Please, men, stop acting surprised or taken aback by all the “me toos” you’re seeing on Facebook. If you needed literally every woman you know to tell you explicitly that they’ve been harassed or assaulted or raped for you to believe this is a legitimate issue, sit with that and consider your contribution to the atmosphere that makes these assaults possible.
Nobody needs you to be sorry, they need you to stop being — intentionally or lazily — so self-centered and obtuse.
And own your actions. If you can’t, if your first instinct is to argue with or contest these claims, consider keeping quiet and sorting through why this is.
I don’t mean to imply that I’m above all this. I share in the burden of making this culture what it is. To move forward, we each need to own our piece of this thing.
Years ago I hid under the guise of the “sensitive” guy thing and got into complicated situations with different women. I never assaulted with the intention to harm, but in those years I had certainly — on more than one occasion — looked the other way on how my behavior negatively affected those I have been with. I ghosted instead of sorting through relationships once they became complicated. Unaware predatory behavior is sometimes worse that that which is intentional because it makes the perpetrator more dangerous.
I have been unmindful of feelings. I have had too much to drink, misread cues and tried to kiss people who were really not interested because I was ultimately putting myself first. I stopped upon being told no, but that doesn’t make the advances any less affecting to those on the other side.
I have used inconsiderate and abusive language. I have used offensive humor as a means of fitting in. I have not spoken up when others are being sexist. I have — not yet understanding the difference between gossip and sharing important information about perpetrators — mishandled the information rather than take it seriously. I have given the benefit of the doubt to people who have been nice to me, and lazily not understood that this has little to do with that person’s ability to be an assailant.
And I think I rationalized so much of this by believing that we were all young and carefree and so let’s do whatever. And because something wasn’t rape, or even meditated assault, it wasn’t bad. It was a missed-cue, or a misunderstanding, or we were all confused … or whatever. And maybe it was these things on my end, but that doesn’t mean the effect wasn’t much worse for the person on the receiving end.
The road to hell, as it were.
Own your actions and don’t expect rewards for trying to be a better human. To quote my great friend Talia, “Can we also take what [‘good men’ are saying] on board, but not applaud them above and beyond the way we applaud all the women speaking about this? Because it’s exhausting to see men get the cookies for speaking out in a show of basic human decency, when we are doing so much work ourselves that is falling on deaf ears.”
I have tried to do everything in my power to always be better, to listen when people call me out on my bull. I have tried my hardest to understand my own behavior, and get in front of this sort of stuff that is otherwise easy to self-rationalize. And it’s why I am especially hard on folks who think “good intentions” are enough.
They are not. At best, they keep a person from ever actually doing anything. At worst, they hide their tendencies toward the predatory and nefarious.
I call this stuff out, first and foremost, to keep my own worst tendencies in check.
I hear your stories, friends. I am sorry for the part I have played, even when I’ve been aware that the deck is stacked in my favor. I don’t want a cookie; I want us all to be honest with ourselves and to try a lot harder to take responsibility for our actions.
Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Westbrook.
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