As with many of you, the #metoo campaign made me think about the power dynamics of modern society, and what we can do about it. Here are my thoughts –
In general, in any given interaction with women and children, you have an advantage. From centuries of tradition, men have been at the top of the ladder. Acknowledge this. Learn to dial it back, to watch how you approach them. The macho attitude, the swagger, the demand to be listened to and, at times, be obeyed, are part of domination, and abusive. The idea that you can touch a woman on her shoulder, her arm, or her back, in order to get her attention, is a physical intrusion, an abuse of her personal space.
Beyond that, you are on the closest thing to equal footing with other men. Use it. When you see abuse, intervene. Speak out. Interpose yourself. Be brave. Set aside your desire to fit in, to be part of the system, and be part of the change that is needed.
But be aware of the dynamic as you approach. If the target is successfully handling the situation, wait until asked for help. Don’t be the guy that’s there to save the day, be the guy that’s there to support. Then, if things go wrong, be the guy that’s there to join. Don’t be the leader, be the partner.
And, finally, at least for this post, remember that choosing to not get involved is as heinous as assisting the attacker. It is an action, either one of cowardice, or one of assent. Failing to get involved should make you feel as guilty and shameful as if you’d done the attacking.
Network. Be supportive. You have more power as a group than as individuals. Get involved. I realize that, for the most part, I am preaching to the choir here, and that the vast majority of those of you who read this are already doing the best you can. You all deserve respect for dealing with these issues since the moment of birth.
Here is the challenge – everyone knows someone who is too shy, too brainwashed into believing that they are powerless. Reach out to them, offers support, pull them into the discussion. Get them involved, and encourage their growth. You’ll be fighting against years of indoctrination, and there will be times when they fall backwards. When that happens, be the one to reach out, and keep reaching out until they respond.
Of course, that challenge isn’t complete without discussing the women who support the system as it exists, the Phyllis Schaflys, Kelyann Conways, and such, the women who watch The 700 Club, who talk about “knowing your place”, the women who voted for Trump, Pence, Ryan, Rand, and McConnell. Reaching out to them is the biggest challenge of all, as far as creating a movement. Patience, calm rationale, and not devolving into a fight are all very difficult challenges. But keep trying. Changing one of their minds tends to undermine the resistance of others like them, their neighbors, their friends. Nobody said this would be easy, nor always pleasant.
Be inclusive. Chances are that there will be others in the trenches that have different ideas or beliefs than you. It may be that they feel strongly about issues outside the equality and anti-abuse struggle. You may be an anarchist, and find yourself next to a capitalist. You may be devout in your religion, and find yourself joining the efforts of an atheist. Set aside those differences for now, work towards the common goal. Working together creates understanding and respect.
Stay involved. If this past year has demonstrated anything, it is that it’s easy to gather people for an event, but hard to keep things going. This is going to be a long, hard process, one that may take generations to accomplish, be there for more than a single event.
Finally, speaking of generations, get involved with our youth. Volunteer at schools, get involved in sports, support Big Brothers and Sisters, find some way of positively impacting our kids, and then be the example, be the person they model their behavior after. They will probably be fighting against this when they are adults.
And above all, don’t give up.