Continued from Part 2
Taking the long way out of the quagmire toward a legislation-free solution
Without question, employers must have training programs aimed at preventing such hostile environment cases as female workers being manhandled by people like Harvey Weinstein. They must also stop such quid pro quo incidents as bosses punishing employees who reject advances and giving preferential treatment or promotions to those who accept them, thereby discriminating against all the other workers who were competing for the promotions. Programs designed to stop these kinds of behavior benefit everyone, employers included.
But employers’ programs should also provide a balance to RFs’ (radical feminists) interpretations of sexual harassment and RFs’ proposals to curb the harassment through the singular method of punishing harassers and compelling male employees to understand the “female culture.” A balance should reflect an understanding of the male culture, as I have tried to do in this commentary. A balance would show that much of male behavior forms in reaction to female behavior, just as in the reverse. How might this be symbolized? Ball-room dancing, maybe:
She goes around and around because he goes around and around, and he goes around and around because she goes around and around.
A balance in the programs to stop sexual harassment should point out the relevance of women equally sharing the responsibility of initiating male-female relationships.
This equal sharing should be emphasized especially when an employer aspires to be “socially conscious,” or when an employer can’t prohibit – or doesn’t want to prohibit – fraternizing, since to prohibit it would deny employees a major “benefit.”
“When,” Warren Farrell says, “I ask women in my audiences who had entered the workplace when single and later gotten married, to ‘raise your hand if you married a man you met at work (or through a workplace contact – a client, or someone to whom you were a client),’ almost two thirds raised their hands. Another 15 percent of these women lived with or had a long relationship with a man they met while on the job, but never married him.”
As I pointed out in the beginning of this commentary, the sexes generally have different roles in meeting each other, dating, and interacting romantically and sexually. Thus they may have a different psychology with regard to each other. Neither sex understands very well the psychology of the other, because neither sex has spent much time in the other’s shoes. That the sexes are often resentful and antagonistic toward each other almost seems a natural outcome. To overcome this, Warren Farrell has for decades conducted — and taught the value of — role-reversal.
To my knowledge, employers’ sexual-harassment prevention programs fail even to suggest women should equally share in initiating the relationships which women equally desire at work and which most employers seem to condone. (A Fortune magazine poll of 200 executives found 79 percent think office romances are not the company’s concern if the unmarried couple remain discreet.)
Thus many men feel they alone are vulnerable to charges of sexual harassment. That feeling of vulnerability will increase as more women learn that even a frivolous charge of harassment won’t be questioned and may earn them a goodly sum of money from employers wanting to avoid the higher costs of litigation and a tarnished image. Most men, untutored on gender issues the way women are, are unable to articulate their vulnerability – and the unfairness – or are afraid to articulate it lest they be penalized or fired for “opposing women,” as happened to James Damore, who filed a class-action lawsuit against his former employer, Google.
If employers’ programs do not tell women they have equal responsibility for initiating workplace romance – and thus ignore men’s vulnerability and views – employers may pay a price. Some men, rather than welcome the changes promoted by diversity, may obstruct them and contribute to the workplace stress and gender alienation that a growing body of experts links to policies on sexual harassment. Other men may simply leave companies whose aggressiveness in preventing a hostile work environment for women has created a hostile work environment for men.*
But there is a more compelling reason that employers’ sexual-harassment prevention programs should encourage female employees to equally share in initiating relationships. The equal sharing would in time curb sexual harassment itself and eliminate or dramatically reduce costly lawsuits. Here’s how.
When women complain that men don’t take their “no” seriously, they imply that women do take men’s “no” seriously. Men’s “no”? How can men say “No” to women if women as a rule don’t directly ask anything of them?
Sometimes a woman says “no” even before she’s asked but means “yes”! In 1986, shortly after a former girlfriend and I broke up, she stopped by my house unannounced one evening. “Let me walk through your house one last time,” she said, motioning for me to follow. At my bedroom door, she paused. “If you think you’re going to get me in that bed, you’ve got another thought coming.” Well, no, the thought hadn’t occurred to me. Minutes later, sitting in her car in my driveway and getting ready to leave, she rolled down her window. “Well, you missed your chance,” she said, and drove away. Toxic femininity gone berserk?
Men’s “no” generally occurs when men decline to take direct initiatives in response to women’s indirect initiatives. Suppose a woman takes a Cosmo-recommended indirect initiative, such as brushing up against a man in an elevator and smiling at him. If he merely returns a smile and goes back into his thoughts, this is, in her view, his way of saying “no” to her indirect initiative, to her gesture of interest in him. As a woman might explain, “If I gush at a guy, ‘That shirt/jacket/sweater looks awesome on you,’ and he doesn’t pick up on that by talking to me and sooner or later suggesting lunch or something, I figure he’s telling me to forget it. He’s clearly saying ‘no’ to me.”
Not only do men tell women “no” by declining to take initiatives, but it appears women take men’s “no” quite seriously. To them, men’s “no” definitely means no.
That’s because, I believe, throughout their entire lives women see men, in both the real world and the fictional, make their interest in a woman perfectly clear by going right up to her and asking for what they want in words not open to interpretation. The male’s direct and unambiguous initiative-taking has taught the female to believe that if the man she is flirting with is interested and wants to go out with her, he will unequivocally ask, “Want to go out with me?” And it has taught her that if he doesn’t want to go out with her, he will utter nothing except perhaps small talk; he will take no initiative with her at all.
