#AskMoreOfHim invites us to expect more of men. Good

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At last, an initiative that’s about more than just patting men on the back for turning up, says Marisa Bate

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By Marisa Bate on

Men in Hollywood have launched #AskMoreOfHim, a campaign to call on men in the movie industry to stand by women in the fight against harassment and violence, organised by The Representation Project, an action group dedicated to combating gender stereotypes.

The group published a letter in The Hollywood Reporter, which has been signed by the likes of David Arquette, David Schwimmer and Matt McGorry, laying out its aims and acknowledging the silence of men on the issue up until this point: “As advocates, actors, writers, producers, and directors, we hope that our actions will inspire other men to join us. Until now, only a small number of them have been actively engaged in this effort. This must change.”

This is great news. Men need to speak out on this issue and not allow the survivors to eradicate the problem by themselves. Which is what #AskMoreOfHim tries to do. On the project’s website, the organisation has listed “10 ways men can prevent gender violence”, as well as a list of further campaigning resources. If anything, the #AskMoreOfHim campaign shows that some men do recognise their responsibility in this conversation – one they are trying to not only have, but turn into real change. One hashtag can’t undo generations of structural sexsim, but we are witnessing a shift.

Yet, we also have to be careful how we frame their contribution. Admittedly, the group is self-aware: “Some may question our motives for signing this statement and we aim to counteract their skepticism by being painfully honest. Men are imperfect. We are imperfect. And many men, including perhaps some of us, may have enabled the bad behavior of others or acted in ways we now regret.” They certainly aren’t inviting the suggestions that they are heroes and we must be sure we don’t treat them that way.

If we expect more of men, we will ask more of them, too. And that’s when change can begin

And yet, sometimes, because we have been so ingrained to believe everything is actually about men – a tic we still haven’t quite eradicated – we’re still sometimes applauding them for doing the very least, and their involvement (of any degree) is always to be met with a packet of gold stars and a wildly disproportionate reaction to what they’ve actually done. Last week, I went to Facebook’s International Women’s Day event and the men in the room got a round of applause for simply showing up. I wonder, when the women who marched on Westminster yesterday, or at the Home Office, protesting against Yarl’s Wood, went into work, did their colleagues give them a big hand? (I’m certain that women in science or policing or technology or pitching for investment or the upper echelon of any major industry aren’t applauded for their “bravery”.) So low are our standards of men’s behaviour we can be guilty of tripping over ourselves to applaud them when they’ve just done something they are actually supposed to, like look after their children, or not be intimidated by their partner’s pay packet, or show their support for the idea that women deserve to paid fairly. And I don’t think it’s good for anyone – not least the men who support women and don’t want to be treated with condescension.

And that’s precisely why we should take the time to support a campaign like #AskMoreOfHim because it is doing exactly that – it’s expecting more of men than just showing up in a room once a year or wearing a pin badge for an Instagram post. It’s about reframing the whole issue. And if men make gender-based violence and harassment their issue, too, we have a much better chance of eradicating it.

Right now, we’re on the eve on International’s Women’s Day and, this year, off the back of the momentum of Time’s Up and #MeToo, there feels like there is very little room for tokenistic gestures. In this moment of women taking back power, the stakes are too high to applaud men for simply showing up. If we expect more of men, we will ask more of them, too. And that’s when change can begin.


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Photo: Getty Images
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violence against women and girls

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