It was Saturday night, and I was out with some friends watching the first Toronto Raptors playoff game of the season (Go Raptors!). At one point in the night, our conversation somehow turned from sports to the ongoing #MeToo movement that has taken over recent headlines. Naturally, as you can imagine there were various opinions, outlooks and viewpoints on the subject.
One friend stated how he felt it’s a very volatile time to be in the workplace. He said he no longer knows if he is actually allowed to even compliment a woman anymore. (I immediately wondered what the compliment was going to be that would make a woman cringe/accuse him of being a creepy bastard). Another friend pointed out that it was almost “frightening” to be around women in the workplace now because he has no idea how to talk to them, and what they’d find appropriate vs. offensive. The truth is, I’ve had several more clients bring up this same concern.
The #MeToo movement is not something men should fear. It shouldn’t mean you run in the opposite direction when your female co-worker enters the room. The movement is much, much bigger than that. It’s a movement against sexual harassment, assault and equality. Period. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall in to, it is clear that the way we understand this means navigating new territory for a lot of men. Regardless of who you are, where you work, how you were raised and what you do for a living, the rule of thumb is this: Always. Be. A. Gentleman.
As a man, saying you fully understand the #MeToo movement is the same as stating you understand feminism and trying to navigate through that can seem intimidating.
This movement is not about women being hypersensitive and looking to bring down men. It’s about drawing the line between professional and unprofessional. Knowing the difference between appropriate and inappropriate. Having the consciousness to comprehend the difference between wanted and unwanted actions towards ALL women.
In my opinion, the movement is starting important conversations about consent. It’s putting a focus unwelcomed behaviour – and allowing women to feel comfortable enough to have a voice. In the past few months, thousands of women have posted the powerful words ‘Me Too’ on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, even more, women have shared posts and stories about their tragic experiences. This has allowed women to express their thoughts and views on this subject. In turn, it has allowed us, as men, to understand where they are coming from (and communicate how to correctly behave in both public and private settings).
If you’re looking for a few suggestions to navigate through this movement – here are some notes to help keep you from putting your foot in your mouth. Or from getting labelled with any sort of “creep” tag.
TO COMPLIMENT OR NOT TO COMPLIMENT…
Truth is, it isn’t necessary to compliment a lady. Especially if she’s not your lady. Much in the same way you don’t throw compliments on your bros or colleagues – it’s pretty safe to keep that mindset about women. This myth that women are craving our approval and attention is false. This theory was likely created by a single man who most definitely didn’t consult a woman beforehand. Ladies can get through their day just fine without your compliments. Please remember that when she woke up this morning she didn’t get dressed hoping for your approval or admiration.
THINK. BEFORE. YOU. SPEAK
Please for the love of the Raptors never compliment a woman’s body – no matter how strong the urge is. She doesn’t want to hear it. If she is not your wife or girlfriend – avoid this type of communication. At all costs, steer clear of expressing your appreciation of her legs, smile or weight loss. (As a life rule: never talk about a woman’s weight). The same way you aren’t telling Gary how that shade of blue in his tie brings out his eyes or how his suit jacket emphasizes his broad shoulders, you should never be saying those things to your female friends/co-workers… even strangers. Keep your complimentary vocab strictly to genuine accomplishments. They are less likely to be misinterpreted and much more appreciated.
Educating yourself is crucial. As mentioned before, you can do this by asking questions and listening closely to the answers. But there is so much more you can do. Read a book, watch a documentary or attend an educational event in your city. In the era of #MeToo, there are an endless amount of resources you can use to educate yourself on women’s rights. Trust me. Some of it is mind-blowing and absolutely zero harm will come from learning more about a woman’s perspective. These types of movements are here to stay and to be a respected man (and have female friends), it’s something you need to learn.
THERE’S NO EASY FIX
Even though we want to “fix” things for women when we hear negative stories, it is important to realize that #MeToo is not something that is easy to ‘fix’. It’s a platform that lets women openly discuss the inappropriate things that have happened to them in the past, and how the time for change is NOW. Learning about this movement will help you understand the ways women want to be treated, talked to, and looked at. Not only in the workplace — but in all places.
What’s most important is that the discussions are happening – whether in private or at the bar during NBA playoffs. When people talk, people learn. When women raise their voices, it’s clear that it sparks change. So, talk amongst your fellas and gather their input. Keep your actions classy and keep yourself updated on the latest movements in the news. Only good things can come from it.