Charles Blow: Men Can't Afford to Stay Silent Any Longer
Since dozens of women accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault, it's been open season on powerful men with histories of alleged abuse. These allegations are largely open secrets, whispered among female co-workers, and sometimes even reported to HR before being dismissed.
In his Monday column, Charles Blow examines why he, and so many other men, even men who consider themselves feminists, are continually shocked by how common this abuse of power is. He also re-commits to checking his own male privilege and being an ally for women, and asks his readers to do the same.
He explains that despite, having a daughter, and using his column to "regularly condemn sexism, misogyny, patriarchy and toxic masculinity," the shock resurfaces with each revelation. It's not because he's naive, or "because I don’t listen to women or believe them, but rather, I think, because a personally lived experience is a far cry from a passively learned experience."
After all, he continues, "I am a man. Six-foot-two, 200 lbs. Able-bodied, and physically fit. I move through the world with the privilege of never even considering the idea of being sexually assaulted or harassed." Still, Blow offers the same advice on sexism as he does on racism: "If you are not actively working to dismantle it, you are supporting it. It is not sufficient to simply not be a sexist yourself if you are a man. You must also recognize that you benefit from the system of sexism in ways to which you may not even be aware."
He knows this is not easy, especially for men who belong to marginalized groups:
Constant outrage is exhausting even about your own oppression. I am a black man in America. I’m worn threadbare dealing with the oppressions that men who look like me endure, from racially skewed mass incarceration to being the targets of police violence. I understand that all oppressions are, in some way, intersectional and connected to all other violence, that the empathic connections of ally-ship are multidirectional and reciprocal
In addition, he admits that we can never truly know another person's pain. But that's not an excuse not to try to help. In fact, Blow reminds us, "Acknowledging this deficiency — to yourself and to others — is a healthy and helpful first step."
After that comes the work of listening: "We have to stop, listen and receive other people’s experiences, validate those experiences and honor the feeling with which they are expressed. And we have to center the speaker and not the listener, center the person who lacks the privilege and not the one who possesses it."
From listening comes action. Blow leaves us with a pledge that everyone can follow: "I can advocate for cultural and policy changes that would make women’s lives better. And, I can forgive myself, I believe, for being shocked and saddened when something that I deeply understand intellectually is illustrated in ways that make me deeply understand it emotionally."