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.