Throughout recorded history, men have generally treated women badly. They possessed them, raped them, impregnated them and tortured them all in the name of superiority. As my wife and I have been reading in the Old Testament, we’ve run across countless stories of women being treated badly, even unto death. We have shaken our heads reading the stories and wondered why, just why? Sure there are stories of female heroes, like Deborah the judge, Ruth and Esther. But they are overshadowed by the abuse written about. How are we to reconcile that against that of the loving God?
The New Testament tends to take a softer tone in large part due to Jesus’ treatment of the women around him as well as the ones he encounters along the way. And while women are still not treated as equals, it’s better. That is, until you get to the Epistles and the Apostle Paul seems to “put women in their rightful place,” not speaking in Church or ministering to others.
As we look to today’s sexual harassment revelations, where not a day goes by that one, two, three more men are unmasked as sexual predators or at the least, harassers, I am reminded of a familiar set of verses from the New Testament:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28)
We men are all guilty. We’ve done it. Even the most righteous Letter-day Saint man. Even the most devout Christian (think: Jimmy Carter) has done it. Once, twice, maybe multiple times a day…..
Many of us older men were brought up in the era where our Moms stayed home and Dad worked. The movies and TV were pretty benign, except for hints of sexuality now and then. Married couples slept in twin beds and babies appeared out of nowhere. But yet, there was Playboy Magazine and the lifestyle it promoted. And there were always the pretty girls. Magazines, newspapers, TV, movies and personal appearances. They were sold to us on their looks, that we should desire them. They were being exploited for commercial gain. And yet, we were also taught to be respectful. But perhaps not well enough. Hormones and high school brought about a whole other level of issues. Boys were challenged by one another to date this girl or that girl in hopes of “going all the way.” It was encouraged, bets were made, names were called for failure. And the seeds of sexual harassment were sown in the form of unwanted advances and even worse, rape. With the victims too ashamed to report it, it emboldened the rapists. They say that rape is a crime of power rather than sex, but for hormone and peer-pressured boys, it was both.
I can somewhat guarantee that his type of behavior was more prevalent among the jocks and BMOCs (Big Men on Campus) than among the marching band or scholars, though we had our moments. So you can begin to see a parallel with those who held the power in the organization versus those that did not. That’s not to say that some girls willingly pursued the jock types, but that would never give license for harassment or sexual battery. Some girls may have, in fact, felt forced to maintain relationships lest they be branded as a “loose girl, a slut or worse.” Another parallel.
In the intervening years, standards in movies were slowly relaxed and nudity was introduced. Ironically, it was mostly, if not all, female nudity. Nobody was real interested in seeing male genitalia (though that has changed too), but men were very eager to see the undressed female form to the point where gratuitous nude scenes were added that had no real bearing on the story. In fact, it was typical that a nude scene, often a shower scene, would appear within the first 5 minutes or so of the movie, signaling to the men that a good time was ahead. Madison Avenue took full advantage of these loosened standards to portray women in all stages of undress. Ads perhaps aimed at women but pleasing to the man’s eye. No need to get the popcorn. And of course, the Internet provides easy access to pornography, which has always objectified women and created a false standard that most normal women have a hard time living up to.
Fast forward to today. Many of us could probably relate a story about a situation where something happened, but we chose not to do anything about it. I have one where I did speak up.
An employee and I were attend a multi-day field meeting out of town. One of the activities in the evening was bowling. I’m sure you say to yourself, what could possibly happen at a bowling alley? Well, my employee was a very attractive female and our field guys were middle-aged men. And, there was drinking involved. So where was the problem?
Well, the guys on the team with my employee would get hugs from her every time they made a half-way decent shot. So much so that the guys on the opposing team did it too. Again, alcohol played a part.
When we went back to the hotel, I took her aside and told her that I wanted those guys to respect her. She was extremely bright and was very good at her job. When she gets up to do her presentation, that was what I want them to see. She started to cry and said “I never thought about that.” Now, this woman went on to be the CEO of some very successful tech companies. It was an important lesson I learned that night.
Men need to be ashamed. Perhaps not for their own actions, but for the fact that they know someone or have read about the hideous accounts of the men in Hollywood, business and the media. They should be appalled at the double standard of our politics (though double standards and politics go hand-in-hand anyway)
Men need to teach their sons respect for women, to treat them as equals and never, ever do anything that could be construed as not receive explicit consent.
In the LDS Church, the Young Men need regular lessons on not just honoring and revering their Priesthood, but how to treat Young Women and their future wives. Teach modesty if you wish, but respect for one another is probably much, more important.
After all, there are now windows in every classroom in the Church. It’s not because of the women.
“Teach modesty if you wish, but respect for one another is probably much, more important.”
In an uneven power dynamic, the group in charge will always have more ability to change the culture than the group they ‘preside’ over. If you look at what is happening in current culture, the #MeToo campaign has given women away to speak up about something that everyone knows has been going on for a very long time. While that is wonderful and good, it’s the firing of these men in powerful positions that is creating a standard of behavior that will hopefully live on. But it isn’t the women that are able to fire these men (or perhaps there might be a woman included in the decision if she’s worked her way up to a board room), but other men.
I have no illusions about the morality of those doing the firing. I have no doubt that any number of them also have histories of harassment and/or were very aware of what was going on but turned a blind eye in the name of filthy lucre. At the same time, they are the ones with the power. So I’ll adapt the above a bit: “Teach modesty as a virtue, but respect for one another and enforcing behavioral standards of non-harrassemnt is probably much more important.’
