Recent Comments

    Men Ending Violence Against Women Is the Watershed Moment We Need

    By Andrea Shorter–

    Since my last column entry concerning the nation’s reactions to the decades of sexual assault allegations against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, pubic response blossomed with more women coming forward. They not only included those who had personal unwelcome encounters with Mr. Weinstein, but also legions more—famous and not famous—who shared their own stories as survivors of sexual harassment, assault and rape.

    The now famous #MeToo campaign ignited a firestorm across Twitter, Facebook, and other media platforms inspiring tens of thousands of women—and some men—to raise their digital hands and voices concerning their own accounts in all manner of workplace, industry and social setting. Women U.S. Senators and Congressional Members shared their own stories of sexual harassment at the hands of former employers and colleagues. A survivor of now President Trump’s many reported incidents of sexual assault has pressed for the release of campaign records to suppress numerous accounts against him. And Oprah has declared this outpouring of outrage, shock and personal revelations and empowerment as a critical “watershed” moment that begs for change.

    It has been suggested that the outrage directed at Weinstein’s particular actions are a de facto proxy, a substitute for the outrage that was directed at candidate Trump, but failed to prevent him from ascending to becoming the leader of the free world. Perhaps that is debatable. Nonetheless, it remains clear that the very serious series allegations against Weinstein merit their own hell-raising fury. The same could be said of the equally gross, expectedly unapologetic defensive posture taken by Fox Media’s own native self-serving spin-master Bill O’Reilly after his $32 million settlement for workplace sexual misconduct at his creepy simultaneous contract renewal at Fox to the tune of $100 million.

    I’ve appreciated the folks who have approached me on the street, at the grocery store and gas station to share their reflections on my previous entry expressing their shared concerns, including promoting the value of diversity—gender, gender identity, ethnic, LGBT—on male dominated, or exclusive, boards and executive staff to potentially impact the policies, accountability, and sanctions against sexual misconduct in the workplace, and especially concerning chief executives and operators whose delusions of exemption all too often prove to be true.

    Some shared that until #MeToo reveals on Facebook, they didn’t know that a close friend or co-worker or relative—women and men—were subjected to sexual harassment or assault earlier, or either quite recently, in their lives. As one woman put it, people were beginning to realize it isn’t a matter of “if” for many women, but more so a matter of “when.” She also expressed doubt that this would, in fact, yet again—as it was with Bill Cosby or Donald Trump or so on and so on—be that declared “watershed” moment that would finally change things.

    Whether or not we are in a watershed moment remains to be seen, at least until the next time another or series of similar accounts are brought to public attention. The very thought induces a collective déjà vu cringe all over again.

    One thing that’s been noticeably different about this particular rendezvous with a watershed moment, however, are the considerable presence of cisgender identified and gay men who responded to #MeToo as survivors of sexual harassment and/or assault in the workplace or business-related settings.

    Yet, by and large what remains disappointingly absent at the height and ebb of this latest public upset and discourse amplifying women’s majority #MeToo experiences? A serious discussion and movement concerning violence prevention by educating and guiding boys about unacceptable forms of violence against women. 

    To openly discuss the importance, responsibility and need for actively teaching boys and young men goes well beyond equally unacceptable male bashing. As the overwhelming perpetrators of sexual misconduct and violence against women, men should be held accountable to help prevent violence against women, and this is not about denigrating, emasculation, or bashing. Just like all forms of violence against women, sexual misconduct is not singularly a woman’s issue. Changing the frameworks and dynamics that appear to foster or reinforce this wayward notion requires support for men to step up.

    As fathers, brothers, uncles, and more, grown men do have a great responsibility for actively engaging their sons, brothers, nephews, and other male friends, relatives and co-workers in conversations and guidance that can end sexual violation and violence against women, and men.

    Ahead of the curb, Futures Without Violence provides an array of resources and support to engage men and boys to end violence against women. Through webinar series, Coaching Boys into Men tools, the Y-Factor, and other dynamic resources, Futures Without Violence (futureswithoutviolence.org) has proven to be a premier leader in helping to reshape frameworks that reinforce violence against women as a women’s issue by supporting men’s engagement as personally and societal transformative agents for change.

    If more men commit to engaging and taking critically needed leadership to end all forms of violence against women, we would have that very possible watershed moment, which we all need beyond #MeToo.

    Andrea Shorter is President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights, and marriage equality. A co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.