It’s great news that Harvey Weinstein is being charged for rape and abuse. This vile excuse for a man has terrorised countless women in Hollywood, and deserves the full weight of the law to be rained down upon him. It’s less heartening to see he’s been granted bail, but hopefully a guilty verdict will make that last short in the memory. I, like many other men, are very happy Weinstein is being charged, with the hope that at the very least his victims can have the knowledge that he is not getting off scot-free, even if this does nothing to numb the pain.
Indeed, I have seen lots of men tweeting their condemnation of Weinstein, as well as their support of the #MeToo movement and the cause of feminism. I identify as a feminist, as do many men I know. However, supporting #MeToo and condemning Weinstein is not nearly enough to wear that badge. We must do more.
How many men do you know that call out sexism on social media, but turn a blind eye to that somewhat creepy guy in their friendship group? How many men do you know who changed their profile pictures to mark International Women’s Day, but say nothing about the ‘locker-room’ talk that takes place in their rugby teams? How many men do you know who talk about gender equality, but look at men and women with multiple sexual partners differently and use the word ‘bitch’ in conversation?
If I were a betting man, I’d suggest your answer would be too many to count.
To be clear, this is not an ‘attack on all men’, as pieces of this nature are so often interpreted. Yes, I accept, not every man is a raging mysoginist, but you don’t get any medals for hijacking debates about women’s issues for pointing that fact out, and it’s that sort of patriarchal whatabouttery that so often obstructs progress. This is not a lecture or a sermon, and nor is it aimed at the aforementioned raging mysoginists – they are a lost cause. This is as much self-reflective as it is outward-looking. I’m talking to men like me who declare themselves feminists. I’m asking us to take a look at ourselves and question whether we are doing enough to deserve to wear that badge of honour.
Yes, we can add our voices to the ocean of those calling out Weinstein. We can march against Trump for his blatant sexism. We can push for more female world leaders. But feminism isn’t a cause that you can pursue with the odd tweet and campaign here and there. Feminism is a constant struggle for gender equality, and if we are not combating sexism in our day-to-day lives, then we are not fighting the same fight.
I put my hands up, I have been guilty of not doing enough. I can think of many occasions when I have ‘kept the peace’ or avoided an awkward conversation rather than confronting a mate for the way they’ve spoken about women. Most recently, a friend of mine bravely wrote about her experiences working behind a bar. It gave me a lot to think about.
I’ve worked in pubs for years, and I’ve seen how easy a ride I’ve had in that profession compared to my female colleagues, who are routinely subjected to leering stares, cringey ‘jokes’, unsubtle comments about their appearances and terms like ‘babe’. I had a conversation with her about this and confessed that at times there were men who I would deliberately ensure I served rather than the women as I knew they made some of the female staff uncomfortable. The question is – why did I even serve them a drink to begin with?
The Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement has the potential to be a watershed moment for the progression of gender equality. But men, let’s not just tweet our support and solidarity, let’s use this moment to take pause and reflect on our own roles in this movement. Let’s be honest with ourselves about the times we have overlooked sexism in our own lives, and let’s pledge to do better.
I have to reiterate, feminism is not a hobby. If we do not commit to it daily, we’re not furthering the cause. So let’s call out casual sexism, let’s have those difficult conversations with our mates, let’s not just talk about standing with women, let’s act. We have a role to play in furthering the struggle for equality, and I know for a fact that I, and so many other men, have not been holding up our end of the bargain. It’s time we changed that.