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Why some men don't speak up about sexual harassment, and how they could

Harvey Weinstein, Bryan Cranston and Neil Burger attend the 'The Upside' cocktail party at the Toronto Film Festival on September 8, 2017.
Harvey Weinstein, Bryan Cranston and Neil Burger attend the 'The Upside' cocktail party at the Toronto Film Festival on September 8, 2017.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for RBC

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In the conversation around sexual harassment, we talk a lot about what women can do to protect themselves from abuse.

But what about the other guys in the room, watching it go down?

Jackson Katz is an educator and co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention program. He spoke with A Martinez about why men often don't speak up, and how they could be effective.

There's an expectation of silence  

They don't say anything or do anything, not because they agree with the behavior, but because of all kinds of dynamics within male peer cultures.

For example, there's not a lot of support for men to challenge other men and speak up. There's a lot of negative feedback that men get. there's all these ways that men tell each other overtly and subtly, 'don't say anything, don't speak up.' And I think a lot of men, as a result, decide: you know what, it's not worth it. 

But men can disrupt harassment as it's happening...  

Take somebody aside and say, ‘I'm uncomfortable with what I'm seeing, and have you considered that this behavior might be a problem, both for the other people, and potentially for you, and potentially for this workplace? I might not be an expert on this but I'm concerned and I just wanted you to know that.’ That is so much more than doing nothing. And it doesn't mean you're the superhero jumping in to rescue the damsel in distress. But it does mean that you're a person of integrity. You're making it clear to somebody that their behavior is not okay and that somebody is watching.  

...even though confronting it can be really uncomfortable 

I think that people have the tendency to think of perpetrators of sexual crimes as monsters. The problem with that is that the typical perpetrator of sexual abuse and sexual harassment [is] a normal guy in every other respect. 

I think a lot of people would prefer the typical perpetrator to be some twisted, sick individual because then we could distance ourselves from his crimes or his behavior. As opposed to, if you  understand and accept the fact that he's normal, then you have to think, what does it mean to be normal in this society and how do all of us play a role in perpetuating some of the norms that keep these kinds of behaviors continuing?

To hear the full interview with Jackson Katz, click on the media player above.