassment with the world to draw attention to the problem. You’d also have heard about what started it all – the numerous allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
The movement gained impetus on social media after a call to action by the actor Alyssa Milano, one of Weinstein’s most vocal critics, who wrote: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
But who are these “people” we’re trying to convince? It’s surely not women, since the vast majority of us already know about the problem. We normalise it, joke about it, roll our eyes at it, blame each other for it, and do what we can to take responsibility for it – even though we shouldn’t have to. We keep our mouths shut about it when in the company of men, for fears of being belittled and “mansplained” by arrogant middle aged dudes who are pretty sure these problems don’t actually exist.
The #metoo movement is important, but not to give men an idea of the magnitude of the problem. If they aren’t already aware of it, they are a part of it: they have a low level of awareness of what’s happening around them in the world, and don’t respect women enough to listen to them, or believe them.
Why #metoo matters is simply because it increases women’s courage. It helps us “buck the trend” of making ourselves small to keep other people comfortable, and to instead say, “You know what? I don’t feel like hiding anymore. Fuck it. I don’t care if you feel uncomfortable. MY AUTHENTIC VOICE ACTUALLY MATTERS, FUCKSTICLE.”
As for the decent men who already interact with women as their equals, listen to them and know that sexism exists, what’s the next step? How can they help to make the #metoo stories of sexual harassment of women a far less normalised part of our society?
Sexual harassment doesn’t manifest from thin air. There has to be a level of disrespect and entitlement in the first place, beneath it all – and perhaps this is what we need to address first and foremost. The best thing good men can do is start to speak out about the seemingly “little things”. Stop laughing at your mate’s sexist jokes for starters – a low-level, cheap, unintelligent form of humour which is absolutely disgusting.
I think #metoo is fantastic and I wholeheartedly support all women who’ve gotten behind the movement. But for me personally, I don’t want to try to list off examples – even though I have plenty. I’m so tired of explaining and feel like I’ve been doing it my whole life.
What I’d like to see, instead, is women giving far less fucks about men’s feelings, and men making small changes to do better.