I mean that as sincerely and genuinely as possible. Do. Better. Stop making excuses for yourself, stop waiting for someone else to speak up. Stop waiting for someone else to tell you that your actions are problematic and harmful. Read a book, do the work and then do better.
Over the last few weeks, the entertainment industry has been shaken by accusations of rape, assault and sexual harassment. It’s disappointing that for those in the industry, most names haven’t been too shocking, even worse is how women of color coming forward have virtually been ignored, or straight up shot down.
In theory, we all need to better. We do. We all know someone whose comments felt off to us, but we didn’t say anything. We’ve all been in a crowded club, or walking around town and seen a man approach a woman he did not know. Even if we couldn’t heard the words exchanged, we’ve seen the woman walk faster after those types of encounters.
It’s not okay. None of this is okay.
I don’t care how many survivors come forward, I will never normalize any of this that is happening.
But what can you do about? Answer: anything. Literally anything. I can understand how that answer may be too overwhelming. So, I’ll here’s where you can start.
1. Educate yourself.
I’ll admit, it’s been very easy to scroll past allegations on social media, especially in the last week (more on this in a future post). But if you can stomach it–men, I’m talking to you–please do. Please read these accounts. Read what Ellen Page said over the weekend. Read Danielle Young of The Root’s account. Read Lupita’s. These stories matter, even if they were decades ago. These events stay with survivors for the rest of their lives. You may never be able to take their pain away, but you can educate yourself enough and fight back so more people don’t feel like them in the future. Initiatives such as Green Dot and It’s On Us are great places to start.
2. Watch Your Language
Words are often discounted when it comes to isms, but they have so much weight. Saying things like “I totally raped that final,” are how this culture of accepting rape and sexual assault begin. When your friends go unchecked for their harmful rhetoric online, you’re giving them a pass. You’re letting them know that if those words ever become reality, you’d be okay with it.
Saturday night, a Twitter user said this:
He eventually deleted the tweet after enough people told him that what he said he’d do is rape. I don’t know if him being called a rapist hundreds of times will stop him from doing what he described above, but I do know not calling him out makes what he said okay to him and all who retweeted it (too many y’all). We can’t have that. What you say matters. You don’t get to write it off as a joke and “it’s just Twitter,” is not an excuse.
Watch what you say about women, think about the women you love and the men that love them, would you be cool with language that suggests it’s okay to assault them?
3. If You See Something, Say Something
The entire premise of Green Dot and It’s On Us is bystander intervention–in other words, speaking up when you see or hear something that’s not quite right. Think about how many people weren’t and aren’t surprised by the accusations coming out, it’s because they’ve already heard behind closed doors, but didn’t speak up. While I strongly believe that a survivors story is not yours to tell, there are other ways to speak up. At work, when an inappropriate comment is made about a woman’s body, call out your coworker, report them to HR, do whatever it is you have to do to show them that their behavior is not normal and won’t be tolerated. If you’re out with friends and one of your friends keeps bothering a woman who’s mentioned she isn’t interested, tell him to back off. Don’t remove yourself from the situation and act like it isn’t happening, remove him. Remind him no means no. Don’t surround yourself with shitty people and then refuse to check them when they behave disgustingly. Be a friend. Tell them the truth. Call them out.
The frequency of “Me Too” stories should’ve been enough to show the prevalence sexual assault and harassment have in women’s lives. You being a “good guy” isn’t enough. Congrats you’re decent enough that you’ve never made a rape joke or assaulted someone. Great. Now pass that decency on. It will take you “good guys” standing up for us women to send a message. So again, I say, do better.
Are you ready to do better? Let me know how you plan to help in the comments below, then go help!