A letter to men in the Glenbrook community

Maia Schwallie, Opinions Editor

To all of the boys and men in the Glenbrook community:

Whether you are a student, a teacher, or a parent, this column is for you. It is for you to reflect, to learn and to ask yourself what you can do to be a better ally to the women around you.

Please keep an open mind.

On March 10, United Nations Women UK released a study that reported 97 percent of women in England ages 18 to 24 have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. This number is absurdly high, but to women, it’s not shocking.

In mid-March, this number flooded social media as women took to various platforms to share their anger, frustration and fear of what this number represents. These women, as well as misogyny-affected individuals (non-binary or trans people who are often perceived as women and thus are also impacted by misogyny), were understandably angry that so many of us have experienced sexual harassment, assault or abuse.

The men were largely silent. Of the hundreds of Instagram posts I saw from people in the Glenbrook community, only one was made by a boy.

Instead of standing in solidarity with these women, many men throughout our country instead subscribed to the reactionary phrase “Not All Men,” trying to protect the reputation of their gender and absolve themselves from any blame.

I understand the inclination to want to think of yourself as “one of the good guys,” but distancing yourself from the issue by speaking over the fears and feelings of women does not prove that you support or even respect women.

It shows that you want to ignore the problem rather than actively advocate against it.

You might be wondering, what would being an ally to women look like?

Well, I think it is important that men first recognize their privilege. Understand that this society was created for you to thrive at the expense of women. Educate yourself about the impacts of misogyny. Listen to your female friends when they tell you something you have said or done was insensitive.

We all grew up in a society that taught us women are weak, unintelligent and a million other adjectives that serve to diminish women into the ground and thrust men  upon a pedestal.

These ideas seep into every aspect of our society and it may take a lot of work to unlearn them, but it is work that should be done.

The next thing you can do for women is hold your friends accountable for their words and actions.

Men do not decide to harass, abuse or murder women overnight. There are warning signs that you can and should look out for in order to call out and educate your male friends before they harm a woman.

So, what might this kind of man look like?

They look like the boys who rate women on their attractiveness.

They look like the men who slut shame women for their clothes or sexual histories.

They’re the catcallers or the boy who is always trying to get women a little too drunk.

They’re the boys who send unsolicited nude pictures and repeatedly ask out women even when they have already declined.

They’re the boys who respect cisgender, straight, white women, but condescend queer people or women of color.

He’s my former math teacher, who was shocked when I got the highest test grade in my class because he “never thought a girl would get the highest grade on a math test.”

He’s the boy in my English class who said the patriarchy is the “natural hierarchy” of our society and women should feel lucky to live the way we do.

And they’re the boys in my religions class who said they would still vote for a politician regardless of any sexual assault allegations against them.

These men are all around us, and as their friends, brothers, teachers and fathers, you have the chance to call them out. Use your privilege to advocate for women and amplify our voices rather than step over them.

If you think of yourself as “one of the good guys,” then it’s time to start acting like one.