Thanks, I agree completely
Yep – A lot of times I feel real same for my gender’s actions – and shame for how much my white race has and continues to be oppressive to many races and categories of people. As I mentioned a week or so, I am thankful that the church did teach me one way in which to respect women. I don’t carry around a bunch of guilt for things like this that I have done. Growing up I never had the confidence to do many of the “bad” things, plus I was confused and scared about how girls/women “worked” (I still am to an extent, mainly on the “confused” part though). I do have guilt for not trying to help others, including women, when I saw them in vulnerable social situations where they could have used someone to come to their defense.
I am still trying to work through this, but for me the shame was more a reaction of the realization – me being able to see that I am a racist even though I have not used the “N” word for probably 3 decades. The realization of the many privileges that I have even without lifting a finger.
But just self-loathing in shame doesn’t help me and it doesn’t really help those that need help. I am working now how to actually do something about it. One SMALL step that I was really surprised at the reaction was me always addressing the RS/YW/Primary presidents as “President” when addressing issues with their calling. Every sister that I did this too seemed a bit taken back and commented on it. I explained that they are the president of the organization. Their reaction made me realize even more the lack of respect women often get.
So I agree with what you say Jeff. What do we DO about it? What do even those of us that are not the worst guys not just sit back and instead counteract those that perpetuate the issues? Posts like this are one of the starting points and I appreciate that you did this.
No. I refuse to be ashamed of something I didn’t do.
I can stand for equality and against inapproprite actions. But I would not expect all females to feel generalized shame for the fact that most physical abuse of children is perpetuated by female caretakers.
The gospel teaches us of personal accountability. Not group guilt.
The problem with painting with such a large brush is that it feeds into the idea that since everyone is guilty, there’s nothing that can be done about it and we shouldn’t try. it’s the same thought that takes “the poor will always be with us” and responds with “poverty won”. it’s the same thought that sees a particular part of the Church and declares as often and as loudly as possible that it’s all horrible.
I was just reading a good article on how Condi Rice helped fix the “war on gangs” in Los Angeles in the 90s. Rather than continuing to treat the police as the enemy, she listened to them individually and worked to change hearts and minds to bring the whole community together, with amazing results.
I’m not saying we need to stop bringing attention to , stopping, and prosecuting those who abuse. I’m saying we need to do more to stop creating a faceless enemy that we can rage against. Men are not a faceless group that can’t help themselves. Posts like this may be cathartic, but they certainly aren’t helpful in trying to fix the problems that exist.
I don’t see getting men to feel guilt or shame is the goal (unless they have harassed/abused someone themselves), rather the goal is awareness, consciousness, acceptance of the reality of the problem with a willingness to make some organizational/cultural/personal changes, and of course a willingness to stand up when others are being harassed/abused,
Your anecdote about the bowling night is weird.
“I can somewhat guarantee that his type of behavior was more prevalent among the jocks and BMOCs (Big Men on Campus) than among the marching band or scholars, though we had our moments.”
This kind of attitude needs to go. At my school the band kids had a general reputation like that portrayed in American Pie and there was lots of sexual harassment because of the culture.
We also need to be careful when explaining to the young men what they’re doing to the young women. I remember in Priest’s Quorum the demonstration of putting your hand in the cake and ruining it.
Great visual on why to not have premarital sex but at the same time left us understanding that any woman who had sex was now damaged goods.
I guess I didn’t attend your high school.
You say: ” I have one [a story] where I did speak up.” Then the story you recount describes how you instructed the woman and nothing about how you spoke up to the men. I’m tired of stories where men tell women how to protect themselves or protect their reputations or be known for their brains not their bodies.
I want stories where men tell men to avoid coercing, harming, threatening harm, harassing, etc. In the case of your story, what if you had instead talked to the men about how drinking so much and hugging during a work-related activity may cause folks to view them as irresponsible (for allowing alcohol to impede their better judgment) and possibly as harassing (if their colleague felt pressured to accept the hugs)? What if you had suggested that they avoid imbibing alcohol to that level and they ask for high-fives or just give a hearty “way to go” to congratulate good bowlers?
Conversations about chastity should include the atonement and consent. Even in marriage consent still needs to be sought and given by all parties.
I agree with AuntM. That was where I expected your bowling story to go. I doubt that your comment to HER was any sort of revelation. The dudebros were the ones who needed correction. Men holding men accountable was the big point of the OP up to that point, or so I thought. That is an important point to be made. Of course, women should be on our guard, but it’s exhausting for a woman to have to be the one to make a fuss all the time.
There is some collective shame out there, I’m sure, particularly in certain age groups as men look back at their younger years and wonder “How different am I from Al Franken?” His case is particularly important, IMO, because he didn’t veer into assault. Most good guys haven’t assaulted women, but many of them have turned a blind eye to harassment or jokes about women’s bodies or lack of respect for women–even if they themselves did not harass, joke or treat women dismissively.
Not your shame Jeff. Not my husband’s or my son’s. But be assured I’d be cutting no slack if it was. How about we all speak out when we’re uncomfortable? I keep collegiate relationships very formal, and find I have little problem, but for my daughters it has been a very different issue and they constantly struggle with unwanted attention.
How about we all take responsibility for collegiate behaviour, gender notwithstanding?