The male’s clear-cut, unambiguous courting behavior has convinced the female that when her flirting – her indirect initiative-taking – is ignored, the man is plainly not interested. No point in her continuing to flirt with the man who fails to make an overture. No point in persisting with someone known for making his interest clear by taking initiatives, and also known for making his lack of interest clear by not taking initiatives. (Some women do persist with flirting on the sometimes-correct assumption that the man is shy and needs encouragement.)
In contrast, most women, by not taking clear-cut, male-type direct initiatives with a man who stirs their interest, often make their interest unclear. When, for example, a woman “shows her romantic interest” in a male co-worker by giving him a Brad Pitt-look-alike compliment, and she herself doesn’t request a get-together, the man may hear ambiguity and think: “Does she have the hots for me, or is she just making an observation about my looks?” Considering the hysteria over sexual harassment, he may also think, especially if he doesn’t know her well, “Is she setting me up to come on to her so she can charge sexual harassment and tap the company for big bucks for being ‘offended’?”
In theory, sexual harassment law applies to both sexes. In practice, it applies virtually only to men, since they alone are assigned the role of initiating male-female relationships. Some young women are beginning to see this role as theirs, too, and are taking more direct, male-type initiatives, something I often experienced first-hand at singles dances in my unmarried days.
But one young woman, who is attractive and outrageously successful, says she never approaches a guy first. “I assume,” singer Taylor Swift says, “that if someone is interested in me they will come up and talk to me — and if they want to call me up afterwards, then they will.” What if a man said that? How many women would he meet? What would people think of him? If such a man were known by everyone at a singles gathering, would he be the butt of quiet jokes?
Most women, it seems, still leave all or the bulk of the initiative-taking to men. Such women include even the accomplished, seemingly feminist Nicole Beland, a former senior editor at Cosmo and Mademoiselle magazines. She produced a column, “Ask the Girl Next Door,” for Men’s Health. In it, she advised men how to connect with women. She appears to be an expert in sex and male-female relationships. In the January/February 2004 Men’s Health, she writes: “I’ll spot a good-looking guy in a coffee shop, at the bookstore or in a bar and will immediately pretend he isn’t there. My thought: if he’s attracted to me and looking to meet someone new, he’ll say something. I’ll purposely look in the other direction. So yes, it’s shyness and pride, but mostly it’s our annoying, persistent female reluctance to make the first move.” [Emphasis added.]
Is Nicole Beland a pick-and-choose feminist who wants equality except where she doesn’t want it — and evokes the hypocrisy that discourages even many liberal men from warmly embracing feminism?
In the workplace, men, especially bosses, risk losing their jobs approaching such women at work. It continues to amaze me that experts such as Beland, even in the 21st century, still want to keep the courting arena in the 1950s, without realizing — or without caring about — the risk of sexual-harassment accusations they ask men to take.
Some women show their interest by showing a lack of interest! But all women show their lack of interest by showing a lack of interest.
Couldn’t this be considered toxic femininity?
If women equally shared the responsibility for initiating relationships, how would this help curb the on-the-job sex harassment, which is manifested largely in men’s persistent requests of women and men’s retaliation for rejection?
By taking direct, male-type initiatives, women would become known as persons (as opposed to sex objects) who make their romantic interests undeniably clear, just as men do. In turn, men would see – just as women do now – little or no value in persisting after being refused by someone known for taking her own direct romantic initiatives when interested. Why persist with someone known for making her romantic interest clear by taking direct initiatives, and known for signaling her lack of interest to a man by nottaking initiatives? “Why try twice with such a woman,” a man would think, “if she has never expressed interest in me, and then still expressed no interest after I showed interest in her? She clearly isn’t interested.”
If women equally shared the initiative-taking, presumably some would make persistent requests of men, and more men might complain of sexual harassment.
But the combined persistence from both women and men would be less than men’s persistence currently is. (There will always be some men and women who, perhaps unable to accept rejection easily, have a hard time taking “no” for an answer.) That’s because men as a whole would become considerably less persistent as they learned that a “no” from a woman known for directly initiating her own relationships truly does mean “no.”
Assigning the initiator role only to males is more than sexist. It is illogical if it’s true women want relationships more than do men (they don’t; it’s about equal), and they feel harassed by men’s “come-ons.”
“If you think this system no longer applies, then just watch how people behave at parties or nightclubs. Subconsciously, men will only approach a woman if they feel that they have more than an eighty percent chance of being accepted. This is where flirting and sex signals become important. In a sense they are a code used between humans to test the levels of mutual attraction before visibly acting and thus risking rejection. Where people are watching and a rejection is taking place, the person doing the rejecting [usually the woman, since usually the man does the approaching] often exaggerates the act so that the spectators are in no doubt as to who is the loser. Sometimes seen as cruel, this is actually a form of self protection. The person doing the rejection cannot afford the peer-group doubt that they themselves might have been rejected.”
“The danger of being visibly rejected is that it encourages others to reject you, too. In this case it’s just another form of peer pressure; i.e., ‘If Janice rejected Mike, maybe there’s something wrong with him? Maybe I should reject him, too, just in case. Hell, I don’t want to be seen with Janice’s reject anyway.’”
