No Means No: Men Need to Get the Message
Most of the news following the revelation that Harvey Weinstein was a sexual predator has been about and by women. Very few men have contributed much to the conversation. One notable male to have chipped in his two-cents on the topic was the actor Ben Affleck. Affleck was one of the first to comment on how awful Weinstein was.
Then came the video footage of him groping a young woman on the set of a film.
The actor and producer Emma Thompson likened Weinstein to the tip of a vast iceberg of industrialized chauvinistic and misogynistic behaviour.
One thought that is continually dogging me is, “What kind of education did these guys receive?” I do not mean what high school did they graduate from or from what university did they receive their diplomas if any; but, instead, what sort of family values were they steeped in growing up?
Didn’t, at any time, any of their mothers or fathers smack them upside the head (metaphorically speaking, of course) when they said something derogatory, demeaning or degrading to women? Didn’t anyone along the line correct these men and provide them with the notion that what they were saying and doing to women was wrong? Didn’t anyone point out to them that they would not like it if a man used his authority to abuse his mother, sister, wife or daughter (fill in the blank)?
Power-networks of men in full collusion about the activities perpetuated the practice. Since men have been at the root of the problem, they should be the source of the solution, as well.
It is understandable that attractions will occur in the workplace. After all, most workplaces are where we tend to be best groomed, best performing and, in general, on our best behavior. That is a potent combination of appealing characteristics likely to reshape our perspective about the opposite sex. I know of several marriages that have grown out of corporate settings. The two most important aspects of the burgeoning relationships seemed to be mutual professional respect and discretion.
Mutual respect is essential in professional and personal relationships. In this regards personal and professional boundaries exist for a reason: so we can get on with our lives and work with a sense of safety, competence and self-confidence. It is when men, in particular, violate those boundaries that issues erupt.
The most important thing men who are respect-challenged must learn is that “No” means “No” when women respond to their advances in the negative. The woman is not playing hard-to-get in; she is not obstructionist, she is not disrespectful.
She is, however, suddenly thrust into an unbalanced power relationship in which she is most likely to be on the losing end. Men know what they are doing when they force interchange into this space. Moreover, they should stop it.
Also, since this phenomenon is systemic, men who are in the know should tell men who are in the wrong to stop abusing their relationships with women. Sexual predators get away with their offensive behavior because of vast conspiracies of silence, both on the part of women and of men.
So while most men have remained silent on the topic, they need to be far more vocal with their male peers about how to treat their female counterparts.
Power should never overcome civility.