Originally appeared in Ball Bearings Magazine
In the movement to raise awareness about harassment against women, many men have seen how they can play a part in preventing sexual violence.
JD Arland says it didn’t take the #MeToo movement for him to start treating his romantic interests with respect. Now a sophomore at Purdue University, he was raised in a house where he learned feminist values early on through his mother’s stories about the oppressions she faced. Still, he can see how the movement has changed the ways some men interact with women.
Although the campaign picked up viral momentum on social media in 2017, the #MeToo movement was founded in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence—and particularly to help young women of color find ways to heal.
According to an October 2017 poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, 49 percent of men claimed that women’s stories had caused them to rethink their behavior around women. In addition, 77 percent of men said they are now more likely to speak out if they see a woman being treated poorly.
JD believes #MeToo has increased awareness of the daily struggles women face because of their gender. Now, he is even more careful to respect the women around him, not only through his actions but also in his language, avoiding sexist jokes or remarks.
JD has also seen the #MeToo movement influence Greek life on his campus, noticing changes in the behavior of his friends and Delta Upsilon fraternity brothers. His fraternity has hosted seminars on treating women with respect. He’s seen a rise in bystander intervention, which means the men from his chapter have been more likely to say something or try to help when they see potentially dangerous situations.
Cheri Ellefson, an assistant lecturer of women’s and gender studies at Ball State University, believes men should participate in the conversation about sexual violence instead of letting those issues go ignored. They should explicitly condemn sexual violence and harassment, not letting perpetrators off the hook.
Looking beyond individual behavior, Ellefson says the next step for society is to examine the social roles and expectations put on men and young boys from parents and teachers. For example, boys might grow up being told they aren’t supposed to show emotion, or that they need to be tough.
JD believes both women and men should be feminists. He says men need to hold other men accountable, using their privilege to spread the message of the #MeToo movement.
“It’s not a one-sided battle,” he says. “Both parties are responsible for making change happen, and I think that I’ve definitely observed guys encouraging other guys to act in a respectful way.”