What is a man’s self-protection against this female behavior? He must put her down also! “Thanks. I just noticed how slutty-looking you are.”
Another example of how male-only initiative-taking alienates the sexes:
“Girls tease and practice, whereas most guys are for real. Girls that reject a guy often go up in the estimation of their friends (they have high standards) whereas a guy that fails always goes down in the estimation of his friends (loser). Guys have learnt that even if all the signals are ‘right,’ they can still be rejected.” [Emphasis by Male Matters]
Does all this at least partly explain why some insecure men get angry and take revenge when they are rebuffed?
An equal sharing of the romantic initiative-taking would do more than curb male persistence. It would also reduce the sexual put-downs and other mistreatment that can make women feel demeaned and uneasy at work. That’s because an equal sharing of the initiative-taking would increase men’s respect for women, the lack of which many RFs say is a primary fuel for male harassment of women.
Here’s why men’s respect for women would grow. It’s said soldiers fighting in a war bond with each other because they have a common enemy and are there for each other as each other’s protector. No doubt this explains these men’s bonding to a large degree. But mostly what bonds men in combat, I believe, is their knowledge that they share a common role in which they all share the same risks, the risks of physical danger and psychological terror. By knowing that all the other soldiers share their dangerous role and hence share the same risks they take, combat soldiers acquire for one another the respect that is the principal glue for the bonding between them. For those men who refuse to share the risks, they have only contempt. Many war veterans, for example, scorned former President Clinton for being a “draft dodger,” someone unwilling to share the risks they took. (“Draft dodger,” by the way, is a sexist double standard: how will these veterans look upon the first female president, who was legally able to avoid the draft altogether? Geraldine Ferraro, the first female candidate for vice-president, was not burdened, as male candidates are, by having to prove bravery with a combat record of risking life and limb.)
Suppose women equally shared the risk-taking that comes with equally sharing the initiative-taking required to create relationships (which lead to marriage and children). Men would stop seeing women as demanding “equality in relationships” while at the same time playing the old Cosmo sexual games and refusing to share the risk-taking. They’d stop seeing women as demanding equality while resisting equality, an unfairness and double standard no one discusses.
If women equally shared the risks of initiating relationships, men would not resent them for unfairly expecting men to risk not only sometimes painful rejection when reaching out to the other sex at work but a career-smashing charge of sexual harassment as well.
“Both traditional and nontraditional men perceive women who ask for dates as kinder, warmer, more thoughtful, and less selfish than women who do not ask for dates.” –From a study co-written by Dr. Charlene Muehlenhard, University of Kansas psychologist and researcher whose work has not been very understanding of men – (I read this statement in a publication in a book store some years ago. Since then, I have not been able to find an internet source for it.)
Were the initiative-taking equally shared, men would undergo the female’s role of being asked. Spending time in this role would enhance men’s respect for women even further. Men would experience first-hand the awkwardness in being asked out by a boss or another person to whom they are uncomfortable saying no. They would learn that because saying no can be difficult, it can be easy to give the impression they are “leading someone on” and being a “tease.”
Conversely, if women directly initiated relationships the way men do, women would respect men more as well. Instead of seeing all men as potential harassers who want to “dominate females by reducing them to a sexual role,” as RFs see men, a woman assuming the role of initiator would learn first-hand something important: she could easily be “led on,” and that being led on could at times lead her to become persistent with her requests for dates and so forth.
Such a woman would learn, too, how she could be affected by anxieties over being rejected by a man face to face (especially if she thought her advances might be overheard by others in the office). She might discover that she could become so anxious about being rejected that she might totally focus on “selling” herself as Ms. Wonderful, as someone much too great to reject!
As we all know, many people, both men and women, have difficulty saying “No” to a salesperson. I have had it at times, and I’ve heard my wife engage in rather long phone conversations with a caller selling a product or service she has no intention of buying. When she finally musters the courage to say “No,” I can imagine how angry the caller must have been after being “led on.” A lot of other people, however, don’t muster that courage and wind up buying something they never wanted or needed.
A similar dynamic takes place between the sexes on the single scene:
A woman is usually pretty sure that the man who asks her out has at least a passing in her, whether for romance or just sex (meaning she is unsure only of his intent, not his at-the-moment interest). That’s because she knows he took the time to look her over, then risk rejection to approach her and request a get-together.
For the man, it can be very different. He is aware that women (like men) can have a hard time saying “No,” and so a woman may accept a date — and sometimes even a second and third date — from a man she has little or no interest in. Thus, while the woman is usually pretty certain of his interest (since he keeps asking her out), the man is often not certain of hers, even on a second or third date. This male uncertainty may go a long way to explain some men’s need, at least early in a relationship, to be braggadocios who continue to “over-sell” themselves.
When a woman asks men out, this intense focus on the self – on “selling” herself to escape rejection – would often cause her to tune out the man’s feelings and his attempts to hint “I’m not interested” without hurting her feelings. Thus a woman in the initiator role would learn how easy it is to be seen as “coming on too strong” and being persistent. (In our current male-initiates arrangement, the man who “comes on too strong” is only the counterpart of the woman who “attracts too strongly” by wearing too much makeup or too little clothing).
