Another victim who has spoken up is musician Phoebe Bridgers. In the NYT publication, Phoebe shared that they first met in 2014, when she was 20, and seeking to further her career. “There was a mythology around him,” she said. “It seemed like he had the power to propel people forward.” She said that in the guise of helping her with her music, Ryan pursued a romantic relationship with her, which soon became “obsessive and emotionally abusive”—something that continued even after they had broken up.
Through his lawyer, Ryan denied the accusations and calling it “a brief, consensual fling.” Although, he did issue an apology on Twitter following the NYT article, admitting to having made “many mistakes,” but calling the article “upsettingly inaccurate.”
Phoebe took to Instagram to address the issue since it blew up. She thanked her family and friends who “supported and validated” her. She wrote, “They told me that what had happened was f*cked up and wrong, and that I was right to feel weird about it. I couldn’t have done this without them.”
She also pointed out something critical: “Ryan had a network too. Friends, bands, people he worked with. None of them held him accountable. They told him, by what they said or by what they didn’t, that what he was doing was okay. They validated him. He couldn’t have done this without them.” This is something that stuck with me.
In our current social climate, calling out has become almost second nature. Our generation has been slammed too many times for being “overly critical,” and even worse, “overly sensitive.” Of course, calling out a means to challenge what we deem as prevailing toxic culture. In feminism, it’s been done too many times. I think this is more a testament to how, sadly, misogynistic and sexist culture has been so deeply ingrained in our society. Naturally, feminists are the first to call out men. And, yes, I admit there are times the calling out is done in a hostile manner. Again, the aim is to point out what’s wrong and for the men or institution to change their behavior and never do their problematic actions again. But of course, this isn’t always what happens. Instead, they feel attacked and thus, instead of them understanding their mistakes and changing for the better, they label themselves as a fierce enemy of the movement. I think Phoebe’s advice, “Guys, if your friend is acting f*cked up, call them out. If they’re actually your friend, they’ll listen. That’s the way this all gets better” is so true. It makes all the difference to be called out by your peers instead of strangers from the Internet (no matter how warranted.)
Men calling other men out for their sexist behavior is something we should definitely keep working on. According to a 2018 survey done by The Fawcett Society, a British charity focused on gender equality and women’s rights, “Older people are significantly less likely to call out inappropriate behavior or have a conversation about sexual harassment–but they do think the boundaries have changed.” While this is discouraging, the study also found that since #MeToo, “The biggest change has taken place in the 18-34 age group with over half of young people saying they are now more likely to speak up against sexual harassment, including 58 percent of young men.” Advocates of feminism would surely be glad to know that the movement has had a profound effect on society.
A year on since #MeToo went viral, over half of young people say they are now more likely to speak up against sexual harassment, incl. 58% of young men. Attitudes are shifting fast. Now it's time for tougher legislation and real, lasting culture change. https://t.co/ahy1zf6vpa
Here in the Philippines, we don’t have data yet as to how men are affected by the rise of feminist movements. But I think something similar could be observed. The younger generation are more likely to call out their peers, while older men would more likely let it go. But sadly, I would say the Philippine society in general is still dominantly misogynistic. To think, our very own president constantly makes inappropriate, sexist jokes, and everytime he does, men just let him. They even encourage him. I don’t think any man has really called him out. Ever. If anyone did, they were obviously overpowered by the president’s network whose actions—or lack of it—are just as much to blame in perpetuating the toxic culture. As Phoebe said, “He couldn’t have done this without them.” Honestly, I think it’s too late for the president to be on our side and become a feminist ally. Sadly, I think his peers are either a) sexists themselves, or b) too afraid to call him out.
Still, it’s not yet too late for the people close to you. Listen to Phoebe. If your friend is doing something inappropriate, call them out. Please. Like the musician said, it’s the only way we’ll get better.
Art by Marian Hukom
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