Like many people, I've been genuinely shocked by the number of female friends in my Facebook timeline using the #MeToo hashtag to show that they have been the victims of some form of sexual assault or abuse.
In spite of my best attempts to check my privilege in at the door, I've still been somewhat shocked too by some of the articles and commentary that have followed in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal that kicked all of this off in the first place. I just struggle with some of the generalisation: I'm a man, so perhaps it's inherently harder for me to understand, but it's difficult not to feel at least a little bit got-at when it seems like my whole gender is under suspicion.
Look at this article: Want to Treat Women Better? Here's a List to Start With.
There's a lot of common sense here (although, maybe a big part of the problem is that these things aren't commonly understood). I realise that it's my privilege talking, but it feels as though a lot of the stuff here isn't only about gender, but is really about basic human decency:
- Don't talk over people
- Don't get defensive when you get called out
- Don't make assumptions about someone's intelligence based on the way they dress
- Be aware of your inherent power in any given situation
- Don't send unsolicited dick pics
These are basic principles for not being an arsehole, right? (I nearly said dickhead, but the words you choose are important and it's easy to avoid the gender-specific insult and just go for a body part that we all possess instead).
Also, the last point in that list..."Don’t read a list like this and think that most of these don’t apply to you".... doesn't that read to you as just a little self-satisfied; as though the person writing this has just dropped the mic, fixed you with a glare and folded their arms?
Look. I get it. I really do. I try hard not to be part of the problem. I'm a big guy, and although you and I know that I'd get blown over in a stiff-breeze and wouldn't say boo to a goose, I noticed very early on that my physical presence sometimes intimidated. If I was walking behind a woman at night, I quickly learned that they sometimes felt uneasy and threatened by my presence. I knew that I had no ill-intent, but I also realised that they had no way of knowing that and the simple act of crossing the road helped to signal that I wasn't a threat. It's only a small thing to do and I was happy to do it. Frankly, not sending unsolicited dick pics is even easier.
I don't pretend to be a feminist, but I'm certainly not one of those guys who gets inarticulately and irrationally angry at ridiculous things like the all-girl Ghostbusters or the new prominence of female roles in the Star Wars films (the First Order is a much more equal opportunities employer than the Empire used to be, so they're not all bad). Although I grew up without strong female influences on my life - mostly single sex schooling and no sisters - I've spent much of my adult life surrounded by the most amazing, intelligent, high-achieving women. The idea that women are in any way inferior is just laughable. My wife will doubtless tell you that I fall too easily into traditional gender roles at home and don't pull my weight enough with domestic chores, and she's probably right (although, I think that's essentially down to me having much lower standards than it is assuming that they're primarily a woman's jobs... but I could definitely do more).
It's just not helpful to label large, diverse groups of people with one big stereotype, is it?
That doesn't mean we don't have a problem, mind. My Facebook friends have shown me that clearly enough over the course of this week.