Man Up

Lessons for all guys in the #MeToo movement

As the hideous behavior of the Harvey Weinsteins of this world emerged, it provoked intense scrutiny over what constitutes proper versus improper conduct toward women. But as #MeToo forces a cultural pivot away from a way of life that, for too long, favored silencing the offended over punishing the offender, we don’t often take into account the effect on the average guy.

I’m a middle-aged man who works at home, married happily for nearly 20 years, with two teenage boys. So guys like me aren’t the typical offenders.

Still, we all have a past. And many of us are evaluating ourselves today as compared to “back then.” I’ve never crossed any red lines that I’m aware of, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think or even say the occasional inappropriate thing, flirt in ways I thought were harmless—but perhaps weren’t—or date a co-worker.

Recently I watched a cable TV panel debate the issue. One of the men challenged a colleague who spoke in support of the #MeToo movement and the need for men to tighten boundaries. The man demanded to know if the articulate #MeToo supporter had ever acted like a boor, insisting, “we all did it” at some point. He suggested we shouldn’t overcompensate by treating everyone who once made a mistake, an off-color comment or offered a too-tight hug as if they were, in fact, Harvey Weinstein.

He was right, of course, but then so was the other guy when he responded. He confessed to having had “moments” back in the day. The difference, he contended, was that he lusted “for” women and fantasized “about” them. He insisted what he never did was touch someone intimately without permission, attempt to force anyone to do anything or use a position of power as sexual leverage.

Point of fact: Men will always lust for women. This cultural shift simply underscores that we do not have a right to assume such desires trump social, professional and moral obligations.

Men need to show respect and impulse control. There is nothing wrong with evolving, becoming better men, husbands and fathers. I for one, am using current events as a teaching tool with my sons. Perhaps men who are feeling sensitive to what is going on should spend less time agonizing whether some folks are “going overboard” and instead focus on our moms, wives and daughters. This movement is happening because there really has been a problem forever. No one wants his or her loved ones harassed—let’s use that as a guidepost.

I suggest that the effort required to control one’s impulses has to be less onerous a task than living with the hurt, shame, consequences and sense of failure a man brings on himself and his family when he fails to behave in a decent manner. We can’t avoid the repercussions anymore. That ship has sailed.

Michael Goldman is a freelance writer who covers the film industry and other media-related topics. For more, go to