Back in March, I corresponded with Alia Stearns, writing for UPROXX, about being a dude and also a good male ally, consent, and #metoo.
Alia introduced the contributor-generated, sourced Q&A listicle in the following way:
On October 15 of last year, Alyssa Milano took to Twitter and encouraged her followers to raise awareness of sexual abuse and harassment by using the hashtag #MeToo. The phrase had previously been popularized in 2006 by abuse survivor Tarana Burke. This time around, it developed more traction because it coincided with a series of revelations about famous men guilty of abusing their power for sexual gain…
[As] momentum continued to build, for men who were watching from the sidelines, there were mixed emotions. Certainly, no one was defending Weinstein, but for some, the situations surrounding Aziz Ansari and James Franco fell into a confusing gray area. And it was hard to have a conversation about having mixed feelings without being shouted down for failing women or being a supporter of assault and harassment. The movement needed time to breathe without a bunch of dudes poking holes in it.
Still, when people are reprimanded for asking questions, all it teaches them is to stop asking. It doesn’t get them on your side or help them on the road to an epiphany. Considering this, we wanted to offer a place to start these discussions. In February, we asked readers to submit questions they had in light of the #MeToo movement and the harassment revelations, and we submitted them to a group of smart women with a comprehensive understanding of gender, consent, and the critical issues at the center of the movement…
I was very excited to participate in this Q&A gathering because of this very point: “When people are reprimanded for asking questions, all it teaches them is to stop asking…”
You can read the final edit of the questions and various responses right here: “We Had Experts Answer Your Questions About #MeToo, How To Be A Good Male Ally, And Consent” (24 April 2018).
Copied below are the full responses to the questions posed by readers (some got cute for length) as well as the questions I declined to answer for various reasons. Enjoy!
— Chauntelle Tibbals (@DrChauntelle) April 24, 2018
The Questions I Answered (and my full responses)
UPROXX Reader 1: Describe your perfect male ally. Are they speaking up or amplifying female voices? Are they asking questions that they struggle with or staying quiet?
DrCT: First and foremost, in my view, there is no such thing as a perfect or fully-formed/evolved anything, including ally. All human social behaviors are a process, including being an ally.
In making efforts to be a better ally though, a willingness to hear and learn is important. Obviously, not speaking for others – but finding ways to create or hold space to enable others to speak for themselves – is great… though this too speaks to wider systems of privilege. Consider why you may have the power (in any capacity) to create or hold space for others. Reflecting on this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but acknowledging the fact that you may have access to this possibility while others do not is important to keep in your mind. Most importantly though, ask questions, seek information, and try.
Again, not everyone knows everything about anything, nor were they just magically gifted with whatever knowledge they’ve amassed at any given time. We all had to learn, and there’s always more to learn too. If you seek information and understanding in a way that’s sincere, then you are on the right path.
UPROXX Reader 2: The Aziz Ansari situation was one that made a lot of men reevaluate whether they truly understood #MeToo. Did his punishment (the public humiliation on social media, the news, etc.) fit the crime of not properly reading nonverbal communication? How do you feel about that situation now, a month later?
DrCT: I think the Aziz Ansari situation was really unfortunate on many levels. I imagine that his social positioning as a sex-positive, learning and seeking-type man (also, a celebrity) made it that much easier for those reflecting on the situation to forget that this was also just one example of a wide-spread social issue: problems with interpersonal communication. Now obviously, physical intimacy coupled with relative unfamiliarity makes communication even muddier, but the fact that two people read the same situation so disparately is actually something we have all experienced on some level, in some context. Taking stock of the wider issue of interpersonal communication is something we can all take away from this example that would help uplift society overall.
UPROXX Reader 3: If I’m witnessing what I think is a dude hassling a woman, and I’m a dude, what’s a good point to step in? Should I confront said dude? Should I pull the “Oh, hi, X” routine?
DrCT: This is a tricky question – because to not help another human is wrong, but to assume you are the help some little lady needs is wrong too. I would say that if 1) the woman has made her desire to be left alone clear and/or 2) the hassling person seems threatening, then you should do something. But your safety is important too – so “doing something” may involve alerting a guard or some sort of authority in lieu of swooping in. This also allows you to be a good citizen, without (inadvertently) being a savior-bro.
UPROXX Reader 4: Power is inherently sexy — how do people have power, have sex (with non-subordinates), and still do it ethically?
DrCT: I would say, as long as consent is present, then having ethical sex is a pretty universal process. (I am assuming, as you say in your question, that we are not talking about a boss/employee, professor/student, or some other such formalized power differential scenario.) I think where people run into issues here is when talking about consent. Consent includes expectations related to meaning, which ties into the issue of interpersonal communication. As long consent is established in a scenario such that all the cards are on the table (so to speak), then ethical sex is ethical sex.
UPROXX Reader 5: Question about gender: When I ask my guy friends, I haven’t found anyone that believes that they have one. They all think that the only thing that makes them a man is their junk, but I’m trying to understand the idea of gender outside of genetalia. Any chance you can help me with that — in straightforward terms?
DrCT: In sociology and social-psychology circles, this is often discussed as a (problematic, obvs) dimension of the “default person.” The default person is male, heterosexual, able-bodied, white, etc. Now, obviously this allegedly default person is really just another collection of characteristics, one of many exhibited in the human population. But, as a society, we spent a lot of time using that default person/experience as the neutral guide for structuring society — in language, in uniforms (that’s an example from some work I did many years ago), in who we ignore in terms of not needing services, etc.
So, to your question, we are talking “males don’t have a gender because they are conceptualized as the social default/generic”-type of thing. A gender is something that’s added in as an extra to move a human away from the “default” experience – and within this system and process, the penis has become a sort of symbolic embodiment of that default entity. It’s interesting to me too how this taps into interlocking systems of privileges and oppression. Like, a man may have none of those other “default” characteristics, but if he’s got that dick he’s somehow still plugged into the hierarchy in a socially advantageous way.
(I was commenting on my own inability to ever be fully non-colloquial haha)
— Chauntelle Tibbals (@DrChauntelle) April 24, 2018
The Questions I Skipped
UPROXX Reader A: I’m a man. I’m an assault survivor. I’m a false accusation survivor, as well. Every time a story pops up, my head spins, as I’ve literally seen it from so many angles. Am I validated at all, in that aspect, to not want to jump to conclusions when these things happen?
UPROXX Reader B: It seems like the word alleged is becoming offensive but isn’t that a slippery slope and doesn’t absolute faith in all accusations set the #MeToo movement up for a fall with people in the middle if even one allegation winds up being proven fabricated? I don’t know the right answer and I believe women, but I worry that this moment could be co-opted by people with ulterior motives.
UPROXX Reader C: What is your current, up-to-date definition of harassment? Is that even something that can be done?
UPROXX Reader D: Knowing that society is sort of… stuck with men. And knowing that harm can’t be undone. And knowing that — whether it’s a valid excuse or not — many men didn’t feel like they had the level of wokeness at 18-25 that they wish they’d had… What does the future look like? How do imperfect men become good allies? How do we help heal and move forward? Is it too soon for that at all? (Especially with plenty of gender discrimination still in place?) Is now simply the time to bring bad deeds to the surface?
UPROXX Reader E: How do you establish culpability for a regrettable interaction where both parties were intoxicated?
Well… What do you think?
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