Wait your one story about the one time you spoke up was… A story about how you said nothing to the men and then chided HER and made her feel embarrassed and ashamed of how she chose to deal with being harassed? Even though you know full well that if she had chosen any less “cool girl” way of dealing with it then she would have faced repercussions… And you almost certainly wouldn’t have stepped in to help her? And you think you did a good thing here?
Yeah, it’s awesome that you weren’t hugging her (I’m assuming that was the case), but you telling her that she needed to be more on guard about protecting her reputation is equivalent to telling her she needs to dress differently to deserve any respect. It might be helpful career advice (as you indicated), but it doesn’t really do much to change the culture that requires her to be so cautious. To put it another way, giving a girl a can of mace isn’t really speaking up against rape culture. It’s just recognizing it as a fact of life. Mentioning the windows in all those church doors is recognizing the problem as a fact of life. If I understand the post correctly, the point is we need to do something to make it *not* a fact of life.
Here is the flip side of this situation, when a female calls a male out for bad behavior. I was a student in an 8th grade classroom at the time. I don’t know where the teacher was, or if this was during the time before the bell rang when a bunch of students were standing around. One of the boys grabbed the chest of the girl in front of me. I told him to knock it off, so his attention turned to me and asked if I wanted to be next. I was way out of my comfort zone just to say something the first time. This wasn’t my normal peer group, and I am not used to direct confrontation. All I could say was “No!” and hope it never came up again.
I’ve also been in situations personally when I had to choose to say something or be quiet and hope it would pass. Believe it or not, speaking up didn’t help, it just reinforced that I was powerless to enforce my own boundaries. I am sure some women grow up with powerful defenders (father/brothers/guy friends) and have confidence that their complaints will be dealt with fairly, but for the rest of us, where are the MEN? Complaining about abuse is brushed off as over-reacting, especially when there is no proof, so we just stay quiet and hope it won’t get worse.
I probably should have assumed that my story would garner the most attention as the commenters seek to assume, extrapolate and attribute feelings that they could not know having not been there.
Let me add some more facts that maybe I should have added.
1. The incident was 29 years ago.
2. The behavior at the bowling alley was consensual. She ran up to them. It was NOT harassment. It was inappropriate behavior fueled by alcohol.
3. I probably should have done something, but many of the people there were my superiors and knew my boss well. (This is a probably huge cop out(
4. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about those guys, I cared about my employee. Those off-site meetings were typically male dominated where the major objectives after work was to a. Get Drunk, b. Go to strip clubs, and c. Possibly pass out in some strange place. The bowling outing was highly unusual.
I didn’t expect some of the comments to be directed at me for trying to protect my employee from using bad judgement in the future. I find the false equivalents to be just amazing.
There was a study awhile ago that was interesting to me. Researchers discovered that men were much more likely to admit to coercing or threatening a woman to have sexual intercourse, or to having sex with a woman who was too drunk to consent, than would admit to ever raping a woman. In their minds, they seem to have justified coercive or threatening sex as something other than rape. It makes me wonder, with rapists going around believing they are not rapists, how many men might there be who inaccurately believe that they have never sexually harassed a woman? To give one example, when I was a married graduate student, a fellow grad student kissed me suddenly, without warning, and without provocation. When I pushed him away and confronted him about his behavior, he was sincerely puzzled. He told me he knew I wanted it because I always wore a perfume he liked (I had no idea of his perfume preferences) and because my knee touched his once (our seats were crammed together in our seminar room.) If you were to ask this guy if he ever sexually harassed a woman, I am 100% confident that he would say that he had never done such a thing in his life.
My experience (and there has been A LOT of it) is that too many men perceive their own harassing or threatening behaviors to be harmless flirtations and/or mistake women’s behavior as showing signs of interest when no interest is being expressed. Also, considering the sexual harassment accusations in the news, many of the accused are saying they don’t remember ever doing the things they are accused of. I believe some legitimately might not remember what they’ve done, because what transpires in a world where men can get away with this sort of behavior is that it is so wide-spread it becomes invisible to the perpetrators themselves. In other words, a behavior that might devastate or seriously undermine the confidence of a woman (or man) might be encoded in the aggressor’s mind as nothing but harmless chit-chat, and in some of those cases I am willing to bet, that no long lasting memory of the incident is even formed.
So, when a man says he’s never sexually harassed a woman, I will provisionally take his word for it, but, I often kind of wonder in the back of my mind if they have, but just don’t know it.
Also, Jeff, I am sorry, but what you did to your female colleague was completely inappropriate and misdirected. I am sure you meant well, but this illustrates how many well-meaning men might have no idea that they are behaving inappropriately. (Not saying your behavior was sexual harassment, just saying that it was more akin to victim blaming and was utterly unhelpful and, by the sound of it, very uncomfortable for this woman.)
Yep, your superiors were there Jeff, so you didn’t speak up to them 29 years ago. That’s the boat women sink in daily. Our superiors are there making inappropriate comments, advances, touches, demands sexually–and if we speak up we lose our jobs, promised no references, are labeled as sluts, accused of coming on to them, and told we really wanted it but can’t admit it. The consequences of saying no are just as bad as enduring the harassment. Further, anyone who believes you is treated poorly in the company or Ward. The dread, the anxiety, the disgust, restless nights, bad dreams, trying to uglify yourself to be un-tempting–if men could only live it for one year the whole filth of sexual harassment would come to an abrupt end. Good men need to get loud and start profoundly telling their damn superiors to knock it the hell off! Don’t you get it?–they’ve never listened to the women……they just don’t listen to us at all.
