Get in the Game: How Men Can Become Allies

get in the game hands.jpg

It was a beautiful sunny day in San Francisco. I was driving my car home from the city after a day of meeting with clients. In my metaphorical rearview mirror was the Better Man Conference convened on September 17 in San Francisco with the theme “Inclusionary Leaders: Engaging Men as Allies”. The event was a success, but what kept my attention, was my reaction following what we now know as #MeToo. The first wave of emotion was anger. Anger that a number of men insist on doing stupid, cruel, and even hateful things that mean women suffer as a result. Right after the anger, the sadness and grief rolled in…sad for the women...those who had suffered under the abusive behavior and women as a whole…the women I know and love, family, friends, and colleagues.

Once my fear showed up….fear that my work to engage men through the Better Man Movement and otherwise, might be thwarted, I recognized the fear for what it was worth… a messenger.  A message that I could harness and use as fuel to keep doing the work, instead of reacting, recoiling, refraining or just doing nothing. I knew the only decision was to keep going”. At that moment I knew it was time for action. The thoughts were fast and furious, and before I got on the Golden Gate Bridge, I asked myself what needs to happen? How can I contribute to that?

My heart tuned my brain toward the news reports showing countless courageous women, standing up and speaking up, together and as individuals, against toxic masculinity and for gender equality.

My aha moment

We as men need to stand up and speak up, both together and individually for gender equality and to write a new playbook, eradicating toxic masculine behavior. It’s time for us to be part of the solution. It’s time for us to get in the game.

Why is this relevant to the corporate world? If companies want to develop more productive and successful internal team relationships and communication, if they want to tap into and make full use of the talents that their existing staff bring, then they will need to inspire executive management to lead from the heart and engage the men in their organization as allies.

What do I mean when I say get in the game? Before I answer this crux of a question, I offer as context these questions for ALL men to ask themselves: What kind of man do I want to be? Do I want to be a man closed off to my emotions, reacting and recoiling from fear and only showing anger that causes women to feel unsafe? Or worse yet, allowing fear to prevent me from acting like an ally?

What kind of leader do I want to be? If I am not willing to put myself on the path of becoming an ally and inclusionary leader, I run the risk, despite my good intentions, of allowing my bias and privilege to impact women.

Do I want to be the man that stands silent while women and underrepresented people are being marginalized? Am I aware that my silence communicates my complicity?

Do I want to be that guy that gives another guy a pass when he speaks derogatorily of women or other target groups? Us guys often do this as an unspoken agreement that allows me to have a pass “down the road”.   

Do I want to be the guy that does this alone, lying to myself that I don't need support?

Do I want to be that guy who doesn’t seek input from women about how they would like to be supported?When I say get in the game, as a man, I mean:

I will continuously work on my own emotional literacy as a man in support of me being a whole person. This means I will “do my work” with the people around me so that I emulate a conscious partnership of the head and heart. I call this, “I’ll go first”.

I will acknowledge fear, feel it, and consciously use it to move me forward into action, to be the man I know I am capable of being.

I am willing to forever be an ally in training, recognizing that my bias and privilege may occasionally cause harm to another. I will acknowledge my humanness, that I will make mistakes and clean up my mistakes and remain vigilant to learn and improve.

When I witness behavior and or speech that could or does have an negative impact towards women or marginalized folks, I will speak up and use my skills of communication to bring attention to it without shaming or blaming the person who acted or spoke.

As an ally in training, I will do the work that is required WITH MEN as I recognize that I have flaws. I will also use my power and position to engage other men in this movement.

As an ally in training, I want to be a partner who is cognizant of and interested in the roles that women play in supporting our efforts to be the men they need us to be. This means I am willing to ask them, according to them, what and how our standing up, speaking up, and getting in the game supports them.

I recognize that we as men all have a different way to relate to this topic and these times.

What does ‘get in the game’ mean to you? I’d love to hear from you. I need men to join me and get in the game. Share your thoughts, ask me questions and join us at the Better Man Conference.

Ray Arata