Monday, December 11, 2017
 
After “National Reckoning” Over Male Behavior, Some Wonder What New Workplace Will Look Like

WASHINGTON, D.C. Dec. 4 (DPI) – It’s been a dramatic eight weeks of disclosures, allegations and instant repercussions for famous men in media, business and politics, and the national reckoning over male behavior in the workplace appears to hardly be over.

As of today, about a dozen high-profile men have been removed from their jobs, have been suspended or remain on the professional ropes after various types of allegations have been made against them.

It all began with the disclosures in early October that film producer Harvey Weinstein had for years been paying settlements to women he’s abused – or worse. Those disclosures, first published in the NY Times, triggered the avalanche of accusations against men in powerful positions – Charley Rose, Garrison Kiellor, Matt Lauer, Louis CK, among others – who behaved not just poorly and inappropriately but perhaps even criminally.

These developments have created what many hope will be, 26 years after the Clarence Thomas hearings, a new, less tolerant attitude toward sexual harassment in the workplace.   The nearest comparable social upheaval was the revelations, in the 90s and thereafter, of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Comment boards across news sites have exploded with outrage, anger, pathos, even misplaced political commentary (a common query: “How is it that Trump is still president?”) More recently thousands of readers have scoffed at the nature of the apologies from the accused.

“In my opinion, the apologies don’t cut it,” wrote one poster on WashingtonPost.com last week. “Everyone is sorry after the fact, after they’ve been caught. None were willing to stop the behavior that harmed many – using their position to satisfy their sexual needs. They did what they did because they could and had no conscience. They used – USED – women and in some cases, men – like they were pieces of meat. They chose to do what they were doing. They were and are predators.”

One emerging theme from all the commentary over the last week:  What will the impact be on the ordinary workplace? Will these revelations involving high-profile people impact broader society? At the time of the Clarence Thomas hearings, Helen Gurley Brown famously said “a little sexual tension in the office never hurt anyone,” but that view is now passe. “I worry now what’s going to happen to the workplace,” wrote one poster. “No eye contact, no compliments, a cold and harsh environment. Everyone on their guard. I’m not sure I want to see the backlash to all this.”

The problem though of course is real, and women – many having courageously revealed their traumatic experiences in recent weeks – won’t be allowing any return to the old days. Among the most popular comments in WashingtonPost.com last week:

Men – all of you – we don’t want to see your stuff. We don’t want to touch your stuff. We don’t want to see you touching your stuff. We don’t want you touching our stuff. Geez. How were these people raised to think this is OK? I don’t care how rich or powerful you are – or if you’re a regular, run-of-the-mill person. STOP IT.

The sheer volume of comments over the last few weeks reflects how much the “national reckoning” has touched a nerve with so many. On the NY Times site, more than 4,700 comments attached to a single report on Matt Lauer‘s ouster from NBC News:

I am female, and this is all starting to worry me a bit. I fear this will start to seem like a witch hunt for many men, who are now wondering if any little touch or comment could have been misconstrued and used against them. There needs to be a distinction between those who prey on women, abuse them, and abuse their power. There is a very broad spectrum of behavior, everywhere from inappropriate to criminal. I don’t intend to “victim shame”, but I do think we need to tread carefully. I’m not addressing this case specifically, since I do not know the details.

A national reckoning of behavior many men thought was either just their right, funny, or inconsequential. Hopefully these revelations and consequences will fuel changes in the way we portray men in movies, books, and the media and the way men are raised. Testosterone does not equal manhood.

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