Are Men Who Avoid Women at Work Being Childish?

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.

childish-menCalling 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.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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13 Responses to Are Men Who Avoid Women at Work Being Childish?

  1. Lisa McConachie says:

    The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido

    This article is a nuanced take on why women should be afraid

    • jimbelton says:

      I don’t agree with much of it. Not surprising, I suppose, since the author quotes Andrea Dworkin. I’ve written a post replying to it.

      • mikekto says:

        You know what these women had sex with him to get a high paying job. That guy isn’t a saint but neither are the women.

      • jimbelton says:

        I suppose we’ll see if Weinstein is convicted of a crime. I would at least say that offering career advancement in exchange for sex is unpleasant.

      • mikekto says:

        Oh come on women dress a certain way to get sales and crap. I’m not condoning what he did but these women aren’t in the right either. They are simply prostitutes.

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  3. mikekto says:

    If I was you I would avoid women period, other than family members. I work at home so I don’t have to worry about this nonsense but this crap is pissing me off big time. No more nice anymore. I will never help a woman other than family members. Women are my enemy because they want to destroy men.

    • jimbelton says:

      While IMO there are only a small percentage of problem women who are making false allegations, much as there are only a small percentage of men who are guilty of sexually harassing women, both of those small minorities are spoiling things for everyone. What you’ve said here is exactly my point. If the majority of women say nothing (or even pile on) when men are attacked over concern about false accusations, men will conclude that the only way to be safe is to disengage.

  4. Bill says:

    At my retail job, I greeted a female customer by saying:
    “Lady is there anything I can help you find?”

    I was reported for sexual harassment because I used the word “Lady”.

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  7. Neo says:

    “Men are being treated as guilty. All men.”

    My employer has a VERY strict policy regarding male-female interaction. But the policy is one-sided. Every man brought up on charges is always guilty no matter what. No defense of any kind is allowed. Some have lost their jobs over charges, but those who did not might as well be looking for a new job since their upward mobility in the company is ended.

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