I’ve been thinking carefully about how to respond to gender discussions around Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, George H.W. Bush, and now closer to home, things that have been posted on Village14 and the explosive Boston Globe column about sexual harassment and sexual assault at the Massachusetts State House, where I work. The news articles have made this a popular topic of conversation nationally and locally but the reaction that has been weighing on me more than anything is that of the women in my life. While men discuss this incredulously, women say its par for the course given the indignities, large and small, they suffer through all the time, every week, every day of their lives.
I’ve listened when the women in my life said they needed men to speak out. It took me a while to find the right words, but here’s my best try.
Every action that subtly demeans a woman’s worth feeds into the culture that looks the other way when women are sexually harassed or assaulted.
Every time someone says an offhand comment is “not a big deal” or that women are taking a comment “out of context”, that feeds into the culture that makes women scared to come forward.
Men, I’m talking to you now. We have to do a better job at understanding and internalizing the little ways in which society allows us to use our privilege to our advantage. We have to actively seek to empower the women around us, rather than passively allow the culture to continue.
I’m hoping people will feel comfortable to share their reactions and experiences below. I’m especially hopeful that men will share their feelings about this, will pledge to do better, will pledge to have conversations with their buddies even in situations where it might make them uncomfortable.
It’s time for us to change the conversation around gender, and there’s no better time to start than now.