Men, it’s about time we hold ourselves accountable

The reports on predatory behavior from this year are outstanding. From an issue surrounding a #MeToo inspired freedom wall in Ateneo de Manila being taken down, to the local music scene turned on its head through reports of sexual abuse caused by members of Atomic Sushi, SUD, and Jensen and the Flips, to artists like Justin Remalante and Rocky Belsazar, all the way to Louis C.K. and Harvey Weinstein.

What is the common thread? All of these people, one way or another, are in a position of power. But more importantly, all of these people are men.

How did it end up like this? And what about behavior that hasn’t been exposed? I have reason to believe that predatory behavior starts with how men explore their masculinity with regards to other men. We have gone far too long without checking our privilege as a man in terms of how we talk about and interact with women.

You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the language of men: our humor, our politics, our thinly veiled misogyny behind our words. These are the casual remarks we make about women when leaning at each other’s shoulders in a party. I’m talking about secret group chats, virtual locker room talk, full-blown Facebook groups. I’m talking about jokes about hitting on minors. I’m talking about words like “easy” and “sarap” and “pastor” and “hokage.” I’m talking about Dropbox folders filled with women’s nudes accumulated over time. We accumulated these images the way a dung beetle pushes a ball of elephant shit: We fucking love it. We revel in such trash and we don’t even take a step back to reconsider our actions. We revel in such trash that we have become trash.

And for what? Proving ourselves to each other via “sexual conquests”? All of these things that we do to animate our lives have been done out of a woman’s expense. Our masculinity is so fragile. We need to talk about men as “us” rather than a “him” or a “they.” Because you and I both know we are, in one way or another, accountable.

We need to talk about men as “us” rather than a “him” or a “they.” Because you and I both know we are, in one way or another, accountable.

Don’t hit me with a “not all men” argument straight out of the male internet bingo card. “Not all men” derails the argument to self-protection. “Not all men” says “yes, these issues are important, but I’m not that invested since I’m not part of the problem.” In the middle of all of these accusations, here you are, washing your hands clean. “Not all men” implies that women don’t already know this. Of course they know.

As men, we may not be predators ourselves, but through these seemingly invisible and private conversations we may know someone who has done inexcusable predatory behavior. Someone we know might have talked about his latest fling, and whatever he said may have alarmed our moral compass. We might have heard about our friend from someone else, saying how he’s done this, or that. And we nod our heads in solemn sympathy.

Is that enough? No. We have become far too complacent with toxic male behavior as a whole that the normalcy of it all is too far and wide. Our privilege as men shields us from our own toxic behavior and accountability as casual misogynists, as witnesses, and as friends and family of predators. We are not excused. Unlike the men whose behavior we consciously or unconsciously condone, we do not get a free pass.

Our privilege as men shields us from our own toxic behavior and accountability as casual misogynists, as witnesses, and as friends and family of predators. We are not excused. Unlike the men whose behavior we consciously or unconsciously condone, we do not get a free pass.

It is high time to stop dismissing our moral shortcomings. Men, if you are feeling guilty, or disturbed, or angry, at all the allegations and exposes coming to light right now, you should. But let discomfort creep down your lungs. Let it linger in our every breath as a reminder that we should be aware of how we behave. Creepy behavior should be stopped the moment it manifests.

I am saying all of this to myself because as a man, specifically a man who has been aware of all of these transgressions happening around me, I am part of this systemic problem. Every example I have brought up so far has come from personal experience. The first step, I’d like to think, is to acknowledge how privileged we are as men, how easy things are for us as compared to women. And apologize to those we have wronged.

The next step is to be conscious of our actions and reactions from this day forward, and act accordingly. Instead of shaming women who step forward with their personal stories of abuse and manipulation, we should understand that abuse victims have nothing to gain in stepping forward. They have been burdened for so long that they have no other choice but to share, or that they have finally found strength to accept the consequences in sharing.

We should call out our friends who make sexist jokes. We should stop letting our private conversations fester with the language we have been accustomed to. We should remember consent, always. If we have wronged someone in the past, we should hold ourselves accountable, but more than that, find ways to be better. And we should not let ourselves fall into the narrative of “boys will be boys” handed to us by previous generations.

The allegations should and most probably will not stop here. There is a collective wave of women who are tired of our bullshit and they’re knocking on our door. We should have had this conversation before, but we didn’t. So let’s stop dodging the issue and reexamine ourselves.

Art by Sian Riza Malolos

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Lex Celera
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