It feels like all out warfare on masculinity. Weinstein, Spacey, Moore, Franken, Rose, Conyers and whomever else will be outted as a sexual predator in the coming days are dominating the news cycle. Women in droves are recalling incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace. What conclusions can we draw? Are most men abusers or a hair trigger away from mistreating women or are we talking about a basket of deplorables? I would like to think, based on my own life experiences, that men who use their positions of power over women and believe that this gives them license to be abusers on some level are in the minority. I have worked as a boss in small and large organizations where many of the employees were women and I can recall only one instance where I had to investigate an incident of sexual harassment nor was any complaint ever made against me for improper behavior towards any of my female subordinates. I have met hundreds of men facilitating men’s groups and never came in contact with a man who was either accused of sexual assault or who bragged about exploiting women in the workplace. On the other hand I do remember that my first boss, a school principal, was notorious in attempting to solicit sexual favors from the women on staff.
The reaction by so many women to the sexual abuses scandals can’t be dismissed. In earlier blogs I did call attention to the issue of defining sexual harassment. As in criminal law, some offenses are misdemeanors and some are felonies. We need to make sure that we are using a similar standard when discussing sexual conduct. An off color joke or improper remark is not the same as groping or explicitly requiring sex for continuing employment or promotion. What’s next?
The female talking heads in the media need to bring more nuance to the discussion and treat the minor harassment issues as more of a cultural issue than a criminal issue. No problem with aggressively pursuing the true predators and making sure they receive the full punishment proscribed in the law. However, if we are going to have a shift in workplace culture, give the majority of men who are thoughtful and willing to look at their own behavior the opportunity to participate in the change process without condemning them as actual or potential abusers.