Why Good Men Were Shocked by the #MeToo Movement

Harvey Weinstein was the tip of the iceberg. After millions of women shared their #MeToo stories of sexual harassment and assault, the world could no longer ignore this pervasive problem. Today, I’m continuing this conversation to ensure that you know that you’re believed, while, at the same time, explaining how good men completely missed the boat on this one.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Sara

    Evan,

    I bow to your courage to be vulnerable, to question, to step into the arena and to open the conversation about the insidiousness of harassment of women as a societal issue. Thank you from a deep place of respect and admiration. Healing begins with awareness. It takes vulnerability to be heartfelt in the face of inevitable criticism. Continue on with bringing the shadow into the lights of awareness.

    Your compassion and willingness to be seen is admirable.

    Thank you.

    Sara

    1. 1.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Appreciate it, Sara. However, I have a feeling you’re going to be seeing fewer personal posts on here.

      The ones I wrote about being lonely, #MeToo, and emotional labor, meant a lot to me, and only spurred more divisiveness. Essentially, the more info one provides, the more likely people will pick up on a disagreeable line and blow it up into something more. It’s sad, but it’s reality.

      I just declined an appearance on CNN tonight to talk about this topic (watch tonight’s Town Hall on sexual harassment at 9pm!) simply because there’s no upside. When good men are afraid to speak up because they risk getting torn apart, you’re not going to have too many good men speaking up. If you even deviate from the purest argument (“all men are complicit”), you’re a mansplainer. If you suggest that perhaps women’s voices (calling out their harassers) are more important than men’s voices (talking to my married guy friends about a subject we don’t witness), you’re a victim-blamer. That’s not something I choose to participate in any longer. Which is too bad. I like going deep and finding nuances in important topics, but I hate the petty attacks that invariably come with expressing even the most measured opinion.

      1. 1.1.1
        Jeremy

        Sigh.  Everything is personal when you put yourself out there.  I can sit here safely behind my anonymity online and post comments.  And even though I sometimes write about my marriage, no one knows who I am.  So while people may judge me, it isn’t personal because there is no name or face.  Not so with you.  That must be very hard.

         

        Still, I think that the posts you mentioned were some of your most poignant.  There are nuances, other sides, to these issues.  Yes, sexual harassment is an important issue and yes men should be involved in the solution……but just because women might believe in a certain etiology of the problem does not necessarily mean that men should agree, and just because women suggest a course of action for men does not necessarily mean that men are wrong for disagreeing.  People who demand total capitulation often don’t perceive that that is what they are demanding.

         

        A woman who is over-burdened with emotional labour due to a lazy husband is very different from a woman who is over-burdened due to her own identity/control issues, who has a husband who would be more than willing to help out.  The former situation has been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere, the latter has hardly been broached.

         

        We need people to raise the counter-argument, to cite the nuance.  There are too many people spouting opinions that lack nuance.  Blogs that blame men for the overwhelming majority of marital failures, blogs that cite one gender’s prerogatives while minimizing the other’s.  I come here because it is so rare to find nuance, Evan.  So judgment aside, I applaud your bravery.

      2. 1.1.2
        Drat

        I am sorry that you are experiencing petty attacks when you share something personal. It can take a lot of bravery to open up publicly and be vulnerable. I really appreciate the authentic, true examples and I know others benefit from them as well. Thank you for sharing what you already have. I also understand why you wouldn’t want to do much of that any longer. It’s important to know your limits and have boundaries for self-care. Just because you are a web figure, doesn’t mean that everyone has an all-access pass to your life.

        That said, I would encourage you to consider if there are uncomfortable things you are willing to discuss while still enforcing your boundaries so as to not become burned out. We need people like you to help those who do not have a voice, even if you are imperfect. For example, I got kicked out of a graduate program because I spoke my mind. I transferred to another program and am about a year away from finishing. Although I’ve had quite a bit of success recently, the lingering trauma is still there, and I am terrified of losing my job again because of advocacy. I feel a real threat that if I share my stories of assault or speak up about sexism and microaggressions that I witness in the workplace. At best I will be dismissed or viewed as annoying, at worst, I might be fired again.

        So maybe after sharing your stories and experiencing being torn apart, you understand more about what it’s like to be a woman or a person of color being asked to share your story. It ranges from uncomfortable to scary. I would love to be more vocal about my experiences, but I do not trust most people to hold space and respect them. So if not you, then I hope that other people with more power and security than I will continue to open up while I cannot.

