"I am so fucking disappointed in you. Shape up." - suicide note left by Libby Holden, played by Kathy Bates Primary Colors

Dec 06 2017

I've been waiting to comment on the tidal wave of sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations that have flooded popular culture since mid-October, when Ronan Farrow's phenomenal piece of investigative journalism hit newsstands and screens. Every time I thought I knew what I wanted to say, there would be a new revelation.

Harvey Weinstein and Miramax produced some of my favorite films.

Kevin Spacey was one of my favorite actors.

Louis CK was one of my favorite comedians.

Al Franken? Always wanted to vote for him.

I have notoriously poor judgement when it comes to men, and this has just re-proven that point every day for the past two months. "I thought he was one of the good ones" is a phrase I dearly hope I never speak again, and I might not, if only because I might have to stop believing "good ones" are out there at all.

I finally decided today was the day to weigh in because Time Magazine revealed their Person of the Year is The Silence Breakers - all the women who have been coming forward to name names and describe what being female is like on the daily. Judging your outfit for the day through the eyes of a potential jury. Weighing the environmental benefits of public transportation against the safety of your own car. Constant vigilance against an unknown threat that must be perceived lest we fail to prevent our own victimization.

And still, as women attempt to provoke a long-overdue cultural awakening about how exhausting fighting off advances and looking for red flags 24/7 can be, a shocking portion of the male audience has neglected to ask the most obvious question: "What can we, as men, be doing differently? How can we help?" I've heard far too many men getting defensive and far too few getting real.

The show Six Feet Under began each episode with a character death and the episode was constructed around their funeral. One episode - and I wish I could remember which one - began with a woman walking down a sidewalk, hearing male voices cat-calling her, beginning to run away, and then getting hit by a car when she ran into traffic. Later in the episode, it's revealed that the men were her friends and they were just "playing around." They had no idea she would become so terrified that she would rather take her chances against a Subaru than a pair of strange men.

I think that's probably a more common male mindset than most of us want to recognize and that's the problem. Men (cue the huge, overreaching generalization here) are far more likely to think about the fun that they're having than worry about how their actions might make the people around them feel.

So, what can men do?

Listen. You need to be able to hear us, listen to our stories without getting defensive or hostile or making it all about you, before you can actually be part of the solution.

Then, start trying to see the world through our eyes. Call out the guy at work that makes inappropriate jokes or openly leers at coworkers. If you don't, you're sending that creeper the message that you don't have a problem with his behavior. I'm not saying you need to become the World's Oldest Hall Monitor, but if you see a jackasss being a jackass, surely you can call him out in a special dude-bro way that checks his behavior without risking your testicular health?

Also - and this one's dead easy - keep your goddamn hands to yourself. Whether it's someone you meet through your job or a random stranger in an elevator, assume that you should touch her as often and in the same places as you would a male colleague. In other words, a handshake. If we want you to touch us, we'll let you know. Don't just look for "consent": aim for actual enthusiasm.

Gentlemen, this is your problem and you need to set to work solving it through your own actions. Because right now? We are so fucking disappointed in you.

 

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