In experiencing the pressure to “sell” herself, she would learn how “coming on too strong” and being insensitive to a man’s feelings could earn her the label “insensitive jerk.” Aware she could be called a jerk by some men no matter how sensitive she was, she might adjust her approach by putting up a protective, nothing-can-hurt-me front, thus appearing “invulnerable,” “unfeeling” – “male” traits society presently had rather condemn rather than try to understand.
In sum, through an equal sharing of the initiative-taking, men and women in the workplace would gain more respect for each other, and in time there would be a significant reduction in on-the-job accusations of sexual harassment, both frivolous and legitimate. Workplace tension between the sexes would decrease, and so would sexual harassment’s high cost to business.
Contrary to the notions of political correctness and feministsplaining, women have as much to learn about men as the other way around.
Overcoming the resistance to an equality-based change
An impediment to this equality-based approach to curbing sexual harassment is the absence of diverse thinking about the problem.
RFs, having convinced society women are victims (not without a price: many women, for example, today seem to be instilled with unprecedented fear and anger, which is bad for one’s physical and mental health), insist the only change needed is in men and the legal system. The idea that women should have to do anything besides reporting offenses strikes many RFs as ludicrous and, worse, as blaming the victim (hence all the feministsplaining). At the least, RFs are unable, or unwilling, to see a connection between men being assigned the initiator role and men being accused of the harassment. To RFs, apparently, this is mere coincidence.
Perhaps they see no connection because they think of male initiating as male power — which would be puzzling, since RFs don’t tell women to grab some of that power by doing the initiating. Never mind that men report feeling not power when taking initiatives with women but fear of rejection and ridicule if they are “Mr. Wrong,” or if they initiate “improperly” – too fast, too slowly, too crudely…. Men’s fear when taking initiatives with women at work has been ratcheted up by the added possibility of a sexual harassment accusation. As for power, a man may indeed feel powerful if Ms. Right accepts, but no more so than the woman does when Mr. Right asks.
Why do women wear makeup and men don’t?
Women’s makeup is a long-established, direct result of the male-initiates rule, which assigns to men the role of “seducer” and to women the role of “inducer.”
Makeup, along with other beauty enhancers like push-up bras and revealing clothing, is more than just an expression of femininity and conformity to societal expectations. It’s also used to compete against other women who vie for men’s attention. It helps a woman to induce men to approach and take the initiatives she herself doesn’t take or takes fewer of (refer to the above Cosmo recommendations of how a woman should induce men). To verify this, ask women if they would go out looking for men without wearing makeup. (Women’s reasons abound for wearing makeup, some of them having to do with power.)
A man, as an initiator, as a seducer, doesn’t need makeup to get a woman’s attention. When he wants it, he approaches her and introduces himself. That initiative-taking gets him her attention, whether it’s positive or negative.
The male seduces/the female induces is the fundamental behavior that results in the female as a sex/beauty object and the male as a success/status object. If females did the seducing and men the inducing, men instead of women would wear makeup. This is just one example of how behavior produces outcomes we ordinarily don’t link to behavior and instead wrongly attribute to “attitudes,” which themselves stem from our reactions to behavior.
For now, RFs’ views on sexual harassment rule the day. They are generally embraced by institutions and the mainstream media, which never debate whether women ought to equally share in initiating relationships, although they frequently report that men should equally share in such “female” roles as housecleaning (to the wife’s standards!).
The rigid, unforgiving feminist notions about sexual harassment, as well as about men, are universal and entrenched. As a result, many who think differently about sexual harassment feel intimidated into silence. Their will to speak up is squashed by the gender politics and by the lack of strong support one ordinarily needs to challenge heavy-handed bureaucratic attitudes. Few forums arise to explore the concept of sexual harassment with intellectual honesty and a free-flowing, anything-goes exchange of views.
To curb sexual harassment, employers, for their part, can do more about sexual harassment than merely lecturing that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ which everyone but RFs concedes isn’t always true. They can include in their training programs staged role reversals in which male and female employees swap their traditional courting roles (females become the initiator, males the passive reactor) and conduct mock romantic encounters and dates.
Sexual harassment regulation may get worse before it gets better. So may relations between the sexes and between male and female employees. For the time being, employers’ potential for liability may grow. Employers may need all the more to train their employees, ideally through gender role-reversal training, to create a culture of empathy and understanding that automatically self-polices against sexual harassment.
Some consider such role reversals irrelevant or absurd or the workplace too staid and serious for such “play.” Yet precedents exist for using this role-reversal training in programs to curb sexual harassment. Many employers already conduct role-reversal training whereby employees and supervisors trade roles to acquire a deeper understanding of what each other experiences, thus helping bring down the “Us against them” wall that often stands between them and creates hostility or uneasiness where none need be.
Police agencies conduct programs that allow officers and “criminals” to trade places in play situations to help the officers prevent or mitigate clashes in real situations. Many family counselors implement role reversals for feuding parents and teenagers, and for troubled husbands and wives. Such reversals are considered highly effective in allaying tension that arises out of the inability of two individuals, or two groups, to understand each other. They can frequently illuminate what has been muddled or distorted by verbal communication and turned into cause for animosity.