I want to clarify that I am not trying to call into doubt any of the men’s assertions on this thread that they have not sexually harassed anyone, I was just making a general observation about sexual harassment blind-spots.
I do agree with you that men use false clues to justify their actions. The common theme we hear these days from many of the men is, “I don’t remember it that way.” because they rationalize the false clues and can’t admit they crossed the line.
On my own experience, I disagree. You aren’t there, you can’t judge how it all turned out.
Jeff – I don’t object to what you did to help the female co-worker. As long as the conversation was well handled, you were probably helpful (and I have no reason to assume this wasn’t so, but it is a gray area that could be problematic).
I think people are reacting badly to the story less because of the story but because you used it as a way to explore men taking more responsibility for their behavior toward women. You did take more responsibility. But you did so by putting the burden on the woman. It just doesn’t fit right with the bigger point you are trying to make here. If we as a culture want to step up and men want to be allies, then the men need to do what women without power can not do — stand up to the bullies.
So it isn’t that your story is innately bad. It just isn’t actually helpful in stopping the problem of sexual harrassment. “I spoke up’ needs to be against the perpetrators, not the victim.
And yes, I get that this was 30 years ago and we weren’t there. Again, you probably did the right thing. It just is the wrong example for this post.
I guess point of the story is that men will take advantage of any opportunity, even with someone who is perhaps a bit naive. There were a few women in that last of our business, so they tended to get attention, wanted or unwanted.
I didn’t particularly like to be around them in the evening. I usually went back to the hotel, they went to the strip joint. I thought I was being protective and I heaven’s it sensitively.
Some can’t seem to get that.
Jeff, “3. I probably should have done something, but many of the people there were my superiors and knew my boss well. (This is a probably huge cop out(” – yes, it’s a cop out, but it gets to the heart of why people (men and women) don’t speak out. There’s almost always a cost involved. It could be innocent, like, “She obviously knows we’re just joking around” – you could ask to make sure, but you run the risk of hearing that she *doesn’t* view it as joking around. Or something small, “They won’t think I’m cool anymore” or something big like, “I could lose my job.” It will often boil down to, “I don’t want to get involved in a potentially messy situation.” Most people won’t step in to stop a kid getting bullied for the same reasons.
Thanks for providing such a great illustration of the ways that man who insist they’re the good guys do exactly the same shit.
Men who blame victims get defensive and insist that’s not what they’re doing, because they’re just “trying to prevent [women] from using bad judgment in the future.”
Men who sexually harass get defensive and insist that’s not what it was, because “you weren’t there, you can’t judge.”
Men who see the harassment happening shut their mouths because hey, some of those dudes are their superiors and saying some would be uncomfortable – so better for he woman to be uncomfortable. And then they blame the women for handing it wrong.
Men who keep quiet and allow harassment and then blame women for it get defensive and insist that they’re the good guy here because hey, they didn’t go to the strip joint! Hand over my cookie!
Dude. This is why this shit happens. This psychological reaction you’re having right now. You handed the stain in your story wrong, which is fine – it was 29 years ago, you didn’t know better. But you think this story if you failing to speak out and then blaming the woman and making the situation even worse ous somehow a story of you speaking out and being the good guy. This is absolutely the opposite of the way men need to think about their own actions. Seriously, dude. Own it. Or this never gets better.
You’re sure entitled to your opinion. It must be satisfying to be judge and jury.
“It must be nice to be judge and jury”. That’s a low blow, Jeff. You’re not listening to these women. You don’t hear the message. You defend your choices rather than learn how you could have done even better way back when. And if we don’t learn we keep repeating the same behavior patterns. When we know better, we can do better. Glory almighty, let us do better.
“Men need to be ashamed.”
No thanks, I don’t need more shame sandwiches thrown in my face that society expects me to eat and enjoy just because I’m didn’t come from the x, y, z oppressed/marginalized/abused/flavor of the month group. Everyone has problems in the world to one degree or another at any point in their lives. More than enough of my own, thanks.
In the above comment string there are plenty of “low blows” in violation of W&T’s commenting policy. That policy is easily accessible.
A number of commenters seem to have responded to what they imagine are the facts of Jeff’s story. This is not a defense of the OP. The version of the story there is at best ambiguous as to whether the men involved or the female employee involved was initiating the hugs. “Well, the guys on the [bowling] team with my employee would get hugs from her every time they made a half-way decent shot. So much so that the guys on the opposing team did it too.” The clarification came in a comment from Jeff: “The behavior at the bowling alley was consensual. She ran up to them.” It appears that the employee initiated the behaviors, that the men did not, but did take advantage of it as Jeff pointed out in another comment: “I guess point of the story is that men will take advantage of any opportunity, even with someone who is perhaps a bit naive.” It could even be that some of the men allowed the employee to hug them rather than push her away, embarrassing her publicly. (Unusual perhaps, but I have seen such behaviors.) I have seen too much sexual harassment in the workplace and work-related social gatherings by men AND by women, though most commonly the former, and too many false allegations of sexual harassment, to take kindly to either Jeff’s or other commenters’ generalizations. Jeff may not have been “listening to these women” talk about their view of his originally ambiguous telling of his story, but it is also clear enough that they have not been listening to his clarification, however defensively written in response to their personal attacks. Some might do well to get off their soap boxes long enough to go read the comment by The $64,000 Answer (November 30, 2017 at 1:03 pm) at
Yes, the majority of sexual harassment is by men against women. It is reprehensible. We should find ways to contribute to changing such cultural and individual behaviors regardless of gender. Over generalizations and personal attacks among those largely in agreement do not seem likely to contribute effectively to that process.
