In his speech accepting the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, activist and author Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” When it comes to ending sexism and sexist behavior, there is a culture of careful neutrality among men.
For men, taking a stand against sexism means having to care. It means acknowledging that, as men, we benefit from a system that is unjust and have in some way contributed to it. It means we have an obligation to end it.
Here at UNC, clinging to neutrality silences men in both the student body and the administration. For men attending college, taking a stand against sexism can be difficult. It could mean calling someone out for making a rape joke, intervening in a potential fight or confronting a friend about abusive behavior toward a partner. It means bearing the social costs of holding each other to higher standards.
In the workplace, confronting coworkers, especially employers, for sexist behavior could be even more costly. It might mean a threatening work environment, or being passed over for a promotion.
Confronting sexism is not necessarily easy. But for men, the ability to overlook sexism and sexist behavior — and to remain neutral when we are confronted with it — is a privilege that women and men who do not fit the picture of traditional masculinity do not have.