Updated: Apr 21, 2018
A model to be an authentic #MeToo ally!
Tarana Burke, the original creator of the #MeToo” hashtag, has said that #MeToo was originally conceived as a method to provide comfort and support for young women of color who were the victims of sexual harassment and violence. Later, she stated that #MeToo could be a conversation starter to prevent harassment and assault in a broader context.
The #MeToo Movement has motivated me to reflect, acknowledge, listen and engage with women in a deeper and more profound way, both professionally and socially.
The reflection begins with me asking what is my mindset on this issue? In a prior article, I offered the Intercultural Development Continuum as a good place to gauge your mindset. As a reflection, I must be open to asking myself was my behavior always at a stage of Acceptance or Adaptation?
The acknowledgment is admitting that my answer must be “no.” I acknowledge that I have not always had deep conversations regarding consent, and autonomy, or modeled behavior reflective of an Adaptive mindset (“I will model, and hold others accountable, to model behaviors respectful of women”). As men, we get comfortable assuming we know what women think, we feel our respective behaviors are aligned with the same value system and we do not take the time to truly know.
Thus, I have found myself listening in a different way. Listening to truly hear and understand, and not to rebut or minimize. The women I have talked with have helped me to begin to understand and grow. Listening means to have empathy, not sympathy, to truly understand the situation someone found themselves in, and to acknowledge the complexities, options, or lack thereof, they had for assistance or recourse.
If men can reflect, acknowledge and listen differently, I believe we can engage with women and be proactive partners in finding tangible and pragmatic solutions regarding sexual harassment and violence in the workplace and society.
Progress begins with acknowledging that you are an imperfect ally and offering women your support as an imperfect ally.
My conversations with women, especially women of color, and men have raised some intriguing #MeToo questions that I believe are essential for sustainable progress:
Why did the #MeToo movement only gained momentum when famous white women charged sexual harassment against a powerful and famous White man?
If sexual harassment is as much about the display of power, as it is about sex, will the #MeToo movement support all efforts to empower those disenfranchised in society whether female or male, such as preventing police brutality versus people of color and discriminatory behavioral towards immigrants and LGBTQ citizens?
As the #MeToo progresses to not only prevent sexual harassment but also to promote female advancement, will it support Diversity & Inclusion efforts in general such as Inclusion riders in the film industry, address the unique realities that women of color experience in the workplace, or create expectations for the role of White women as diversity leaders.
If #MeToo can be both the conversation starter, and the catalyst for real change imaged by Tarana Burke, it requires honest self-reflection by men, and women; acknowledgment without disclaimers, active and empathetic listening; and proactive engagement towards solutions.