So you’d like to put your shoulder to the boulder

So, that was surprising. I don’t know what I expected when I pressed publish yesterday. But I couldn’t have predicted the wave of response — especially from those who shared in the comments and in emails to me their own stories of violence, of pushing for change, of wanting to do something, anything, about the way things are in our culture, in our society, right now. Thank you for those conversations. If you are awake and wanting to help, you have my heart.

Let me say here that if you don’t want to help, don’t. But don’t hinder, either. If you want to address violence against men, or how the family court system works, or issues related, you should definitely do that. No one is telling you that you must join this fight. But recognize that this is the fight in which I am engaged, this is the issue that is top of mind for me, and that’s what I’ll be talking about here.

I have heard from men who do want to help roll the boulder up the hill, but who are unsure what it is that is wanted or required of them in this struggle. If we are not looking to them to lead, what should their role be? That is a great question, and as luck would have it, I’ve been thinking a lot about that, too.

1. Amplify women’s voices: There are smart, thoughtful, experienced, amazing women already thinking and writing about these issues. They are all over the internet. They are not hard to find. Read them, learn from them and most importantly, amplify them. Talk about their work with your friends and colleagues. Tweet links to their articles, post them on Facebook. Normalize the issues these women bring to the fore as issues for everyone to consider. Take equality out of the “special interest” cubby and mainstream it, baby.

2. Recognize sexism and misogyny and call it out: It is everywhere. This could be a full-time job, and for some of us, it is. Keep marketers and the media accountable for the language they choose, the images they show, the messages they relate. See it, say it. Don’t leave it to women to be alone in pointing it out. When we do, we are often met with: Can’t you take a joke? Imagine how tiresome that gets. And I’ll say here that speaking of jokes, you should also call out sexist portrayals of men as buffoons who can’t do anything right. That’s not helping any of us either.

3. Rock the vote: Politicians do, eventually, what they think we want them to do. Would they pay attention to a sudden and sustained increase in correspondence from men about violence against women and sexual violence? Would they heed calls for the need for more restorative justice approaches, and support for survivors? Would they make room in an election campaign for a conversation about these issues? There’s only one way to find out.

4. Put your money where your mouth is: There are amazing organizations working for equality, caring for survivors of sexual violence, providing educational services around consent, abuse and more. They are chronically underfunded, and often on the brink of extinction. You could make a donation of money, or time, or both.

5. Keep listening: Have conversations about all this, but make sure you’re listening at least as much as you’re talking. If there are questions you want to ask, like: Why wouldn’t you report a sexual assault to the police, you should maybe google that first. You will find hundreds (thousands?) of essays explaining some of the reasons. Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall with questions you could find the answers to yourself. Come to the hill ready to roll the boulder with us, and we will be glad to see you.


20 responses to “So you’d like to put your shoulder to the boulder”

  1. Hi Stephanie,

    Author Scott Fotheringham shared this TED clip on his FB page today, with encouragement to his male friends to watch it. I was curious so I watched it, and found it to include seemingly simple advice to men who do want to help make a shift happen. “Seemingly simple” because speaking up is never simple, is it? Stepping away from being a bystander takes strength no matter what gender you are.

    As a woman, I know I haven’t spoken up enough, and this week has made me have a hard look in the mirror. Being an older woman has many perks, and chief among them is having a stronger voice then we did when we were younger and people were more interested in what we looked like than what we said. Here’s to capitalizing on that.

    At any rate, passionate words from a man who is putting his weight fully behind the boulder. I’ve shared it with the young male feminist in my life in the hopes his friends will see it and feel empowered.


    • Thanks Jacquie! It is indeed so hard to speak up, and sometimes it feels unsafe to. But I think we’re at a point in the culture where it has become vital to speak if you are able. See you on the hill!

    • I’ve been writing about “by-stander” approach for a long time. I apply it not only to the silence around violence against women, but also, violence against anything deemed your right and entitlement such as animals and environment. It all goes hand in hand. And it comes right down to attitude in my opinion – of which, I’m writing a piece as we speak.

  2. Great post the other day. I imagine as a CBC employee and a woman, the recent events of the past week have been very distressing. I applaud you for speaking out.
    I teach grade 8 language arts and while I didn’t talk about the Jian affair with my classes this week, (mostly because they probably would have said “who?”) I did talk to them a lot of about gender issues and sexism in the media. We talked about sexist and disciminatory advertising. We talked about Halloween costumes for girls/women and costumes for boys and men. We talked about little girls being sexualized and how it’s so important for women/girls to know they have choices and rights. Even my hormonal grade 8 boys recognized that the world is not fair right now. And my girls…I was so proud of them. I think they will change the world. Keep fighting the good fight and I’ll keep talking to the next generation.

  3. Stephanie, you are my hero ! I sent your message to everyone in my address book . Bless you for being so articulate in expressing what so many of us are struggling with.

  4. Thank you for this. I’m in.

    Sometimes (sometimes?) we men are pretty thick. We like clear criteria for success, and have trouble with ambiguity, so giving us tasks make it more likely we’ll join in. Yes, many of us need to be told what to do, unfortunately.

  5. Thanks for writing this, Stephanie. After reading your previous post, I was feeling a bit “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Speak up, and I’m taking bandwidth away from smart women who’ve been outraged about this for a long time. Don’t speak up, and I’m offering complicity by my silence. Both of those are totally legitimate concerns, but left me struggling for a next step. I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to come back to this and include more thoughts.

  6. 20 years ago a friend of mine, then 10 years old was sexually assaulted by “elders” of her church. She reported it at the time to her “Childrens’ supervisor, who dismissed her claims (you must have enticed them), She has always buried this secret. I say she should investigate legal action, but she is happier not to be dragged through the judicial system and become dismembered by our Judicial system. Is there any way to seek justice, and punishment of the brutes who assaulted her, without beimg laid open to being ravaged by the law

  7. First of all, sorry to add to your bad news this week, but there’s something I saw which was so disturbing, especially in light of the Ghomeshi thing, and it’s currently making it’s way viral around the internet.

    It’s this video of a white man in Japan teaching a lecture basically on how to sexually harrass women: . The good news is the results I’ve got towards this from both men and women friends are equally disgusted, but this shouldn’t have to happen at all and really hits home the point that women are abused by men and men think that’s okay. It also shows how men take not saying no/stop to be consent, but when a foreign guy much bigger than you grabs you and shoves your face towards his dick while laughing, surrounded by his other big foreign friends… Right, that’s not an intimidating situation at all.

    Anyway, I’m sharing this with you just because I think it needs a continued signal boost and these actions need to be condemned and it also offers proof that the ‘some men’ who do this stuff really, really do exist.

  8. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog!
    I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my
    Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this site with
    my Facebook group. Chat soon!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: