Bad Time to be a Man?

“Rape is a crime. But trying to pick up someone, however persistently or clumsily, is not — nor is gallantry an attack of machismo.” – Excerpt from Le Monde, January 2018.

I was out one night catching up with a colleague when the conversation turned to the #metoo movement.  I cautiously brought up an article I read earlier that week.  It was an open letter published in Le Monde that was signed by over 100 French women.  I asked if my friend had seen the letter that Catherine Deneuve had signed.  She had, and commented, “I wanted to ask you but I wasn’t sure how to bring up the topic.  I agreed with most – not all – of the points in the letter.  Overall, it seems like it’s a bad time to be a man.”

Which got me wondering – is it a bad time to be a man?

It seems that everywhere I turn these days, I hear a new story of what men should or shouldn’t say or do, or how bad men are in general.  I even read an article that tells the story of a male boss backpedaling immediately after telling a female employee that he liked her hair blond (she had just changed her hair color.)  What?  Why is it now wrong to comment this way on a coworker’s appearance?

I have worked in male-dominated companies for most of my career.  And to be honest, I prefer a coed work environment.  In my experience, men tend to be more direct and have relatively few hidden agendas.  I enjoyed the jokes and (mostly) harmless flirtations that were a part of this environment – if I felt someone had crossed a line, I said so.  That’s not to say it was perfect.  It does mean that as someone who has experienced true harassment, I am able to recognize the difference between appropriate behavior and crossing the line.

In the wake of all the current scandals, there seems to be a backlash against men, all men.  Now we have articles making the case that a man telling a woman she looks nice, or patting her on the shoulder, is off-limits.  What is happening here?  Have we abandoned all common sense in interactions between men and women?

Like it or not, men and women are fundamentally different, and are going to approach situations differently.  And I like it that way.  I don’t want to live in a sterile world, where we all have stilted, professional conversations at work or anywhere else.  That would be just as bad as isolating ourselves from one another.

So, rather than damn all men for the actions of a few, I’ll stick with the Golden Rule.  If I feel a man has crossed a line into inappropriateness, I find a way to tell him (my personal preference is humor or deflection) and it usually resolves the matter.  And, if a man compliments my hair or tells me I look nice, I’m going to appreciate it for what it is – a compliment – and say thank you.

Because I don’t want it to be a bad time to be anyone – man or woman.

I know this can be a heated issue and welcome your thoughts on the subject.  Have we gone too far on this issue?  Are you walking on eggshells in your daily interactions?  Share your thoughts.

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