Since Harvey Weinstein was first accused of sexual assault several months ago, dozens and dozens of famous men - from actors to congressmen - have been accused of everything ranging from sexual misconduct to rape. Something about the Weinstein scandal made women sit back and think, "Wow, maybe I can come forward with my story. Maybe I can finally lift this giant weight that's been sitting on my heart for the last week, month, year, decade, lifetime. Maybe I can move on and get closure and see justice done." It's been amazing to see these courageous women finally come forward and tell their story and to see the court of public opinion exile these men for their actions.
These allegations have opened the door for more conversations about what sexual harassment and consent means, why women wait decades to tell their stories, and many other nuances of occurrences like the ones in the news. It's opened up a lot of uncomfortable conversations for a lot of people - myself included. It's educated a lot of people about a lot of different things, and for that, I am grateful. I hope these women see that through their pain, some good is happening.
Unfortunately, with any situation such as this, the detractors are coming out too. I've had a lot of conversations with men about how it's ~difficult~ to be a man in this "PC culture" we have in this day and age. Adult men tell me that "their sons will not be allowed to date" for fear of some "crazy woman looking for vengeance after a break up" that will accuse their son of rape. I've had men my age say that they are now terrified to talk to women for fear that some "harmless" joke or gesture will be "misconstrued" as sexual harassment.
I have some news for men: This is how women have felt. For. All. Time.
Feeling especially careful around women now? Worried that one action or inaction might cause a huge backlash? Starting to feel like you need to protect yourself somehow in this world? Yeah, tell that to the woman whose just been catcalled and won't make eye contact with the aggressor for fear of the situation escalating. Or to the women who won't wear their long hair in a ponytail if they're out at night because a ponytail is easier for an attacker to grab on to when trying to assault a woman. Or to the women who have been carrying their car keys between their fingers so they can use it as a weapon if needed.
I don't need to break this down and to look at how this has affected men, because frankly, I don't care. All I want to talk about is where we go from here. If this is what it took for men to get serious with how they interact with women - women coming forward, telling their stories, being honest with themselves and others and saying "this man is unfit to work with women" - then I'm glad it's happening. I don't need to talk about fake allegations of rape - I know it exists, and it breaks my heart that it happens because it detracts from actual survivors around the world trying to tell their stories to a distrusting world. But rape is happening frequently enough across the country - around the world - that it is a topic that needs to be discussed. With your daughters, yes, but also with your sons. (Yes I know women assault men, but at exponentially lower rates. Another topic, another day.) We wouldn't have to have these conversations if men did not sexually assault women.
Women should not have to participate in the #MeToo movement to bring attention to this issue. Women should not have to bar their secrets on the Internet for people to stop and think, "Gee whiz, maybe sexual assault/harassment is something I should worry about if it's happening to all these women on my Facebook/Twitter/etc.!"
To the men worried that some woman will accuse their son of rape in college? Teach your sons not to rape women, and that consent is never, ever optional. Constant verbal affirmations are necessary. And don't do dumb stuff when you're drunk. (But that goes for everything.)
Young men worried that their joke will be taken as sexual harassment? Think to yourself, "Would I be okay if someone said this to my sister?" If the answer is yes, then go for it - the woman will tell you if you've gone too far. If the answer is no, keep your mouth shut and go on your merry way.
Men are a crucial part of the discussion surrounding sexual assault. How can we expect to see any real change if only 49.6% of the population is trying to achieve change? (In case you're wondering, that's the percentage of women in the world.) Men must be an active part of the discussion by listening to, trusting, and helping women who have been victims of sexual harassment/assault. We need men to teach their sons that the behaviors of the past are not okay and will no longer be tolerated. We need men to be role models for children, of course, but also for other men. If harassing behavior is called out as being not cool, not funny, not okay, then it is exponentially more likely to stop. I don't want to live in a world where sexual assault exists, and we can't achieve that without men.
It's not a hard time to be a man - unless you've assaulted women. And if you fall into that category, I'm so excited to watch you fall.