JS: 1. The incident was 29 years ago.
AuntM: Not sure how this should impact my reaction to your use of the story in a post about men holding men accountable.
JS: 2. The behavior at the bowling alley was consensual. She ran up to them. It was NOT harassment. It was inappropriate behavior fueled by alcohol.
AuntM: Not sure that “she ran up to them” means it was consensual. Many victims of harassment are victimized precisely because the costs of saying no or not going along are too high. If it was consensual, it is all the more bizarre that you used this story to illustrate something (what exactly?) in this post.
JS: 3. I probably should have done something, but many of the people there were my superiors and knew my boss well. (This is a probably huge cop out)
AuntM: Yes, it is a cop out. A better option would be to express empathy. Something like: “I now recognize that my concerns about speaking out to my superiors who might then say something to my boss are just the tip of the iceberg of what so many victims of harassment have felt. If I as a man and a superior/mentor to my female colleague felt hamstrung, I can imagine it was a much more difficult position for my colleague.”
JS: 4. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about those guys, I cared about my employee. Those off-site meetings were typically male dominated where the major objectives after work was to a. Get Drunk, b. Go to strip clubs, and c. Possibly pass out in some strange place. The bowling outing was highly unusual.
AuntM: The point of speaking up is only marginally about improving the lives of “those guys.” The point is primarily to improve the lives of those who are victimized or would be victimized in the future. If you cared about your employee, you should care about helping “those guys” learn to treat her better.
It’s s always easy for other people to say what should have been done. I know this is a very sensitive matter given the recent revelations. Like most things, people try to apply that which is currently the “right thing to do” with past occurrences. I get that.
It’s s not always that simple.
Jeff, I’m trying to get at why you wrote this story this way now, not so much about what you did 29 years ago. How does writing the story the way you did fit in with the point of your post? If you wrote about the story differently, I think you could have better supported your thesis and modeled the accountability that other men could learn from.
It’s pretty simple. The title of the post is “The Shame of Men.” That was what I wrote about. The story was about that. Pure and simple.
I didn’t expect the hyper criticism. I probably should have. It detracted from the overall point.
It isn’t hyper criticism. Sadly, you just aren’t getting it.
It’s justified and appropriate teaching of how a man could do better today and tomorrow in such circumstances. It’s pleas for your voices and involvement. But, as so typically happens in real life, the same old “she may have instigated it” “let’s not generalize” let’s not get to the meat of the issues of women being harassed/abused. Some really good information from women—who’ve obviously experienced this terrible treatment—has been presented and can give valuable and critical insight into what’s additionally necessary to stop “The Shame of Men.”
Sadly, Jeff and several other men here are attacking these women by saying THEY are responding to the post WRONG. You are defending something that must change—your abilities to hear, to understand, and to learn so that YOU become more helpful in stopping this evil in society. It’s not enough that you aren’t perpetrators. You are needed to do more. Women have offered ways to change yourselves and your actions/choices that would be helpful in this cause.
Instead, the problem remains: go after the women, reconfigure the facts presented, look for alternative interpretations, and defend the man who wrote the story. But heaven and earth forbid you humbly listen to “WOMEN WHO KNOW.” To your proverbial and utter shame.
I hope you’ll apologize.
Sorry, but no. I will not allow you to cast me in a negative light.
My apologies should go to those with whom my own actions and behaviors may have been inappropriate at times. Though, that would have been ages ago.
I will not apologize for my post. I am on the side of women whether you believe or not. I’ll not let you shame me for that.
Jeff, I think what some of the women are feeling is “having been in similar situations, it may NOT have been as consensual as it looked to you.” I have been in positions where the joking around got uncomfortable, but how do you stop something like that? So, you don’t know how to stop it without looking like a b, and it keeps getting worse until you can manage to scape. Then you wrack your brain for weeks trying to figure out how to handle it next time.
It sounds to me like hugging the opposing team was probably not really consensual, but more like she went along because she felt it was expected and didn’t have the skill to bow out f the hugs gracefully. This is something that most men cannot understand. Part of sexual harassment is keeping it on the level where the woman isn’t sure if it is joking around, or if she needs to set up some boundaries. Joking around is the cover. This was just getting into the gray area, where better boundaries should be maintained. But it is hard to see the line when you are in it, and even harder to know what to do.
Now, I totally approve of how you handled your situation. Basically, you clarified that this situation went past joking around and into the area where she needed to set boundaries. You are right, she was your responsibility and the raunchy men were not. You advised her to set boundaries. You had no jurisdiction over the men and it was not your place to point anything out to them. If they had been men you supervised, then it would have been your place to warn them that this behavior is pushing the women past where they may feel comfortable, and may lead to a sexual harassment charge. It would have been your job to tell them not to be stupid. Or as a friend, you could have told them not to be stupid. And it would have been wonderful, but above and beyond, especially almost 30 years ago, for you to have said something to them anyway. But consequences. So, probably best how you did handle it.
