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Male Shame

As a gay man, I don't believe I have ever interacted with a woman in any way that could be construed as inappropriate sexually.

But as a man, I feel I share responsibility for the shame of my sex in how we have made women feel like sexual objects in non-sexual situations. Because whether or not I'm personally guilty, I've benefited from never having been groped, pinched, ogled, spoken to suggestively in the workplace. I've never been made to feel that my professional success was in any way dependent on how I looked or dressed or carried myself. Not to mention that I've never been an outright victim of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault.

It's hard to believe that this issue is front and center in the current presidential election, and that someone who has boasted about his misogynistic treatment of women is seen as a viable candidate by so many Americans. But here we are. And in a way, I'm grateful, because the conversations that have taken place have opened my eyes to the insidious things women deal with in the workplace. As much as I wanted to believe that the Mad Men era is a thing of the past, I now have faced up to the reality that pretty much all women in all kinds of professional settings have been treated inappropriately, and that has cost them professional success, or basic human dignity, or both, and that this still goes on today.

And there's another reality I have to face up to: I will never truly understand. I will never know what it's like to be the victim of unwanted sexual come-ons in the workplace. (I know that sexual harassment can happen to men as well as to women, but because so many more men are in positions of power, and because men like Donald Trump exist, I know that there is no equivalence.) As much as I try to empathize, I won't ever know how it feels.

The best thing, the only thing men can do is listen to what women say about their experiences, hear them, trust them, and believe them. On top of being victims of harassment and abuse, women have also been called liars and much worse when they call out the perpetrators. It's no wonder there is reluctance to do so, and it's no wonder it often takes years for some women to summon the courage to tell their stories.

I challenge all men to affirm the dignity of women and the right of all women to be in a workplace free from sexual harassment, innuendo, unwelcome touch, threats, and the suggestion that advancement requires anything except hard work.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Lane. With the help of decent men like you, we'll get there. There is so much more awareness now than when I was in my 20's. I guess we can partially thank Trump for that.


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