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?
Tony Porter, Chief Executive Officer of A Call to Men
“Although I’m cautious of it, I’m supportive of the term ‘toxic masculinity’ because it keeps the discussion alive and engages people in this conversation in new ways. If we allow men to separate themselves by saying, ‘I’m not that bad, those guys are the ones with the toxic behavior,’ we are missing the greatest potential for change. The vast majority of men are not abusive, do not sexually harass [or] sexually assault. But the vast majority of men are silent about the violence, harassment, and abuse that women and girls and other oppressed groups experience. That’s why I’m not willing to separate men into categories: ‘bad,’ ‘just ignorant to the issues,’ ‘good.’ Doing so reinforces privilege by allowing men the option to stay quiet, to opt out of the conversation, or distance themselves from the issue. #MeToo has brought about an era of forced self-reflection [for men, and] it’s uncomfortable. [But] we can use that discomfort to create change. In that process, we must listen to women, believe them and validate their experiences.”