In the last week, the #MeToo movement has swept social media with incredible force, opening the floodgates to millions of women’s stories of sexual harassment and assault. And now, a new trending hashtag is joining the chorus — this time, from men who hope to be a part of the solution.
#HowIWillChange was sparked by Benjamin Law, a writer from Sydney, Australia who tweeted a plea to men everywhere on October 16: “Guys, it’s our turn. After yesterday’s endless #MeToo stories of women being abused, assaulted and harassed, today we say #HowIWillChange.”
Soon after, men began tweeting thoughts on what they could do to effect change in their everyday lives — and the response has been incredible.
The #MeToo campaign has highlighted one very frightening fact: Nearly every woman and girl has had an experience, ranging from awkward to horrifying, in which they felt sexually intimidated or harassed or worse. It’s also been a sad reminded that the world is full of men like Harvey Weinstein — men who exist far beyond the walls of Hollywood.
Yet while the viral campaign highlighted the magnitude of the problem, #HowIWillChange hopes to jumpstart the next piece of the conversation: How can we actually put an end to such a long-standing systemic issue? Because while women standing up and saying “yes, it happened to me” is certainly powerful and important, we’ll never truly see change unless men get involved too, and see this for what it is: a human issue, not just a feminist one.
By the looks of Twitter this week, it seems we’re getting there — slowly, but surely.
After Law sent his now-viral tweet on Monday, men from all over the world have been stepping in to admit their role in the problem, and share how they too plan to make a change.
Men like actor and activist Mark Ruffalo, who tweeted on October 18: “I will never cat call a woman again. Growing up we were taught from watching movies that a cat call was a compliment. I would do it to friends and girlfriends. Sunrise clued me in that it was totally inappropriate. Not cool. Not a compliment. Gross. #HowIWillChange.”
Ruffalo’s candor hits the nail on the head when it comes to common male behaviors that have been accepted as normal throughout history — despite making women feel uncomfortable since the dawn of time.
But there are also larger components of the problem to consider: Like the fact that the perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault often remain protected. Just like Harvey Weinstein, they get away with their actions not just because their victims feel ashamed to come forward, but also because others around them refuse to speak up. As Hollywood screenwriter Scott Rosenberg later wrote on Facebook about the scandal: “Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing: Everybody-f***ing-knew.”
Just as childhood bullies need to be stood up to and reported, those who perpetrate sexual harassment and assault also need to be called out and identified — by every woman and man. And our boys (as well as our girls) need to know the importance of this from a young age, so that once they reach their teen years, they don’t engage in the same misogynistic behavior simply because they think they’re “being a man” or being cool in front of their friends.
Some critics say the #HowIWillChange hashtag is unfair, as it singles out men and asks them to fess up to illicit conduct, when not all men are actually guilty of this behavior. But for the men who are, it needs to stop now; and it all starts with talking about it.
Still, many of the tweets that have poured out from men in the last week aren’t just calling out bad behavior. Rather, they’re outlining what new, positive actions they will make and various ways they can do things to help.
“I will confront anyone who make sexist statement about women even as silly jokes,” wrote one Twitter user.
“When I interview for jobs, I will ask how many women executives are in the company, and what the pay gap is,” shared another.
One man vowed to continue “learning more about women’s issues instead of expecting them to explain to me how they are impacted.”
The truth is, there are countless good and honest men out there who fully respect women and would never seek to harm them in any way. It’s up to all of us to make sure our boys become those men, in whatever ways we can.
Of the hundreds of #HowIWillChange tweets I scrolled through this week, there was one I thought that summed it up best: “I will keep showing my three sons and one grandson how to honor & respect women. Guys — meaningful change starts in the home.”
It certainly does.