As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, a workplace sexual harassment survivor (fired for reporting my incident), and as a teen and young adult male who was almost certainly guilty of sexually abusive behavior toward some of the girls and women in my life, I am really encouraged by the “Me, too” movement sweeping the world. My individual accountability is important, but unfortunately, it is not enough.

Awareness of a problem is crucial to solving it. And the “Me,Too” campaign is acknowledging and increasing that awareness. However, avoidance, denial, rationalization, minimization all contribute to our institutions not producing a comprehensive problem-solving response to sexual abuse and harassment. In part, that’s because there is no solution to it as an isolated problem. We are perpetuating the denial if we operate as if there actually is one. Unless we address this as just one bar, of the many, that keeps us in the male supremacy cage that author Marilyn Frye described many years ago, we are unlikely to ever solve this problem. Girls and women lack the right over their own bodies, their right to reproductive freedom, their right to equality under the law, their right to education, their right to control of property and money, their right to not be considered property, their right to equal pay, their right to authority over their children, and any other rights we can think of. These are all bars in that cage.

All this is a natural outgrowth of a patriarchal living system–A Dominator System, as Riane Eisler calls it, rather than A Partnership System.

As I worked for over twenty years coordinating a program to help hold men accountable for battering their partners, while I volunteered for, and sat on the local rape crisis center board, as I spent years on an anti-violence task force, and co-leading a Men Against Rape group, presenting trainings to school systems to prevent sexual harassment, according to FBI statistics, the violent crime rate in The United states steadily declined in all but two areas: domestic violence and sexual assault.  This is not a coincidence.  It is also not a coincidence that well over 90% of all violent crimes against women and men are committed by men. We are the problem—as long as we allow ourselves to be. To use an appropriate metaphor, our trained-in violence is just the tip of the spear. Boys are trained to be served by women. We are taught that we are better than women.  We are the ones that matter. We are the family of Man. Not long ago a survey showed that when boys were asked what they would do if they were suddenly turned into a girl, some said they would kill themselves.

In study after study, we find that when a work product is being identified as created by a woman, both women and men rate it as inferior to one identified as created by a man. We know that every major institution in our society is shaped by men and the values that have been perpetuated for at least 3500 years. We know that the orthodox form of all current major religions on the earth were shaped and developed in patriarchal, male dominated cultures, and they reflect those values.  These are the bars of that cage. If we want to fix the problem, we must identify it.

The sexual objectification of women, the use of women as tools for sexual gratification, the coerced or forced cooperation for that gratification, are just bars in that cage. If we want to eliminate them as a problem, men everywhere must face our own culpability, recognize and challenge the institutions that shape our attitudes and actions, make a commitment to be accountable, learn to listen to, and join with our sisters, the feminist wombin who are, and have been, leading the struggle to dismantle and transform the cage into a great table where we can all share the feast that life has to offer us.

Through this process we will gain the genuine opportunity to solve the problem of sexual harassment and assault.

River Smith is still the same troublemaking eco-feminist punk he’s always been.