Bystanders’ silence on sexual assault must stop
By Erin Beattie
In a post- Harvey Weinstein era, I admit it can be hard for me to have faith in men.
If you weren’t living under a rock this past year, then you know about the conglomerate of sexual assault allegations against men in power that plagued our headlines.
You know that #MeToo made its way onto everyone’s social media news feeds, generating conversations about the broad scope of sexual misconduct that has been going on for years.
For weeks and months on end, it seemed these stories just kept on coming, as secrets became not-so-secret.
What #MeToo has exposed is the true breadth and scope of harassment and assault that surrounds us all.
It seems that the dominant narrative of masculinity is now being defined by the actions and reputation of toxic, entitled, corrupt and dysfunctional men of our day.
This leads to the “not all men” excuse or “boys will be boys.”
As much as I understand where this defense comes from, it is a problematic outlook on the subject.
Such inappropriate behaviors have become normalized in our culture.
What we as a society must recognize is that these phrases have not only been used to silence victims of sexual assault, but have also been used to silence men who could have stopped it from happening in the first place.
We must realize that gender violence, sexual assault and other misconducts are not just women’s issues.
They are men’s issues as well.
We need more men to speak up when they see predatory behavior.
As a young woman, it is easy for me to relate and participate in the conversation because I have my fair share of “me too” moments.
I’ve had to learn to navigate a world in which I must endure cat calls, swat away all-too-eager hands at bars and parties and ignore unsolicited inappropriate picture messages.
As I’ve opened up about these experiences to my male friends lately, I’ve found that it is not so easy for them to navigate their place in the conversation.
While they may view this normalized behavior as problematic, they also find the current attitude towards men to be disorienting and even shaming at times.
In our culture it is a scary thing for anyone to speak out against a man in power.
That can hold true for other men as well.
There is power in the voice of victims who have spoken out and these voices are louder than ever.
We’ve heard them speak out against large institutions.
The current sexual assault scandals that plague Hollywood have plagued USA Gymnastics, college campuses, sports teams and even the Roman Catholic Church over the past few decades.
Today, they are calling for a new kind of change.
This change requires men to call out other men’s bad behavior.
By staying silent while witnessing a man harass womxn, whether it’s through use of derogatory language or violent actions, men have unknowingly protected a culture that does not promote equality, or even basic respect for human beings.
We may be tired of talking about sexual misconduct. We want to believe that we don’t know any bad men who would do such things, but we must realize the reality of these situations and the roles that men can play to make it right.
Men must join with women in solidarity.
Support during this time is incredibly important. They must use the feminist movement as inspiration in their own social circles.
It’s time for men to say “me too,” whether as victims, perpetrators or bystanders of sexual assault.
This movement needs your voice. Come forward if you’ve stayed silent while witnessing predatory behavior.
Come forward if you’ve participated or stood by. Then commit to changing this behavior, and calling other men to change theirs as well. By committing to change, then we can begin to redefine masculinity.
Erin is a senior studying journalism.