One of the things that really struck me back when Bill Clinton was being an idiot was someone said, “Where were his male friends or advisors who needed to tell him not to be stupid?” And now, with all the men being let go and ending their careers, it would have been a real act of friendship for some man who knew them or knew what was going on to tell them not to be stupid. Men not nylons need to stand up for the women when they see harassment going on, they need to tell their friends not to be stupid. It just isn’t worth sacrificing your career over.
The problem I have with the criticism is that they weren’t there but have chosen to deny or doubt my personal experience and apply their own conclusions.
You just can’t logically or fairly do that.
But thanks for the rest of your comment.
I think Jeff and JR might think that the point of some of these comments is to blame or condemn, but I think many of the women here are not as much about condemning but about teaching so that future behavior can be better. I get why Jeff might feel personally attacked, but a simple acknowledgment that going forward it is better to speak up to the harasser rather than the harassee would be nice to see. One thing that men can do if they sincerely wish to be allies is to be teachable.
As for JR’s point, the fact that meetings were usually held at strip clubs I think shows that in the big picture it was the men and not the woman in this story who were doing the harassing. We don’t know if a man asked for a hug first and then from then on she continued to initiate because she knew it was expected of her. But even if she initiated the very first time, it is possible that in attending meetings at strip clubs she got the message loud and clear what sort of female employee they were looking for.
The problem is that I don’t need instruction from others. I received plenty of training with my company, I am a member of the Church, and my parents taught me to respect others.
What I don’t understand is why they can’t accept my recounting of what happened and just take it at face value, rather than speculate and extrapolate as you even did.
I want to back this up a bit to see where we got so far down the rabbit hole.
J’s comment: “A story about how you said nothing to the men and then chided HER and made her feel embarrassed and ashamed of how she chose to deal with being harassed?”
Actually, I didn’t read Jeff’s story the same way as J. I didn’t see Jeff chiding her, just pointing out that these guys were sloppy drunks and to steer clear. I didn’t hear Jeff talking about her needing to feel embarrassed or ashamed, just talking to her (neutrally). We don’t know enough information from what was said in the OP to know why he said it, how he said it, why she did what she did, or how she took what he said.
Jeff added: “I probably should have done something, but many of the people there were my superiors and knew my boss well.” This adds an interesting dynamic to the story in the OP, one that’s worth acknowledging. He even said it was probably a cop out, but it’s certainly part of the dynamic. Men are also subject to the limitations of power due to hierarchy.
Jeff also said: “men use false clues to justify their actions” in response to Rachael’s comment, and this is IMO another great idea for a post. I’d love to see Rachael do a guest post on this one (hint, hint) or even collaborate with a he said / she said version of it with one of our male bloggers (or a male friend of her choice).
J also said: “Men who keep quiet and allow harassment and then blame women for it get defensive and insist that they’re the good guy here because hey, they didn’t go to the strip joint! Hand over my cookie!” I just want to clarify here that I don’t feel that Jeff is putting his own actions up as being perfect or right or that he deserves feminist cookies. I think he’s willing to say he doesn’t, that it wasn’t perfect.
I’m also frankly a bit unclear about the hugging being harassment. At Amex, everyone hugged hello and goodbye at meetings (like a New York hello). These were just greetings, not sexual in nature, nor particularly lingering or sloppy. Many of my male colleagues (and 100% of the European men) also did a kiss on the cheek with a hug as the standard greeting. It was culturally normal and not sexual. I just met up with my old Amex team for lunch yesterday, and even years later, all 4 of us hugged hello, and the men even hugged one another goodbye.
I find the story ambiguous and hard to understand without having been there. A workplace where the men go to strip clubs together is very different from an environment like Amex (it’s more like a previous company I worked at where there were a lot more issues with inappropriate behavior as well as consensual hookups–that place had a terrible culture, IMO–very unprofessional). In short, if it was a toxic work culture, I would have probably done what Jeff did by telling her to steer clear of those idiots because while they weren’t violating any specific company policy, they were not behaving like professionals, but they didn’t work for him. One extra thing I might have done is also hint to them the next day when they were sober that they HAD done something inappropriate that might get them in hot water and they should be more on their guard.
I’ll add a personal story to Jeff’s. I did caution many colleagues over the years to drink less at work events because they would do some things that hurt their careers at times. I recall one male colleague who was a known lush, younger and better looking than me who came up to me at an evening work event we were all hosting (in a night club), put his arm around my waist from the front as he passed me and said, “You are WEARING that dress,” then sucked in his breath. I rolled my eyes and warned my female colleagues that he had drunk too much again and to steer clear. He spent most of the rest of the night in a tight dance embrace with one of the women in PR, although they were both married to other people. He almost never bothered me because I was 1) older than him, and 2) senior to him in the organization (although he had a meteoric rise and ended up senior to me within a few short years).
I flew back with him the next day, and he didn’t really remember that evening very well, lamenting his drinking. He kept saying “I’m a Christian! I should know better!” I had a lot of fun regaling him with things I had heard (and seen) that he did at the party, sending him into a shame spiral. My boss and I talked about it, and I know she had cautioned him about his reputation as well. But a few months later, sure enough, he was breakdancing in front of 40 colleagues after doing Tequila Shots.
