Men Are Super Bummed They Can't Hug Women In The Office Anymore

by Meredith Bland
Originally Published: 
Image via People Images/Getty Images

Men are worried, and I’m not worried about it

Over the past couple of months, we have seen men such as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, and Louis CK lose their jobs after being accused of (and admitting to) sexual assault and harassment. Now, we are starting to hear from men across the country who are angry because, they say, they’re afraid to talk to women in the workplace for fear of being charged with harassment.

Good. It’s about time.

In a recent article by CBS Los Angeles titled, “In Wake Of Weinstein, Men Wonder If Hugging Women Is Still OK,” “everyday men” worry that they need to stop hugging their female coworkers, or “if they should have kept that oral sex joke to themselves, or just between them and their male friends.” The answers are: Yes, most women would prefer a hearty handshake, and yes, men should refrain from making jokes about blowjobs at work. The fact that there are men who don’t understand why either of these things could be a problem is exactly why we need some major changes in workplace culture.

Take Steve Wyard, for example — a sales associate interviewed by CBS who said: “Have we gotten to the point now where men can’t say, ‘That’s a nice dress’ or ‘Did you do something with your hair?’ The potential problem is you can’t even feel safe saying, ‘Good morning’ anymore.”

I’m sorry this is causing you so much stress. Did you know that for many women, walking past a group of men on a city street in broad daylight is terrifying? Or that women worry that if they smile and say “good morning” to the wrong man he will either a) assume she wants to sleep with him or b) murder her? The truth is, Steve, that this intense scrutiny of the way you look, act, and speak is the kind of thing women deal with from the moment we leave our homes in the morning to the moment we return home at night, and we’ve been subjected to it since we were about 10 years old. Sucks, huh?

In my experience, the kind of men who worry about whether or not they can say “good morning” or “hello” to their co-workers are usually the men who have reasons to worry. When I’ve asked some of the men I know if they’re worried about being accused of sexual harassment at work, they have said something to the effect of, “No, because I don’t do that shit.” Because they know the difference. If you don’t, then you do, indeed, have reason to be scared.

It’s also important to point out that if a man feels like he can’t say anything to women anymore because they might accuse him of sexual harassment, that says a lot about how he views the women who have made those accusations, and women in general. It means he doesn’t believe them. It means that he thinks any woman is capable of making a false charge of sexual harassment. That’s someone who probably doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for women, and at a minimum is a man who’s either unwilling or unable to validate women’s experiences and struggles. That’s a man who can’t acknowledge that sometimes other people feel differently about the same experience.

And that’s Humanity 101, as far as I’m concerned.

But remember, Louis CK says he didn’t see a problem with pulling out his dick and masturbating in front of women, so the disconnect is pretty deep, here.

As for hugs, I had no idea that there were so many men out there who want to be able to hug random women. But they do exist.

Men should understand by now that touch is a difficult issue for many women. When we’re raised in a culture where our bodies are so pervasively sexualized, and men do things like, I don’t know, make jokes about oral sex at work, it’s hard not to be uncomfortable or at least uncertain about that kind of touching. It’s just another example of a man saying, in effect, “She’s overreacting. There’s nothing wrong with this. She shouldn’t feel that way,” and dismissing what the real world is like for the women in their lives. As filmmaker Laura Lee Bahr told CBS: “…for me, I wish it was the people who really need to take a look at themselves who would take a look at themselves.”

So, these men can spare me all the “woe is me” worries about the fact that they might have been hurting women and don’t want to know about it. An adult should know the difference between innocent and harmful workplace behaviors, and if they don’t, it’s because they haven’t been listening. Women live with a thousand tiny terrors every day, so men being frustrated that they now have to pay attention doesn’t get a lick of sympathy from me.

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