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  • Writer's pictureCarrick Ryan

#meNtoo... can men be included in the Feminist Revolution?

There is a revolutionary buzz in the air across the western world. It is not the beginning of a movement, or the end, but more an observable leap forward within the evolution of a movement.

The small number of brave women who first demanded justice against Harvey Weinstein surely had no idea how great an impact their declarations would have, yet less than a year later we are seeing women embracing a sense of empowerment and righteousness that for a litany of understandable reasons had been so recently restrained by the thin veneer of status quo.

Women have become emboldened, inspired, and empowered to advance a cause that has historically induced an overall progression for society. Feminism has, after all, almost always benefited all of humanity.

There are a large number of men that understand this. We want to live in a society where the women we share the land with feel safe, secure, equal, and capable of making their fullest contribution to humanity. It is unequivocally in our interests and it is not a fantasy to suggest that much of the success of western nations is owed to its ability to efficiently utilise an educated and confident female demographic.

However unlike so many other recent causes that have captured my sincere support, the #metoo movement has proven a little more complex when assessing a pathway to involvement.

Like most men, the brilliant manner in which social media propagated stories from women in our life, women we respected and cared for on a personal level, brought home how pervasive and under reported the problems were. I had no choice but to self examine my own behaviour and recognise aspects that perhaps deserved further scrutiny and improvement.

I reaffirmed that I would hold my friends to the same standards I had set myself and would champion a change in language used, even when beyond the ears of any female whose favour I might appear to be yearning.

I would call out harassment when I saw it and demand justice where justice has been denied.

But then what? What could I actually do to affect tangible changes and be a part of this movement and not just a passive observer?

It was evident this was one of the most defining issues of 2017 and into 2018, I had to formulate something on this topic lest my silence be construed as apathy.

I decided to turn to my female friends and asked them to suggest ways us men could be included in the movement. Instead, what I heard back was a litany of ways men, as a collective, need to improve their behaviour in the future. Not exactly what I was looking for...

At first I began paraphrasing their stories into something resembling a condescending guide on “how to behave for men”. I was deeply dissatisfied as I realised I had not contributed to the cause rather more copy and pasted the impassioned pleas of women.

The problem is unlike marriage equality, race civil rights, or even previous feminist causes, there is no legislated political goal here. What is being sought is a change of social norms that can only be measured over time.

The true success of the #metoo movement has not been in its public executions of pigs like Weinstein who considered himself immune from ramifications, men like these will probably continue to exist (albeit with more caution), but more so it is the unprecedented manner in which every day men have become aware that everyday women have been silently uncomfortable for a long time.

Whilst it is easy for us to disassociate ourselves from the rich and powerful men imposing themselves on young models, we couldn't escape the fact that girls we knew would often be terrified by actions we so recently thought were innocent.

This has been a movement of awareness. I sincerely believe the intentions of most men has never been nefarious, but we have quickly learned our intentions our usually irrelevant.

Eventually it dawned on me, my female friends didn't want me to speak for them, they didn't want me to articulate their situation, they didn't want me to be another champion of their cause. They wanted me to listen.

Every girl who replied to me spoke from experience and with the fewest of exceptions almost every girl you know will have a story to tell. Certainly some will be more horrific than others, but in reality the stories that at first appear trivial are the ones we have to listen most closely to.

When a girl tells you she was sexually harassed by her boss it is simple to identify the impropriety and bravely affirm we would never dream of being party to such an act. But when a girl tells you she felt genuine fear when a man called her a “slut” because she failed to reply to his unsolicited messages on Facebook, it requires more understanding.

The biggest contribution men can make to this movement is to listen and ask questions. It is understandable that we simply can't always empathise with another gender’s experience. So don't be afraid to ask your female friends why they feel what they do. Instead of questioning the sincerity of their reactions, seek to understand why their reaction might be different to yours.

With this in mind, women please remember, we have never walked in your shoes. The overwhelming majority of us want you to get where you want to be, but first we need to understand where you're coming from.

Yes this means the burden falls heavily on women to continue to articulate the female experience to sympathetic men, but the fact is the success of this movement is due to the brilliant manner you have done this so far.

So continue. The men who want to support you are listening. This is your story to tell.

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