According to a writer in the Metro, a free daily newspaper I sometimes read on the train, yes. She writes: Men, the answer is to grow up – not avoid women.
Calling all men! In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and alleged sexual assault scandal and the resultant tsunami of further allegations against prominent men, here are your new instructions.
- Cancel the office holiday party — it could lead to flirting.
- Rethink one-on-one business meetings off-site with women colleagues — you never know when one of them will claim you behaved “inappropriately.”
These are just some of the absurdio ad reductum warnings that have popped up recently — the office party dilemma one in a New York Times article — since the explosive allegations last month against powerful Hollywood producer Weinstein have led to the Great Sexual Harassment Reckoning.
But are these warnings absurd? My company has indeed cancelled the holiday party. And I would not meet one-on-one with a female colleague offsite. In fact, there are very few women I would meet with one-on-one.
Heed the fact that many women and some men, emboldened by the #MeToo hashtag campaign, have begun naming and shaming their harassers everywhere.
And there’s the rub. Heed the fact that the word “alleged” was not placed before “harassers”.
Should all men be very afraid of either being exposed — are you now or have you ever been a sexual harasser — or of making one wrong move? Of course not. There are a multitude of good men out there who have never harassed anyone.
How does that help them if they are accused without evidence on social media and lose their jobs as a result?
And not all these incidents are equal. We’ve seen everything from a furtive bottom squeeze to a vicious rape included in these accusations. From masturbating in front of women colleagues to sabotaging their dignity by verbally sexualizing them. Yet it’s mystifying that even after decades of consciousness-raising and specific workplace programs, men can still claim not to know the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s harassment.
Not that mystifying, since the definition of harassment keeps changing. For example, in some parts of the world, men can now be jailed for cat calling. In Canada, you can break the law by using the wrong pronoun.
One senior executive reasonably said to me, “Is hugging a colleague (male or female) acceptable? There’s so many physical actions (touching someone’s arm/hand) that could now be considered inappropriate.”
Exactly. It’s best not to touch women at all.
So let’s concede some grey areas, but also admit they are not really the problem.
Nope. They are the problem.
When it comes to hardcore sexual harassment, let alone assault, men know. Believe me, they know that it’s outside the frame of civil or even legal behaviour. They want to harass anyway. They think they can get away with it.
While this may be true in cases that are covered by the law, that is not what we are discussing. The court of public opinion tends to listen and believe, which is the opposite of presuming innocence until guilt is proven.
Yet men in all industries continue to be treated as adolescent boys.
I disagree. Men are being treated as guilty. All men. Not by everyone, but by far too many.
So men, do grow up and don’t cancel the office party and don’t shy away from professional relationships with women. Be warm, respectful, smart, funny and civil. Learn from them.
Because we are grown up, we see your double-think for what it is. You want to have the right to call out men without the burden of proof, but then you complain when men naturally shy away from doing anything that could be misconstrued as harassment. So no, you won’t see as many single men at your office parties. You won’t get one-on-one mentoring. And you won’t get as much warmth and humor, though hopefully you will get intelligence and civility. Respect, as always, will have to be earned.
If you have doubts about your behaviour, ask them. Surely the answer is not to avoid women, but to treat them as you expect to be treated. Like a competent adult doing a job.
I have no doubts about my behavior. I doubt yours. There are three women I care about most: my wife and my two daughters. Why should I risk the livelihood that sustains them in order to help you? If you want to work with me, it will have to be in a group setting. My advice to all men, married or not, is to avoid women in social situations at work that don’t involve a large group, and to be careful not to have more than a couple of drinks in any work related event.
And as recent weeks have shown, if you find that difficult, it’s all on you. Your days are truly numbered.
Exactly. So stay safe: Don’t engage unless in a group; don’t let people like this shame you into risking being falsely accused.