The #metoo campaign has had a profound impact on the world.
Many women have been empowered to speak about abuse at the hands of men and a few of the more powerful of these have seen their careers ruined. Some will go to jail.
With the campaign has come the inevitable push-back from many men who feel victimised. These have been epitomised by the likes of Donald Trump.
My concern: If #metoo (and related activities/campaigns in this space) are to fundamentally change culture; change the system; the way men see, speak of and treat women, we (men) are going to need to get out of the extremes of this narrative and into a place where we can take individual responsibility for what women face daily all over the world – and change our behaviour accordingly.
The reality is that women from Boston to Burundi are oppressed and abused every day; they leave their homes rehearsing in their minds what they will do if they are set upon by men (physically and emotionally); they must fight a system that places women several rungs below men on life’s ladder; they are profoundly abused and dishonoured in myriad ways from the subtle to the horrific.
Is it not time for me as a man to stand up and say #metoo? I am not suggesting this as a campaign name – this is strictly for women in my view. I am saying, “#metoo – I have contributed to a system that places women below men in every way.”
This is different to the “men are trash” movement – although that is very powerful and necessary. This is about me outing myself and not just for the sake of it, but for a shift in my personal attitudes and behaviours; to create a consciousness in me as a man that I have a role to play in this thing.
Now, in my mind I immediately move to the extreme of this narrative when I write this and say: “I don’t need to speak up here. I am not an abuser as I have never done anything to a woman against her will. I have never raped, abused or groped a woman. I have never laid a finger on a woman.” But just because I haven’t necessarily done anything to women that would land me in jail or lose me my job does not mean I have not contributed to the subjugation, degradation or weakening of women; contributed to a system that places women in daily peril and in a constant state of preparedness for the inevitability of being taken advantage of by men. This becomes so much subtler than the abuses of the Harvey Weinsteins or the Bill Cosbys of this world. But, is it not day after day, incident after exhausting incident – just as damaging to women? Now, I am fairly and squarely on the hook.
What does this look like in real terms?
My name is Justin Foxton and I have contributed to a system that places women below men in every way.
I have done this by being male. This is not a crime but not actively fighting against male privilege is. This is not just an economic thing; this is a system thing.
I have done this by remaining naive about the many injustices committed against women daily in our world.
I have done this by listening to men trumpet their own positions of power, privilege and wealth knowing that they are standing on the broken backs of women.
I have done this by listening to sermons in which priests and pastors have misrepresented my faith by suggesting that men are dominant over women; that women should not be leaders at all.
That is enough for me to feel most vulnerable.
But that is how women feel all the time.
I need to feel that way to identify better with women.