With the Me-Too movement firmly entrenched in our society’s gaze, the task now turns to stopping the forces that led us here. No one can deny there is an ingrained problem with sexual harassment. The problem exists in every industry, on every continent, from every socioeconomic status, race, religion, ideology, and age. Yet it is hard to find those willing to openly attribute this behavior to a single, identifiable trend: being male.
Between 2003–2015, there were 160 active shooters that killed 1,043 people and wounded 557 others in this country, according to an FBI analysis. Of that list, six were women. That means over 96% of active shooters were men and the statistics from any other interval of time tell the same story. Statistics from the FBI for 2011 found that for violent crime, 80.4% of arrested persons were male and 19.6% were female. Males were 88.2% of those arrested for homicide, females were 11.8%. Men arrested for rape in 2011 accounted for 98.8% and females were 1.2%. For property crime, 62.9% of arrested persons were male and 37.1% were female. Again, the statistics do not vary much from year to year.
Why are we so unwilling to say the obvious: men commit more damage to individuals and society than women. The trend is so stark and obvious that it seems counter-productive to pretend there is anything else going on. Yet if we want to have any hope of addressing these issues, we need to address the root of the problem. Denying that being male is the root of the problem means the best we can hope for is a cosmetic fix.
Part of the reason we seem to be unwilling to openly admit this is that we loath the idea of lumping men together. Witness the debate about Aziz Ansari; many of us felt uncomfortable lumping Aziz in with Harvey Weinstein, worried that the Me-Too movement had gone too far. Yet no one was saying what Aziz did was equal to what Harvey Weinstein did. No one was calling for him to be hung by the lynch mob. No one was yelling for him to be locked up.
Why do we worry so much about men when it is clear that they are the almost singular cause for these problems. Isn’t it time to reduce men to a gender-stereotype they’ve been constructing for all other minorities since the beginning of time? To admit that we have a problem with men is to admit what’s been staring us in the face since any of us took a moment to look around the world we live in. From the men who catcall on street corners, to those who turn a blind eye to sexual harassment (or commit it), to those who bomb and shoot us, I’m comfortable lumping all of them together, not because I equate their actions, but because I think their actions are stemming from the same place and it’s a fundamental part of being a man. I’m talking of course about some combination of ego, insecurity, and confidence. One study on motives for crime suggested that 86.9 percent of the crimes sprang from job loss, economic hardship, or being bullied. Yet women lose jobs, have economic hardship, and certainly get bullied (all while facing sexism and misogyny). There is a fundamental flaw in the methods we are using to teach men to deal with hardships in life. Part of that comes from the warped sense of the playing field men have. When you exist in a society that has built the playing field to be moveable only by men, it clouds your actions and judgment. Instead of trying to get ahead, men who find themselves somehow “lower” in status in society believe that it is the same thing to push others down below them as it is for them to rise up. Men have the unique ability to move the playing field to their advantage and for many, it is easier to degrade those around you in order to feel accomplished and powerful, than to work hard to attain those things by elevating yourself. The fact they can equate those two actions is a product of our society and a privilege only we are afforded. I certainly have no long lost pity for men who commit egregious acts, but I understand they are a product of the forces that shape them. Clearly, it is time to roar back and make clear that the old way of doing things is over.
Yet in order to accomplish this, we will have to do what so many of us are loath to do: let men get hurt. I think it’s admirable many of us try to protect men from getting hurt. Some have felt the sting of being lumped together with others and don’t wish to do the same to others. Some may worry that lumping men together and reducing them to a stereotype (thus removing their individuality to a degree) will prompt a strong backlash from them. Since history is littered with the bodies of those who challenged men, I don’t blame them for being intimidated, yet to not openly confront this problem is to delude yourself into believing that anything else will be effective in bringing about change. To protect men from getting hurt means they will never change. As humans, we are programmed by evolution to avoid change unless we have an external force that prompts us. In order to dislodge the societal structures that keep men dominant, we will have to show males that they will be hurt if they do not begin dismantling the system themselves. Too many men will find it preferable to loudly decry Harvey Weinstein, secure in the knowledge they aren’t a serial rapist, and then go back to profiting off a culture that allows them to change the rules of the game when it suits them.
Ironically, this is where men need to step up. The reality is that women calling for a radical change in how our society raises, values, and shapes men will unfortunately often be pushed aside as the fringes of a movement drunk with power. Men who come forward and admit that they are part of the group responsible for almost all of the worst moments of humanity are both part of the solution and also not the heroes. They should do so out of the acknowledgment that what we have is broken but unless we allow them to see that they stand to lose more by not speaking out they will not have any motivation to do so. This will be hard for men, who are taught that admitting responsibility means somehow losing and that because we are all special snowflakes (e.g. they’ve never raped someone) it’s not their responsibility to stand up and apologize for others. Yet anyone who has benefited from the structures that allowed Harvey Weinstein to stand unashamed for so long is complicit. Anyone who doesn’t admit we need a change in how our society molds men and shows them their place in the world is kidding themselves. Crucially, any man who doesn’t think they are a product of those forces needs a wake-up call.
It’s going to get ugly.
It should, nothing will change otherwise.