The idea of a man adding his voice to a chorus of women speaking out about their experience with sexual assault and harassment would guarantee an eye roll under normal circumstances. However, when Terry Crews tweeted his own story of being groped by a Hollywood agent at a party in front of his wife, he added some much needed nuance and an intersectional lens to a narrative that had been previously drenched in whiteness.
Following the public takedown of Harvey Weinstein in a New York Times exposé, a diverse group of women from both within and outside of the entertainment industry used #MeToo to shared their own experiences with rape and sexual assault. According to an interview with TIME, which has named Crews one of their Silence Breakers for their Person of the Year issue, it was the skepticism that many of these women were met with that compelled him to speak up. He wanted to support women from a place of understanding, and the 16-tweet story that followed allowed him to successfully infiltrate #MeToo.
And if there was ever a dude to have a seat at that table in terms of allyship, it appears to be Crews.
By entering the dialogue about sexual harassment — and suing his aggressor, Adam Venit, and William Morris Endeavor, the agency that let him return to work after just a month-long unpaid suspension — Crews pushed back on industry standards that would have him be much more silent and forgiving. But the actor and longtime feminist seems to be well aware that he doesn't fit the typical victimology for sexualized crimes, and he's certainly found himself on the privileged end of the gender spectrum. As such, Crews is not content just including his story, as necessary as it may be, among the many that women have already told. He told TIME, “I always have felt women have been able to take care of themselves, 100%. But men need to hold other men accountable.” And I can’t think of a message that needs to be echoed so loudly.
While some are waiting for a snag in the movement that seems to have rolled out so smoothly over the last few months, conversations about the role of women in the industry, how they can be better supported, and what it means to speak up have only been overshadowed by reports of how the accused have been dealt with. However, very little of the narrative has focused on the broader rape culture that emboldens men to act on whatever sexual inclinations they have in the first place. And based on Crew’s own experience in both professional sports and entertainment, this is one of the most dangerous problems of pervasive male privilege. In what he calls a “cult of masculinity,” he says that there exists a belief that ”as a man you are more valuable than a woman.”
Ultimately, it is toxic masculinity — operating differently among class and racial backgrounds — that makes it easy for men to become a danger to women. And it's up to men to fix that, not the women they terrorize.
Crews has stepped forward to do that work, and for that, his spot amongst the Silence Breakers is well-earned. Nothing but respect for MY person of the year.