If you are a woman and want to know what it’s like to be a man, I recommend Norah Vincent’s Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again.
“It was the woman’s job to be on the defensive, because past experience had taught her to be. It was the guy’s job to be on the offensive, because he had no choice. It was that or never meet at all.”
“In fact, we sit there and we just with one word, ‘no,’ will crush someone,” she said. “We don’t have to do the part where you cross the room and you go up to a stranger that you’ve never met in the middle of a room full of people and say the first words. And those first words are so hard to say without sounding like a cheeseball or sounding like a jerk.”
“People see weakness in a woman and they want to help. They see weakness in a man and they want to stamp it out.”
“My prejudice was that the ideal man is a woman in a man’s body. And I learned, no, that’s really not. There are a lot of women out there who really want a manly man, and they want his stoicism.”
“There is a time in a boy’s life when the sweetness is pounded out of him; and tenderness, and the ability to show what he feels, is gone.”
“I really like being a woman. … I like it more now because I think it’s more of a privilege.”
To an extent, some employers already see the value of role reversals in their harassment training. A group of male air traffic controllers was forced to let female participants fondle them, and had to look at photos of male sex organs. This was a crude, sexist RF-influenced “role reversal” training that was designed, as usual, to “educate” only the male workers. Its sole intent was to allow the female employees to show the men “how it felt” to have to endure one type of sexual harassment, even though most, if not all, of the male participants had never harassed anyone.
(Note that photos of male sex organs were used in this reversal, not female, as should have been to create a true reversal. The trainers dared not use photos of female genitalia, lest they themselves be accused of harassment by the women out to show men how it felt! They may have also thought the men would be turned on, not off, by pictures of female genitalia. One implication of showing only male genitalia is that harassment training itself must be careful never to offend women, but may offend men with impunity. Which, of course, is one reason some men feel harassed by harassment training!)
“Sexual harassment legislation in its current form renders all male employees unequal to all female employees. It violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection without regard of sex. Thus the political will to protect women prevails over the constitutional mandate to protect both sexes equally.” –Warren Farrell
Taking on the role of another, walking in his or her moccasins may be the best method of applying the principle of understanding.
Especially when sustained, role assuming lets us personally undergo and assimilate the influences of another’s environment which are too subtle or too complex to communicate verbally but which are necessary to experience if we intend to understand why certain people attain their beliefs, why they are the way they are, why they are our enemies. In sum, role assuming lets us, to an appreciable degree, “be” the other person. “Being” the other person helps us develop the empathy and emotional connectedness essential to both interpersonal and international peace.
How much we can “be” and understand another person via role-assuming may be affected by our socialization. The housewife trying on her husband’s provider role might not feel the same impact and stress her husband feels in that role. That’s because men are still socialized more than females to seek financial success or status to attract the other sex and to gain society’s approval.
By the same token, men likely experience less anxiety than women in “female” roles because of less pressure to maintain an image of competence in these roles. Obviously there are mitigating factors (including our subtly operating biases) which a role-assumer should be aware of to maximize the understanding sought.
After participating in role-reversed mock encounters and dates, many men and women for the first time get an inkling of what the other sex goes through in the courting arena. They suddenly see the other sex in a new, better light. More important, they learn that much hostile-environment sexual harassment, especially persistent requests for dates and so forth, can be the by-product of misreadings and misunderstandings resulting from the sexes’ different courting roles — and that sexual harassment is not, as RFs have stonily maintained, the method by which men at work conspire to subjugate women.
These sex-role reversals as part of training should appeal to the bold, cutting-edge employers who wish to move beyond political correctness to a whole new way of looking at sexual harassment — and at women and men. They present employers the opportunity to curb sexual harassment with an equality-minded approach that reflects an understanding of both the female culture and the male culture, thereby gaining the respect of all employees, including, possibly, even the respect of some radical feminist employees.
Objective legal minds may eventually prevail upon the courts to reverse sexual-harassment regulations’ attack on first and 14th amendment rights in the workplace. But while waiting for this long shot to occur, employers may be able to reduce their potential for lawsuits via the more benign, low-cost method of regular role-reversal training.
In the wake of the numerous 2017 sexual harassment allegations against celebrities, some radical feminists have chosen not to try to understand the alienating courting behavior between the sexes and how women contribute. Instead, they have already come out smearing all men in RFs’ typical “all women are innocent victims and all men are victimizers” fashion.
Michelle Goldberg says in The New York Times ( the flagship male-thrasher and home of radical feminists), “Sure, Franken made plenty of sexist jokes when he was with “Saturday Night Live,” but I thought he was one of the good guys. (I thought there were good guys.)”
Roxane Gay writes in her October 19 commentary in The New York Times (of course) “Dear Men: It’s You, Too”: “There is no escaping the inappropriate attentions and intentions of men.” Harvey Weinstein, Gay says, is “famous but utterly common.”
Oh? I’m sure there are Weinsteins out there, but never in my 76 years have I seen or even caught a whiff of a man like Weinstein, and I have spent prolonged time around hundreds of men and women in work settings with my ear to the gossip mill. Word gets around. I worked in the federal government for 27 years. In one year throughout my entire agency across the country, only four harassment allegations were made, and based on what I now know, chances are one of them was false.
