If someone had told me at the peak of The Cosby Show’s rating dominance that it’s producer, star and creator Bill Cosby (a celebrated performer) would be serving prison time for sexual assault, I would have thought “What next!? Trump as President!?!”
Social awareness of male sexual predators escalated exponentially in just the last 36 months. Let’s look at the carnage for the successful powerful male, thanks to #metoo and a concerted wave of women coming forward:
Matt Laurer gone from the most prestigious morning broadcast on network television.
Charlie Rose wiped from years of being an integral and valued journalist.
Kevin Spacey eliminated from his Netflix series.
The Godfather of predators, Harvey Weinstein, banished from Hollywood...and the list goes on.
In fact, of the over 400 cases brought forward in 2018, one interesting trend has occurred that brings a sense of karmic justice to the whole movement. With the executive jobs left vacant by the upheaval, 51% have been filled by women.
Men of course are thoroughly confused. What was considered acceptable behavior just four years ago has been refined and tuned by human resource departments throughout the country (purely to avoid legal liabilities) and likely if you haven’t had a refresher in some years you might want to absorb a few concepts here.
First let’s review; sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Very generally, sexual harassment describes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct. The behavior does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex.
This is important guys. Listen and believe. Coming forward as a victim takes a great amount of courage and risk-taking. Instead of blaming and doubting victims, believe them.
Self reflection is also integral. Don’t be prideful or embarrassed by what you don’t know. It’s okay to want to educate yourself on the issues. Taking time to self-reflect on your actions in the past that have affected your co-workers negatively is the first step in apologizing, learning from, and course-correcting your behavior for the future.
Reserve judgment. You may have convinced yourself that you would immediately stand up to a harasser or an abuser. However, unless you’ve experienced a situation where your reputation, livelihood, ability to care for your family, and even your life has been on the line, reserve judgment and embrace empathy.
If you learn of someone being sexually harassed, don’t try and act the tough guy hero. It may be your inclination to jump into action, confront a perpetrator, and solve the problem in the way you know best. But keep in mind that the notion that men have the duty to “protect” women is part and parcel of the cultural paternalism and misogyny at the core of gender-based violence. This isn’t to discourage you from taking action. If there are opportunities for you to disrupt inappropriate or dangerous behavior, and you can do so safely, do it. But if you are taking some course of planned action, make sure you consult and respect the survivor’s wishes at every opportunity. In other words; be a thoughtful ally.
Finally, remember that gender-based violence is a human rights violation. To describe sexual harassment and assault as “women’s issues,” or expect women only to advocate for change, places the burden of solution only on women, neglects male and other gender-identifying victims, and worst of all, lets perpetrators off the hook. Ending gender-based violence is everyone’s responsibility.
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