#metoo is just another way women bear the burden of making change

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#metoo is just another way women bear the burden of making change

Photo by Matheus Ferrero.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero.

Photo by Matheus Ferrero.

Rachel Edelstein, Staff Writer

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Women are posting “#metoo” on social media to indicate they’ve experienced sexual harassment and like every advancement towards gender equality, #metoo is another example of women being tasked with educating men. Until men educate each other, the change will be frustratingly slow.

If the majority of women in your newsfeed have posted #metoo, maybe this is a real catalyst for change. In a perfect world the #metoo movement would make heterosexual men suddenly aware of their male privilege, and sexual harassment towards women would quietly go away.

Or like other social media “slacktivism,” maybe this won’t change much at all. Remember #kony2012, targeting Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord that non-profit Invisible Children aimed to raise awareness about and remove from power? He is still at large.

Remember when the Occupy Movement swept the country in a series of protests by the 99 percent against the one percent in September 2011? The voice against rising economic inequality was inspiring, but big business is still, well, big business.

At the time of writing this, #metoo is tapering out of my newsfeed. While I’m pessimistic that it will result in real improvements towards gender equality, I can appreciate the awareness it raises like other viral social justice trends online. It’s better than nothing.

To be real though, the only significant change that can come now is for men to tell other men to stop. That, and raising baby boys better. The second suggestion is hard. I’m not an expert in this field. I can only speak to what I know, which is that we never had a conversation about this in my household or classroom growing up. Not once. An early dialogue on this topic is a good place to start. And of course parents should model respectable behavior towards women.

I’m glad to see my newsfeed filled with a precise decry against sexual harassment. It does seem like the loudest version of this yet, though we have a long road ahead.

Being woke to gender discrimination is difficult; it ruins things you love. Entire canons of art are rotten to the core with it. I still like Mucha paintings, Woody Allen films and Kanye West, but it’s with a heavy heart.

This problem is nuanced. People are conditioned from birth to live in a heteronormative world that prioritizes male pleasure. We can’t unlearn this overnight from a series of Facebook posts, although it’s not a bad start. We still have a great deal to teach one another about transgender and nonbinary people.

Here are my other ideas for combatting sexual harassment:

  • Offer early, continuous and thorough education about sexual consent.
  • Teach sex education for pleasure in addition to more comprehensive sex education for reproductive awareness.
  • Introduce additional vocabulary for sex and intimacy, like for different stages of arousal. We have very little vocabulary for women’s sexual responses, therefore it is hardly understood, and then men project it inaccurately onto women.
  • Offer overt education on how not to verbally or physically harass female bodies, obvious as it may seem from the previous points.

The winds are shifting, but the tide hasn’t turned against the patriarchy yet. It’s hard to feel accused, and not all men perpetrate sexual harassment. If you don’t like being lumped in with the perpetrators, then lead by example. Call out the problem. Men, you have the loudest voice in the room. Use it better.

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