Interestingly, men with power—financial, organizational, political, celebrity—perceive themselves to be more attractive, assume women want them, and sexualize interactions with women. In a world where women are often playing by men’s rules, this makes for disastrous outcomes. Far too many women fear they’ll lose access to their place of perceived or actualized power if they speak up for themselves, or other women, who’ve been maligned, even slightly, by men with power and poor intentions. In my own experience, I feared the ramifications of speaking up against a man with more clout than I. How would this affect my social and professional standing in my community? Would others perceive that I have an axe to grind when that wasn’t the case? Would they frame me as prudish? Would they assume I asked for it? Would they assume I’m trying to unnecessarily take down a “good guy.” Instead of speaking up when the stakes were small, after an off-handed comment, sexist joke, or a lingering hug, I assumed this is just how it is, boys will be boys. If I want to get by in this world, I must put up with it.
If only the men listening would have thrown him a “maaate.”
Research shows that this pompous approach men exhibit toward women starts on the playground in primary school, gains steam in the locker room in secondary school, cements itself in university culture, (what Americans refer to as “frat culture”) and before we know it, twentysomething men are carrying this toxic idea of what it means to engage women into adult life, and further, it’s celebrated, as was the case of Brand’s public persona. Too often harassment and misogynistic tendencies of any sort equate to validation of masculinity. In this line of thinking, the subtext is that women exist to be dominated, harassed, or taken advantage of for the sheer pleasure of men. This is the genius of bystander intervention; it swiftly reckons with the subtext of a culture hellbent on letting men get away with whatever they want and whoever they want.