The “Me Too” movement has caused all of us to stop and listen. If it hasn’t, then you’re still part of the problem. Many men don’t like to hear this, but we’ve all been active participants in creating a culture where women are victimized. If you are a man reading this, you have either caused someone to have a #MeToo moment, laughed about one, looked the other way, or benefitted from a society that brushes sexual harassment under the rug or places blame on the victim.
So, where do we go from here?
It’s actually an easy question to answer. Don’t sexually assault, harass, discriminate against women because of their gender. Is it easier said than done? Not really… well, it shouldn’t be. But the question is how can we get the rest of society on board and evolve into a new day of thinking and believing? It starts with education at all levels.
Back in September, I attended a He For She conference where Heads of State discussed gender equality. Finland President Sauli Niinistö stated that “women have the right to a life free from violence. Finland, like all countries, has an obligation to end violence against women in all forms.” In Finland, all men must take part in military service or non-military national service. Finland will use this mandatory service “as an opportunity to influence young men before behavioral patterns and attitudes have become routine.” Men will be provided instruction on anger management and prevention of partner violence. President Niinistö believes “changing the attitudes of the young we will come closer to our goal of ending violence against women.”
It is estimated that there are around 1,281,900 service members and 801,200 people in the reserves. In 2017, there were around 15.1 million kids in public school grades 8 through 12. Also in 2017, 20.4 million students were expected to attend college. If the US wants to end violence towards women and make greater strides toward gender equality, this is where it starts. What would it look like if all students had to take a mandatory class promoting gender equality? Or if as part of basic training, anger management is taught and domestic violence is addressed? What if every college freshman had to take a gender studies class? If education is where change happens, then young men and women need to be provided with tools and information so they can lead us into an era where violence, harassment, and discrimination towards women become obsolete.
As a father of 2 boys and 2 girls, I want all my children to see a world where equality is more than equal pay. I want my daughters to have the same freedom to walk down the street, attend parties and concerts, and go on dates that my boys have. My daughters should not have to live in fear. If we are able to teach young men what’s appropriate and acceptable, then we might decrease the statistic that 1 out of every 6 women will experience rape or attempted rape.
How many women do you know? I bet you know quite a few groups of 6.
To say we have done a great disservice to the women in this country (and others) is a HUGE understatement. Just read a sample of the #MeToo stories. We (men) should be floored by embarrassment and shame. We must walk with women now and ensure that since we created the problem, we will be part of the solution. One solution can be that we change society. Finland is doing just that. Time for the U.S. (and us) to do the same and educate our young men to not make the same mistakes.