I’m Bracing Myself – The Patriarchy Will Push Back

I do not know a single woman surprised by #MeToo stories. Not one. And as these stories continue to pour out a knot has been tightening in my stomach. I’m waiting for the tipping point; the point at which the narrative changes. I’m waiting for the Duke Lacrosse team moment.

As I type this, I have no doubt that somewhere, someone is looking for that one woman whose claim doesn’t add up. They’ll only need one woman. One false claim to paint the thousands upon thousands of women who have come forward with the same tainted brush. Much like certain men cite the Duke Lacrosse team in every discussion of rape, this woman will be used to cast doubt on every other woman’s experience.

I am bracing for this. I know it’s coming.

Meanwhile, some men are attempting to correct the problem by (inadvertently?) punishing women. This NYT article sums it up. Let’s take a look!

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.

I have no idea why this is confusing. Really, I don’t. But what isn’t confusing is how the men in this article decide the best way to handle workplace sexual harassment:

“Cancel the holiday party,” said Mr. Cunningham, 37, adding that he means just until it has been figured out how men and women should interact.

“When I hear someone on my team is having a pool party, now I’ll say, ‘Hey, maybe no managers should be there,’” Mr. Milton said, relaying the type of information likely to be covered in many companies’ employment manuals.

Still, some workers said they were starting to follow “the Pence rule,” which was formerly known as the Billy Graham rule, after the evangelical preacher, but is now named for Vice President Mike Pence. Mr. Pence has said he does not eat alone with women who are not his wife or attend an event without her if alcohol will be served.

“I came into the office and said, ‘Hey, guys, I’ve got a question for you: This sexual harassment stuff, all these things, do you guys ever worry it’s going to happen here?’” Mr. Lencioni, 52, recalled. “And they were like: ‘No, because we know you. We know who you are.’”

Other men said they had not talked about workplace harassment with anyone because they already knew what they needed to know. “This is a liberal town,” said Philip Rontell, a real estate agent in Walnut Creek, Calif., who added that he supported the #MeToo campaign. “We all already know this stuff.”

Holiday parties and pool parties? First, I can’t believe this topic has been reduced to flippin’ pool parties. Hello? There is a way to attend a pool party and not harass women. It’s not the pool or holiday party that’s the problem. Does anyone understand how exhausting this nonsense is? If stopping pool and holiday parties stopped harassment… I can’t even finish this sentence.

I’d also say that this – adding that he means just until it has been figured out how men and women should interact – completely boggles the mind. If you haven’t figured out how men and women should interact by 37 then you probably shouldn’t be in public.

This “consent is so confusing” argument is 100% BS. We understand consent in every other aspect of our lives. Frankly, I’m tired of explaining it. There’s willful ignorance at play here. People who use the “consent is so confusing” line, do so because they don’t want to change their behavior.

While we’re on this topic, let me say that I hear a lot of: “My women friends don’t have a problem when I do/say (fill in the blank). This line is right up there with: “My black/brown friend doesn’t have a problem with me using the N word, confederate statues, etc.”. What this does is strip individual status from people. It treats them as a monolith where certain behavior can be applied to everyone in the group. And you’d think that the ever present #notallmen would have made everything clearer.

Which brings us to the Pence Rule. There’s two ways to look at this rule. 1) Don’t ever be alone with a women because, ya know, women lie, and 2) Don’t ever be alone with a women because you won’t be able to stop yourself from jumping on top of them. We know the Pence Rule is based on example #1. Women be lying is so ingrained in our culture. Do women lie? Sure. The problem arises when we negate thousands of women’s truths based on a few women’s lies. And yeah, I’m bracing myself for that to happen. Soon.

Then we have Pat Lencioni, the founder of the Table Group, who thinks simply asking the women who work for him, “Hey, guys, I’ve got a question for you: This sexual harassment stuff, all these things, do you guys ever worry it’s going to happen here?” and seemed pleased with the response, “No, because we know you. We know who you are.”

This is not the way to address sexual harassment. (Altho… the answer “No, because we know you. We know who you are” can be taken in different ways. Just sayin’) Notice also, how his question – “…do you guys ever worry it’s going to happen here?” – automatically assumes it isn’t happening there? Not exactly the way to frame a question if you’re seeking an honest response.

