“Oh my god,” my friend said, sitting on the couch in our college dorm and reading something on her phone.
It wasn’t a particularly shocked ‘oh my god’ though, just kind of a sickened one.
“Who is it now?” I asked. (This had happened several times already.)
“Matt Lauer,” she said.
All of our roommates, sprawled around each other on the couch and floor, sighed collectively. This was not because we were shocked by the flood of allegations (and rightfully, firings) that had been recently tearing through society, and it was definitely not out of pity for Matt Lauer. We were just tired, preemptively tired, of all our future bosses, future coaches, future job interviewers, future colleagues, and future supervisors.
“It happens all the time, you know,” one of my roommates said. We knew. Since the Weinstein story broke in early October, there have been 47 high profile men that have been accused and, as a result, have stepped down or been fired from their positions.
Though 47 may seem like huge number, keep in mind that the ‘#metoo’ hashtag used for people to share their experiences as victims of sexual assault and harassment was used by 4.7 million people in the first 24 hours, on Facebook alone. On the other side of every one of those posts (give or take a few) is a person, most likely a guy, who will never get the full-on media hail storm that ‘high profile men’ have recently gotten. He’ll probably slip around unnoticed, asking for massages and cat-calling his way into old age, thinking that he’s generally an all-around good guy.
That’s what tires me the most.
And, as my roommates and I dispersed and gathered our bags to go to class, we were also tired of the guys who were walking alongside us.
They are the guys who groped you at a party, who assaulted your friend, who sent you degrading Tinder messages, and who have Trump flags hanging in their dorm rooms like a symbol of their complicity to the whole issue.
And they very well may end up being your future bosses, future job interviewers, and future supervisors. Maybe one of them will be the next high-profile Harvey Weinstein, you don’t know. Or maybe one of them will be the regional manager at your future workplace who bothers you relentlessly with crude jokes without anyone ever noticing. Many times, based on the behavior we see and hear about on college campuses, we haven’t been given much of a reason to assume otherwise.
It’s normal for college guys to be at least a little sleazy, everybody jokes. That’s just how they are. It’s an age-old trope: college kids are crazies who are just dipping their toes into adulthood, testing the waters (or, erm, cheap beers), and still figuring it out. But when sexual assaulters or harassers are lovably laughed off as being “normal college guys,” guess what they grow up to be?
Normal, grown-up men. The kind we write “#metoo” tweets about, who will probably never get in trouble.
And sure, I know, it’s not all men. There surely are guys who have never sexually assaulted or harassed anyone, and thank god, because I’d be scared if there weren’t. But when you look at the statistics, this is a big enough problem that we shouldn’t have to pause every sexual assault conversation to make sure the ‘good guys’ get some praise. We know they’re there. Just let them sit tight and maybe, like, listen.
And when these stories are accompanied by more and more allegations and evidence, just believe them. And let the accused be fired without complaining about how much you loved Louis C.K or how much you’ll miss Kevin Spacey on House of Cards. Don’t default to being defensive, because really, who are you defending?
Generally good guys? Just-normal-crazy-college guys? Boys bein’ boys? Let’s change the narrative and not pass off sexual harassment and assault as normalcy. #Me too reminds us that this problem is hugely common, but it shouldn’t ever be the norm.