How Hollywood Men Can Lead #AskMoreOfHim Campaign (Guest Column)

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Christopher Polk/Getty Images for JumpLine

Two leaders behind the campaign for male accountability and action in response to sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood and beyond — launched today in an open letter from David Schwimmer, David Arquette and more — challenge men in entertainment to lead the charge.

#MeToo, #TimesUp, #AskHerMore: These initiatives that have rocked the entertainment industry and the culture have so much in common. Grassroots. Online and Off. Women-led. Women-organized. Women-centric.

So just imagine what would happen if the other half of the population stepped up and meaningfully joined these movements.

It has been each of our life’s work to include men in this conversation — not because men need to be the center of yet another movement (they don’t), but because men are both a part of the problem and an even bigger part of the solution.

We have empathy for the men, in Hollywood and beyond, who feel unsure of how to proceed, how to join and how to support this movement. We have seen men face heavy social penalties for standing up, not only for individual women, but for basic gender justice and fairness. We understand that with some exceptions, men staying silent and out of the conversation has been the norm for most, if not all, of our history.

But we have also seen so many women failed by so many of the men around them. Men who acted badly, yes. But also men who failed to speak up. Men who failed to step in. Men who stood on the sidelines.

We witness the wounds of these failures everywhere we turn.

So we invite you to imagine with us how different society would look if men and boys spoke out when they saw their peers behaving disrespectfully, acting abusively or even just making sexist comments.

Imagine how much more welcoming and productive our workplaces would be if women and men felt empowered to confront sexual harassment with self-confidence and passionate commitment.

Imagine how much healthier all of our children would be if we taught both our sons and our daughters that they benefit from gender equality. That we should all be able to live with dignity, and that includes staying connected to our emotional selves, living free from violence or the constant threat of it and having an equal playing field.

We can imagine all of this, which is why we have joined together to launch the #AskMoreOfHim campaign. This initiative is designed to encourage men to do more than silently support the women of #MeToo, and instead be powerful voices for change within male culture. As part of the campaign, we’re highlighting the existing anti-sexist men’s work in the U.S. and around the world, calling for this version of male leadership to become the new normal. And we are calling on the men of Hollywood to begin this process, because media is both the message and the messenger. And if the men of Hollywood speak up and join in, how many more might they inspire? What sort of impact might they have?

The courageous voices of countless women, men and trans survivors have catalyzed a gigantic shift in our culture around sexual harassment, abuse and assault. Survivors from all walks of life have come forward to describe the harassment and abuse they have experienced, mostly at the hands of men. Some of these people are famous, as are the men who abused them. But most of the survivors of #MeToo are not famous, just women trying to get by in a society that too often condones and even encourages sexist and discriminatory behavior. Most of the men who regularly harass and abuse women are not famous either, but guys who feel entitled to treat women with disrespect.

A recent study by the global gender equality organization Promundo confirms that these attitudes often start early. Their research shows that what seems to drive young men’s harassment, more than anything else, is how much they believe in or have internalized toxic ideas about masculinity. That is to say, abusive behavior is correlated with the belief that “real manhood” is about domination, aggression and never taking “no” for an answer, especially when it comes to sex.

So if we are ever going to turn this situation around, we will need a lot more men to be actively involved. Women's leadership has set in motion a seismic shift in cultural attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. But women can't do this work alone, nor should they be expected to. Ending sexual harassment, abuse and assault is not just women’s work. It’s men’s work too. It’s all of our work.

Is it really too much to ask men to match women’s courage with courage of their own? To have the courage to resist falling into tired old cliches about being a "real man"? The courage to interrupt and challenge other men's sexism? And perhaps most importantly, the courage to engage in critical self-reflection, so as to overcome many of the non-egalitarian and toxic beliefs they were taught growing up?

We don’t think so and we bet you don’t either. So join us and show that courage has no gender. Let’s #AskMoreOfHim today and forever after.

Jackson Katz, Ph.D. is an educator, author and the founder and president of MVP Strategies. Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a filmmaker, CEO and founder of The Representation Project and the Second Lady of California.