         

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Thanks for your constructive and insightful comment,

      3. 1.1.3
        R-Kel

        I’m really sorry to hear that, Evan. But I completely understand your reasons. Even though you’re quite the talented storyteller, it’s impossible to talk about one episode in your life or one train of thought without ripping it out of the constellation of all the other related events and conversations that give it context. It means something different by its lonesome on a web page than it does in situ. It’s admirable that you publish even the comments you disagree with, but man, you have to explain and defend and clarify. You could just not engage the trolls and not give them space on your blog and it’s a huge testament to your integrity that you do engage questions and criticism. I appreciate your willingness to write back about the emotional labor piece and I apologize for inadvertently rubbing you the wrong way.

        It’s a minefield out there and I swear the placement changes every day. There’s always some new word you can’t use or opinion that you absolutely must not bring up even for consideration, much less espouse because everybody knows it is Unequivocally The Wrong Thing To Say. If you utter any of the “incorrect” opinions publicly to people who don’t know you personally well enough to make accurate inferences about what you really meant, you get ripped apart. Your examples here are spot on.

        I used to think that “politically correct” neologisms (e.g. gender neutral pronouns) were expanding our language in a way that would broaden discourse and our perspective culturally. Ironically, it seems like we’re getting locked into increasingly rigid dichotomies where half the population will accept an extremely narrow version of The Truth and the other half will accept an equally narrow set of views at the other end of the spectrum. So much of your recent writing has explored that lonely gray area in between those narrowly curated, branded, “acceptable” interpretations. Your blog has evolved from a place where you dispense neatly crafted advice (not that there’s anything wrong with that) to a place where you ask questions, challenge assumptions, foreground the fact that the world is not black and white. It’s like an evolution from Keats’ egotistical sublime to negative capability, the latter of which is really the foundation of empathy (which I would say is probably the cornerstone of your entire career). There may not be a market for it, but there’s definitely a need for people like you who do better than choosing one of the pre-fab intellectual packages out there on the market to stand behind. I hope that you continue to challenge us, but I understand that there’s not much of an audience for it.

         

      4. 1.1.4
        Dontbeafraid

        Maybe forget what others might say and just speak your piece. More than ever truly good men need to speak up, because you guys as a whole aren’t looking too good lately. Who cares what others think as long as you are firm.

      5. 1.1.5
        Heather

        I have an attitude that everyone, male or female, have a # Me Too moment . Being Divided is to be Conquered. Personally, I won’t support a divide mentality. I don’t believe in Absolutes. Yes, # Me Too , however, I know there are many good people around and will continue to be a better person and smarter dater. Thank you Evan for your help with finding a good match for me. Remaining a victim for any sex rather instead working on being a Thriver will keep us all sick. I would continue being Evan , a voice of reason for those of us who still respect and desire good relationships.

  2. 2
    Melissa

    Evan,

    Thank you for sharing your blog post via your podcast as I hadn’t read it yet. Attempting to address #MeToo as a man was thoughtful and appreciated.  It’s unfortunate, though understandable, that  you received so much blow back.

    You’ve already received a number of comments, pointing out the substantially higher numbers of sexual assaults, and significantly higher instances of sexual harassment, that occur every day- as well as personal stories. Therefore, I want to address one other point.

    You mentioned, and even asked, what good men are supposed to do about this widely pervasive problem. From personal experience,  there at least a few, for example: In the workplace –  Good men can support #MeToo by hiring,  promoting, and protecting women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted.  Then women will feel safe,  with jobs and careers protected, when speaking out.

    By the way, to address one previous comment posted – sexual harassment and assault is not subject to interpretation.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts keep up your great work!

  3. 3
    Karen

    Hi Evan

    I’m from the UK and this Harvey Weinstein news is also all over our news. Just wanted to say I salute you. You’re sticking true to  your word and what you believe in and as a woman I fully understand what you’re saying. You mean no offence at all. You’re being honest. I get it. Well done Evan. Stay real.

  4. 4
    S.

    I found the discussion here valuable and am sorry you were discouraged by some negative comments on social media. You say when dating not to judge the next guy by the previous men before him.  Please don’t judge commenters or the value of a discussion by its most negative comments.  Yes, you made yourself vulnerable and maybe that doesn’t always turn out how you hope.  But you encourage us to persevere when that happens to us in love, and so I encourage you to as well.

    I didn’t see those over-400 comments here wholly as divisive.  I feel some of us really heard one another.   It’s a small change of perspective, just a nuance, but gave me hope.  🙂  Thank you.

  5. 5
    GoWiththeFlow

    Evan,

    Thank you for devoting both a blog post and podcast to the topic of #MeToo.  I appreciated that you were willing to jump into the breach and explain what you and other men are thinking about and experiencing as the #MeToo campaign and the revelations keep rolling on.  In particular, I wanted to thank you for saying that, in this case, that women’s voices are more important than men’s voices on this subject at this point in time.  I’m sorry you were attacked on that in the comments on the blog post.

