By Stephanie Leke
You and your crew are on a boys’ night out at the bar when an attractive woman passes by. Your friend says something about wanting “a piece of that.” She looks noticeably uncomfortable but continues walking, looking straight ahead as she ignores your friend’s advances.
You know your friend’s actions were inappropriate. What can you do about it? A new initiative wants to give people a way to call out sexist remarks by their friends. The idea, called #checkyourboys, came from an episode of “That’s What He Said,” a web series by Soul- Pancake. The series features personal, honest, and engaging roundtable discussions among a diverse group of men on a range of topics spanning masculinity, self-esteem, sex and dating, and women.
The goal of the conversations, as series creator Anabella Casanova says, is “to foster understanding and compassion within genders and across the gender gap.” For this particular episode, the participants discussed the role men play in sexism — much of it systemic and related to upbringing and culture. They opened the conversation with a reference to the viral video about catcalling, Ten Hours of Walking in New York as a Woman, and relayed the physical and vocal harassment they’ve heard their female counterparts regularly endure.
This also ties into the concept of privilege. As another man noted, he can go for a run at night in a public park and not feel endangered. Women are forced to take greater precautions, including what they wear while doing so.
Men need to break the cycle. This is where #checkyourboys comes into play. We’ve all witnessed a friend addressing a stranger on the street, saying something inappropriate.
For most, the solution is to ignore it or laugh it off. It’s just guys being guys, right? But by not calling out our friend, we enable the behavior and continue to make it acceptable.
What we really should be asking is: These moments of harassment are unwanted and can feel threatening to the recipient, especially when those comments are ignored. Instead of allowing the behavior to continue—check your boys! #checkyourboys.
As these men point out, sexism may be women’s problem to deal with, but it stems from men’s actions.
Women’s circumstances won’t get better unless men change the way they act.
It’s the recipient of the privilege who needs to take action. I’m talking to you, guys. “It’s not only supporting women—it’s about stopping sexism and misogyny when you see it,” says 42-year-old Joshua Bitton, who participated in the discussion. “We let so much slide because we’re afraid that our protest will be met with aggression or judgment. It’s time we cut it out at the root. ” As we work toward greater equality between men and women, the most important thing we can do is continue to communicate and educate one another. The next time you’re in a situation where a friend makes a sexist comment or gesture toward another person, #check yourboys. It’s an opportunity to help instill change while provoking insightful conversation among friends—maybe even an honest “That’s What He Said”— inspired moment.
Stephanie Leke is a writer in New York. To see the entire discussion, watch the full video at: youtu.be/ufQSF3mpQ6k. A version of this article appeared in Upworthy.com.