It’s been two months since the Harvey Weinstein story catapulted issues of sexual harassment and assault to the forefront. Unsurprisingly, men are trying really, really hard to make this about themselves and their “struggle” to understand what are, in actuality, pretty clear-cut lines between appropriate behavior and sexual harassment or assault.
Let me count the ways. The Associated Press recently published a story on how men are freaking out about how they can’t just go around hugging female colleagues. Vox instituted a two-drink limit for its company holiday party this year to curb “unprofessional behavior,” which Twitter asshats took to be about “repression.” And a recent survey from the Barna Group showed a number of alarming things, including that one in four men don’t think exposing themselves at work is a problem and that one in five men thought a colleague shouldn’t be fired for sexually harassing someone.
The general message these men are sending? “Women are sooooo confusing and such buzzkills! What a strange new world!”
I’m going to offer a different interpretation to these guys: Stop blaming women and everybody else for your own bullshit. The world was always this way, and we’re over it.
Let’s get some facts straight:
1. Organizations aren’t suddenly keeping you from interacting women; they’re making the (unfortunately, very late) realization that much of the behavior in workplaces wasn’t appropriate to begin with. One of the men in the gross Associated Press article about hugging says he tells people to “treat everybody the way you’d want them to treat your sister.”
First of all, a workplace relationship is and should be different than a familial or personal one. You can also talk about treating women like human beings without having to relate them to people in your family. And second, last time I checked, not being able to hug a colleague or ask her out on a date doesn’t interfere with your ability to produce quality work together.
2. To be clear, alcohol isn’t the problem; sexual harassment and assault are the problem, and alcohol is a scapegoat for that awful behavior. But make no mistake: That behavior is still bad no matter the circumstances. And guess what? Plenty of people drink without sexually violating another person.
Your colleagues shouldn’t have to “just deal with it”; it’s on you to not do it. And it’s also on men to intervene when they see another guy behaving badly.
3. Companies are enacting new policies and serving up consequences because of problems like one in four of y’all thinking whipping out your dick at your place of work isn’t an issue or an act of sexual violence. Moreover, two-thirds of men think asking a female colleague repeatedly on a date without solicitation isn’t sexual harassment.
“But office romances happen all the time!” Yeah, but incidents of men pulling out their penises, pursuing women who’ve already turned them down multiple times, and taking women to drinks or dinner under the pretense of “career development” only to proposition them for sexual favors happen far more often. One more time for the men in the nosebleeds: That’s on you.
There’s a popular unattributed quote that reads, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” That’s the phenomenon at play here. When wildly awful behavior has gone unchecked for all of human history, it’s hard when someone says it’s not okay.
More importantly, however, is that it’s crucial to realize that the problem isn’t that this behavior was all good yesterday and suddenly isn’t today; it was never good. It was never okay. It was never acceptable. What changed is that we’re at a point where enough women are tired of being told this is just the way things are and that they just need to grin and bear it and suck it up.
So men, here’s the deal: This movement you’re seeing isn’t about your world getting smaller. It’s about other people’s worlds getting bigger. There’s a difference. And it’s not all about you.