Asking this question to a group can make someone with a problem keep quiet. (Not to mention the power dynamic at play. He is the boss.) Can you imagine an employer asking the men who work for him (in a group – Hey guys!) about problems with himself or other employees? How do you think that would go? Would men call out other employees, management, or the employer, in that scenario? I doubt it. This isn’t the way to handle these situations.

Lastly there’s Mr. Philip “This is a liberal town. We all already know this stuff” Rontell. Well, that’s quite dismissive. One more time, sexual harassment/assault isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. It’s a men’s issue. (Altho… I will say liberal men aren’t defending a child molester, so that’s good!)

*** Yes, there are women who are guilty of workplace sexual harassment, and if that’s what you want to focus on, knock yourself out. While you’re at it, toss in a comment about the Duke Lacrosse team or Rolling Stone. It will be just as helpful.

Finally, there’s a voice of reason:

Jonathan Segal, a lawyer who was on the commission’s harassment task force, said he was now fielding odd questions from men about how to behave at work. At a fund-raiser last month in Palm Beach, Fla., some men asked him if it was permissible to hug a woman and where the boundaries should be drawn.

Mr. Segal said he had explained to the men that the context mattered and that pretending there was a gray zone between collegial friendliness and sexual assault was absurd. For instance, he told them, hugging an old friend is very different from going up behind a co-worker while she was at a desk typing.

“If someone can’t understand that, then maybe they just shouldn’t be hugging,” he said.

“The answer to harassment cannot be avoiding women,” he said.

(I love his use of the word odd. The questions are odd.)

That’s what common sense looks like, but I fear we’re heading down the path of avoiding women. All this strikes me as a form of punishment for women who speak up, or those wanting to speak up. Speak up and find yourself cut off.

So yeah, I’m bracing for the backlash. I know it’s coming. I feel it in my bones.









47 comments on “I’m Bracing Myself – The Patriarchy Will Push Back

  1. cassandram

    Backlash, yeah. A couple of things:

    ‘Hey, guys, I’ve got a question for you: This sexual harassment stuff, all these things, do you guys ever worry it’s going to happen here?’ This question = “Do you think I’m a racist?” asked by white people of black people. This question is just meant to ask for validation of the questioner’s moral correctness. And is often (not always and it it important to be attentive) an indicator of someone who isn’t going to be especially reflective about their behavior or way of being in the world.

    One of the things that is sort of astounding is that these guys all have women in their lives who could help them be reflective. But the bottom line is that the rules of consent apply here too. No touching without permission. A loose workplace that is playful and teasing needs to know that where the line is. No means no. We are in this place to get this work done, not to abuse one another.

    The relatively fast way that the world turned for Weinstein, Louis CK, Spacey, et al needs to be central to any lessons learned. Sexual harrassment is seen as detrimental to all of the brands that these guys worked for. And most of these guys have been abandoned — even by entities that have large investments in outstanding projects hanging out there. The fact that you make alot of money for alot of people wasn’t a huge factor in the abandonment of these guys. (Hello NFL!) What will be interesting is how these guys get rehabilitated.

    Last, this is a really interesting moment. My theory is that the recent #metoo campaign is powered by a very great deal of anger which really bubbled over with the election of the GRIFTUS. The grab them by the pussy tape was genuinely appalling and people (AND WOMEN) still voted for someone who was an admitted abuser of women. Add to that the persistent assault on women’s rights by these people and women have just been angry for a year. While we have been trying to focus people on local change, I think that calling out abusers is part of that local change.

    • This! 100% this!

      I didn’t quote this from the article, but I should have.

      “In response, some men are forming all-male text groups at companies or in their industries to brainstorm on harassment issues. 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. Others are struggling to reconcile how these behaviors could happen even among men who believe in equal rights.”

      All-male text groups? Wonder what’s missing there.

      And… Newsflash: the line between friendliness and sexual harassment is well defined. It’s not blurry.

  2. If the response from this kind of guy is to avoid women, isn’t that a good thing?

    • Doubt it. “that guy” will just retreat to his parent’s basement to post on 4chan and buy guns. That won’t end well.

      • Why not? There are millions of guys like that. Most never get out of the basement.

