We must see the hope and positivity in this period of reckoning and take it as an opportunity to work for new levels of empathy, understanding and equality between the sexes, rather than division.
Sexism. Yep, it still exists, despite the best efforts of many of us who hope naively that it might have been consigned to the 70s or 80s, those of us who thought we were wise to the occasions when it still rears its outmoded and ugly head.
The events of recent days and the media spotlight has once again focused its attention on the words and deeds, habits and mores of men and the way they often play power to gain an advantage over women. Doubtless there many, many despicable examples all around us, historical incidents that are all adding up around us to shame men's behaviour on an epic scale.
The post-Weinstein fallout continues. But sexism and abuse is still rife. It's cheap, it's insidious, it might be you as a male acting without thinking, acting in a part of an ingrained behavioural pattern that you haven't stopped to question since the 1970s. Us men can surely do a whole lot more? For starters, listening and giving space, being conscious of the language we use, the way we respond to actions and conversation, the ways we call out others who are pushing things too far.
Let's not overlook that are also examples, as a woman friend reminded me this week, of women 'playing the system' to their own advantage. Working in the music business since 1980 I'm all too aware of the many stories of the sexual games that were played by both sexes in order to achieve career advancement in a misogynistic, male-dominated, often corrupt music biz that has so many unfortunate parallels with the film industry. It felt rotten to the core then and doubtless it still goes on now.
So what can men do to help, in the wake of the #metoo campaign? I'd suggest that they can reflect, atone for any misjudgments in the past and resolve to do a whole lot more to call inappropriate behaviour when events start to go off the rails, when the moral compass loses its direction, when laddism takes over.
Much more will unfold in its own time - many more stories, I suspect, of gay men being taken advantage of in power-play situations, the owning up of men who have been taken advantage of by women - I've had several private messages since my article last week from men telling me that they''re finally confronting traumatic happenings they'd thought were buried forever, and for now are unable to come out. I hope they soon have the courage to confront their demons and start to heal..
But for now the focus is on women, on a period of reflection for men. Very few of us, I would suggest, are able to say, hand on heart, that our dealings and approaches to women have always been beyond reproach. It would take an extraordinary man to have through a entire life without instances of temper, anger or impatience, without an inappropriate chat up line, a feature or a rogue 'wandering hand'. I'm certainly not unblemished and it feels right to say sorry to anyone I pushed my luck with in inappropriate ways. I'm sure many men will join me in doing so too.
There are plenty of resources for men who want to read up or play their part in reacting to sexism, bullying and abuse. The everydayfeminism.com website features inspired usage of the illustrated comic format offering people an easier entry point into understanding and confronting prejudices and issues that words alone can often make seem convoluted and stilted.
Here are a few starters for ten :
1 Abuse. It’s crucial to notice and be aware of just how much this is happening / has happened to so many people and to be sympathetic to all cases, to listen to give space to the accounts if people want to talk
2 I’m very much supporting an era which is dawning where women lead, where feminine values can prevail and shape a new society. The future is all about female.
3 Of course, nearly all men could have done better, should have judged situations differently where perhaps they pushed things too far or did not seek the necessary consent or were driven by the moment into rash behaviour. By acknowledging these situations and owning up to them, we can help and support the change that is now happening.
4 The new dynamic may not necessarily go as far as ‘female led relationships’ for many but this area is one area of interest where an increasing number of men and women are exploring the dynamics. I think it may work for some but is probably destined to remain a minority lifestyle for the foreseeable future. It will certainly focus minds.
5 How much do we need to discuss sex in advance, how spontaneous should it be, how much do we negotiate and agree what we do.. whether this works for you or whether it takes away the spontaneity or the chemistry flow will depend on how much partners communicate, whether it's a long term relationship or a one-night stand. Respect is the key word and we probably all need to talk more about our needs and preferences.
6 For men especially - learning when your attention is desired and backing off when it is not. Clear signals both sides are so important. New codes needed? More body-confidence too
7 Hopefully the ‘go between’ role can be more effective at an earlier stage. Men need to be prepared to call out observed errant behaviour in friends early in the process.
8 We all need to vigilant, tune into language, observe chemistry and pull others up when their actions are inappropriate
9 Do people really still feel that being a man gives them power by its nature? If so that should be shocking and needs to be thought about. I hope we can all move on from this if it really is still the default...
10 We need to create the space for men to be able to be vulnerable. They are currently without a platform to do this. I have friends who desperately want to come out and admit what has happened to them too, to be vulnerable and open but feel unable to do so, in the current choice of space available to them. I did this myself (perhaps prematurely, some may say without the full realision of the origins and intentions of many #metoo posters) I have equally received many sympathetic and encouraging messages for being open enough to do so. For example : "I'm one of the many males who can not bring themselves to broadcast the reality which I experienced, pre-pubity, at the hands of an older female. What you wrote was brave and true. Thank you for doing so. My case is complex, so I really cant be open about it. But it angered me greatly to see people trying to silence you. I'm astonished in fact. But well done. And again, thank you."
Most importantly, we must see the hope and positivity in this period of reckoning and take it as an opportunity to work for new levels of empathy, understanding and equality between the sexes, rather than division.
images from https://everydayfeminism.com