But not in the way you think.
Me too–I’ve objectified women.
It’s surprisingly terrifying to say this out loud, to type it in black and white. I’m afraid of being branded a “pervert,” I’m afraid that people I care about will feel uncomfortable being around me.
But I’m even more terrified of nothing ever changing.
This is what keeps screaming out of my heart as I’ve listened to the avalanche of “Me too” stories tumbling out of so many of my friends. I’ve realized that we will never solve the pervasive problem of sexual harassment and abuse until we acknowledge whose problem it really is.
(Here’s a hint: it’s not a “woman’s issue.”)
And so it is not enough just for men everywhere to be sympathetic. It is not enough just for men everywhere to condemn. It is not enough just for men everywhere to be an ally. Nothing will change until men everywhere own this problem. Nothing will change until sexual harassment and abuse is discussed, perceived, and owned as a “men’s issue.”
It’s like the difference between witnessing an accident on the highway, and being the one who caused it. If you just witnessed it, even if you are a Good Samaritan and pull over, offer to help, or even provide a witness statement, you are still under no obligation. It’s not your insurance, not your bank account, not you receiving a citation. No matter how heartfelt your well-wishes, no matter how sincere your concern for those impacted, it’s just not your problem. You drive away feeling good about having helped, but under no obligation to make things right.
That’s what happens too often when it comes to how men treat sexual harassment and abuse. We feel badly, we wish other men weren’t such monsters, we wish we could do more to help… but at the end of the day we still drive away feeling good about having helped, but under no obligation to make things right.
But here’s the catch: we are under obligation. We don’t have to be a monster like Harvey Weinstein to be a part of the problem, to “cause the accident.” It really is this simple: while there are always exceptions, it is predominantly true that wherever sexual harassment or abuse has occurred, it began with a man objectifying a woman.
Me too. I’ve objectified women, too. And so I share the responsibility to help fix the problem. This is what it means to own the problem: to own the solution as well.
Nothing will change if men only care when they have daughters. Nothing will change as long as we create monsters out of Harvey Weinstein, shifting the blame from ourselves onto him. Nothing will change when we say, “Oh, that’s just locker room talk.” And, perhaps surprisingly, it won’t even change simply by declaring, “There’s no place for locker room talk in our culture.”
Nothing will change as long as we stand silently by and wait for the women in our lives to voice their own tragic #Metoo story.
Things will change when the simple fact that women are human too is all it takes for men to care. When men realize we are responsible, it’ll become more important to talk to our sons about sexual harassment and abuse, than to our daughters. Men will own the problem when we acknowledge and confess the monster that lives within each of us, instead of deflecting away and pointing to someone else’s problem. Things will change when locker room talk is more than condemned, but is owned by saying something like, “I’ve done that too. It was wrong, it may have been 20 years ago, but I did that too.”
I was involved, so now it’s my problem too.
Things will change when we stand up and add our own voice to the growing chorus of #Metoo: “Me too, I objectify women, too.”
Here’s what this really means: taking responsibility means shifting our thinking from “them” (Weinstein, “women’s issue,” etc) to “us” (or better, ME).
This explains how there can be so much outrage over the Weinsteins of the world, but so little actual change. We hate to say it out loud, but the reality is that deep down we know that monsters like Weinstein keep the rest of us safe. Monsters create the illusion of pure contrast, of a world exclusively filled with only villains and heroes. All I have to do to be a hero, is not be a villain.
“Not a monster” is an astonishingly low bar.
And this is precisely why we need to lower the bar–not of behavior, but of who gets to own the problem. It’s more than the convicts, more just the catcallers, more than just the workplace creeps.
This is the bar: Have you objectified women?
Then it’s your problem too.
Me too. I’ve objectified women, too.
I’m truly sorry. But I’m more than sorry. Since I helped create this problem, I’m committed to helping to solve it.