The global flood of #metoo hashtags after the Hurricane Harvey Weinstein revelations of sexual harassment and abuse should have been eye-opening for men everywhere. At least the nonraping men, still the vast majority.
There is no denying the scope of the problem anymore, but what can I, or any individual man, do to stop it?
That's what I asked Monique Howard, executive director of Women Organized Against Rape, the nonprofit https://www.woar.org/ that fights all forms of sexual violence.
The simplest and most direct thing men can do is to speak up when they hear women being disrespected, Howard told me.
"Nor should they participate in name-calling, they should avoid derogatory terms like whores to describe behavior," she said. "That is harassment terminology."
Steering away from harassment terminology extends to jokes about women, Howard said. I felt us moving into the Politically Correct zone, but kept my mouth shut.
We had a brief conversation about sexual harassment, which is fairly commonplace, and sexual assault, which is less so. Assault has a bright line — touching. Harassment is unwanted attention, which is much harder to define.
Weinstein seemingly engaged in each, although he insists everything he did was consensual, just like Bill Cosby.
As a man, the first question I would ask Cosby is this: If consensual, why the knockout drugs?
Cosby said he intuitively knew that Andrea Constand was sexually attracted to him. Cosby's "go" radar apparently did not grasp that Constand is lesbian.
A big difference between Cosby and Weinstein was in how overt they were. Cosby hid behind his carefully constructed image of America's Dad, whereas Weinstein's demands for massage even took place in his bedroom with his kids at home.
After the dam burst, some of Weinstein's male confidants expressed shock or sadness, claiming they didn't know. Director Quentin Tarantino, a friend and creative collaborator, did know, did nothing, and regrets it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/movies/tarantino-weinstein.html He should.
It may be — in the Hollywood milieu in which aspiring actresses are expected to literally get on their knees before studio heads and producers — these behaviors were expected and tolerated.
When she came forward with her story last week, Lupita Nyong'o said Weinstein tried to pressure her into sex by telling her that's how the game was played. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/lupita-nyongo-harvey-weinstein.html
Nyong'o had more self-confidence than others and walked out.
How does Hollywood get away with it?
Maybe because victims are referred to as "actresses," rather than as "women." Maybe a better way to refer to them would be as "daughter, sister, wife, mother." That would make more obvious the wrongness of victimizing them.
What happens in Hollywood happens in the business world, almost anywhere one person has power over another.
Some women bosses have forced themselves on male employees, and gay people have demanded sex of straights, but the overwhelming number of victims are women.
It is not enough for a man to not be a rapist. What should a man do when he sees harassment happening?
Do what you would do if that were happening to your daughter, sister, wife, or mother.
If you see something, say something, man to man.