Where Do We Go from Here?
I'm writing this to you right after the Harvey Weinstein news has broken and women from all around the world are sharing their #MeToo stories. On a personal level, I logged into my Facebook account and was flooded with women sharing their stories of being sexually harassed and assaulted. The number of women I knew who had spoken up shocked me. And that's a good thing.
As a man, I could easily do one of the two most common paths:
- I could ignore all that's going on
- I could talk about my "mother, wife, daughter" as though that protects me from any accountability.
Me being me, I won't be taking either of those paths. I write about women characters who overcome great hardship to find happiness and I feel that I owe it to you as an author to open up a dialogue on this topic.
If where we are today as a society is ever going to change, then I need to take ownership and responsibility for my own actions. And that starts with me acknowledging that, as a man, I am part of the problem.
Back in 2014 I wrote about sexual harassment on my blog because it's been rampant online. Three years have passed since I wrote that blog post and not only have things not changed, but the ugly truth are being harassed or assaulted is coming out in all areas. Nearly ever woman I know is coming out to admit that they were harassed in some form of another: Cat-called, hit on by bosses in the workplace, received unwanted advances via social media or physically violated.
I think the best thing that I can do as a male is to acknowledge that there is a problem, to listen to what women are sharing and not to sweep it under the rug because it's uncomfortable, but to be open and vulnerable. The vulnerable part comes in because I admit that I am part of the problem. The only way I know how our world will get better is for me to do my part in supporting women at work, at home and in public spaces.
As a man, I've never had guys cat-call me as I walk by or stare at me at the way I dress. Yet that's the reality of what's happening to women in our world today.
Take a look at this "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman" video and then share it with all the men you know.
All the woman is doing is walking through the streets. She's not saying anything, but is on her own and the camera captures the dozens upon dozens of men who call out to her and are checking her out. It's a disturbing video. I watched the video and I wasn't surprised with what I saw, but I was shocked with how many times in 10 hours she had to deal with men treating her that way. That's just one day--I couldn't imagine how she would have to deal with this every single day she walked through the streets.
But what was even more disturbing was reading the #MeToo tweets from women sharing that they had men calling out to them as early as 9 years of age. That's down-right disgusting.
Just because I was born male, I've not had to deal with such behavior aimed at me. I've walked through New York, Philadelphia, Paris, London and many other cities and have never been treated this way. Not once in my 46 years. But women around the world are dealing with men sexually harassing (and worse) them in the workplace and in public.
In order for such behavior to stop, then I need to take responsibility as a male. I need to own up to my own faults and problems as I know that we men need to change our behavior. I may not be cat-calling women on the street, but I have hung out with guys in college and women were talked about as objects. Men bragged about their sexual adventures or what they would like to do to women they knew and I did nothing to stand up and tell them that they were wrong.
I believe that it's not women's behavior that needs to change, but it's mine and other men. In a world in which a 16 year-old in India can be gang raped on a train, we cannot turn a blind eye to. 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. So it's not just a problem across the world. Women are being raped by coworkers, classmates and in all other paths of their lives.
My responsibility starts in being an ally to stand up for women being harassed or in danger. And I wanted to share with you that I have also begun contributing a portion of my book sale proceeds to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
Change isn't going to come by just wishing it to happen. It's going to take all men to work with women to learn better behavior. I need to work on myself, but also to teach my son how to treat women with respect.
I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but I have taken the first step: Admitting that I've also been part of the problem.
If you are moved by this story, I ask that you do the same: Share this story with other men in your lives and make a donation to RAINN.
I can't change the world overnight, but I can change myself. And I am starting today.
Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He's written the Cinderella's Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch's Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and now the first book, Ahab's Daughter, in the Werewhale Saga.