In my office no complaints of sexual harassment ever arose. How do I know? Because, as I said, word gets around. One couple was caught having sex in a supply room, and the next day it was known throughout the office. (The man and the woman had been in a relationship for some time.)
I did witness obscene behavior on the part of some female employees. One day a woman was strolling around the office as mostly women laughed in her direction. I moved in for a closer look. She was wearing an apron around her waist and flipping it up and down. Underneath the apron, I soon learned, was faux genitalia, not female genitalia, male. This was at the height of a 1980s sexual-harassment frenzy. No one complained, though in retrospect I should have. Imagine a man walking around flipping up an apron to expose female genitalia. During work hours. On federal property. Would the women have laughed? Or would the man have lost his job and tens of thousands of dollars in salary and retirement benefits?
Around that same time, another woman handed out copies of crude sex-humor comics (one of which is below), copies she’d made on the federal government’s copier. The comics put down male characters. Again, picture a man handing out crude sex-humor comics that put down women.
Because of the “male seduces/the female induces” behavior, women in general resort to makeup and beauty enhancers and turn themselves into beauty-sex objects to (among other things) induce men to take the initiatives women have been socialized — by family, friends, parents, the media, tradition — not to take.
The “male initiates” rule, with the constant threat of rejection it carries for men, may harden the male psyche toward females. It may lead many men to reduce the female to an unimportant object who can’t hurt them. (Unimportant objects have less power to hurt than important people; ask women who call men “jerks.”) Reducing a woman to an object may also prevent a man from picking up on a woman’s hurt.
The male-initiates rule, especially when teamed up with the male’s strife to become financially successful, can create a man who doesn’t dare express his personal feelings in probably most settings.
I say to feminists and the media, especially the generally anti-male liberal media such as The New York Times:
It’s time to try something different. Start by listening to men a little bit more and to radical feminists like Catharine MacKinnon and Roxane Gay a little less. It may be hard to believe, but at some point you must stop telling us to understand only those who are harassed and start asking us to understand — without the feministsplaining — why some men harass. To defeat a “disease,” you must understand the disease and not just its victims.
You might also help your Democratic Party:
Why are feminists quiet about this inequality? Could the answer be: They worry about offending women? If so, feminists acknowledge they want to maintain a tradition — while opposing all other traditions! — that is responsible for what may be the sexes’ most alienating and destructive behavioral difference, the behavioral difference I believe spawns most of the sexual harassment that both feminists and millions of other people have for decades condemned and blamed solely on men.
What’s that sound? It’s my heavy sigh. Asking society to make the change I recommend is like asking someone to relocate an ocean with a teaspoon. Too many people of both sexes have too much invested in the status quo. Liberals — half of the population — won’t say anything they suspect will offend women, perhaps due in part to their gender identity politics and their fear of aggressive Catharine MacKinnonites.
Here’s why I think radical feminists such as Roxane Gay, Gloria Steinem, and The New York Times editors can’t change their views on sexual harassment and the male-female dynamic in general:
They not only want to portray the female as a victim (perhaps to insure their relevance as saviors of women in a den of “male beasts”). They also, I believe, are driven by their need to be right about their views when that need is driven by their fear of being wrong.
On our need to be “right”
If an ideological feminist manages to read this entire commentary, she (or he) is unlikely to admit where I might be right.
That’s not just because she can be as rigid in her thinking as she says men are. It’s also because of her and everyone else’s often deep-seated need to be “right” about our ideas. Or, more accurately, it’s all too often because of our deep-seated fear of our ideas being seen as “wrong.”
This fear, I believe, usually runs deep and powerful in those who routinely make their opinions pubic, as feminist leaders do.
It is hard for me to imagine NOW’s chief Toni Van Pelt, perhaps after she read Warren Farrell’s Why Men Earn More, going on television and gushing sheepishly, “Boy, was I wrong about the gender wage gap!” She knows this is not what NOW’s rank and file, generally steeped in female victimology, want to hear. Were she to make that confession, she’d likely be pilloried. Her organization would collapse like a house of cards in a wind storm. Moreover, she’d be at risk of losing her high-status job, her likely decent income, and her continual, ego-gratifying moments in the sun while being handled with kid gloves by her handmaidens in the mainstream media.
She is like any other male pontificator: trapped by the fear of being seen as “wrong” about long-publicized perceptions.
Thus she is trapped in her fear of listening to men such as Warren Farrell — trapped in her fear of changing, trapped in the way men are trapped and berated for, trapped into being exactly like men.
Suppose Roxane Gay read this commentary (if only!) and became utterly convinced she was wrong about men. Would she then write an op-ed saying she is wrong? Not likely. Why? Because she has gone public and told thousands if not millions of people there are no good men. She has acquired many supporters, including her financial provider The New York Times. If she did publish her changed views (in a conservative outlet), what would happen? She’d likely lose the vast majority of her supporters, perhaps including friends who might even scorn her for “betraying” them. She’d also lose the income stream from the The New York Times and other liberal outlets publishing her anti-male views.
My money says Gay would remain silent — or continue the same sexist feministsplaining.
The deeply entrenched need to be right helps keep us deeply entrenched in the need to alienate the sexes.
