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We Can and We Will Do Better - in support of #MeToo

#MeToo is a trending hashtag today, which is being shared on social media with the following post:
If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too" as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste. #MeToo
Thank you to all of the people who have shared this hashtag.  Thank you for sharing your experiences and your stories.   Your courage to speak up highlights the magnitude of the problem and I believe you.

My first thought (after feeling sadness) was to wonder whether I should add my voice to this trending story.  As a man, if I add my voice will it be distracting or supportive, patronizing or empowering, helpful or hurtful?  Is the defining characteristic of my voice that it is male, or that it is white, or heterosexual, cisgendered, middle class, educated, liberal, or privileged?  I decided to write this because the defining characteristic of my voice should be first and foremost that I am another human being.

I care about the impact of inequality, harassment, and assault on other people because I am also a person.  I care that these experiences are universal to women, even though I don't belong to that group.  I care because I am a father, a brother, a husband, a son, but I don't just care because I have personal family relationships with women, or because I work with women, or because I am friends with women.  Those connections are important to helping me understand women, but I also care because every person deserves dignity.  I care because individuals who belong to disempowered groups are robbed of that dignity more often than groups with power.

I don't write this to claim that I have solutions to these problems, but I do believe that awareness and acknowledgment are the first steps in recognizing that these problems exist and they are worth solving.  Survivors should not be ignored or intimidated, witnesses should not stay quiet, and those who participate in harassing or assaulting behavior should not feel free to repeatedly offend.

When I thought about what I could do, I realized that I too have experienced harassment in the workplace, and I have witnessed harassment and inequality, and unfortunately, I have also contributed to the problem.  I hope that the people that know me will be surprised that I have been a participant in and a part of the problem.  However, these problems persist because it is often the case that those with privilege stay quiet or "get along" or overlook the ways in which their privilege blinds them to the pervasive nature of harassment and inequality.  I recognize that I can do better.

Because of the privileges I have, it takes much less sacrifice and much less risk for me to help, and to lend my voice, than it has taken the many survivors to speak their experience of #MeToo.  But that is not a reason to stay silent.  We can do better.

Because of the privileges I have, I should have spoken up earlier and been more supportive when opportunities were there.  But that is not a reason to wait longer to do something.  We can do better now.

Because I am just one person, I cannot solve these problems alone.  But that is not a reason to wait for someone else to take action.  We can do better together.

So one small thing that I am starting today is that I am working on updating our office's Sexual Harassment Policy.  I reached out to find resources to see what help I can obtain to make our policy more complete.  I hope through this process to make a strong policy that helps protect my staff, and also sends a message that this is something that is important in our workplace and in our community.  After this, I hope to find the next thing I can do to help, the next person I can help support, the next person I can tell, "I believe you" and that "We Can and We Will Do Better."

If you are reading this as a person who shares the experience of #MeToo, then I want you to know that you are heard and that you have support.

If you are reading this as someone who also wants to do better, then I challenge you to stop waiting, stop being silent, and choose one thing you can do today.  Do that one thing, while also remembering that one step only starts a journey.  Do that one thing, and think about what is the next thing you can do.  Make it a pattern of improving your home, your work, your town, your country, and your world so that #MeToo won't have to be a trend anymore.

Bertolt Brecht believed that "[i]t takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good but because they were weak."  I don't believe he was taunting victims as weak, but rather I believe he was pointing out that good things don't happen simply because we want them to happen.  We aren't brave when we intend to be good.  Courage requires that we take action for good, that we speak up to raise awareness, and that we condemn silence.  We should practice empathy everyday and recognize the human dignity in every person.  We have to be strong, we have to support each other, and we have to do better.  Not just be better.  Do better.

We Can and We Will Do Better.


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