By Karetta Hubbard, Lynne Revo-Cohen, Gwen Crider, and Dr. Chris Martin
Our previous article featured a conversation between the CEO, the HR director, and staff, with the CEO explaining that harassment incidents were not acceptable in his company. (Read the article.)
Comments from Readers on last week’s article:
“What struck me reading this article is that the bystander has tremendous power, whether calling out a bully or a sexual harasser. And there’s power in numbers. One bystander becomes two, then three, then a group, standing up for what’s right and shutting down those who use words and gestures to harm others”.
“Men need to teach their sons to say something when they see something”.
Men as Allies: Challenging Other Men
A comfortable private room in an office building, a group of eight men seated in a circle come together to discuss thoughts about sexism. Just back from a break, some are holding bottled water, others sipping coffee, all nervously wait to be the first one to begin.
“We just discussed that sexism is a form of prejudice. Frankly, though, I don’t know why I am here,” says Dave, breaking the silence. “I have always thought of women as equal. Except my wife of course, Happy Wife, Happy Life! Got to keep the home fires burning.”
“That’s the point, I think. If we spend time focusing on the `other sex’ and what they want, then we are not treating women as equals,” thoughtfully inserts Tyrone.
“Well, when my wife is not happy, she can be a bitch,” says Dave. “I believe it is a battle of the sexes and it is important to figure out how to win.”
“I’m going out on a limb here, but If you believe this Dave, then you are in the wrong. I think you’re making the case to pit men against women, and this position then sets women up to be the weaker sex,” says Tyrone.
“Yes, which makes them targets, or potential victims,” adds Miquel. “The point must be to elevate them to equal status. We need to find balance between the sexes. Not conflict points.”
“Wait a minute, guys. I am on your side,” says Dave. “Just trying to figure out the best way to keep the Mrs. happy. I need to come home to some lovin’ you know?”
“What kind of chauvinist are you?” Miquel asks. “Sounds to me like you objectify your wife. And, all you want is a piece of well, you know.”
“Wait a minute!” Dave responds. “I love my wife. But, she has the upper hand because of sex. And that’s real power.”
Miquel continues, “Umm, really man? I’m trying to making sense of this battle, because it has to be the most curious battle in the history of humankind, in which 90 percent of the combatants are supposedly in love with, and having children with, the enemy.”
“OK” says Tyrone. “If this is true, that women and men should be treated equally, and men and women don’t need this fight, to keep it going is outright, blatant sexism?”
“If you take away my right to control what I do in my marriage, what do I have left?” asks Dave. “I get hammered at work all day just holding my own, and when I come home I just want dinner, peace and quiet, and you know, a little …” He glances at Fred, the facilitator, for approval.
“I have been listening to you for more than an hour, and you constantly put your wife down,” says Tyrone. “What is your problem bro?”
Fred chimes in. “Can anyone give us a snapshot of where we are in this discussion?”
Miguel adds, “Yes, looks like our common denominator language is about sex. I think Dave is unenlightened, has a lousy marriage, and thinks woman are for one thing, and one thing only.”
“My guess is that this discussion reflects how men are socialized to think of women as less, or even as property that men can use. Am I on the right track?” asks Tyrone. “If the battle of the sexes is a focus for men, then trying to be an ally won’t work. Being an ally means as men we have to level the playing field. Accept what women can give as well as take, and value that as well as we value male actions.”
Fred says, “This is the goal fellows. I have a homework assignment for the group. When you go home tonight, notice if your thoughts are chauvinistic vs altruistic. In other words, it is important to think about gender, as well as other forms of identity that provide disadvantages for women. This is a small, but important first step to recognizing male privilege. Small steps lead to large culture change.”
Miquel adds, “To undercut the myths that males are unfeeling, simple creatures who only care about sports and sex? Plus, I think many people feel quite comfortable reinforcing these sexist beliefs.”
“And, to challenge each other so change can take place?” Dave says, adding, “as the jerk who has been confronted all morning.”
“Time to lick your wounds,” asserts Miquel.
Question: Does real change begin in the home? In how men and women treat each other in social situations? Is Dave’s attitude towards his wife reflective of the way he treats women co-workers? Unless he changes how he treats his wife, and perhaps other women in his family and social circle, will he ever regard women as equals in the workplace?
Please send us your observations and comments. Be part of this dialogue!
The preceding is based on Kilmartin, C. T. (2017). Male allies to women. In J. Schwarz (Ed.), Counseling women across the lifespan: Empowerment, advocacy, and intervention. New York: Springer.
Since 1984 the founders of NewPoint Strategies, Karetta Hubbard and Lynne Revo-Cohen, have built a strong reputation for delivering extremely effective prevention training in high-risk issues such as sexual harassment/assault. Contributing Author and Lead Consultant, Chris Kilmartin, Ph.D, Emeritus Professor of Psychology from the University of Mary Washington, is an expert in Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention, specifically Male Violence Against Women. Gwen Crider is a Diversity Expert. For more information, go to the website for NewPoint Strategies.
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