2018 has been a whirlwind year for social change. As the #MeToo movement has manifested and matured, it’s spread beyond headlines to ripple through offices across the country. It’s raised awareness about workplace sexual misconduct, but experts say it’s also sparked unwanted backlash from men who do not fully understand what the movement means.
In this environment, where everyone’s more hyper-aware than ever about how they behave around their colleagues, advocates keep emphasizing how important it is to bring men into the conversation. It’s not enough for women to talk to women, they say. It’s time for men to once again have a seat at the table, this time for a discussion that’s largely about them.
In that vein, Quartz at Work focused the fourth issue of its “How We’ll Win” series on “the other half” of the population — men. Through interviews with 50 prominent guys in tech, law, politics, entertainment and other industries, Quartz got to the core of what it means to be a man in the 21st century, and how men can be better allies.
Here are some of the best quotes from that project:
Karamo Brown, “Queer Eye”
“The biggest threat to men is toxic male behavior that stops them from fully respecting themselves and others. It’s time that men start understanding we are stronger as humans when we support and respect each other. And that ‘gender norms’ or ‘idealized gender specific behavior’ is destructive to us all because it’s limiting. Men can and should be expressive, emotional, vulnerable, respectful, strong, and providers… as women are all those things as well.”
Paul Feig, director
“You know, the most toxic thing that I hear all the the time from very well-meaning people is when I say, ‘We need to get women on the crew wherever we can.’ And people will always say to me, ‘But we also have to make sure we get the best people for the job.’ And I find that terrible, because what they’re saying is, ‘Oh we know you want to meet your inclusion riders, but we can’t get somebody who’s not good for the role.’ And it’s like, why the (expletive) would I possibly hire somebody who’s not good for the role?
“It’s such an onerous, kind of innocuous way to further the sexism because it’s saying that I’m somehow going to compromise and not hire somebody who’s great, which I would not do because there’s so many great women out there. It doesn’t do me any good if I hired somebody who was not great for the job.”
Mark Suster, venture capitalist
“Every time I pen an article, I am deeply criticized by a small minority of women who either think my tone is off, or I am too clueless of male predatory behavior, or that I am inadvertently “infantilizing” women, in their view. Honestly, it stings to read these criticisms. What I want to tell men is that however badly it feels to be criticized for speaking up, you should empathize with what it must feel like to be a woman who speaks up against a powerful man. Knowing how badly those women, from Anita Hill to Rose McGowan, have been treated for coming forward, and that any small injustice you face pales in comparison, should motivate you to get over your personal sensitivities and speak up.”
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator
“While most men don’t have first-hand experience with gender-based discrimination, we can still be powerful allies for advancing women’s rights. We need to do a better job of listening to women and standing up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular or comfortable.”
Ayo Sogunro, human rights lawyer and author
“I avoid nominally labeling myself as ‘a feminist’ because I think labeling tends to imply ownership of an experience and—in the case of men—this creates a risk of driving and leading a conversation that is not primarily about men’s experiences.”
Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president
“The Me Too movement has really underscored for me the courage it takes to speak truth to power—and the necessity of it. So many of the women who have stood up and told their stories have done so despite serious personal risk, and have faced some really disturbing, and at times discouraging, backlash. That’s heroic. It’s through that kind of bravery that change happens. It’s incredibly important for men to stand with women as allies, to show that gender-based inequality is everyone’s problem, and fixing it is a collective responsibility.”
Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chair
“Efforts to achieve gender equality are not some sort of an attack on men. The irony for men is that they balk at such efforts to their own detriment. When we talk about ‘women’s issues,’ we’re really talking about finding solutions that make our society better as a whole. Gender pay inequality hurts families and our economy. Lack of access to family leave, reproductive health care, child care— that doesn’t just hurt women, it hurts working families everywhere, including the men who belong to them.”
Ezra Klein, Vox founder and editor
“What I didn’t understand before MeToo was the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and sexual fear that acted as a weight on women all the time, that made simply existing safely in the workplace an effort that men didn’t have to put in and often didn’t see.”
Alexis Ohanian, Reddit co-founder
“After we defeated the Stop Privacy Online Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Privacy Act (PIPA), I thought about running for office, and two of the most powerful men in the country told me (separately) that this country needs more women in positions of power, and that if I really wanted to make a difference, I should be working to help get the very best women into those roles.
“Leadership means knowing when to lead and also when to follow. There are opportunities for us to be great leaders in our society by recognizing and empowering the best among us.”