Updated: Jul 8, 2020
TW: sexual violence & mature language
I wanted to write a post that would serve as a starting point for men wishing to begin exploring their role in regards to sexual violence. Though none of the following is truly gender specific, I wrote it thinking of the few men who have reached out to me asking how they can support and what they can do to learn more.
The following are some articles that I feel will help you, the reader, start to unpack the complex & difficult nature of this work.
Let me first share a few thoughts of my own, while noting that these are my beliefs only & not to be taken on behalf of all womxn:
This work is more than steps to be taken & books to be read. It is about deeply examining your personal belief systems, the patriarchal system in which you were raised, & the numerous layers of culture, colonization, & trauma that shape our worldview. It is truly a lifelong journey. Something you will always be bumping into & re-evaluating. This is okay. You are not alone. We are all here doing this work alongside you. The unlearning, the relearning. I know you can do it. ❤️
You will recognize moments in your life where you have been wrong. This is part of the process of awakening. It is essential to understanding how to do things differently moving forward. I believe we do the best we can with the information we have. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, when we know better, we do better.
Try to hold the concepts of both one & other, as opposed one or other. For example, a person can be both a brilliant artist & a sexual predator. They can be both a person who provides for their family & have committed sexual assault. They can be both nice & quiet at work & violent in their home. It is important for us to hold these concepts, this unique multifaceted fabric of humanity, together at the same time because the majority of people who perpetuate sexual harassment & assault are not all good or all bad. In fact, many would argue that most of them are considered "good people". That is precisely what makes this work so incredibly difficult.
Hurt people hurt people, but understanding the reasons behind someone's behaviour does not excuse it or make it okay. We can hold space & compassion for someone's past trauma, but that does not excuse their inappropriate or violent behaviour.
The hardest conversations you will have are not with strangers, but with those you love. With your brothers, with people in your crew, with mentors you admire & respect, family that has shown you nothing but goodness & love. These are the conversations that are the most painful & difficult, but they are also the ones that are most important. They are the ones that may come back at you with hurt feelings, ridicule, or statements like, it's not a big deal. What's your problem? Chill out. When did you get so politically correct? It's just a joke. This is where your strength & patience will be tested & your skills for interpersonal communication are most essential. Again, I know you can do this.
So, start here. Start with the following articles. Take your time. Journal as you go. They're in no particular order. See if you can read with the simple intention of understanding the other perspective. Of learning to see through another lens.
I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
*note: Chanel Miller shared her identity publicly just recently with the release of her book Know My Name. You may recognize her case as the Stanford Case, or in relation to Brock Turner, her assaulter who received only 3months in jail following his conviction.
The public and the police vastly overestimate the incidence of false reports: The most solid, case-by-case examinations say that only 5 to 7 percent of sexual assault reports are false. Responses to trauma that are often viewed as evidence of unreliability, such as paralysis or an inability to recall timelines, have been shown by neurobiological research to be not only legitimate, but common. And when it comes to the most serious assaults, like rape, people imagine that they are committed by strangers who attack in a dark alley, and base their view of how victims should react on that idea — even though the vast majority of assaults occur between people who know one another.
Men have no idea what it takes to be a woman. To grin and bear it and persevere. The constant state of war, navigating the relentless obstacle course of testosterone and misogyny, where they think we are property to be owned and plowed. But we’re not. We are people, just like them. Equals, in fact, or at least that’s the core of what feminism is still trying to achieve.
Until men stand up and say, “This harassment, this abuse, these assaults are wrong,” nothing will change. If I was silent, it would mean I’m consenting to all of it. I always have felt women have been able to take care of themselves, 100%. But men need to hold other men accountable. That’s my thing. I came up in the cult of masculinity, in football and the sports world and entertainment. You’re in places and guys are saying the wildest thing. People need to be called on that.
Accurately articulating the frustrations of young black men being constantly harassed by the cops is at Straight Outta Compton’s activistic core. There is a direct connection between the oppression of black men and the violence perpetrated by black men against black women. It is a cycle of victimization and reenactment of violence that is rooted in racism and perpetuated by patriarchy.
“We see that men have higher suicide rates, men have more cardiovascular disease and men are lonelier as they get older,” he said. “We’re trying to help men by expanding their emotional repertoire, not trying to take away the strengths that men have.”
“We see and hear women being doubted over and over again. I didn’t want to have to defend my memories because they were weakened. If someone wanted to accuse me of lying, I had nothing I could use as proof. It wasn’t like I was attacked on the street with bruises to show for it. It was just so much easier to ignore it.”
Men do not talk to one another about nurturance skills: doing so feels too intimate, or the codes of masculinity make doing so too frightening. If they can’t ask and teach each other... then how do they learn?
When it comes to apologizing publicly for sexual harassment... "Basically, it's a performance," Lerner points out. "It's an act of self-protection, an attempt to do damage control, to save one's reputation."
Listen to those who are speaking up, risking themselves and their livelihoods to make this world better. They are doing so much inspiring work, and making this industry worthwhile for myself and for so many others. They are those who should be leading, should be charged with making decisions, and should be heard.
*note: Harriet Lerner, who is interviewed for this article appears in a two part episode of Brené Brown's Unlocking Us podcast. You can check it out here or wherever you listen to your podcasts.