The #MeToo movement has inspired countless women to share stories about experiencing sexual abuse and harassment, and opened the conversation up to the complicated but necessary dialogue about the multitude of ways that abuse is perpetuated. One of the hopes of this movement is that, on top of finally giving women the platform and power to tell their stories and hold abusers accountable, it can also help educate men on how to be better. Here are seven men on what they've learned from the #MeToo movement (so far):
- "On a personal level, I knew that I have never committed an act of obvious sexual assault, but I started wondering if any of my actions have ever made someone I was dating feel uncomfortable. I've started having arguments with men who belittled stories of assault and harassment and claimed that the people behind these stories are either 'hardcore feminists' or women seeking attention. [Those] arguments were either fruitful or frustratingly unpleasant, but they made me realize that as a society, we're making progress. It is not the men’s place to make a judgement, because men have no idea what women go through on a daily basis." —Allan, 26
- "The #MeToo movement has had a profound impact on my view of platonic and romantic male-female relationships. The most important lesson I've learned is that consent does not merely need to be implied or interpreted, it needs to be explicitly expressed by a partner. There's never a bad time to ask a woman if she is enjoying herself or okay with the manner in which I'm conducting myself. I think that some men have a tendency to shy away from questions like that because they want to appear 'smooth,' but you can never be too sure in regards to consent." —JP, 25
- "I learned that these stories happen way more than I thought. I knew there were creeps out there, but the amount is so much higher than I ever realized. The best way for men to help is to be empathetic to how a woman can very easily feel unsafe in a situation that a man wouldn’t even think about—from walking down a street with a lot of alleys, to working for a male boss. As a leader at my company, I will certainly step in when a comment, whether in jest or not, is over the line. Now I put a stop to it and pull them aside and inform them that their joke is no doubt making [someone] uncomfortable." —Nick, 32
- "I'm well aware the world is full of bad people and that will probably never change. Men know what's right and wrong—the variable is simply how much individual men care or don't care. The great thing about the #MeToo movement, and I can't believe it took this long to happen, is that now women are more protected from bad men because [these men] hopefully have learned that there is a higher chance they will be punished nowadays. I think people who were afraid to speak up against harassment are more likely to speak up now because of the movement. With Harvey Weinstein's 'open secret', it's clear that some people were speaking up, but not being heard by people that had power to cause change." —Ethan, 27
- "I have talked with my wife and sister about #MeToo. The conversations were productive and peaceful but that’s because they know I love them and I'm asking to be educated. My biggest takeaway is that sexual assault is way more complicated than I originally imagined. It comes in many shapes and forms and isn't always as obvious as grabbing a woman by her genitals. The best way to make female peers feel safe is to ask questions and when you see something, say something." —Lance, 29
- "Just like pretty much every girl has their own #MeToo moment, pretty much every guy has caused one. Before #MeToo, I didn't engage in 'locker room talk,' but if I heard it, I would just avoid it or ignore it. Now, I'm on the alert. I've heard some people talk in a pretty vulgar fashion about previous customers or other co-workers who aren't present. Now that I think about it, I'm actually surprised how many of these conversations I've overheard, where individuals who should be focusing on work are talking about body parts of another person, or what they would like to do to them. I used to just walk away in disgust in those situations. Now, if I hear anything said that's foul, regardless of the time or place I hear it, I make sure the person who said it understands that their opinions and words are not universally accepted." —Greg, 35
- "I think I'm a lot more aware of the daily interactions that I have with women since #MeToo. I try to be more conscious of not speaking over women when they're talking, which is something that I realized I have done in the past. I've also examined more closely my sexual history and any micro aggressions I may have made during or surrounding those experiences. There's a tendency, I think, for most men, including myself, to traditionally speak out against extreme cases of sexual assault and overlook day-to-day gender inequalities. I hope that that is changing now." —Teddy, 27
These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.