We also used to host a large annual employee recognition event, and one of the other female VPs and I would watch out for the 3/10 splits (our term) to protect our female employees who had drunk too much. We called it a 3/10 split when an unusually attractive woman (a 10) would drink too much and be targeted by a much less attractive male employee (a 3). We knew that employees often hooked up at these events (because people were brought in from around the globe, so they would never see each other again), and we just wanted to be sure nobody was doing things they would regret from drinking too much. The majority of them were single and in their 20s and were no strangers to the club scene, but this being a work event, we didn’t want them to ruin their work reputation. Those arriving from overnight flights were particularly vulnerable due to jet lag. We’d watch for any sloppy drunk behavior and offer to walk them back to their room or get them some water or snacks and chat with them for a while. The 3/10 split was usually a dead giveaway; dancing on tables was another.
There were people who sometimes got fired for their behavior at these events, which was ironic since they were hand-picked as top performers.
Jeff, I enjoyed your post and agree that it is a tough matter. Heaven knows I do and have done stuff that unintentionally offends. It’s tough, even when you mean well. Thanks for the post on a tough subject.
Certainly a through (and comment) provoking post. I appreciate that some of you are not feeling like you are getting your point across.
If for one read the words “GET hugs from her” and took that to mean that SHE was hugging every guy that knocked a few pins down. As in she was probably overly clingy, then the other team kind of said, “I want some of that attention also” and that did sound a bit more inappropriate. For the first part of this I do think it was proper (depending on the relationship) to point out that she was decreasing her professional respect. I don’t see pointing out this is blaming her. Similar to Angela I had a good friend/coworker that went for his first overseas week-long trip to Germany. I ended up getting a picture of him drunk under a table (is that better or worse than dancing ON a table?). I mentioned to him this was spread around and I didn’t even have to say, “you probably should watch how much you drink with work buddies” because he actually said it. I have also been asked by a woman how she could “move up” I passed on that she was being too much of the team “mom” and not really respected for her technical skills. She was LIKED by all, but not RESPECTED as being a technical team member. I told her that before she automatically volunteered to take on most of the next holiday pot luck, that she instead organize it and solicit/coordinate assignments across the team.
So I am wanting to learn. I am asking for feedback to help me overcome my blind spots.
JS: “It’s pretty simple. The title of the post is “The Shame of Men.” That was what I wrote about. The story was about that. Pure and simple.”
There are multiple men in the story, including you. Whose shame are you highlighting with this story?
My point is not to argue about what happened in your story, but rather to question the way you chose to write about it. When you write, “It was an important lesson I learned that night,” I’m left wondering what exactly was that lesson? It really isn’t clear from your post.
With the same description of events, you might have learned that you have empathy for the impossible position most victims of harassment face or you might have learned that the way to address men’s shameful behavior is to instruct more junior female employees or ….
My responses are not about criticizing what you did or didn’t do 29 years ago. They are about what you did and didn’t do (write and didn’t write) here and now. I’m frustrated by your interpretations (or implied interpretations) of the events. I’m frustrated that your responses to some of the comments has “that I [Jeff] don’t need instruction from others” as if you are perfect in your knowledge, experience, and actions. Your responses make it seem like this post was a lecture, in which case why allow comments, from literally a know-it-all (i.e., a person who doesn’t need instruction).
All I can say is that your work places are a lot different than mine.
Jeff, no need to apologize for your post. Rather, for not being teachable, and now for claiming you don’t need any further instruction. You write of the shame of men but then you and other men here shamed the women who pointed out worthy insights to do even better than before. You felt attacked, misjudged, and your pride was hurt…..and it’s been my experience that when that happens to any of us, listening and learning come to a halt and nothing much worthwhile is gained. It seems wise to just leave it be.
Angela, Thank you for providing a rational response (4:04pm) that actually paid attention to what Jeff wrote about the facts of his experience without importing assumptions and speculations as if they were facts. I would also like to see Rachael teach us from her negative experiences, even speculating about what she imagines might have been done to make her bad experiences less harmful or even prevent their happening in the first place. That could be far more effective teaching than any third-party venting about Jeff’s ambiguous and incomplete report of his maybe-not-really-on-point experience. So far, what I’ve learned is that this forum is not one where I can be effective in suggesting careful reading to people who really want to vent instead. (Now don’t ya’ll get huffy about that. Just don’t wear the shoe unless it fits. It certainly does not fit all.)
As an equal opportunity believer and advocate, I’m looking forward to anyone’s post on “The Shame of Women.”
I was going to say “with bated breath,” but I really don’t think my oxygen levels could stand “bated breath” for long enough.
What is “the shame of women” anyway? Wait — That should probably only be answered by a woman.
Whatever the occurrences at the bowling alley, or what was said in the hotel after the event, it did result in the woman crying in front of her male boss. I can pretty much deduce from that that there was shame involved, probably added to by the shame of getting ‘stereotypically emotional’ in front of one’s boss. At the very least, from a good leadership perspective, it would have probably been better to wait a bit before raising any issues for mutually beneficial discussion — and when she wasn’t feeling embarrassed/vulnerable (and drunk?), alone with her male boss in a hotel after being around loads of drunk male coworkers all evening. I’m not even talking about sexual harassment or not, just the awful gender dynamics at work in general. The position she was in all night was a total no-win situation, topped off by a ‘well-intentioned’ humiliating feedback session from her boss. I’m too tired to even rage about this stuff anymore, but you, OP, have plenty of energy still in you to deflect any feedback that doesn’t align with your own self-perception. That’s what the kids these days call Privilege. And they’re right.
