As the #MeToo campaign continues online, it’s clear that women are no longer willing to stay silent about their sexual harassment and assault — or accept it as an inevitable part of life.
But one question has been bugging many: where are all the dudes? Most men have sat on the sidelines throughout the conversation that started last week when rape, harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein finally became public. It’s good that they aren’t all swooping in to mansplain why sexual harassment is NBD (although, of course, way too many of them are doing that). But shouldn’t they be making some effort to improve themselves and society?
That’s where director, writer, actress and activist Nicole Stamp‘s recent Facebook post about how man can help comes in.
READ ALSO: Alyssa Milano didn’t come up with #MeToo, a woman of color did
“I wrote this specifically for a small group of my own male friends who were explicitly asking for advice after being stunned by the ubiquity of the #metoo abuse hashtag,” Nicole writes. It’s now been shared 65,000 times and counting.
Nicole advocates for men to call each other out when they say shitty things to or about women. She advises them to boost female voices, at work and in their personal lives. She even asks them not to use gendered epithets like “bitch,” pointing out instead that “asshole” is an equal-opportunity insult.
She ends her post by thanking the men who actually are making an effort. “We see you,” she says.
Here’s her post in full.
Click here to share it on Facebook.
Today my timeline is full of decent men asking, “How can I help?”, in the wake of the viral #MeToo movement created by www.twitter.com/TaranaBurke.
I’m going to take this question as sincere, and give a few suggestions.
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Here are some concrete ways men* can help:
(*I wrote this specifically for a small group of my own male friends who were explicitly asking for advice after being stunned by the ubiquity of the #metoo abuse hashtag. I wasn’t anticipating this being shared so many times. These tips can be used by people of all genders.)
1. Practice these phrases: “That’s not cool” and “That’s a shitty thing to say”. Say them to other men who are saying disrespectful things to or about women.
2. Follow some feminist writers on social media. Sometimes what they write may seem “exhausting” or “too angry”. Put aside that discomfort because that feeling is your male privilege allowing you to disengage from an important conversation that womxn don’t get to disengage from. Here are some accounts I like- but there are lots. Follow a few.
3. Boost female voices. When there’s an issue and you’re going to share an article about it- especially if it’s a gender issue- take a minute and try to find one written by a woman (same goes for other marginalized groups- seek articles about race written by IBPOC, seek articles about disability by writers with disabilities*, etc. “Nothing about us, without us”).
(*I originally said “disabled writers”. Thanks to a commenter for reminding me that “person-first” language is considered more respectful in certain disability communities).
4. Boost what women say at work. Listen for men dismissing women’s contributions and make a habit of listening and saying things like “Hey Zahra has a point”.
5. Be mindful of how you introduce women- particularly at work functions. Role-model extra respect into your introductions. So often you hear men being introduced with job titles and accolades, and women introduced as “the lovely” or “the beautiful”. I guarantee that no matter how good she looks, she’d rather be introduced by her job title and accomplishments.
Relevant Washington Post article: “At conferences, male doctors are introduced as “Doctor Whoever” 72% of the time; female doctors are introduced using the word “Doctor” only 49% of the time.” http://wapo.st/2kSWlba
Doing this subtly tells the listener that the women’s qualifications are lesser-than. Go out of your way to correct this by introducing women (and others from marginalized groups- racialized, disabled, young-looking, whatever) using their full job titles and accolades.
6. At work or out in the world, don’t call female colleagues or strangers cutesy diminutive names like “honey, baby, darling, kiddo, young lady, sweetheart, girl, or dear”. This is a subtle way of putting them down, elevating your own status over them as a man who is choosing to vote them as attractive, and reminding them and all present that they’re just cute little ladies that nobody should listen to.
At work, make a special effort to speak to women using the kind of person-to-person respectful address you use when speaking with male colleagues. Hint: Use their name. If you slip up and call your colleague “young lady” or some other bullshit like that, it’s cool to say something about it, like “I’m sorry I called you that- it’s disrespectful.”
