The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to shine an important light on survivors, the limits of the judicial system and the critical role prevention can play to ensure the safety and well-being of women and girls.
Despite the contributions of these movements, more needs to be done to stop all forms of violence against women.
In the first six months of 2018, 78 women across Canada were killed by acts of violence. This is an epidemic. To create a future without violence, guys need to step up, speak up and look within.
In a society that values men over women, we're used to making excuses for men's silence. Maybe a lack of role models, education and awareness cause men to not get involved. While this may be true, no matter the reason, women and girls aren't getting any safer.
Glamour and GQ together surveyed more than 1,000 men between the ages of 18 to 55 to learn how they feel about #MeToo. The responses showed that 47 per cent of them had not discussed the movement with anyone. But they should, and they need to take the time to learn what to say and do.
Even those guys who want to help may feel disengaged from the movement and keep silent during calls for action, because they don't know where to start.
Here's a few suggestions on what path you could take.
Raising the Bar
If you see someone making a woman uncomfortable with comments, gestures or gropes, will you intervene? If someone is telling a sexist joke about a female colleague or friend, will you laugh, or call out the behaviour? Will you forward the nude photo that was shared in confidence, or will you ask the sender to stop?
There are so many ways to change problematic behaviours. Just remember, in these instances others are also super uncomfortable. Other guys will (very likely) thank you later for speaking up.
Prevention starts when you break your silence, disrupt the bad behaviours of your peers and encourage a culture of respect for women and girls. Learn how to draw the line.
But what if you're the problem?
If you regret something you've done or wonder whether you've crossed a line, it's time to acknowledge your mistake and take steps to make amends.
Do you owe someone an apology? Can you write them a note or contact someone else who can pass on your message? If you've caused someone harm, be mindful of their pain and know that taking ownership over your mistake will help you and the person you hurt heal, but just because you're ready doesn't mean they are, and that's okay. Be brave, use your voice and own your actions anyway.
Healing only comes with acknowledgement, accountability and action, and it starts with you.
Inspiring the Guys around You
Another way to create a future free of harm is to address the root causes of violence against women and girls, such as how we teach our boys to become men.
Boys are taught from a young age that to be a man, you must be competitive, aggressive and in control; if you aren't those things, become them. Building a culture of respect requires disrupting these behaviours.
Teach young guys that being assertive is not the same as being aggressive
You can identify as male and still be empathic, loving, joyful and vulnerable, traits that were historically categorized as "feminine." The belief that gender expression can fit only one of two options contributes to the attitudes that perpetuate violence.
#MeToo and #TimesUp have created a space for women to have brave conversations. Men need to make their own space where they can discuss with each other how they can work together to move away from a climate of fear and build a culture of respect for women and girls.
Putting in the Time
Make time to have conversations with the boys and male youth in your life and help them reclaim their joy in their expression of self. Discuss the effects the #MeToo movement has had on them. Teach young guys that being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, especially in romantic situations. Make sure they understand consent. These are some of the ways you can become an ally and create a future free from harm for women and girls.
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Like anything you do for the first time, it will take some time to learn what you do not yet know. You're going to make some mistakes, and that's okay. But you have to try, because silence perpetuates the status quo.
Make a pledge today to break your silence and commit to a new kind of relationship with yourself and the guys around you.
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