#MeToo: Harassment Victims Speak Up, But Do Men Get The Message?
Sexual Harassment Victims Speak Up
It depends on who you ask
You have probably noticed a lot of women (and some men) posting the words “#MeToo” in their tweets and statuses.
The viral campaign, which took off as an offshoot of another hashtag, #WomenWhoRoar, is meant to call attention to sexual harassment against women in the wake of several recent cases of high-profile abusers, including legendary producer Harvey Weinstein.
Although individual posts tended to vary, the common theme was this: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘#Metoo’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”
As #MeToo posts filled my news feed—by friends of mine whom I have never personally spoken to about their experiences of harassment—I realized I was witnessing something powerful. There is no shame in being the victim of harassment, but it can be a very difficult thing to recount and share publicly.
Seeing all these #MeToo posts made me sad. I’m sure many other men felt the same way seeing their friends open up about painful moments in their pasts. But making men sad is not the point of #MeToo.
As stated in many of the posts, the idea is to give people a “sense of the magnitude of the problem.” What I was able to see on my newsfeed parallels a well-known fact: that women are disproportionately the victims of sexual harassment, and men are disproportionately the harassers. How does this fact implicate men, including those who do not see themselves as harassers?
This question can make some people feel very defensive. Men also experience sexual harassment, and I saw friends of friends point this out in the comments section of #MeToo posts. This reliably sets off heated arguments, with both sides feeling like their point of view is being dismissed.
Fortunately, it’s possible to connect these lines of thinking and forge a consensus. I know this because I was able to do so on a friend’s post using a single concept: male culture.
Why More Men Don't Speak Out Against Sexual Harassment
It’s tempting to start with men who know “right” (as we would think of it) from “wrong.” But for many men, that’s not a helpful starting point because their idea of “right” is skewed.
Our views of “right” and “wrong” are heavily influenced by our culture. If men grow up in homes and communities where women are physically and emotionally mistreated, this behavior can come to be seen as the status quo.
For instance, catcalling in Brooklyn, where I live, is common. A boy who is raised in this environment sees this behavior in older men and internalizes it. It is quite natural, unfortunately, that he comes to the conclusion that this is how he gains the approval of other men and how he should interact with women. Many men do not “see” how their behavior and culture affects women because it’s the norm—“just the way it is.”
But men who have a broader frame of reference for their perception of human dignity often feel the same pressures. Even though they may personally disagree with the behavior of other men towards women, they often feel unable to call it out. This is because they fear that doing so may cause them to fall out of favor with other men. We call this the pressure to be a “man’s man.” Add to this the fact that men tend to overestimate the sexism of their male peers and the paralysis becomes even stronger.
When more men make it clear that they do not tolerate the denigration of women, it will make this behavior, even among groups of men, socially unacceptable.
Why It's Important for Women to Share Their Stories
I know many women who are exasperated that the mistreatment of women persists, and that they always seem to be the ones speaking out about it. There is absolutely a need for men to change our culture with other men, but women’s stories, like the Me Too posts, help men understand experiences most of us haven’t had and aren’t fully aware of. Even when these issues are on a man’s radar, he has to square them with adherence to strict male gender norms (and the social penalties that can come with straying from them), which slows down the process of arriving at a point of mutual understanding.
Ideally, it wouldn’t be a woman’s responsibility to demand equal, respectful treatment from men. But when women share their experiences of harassment and gender inequality, it helps build empathy in men. This, along with the support of male allies, can influence men to change their ways.
Worth a download: How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace
Where Men's Experience of Sexual Harassment Fits In
A focus on the sexual harassment of women tends to garner a response from those who think we’re overlooking similar issues that affect men.
Men also experience sexual harassment. One of the reasons men may be even less likely than women to report harassment and seek help is due to the shame of being robbed of sexual agency (“emasculated”), the idea that men are meant to “like it,” or, if the harasser is another man, homophobia. These expectations are harmful and it is here we see a common thread: the same set of gender roles that influence the behavior of men who harass women.
While sexual harassment towards women takes place on an individual level, it is rooted in a wider culture that all men share to some extent. When societal gender norms push one group (men) towards abusive behavior more than another (women), it is worth examining whether we should change them.
#MeToo makes it clear that we should.
If your organisation would like a mentoring programme for your female employees – contact 3Plus now!
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
September 17th Latham Watkins Brussels 1200
In-house corporate event
Inclusive Leadership Workshop
September 20th EIGE Vilnius 0900
How to combat sexism in the workplace
Peer review of EU booklet authored by Dorothy Dalton
September 30th BD Foundation Webinar with Dorothy Dalton (online)
Topic: Leading with Emotional Intelligence
October 3rd JUMP Hub Brussels
Gender equality: how to build an attractive employer brand without falling into the trap of “gender washing”
Infrabel, rue de France, 9, 1070 Brusells
Open registration : http://jump.eu.com/hub-sessions/gender-equality-build-attractive-employer-brand-without-falling-trap-gender-washing/
October 15th NEHRA Event at AXA Brussels
Best Diversity and Inclusion Practices
October 22nd and 23rd Unleash Conference Paris
Open registration: https://unleashgroup.io
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
Men opting out of mentoring women suggests that it is women who are at fault, rather than mens behaviours. This is a leadership failure that needs to be addressed.read more
The age-old debate around gender quotas still prickles feathers today, but have they gone too far? Or should we be stricter in implementing them?read more
Conscious inclusion means not just creating initiatives, but creating a culture where people can speak out and raise awareness of unacceptable behaviour.read more