Two simple words betray enough emotion to define an entire being, or when swallowed and pushed aside devour a person from inside.
Two simple words repeated in a cadence, one person after another, leaving thousands of words unsaid and thousands more falling between them
Two simple words dominated social media this week. By repeating them over and over, they defined a monster which has consumed generations of women and defined far too much of their lives.
In the wake of the revelations that Harvey Weinstein was a serial predator on women a simple yet powerful way of amplifying small voices sprung up on social media. It simple asked every woman who had ever been the victim of sexual predation to add the two simple words to the endless stream which has defined the better part of a week.
The message is simple and powerful. No one can deny any longer what women have to go through. No one has to be completely alone because the unanimity of it is stunning. Every single woman I know is not only the victim of sexual harassment, but many of them on a continuous basis. The vast majority of women I know are the victims of sexual assault of some kind, most of them violent.
It is something which defines women today. And being completely clueless as to how extensive and damaging the problem is has defined men today.
That’s what has to stop. I’ve let this go for a while before commenting because men often chime in just as women get talking to mansplain to them what’s really going on. The power of these two simple words was not for an idiot guy like me to stop. But there is one thing missing in the chorus repeated over and over of these two simple words, one place for a man to offer something:
It’s long past time for men to do something about this.
If it wasn’t obvious before it better be now – we’re up against a dragon here. You want to call on our macho instincts to be some kind of in charge hero or whatever it is we do, this is knight in shining armor time. You’re either on the right side or the wrong side. Period.
Men aren’t usually comfortable talking about feelings without an accompanying plan of action, so let’s create one right now.
Step #1: Cut it the Hell out.
Never bring dating or sexual topics into an area where they don’t belong. A date is a date, work is work. You don’t hit on your colleagues, you don’t hit on the waitress, and you certainly don’t talk about anything with anyone who is clearly getting annoyed by your talk. Pay attention to how people react to what you say and if they are getting quiet and look like they want to flee, stop talking for once. That goes for everyone, not just women.
Step #2: Call it the Hell out.
When other men are over the line and not noticing they are making a situation into a living Hell, say something. You can be nice about it by calling them off to the side, you don’t have to be a jerk. The goal is to put a stop to it, and the quicker and quieter the better. Yes, you will be breaking the “guy code” on this stuff, but there is a greater code. This is chivalry, knight in shining armor time. Let’s put our instincts to good use. When other men talk about what is clearly harassing behavior we all have to say, “That is very uncool, you have to cut that out.” Be firm. Men have to understand that this is just not acceptable.
Step #3: Be part of the solution.
If a woman you don’t know appears nervous and asks to borrow your cell phone, you give her your cell phone. If she asks for a ride, you give her a ride. The only question you ask is, “Is there anything else you need?” Women go through this so constantly that the adrenaline of PTSD flares up all the time and their instinct to flee as quickly as possible consumes them. It’s a good thing because it keeps them alive – and we need to be the ones who get them the Hell out of danger.
Step #4: Support
It’s not always about action. We have to be willing to listen to the stories of assault and harassment because that is what will fortify us into being what we need to be in order to put a stop to this. Very few men can listen to a woman’s story of sexual assault and not resolve to put an end to it immediately. The problem is that they rarely want to relive the situation by talking about it. When they do, listen. Respond. Understand. Support. This is the armor that we have to carry to make this work.
What’s left after a week of confession? It’s long past time for men to stand up and not allow this anymore. We must do more than not participate, we have to be part of the solution. We have to be the ones who put an end to this.
I am willing to do whatever it takes. And I want all of you to repeat after me: