Since the words "me too" overtook our national cultural dialogue this time last year, dynamics between men and women — and, indeed, across the gender spectrum — have intensified. In some cases, rifts between genders have deepened, in others, bridges of solidarity and genuine allyship have been built. And, though some have openly expressed a weariness with the #MeToo movement, this conversation is still just beginning.
In the past year, definitions and cultural understandings of feminism, allyship, and gender equity have evolved. Today, sexual harassment, assault, and privilege are increasingly entering dialogues. And still, amidst these shifts, some men have felt unfairly targeted by the #MeToo movement. However, for every one who has felt alienated and attacked, there are also men who are committed to and fighting for change alongside women. In light of these substantial cultural shifts, there has now arisen a crucial question: What does it actually look like to be a man, a feminist, and an ally?
To examine this question, Quartz’s Leah Fessler created the special project How We’ll Win: The Other Half. The follow-up to her initial half of this project, The Visionaries, Fessler's project is the culmination of a year-long deep dive into the battle for gender equality. For this iteration, Fessler interviewed 50 men who are leaders in their professions. With them, she discussed their fears, hopes, and regrets as they reflected on their participation in — and benefit from — an unequal past and work in solidarity towards a different future.
Among the men included in the project are Black Lives Matter leader Deray McKesson, Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown, and Bridesmaids’ director Paul Feig. The men open up about issues ranging from consent to their own complicity in inequality, to how toxic masculinity intersects with war and gun violence.
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Initialized Capital and Reddit and husband to Serena Williams, weighed in on the ways in which his relationship with Williams has affected his growth as a person. Ohanian also opened up about his own blind spots, as well as the necessity for men to recognize their complicity in oppression and commit to doing better. "If the most powerful among us don't change, we won’t escape the reckoning that being petty and selfish and short-sighted will bring to us all," Ohanian said.
Similarly, Shaun King, a columnist at The Intercept and an organizer of the Black Lives Matter movement reflected on the ways in which toxic masculinity underpins many manifestations of violence in this country and around the world: "[It's] not just at the root of sexual assault and misconduct and abuse," King said. "It's at the root of war and terrorism and most gun violence as well."
Tony Porter, CEO of A Call to Men, a violence prevention organization focused on male socialization and its intersection with violence, expertly addressed a major rupture in the feminist movement today. Given the fact that men have been increasingly held accountable for their actions, Porter believes that the next step is to move forward — together. "We have spent a great deal of time calling men out, and accountability is a very important part of this process," Porter said. "Now, it is time to call men in."
Ultimately, The Other Half provides a glimmer of hope in a time of immense divide, reminding us that collaboration, solidarity, and empathy are at the crux of progress. The project also makes perfectly clear that those with the most privilege, in this case men, have a responsibility to wield it as a remedy to the rampant inequality currently plaguing society. As author and activist Baratunde Thurston perfectly summarized: "Male privilege isn't just privilege, it's a trap. Patriarchy is a trap. For everyone. We should want everyone to be free."