    • But what if it’s your employer? That will impact your career. Even if it’s a co-worker that could still hurt your job. Will he avoid you on team projects? There’s a much easier solution than avoiding women.

      • I’ve got a news flash for you: If you’re working for that kind of guy, there’s only one way to advance your career, whether he offers it to you or not.

  3. See Will Bunch’s current column at He calls this the 21st century’s first revolution.

  4. “I’m waiting for the Duke Lacrosse team moment.” That women lied and falsely accused, 3 players.

    Doesn’t sound like these women are lying. Very bad analogy.

    • Moore’s victims arent lying.
      But literally hundreds of women are now comming foward to name shitty men. Out of those of accusations, hundredsof them, one or 2 may end up being false.. The right wing media will use those couple to discredit everyone else.

      • cassandram

        One argument that is getting weaponized in this atmosphere is the women who were not believed who came forward to accuse Bill Clinton. The Atlantic has a particularly clueless article up — inventorying the allegations and how these women were not believed in an effort to get their “both sides do it” on. It is the tip of the spear of the pushback, I think.

        • I was thinking about that earlier. Bill Clinton, that is.
          Im not sure I DON’T believe that Slick Willy is guilty of sexual misconduct. He is a powerful, charismatic guy… basically fit ts the profile.
          What do you think? What does everyone think for that matter?

          My take is (and this is universal, not just limited to public figures).. one accuser should be taken very seriously.. multiple accusers are almost a guarantee of bad behavior.
          Bill Clinton, regardless of how he performed as a president, has multiple accusers. He had.. and very likely initiated.. a sexual relationship with a woman who was, only 3 years previous, a minor.

        • We knew this was coming. And there will be soooo much more of this.

          I have never, and will never, defend Bill Clinton’s behavior. (That won’t be enough for some people) I’ll be labeled as his defender simply because I’m a Dem. Doesn’t matter what I say, because what I say, and have said, hurts their made-up narrative.

          The framing of this discussion is 100% BS. They simply cannot accept that this isn’t a D and R issue – that it’s a men’s issue. It’s how each side excuses themselves from the problem. It’s like they have a scorecard. How many of these men are Ds? How many of these men are Rs? And whoever has more names on the list means… I have no idea. All the while ignoring that every name on that list has one thing in common. That hits a little to close to home. This is exactly what we deal with when it comes to white, male shooters.

          If we really addressed the issue we would be talking about men’s behavior. We’d be discussing toxic masculinity and how it shapes boys and men – how it hurts boys and men.

          Pretending sexual assault/harassment is political is nonsense and really lazy. Pretending they care about sexual assault/harassment with these articles is also a lie. If they cared they would have been writing about it a lot more before now. That’s one of the reasons I know the backlash is coming. They’ll need a new spin on this eventually.

          • It absolutely does matter what you say. And, FWIW, I never once thought you were giving Bill a pass. Other Democrats, and more broadly ‘liberals’, can and should throw Bill under the bus.
            As an aside, I am highly critical of Leader Pelosi, but one of the things she did that I respect the most was casting aside Anthony Weiner immediately. He was one of my favorite pols prior to his fall. But he betrayed a lot I stand for and what he made me (and others) think he stood for. Pelosi threw him to the wolves and I have total respect for that decision.
            It feels like, and I say this in a celebratory way, not a paranoid one.. that we are in a purge. I fully support this. Men we have come to admire as entertainers or public figures are being shown to be not who we thought they were (although Billy Eichner has been calling out Kevin Spacey for years and everyone just laughed it off)
            No one should be safe from this. Not because of how it looks politically, but because it is the right thing to do.
            Conservatives are closing rank around their men-folk, because that is what they do. They protect cops, they protect ceos, they protect predators. Let them. Better people should do better. So what’s my rambling point? The focus will be turned back on Bill Clinton as a part of a GOP effort to protect their own and stop this revolution. I say he be handed a ball and chain and abandoned.

          • cassandram

            I don’t doubt Mr. Bill has abuse issues. But his problems will always have an asterisk called Ken Starr. He spent 70M of tax payer funds abetted by who knows how much his wingnut allies spent in trying to take Clinton down on the charges made by these women. Most were immunized (Willey was immunized twice because she lied the first time), interviewed, investigated and it all came up inconclusive. Starr may have been incompetent. But the fact that the man who was paid to find dirt on Clinton couldn’t is always going to be the question in my mind for this.

