Recently I read an article in TIME magazine discussing #metoo and what men can do when they “see other men behaving badly”.
The author, Susanna Schrobsdorff, suggests a list of “dos” and “don’ts” isn’t enough. She says we need men to hear from women directly and that we’d all benefit if men would ask if they’d done something offensive.
One of the things they teach when learning to work with trauma survivors is that facing one’s abuser can be a powerful experience. It can empower and heal in the most amazing ways.
It’s also not something to be taken lightly. We may not be ready to face those who have harmed us. It takes time and healing to build the emotional and psychological strength necessary to face our wounds.
In other words, it’s not the right time to face one’s abuser simply because said abuser is ready to talk.
That’s what struck me most about the TIME article. Certainly open and honest conversations are important, but when we, as men, see #metoo taking place and start asking questions like “have I ever done anything to make you uncomfortable?” we’re essentially choosing when and where a woman and potential victim has to answer a question about harassment.
We could be inadvertently pushing a victim to talk about something they may not be ready to talk about yet--and causing them to experience their trauma all over again. Even if it comes from good intentions, it’s still patriarchy and misogyny.
I liken it to a white person asking a person of color to tell us whether we’re racist. I wonder how many times in their lives a person of color is asked to assuage our white guilt to make us feel better? Each time they’re put in such a position racial inequality in America rears its ugly head.
This is why it’s so important men join the sexual harassment and abuse conversation. Because we can’t simply ask women to make us feel better about it. It’s not only up to women to fix sexual harassment--it’s up to us too.
It’s also why it’s important men work together on issues directly impacting those who have been hurt by unequal power structures in our society. For example, a local Bend organization, Saving Grace, puts together a monthly coffee chat (Bluebird Cafe, 8am on every Third Thursday) for men to talk about ways to get involved in the anti-violence movement.
It’s a great opportunity to meet other men, develop trust, and wonder about the choices we’ve made and the pain caused. It’s a great place to engage our complicity in violence against women and find healthy ways to impact the problem.
#Metoo has the power to stop the silence and change the way we engage violence and harassment in America. But it will all have been for naught if it simply reinforces the power structures already in place. Yes, men need to wonder about their past actions, but a victim isn’t the best place to start.