I am lucky in many ways.
I have never experienced workplace sexual harassment.
I was raised well by parents and teachers who made it clear that the concept of “no means no” is an immutable rule to live by and have always found it easy to follow. In the past, I have found myself attracted to some women only to find that they were simply not attracted to me. While that was frustrating at the time perhaps, it never occurred to me for a second that I should heighten coming on, dropping hints or try to pressure the other person to get intimate with me. It simply wasn’t an option.
It was and is unthinkable to show attraction or get some sort of thrills through surreptitious contact with extended hugs, unsolicited kisses or creepy efforts to brush against women. I sure as hell never considered for a second trying to use a position of workplace authority to try and force a woman to respond to me. The thought of a woman being with me simply because she felt she needed to in order to keep her job is outright repellent. It is just rape using a threat different than a knife to the throat. These rules of living applied and apply inside and outside of the workplace.
It all seemed so common sense to me that I really couldn’t let myself grasp that many men for whatever damned reasons don’t find these simple and respectful rules in dealing with people they are attracted to worth abiding by. I really assumed that this really could only be happening due to a tiny number of men in society.
I was wrong.
The world has changed this year and I think its for the better though the events that surfaced in order to bring about this change are horrifying.
The exposure of Harvey Weinstein was an eye opener. Not only did this man spend decades using his position in order to sexually assault women, he got away with it for decades due to a culture of silence on the issue. These men exist and in numbers higher than any of us like to admit. These men are covered for all the time by both men and women and it has to stop.
The #MeToo movement has exploded and is encouraging all sorts of victims to come out, expose their abuse and most importantly expose their abusers.
I have been dismissive of and annoyed with the #MeToo movement. Often the voices speaking for that movement are coming from the extremes of feminism. Often those extreme feminists are firing out vitriol and are outright attacking the entire gender of men. I tire of being told I am guilty of all ills due to my sex and it puts me on the defensive. This unfortunately has also led to me ignoring the rational voices coming from #MeToo that have been increasingly speaking up. Like any movement, the extreme are often the most vocal. We can’t let them drown out the productive discussions and I can’t use those extremists as an excuse to quit listening to the majority in the movement.
As I can’t directly relate, I need to listen to the people that can and learn from them.
Admittedly, it took listening to a fantastic statement from a politician that I respect before I really tuned in. Better late than never.
Michelle Rempel delivered a fantastic and powerful statement today on Bill C-65 and sexual harassment on Parliament Hill.
It is not just the content of the statement made by Rempel that struck me. It was the emotion. You could see it in her body language and feel it in her tone. Rempel expressed frustration, some anger and some pain in speaking to this issue. In just seeing the live commentary in videos that she does I get a hint of what she deals with. I can’t imagine the entirety of what a good looking woman working in the old boys world of parliamentary politics deals with daily.
So yes, I have not committed sexual harassment in my working life. Have I done anything to stop it though? No. I have not.
I have worked most of my life in a predominantly male industry so have seen few examples of harassment in the field. I suspect I have seen some but never took it as seriously as I should have. I know I never spoke up about it.
Yes. Women have rightly decided that they need to speak up and speak loudly on this issue. Men need to do so too.
I am not saying that all men are guilty. That attitude drives me nuts. I think we all have an obligation as people to speak up when we see something happening though and we have been trained for far too long to simply look the other way. The issue makes us squeamish. The perpetrator is perhaps a friend. Maybe the perpetrator will threaten the job of the man speaking up as well. It doesn’t matter. We have to make it clear that we won’t accept this behavior any longer.
I am often quite critical of Islam. I take issue with the culture of violence and oppression of women that is associated with that faith. I understand that the worst offenders in Islam are in the minority. When confronted with this I usually tell people defending Islam that it is up to them to weed that minority out of their ranks. It is up to the majority of Islam to reform itself so that the minority no longer feels comfortable in acting out. It is up to the majority to expose and correct the violent minority.
If I am to believe the logic I expressed above, does it not stand to reason that the majority of men need to stand up in order to correct the minority who are giving us all a bad name? Is it not up to the majority of us to change the social standards of our sex? If not for the women (and occasionally men) victimized, maybe we should do it for our own sake no? If we are actively and openly working to fix this, it will be much tougher for the extreme and the anti-male to keep trying to tar us all as being the same.
Every case is unique. Trials are now being held on social media rather than in court. Facts are all over the map. Yes. Some of these claims of harassment appear exaggerated and difficult to believe at times. Some are indeed bullshit and they are wrongly ruining some people’s careers. Way too many of these claims are outright true though and are exposing long and ongoing sexual misconduct being perpetrated by people.
Women are going to social media rather than authorities at the workplace or with the law because they feel they have nowhere else to go. There have been too many cover ups. Too many incidents where the victim becomes victimized further as her character is questioned and it is implied that she asked for it. Is it any wonder that conventional channels of complaint are being shunned?
We need to change our outlook. We need to speak up before the small cases become big ones. We need to take all complaints seriously (but still can’t immediately assume all complaints are true as Trudeau implied). We need to make victims understand that they will be supported when they speak up. This is how we will stop this trend of public trials by social media. We need processes in place and we need to follow through with them.
Most of all, we need to change our attitude.
I will finish with one other thing.
I tweeted the other night about how recent incidents will make it more difficult for young women to find jobs in the political workplace (and perhaps others). I still stand by that. I am not saying that this is good or right. I am saying that this is another negative consequence of these sexual harassers are bringing upon people. Even those who were not harassed are being victimized indirectly.
Nobody is winning with the status-quo.