1,600: Men Standing Up and Speaking Up

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.

- Anais Nin

On Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 1,600 men took out and paid for a full-page advertisement the New York Times listing each of their names with a headline stating: “We believe Anita Hill. We also believe Christine Blasey Ford."

The crowd-funded ad was inspired by an almost identical ad placed in the New York Times in 1991 when 1,600 black women signed supporting Professor Anita Hill, who offered testimony in a hostile atmosphere on Capitol Hill that required her to share the sexual harassment she suffered while working for Judge Clarence Thomas.

Why is this newsworthy? Because up until recently, most of the standing up and speaking up about harassment and inequality has been by women. Women have had to find the courage to stand up and speak up on their own behalf. Most men have remained silent, seemingly afraid to do or say the wrong thing. I can honor and understand the fear. What doesn’t sit with me is the reactionary behavior or silence or defensiveness or dismissal of such an important moment in our history.

What’s been missing is courage, unity, and solidarity from men. I’m hopeful that the ad featuring men’s names is the beginning of men taking responsibility. Men using their privilege, their power, and their voices to listen, stand up with and speak up with women. It’s time.

Over a year has gone by since the headlines brought the #MeToo movement into mainstream discourse with countless examples of women standing up and speaking up, as individuals and together. Women in solidarity against sexual harassment, standing for intersectional gender equality. Seeing their behavior and hearing their stories in a renewed context over and over has helped me see that the collective unity and responsibility, coupled with tremendous courage is modeling for us men what we need to be doing.

I want to applaud and honor the men who spent the money and added their names, along with men who have made the efforts to come together with examples of healthy masculinity by resisting the urge to be silent and therefore sending the message that they are complicit.

I want to personally say to these 1,600 men, THANK YOU for being courageous and modeling what it is to stand up and speak up. You are the kind of men I want to represent a new way of showing up at the Better Man Conference.

As a feminist, I have made my life’s work about the engagement of men as allies and partners to support the advancement of women, to put an end to toxic masculinity and any behaviors that harm women, emotionally and physically. My invitation, my WHY is, “What kind of man do you want to be?” Are you willing to do what it takes to learn and grow in order to know and do better”?

For men, I want to acknowledge that there are risks involved. There are risks when you speak up, as well as risks when you take a stand with other men. It’s not something we have to do alone, nor should we do alone. There are also risks in choosing to not say or doing anything.

It is not my intention to shame or blame men. Rather, its to help all of us see that we are at a very unique choice point in time, one that we will look back on 20 years from now and remember the choice we made and what kind of man we stepped into being.

My invitation to all men is to look deep within yourself. Ask what has to happen in order for you to choose to prioritize women being harmed, harassed, denied equal opportunity to experience what we men have enjoyed for decades? What would make it important enough for you to stand up for equality and against toxic male behavior?

My 10,000 hours of working with men over the last 19 years has enabled me to see most men, when given the opportunity to be the best man they can be, that we all want that for ourselves, and we are willing to do most anything to get it.

I want to personally invite you to consider putting yourself on the journey of becoming an ally. I understand that the stakes are high, especially in a time where our personal and professional lives are so public. Knowing this, I’ve created a safe space, the Better Man Conference.

Let's build on the courage of these 1,600 men and move the needle to 1.6 million or more. How? We do it together.

Colton Edwards