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Men, the answer is to grow up – not avoid women: Timson

With the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal, it’s absurd there have been warnings telling men to avoid office parties or just women in general.

In this Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif. The sexual harassment and assault allegations against Weinstein that rocked Hollywood and sparked a flurry of allegations in other American industries, as well as the political arena, are reaching far beyond U.S. borders.

(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

In this Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif. The sexual harassment and assault allegations against Weinstein that rocked Hollywood and sparked a flurry of allegations in other American industries, as well as the political arena, are reaching far beyond U.S. borders.

Calling all men! In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and alleged sexual assault scandal and the resultant tsunami of further allegations against prominent men, here are your new instructions.

Cancel the office holiday party — it could lead to flirting.

Rethink one-on-one business meetings off-site with women colleagues — you never know when one of them will claim you behaved “inappropriately.”

Don’t smile at a woman on the street or offer any observation that could be misconstrued. Avoid unknown — and even known — women. Too dangerous.

And listen, if you come across a female accident victim and you’re a man, think twice about doing CPR because you know, you may have to touch her chest, and what if she takes it the wrong way?

These are just some of the absurdio ad reductum warnings that have popped up recently — the office party dilemma one in a New York Times article — since the explosive allegations last month against powerful Hollywood producer Weinstein have led to the Great Sexual Harassment Reckoning.

Witness the swift dispensing of Weinstein. In a matter of days, after The New York Times and The New Yorker Magazine revealed decades of well documented predatory behaviour toward a number of women, some of whom are now high-wattage stars, he lost his company, his marriage, his reputation and maybe he will lose his freedom if there’s enough to prosecute him on rape accusations.

Heed the fact that many women and some men, emboldened by the #MeToo hashtag campaign, have begun naming and shaming their harassers everywhere.

Those named and accused — some apologizing, some denying — are losing jobs, empires, corporate sponsorships, reputations and the support of decent people everywhere.

It’s remarkable really. What women have known and put up with forever, frightened to report because they might lose their jobs or reputations if they did, has turned a cultural corner and morphed from a you-can’t-name-this to you-can’t-name-‘em-all, there are so many.

In fact, I would have no space for anything else if I did name them all: Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., three American presidents — George H.W. Bush (butt groper) Bill Clinton (a long-standing accusation of rape) and of course current U.S. President Donald Trump (self-acknowledged “pussy” grabber, barger into beauty contestant change rooms, unwanted kisser.) Countless Canadian harassers, rampant in the RCMP. Endemic in the Canadian military.

There are now a multitude of harassment reckonings going on in every industry — including mine.

The well-respected Nieman Report — an industry news source — just released a report saying the “issue facing journalism is not simply about preventing sexual harassment; it’s about also acknowledging that this behaviour is often a part of a sexist and unequal work environment.”

The report quoted the Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object, a memoir of sexism, about politicians and others further down the food chain now being accused: “Maybe you can’t get this total asshole out of office, but you can get the total asshole out of your office.”

So are all men guilty? Are you that guy? Should all men be very afraid of either being exposed — are you now or have you ever been a sexual harasser — or of making one wrong move?

Of course not. There are a multitude of good men out there who have never harassed anyone. And not all these incidents are equal. We’ve seen everything from a furtive bottom squeeze to a vicious rape included in these accusations. From masturbating in front of women colleagues to sabotaging their dignity by verbally sexualizing them.

Yet it’s mystifying that even after decades of consciousness-raising and specific workplace programs, men can still claim not to know the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s harassment.

One senior executive reasonably said to me, “Is hugging a colleague (male or female) acceptable? There’s so many physical actions (touching someone’s arm/hand) that could now be considered inappropriate.”

I get that. I’ve often wondered why, for instance, avowed feminist PM Justin Trudeau kisses the women he interacts with — including his cabinet ministers — but not the men. Has he asked these women whether they might just prefer to shake his hand?

So let’s concede some grey areas, but also admit they are not really the problem.

When it comes to hardcore sexual harassment, let alone assault, men know. Believe me, they know that it’s outside the frame of civil or even legal behaviour. They want to harass anyway. They think they can get away with it.

As CBC radio broadcaster Anna Maria Tremonti, host of The Current, said on the air this week to a senior female military officer who tried to argue that men in the armed forces still “may not be aware” of inappropriate behaviour, “Why?” They are highly skilled men, Tremonti said. “They’re not twelve.”

Yet men in all industries continue to be treated as adolescent boys. This senior military officer — Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett, tasked with overseeing the implementation of anti-harassment policies in the military, talked of “immaturity” and groupthink” among the men.

This is infuriating.

Women entering the workforce have had to quickly grow up, grow a pair, as they say, toughen their skins and navigate all sorts of hard-nosed professional environments. You don’t hear “immaturity and “groupthink” applied to them.

So men, do grow up and don’t cancel the office party and don’t shy away from professional relationships with women. Be warm, respectful, smart, funny and civil. Learn from them.

If you have doubts about your behaviour, ask them. Surely the answer is not to avoid women, but to treat them as you expect to be treated. Like a competent adult doing a job.

And as recent weeks have shown, if you find that difficult, it’s all on you. Your days are truly numbered.

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