    In the comments section on that blog post, another woman and I wound up on a subthread with a male comment who insisted that what I and the other woman relayed as incidents of harassment weren’t harassment.  The implication being that it was his opinion that mattered.  That women don’t experience certain instances as frightening, embarrassing, or threatening just because a man won’t experience it as such.  I think I wrote, more than once, why can’t you just listen to what we, as women, are saying we experience and accept that that is what we experienced?

    So what I would say to men about #MeToo is that for myself and a lot of women, it’s  greatly appreciated that you are listening and giving us our time to share our stories, our fears and our pain.  But what really touches are hearts is when you believe us.  That’s the most important two things a man or men can do, listen and believe.

  6. 6
    Margot

    Evan,

    I’ve been a reader of your blog (and products) for several years, but this is my first comment. I come here because, as others have said, you are a real person, and your integrity continually shines through in your writing and podcasts. There are many people out there who hunger for this, as it becomes increasingly rare (and risky) in public life.

    Naturally, you will do what’s best for you and your family. I want to thank you for the many times you’ve shared parts of your personal story. My work involves deep listening, and I am aware of how valuable it is to us human beings to witness others who are willing to make themselves vulnerable. We all benefit, whether we know it or not; even – especially – when we disagree.

    You may write and talk primarily about dating, but the example you set extends to every facet of life. I’m grateful for your presence on the web.

    1. 6.1
      fleurdl123

      Well said, Margot.  Thank you, Evan, for sharing so much of yourself here. Even if you feel the need to pull it back a little, your advice and natural integrity/honesty will help immensely.

  7. 7
    Adrian

    Hi Evan,

    I know I am listening to this late but the John Oliver and Dustin Hoffmen debate made me remember this podcast so I just listened.

    I know that this is about women but I have to say as a man THANK YOU!

    As you said we guys who would never consider doing anything even vaguely unacceptable to women are trapped into silence by blindness (like you I would intervene if I saw something but the type of guys who would sexually assault a woman don’t hang around me or my circle of friends).

    Just as sometimes Minorities can think that all whites are prejudiced, bigoted, or racist because of the actions of a few, I think that some women believe ALL men are wrong because ALL men know about the actions of the few and don’t speak out about it.

    I can’t understand the mind of a rapist or a man who doesn’t accept a woman’s no; it’s just not a part of my world so I don’t go around thinking about it. However that does not mean that I would not be appalled by a man doing this because I have a sister, a mother, a niece, a grandmother. Hell even if I was an orphaned only child I still would not understand or condone that type of behavior because I respect all human life.

    Anyway thanks Evan for letting women know the other side of men when it comes to this issue.

  8. 8
    Karl R

    During this podcast, Evan quoted something I said in the earlier thread:

    “Men feel like they’re being blamed for not changing the behavior of the perpetrators (which we can’t influence, because they’re the kind of people we consciously avoid), for not stopping degrading comments (which we don’t hear, because those are the conversations we consciously avoid), and for not stopping harassment (which we don’t see, because the perpetrators avoid doing it in front of us)….”

     

    If I want to be completely honest with myself, I witnessed fairly blatant, ongoing acts of sexual harassment against a coworker when I was much younger … and I said and did nothing.

    It was pre-Anita Hill.  I’d never heard of sexual harassment.  It wasn’t until years after Anita Hill that I fully understood what sexual harassment really was.  But even if I had known what it was, I’m not sure I would have acted any differently at that time.  I’ll try to explain why, since it might help both men and women understand the hurdles that we all have to overcome.

     

    The perpetrator, the victim, and the silent witnesses:

    There were only six people at this branch of the company….

    Pat: the perpetrator, the local boss; age – early 40s

    Cris: the victim, the second newest employee, the second least productive; age – early 20s

    Amy: Pat’s secretary; age – mid 40s

    Sheila: the most senior employee, the star producer; age – mid 20s

    James: the second most senior employee, the second most productive; age – mid 20s

    Me: brand new, the least productive employee; age – early 20s

     

    I doubt that I got all of the names correct.  It’s been over 25 years, and names aren’t my strong suit.

     

    The harassment that we witnessed:

    Pat found Cris attractive.  We all new that, since Pat made multiple comments per day about how hot Cris was.  A few times per week the comments were even more suggestive.  Amy, Sheila and James would laugh (like you’re supposed to when the boss makes a joke).  Cris, who seemed introverted by nature, never said anything in response.  Pat’s comments made me uncomfortable (and I was to inexperienced to realize that I was supposed to laugh at the boss’ jokes).

    Cris may have experienced worse harassment in private.  But I’ve described the sexual harassment that we all witnessed.

     

    The problem with small businesses and small offices:

    The law overlooks small offices, so they don’t always follow government guidelines.  Even if there is a complaint, small businesses are the last to be investigated.  My orientation for this job covered how to do my job, but nothing about how to file an EEOC complaint, nothing about corporate ethics, etc.  I don’t know if the larger company had its own guidelines, but Pat certainly wasn’t likely to teach us how to report his bad behavior.