A final note on the breadth of the problem
What is the meaning of all I’ve said in my lengthy commentary in this context:
According to General Social Survey (GSS), only 3.6 percent of women said they were harassed at work in 2014, showing a downward trend. The percentage of women claiming harassment may be a bit less than 3.6 percent, given that some ideological feminists, in my view, may have falsely claimed harassment to ratchet up the numbers.
Based on the mentioned 3.6 percent, only 2 percent of men may be harassers, since the typical harasser, as I said earlier, appears to be a serial harasser.
Turn the figures around to the positive: 96.4 women in the survey were not harassed, and about 98 percent of men are not harassers.
Some might argue this means not only is there no epidemic, there is no need for action beyond advising harassed women to take harassers to court and letting the chips fall where they may.
But maybe the GSS survey vastly understates the breadth, as some readers no doubt believe and other surveys show. Moreover, besides at the workplace, sexual harassment takes place where laws often defy compliance: on the street, in bars, at conventions, and elsewhere. The breadth of the problem may indeed be vast.
If so, I would think my sea-change recommendation on how to wade out of the quagmire bears relevance.
My personal situation
Over the many years I worked, I never harassed anyone, though some of the women I complimented and asked out may have been told by office feminists they were “harassed.” But I never heard this and no charges were made.
When I approached women in my single years, my thought in response to those who said no to me was always: I won’t ask again. My slogan was “If you’re playing hard to get, I play easy to lose.” For me, it was a matter of not wanting to humiliate myself. I think the vast majority of men take this view.
Many women approached me. (To be outrageously immodest for a moment, I’ve always been considered handsome. Good-looking guys, as I said, don’t have much reason to harass.) Many others made it crystal clear they were interested, at work and at singles gatherings. This was especially true at the countless singles dances I attended. I rarely sat at a table. I preferred to stand near the dance floor and watch the good dancers. Sometimes a woman weaving her way through the crowd bumped against me or let her purse swing against me. Other times women would stand very close to me, hoping, I suppose, I’d say something and ask them to dance. On one occasion, a woman stood close at my left and another close at my right. I declined to ask either, not wanting to make the unasked one feel bad.
Sexual harassment indeed seems to have become a quagmire. But we have no chance of addressing it, I think, if all we do is take punitive measures against harassers.
If you believe this, and believe my views warrant consideration, please spread this commentary far and wide.
Ultimately toxic femininity might be defined as women’s unequal initiative-taking. But I prefer not to label behavior. To slap a label on behavior, especially a negative one without a thorough, objective explanation and much time spent in others’ shoes, is to do a disservice to the person or group labeled. By sprinkling “toxic femininity” here and there in my commentary, I hoped to convey the point that calling men’s “harassing” behavior “toxic masculinity” without spending time in men’s shoes is to disrespect men, perpetuate sexism against them, and to find no solution to sexual harassment. In the end, men and women are only further alienated.
Is this where we stand as of January 2, 2018, as illustrated by this video at Fox & Friends:
In the first picture clipped at 00:28 seconds from the Fox & Friends video linked to above (the pictures do not link to the actual video), the gregarious, animated Marilu Henner (star in “Taxi”) lays her hand on Brian Kilmeade’s knee. Is she just over-friendly and unconscious of what’s she doing — or is she signalling interest in Brian? Is he wondering, “How did that hand get there?”
At 01:34 below, Henner becomes still more friendly. One might think she’s mauling Kilmeade on live TV!
In 2018, is this the point we’ve arrived at on sexual harassment: A woman can openly and publicly lay hands on a man’s knee, thigh, and shoulder, while we would not dare permit that to happen the other way around? Had Kilmeade done the same laying-on-of-hands to Henner, would he have been fired on the spot? No. He would’ve been fired immediately after the show, and all the U.S. media would be ablaze with shots of his “toxic masculinity,” his public “brazenness to possess and dominate Henner.” (By the way, I’m pretty sure Henner wasn’t interested in Kilmeade. She is merely an effervescent, expressive person.)
Truth-based Comic Relief
“Safe sex” has a different meaning for men than it does for women.–Unknown
Sexual harassment exists because men believe it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission. –Unknown
“When men talk dirty to women, it’s sexual harassment, but when women talk dirty to men, it’s $6.95 a minute.” —Albert Schafer, President, Coalition of Parent Support San Diego
Saturday Night Live: “Sexual Harassment and You“
A possible “biological” reason for traditional courting behavior
In the courting arena, in the workplace and elsewhere, it has been up until very recent times the custom that only men do the approaching and initiating of relationships, and women waited to be asked.
When did this custom start? I believe its genesis can be traced to our hominid times two or three million years ago when we were primates evolving into humans.
As you’d imagine, females of that era often were impregnated and had children. It’s possible that at any given time a huge number of pregnant females and females with small children were out of the mating arena because they weren’t in their estrus period, weren’t in “heat.” (See Helen E. Fisher’s 1982 “The Sex Contract: The Evolution of Human Behavior” — an old book but Fisher’s research apparently still holds.)
That generally meant far fewer females relative to males were available for sex.
The lopsided ratio fueled the males’ need to move in fast to beat the competition. Hence males initiated even before females realized they, too, wanted sex. (Sometimes females were fought over. the need to fight off competitors may have contributed to males evolving with generally bigger stature and muscles.)
