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#MeToo and Dad. How to Respond?

#MeToo

The dam has finally broken.

Decades of systemic abuse in Hollywood and the creative industry on both sides of the pond have finally come to the fore, with women emboldened to finally ‘go public’ with abuse, almost universally at the hands of men in positions of power and influence.

What started as a Hollywood movement bled into general consciousness. The days following the Harvey Weinstein revelations, in particular, were marked by women using the #MeToo social media hashtag in support of the cause, or in many cases to share their own tragic stories.

My own social media newsfeeds were full of women I knew posting the hashtag. The sheer volume genuinely shocked me.

The required societal change will probably be a generation in the making. This means it’s beholden on today’s fathers – yes, that’s you and I! – to ensure this change happens, for the benefit of our own children.

We’ve simply got to create a culture where it is not OK for a man to exploit his influence or physical power to objectify a woman. Equally, this culture needs to empower women to stand up to and report this behaviour, with the expectation of these complaints being taken seriously and not laughed off as ‘boys being boys’.

The most uncomfortable step all fathers – and men in general – need to take is to review our own behaviour.

In the wake of the recent revelations, Jordan Stephens, one half of Hip-Hop’s Rizzle Kicks, wrote a very thought-provoking piece that certainly challenged me, especially this quote: –

“Any man who has read a woman’s account of harassment or assault and thought ‘that doesn’t apply to me’: what you’re experiencing in that moment is the exact privilege, power and entitlement that women are finding space to battle against.”
“We have subconsciously benefitted since we were born from patriarchal privilege – in many ways, it’s invisible to us. I’ve been outspoken in my support for women’s rights, but I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve fallen foul of the patriarchy’s malicious hardwiring.”

It’s very easy to point a finger at the guy at the pub who gets a bit ‘handsy’ after a drink or two. What’s harder is to admit our own complicity in this behaviour.

At its most basic, we’ve all been bystanders when this ‘handsy’ behaviour has taken place and have either not been brave enough to challenge it, or felt no obligation to do so.

Perhaps a little subtler is our role in the continuation of the ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘lad’ culture – or as Jordan Stephen’s article aptly termed it, ‘toxic masculinity’. The uncomfortable truth is that we, as men, have probably all benefitted from it. It’s the reason why as a man reading this you’re almost certainly paid more than your female coworker for the same job.

We all allow, and create the breathing space, for this culture to exist. Until we as fathers meet this challenge head-on, we risk the continuation of a culture that’s overseen the systemic physical abuse of women on a previously unimaginable scale.

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