Working men are confused about how to treat women in the workplace now that we seem to be tolerating sexual harassment less
Working men are confused, poor things. They just don’t know how to interact with women anymore, now that sexual harassment is being tolerated less and less. How are they supposed to navigate the day-to-day office environment if they’re not free to treat women however they damn well please? It’s so uncomfortable having to think about actually not making women uncomfortable for once.
“It has been a confusing season for America’s working men, as the conversation around workplace harassment reveals it to be a nationwide epidemic — and many men wonder if they were involved or ignored the signs,” begins an article in The New York Times titled, Men at Work Wonder if They Overstepped With Women, Too. The American working man is confused! They have no idea what to do! Do they look at their co-workers when they are speaking to them? Can the holiday party even exist anymore? Should superiors only invite men to off-site events?
“Cancel the holiday party,” one man told the NYT, until everyone can figure out how men and women should interact. He considers himself progressive, but he just doesn’t know now. “What flirting is O.K.? Was I ever taking advantage of any meager power I had? You start to wonder.”
“I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong,” said another man the Times interviewed. “But has anything I’ve done been interpreted another way?”
Let’s remember this backlash is happening thanks to all of the stories that have surfaced in Hollywood, starting with Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein is accused of raping several women and forcing who knows how many women to watch him masturbate. Louis C.K. masturbated in front of several colleagues, too. Producer Brett Ratner is accused of serial sexual harassment of the women he worked with — and assault. This is not a grey area. Interacting with colleagues in an office isn’t like figuring out a Rubik’s cube. Ask most women — they manage to do it daily without crossing professional lines.
The NYT reports that in response to the new concerns about sexual harassment, some men are forming “all-male text groups at companies or in their industries to brainstorm on harassment issues.” Right. Because this is definitely a conversation women should be left out of.
“Some said they planned to be a lot more careful in interacting with women because they felt that the line between friendliness and sexual harassment was too easy to cross,” the article says. “Others are struggling to reconcile how these behaviors could happen even among men who believe in equal rights.”
Is this really that hard to navigate? Is it that hard not to ask a colleague or subordinate about their sex life? Or comment on their body? Or flirt with them? Or insist they hug you when you walk in the office?
The Times talked to Jonathan Segal, a lawyer who runs anti-harassment training: “At a recent session, a male supervisor talked about having an extra ticket to a sporting event and feeling he could invite only a male colleague; Mr. Segal went over how to invite a female colleague without sexually harassing her.” Seriously? Are men that confused about this?
“What we’re seeing now is men are backing away from the role that we try to encourage them to play, which is actively mentoring and sponsoring women in the workplace,” Al Harris, who has been running workplace equality programs, told the NYT. “There’s apprehension on the part of men that they’re going to be falsely accused of sexual harassment.”
So the end of office sexual harassment means the end of interacting with women in the office, period? Is that really the solution men are coming up with? I had a man proudly tell me a story last week of his friend who refused to hire a woman because she was “too attractive” and thought the lecherous men he worked with would target her. He told the story as if his friend was some kind of hero. Yeah. What a hero. Great job rescuing a woman from employment instead of speaking up against abusive men.
This. Is. Not. Hard.
No, you don’t have to stop interacting with women in the office. No, the holiday party does not need to be cancelled. No, you don’t have to stop mentoring female employees. All you have to do, is behave professionally.
You know, the way you do with all the men in the office.