It’s not that female hominids didn’t initiate sex. They did, big time, judging by Fisher’s book and today’s animals. I’ve seen documentaries in which lionesses back up to lions who weren’t particularly interested at first. Female chimpanzees do likewise to male chimps. Female monkeys? They’re sexual predators:
“We spent a day following Deidrah, a relatively tranquil, low-key female monkey, who was nevertheless relentlessly stalking — sexually stalking — her object of desire. If there’s any objectification going on in the monkey kingdom, it’s the females objectifying the males, chasing them, and sort of all but forcing them. It wasn’t just Deidrah, of course — it was all the female monkeys that we were following….”
For humans, the “male initiates” endured the millennia, from our hominid era to our human era. It eventually became viewed as “natural behavior,” paving the way to evolving into a custom because “That’s the way things are ‘supposed to be,’” with both sexes in roughly equal number supporting and enforcing it.
PRIMARY REFERENCES (Search for the books at http://www.Amazon.com):
- A History of Courtly and Romantic Love
- Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, Cathy Young
- “And You Wonder Why There is a ‘Glass Ceiling,’” commentary by Charlotte Allen
- Defending Pornography, Nadine Strossen
- Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and The Future of Feminism, Daphne Patai
- The Myth of Male Power, Warren Farrell (www.warrenfarrell.com)
- The New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order, Rene Denfeld
- Who Stole Feminism: Women Betraying Women, Christina Hoff Sommers
- What To Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops, Joan Kennedy Taylor
- Why Men Are The Way They Are, Warren Farrell
- Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say, Warren Farrell
- Women’s Freedom Network newsletter (www.womensfreedom.org)
- A free online book: Is There Anything Good About Men: How Cultures Flourish By Exploiting Men
“When Saying ‘Yes’ Is Easier Than Saying ‘No’” -New York Times, December 16, 2017. Excerpt:
Sometimes “yes” means “no,” simply because it is easier to go through with it than explain our way out of the situation. Sometimes “no” means “yes,” because you actually do want to do it, but you know you’re not supposed to lest you be labeled a slut. And if you’re a man, that “no” often means “just try harder” — because, you know, persuasion is part of the game.
This in the New York Times! Will wonders never cease?
Sexual Assault’s Broken System of Justice” This report of June 11, 2017, details what I believe is a frightening culmination, especially on campus, of the decades-old “male initiates/female reacts” courting system. Excerpt:
The defense attorneys for Mr. Johnson asked that the rape charge against him be dismissed in part because they believed the Missoula Police Department’s sexual assault investigation policy violated the presumption of innocence. Whether that was an appropriate basis for the dismissal request is best left to legal experts. What is more clearly inappropriate, however, is that the judge based her ruling on David Lisak’s misrepresentation of his own paper.
The Court finds that the Missoula Police Department’s policy … is not in violation of the presumption of innocence. It is not improper for the police to have this policy because, as Dr. David Lisak noted in his expert witness disclosure, the percentage of false reports is very low … It is hereby ordered that the Defendant’s Second Motion to Dismiss is Denied. (Italics by Male Matters USA)
Even if the research were valid—and it’s worth repeating that it is not—a judge’s decision to proceed to trial based on the statistical probability that the accused is guilty is troubling. It is difficult even to imagine another type of crime for which the presumption of innocence has been so compromised.
“How Women Can Prevent Sexual Harassment” This commentary of April 24, 2017, begins with an awareness of what men must contend with:
Since the dawn of the ages, men have been trying to get it on with women. Hundreds of old movies (and new ones!) depict story after story of a woman who acts coy and flirtatious with a man, while the man is left to dissect the meaning of her behavior. Does she want it or doesn’t she? Is she interested or isn’t she?
The commentary shows three ways strong women combat sexual harassment at work:
They don’t flirt.
They nip it in the bud.
These measures are certainly effective as far as they go. But the commentary falls short in that it fails to recognize the many women who dress professionally, never flirt, and nip it in the bud initially (for the reasons explained in my commentary), but later have second thoughts, as seen in movies and in real life, giving rise and reason to male persistence, a cornerstone of “harassment.”
“The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy” This Atlantic.com report of September 6, 2017, describes the draconian point we have reached. The old saying “It’s better that 10 guilty go free than that one innocent be punished” has been turned on its head on campus. Might this partly explain men’s drop in college enrollment over the last eight years
“Why do women beach volleyball players wear bikinis while men wear shorts and tank tops?” “The answer, according to Corinne Calabro, the communications director for USA Volleyball, is pretty simple: Because that’s what the female athletes want to compete in. Women don’t have to wear bikinis — the uniform guidelines from the Federation of International Volleyball, the governing body of all international competition, allow for many different options.”
A final note: the politics of sexual harassment
Feminists and the liberal media, when reporting on gender issues, have for decades tended to demonize men and portray women as innocent victims. They haven’t just kept gender alienation alive and striving. They have, as I said, helped hugely to hurt themselves and the Democratic Party to which they are affiliated. This will surely worsen as more and more liberal and Independent men tire of both the liberal media’s and the liberal culture’s antimale predilection. If things continue as is, perhaps one day our two political parties will rename themselves, and we’ll have the ultimate gender alienation: The Party of Women and The Party of Men.
For readers’ comments, see the end of Part 1.