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#MeToo: “Where Are the Men?” Hiding in Plain Sight for 40 Years

Where are the men? Since last fall, when Harvey Weinstein and his predator brothers were exposed for enacting poisonous masculinity, I’ve heard that question a lot. More and more women are speaking out—and, thankfully, being believed. Two simple words—“Me, too”—have sparked a movement that’s woken a lot of people up.

That’s essential. Almost entirely absent from the global conversation is an examination of the system that allowed men like Weinstein to thrive—a system that is “male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered,” as the late sociologist Allan Johnson put it.

The mainstream media’s coverage of individual stories of fallen men is a cop-out. If they want to get to the root of the problem they have to examine why men feel entitled to abuse women. And that leads us to—like the word or not—patriarchy.

Women and men need to jointly put patriarchy on trial. If we don’t, #MeToo’s potential tipping point might tip backwards.

Where are the men? As the principal survivors of men’s sexual harassment and assaults, women are leading the way as a tsunami of change rolls over a culture that unfairly privileges men. But they aren’t alone.

As entitled men in entertainment, politics, the media, and the arts are outed, suspended, or fired, we’re being asked, Where are the men? It’s a legitimate question. Women created and still lead the movement and it’s our cause too. Some men have been allies for a long time.

For two generations a growing number of men of all races and ethnicities in the U.S. and around the world have been working to prevent domestic and sexual violence, and also to redefine and transform traditional ideas about manhood, fatherhood, and brotherhood.  Voice Male, the magazine I edit, has been chronicling those efforts for three decades.

Astonishingly, in reporting on #MeToo most of the media has neglected to cover—or even acknowledge—profeminist men’s sweeping critique of manhood and masculinity going back to the 1970s. When Gloria Steinem famously said, “Women want a men’s movement. We are literally dying for it,” some men were listening.

The first profeminist organizations started long ago: Men Allied Nationally for the Equal Rights Amendment (M.A.N. for ERA, 1976); EMERGE, the first batterer intervention program (1977); RAVEN (Rape and Violence End Now, 1978); Oakland Men’s Project (1979). Some two-dozen such organizations founded over the last four decades are profiled in the anthology VOICE MALE – The Untold Story of the Profeminist Men’s Movement.

Because it is such a consequential time, I compiled a “People’s Guide to Antisexist Men’s Activism”, featuring a list of books, films, and TED talks on men and gender justice, and a resource list of more than 100 websites of organizations working to prevent violence against women and promoting gender equality

Where are the men? Since #MeToo represents such a pivotal moment for men to challenge the notion we were socialized to believe—that male-dominated, male-identified, male-centered societies are normal—and because we have such an opportunity to educate ourselves about the history and ongoing activism of the antisexist men’s movement, the question is what can men do right now.

Borrowing from MVP Strategies’ “Ten Things Men Can Do to Prevent Gender Violence” (written by Jackson Katz), here is an abbreviated list of suggestions.

Approach sexual harassment and gender violence as a men’s issue. View men not only as perpetrators or possible offenders, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers.

Don’t remain silent. If someone is abusing or being disrespectful to his female partner or anyone—don’t look the other way. Talk to him; urge him to seek help.

Have the courage to look inward. Question your own attitudes. Don’t be defensive when you’ve done something that hurts someone. Understand how your attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence. Work to change them.

Get help. If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abusive to women, or have been in the past, seek professional help. Now.

Join the cause. Be an ally to women who are working to end gender violence. Support the women whose courage and empowered voices have catalyzed the #MeToo movement.

Be an ally. Recognize and speak out against homophobia and gay-bashing— abuse with direct links to sexism (e.g. the gender identity and sexual orientation of men who challenge sexism is often questioned, a strategy intended to silence them. This is a key reason few men speak out).

Educate yourself. Attend programs, watch films, and read articles and books about multicultural masculinities, gender inequality, and the root causes of gender violence.

Where are the men? Women will continue to lead #MeToo, and men must play a critical role as partners and allies. If men are willing to investigate the destructive nature of patriarchy, and educate themselves about the benefits of gender equality, then history may well record this perilous time as patriarchy’s last stand and feminism’s—and profeminism’s—next chapter. #MenWhatAreWeWaitingFor?

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Rob Okun is a psychotherapist practicing in Amherst, Massachusetts and the editor of Voice Male, a national magazine chronicling the transformation of masculinity.

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January 18, 2019
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