Hear me out: men can help other men process and empower themselves around bullying, catcalling, and harassment. We won’t always know what to do… we won’t always do it right… we may even fail to act. But at a minimum, we can talk to other men about what we saw.
The other night, my dear friend Adam came over for a glass of wine and to catch up. He told another man’s story about hearing a strange man tell an unknown woman to smile more. Adam’s friend didn’t know what to do: confront, accuse, support, rescue? What was the correct option?
Adam’s friend ended up doing “nothing” and leaving the store feeling unsettled, confused, and a little ashamed. But I put “nothing” in quotes because at least he had the strength and vulnerability to tell Adam about his experience. Men talking to other men is the beginning.
Now, obviously, the most important person in this story is the woman who was harassed by a stranger. But this thread is about what men ought to do and it centers on our experience and actions. Interrupting or responding to harassment, bullying or violence can take some skill.
Most of us don’t have that skill — we’ll most likely do it wrong and we hate doing it wrong. So most of us do nothing. Doing nothing is not a great choice; we need to do something to co-create a safer, more just world. But admitting ignorance and helplessness is not nothing.
Sharing ignorance and helplessness with another man is something. Starting conversations that at least recognize the existence and prevalence of micro-aggressions and harassment is a STEP away from gaslighting women and lying to each other.
Sharing stories and asking each other questions is at least not policing each other into silence and complicity. Mark Greene is taking it to the next level on Twitter with #MensAbortionHistories. Tell the stories…
Tell the stories. Support each other in taking action. Make mistakes. Tell the stories about the mistakes. Take more action. Tell the stories of when it worked. Inspire yourself. Empower other men. Keep talking to one another.
I encourage any man who is ready to hear and share stories to join a pro-feminist men’s group that makes room for every man to talk and be heard. Here’s a list of groups, many of which host virtual men’s circles.
Resources for Men’s Work
Let’s do this.