In 2018, men were shocked. They were scared. They didn’t dare speak up about the ever-burning fire of #MeToo.
Except the“good guys,” of course. After all, if you’ve never raped someone, succumbed to the urge for a 3pm dick flash, or installed a button to lock female colleagues in your office, this whole movement isn’t your fault, right?
You’re a good. guy. No, you don’t actively call out your male friends when they make degrading comments, nor do you actively work to educate yourself on feminist ideals, but you do have Feminist Female Friends. Those girls from college who wore Birkenstocks. They like your Instagrams sometimes. And—on occasion—you even DM them!!
That was then.
In 2019, mediocre white men have, for lack of a better word, re-found their groove. That whole feminist uprising was a real doozy, but fiiinallly headlines are back to bashing Trump and predicting the next economic depression (thankfully, you’re safe, #GoldmanSachsLife #RothIRASinceAge12). Phew, it’s refreshing to breathe again. Women have calmed down. You can go back on Hinge, without clarifying you’re an “ally.” (What does that mean, anyway?) Having played lacrosse in college is cool again!
At work, things are more chill, too. Women aren’t crying all the time, and the resident Creep was fired (which is Good—of course!—though March Madness kinda sucked without him). You can speak up again in meetings, without worrying if you’re talking too much, or too loud. You’re still keeping it #Woke, but like, in a low-key, not-thinking-about it way.
And how do you express this aware-but-not-interested-in-discussing-feminism-or-sexism-anymore mindset?
The golden phrase, of course: “in this ‘Me Too’ era.”
If you haven’t heard of it, dude, you gotta find new bros. These days, it’s the only way to get by.
This golden phrase —the key to distilling any crazed woman still wondering whether you’re a little sexist (ladies, one year was MORE than enough to cure centuries of oppression, c’mon! Give us some credit!)—is deployed in many diverse (diversity!) settings.
- There’s the hiring manager: “In this Me Too Era, we really need to be making sure we’re interviewing at least half women.”
- There’s the colleague: “Am I allowed to say that? I know this is the Me Too Era.”
- There’s the startup founder: “All my VC intros have been to straight white dudes, but in this Me Too Era I should probably look for female partners, too.”
- There’s the Friend at Party: “Yo! If it weren’t for this Me Too Era, I’d tell you that you look really hot tonight.”
- There’s the Man on Dating App: “Yeah, I work in the entertainment industry, but don’t judge I’m not one of those Me Too dudes.”
- There’s the Editor: “In this Me Too Era we need to be sure our pronouns are all gender neutral . Not ‘they,’ that’d be too confusing. But like, refer to a doctor as ‘she’ every once in a while.”
- There’s the Manager: “I think Jen should lead the meeting today. Take a seat, Mark. This is the Me Too Era.” Later, to Mark: “Can I even have a one-on-one with Jen, or is that too much in the Me Too Era?”
- There’s the male friend, to male friend: “Bro, I just avoid talking to women at work these days. It’s the Me Too Era.”
The list goes on.
But here’s the thing, my dudes. And I’m only telling you this because, you know, I like you. You sound quite ignorant. It’s a bad look.
Contextualizing your feminist thoughts—be they surface-level jargon or genuine beliefs rooted in your genuine desire to dismantle injustice—with the phrase “in this Me Too Era” implicitly suggests that if it weren’t for the bounty of famous men exposed for being sexual predators, you wouldn’t be thinking this way. It’s like saying “since it’s raining, let’s take an umbrella.” Except the rain is women being empowered to speak up, and the umbrella is you being expected to treat anyone who isn’t a straight, white, cis man as an equal. Hell, as a human being.
When women hear this phrase, they do not think, “Golly gee, what a kind and considerate man. A true diamond in the rough.” Their thoughts are far simpler: “Gag me.”
The demand of the Me Too Movement is the demand women and people of all marginalized identities have been making for centuries (literally, centuries): Do not treat our equal access to safety, opportunity, and respect as a burden, or a second-order imperative for societal success. Realize that when women are oppressed, everyone—even you, the white man—is oppressed. And do something about it, not because you need to protect your reputation, or fend off rabid, feminist critics. Do something because you genuinely want to, for the sake of your own success, and the world around you. It won’t be easy, and that’s the point.
As comedian and futurist Baratunde Thurston so aptly told me last year:
“The greatest threat to manhood is seeing changing gender roles and equality as a threat, when instead, I want us to see it as an opportunity; to liberate not just women but ourselves from the mythology and expectations and bad habits we’ve inherited. “Male privilege” isn’t just privilege. It’s a trap. Patriarchy is a trap. For everyone. We should want everyone to be free.”
Stop asking what you’re “allowed to say,” and do your research. Take risks, screw up, and listen to criticism without getting defensive. Stop contextualizing anti-sexist remarks with news stories over the past 20 months, and start living anti-sexist behavior every day, all day. Not because it’s 2019, but because you’re a human being who cares about progress.
Ask women and people of marginalized identities for feedback on what you can do to be a better ally. Do so in private, so as to not make a show of it. Act on their advice, then ask for feedback again. Read women. Read progressive men. Read history. And most importantly, read women and LGBTQ people of color.
Realize change does not happen overnight, or in a year. You are in this for the long-haul, or you’re out. It’s like the Roth, man. No returns without time, or riding the ups and downs. If you can’t handle it, step out of the fire, and admit you’re unwilling to change. Saying “In the Me Too Era” isn’t helping anything, except your own ignorance.
Leah Fessler is a journalist, most recently at Quartz. She does words for venture capital and startups, too. Follow her @LeahFessler on Twitter.