Editor’s note: Dear men
As a man I could sit back horrified and feign surprise at the allegations levelled towards Harvey Weinstein, but the point would be moot.
Like many of the silent stars in Hollywood — who kept their mouths shut, in apparent fear of jeopardizing future career opportunities — I am not shocked about the existence of this “open secret.”
If you are like myself, you might be asking things like “What can I do as an ally?” or “What can I do as a cis-man to combat this heinous culture?” and the answer to that question is far more complicated than just saying “not all men…”
It’s far too late to act shocked when accusations like this come to light and moreover, making this problem about yourself won’t help anyone either.
For a long time, I personally felt like I didn’t have the right to speak on behalf of other people unless I represented them. To be fairly honest I still don’t feel completely comfortable with the space that my words take up as a cis-man, but I learned quickly that silence in times like these can be toxic.
I’m not saying that if you are a cis-man you are obligated to make a public service announcement that says you stand with survivors of sexual or gendered violence — not a bad thing to say about yourself though, either way — what I am saying is that we, collectively as men, need to stop pretending that this culture isn’t being fostered directly underneath our noses. We need to acknowledge that these things are literally happening all around us and we need stand in solidarity with those who have been silenced by fear.
I used to like to think that being on campus at a university like Laurier — where women can be found holding strong, authoritative roles — shielded me from being exposed to some of the harsher aspects of everyday life, but in reality I know that these problems bubble just beneath the surface every where you look.
So what can you, as a cis-male, do?
I would recommend that you educate yourself on bystander intervention and what to do when someone you know commits an act of sexual violence.
It would also be super beneficial to educate yourself on how to properly respond when someone discloses their own experience with sexual violence.
There is plenty of reading material available online that can prepare you for the worst, which, after reading, will leave you with no choice but to intervene when possible or necessary.
As cis-men, we have the responsibility — and in my opinion, the duty — to exercise our privilege when it can benefit others or draw attention to inequality.
I am not talking about adopting this “savior complex” where you are the person that comes to the rescue, because it’s not like that either.
I think that it’s more about acknowledging and validating peoples lived experiences and having potentially uncomfortable conversations, than coming to someone’s aide.
Next time you see a guy acting inappropriately towards a woman, say something to him. Let him know that — as a fellow male — you do not condone his actions. Have these kinds of conversations when you are with other men.
So many males fall prey to this culture of toxic masculinity and to be silent amongst ourselves can only serve to perpetuate violence.