  5. “the line between friendliness and sexual harassment is well defined. It’s not blurry.”

    In your experience that may be true. However, in many non-professional environments, men engage in friendly grabass (horseplay). Much of that behavior would constitute sexual harassment if they did it with women. As result, women must be (are) treated differently in many workplaces. Men know how to interact with other men. Creating an all male text group is simply creating a safe space that they understand. It could be that they use it to plot their revenge, but I’m guessing that they just want to be able to share in benign environment and use it to help each other find their way in (what is for them at least) a strange new world.

    I’ve had both men and women in my life who I considered overly friendly. For some they were that way with everyone. For others they were that way with just me and it was difficult to tell whether there was a sexual (power) component to that friendliness. It’s just not a bright line, unless they were offering or demanding a BJ.

    • “In your experience that may be true. However, in many non-professional environments, men engage in friendly grabass (horseplay). Much of that behavior would constitute sexual harassment if they did it with women.”

      That. Right. There…. is a perfect example of the toxic masculinity culture. “friendly grabass…” or “play groping’ is first of all, kind of homophobic, it is also something most people are uncomfortable with until they are peer pressured into accepting it as ‘normal’. Plus, from personal experience, if you tell other boys you’re not about that kind of playing, it’s stops being play and they get pretty nasty about it. You might as well have said ‘boys will be boys” ffs.

      Sexual harassment is also rarely about sex. It is about power. Why do people (men) still need this explained to them?
      There is nothing friendly about it. People know when you’re being genuine vs manipulative. Guys think the are being sly when they “act friendly” so “get a woman”….. my bro… they all see right through your (and everyone else’s) act.
      Finally.. a male only test area as a “safe space”? stop. no. Just fuck right the fuck off with that. You even suggested, then EXCUSED, the idea that it was some revenge plot. Dave i obviously know nothing about you other than that comment, but based on that comment, you are part of the problem of this culture. While you may have never treated anyone with disrespect, your thoughts on the matter show that you are not ready to be part of the solution.

    • We are discussing professional environments – my post is on workplace sexual harassment. That said, in many friendly environments the people (men and women) know each other and know each others boundaries. Unless you’re saying that men who are strangers randomly “grabass” each other in bars and parks? Talk about some toxic masculinity. I’m 100% certain there are men who were deeply uncomfortable with the “grabass” horseplay. Wonder why they didn’t speak up, hmmm?

      And would this “grabass” be okay if an openly gay man did this to a straight man? In some cases, sure, but in others… LOL! This soooo wouldn’t be okay. That would be different. Why? Maybe because it made the straight man uncomfortable? Maybe because the straight man felt the “grabass” was sexual? We really need to stop this boys will be boys (and all boys act this way) narrative. It hurts boys and men by narrowly defining what true male behavior is. Not all men fall into this box, but, lord knows, we keep trying to put them there by our limited definition of masculinity. And not all men know how to interact with men. Men aren’t a monolith.

      If you experienced a woman/man being overly friendly with just you then you have every right to wonder why. I’d say you kept wondering because a line wasn’t crossed. You know, this is exactly what women do. We don’t view every friendly action or compliment as harassment – why do some men insist on throwing the baby out with the bath water.

      I swear, consent isn’t difficult – we do it every single day, and only seem confused when it comes to sexual harassment. Altho, sometimes I wonder if throwing up their hands in defeat is a way to avoid changing the behavior.

      • Yeah, that grabass nonsense is part of the male dominance rituals. It’s not as fraternal as guys would like to pretend it is; it’s a way of establishing pecking order.

        • In my experience (with speaking with men), the guys who like/laugh about “grabassing” are usually at the top of the pecking order in that environment, or are trying to move up/fit in in the pecking order. So much of this is male peer pressure (as Ben points out).

  6. Pandora: I understand your trepidation, but I am here to talk you out of it. My sense is that this time really is different. Maybe it’s because of Trump and how he got away with this while everyone else is made to pay. Maybe it’s because the millennial generation has zero tolerance for this crap, shaming their elders into paying attention.

