The timing of the recent “Women’s Convention” and the excellent choice of content by the women of color who led it, is deeply relevant to our daily lives. This alignment to women’s lives today has inspired me to write a number of blogs on topics discussed at the conference.
One of those topics is sexual harassment. “#Me too” is a movement created by Tarana Burke serving to empower women through empathy. Burke was joined by actress Rose McGowan who kicked off a panel discussion titled “Fighting for Survivors of Sexual Assault.”
It is notable that it took more than a decade before #MeToo spilled out into the public consciousness. It was only this past October when white women began using #MeToo on social media that sexual harassment became a social concern. I say this understanding that any woman, who publicly speaks out, puts themselves at risk. This is a problem for all of us. But let’s be clear, black and brown women and women of color have been repeatedly raped by white men throughout our history as a country.
It was so heartening when one man on the convention panel reflected on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault in American culture. “This is nothing new,” he said. “But it is time for this conversation to come out in the open. Ours has been a culture of rape ever since the very first European boat arrived on America’s shores.” There was an audible pause from the audience followed by shouts of appreciation and plenty of tears as women internalized that it was not their fault that our culture developed this way. Thinking back, we know the history of the founding of our nation and the venereal diseases that were spread among the native population. But this man’s words connected the dots, and absolved some of the guilt women often feel about allowing ourselves to be trapped in untenable situations. It was then that I began thinking how important it is for men to become allies in our #MeToo movement.
Today, I am asking: Where is the courage of our men to add their voices to this cry for an adjustment to our social norms? It will take the actions of men as well as women, to move us forward. I believe that it is time for men of good conscience to step forward and add their voices. When I first put the accompanying photo on Facebook, one woman commented: “Men do not understand.” I don’t believe that is true of all men. I was married to a man who forcefully spoke out against sexual abuse of women in the black power movement back in 1972. I believe there are a lot of good men who respect women but are complacent in speaking out as they observe women being abused, not only physically but verbally, because they are concerned about backlash.
Yes, there will be a backlash to those men who step forward on our behalf. But we need our men to be as brave as our women and speak out. We need the courage of men who do understand to help us change the sexual norms of abuse and degradation of women in our society. Where are our good men and how can we support their voices? If we are to make social change, we must do it together. What are you going to do, the next time you observe sexual harassment?
By Joann Castle Coming soon…
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