Whatever the occurrences at the bowling alley, or what was said in the hotel after the event, it did result in the woman crying in front of her male boss. I can pretty much deduce from that that there was shame involved, probably added to by the shame of getting ‘stereotypically emotional’ in front of one’s boss. At the very least, from a good leadership perspective, it would have probably been better to wait a bit before raising any issues for mutually beneficial discussion — and when she wasn’t feeling embarrassed/vulnerable (and drunk?), alone with her male boss in a hotel after being around loads of drunk male coworkers all evening. I’m not even talking about sexual harassment or not, just the awful gender dynamics at work in general. The position she was in all night was a total no-win situation, topped off by a ‘well-intentioned’ humiliating feedback session from her boss. I’m too tired to even rage about this stuff anymore, but you, OP, seem to have plenty of energy still in you to deflect any feedback that doesn’t align with your own self-perception. That’s what the kids these days call Privilege. And they’re right.
No conversation is complete until the trolls show up…
I read the story the same way Angela read it. Couldn’t, and still can’t, work out quite how it fits into the broader narrative.
Sorry JR and Looking Forward—you aren’t reading correctly, obviously. And your focus is still on being defensive and critical, even demeaning, rather than learning from women who have experienced this shame. This is the great problem—that you only learn up to a point you are comfortable with. A point you think you are above reproach. You don’t harass and abuse so you call it good. And that is truly wonderful of you. But there’s much more you could learn and do! Why not give it a few days and then come back and (prayerfully) re-read the counsel from these strong and insightful women. We can all learn and grow from one another as we open our hearts to someone’s pain, humiliation, anger, and helpless/hopeless ordeals. If Jeff and you other gentlemen free unjustly smacked down and misunderstood, I would sadly say, “Welcome to the female realm, for this is often what is done to us and much worse, and every time we try to speak up to stop it, men get defensive and go after us even more.” It’s great that you don’t harass and abuse. But women could sure use more than this.
Why cant you just listen, hear over voices, feel our anguish, learn from us, and tell us you’re all in to do more to stop it all? If not for these women here, then for your wives, your sons, your daughters, grandchildren, and your sisters every one.
Dear Gma, you are again imagining things. You know nothing at all about the extent to which I have been abused, seen abuse, listened to the abused, felt their anguish, learned from them, or done anything, something, or nothing to contribute to stopping it. This: “We can all learn and grow from one another as we open our hearts to someone’s pain, humiliation, anger, and helpless/hopeless ordeals.” is the only sentence in your recent post that has any applicability to me. Please take your own advice. Your projection of your assumptions about certain men and their efforts accomplishes nothing but to reduce your own credibility. That is unfortunate because there have been otherwise many comments from you in other threads that are insightful and helpful. I welcome stories from women who have the courage to recount their abuse or harassment, as, e.g., Rachael has done at least elsewhere, I welcome suggestions as to what more might be done to stop such abuse or harassment, though none of you will know whether or to what extent I may be in a position to put those suggestions to work. I am not interested in people of any gender projecting their experience on others and purporting to know better that the participants or witnesses what happened. This, however, does not mean that it is inappropriate to speculate about what might have happened and what we might learn from it, if it had. That, however, is not the tone of those several comments subject to the limited criticism I made. That limited criticism clearly does not apply to all of the women’s comments on this thread or elsewhere. You will be taken seriously about your own experience, or your own observations, but not about your insistence (if you are one of those) that you know better what happened than the participants or witnesses to the event you comment on. You will also not be taken seriously about your judgments about others about whom you know nothing relevant. I’m done here.
Lord save us all from men who say, “Men should be ashamed of themselves,” and conveniently create criteria for shameworthiness that absolves themselves to avoid dealing with cognitive dissonance. “Those other guys should be ashamed. Not me.” The lack of self-awareness and self-reflection would be comical if it weren’t the norm.
Lesson to male feminists: anything you try to say or do can and will be used against you in the court of internet opinion.
Dearest JR, you say I need to take my own advice and know nothing of you and your abuse, what you’ve experienced, etc—that I generalize and give advice that’s off the mark. Of course I don’t know these things about you or anyone on here. But I do know good insights when I read them, and I know when you are judging and generalizing myself and other commenters here too, just as you accuse us of doing. You have repeatedly judged these comments critically, saying these women didn’t read correctly, nor make appropriate comments. You know nothing of their lives either, and yet you criticize valid remarks to portions of Jeff’s post, and comments made by you and other men have showed how much you either misread their remarks or you just plain wouldn’t validate good counsel offered. You have put down rather than listened. You got defensive when called out for your condescending, unhelpful, mansplaining. You did what many men do when women try to voice their insights from their own experiences—you put the problem back on them in some way.
I stand calmly, but firmly by these women, and continue to invite you and all men on this thread to hear their truths without defensiveness, criticism, or correction. Normally, I’d say let’s agree to disagree, but this terrible plague is a desolating sickness in this world and it’s is so very important for women, young girls, and especially men of every age to let women tell you the truth and to listen and learn wholeheartedly.
Women and girls are finding their voices…please hear them. We’ve listened and learned and been lectured and counseled and corrected and blamed and ignored and blamed, and did I say blamed.—for millennia. Honestly, it’s now time for men to stand in our shoes for awhile so you may “know” and “feel” what we’ve been through and how you guys can be of further help in some situations. Yes, you may be innocent and uncomfortable….we definitely get what that’s like! But we have faith your goodness and mercy will help you endure.
#godblessmysisters #ihearthem #silentnomore