    I don’t know why this time is different, but you can just tell it is. People like Spacey and C.K., who skated for years on the uncertainty surrounding their predation, have been outed. Scandals have broken out in 12 state capitals. Public support that rallied around Cosby has vanished.

    If you haven’t yet, read Will Bunch’s column on this. We will never go back.

    • I agree with alby. It feels different now. Men are acting differently when it’s only men-folk around. I think i understand why you feel the way you do, but I also think this wave is much more of a broken-dam situation.

      Also, please know… and I apologize that this might come off as patriarchy-ish/ white-knighty… I am ready to fight (dirty if needed) for you and women in general. You* should obviously take the lead, but im here to fight every step of the way. I really dont care about other men’s feelings or their safe spaces. They need to change themselves or face the consequences.

      • Thank you for being an ally, Ben. Your voice carries more weight than mine with other men. I’ve linked to the studies showing how men calling out other men’s behavior makes a real difference. We need men’s voices.

    • Fingers crossed, but I’m skeptical.

      • Remember, this is ultimately a form of dominance, or bullying. You stop a bully by standing up to him. In this case it’s “them,” not “him,” but it works the same way. Women have stood up. The bully’s strength has been revealed as a sham.

        There is no going back.

  7. “You even suggested, then EXCUSED, the idea that it was some revenge plot.”

    I said that it could be the case, but I was guessing that it wasn’t the case. Regardless, my point, which Alby said much better than I did is and remains:

    “Yeah, that grabass nonsense is part of the male dominance rituals. It’s not as fraternal as guys would like to pretend it is; it’s a way of establishing pecking order.”

    And it isn’t a new ritual. Men have been practicing it for thousands of years. Women historically and generally were not a part of it because men and women operated in different spheres. Perhaps women have their own dominance rituals. Not being one, I don’t know. But I do know that there is an uncertainty among men about how they practice those rituals when it comes to women. It would be nice to eliminate those rituals, but since it’s a prevalent male characteristic throughout the animal kingdom, I would guess that it will still be around for quite a long time – at least until males evolve.

    Lest anyone think that I offer excuses for abhorrent behavior, you just don’t know me well enough. I attempt to understand such things and with understanding perhaps come to some solutions. I don’t do outrage. I find it unproductive.

    • you took all those words to say, again, Boys will be Boys.
      Not wanting to participate in that “normal male behavior” gets a lot of boys ostracized, bullied etc. They either are lucky enough to have a good support system and actual good male role models so they dont become that, or they bow to peer pressure and become part of the problem. People are trying to change that. The problem comes from people who dont see how toxic it really is. (you)
      As to “uncertanty” about how to act….
      how about this. DONT. FUCKING. TOUCH. ANYONE. UNTIL. THEY. SAY. THEY. WANT. YOU. TO. How hard is that?

      And “animal kingdom”?! cmon, dude. A lot of animal kingdom reproduction would be violent rape if it were human, so maybe dont excuse male behavior as “well animals do it”…. however, to really further that analogy, we castrate aggressive male dogs, so… just think about that.
      I know, I know, Im mad an emotional and insulting you. Get used to it.

    • Maybe I’m missing it, Dave, but I’m not seeing where you’re trying to understand things.


    I have to firmly agree with Ben. We taught our Son to respect others. And our Daughter’s?? I’ll stick up for them 100%, if they punch some guy in the face, for touching them in an inappropriate way.

    @ Alby, “Public support that rallied around Cosby has vanished.” That’s a crock, his show is still on the air. CK is off Nextflix.

  9. I didn’t know or care that they show reruns of an ’80s show. I said his public support, that is, people defending him by throwing doubt on the accusers. That has dried up.

  10. “Maybe I’m missing it, Dave, but I’m not seeing where you’re trying to understand things.”

    Nope. You are not missing it. You don’t see it because I was not trying to demonstrate it. I merely offered as comment an observation on (hu)man behavior, which for some reason was taken as rationalizing or excusing such behavior. My attempts at understanding things are not limited to this blog or indeed any of the blogosphere.

    Everyone seems to agree that it is about domination. Males have long excelled in exhibiting this behavior. If this behavior is a cultural norm, then recent events are serving a purpose of changing this norm. My question is, whether there is sufficient research and evidence to attribute it solely to cultural norms. It’s kind of a pretty academic dry observation and question. I’m not sure I see why it should generate all caps responses of outrage.

