Beyond #MeToo


In his 2015 commencement address to the graduates of Georgetown University, Charlie Rose said: “Think ahead to the end of your life. And think about what you would like to be remembered for at the end of your life. It’s not honor. It’s not prestige. It is character. It is integrity. It is truth. It is doing the right thing. It’s hard to imagine or think about that when you’re 22. It’s easy when you’re 73.”

Earlier this month, the country came to know that 75-year-old Rose is a hypocrite. He joined a recent slew of male celebrities, leaders and politicians who are accused of sexually harassing and assaulting women. These include big names like Golden Globe winning actor Kevin Spacey, United States Senator Al Franken, film executive Harvey Weinstein, comedian Louis C.K, and as recently as this past Wednesday, Matt Lauer, host of NBC’s “Today” show. Predatory behavior has been uncovered the past several years from other prominent leaders like Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and even our current commander-in-chief.

Donald Trump was caught on tape using vulgarities while bragging about grabbing and kissing women without their permission. He was elected president in spite of his obscenity. In the 1990s, shortly after Clinton’s rapacious ways were made public, acclaimed feminist Gloria Steinem published an op-ed in the NYTimes urging people to have compassion for him. She argued that if anything, Clinton needed therapy instead of being found guilty of sexual harassment.

Perhaps if we didn’t keep excusing men who commit sexual assault and sexual harassment as “just being men” or exhibiting innate animalistic tendencies, if we held these men accountable for their actions, we would be living in a more equitable world. For all the progress we’ve seen in closing the gender wage gap, we still have a long way to go before women are actually treated with respect instead of as pieces of meat for the taking.

I’m a successful, educated woman who is treated as an equal by my partner in our home yet when I walk along Liberty Avenue, I feel full length stares after banking a corner and hear cat-calls from a distance. I am trivialized and objectified no matter how much I achieve professionally. Why is that? And who is guilty of committing such disrespect? It’s not just the typical guy on the street. People in positions of power are equally as guilty – they just have a better way of hiding their perversions.

For his many years as a television host, Charlie Rose came off as the epitome of a gentleman. He appeared sophisticated and mannerly. He gave off the impression that he was an advocate for women’s rights. Just last October, he interviewed Tina Brown about the Harvey Weinstein scandals. In March, he reprimanded Steven Bannon in his first formal TV interview about President Trump’s obscene language against women. Rose seemed to hold himself to a high standard of morality. He’s actually a lewd old man who has been accused of purposely walking out naked in front of female staffers.

After allegations were made against him, Rose issued a statement in which he said: “I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though now I realize I was mistaken.” Apologizing in one vein, Rose tried to play innocent in the other, perpetuating the notion that men just have a hard time reading signals from women, rather than acknowledging the plain truth: Rose crossed the line and was highly inappropriate no matter what the circumstances were.

Rose’s actions, as well as those of his perverted peers, has activated countless female survivors of sexual harassment and assault to speak up. It unleashed the revival of the #MeToo movement, with women flocking to social media using this hashtag to tell their personal stories of sexual harassment and assault. While this is a positive step, it begs the question: Will such banding together change men’s behavior?

I personally think that in a few months, there will be yet another movement for yet another perturbing reason and #MeToo will be forgotten. What needs to be done is a re-education of men and a coaching of boys from a young age on what it means to respect women. This is best done by parents themselves, more particularly, fathers. There is no substitute for a father’s example in teaching the importance of respecting women.

Here are some ways to teach boys how to respect women from an early age:

Express love and respect for your wife/significant other. Let your children see that you love your wife. Don’t put her down, either in private or in public. Let your children see that you are caring, not condescending. When you’re not around your wife, have the same level of respect for her. Don’t paint her as “emotional” or “controlling.” Too often I hear boyfriends and husbands tell their friends the only reason they’ve taken a certain appropriate action is because otherwise “The wife will get upset.” Instead, do the right thing because you yourself want to.

Talk about Feelings. Instead of teaching young men to always be “tough and brave,” an impossibility of humans from any gender, teach your sons about emotions. The conqueror/super hero mentality that is sold to boys at a young age indirectly teaches them to take what they believe is their own. In the long run, this could include a woman’s body and physical autonomy.

Hold your son accountable. When you see your son behaving improperly towards a girl or woman, don’t condone it. Call him out. Be careful what you yourself say about women too. I’ve heard male drivers assume that a slow driver holding up traffic on the road has “got to be a woman.” That statement and other gender-based stereotypes are not okay. It’s also not okay to assume that mom’s only role is to be in the kitchen.

Monitor media and correct pop culture that disrespects women. There are messages of female disrespect surrounding children in all aspects of their life – video games, music, and television are just a few examples. Monitor what your son is exposed to. When he witnesses disrespectful images or sounds, let him know that these are not appropriate representations of how to treat women. Correct the wrongs society pushes on your children.

Teach consent. Boys need to know that it is not okay to touch a girl without her explicit consent. Teach your sons this, as well as boundaries especially when with a girl who is under the influence. If a woman is intoxicated, no man has the right to take advantage of the situation.

Choose your friends wisely. Surround your sons with good men. That means associating with men who also respect women. Show me your friends, and I’ll tell you who you are.