Originally published on Facebook:
So many of the women in my life have confided “me too” to me for years.
This isn’t new. It’s not a meme. It’s not a conversation.
They’ve been telling it to you, too. Or they’ve been trying to say it. Or they’ve been scared to say it. Or they’ve been exhausted to say it. We don’t get to have an opinion about this one. We don’t get to act evolved on this one. There’s room for all of us to grow.
Start by listening. Then recognize that we’re all to blame, whether by omission or commission. This isn’t about producers or comedians or reality tv stars; talking about them just continues to lose the thread. The present example should not be the story of a Hollywood mogul; it’s the story of the women, named and unnamed, regardless of their careers, whom he attacked with reckless abandon. Their stories are both deeply personal and also tragically universal. This happens to all women - every nationality, every ethnicity, every race, every spot across the sexual spectrum. All women.
And this is most certainly not a discussion about consequences - when it gets to that point, it’s still gotten to be too far. Stop using the wife/mother/sister/daughter qualifier; it doesn’t matter. Human beings shouldn’t be made to feel this way, and we’ve all done things to contribute to the problem.
“Me too” is an empowering statement of solidarity for the worst possible reason. So, because this is only something we men can do to correct as a problem, I’ll share my own admission - Me Also - as an act of solidarity to the countless women finding strength in finally speaking out more publicly. I know for a fact that I’ve argued the “not me” defense with women, when the conversation wasn’t about me, and didn’t require my input. In so doing, I negated my argument and further solidified theirs. I know that my presence at times has made women uncomfortable, not always because of my behavior (though it’s probable that my behavior hasn’t always been stellar), but because the women in our lives are constantly being forced on the defensive. These are areas where I truly did have to undergo an evolution.
You know how we can make women feel less threatened? By examining and adjusting our actions, not just our words. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’ve been above it all - if you make another human uncomfortable or scared, you have a responsibility to look at yourself in the mirror and consider that you need to make changes.
If you’re really touched and affected by the women in your life saying “me too” this time, then please find a way to listen, to learn, to reflect on your own behaviors, and do big and small things to recognize that this is a problem we can solve by setting better examples. A dear friend of mine once validated a major decision I made to adjust how I walked and carried myself at a train station late at night. It broke my heart to know that indeed, no place feels safe for so many women.
I don’t care if you have wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, or female friends. Take You out of the focus and simply start by asking them what you can do to be part of the solution. Stop trying to have the last word at the end of their disclosure. This is not a conversation. We can all do this together. It’s time we stop announcing our surprise (or lacktherof) at the volume of our fellow humans who have endured this problem, and it’s time to start listening and doing.
Oh, and I’d hope this goes without saying, but apparently there’s no room left for subtlety and nuance in 2017: don’t treat women like a piece of meat for your primal consumption. Just because you want someone doesn’t mean you get it.
Respect is the easiest form of currency you can spend. Go crazy with it.