    To put it more simply, there is plenty of scholarship on men and our aggressive dominant behavior, including the predisposition as a consequence of genetic factors. So, I wonder how much culture can suppress/overcome/mitigate such behavior. Culture is and should be changing. I just wonder about the efficacy of cultural change when it relates to such base characteristics.

    • Well, looks like we might be in luck: seems like natural selection is deeming those traits biologically undesirable. Evolution at work..

    • I asked, Dave, because you wrote this above: “Lest anyone think that I offer excuses for abhorrent behavior, you just don’t know me well enough. I attempt to understand such things and with understanding perhaps come to some solutions. I don’t do outrage. I find it unproductive.”

      So… you’re not trying to understand this issue? That might be true since all your comments really do say exactly the same thing – boys will be boys.

      • That seem unfair. He’s talking about psychology and socialization and their connection, or lack thereof, to biology. And he specifically said he WAS trying understand such things.

        • He said he wasn’t trying to understand; that I wasn’t missing it. I have no idea what point he’s trying to make, altho I do see a common thread in his comments.

          • I think he was saying that you misread his intention as excusing the behavior. He wrote, “I attempt to understand such things”. I read that as saying he doesn’t understand it yet but he’s trying. YMMV

  11. RE Vanella

    If anyone believes we don’t have the capacity to overcome some base vestigial drive at this point you’re borderline sick.

    We aren’t fucking chimpanzees in the forests of West Africa. Wondering whether we can behave outside primal urges is a goddamn insult.

    These “thought experiments” don’t make you a deep thinker.

    • The vestigial drive reasoning is really insulting to men. If someone believes this then they should not be in charge of things. Never know when those primal urges will overrule logic and reasoning.

      To me, this boils down to: certain men do not want to change their behavior.

  12. Except we ARE chimpanzees. Just not in the forests of West Africa. The only difference between chimp behavior and human behavior is our ability to rationalize that behavior afterwards.

  13. RE Vanella

    We evolved from great apes. We aren’t them. We can rationalize our behavior before we act actually.

    I suggest reading H Allen Or, Jerry Coyne or Richard Dawkins on this topic.

  14. RE Vanella

    I’ve mistyped Dr Orr’s name.

    And on that note, I’m done with this topic.

  15. “We can rationalize our behavior before we act actually.”

    But most people don’t. The research on this is vast.

    I’ve read Richard Dawkins. The others I don’t care about, because I don’t care about “evolutionary psychology.” I base my opinion not on human psychology but primate research. I see little difference in the behavior of chimps and humans.

    • Also, we did not evolve from “great apes.” We evolved from a common ancestor.

  16. Usually I avoid melees like this but I will say the conversation is distinctly headed towards “all men are bad”, especially with the very recent Al Franken reveal. Not all men are bad, not all men are predators, far from it. But I will say that rich, powerful and famous men are far more frequently the bad actors, predators and all round loathsome creeps. And they usually get away with it as money and power will do that for you. Trump and Moore come to mind, but so does Bill Clinton and many others. Want to have an impact? Ban Trump’s favorite non disclosure agreement in sexual abuse cases, money should not buy silence in cases like this.

    • No one is saying all men are bad. I will say it isn’t only rich, powerful and famous men. Rich and powerful are subjective. Domestic violence/sexual harassment (money and power) exist in a trailer park as well as Hollywood. That’s the point. This is so much bigger than the Famous Names we know. In fact, this problem impacts the women we don’t know – and men whose names we don’t know – at an equal or greater rate.

    • Wikwax dont think of it as “all men are bad” (which no one on this thread has even come close to saying)

      … think of it as, the archetype of what a “man” is, as created by society, is bad. (or at least really poorly defined)

      He takes what he wants, he “gets” a woman (and that is left up to his interpretation).. he fights for whats “his”, he has a really big.. “set of accomplishments” and is encouraged to brag about them and lord them over others.
      You can go the pious and religious route, but then he is the MASTER of HIS home, responsible for providing for HIS family, while his wife toils, his sons grow strong and his daughters … wait to get married off.
      It’s easy to see how so many Y chromosome possessing humans can turn into such “men”.

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