Men’s role in #MeToo

“Men’s role in #MeToo”, published at China.org.cn on May 1, 2018

The #MeToo movement has inspired women around the world to be more vocal about the harassment and discrimination they face, leaving many men to wonder: What role do we play in fighting misogyny?

Too often, it’s viewed as a problem we can do nothing about. As long as we individually don’t harass women, what more can we do? This is certainly a prerequisite, but a very basic one indeed. If we really care about ending sexual assault, there is much more we must do.

In today’s society, men are afforded more freedom and power in setting social norms. Men have more flexibility in expressing themselves in ways that would have women labeled “unladylike” if they were to do the same. It is for these reasons that men must speak out and take responsibility for keeping our fellow men in line.

Sadly, many men only begin to realize the problem after hearing testimony from women they know personally. I recently spoke with a close female friend of mine about an incident that took place while we were at a bar together a few years ago. One of my male friends had aggressively hit on her that evening, and even followed her to the subway station. I only remembered the beginning of that night, when the guy was speaking intensely with her about a boring topic and she was responding politely, which I wrongly assumed to be genuine interest.

But the social norms that constrain women to “ladylike” behavior have created an asymmetry in communication between men and women.

While men can say whatever they want, many women still feel the need to be viewed as “nice.” Why? Because many men demand it of them. A man will often view a woman as a “bitch” if she expresses any thoughts that are disagreeable to him – especially if she punctures his ego. That is what feminists mean by “fragile masculinity.”

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