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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Too Many.

If you've been on social media lately, particularly Facebook and Twitter, you may have noticed the #metoo hashtag showing up abundantly on women's posts. If not, tens of thousands of people are using and responding to this hashtag (and I think that's a fairly conservative estimate, or an old number). I saw it popping up for a while before I saw a post that actually told me what it was for. This is the gist of it:
"Me too... If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste."
I should note, here, that this is something I've been aware of before. I have friends whose stories I have heard in relation to this, and I know that it's a widespread issue. But there's nothing quite like seeing post after post of friends saying "me too" to bring it home quite how big this is.

To give you a bit of an idea; there's been a few different studies over the years, trying to figure out what percentage of women have been sexually assaulted or harassed. The figures that come back vary rather significantly, depending on the size, location, and audience of the study; from one in four, to 30%, to over 60% in some cases. That's too many. Way too many.

But how about if we turn it around? How many guys have done the sexual assault and harassment? Again, it varies. Some studies, again, say one in four; and some, again, say over 60%. I'll note that the figures I'm getting are all from the US, so aren't necessarily global. They come from this article. Feel free to have a look for yourself.

Some guys reading this may be pretty proud of themselves, thinking, well, I've never done anything. This is where I need to reinforce: this is not something to be proud of. Not sexually assaulting and harassing other people is the bare minimum of decency that is expected of you. It is the zero mark. Anything less, and you're in the red. You shouldn't be proud of achieving the bare minimum.

Because the thing is, this isn't going to change if people just get shocked every time something like this happens, make a post on Facebook about it, and then feel good about themselves until the next time. And the next time. And the next time. This is a pervasive, constant issue. Change is only going to happen when it starts with us - and particularly talking about the guys, here.

I mean, I can say that I think all the guys that do stuff like this deserve a solid kick in the groin.

....but again, that's just going to alienate and distance people more. (Even though that's quite tempting.) That's not what we need. We need change. We need every man to see it as their responsibility to be a safe person to be around for women, someone that they can trust, talk to, be with - and feel okay doing so. We need to be actively teaching those around us what that looks like, modelling that to other guys, and making sure that guys get the message that treating girls wrong is exactly that - wrong.

Here, I'm going to borrow a line from the Good Book. "Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters." (1 Timothy 5:2) Sisters. Mothers. Not objects. Not animals, and not yours. Every woman, every girl, is their own unique individual, with their own story, their own life, their own thoughts and feelings. You are not any more, or any greater than they are. They owe you nothing. They are their own. I can't say this enough.

Before, I said that the numbers from those studies were "too many". But let me tell you what too many is.

One. 1. Uno. A single person.

Even that is too many. One person that has been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, is still unacceptable. Not 1%. Not one in a thousand. Not until this doesn't happen at all can we stop. Because this is too big. This is wrong. And it shouldn't happen.

Girls reading this - I do not offer any excuses for what has happened. There are none. There are no apologies or "sorry"s that can cover the sheer magnitude of what continues to happen, every single day, and what you all have to deal with from so many of us. And while I'm better at this than some, I'm by no means perfect. I think a lot of the troubles with this stem from porn and fantasy (though I'm sure that will be a contentious issue), and that's still something I struggle with. Added to that, I know there are times when I've made girls feel uncomfortable because of how I've pursued them in the past. I've been a bit.....obsessive at times.

But we need your help. We do not deserve your help, by any measure. But I think many of us will need it. Need women with a voice, who are willing to stand up and say no. Need women who are willing to say when a line has been crossed. Willing to tell us what we're doing wrong; and perhaps, even how we can do it better. You'd think it would be common sense. But unfortunately, common sense seems to be rather rare these days. I understand that many of you will not feel up to doing this; we have already destroyed your patience. And I am certainly not trying to say that this is your battle, your responsibility, or what you should be doing. It is our fault, and our responsibility, and our problem that we need to deal with. But I also know that the only way forward is going to be bringing as many people together as possible. Together, we can support each other; and together, we are heard.

Too many feel this pain. Too many cause this pain. Let's bring that number down.

Added note: If guys looking at the #metoo posts are getting angry at the "them" who cause all this - there is no "them", folks. There's just us. I guarantee you that at some point in your life, you've done something to make a girl feel uncomfortable. I know I have. It's not someone else's problem. This is something that everyone needs to deal with.

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