From Call Out to Call In: It’s time to Respond, Not React

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Since Harvey Weinstein was called out for egregious offenses in a New York Times investigation over a year ago, women have been using their voices to call out the bad behavior of men. From men in the entertainment industry to professionals to doctors and politicians, and a Supreme Court Justice nominee, it's apparent that no man is beyond reproach. As a man who also identifies as a feminist and a leader in the Better Man Movement I’m often asked, mainly by men, “Is this really necessary? So many of these accusations happened a long time ago. I’m afraid of where this is going.”

My answer is, yes, the calling out is necessary. It’s painful. And it’s been a long time coming. What may have been swept under the rug or worse some twenty to thirty years ago, isn’t acceptable now. What was never ok then or now was exploitation of a power differential towards women and underrepresented people. The resulting backlash has people and companies wondering how to address the issues in their culture and in their leadership structures.

If companies are going to attract talent and improve employee retention, they will have to take on the fallout from this call out phase. The calling out has many men in some form of reactionary mode. From fear-induced worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, to a flat-out unwillingness to mentor or sponsor women. Some men stay frozen and many men are looking for direction with respect what to say and do in order to be supportive and become better inclusionary leaders. The time for men to consider responding instead of reacting from fear is overdue. The reality is that men need not look far for behavior to emulate.  During this call out phase, women are and have been courageously standing up, standing together, and standing for what's right and speaking against toxic male behavior-- even when the risks are incredibly high, despite the high stakes of potential unintended consequences that are even higher than the indiscretions they are speaking out about.   

An unintended consequence of inaction could be those good men getting lumped in with the bad ones. I offer to the men who want to be part of the solution, to consider, “If we don’t do the right thing then what is to stop anyone from thinking you’re doing the wrong thing? “ It’s time for us guys who want to be better, to actually do better. This means standing and speaking up, however, we can. It’s time for us to be accountable and share responsibility. It’s time for us to find a way to get off the bench and into the game. Now is the time for MEN to find a way to stand up & speak up, to make sure women can be heard! Changing our behavior will require the courage to move forward. It’s likely that fear or shame might cause us to react, recoil, or refrain from saying or doing anything.

Speaking for myself, being a conscious ally takes a lot of courage. I can feel fear about saying or doing the wrong thing because of how I might be perceived, from women or men...I know that’s my ego. I want people to like me. That’s being human. I have to remind myself that when I make a mistake, I can clean it up and still be a good person. Men who want to be allies acknowledge the fear and keep moving forward. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. ... Courage originally meant “To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.” This is going to require that we as men step out of our comfort zone and into some vulnerability ...that’s where change happens. It’s ok to not have all the answers, to admit fear...whatever our truth is.

What feels counter intuitive for most men is to admit fear or not knowing what to do or say because we’ve been taught it’s a sign of weakness. When I’ve asked women about men sharing their truth from a place of vulnerability, I’ve almost always found that sharing and vulnerability build trust and connection. Isn’t that where collaboration starts? It’s a crucial step in the ally’s journey.

Corporate culture needs men who are willing to be courageous allies. The Better Man Movement is here to support them. What kind of man am I talking about? Men of all races, identities, and experiences. Men who are fathers, husbands, partners, sons, as well as corporate leaders. Men who are willing to show up with their whole self. The leadership opportunity for women is to “call in” potential allies to stand up and speak up to move forward in partnership. I’m not talking about shifting the burden on the oppressed. It’s about women feeling empowered and asking themselves what they want. To call men in to listen, to hear stories first hand from the people who don’t have the same power and experiences that they do. The leadership opportunity for men is to stand together with women. This is about our commitment to accountability and change. I want to invite all of us to view partnership as an inclusionary solution to move us beyond the focus on exclusionary issues. This means the calling out of unacceptable behavior must include the calling in, in order to change. Men and women have to be willing to show up by opting-in instead of staying in frozen in the fear that they can’t learn from their mistakes.

I would ask women to understand that allies will make mistakes. If we are going to work together as partners, it’s going to require some patience and forgiveness on the learning curve. My ask of men is to tap into their courage, take a risk, acknowledge the fear, and never stop learning. Why? Because we’re better together!

Ray Arata