'This Can’t Be Women Just Speaking Up': Men Respond to #MeToo, Pledging #HowIWillChange

Horrified by the tales of sexual assault and harassment women have been sharing online, men share how they intend to prevent it in future

In this May 19, 2013, file photo, Alyssa Milano arrives at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
John Shearer/AP

The outpour of stories of sexual assault and harassment shared online under the Twitter campaign #MeToo over the weekend, following multiple allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, has prompted men to stand alongside women in a call for action and change.

“Guys, it’s our turn,” Sydney-based writer Benjamin Law tweeted Monday, sparking a #HowIWillChange movement, encouraging men to take a stance.

Law posted several actions and awareness-raising steps he intends to take: “Recognize I don’t need to be a perpetrator to be a bad guy. Questioning harassment, not doing anything about it—all as bad,” he wrote.

Screenwriter Blake Ayshford described in response to the hashtag a scene now too familiar when it comes to the film and television industry, but not limited to it.

“In a meeting, producer made sexist comment, so stunned didn’t call him out,” Ayshfordwrote, and vowed to “speak up next time.”

More men swiftly joined.

Some women who took to Twitter to share their personal painful stories, appreciated the support. “I cried when I shared my #MeToo story,” wrote Aimee Knight from Texas, who, on Sunday, shared that at the age of six she was assaulted by a family friend.

“I felt so vulnerable. I’ve struggled with leaving it here in a public space. Was it worth it? I cried again this morning reading #HowIWillChange tweets. I can’t put why into words, but it feels a little like hope & healing. #thankyou”

The hashtag has also been promoted by actress Alyssa Milano, who started off the viral #MeToo campaign. Milano’s co-star from the television show "Charmed," Rose McGowan, publicly accused Weinstein of raping her, joining a growing number of women who say they were assaulted by him.

Many men also responded to the initial viral movement. “#MeToo -- a wake-up call for a lot of men,”tweeted CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter.

Film director Paul Feig, who led the all-female "Ghostbusters" reboot, said men need to speak up on the issue. “This can’t be women just speaking up. They need backup. It’s a big sacrifice for women to come forward with this stuff. As we’ve seen over history, they are generally not rewarded for coming forward,” he said in an interview to the Guardian.

A number of well-known Hollywood male colleagues joined the call for change and admitted how ashamed they were in their unawareness.

“I’m deeply disappointed in myself for being so oblivious to these devastating experiences of sexual harassment and abuse,” actor Ryan Gosling tweeted. In an interview with the New York Times, actor Tom Hanks said, “I know all kinds of people that just love hitting on, or making the lives of underlings some degree of miserable, because they can.”

However, not all men feel they should be part of a movement of change and action solely based on their gender.

A user who says he’s a British math teacher in Thailand wrote: “#HowIWillChange in no way at all. I will never accept responsibility for other’s misdeeds simply because we are the same gender.”

A man from Ohio wrote: “The USA does not have a “rape culture”. We prosecute rapists and put them in jail for lots of time, so let’s continue that.#HowIWillChange”

Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings institute and former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, believes everyone has a role to play. She was frustrated that “once again victims were put in the position of acting, rather than others stepping up to confront the problem,” so she decided to create a hashtag of her own.

“I’d love to see a hashtag in which people name a specific action they now commit to take to combat sexual harassment/assault. #IWill,” she posted Sunday. “I think the power of #MeToo is how it reveals the overwhelming scope and breadth of these problems, and how they affect victims,” Wittes told Haaretz. “It forced individuals to recognize that there are structural features to what’s happening, and thus that everyone has a role to play in preventing assault and harassment.”

Initially, mostly women responded to Wittes’ initiative, saying they would help younger women understand their rights and would stop “minding their own business.” It ultimately caught up with men who expressed their support.

Wittes said she was especially moved by responses from men from all over the world, “publicly owning that they’ve done and said things they now recognize contributed to a toxic situation for women in their lives, and they are going to check themselves and work to change their behavior. That response shows me that #MeToo really hit home for them and made them introspect, and I salute them for the courage to do that, especially in public on Twitter.”

One of the men who tweeted his intentions was America's former ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, who tweeted, "#IWill work to ensure zero tolerance for sexual harassment in every workplace & actively seek opportunities for women to advance and succeed."

Masih Sadat from Denmark took to Facebook with the #IWill campaign and wrote how overwhelmed he was by the amount of “horrible, sickening stories” of women filling up his feed. “I feel disgusted. Enraged,” he wrote. “I feel ashamed being a male. I feel ashamed and regret even more now not having said anything when witnessing this toxic masculinity culture in action.”

Efforts to bring men to vocalize their stance against sexual abuse have been ongoing for a while. He for She, a solidarity campaign established in 2014 by UN Women, has been encouraging men and boys to support gender equality and to speak up against discrimination and harassment. They too joined the #MeToo movement.