In response to the recent unmasking of men like Harvey Weinstein, and the long overdue recognition of how terribly ubiquitous such misogynous behavior is, here are a few ideas for men about how to be an active ally to women.
To our sisters, personally and publically: I hear you and believe you, totally.
To the Harvey Weinsteins in our community: It is not women’s burden to help you.
It is men’s responsibility to rigorously confront our brothers’ behavior and do so with precision. We can say, We are a community of men here to support you. This part of what you have done is criminal. This part is an addiction. This part is bad manners. We are willing to assume the responsibility of guiding you in each case.
To our well-intended brothers: Give up scapegoating and model a solution.
I am not aware of any evidence that righteously demonizing other men results in an improved society or a culture of healthier masculinity. Being a bigot against bigots never works. Let’s move beyond us / them as if they are the bad guys and we are the good guys. We are the great majority of men and therefore can wield great influence if we step up to do so. Here is what I have done and recommend trying out:
- Avoid getting distracted by the size of the violation. It is the dynamic of the power play we want to recognize in our own thinking and behavior.
- Gather our brothers into this conversation – call it gender equity work if you like – and define ourselves within the problem rather than outside of it. Doing so locates the solution within our capability to accomplish it. For example, we use this redefinition of sexual assault:
Giving something to a woman she has not agreed to receive,
or taken something she has not agreed to give.
- With this definition then, we acknowledge that we have all acted in ways we regret, and it is much easier to see that we are not alone. Every one of us has been set up by our common cultural inheritance.
- We then support each other in doing our personal work without blame or shame: the work of learning to think and act differently with the women and girls in our lives.
- We all commit to continued learning, and to take specific action to involve other men and boys to break this vicious cycle.
We are not perfect, and we expect continuous improvement in ourselves.
Blessings in All Faiths to all my sisters and brothers…