It’s time to include men in the MeToo movement. This was one of the conclusions journalists Emily Steel, Sohaila Abdulali and lawyer Tina Tchen reached as they discussed the next phase of the feminist movement at All About Women last week.
When asked by an audience member about how to counsel men who want to be involved but who were concerned about doing the wrong thing, Tchen acknowledged it was an uncomfortable transition but an important one.
“We are changing very deeply held societal norms about how men and women interact in the workplace and that is to the good,” she said, “but we (as advocates) have to create spaces where men can be part of the conversations. We are not going to solve this without men as allies, without men engaged, and there are many men who want to be part of this conversation.”
Tchen said it was important to help men to engage with this movement productively. “We have to be patient and not jump down the throats of someone who says something in not exactly the right way.”
The panel agreed the backlash was already happening, with Tchen pointing to comments from speaker Anthony Robbins in April 2018 about male employers shying away from hiring attractive women and instead opting for less qualified men. According to Tchen, its about seeing workplace culture as a whole, rather than separating the issues of sexual harassment, diversity inclusion and pay equity.
Steel said the most important thing was to listen to women’s stories. “For so long, we’ve heard these statistics and knew the numbers, but we weren’t really listening to the stories behind that and that’s something that once it’s out of the box, you can’t put back in.”
However, Abdulali cautioned against too much tiptoeing around men. “[This idea of ] men worrying about how they should behave – they should worry!” she said to thunderous applause from the audience. “We worry forever about how we behave, and the men who I’ve talked to who are worried are the ones who should behave … Let’s be real about backlash.”
Read the full write up on the All About Women Festival on The Guardian website.