To those of you bravely speaking out online using the hashtag #MeToo, about having been sexually harassed or assaulted, as well as those who are silently shouting yours, we fully hear you and believe you. MenEngage Alliance is committed to work with you as allies, to end the sexist and misogynistic culture that has long been fostered by patriarchy and hold those who maintain it to account.
More than ever before, we have been hearing so many stories of sexual assault by men in power, Asaram Bapu (India), Bill Cosby (USA), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Donald Trump (USA), Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (South Africa), Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh (India), Rajendra Kumar Pachauri (India), Roger Ailes (USA), UN peacekeeping forces (Globally), Australian Cardinal George Pell (Australia), Former Ambassador (Late) Jozef Wesolowski (Vatican) and now Harvey Weinstein (USA), to name but a few. Unfortunately, as ever, we continue to see large-scale silence among boys and men.
Some men have started to compassionately respond by using the hashtag #iPledge on social media. Breaking the silence, showing those who have said #MeToo that we hear them and believe them, is an important step and we call on all men and boys to do the same. But being an ally is about more than just showing solidarity on social media. It is about taking real and meaningful actions to transform your own behavior – at home, at work, in the gym, on the street, everywhere – to put an end to patriarchal masculinity and rape culture once and for all, long after social media trends come and go. And it goes beyond taking action in your private lives, for men and boys in power in all spheres of society to be allies with women’s rights activists and feminist groups, in the demands for policies and institutional practices that actively advance women’s rights and gender justice for all.
We recognize that the root cause of sexism and misogyny are society’s beliefs and expectations around ‘what it means to be a man’ or masculinities. Rigid gender norms about the appropriate attitudes and behavior of men and women across the world are related to boys’ and men’s acceptance and use of “power-over” women and girls, and anyone who doesn’t fit in the stereotypical “man-box”. Sexual abuse or assault, hence, is all about the assertion and abuse of power and privileges. We are concerned about the messages our children, especially boys, are getting from what’s happening and the way they may interpret these. Children are learning more than what we think, and that includes from the silence of their parents, especially their fathers.
Time to act, men and boys! Men and boys cannot continue looking upon women and girls as solely responsible for dealing with the abuse and violence they face at the hands of mostly men and boys, including by those who are close to them. This requires boys and men to examine and transform their attitudes and behavior towards women and girls, and start taking responsibility to denounce and actively engage in dismantling the system that sustains it: patriarchy.
It’s never too late to step up and take responsibility to end this culture of silence and impunity. It’s not the time to shy away or distance ourselves from these horrific actions: they are right in front of us, perpetrated by men we know.
Want to know more about how to engage? We encourage you to look these resources: