If We Want Less #MeToo Stories, Here’s What Has to Happen
Article in Relevant magazine (relevantmagazine.com) Jan 2, 2018 by
No matter how many women bravely share their personal stories of
sexual abuse or harassment, no matter how many opportunistic predators
are exposed and stopped, until enough men rise up to condemn and
interrupt misogynistic behavior, the exploitation of women will most
likely continue. The question then seems to be How do we shift culture
so that misogynistic thinking and practices are no longer acceptable?
Misogyny is defined simply as the hatred of women. The word misogyny
was coined by the Greeks because they needed to describe what was
happening to women and girls in their culture. Though the modern world
esteems the Greco-Roman empire for their art, engineering and democratic
practices, we often forget that they denied women the right to vote and
left unwanted baby girls on their front steps or at garbage dumps, where
many were plucked by opportunistic families and raised as slaves or
Misogyny is and has been present all over the world from time
immemorial. One expression of misogyny is blaming women for the ills of
society. The ancient Greeks pointed their collective fingers at Pandora
while the ancient Jews (and far too many contemporary Christians)
ascribed blame to Eve. Indeed, with regard to the prevalence of
misogyny, it seems to make little difference if a culture is god-fearing
or god-hating, educated or uneducated.
Jack Hollands, author of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice,
[Misogyny] has been expressed by some of the greatest and most
renowned artists that civilization has produced, and celebrated in the
lowest, most vulgar works of modern pornography. The history of misogyny
is indeed the story of a hatred unique as it is enduring, uniting
Aristotle with Jack The Ripper, King Lear with James Bond.
From stoning women caught in adultery (and failing to punish their
partners), to the many waves of witch hysteria, sexual harassment in the
infanticide and domestic violence, misogyny has many faces.
This is not news to the millions of women who experience misogyny
every day. The world got a glimpse of the problems’ magnitude when more
than 4.7 million people engaged with me #MeToo hashtag on October 16.
(The Me Too! Movement was actually initiated in 2006 by activist
Though the response of women (and some men) was staggering, the
numbers paled in comparison to hard statistics on misogynistic
study done by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, reports that
87 percent percent of women between the ages of 18 and 25 have
experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. And more than 2
million American women were victims of domestic violence across
Much like systemic racism, misogyny is so pervasive and so deeply
entrenched that to hope for change feels childish and futile. But
despite its prevalence, individual men have been and are making bold
choices to stand against this sin.
As #MeToo was sweeping across the internet, San Francisco Bay Area
Wong led the men in his congregation to kneel during the Sunday
morning service and audibly confess any of the ways that they had
dishonored or disrespected women.
In early November, theologians and thought-leaders
Tyler Burns and
aired a podcast during which Tisby offered the following
apology: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my role, my culpability in
objectifying women or making them feel like they’ve been reduced to
their physical bodies.
It’s not only minority men who are getting it.
alongside his wife
Sheryl WuDunn, has been an outspoken advocate for marginalized women
across the globe for well over a decade. Actor Justin Baldoni recently
gave a moving
TED talk where he repeatedly asked, “Men, where are you?” In another
TED talk, activist Jackson Katz, creator of
Mentor in Violence Prevention,
wondered, “How do we get men who are not abusers to challenge those who
are? How do we get men to interrupt each other?”
These specific men are choosing to interrupt their brothers at least
in part because they get it. I reached out to Wong to ask what prompted
him to lead the men in his congregation to repent. He explained: I was
reading through the [#MeToo] Facebook posts, many of them written by
friends carrying wounds of which I was completely unaware. It was really
a terrible and painful thing. I thought to write my own FB post,
expressing grief and solidarity. But, words alone did not seem to
Tisby and Burns had a similar epiphany when, after a live
Pass the Mic
podcast, a black woman asked, “Where can I go to be a little girl?”
Tisby said, “[Her question] helped me as a man to see the ways that I
can be harming my sisters.” Tyler continued, “We decided to talk about
this because we ourselves have been guilty of the complicity of these
actions. We are guilty of a system, even within churches, that
ostracizes and pushes women to the margins.”
Wong, Tisby, Burns and other men of color are quick to see and
acknowledge misogyny because of its intersectionality with racism. These
men have been on the receiving end of broken power dynamics and
understand what it means to be dehumanized and devalued by others.
Rather than descending into bitterness and blame, they have allowed
their pain to move them toward empathy.
Obviously, most white men will never have these kind of experiences.
So the question remains, is it even possible to shift culture in this
direction? And if so, how?
The crew at Just Not Sports had an idea. Invite real men (meaning not
paid actors) to read actual tweets written by other men while sitting in
front of the women who received those tweets. If you
watch this video
in its entirety, you’ll notice that the tweets get progressively meaner.
As they do, the men become visually disturbed and resist making eye
contact. The final tag line reads, “We wouldn’t say it to their faces.
So let’s not type it.”
Intensive social media and internet pornography usage empower hatred
(of all kinds) and block empathy in part because we never have to engage
with the person we’ve hurt. Though defensiveness is a natural human
response when we feel backed into a corner, the men who are guilty of
misogynistic thinking or behaviors will need to vulnerably listen to how
their actions, passivity and inability to value women as equal
image-bearers in the kingdom God have deeply hurt us.
Many men respect us and would never engage in overtly misogynistic
behavior such as rape or sexual harassment. Honestly, that’s not enough.
We need you to acknowledge our God-given dignity and value the sanctity
of our lives when we
go out for a run, gather
go to work in the halls of government rather than seeing us as
vehicles to satisfy your sexual desires. We need you to speak up and
interrupt a brother or boss or pastor whenever they engage in sexual
harassment or abuse—no matter how subtle.
Perhaps one of the reasons why TIME magazine named the Silence
Person of the Year 2017 is because the #MeToo movement confronts
apathy and invites both engagement and action. Men, please accept the
invitation: The battle is unrelenting and we cannot win it alone.