7. Seek enthusiastic consent in your sexual encounters. If you’re having sexy time and the other person stops reciprocating, gets quiet, seems tense or stiff, avoids making eye contact, pauses, or otherwise slows the tempo of the encounter, then you should…. STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
Reframe how you think of consent. You’re not supposed to just “go for it” until someone yells NO and that’s when you stop. That’s old-fashioned and gross. And she might not be able to explicitly say no, because she has very likely been assaulted before and she might freeze when stressed- that’s a side effect of all this “me too”.
People shouldn’t have to explicitly say no. Instead, slow down. At every step, listen with your ears (or ask with your words) for the word “yes”, and then you can escalate the encounter together. Seek explicit and enthusiastic and active consent before you proceed. Proceed together. And constantly observe the other person’s body language for the hesitations that mean “no”. If this means you have to cut down on alcohol or substances to stay present and have self-control, please do that.
8. Don’t use gendered or misogynist insults. Bitch, cunt, slut, pussy, f*g, girly, sissy, cuck, etc. Use insults that work on everyone rather than insults that specifically target the feminine as weak, lesser, and undesirable. “Asshole” is a nice multipurpose choice- we all have one.
9. If there are little boys, teen boys, and young men in your life, role-model that the feminine is not less-than. Challenge them on their dismissive ideas around what counts as “girl stuff”. Buy them a doll. Paint your nails together. Show up wearing pink. Do something that’s coded as* traditionally “feminine” in a way that embraces the feminine as a valid way of being, not in a way that mocks femininity. Buy them books and watch TV and movies that prominently feature female characters. Verbally challenge their stereotypes about what men do and how women are lesser. Seeing women as people starts in infancy.
(*Thanks to a commenter for pointing out that behaviours aren’t inherently fem/masc, but rather we code them as such).
10. Be wary of constantly or only telling little girls they’re pretty and cute or commenting on their hairstyle & clothing. I know, little girls often wear fun stuff and it’s easy to comment on. But it tells her, and the little boys nearby, that girls should be valued first and foremost for their looks.
Instead, try things like “What kind of toy is that? That looks fun, what is it? Are you reading any good books? What’s your favourite subject in school? What kind of things do you like to do? Do you have a favourite animal? May I ask your advice, should I purchase the apples or the grapes?” There are so many things to talk about.
11. When a woman is walking alone and you end up walking behind her- especially in dark or secluded areas- please slow down to increase the distance between you, or, better yet, cross the street. Literally go out of your way to help her feel that you’re not following her.
12. Teach your elders to do better. Pervy Grandpa and Racist Grandma might seem harmless at Xmas dinner but as their health declines, they will largely end up being cared for by women and POC who don’t deserve dehumanizing treatment. Call it out. You can teach old dogs* new tricks, and you should definitely try.
(*Someone below pointed out that this metaphor, equating the elderly to dogs, is disrespectful. I agree with them. I’m not deleting it because hiding mistakes is creepy. I’m sorry I spoke disrespectfully about elderly people- that’s a proverb that I’ll quit using.)
13. Don’t argue so much in conversations around types of oppression that you don’t personally experience. Keep an eye open for our culture’s gross habit of putting the onus on the oppressed persons to dredge up their pain for inspection (only for us to then dismiss it as “just one instance which they probably either caused or misinterpreted anyway”). Instead, try this- if you don’t believe something is an issue, use the Googles. Find, say, three articles *written by people in that demographic*, and read them. Look for patterns in their analyses. You’ll find that these ideas aren’t weird militant fringe notions- oppression is a widely-accepted and statistically-supported phenomenon and a lot of insightful people are talking about it. Avoid the hot takes and go to the source- the people who experience the issue firsthand.
14. If you feel uncomfortable during conversations about sexism (or racism, or ableism, or cultural appropriation, or whatever- because all these systems are related, google “kyriarchy” and “intersectionality” to learn more), the only correct response is to be quiet and listen and try to focus on the topic at hand rather than centre your own feelings. It’s hard. It’s worthwhile.
Thanks for trying to be decent men. We see you.