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Tarana Burke Answers: Can We Build a Better Man?

What is men’s role in the #MeToo movement, and what does a new or nontoxic masculinity look like?

Millions of pages have been devoted to demystifying the relationship between men and women, unpacking gendered power dynamics, and more recently, to interrogating toxic masculinity and finding ways to hold some men accountable for their bad behavior. What is now known as the #MeToo movement began more than a decade ago, when activist Tarana Burke launched a conversation around sexual harassment and assault often experienced by women and femmes with the powerful phrase “me too.”

But what role do men have to play in ending this epidemic, and divorcing themselves from the toxic masculinity that underlies this behavior? We asked authors, organizers, journalists, and leaders to weigh in on the same question: What is men’s role in the #MeToo movement, and what does a new or nontoxic masculinity look like?

Tarana Burke, founder of the “me too.” movement

“Men’s first and most important role in the ‘me too.’ movement is as survivors. If we want to have less-toxic men, then one thing we can do is create spaces for them to be vulnerable and have access to healing. So much of the dominant narrative around ‘me too.’ is about attacks on men and ‘manhood’ that it places men on the defensive. They think they have to ‘protect’ themselves from #MeToo, when they can play a huge role in shifting the culture that props up sexual violence by listening to how much it affects the material lives of women. Men could be less defensive or dismissive about #MeToo, beyond how it might help their ‘moms, wives, sisters, nieces and daughters,’ and think about how their behavior creates the space for violence—physical, emotional, mental and cultural—to happen.”

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