One of the biggest ways men can begin to change the current trend of sexual assaults, sexual harassment, and the culture of sexualizing women is by taking responsibility for their past, current, and future failures of this kind. I know this is a big ask, yet it can be done. It is a difficult and humbling journey to take, and many men are frankly too cowardly to attempt it.
And yet, don’t lose hope, women! I see this journey being taken with the men I work with daily, and it is gloriously beautiful and wildly gutsy. Men owning their darkness. Men weeping over the harm they have perpetrated against women. Men stepping into the fullness of their power and healthy anger against their own abusers, no longer allowing their unaddressed pain continue to poison their interactions with others. There are good men out there, and I am honored to have a front row seat to their courage.
So men, if you are looking to increase your integrity and cease your sexualization of women, here are a few action items you can begin to integrate into your life today.
#1- Stop parting women out like used cars
“Hey dude, look at her ______!” Fill in the blank with all the idiotic, asinine things you have heard, or even said in the past. This has been a toxic male normal and it must stop. To anatomize women to fit our pornographic fantasies is a posture of devour, not honor. She is a whole. A wonderfully complex woman, full of glory and depravity, and for you to part her out like a used car is to curse the very face of God. Ask yourself, why do you dissect her so flippantly? What need are you trying to fill by acting like this? Is it unconscious? What if you became more aware of your actions and how you engage with women in your mind?
#2- Stop denying your failures
You will not cease to exist if you admit you are wrong, or that you have been part of the problem. If you can own how you have failed women in the past and/or continue to do so, this is the first step toward moving beyond sexualization and its first born son, patriarchy. Tiziana DellaRovere says, “Men must take responsibility to change the violent and destructive aspects of patriarchy side by side with women. Whether you have violated women or not, you must commit yourself to transforming the misguided, patriarchal values and attitudes that you have internalized if you want a life founded on love and a society based on equality, compassion and creative abundance.”
#3- No more bystanders to sexism
I am still trying to be more courageous when it comes to being a bystander in the presence of sexism. Last year at my tennis club, my coach commented on a woman’s body and made a joke about two-dollar whores. I froze. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t laugh, and tried to change the subject. I wish I had been braver in that moment. I eventually went to the director and reported the incidents, but I could have been bolder when it mattered most.
The “boys club” is powerful force which both keeps us silent and the culture of sexualization firmly intact. We must courageously speak up when we observe objectification of the feminine, which reduces the masculine to an adolescent animalistic archetype. I truly believe that toppling this narrative is men’s responsibility to bear, since we are the ones who continue uphold it.
#4- Listen to women
Stop mansplaining and start listening. It’s very possible that you are unaware of the hell that women suffer on a daily basis, simply because you are not a safe enough person for women to confide in. Humble yourself. Start listening to their pain– without answers, without defensiveness, and without trying to fix anything. Women are not broken, they just need to be heard, their pain understood. As men we can be powerful advocates of women, rather than abusers who spinelessly endorse their oppression.