It is amazing to me that this article needs to be written, because all of the points I’m about to make seem embarrassingly obvious to me, and will undoubtedly evoke a “yeah, no shit” for any woman or survivor reading this article. But when I step back and consider how our society continues to center and privilege cis white men, it makes complete sense that these concepts might seem foreign to you all.
You may be thinking, “Wow, this woman sounds angry!”
I’ve got news for you—I am.
I am a therapist and a survivor of sexual assault. I carry what happened to me every day into a profession where it is my job to hold space for people, many of whom are also survivors of sexual violence. I am constantly thinking about, talking about, and grappling with rape culture and toxic masculinity due to my profession and my trauma history. I am never not aware of these things. This is not unique to me. Women and survivors are constantly aware of these things because we have no choice in the matter. Every time I hear or read about the Blasey Ford case, I inevitably picture the smug faces of the men who teamed up to sexually assault me when I was a teenager. It is a miserable reflex that so many survivors cannot escape.
Cis white men who have not experienced sexual violence exist at the center; you are insulated from conversations about rape culture and toxic masculinity because, to put it simply, you are not compelled to talk or think about these things. Please use this list as a starting point for supporting the women and survivors in your life.
For the love of God, Google is free.
“How can I, a privileged white man, do better? What can I do?”
Handholding you all through these discussions is cancelled. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something like this commented on Facebook statuses, or how often I’ve observed Woke Baes, PBR in hand, taking women aside at parties to ask them a version of this question. I believe the aforementioned Woke Bae is thinking to himself, “Good job, Brandon. Way to show this woman you’re Woke AF!” Well-intended questions like this make us expend finite emotional labor and reveal you as performative and superficial. Your intentions might be pure in this situation, but intentions come secondary to impact. When considering how your actions will affect women during this time, always prioritize the potential impact over your good intentions.
So, what do I do instead, you ask? The answer is simple: conduct a Google search.
My dudes, it is the year of our Lord, 2018. There is a plethora of resources available at your fingertips: articles, essays, books, peer-reviewed research, videos, and documentaries on the detrimental repercussions of toxic masculinity and rape culture. A two-second Google search such as, “How can a man support the #MeToo movement?” will yield millions of results. Amazing!
Asking us in person or via social media comes off as extremely performative because–brace yourselves, men–it is. In doing so, you’re putting the person who is experiencing oppression on the spot to explain why they are demanding to be treated equally. You are learning on the backs of those who have experienced trauma firsthand when there is a wealth of resources available to you.
If you think the only way to truly learn about how you can support us is to grill survivors about how YOU can be better, you should dig deep and explore your intentions for wanting to “be better.”
Call out others when they say harmful things.
Silently condemning another person when they say something harmful doesn’t cut it. If you seriously want to support us, you will call out others in the moment, be it in person or online. We are almost always the ones having to make the choice of whether to stick up for our basic humanity or stay silent due to safety reasons–or because, quite frankly, we’re fucking exhausted. Sadly, men are more apt to listen when another man calls them out.
Post your support on your own social media accounts.
Don’t just comment on our statuses with support or take us aside to tell us how “brave” we are when we fight for our basic rights. Post on your own social media platforms to let other men know where you stand. Doing so will spark conversations with other men about consent, rape culture, and toxic masculinity.
March alongside us. Campaign for political candidates who openly support women’s and survivors’ rights. Join your local Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chapter and be a role model for young men. Talk about consent with them.
Donate money to reputable organizations.
Help fund the work of nonprofits and other groups who are fighting on the front lines. Here are a few ideas…