This is a slightly edited version of an open letter to the men on my Facebook feed, which I wrote in response to the “Me Too” posts women have been putting up on social media. The “Me Too” posts began as a response to revelations of filmmaker Harvey Weinstein’s sexual violence, abuse, and harassment against women in the entertainment industry.
For the last day or so, the “me too” Facebook posts have felt overwhelming to me. They have made me feel sad, helpless, and guilty because of I have been in the company of guys acting horribly, and I was too timid to raise my voice in protest, which makes me part of the problem.
Reading the “me too” posts has caused me to recognize the fact that as a man, I must own the pain women experience when they are victims of sexual violence and harassment, in the same way that white America must own the train wreck that is the Trump Administration, because white folks handed Trump the keys to the West Wing. We share the guilt of our people. My actions may not have caused the brokenness—at least not directly—but I am still responsible to address the wounds inflicted by my cohort. And so are you.
There is a temptation to downplay the experience of women by making sexual abuse a universal phenomenon, to say it is something that affects people along every point in the spectrum of gender and sex. After all—perhaps like you—I’ve been groped and I’ve been on the receiving-end of inappropriate comments, actions and insinuations, but that doesn’t mean I can say “me too.” Sexual harassment against males is a thing, but it is not the same thing, and we shouldn’t pretend it is.
If, like me, you are feeling a great weight of remorse, guilt, and sadness as you read the “me too” posts, let me offer this grace: we can change our behavior. Where we were silent in the face of misogyny, we need not be silent going forward. We can create a culture in which our fellow males are ashamed to objectify women. We can teach values of respect and common decency to our sons, nephews, younger brothers and to any other male child in our lives. When necessary, we can apologize and make amends.
But we cannot do this alone. If we are going to make a positive difference in our culture we need to partner with the women in our lives, and in the work we need to be junior partners. We need to let women tell us how to be good allies. We need to follow their lead. We need to play a supportive role. This may not come easy to some us, but the time for man-splaining is over. The milk carton of patriarchy is past it’s “sell-by date”.
Let’s do this. Let’s commit one to another and to God to change the culture of masculinity that gives permission to abuse. Let’s be men instead of guys. Let’s do what we can to ensure none of our daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers, or friends ever again must say “me too.” As the work goes on, I remain,
PS Some folks asked me to share the welcome statement from Coventry Cathedral in England which I read in my sermon on Sunday. Here it is, complete with the parenthetical introductory note which precedes the statement itself.
(This isn’t original to us – but is something we regularly print on the front of our service booklets which has been widely reported and much appreciated…)
We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down at heel. We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers.
We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You’re welcome here if you’re ‘just browsing,’ just woken up or just got out of prison. We don’t care if you’re more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury, or haven’t been to church since Christmas ten years ago.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit mums, football dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems, are down in the dumps or don’t like ‘organized religion.’ (We’re not that keen on it either!)
We offer a welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or are here because granny is visiting and wanted to come to the Cathedral.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throat as kids or got lost on the ring road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters… and you!