When you heard about the Harvey Weinstein allegations this month, I’m guessing you didn’t fret about it too much. ‘It’s just another celebrity predator, thousands of miles away from me. No impact on my life.’ Well that’s what I thought, anyway, if I gave it any thought at all.
But over the last couple of days you have probably seen a wave of women in your life coming forward to tell you that they have suffered sexual abuse or harassment, with the hashtag #MeToo. If you haven’t, go back to Facebook now and search your friends’ posts for ‘Me too’.
For me the global scale of violence against women didn’t hit home until I saw my own friends speaking out on Facebook and Twitter. Realising that so many of my friends have been sexually harassed or assaulted was an ‘oh shit’ moment for me.
I was so saddened, so indignant, on behalf of people I love. At 11.30am today I needed to stand up and step away from my desk, take a walk around the block and get some fresh air.
I’m hoping you shared that moment with me. That seeing that the women you are closest to – your friends and family – have been subjected to harassment or abuse has stopped you in your tracks too. Because now you have a vested interest in this issue of women being treated unfairly. Now this is personal.
Isn’t it unimaginable that your sister would be groped by a stranger when she gets the train home? Doesn’t it make you livid that your partner feels unsafe coming back from work because a group of men aggressively shout sexual abuse at her?
I’m hoping you’re feeling something right now.
Because we need you to help us. For your friend, girlfriend, wife or sister to no longer be on the receiving end of bias and discrimination, we need you. As beautiful and strong and funny and intelligent and downright amazing as those women in your life are, they can’t fix inequality alone.
As I write this there are over 12 million #MeToo posts on Facebook alone. Think of me, and think of all the women in your life. Odds are, we’ve been subjected to sexual harassment or abuse. If you never truly believed that women are treated as second class citizens today, in 2017, this is your wake up call.
What can I do to help?
So what can you do? Here are some concrete pieces of wisdom for you (some of which I’ve paraphrased from a strong article I read today):
1. Notice #MeToo.
Have you seen #MeToo peppering your social feeds? Stop and notice it. What it means is that someone you know has survived a horrible experience and been brave enough to share that. Allow yourself to feel upset, to feel angry, to feel outraged. Then do something with that energy.
2. Commit to taking a stand
If you’ve shared my ‘oh shit’ moment, commit to taking action for longer than the hashtag trends on Twitter. Join the He for She movement to make a pledge to act against gender bias, discrimination and violence when you see it. Then share this pledge to send a message to everyone you know that you won’t stand for it.
3. Follow through
Look, I know you’re not the kind of guy that gropes a girl on the tube or shouts at women in the street from the safety of your car. But there’s a whole mountain of bias and discrimination keeping women from being treated equally in society. And so much of it is unconscious, unintended. There is plenty you can start doing right now to make a difference for the women you love.
- Hear something that doesn’t sound right? Challenge your peers when they speak disrespectfully of others. Change happens right then and there when you speak up.
- Whether or not you share the household chores with your partner, check out this comic on the Mental Load – then read this article on what to do about it.
- Got some little people in your life? Check that you’re not automatically telling girls they look ‘beautiful’ and boys they are ‘strong’. Check that you’re not buying boys action toys that promote spatial and cognitive skills while giving girls passive objects to be looked at.
These are just a few small examples, and there is so much more to do. Explore the He for She website if you need inspiration – or ask me!