Some men are feeling collective guilt as women are coming forward about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. They are asking themselves questions such as the following: Have I caused harm? I thought I was flirting, just wanted to date her. Aren’t men in our culture the ones to initiate a relationship? How do I do that without being charged with wrong doing? Is it different with each woman? How am I to know? Women seem angry, and I’m confused, baffled.
Misogyny, objectification, discrimination, chauvinism, sexism is deep seated in our culture, and it shows itself in virtually every aspect of our lives. The recent testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh can be added to the extensive research that has been done on the ways in which aggressive behaviors in men result in praise; the same behaviors in women result in denigration.
We can get the feeling that something is not right with this picture without being aware that biology, sociology, and psychology are all at play here within an historical context.
I’d like to make suggestions for men to begin a process of reparations. And if reparations is too harsh a word, perhaps some readers prefer repair or redress or atonement.
• Start monitoring your behavior. What are you saying or doing that is offensive?
• Always ask. This seems simple but involves not pushing, coercing, or threatening – overtly or covertly.
• We can insult people by the way in which we refer to them. Don’t call her ma’am if you refer to others in your workplace as Jose or Mr. Castillo.
• When the guys are huddled up at the water cooler or go for a beer after work to discuss the assets of the latest female interns or new female employees, don’t participate. If you’re in the group, you are participating, endorsing the behaviors.
• When you receive emails at work with jokes and cartoons that disparage women, tell the sender to take your name off his/her list.
• Always stand up for inclusion whether the work group is small and relatively unimportant or large and extremely important.
• In meetings say, “Let’s hear from Sandra” after she has been interrupted, cut off by others. Give credit where credit is due. If the idea is hers, help her claim it.
• Don’t set higher performance standards for the female employees than you have for male employees.
• Acknowledge to yourself the reality that the biology of women means that some women have PMS, are pregnant, are nursing, or are menopausal. Don’t, however, make a big deal about any of this. As I’ve already indicated, it’s a biological reality.
• Take mentoring off the golf course, out of bars and sporting events, and do it in environments where women are comfortable and can, thus, benefit.
• If women are a rare phenomenon in your work world and one is standing alone prior to the beginning of a meeting or in a business social setting, talk to her.
• As important as the scribe is in any meeting, rotate that role. Yes, men can use keyboards now- and do.
• Remember choosing sides for competitions in elementary school? Were you ever the last to be chosen? Chose women for your team.
• If a woman places your hand on her breast or her thigh and issues a verbal invitation, watch out. This could be a game she’s playing to see if you’ll take the bait. If you’re tempted, ask yourself, “Is this the kind of relationship I want?”
• When you initiate a hookup under the influence of booze, recreational drugs, or street drugs, you are setting yourself up to be compromised. If your behavior results in a lawsuit and you find yourself pleading your case before a judge and a jury of your peers, they will not look favorably upon you – even if grass is legal in your state or that opiate you have been prescribed for your aching back indicates it has a side effect of loss of inhibitions.
These are challenging times as we continue to adjust to the changing roles of women and men.
In the November 2018 issue of “Vanity Fair” Lisa Borders, first president and CEO of Time’s Up, was interviewed. In response to an inquiry about the organization, she responded, “This is about bad behavior. We are talking about making systemic cultural and societal change with regard to women, how they are treated in the workplace, how they are perceived, how they are received. We want to be true to our mission, which is making sure the world is comprised of safe, fair, and dignified workplaces for women. So anything that jeopardizes that or displays the negative of that, we’re going to push back against it.” Well said, President Borders.