    If we wanted to find out whether the company had a sexual harassment policy, we would have had to ask Pat, or maybe Amy, about it.

    If we had wanted to file a sexual harassment complaint higher up, we would have had to ask Pat, or maybe Amy, how to do it.

    If one of us somehow had figured out how to file an anonymous complaint against Pat regarding the sexual harassment … well … there were only five employees.  And Cris would have been the primary suspect.

     

    Youth, inexperience, and corporate culture:

    This was one of my first jobs (and Cris was only one year older).  I hadn’t yet learned that this sort of behavior wasn’t normal in most workplaces.  Most of what I knew about workplaces came from hearing my father talk about work.  I was fairly certain that this was the sort of topic that he would sanitize (for our protection).  And given the occasional comment about professors dating grad students, it wasn’t clear to me that the Pat’s behavior towards Cris was at all atypical.

    Brand new employees learn how to act in a professional environment through observation.

    This is why corporate culture is so critical to fighting sexual harassment.  It sets a standard that influences everything below it.  If the people at the top practice sexual harassment, it will infect the entire environment.  If the people at the top combat it, the vast majority of the people below them will follow along with those efforts.  If the people at the top are indifferent to sexual harassment, then pockets of sexual harassment will crop up — due to varying “corporate cultures” among the middle management.

    And the new hires learn what is acceptable/unacceptable behavior based on observation.  It’s possible that Sheila and James accepted Pat’s behavior, because they’d learned (from watching Pat) that was how workplaces functioned.

     

    The imbalance of power:

    This all occurred during a recession.  All of us, except Pat, desperately needed our jobs.  Since Cris and I were the newest and least productive, we earned the least, we were the most desperate for money, and we were the most expendable from the company’s perspective.  Due to that power imbalance, Cris was the perfect victim.

    For similar reasons, the rest of us wouldn’t have made great witnesses against Pat.  We were just too vulnerable.

     

    It’s possible that Sheila had the financial resources where she could stand up to Pat.  But Pat and Sheila were buddy-buddy (probably because Sheila was the star producer).  Even if one of us had considered recruiting her as an ally against Pat, that close relationship would have made it a high-risk idea.

     

    Despite the media attention, most of the sexual harassment victims aren’t budding Hollywood actresses.  They’re more like Cris.  They’re the people at the absolute bottom of the pay scale … living paycheck-to-paycheck … desperate for money … lacking the job skills to abandon that job and find a different one.  And most of the perpetrators aren’t like Harvey Weinstein.  They’re more like Pat.  They’re the biggest fish in a really tiny pond.  Just big enough that all of the other fish can’t effectively gang up on them.

     

    Sexual harassment is about power, not sex:

    The ability to sexually harass others comes from having power over them.  And people don’t get power just because they possess a pair of testicles.  I had as little power as Cris (or even less).

    I’m not trying to excuse my silence.  If anyone says I should have grown a pair, stood up to Pat on Cris’ behalf, regardless of the consequences … that course of action certainly would have been more ethical than remaining silent.  No argument from me on that one.

    But if I had stood up to Pat, I would have been fired (another expression of Pat’s power over us … and an object lesson for the remaining employees), and Cris’ situation would have remained unchanged.  I had the ability to choose a more ethical course for myself … but I lacked the power to improve Cris’ circustances.

    Furthermore, I don’t think any of us could have influenced or changed Pat’s behavior.  That’s why Pat was that brazen with the sexual harassment.

     

    I think that’s a blind-spot for women who say (without qualification) that men ought to stand up to the perpetrators of sexual harassment.  There’s an implicit assumption that we all have equal power.  That’s rarely the case.

     

    Sexual harassment is about power, not sex (part 2):

    As I’ve been typing this up, I’ve been repeatedly debating whether I should include this part of the story.  On the one hand, it is part of the story.  It’s relevant to the broader topic.  And it ties in with the previous section.

    On the other hand, the most important parts of what I wanted to say were in the previous sections.  I don’t want this section to distract from the previous sections.

     

    As I stated earlier, I’m not great with names.  But I think Pat’s legal name was Patricia.  And Chris probably spelled his name with an “h”.  While most perpetrators of sexual harassment are men, and most victims of sexual harassment are women, that’s not always the case, because sexual harassment is about power, not sex.

     

    The people at the bottom are easily exploited.  Sexual harassment is just one form of that exploitation.  And just based on my observation, any environment (including work environments) where there is a major power imbalance is likely to see some form of exploitation.  Sexual harassment may well be part of that exploitation.

    Unless we find a way to address the fundamental (and extreme) power imbalances in certain work environments, we’ll always be behind the curve in combating sexual harassment.

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