Memo to Men: Help Stop Sexual Harassment
Let’s face it
men: more of us need to “man-up” by proactively helping to end the scourge of sexual
harassment. We must collectively stop being the main cause of the problem and start being part of the solution.
This means standing up and speaking out to support women. This also means swiftly shaming and punishing male perpetrators for their despicable deeds.
recently named a group of women – called the “Silence Breakers” -- as their Person
of the Year for 2017. These courageous women represent countless thousands who
are breaking their silence in record numbers and sharing their stories about
being sexually victimized by malicious men.
Yet it's simply outrageous that even in today's modern 21st century workplace and society there are men who sport a Stone Age mentality of treating women as second class citizens.
Too many men still see sexual harassment as nothing more than a laughing matter. But there’s nothing funny about it.
Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal wrote the following about the “Me Too Movement”: "This is the fastest-moving social change we've seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women, and some men, who came forward to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and assault."
Now it’s time for more men to follow in the footsteps of the “Silence Breakers” by breaking their own silence about right and wrong. This is especially important considering that decades of voluntary employer training, policies and procedures to prevent workplace sexual harassment have too often proven ineffective.
Men are fathers, sons, brothers and boyfriends of women and girls. As such, we have an inherent social and moral responsibility to forcefully address this issue. How? By sending an unequivocal message to other men that sexual harassment will no longer be tolerated, period!
Male Silence Breaker
is a male actor in Hollywood who was one the few men in his industry to
initially support women in the crusade to end sexual harassment. Time included
him among the “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year. Part of his motivation
was allegedly being sexually harassed himself, albeit by another man.
This type of male-on-male conduct is known as “same-sex harassment” and has been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment).
According to Time, “Crews realized that men had a responsibility to lend credence and support to these women’s claims. Almost without thinking through the consequences, Crews tweeted out his own story; in his viral series of tweets, he became one of the first men to join the chorus of women speaking out about harassment.”
understood why “it’s imperative that men advocate for women’s rights,” as Time
“I was really angry because these women were being discounted. These women were being discarded. Their pain was just—it was nothing…these women know they weren’t alone." -- Actor Terry Crews
He continued: “And that I understood. My whole mission was to give them strength. Don’t accept the shame that people are giving you. Because that’s what it was. They were being shamed. They were being victimized again. I just couldn’t stand for it.”
Crews deserves accolades for his bold and beneficial actions. More men must be put on notice that sexual harassment will not go unnoticed. The bottom line, as stated by Crews: “Men need to hold other men accountable.”
He explained, “I came up in the cult of masculinity, in football and the sports world and entertainment. You’re in places and guys are saying the wildest thing. People need to be called on that. You need to be held accountable for the things you say, the things you do.”
All men need to be more mindful about the sexual harassment epidemic and “man-up” to end it. Again, this means speaking out both publicly and behind the scenes to other men, particularly those prone to committing such shameful behavior which ultimately gives all men a bad name.
of good conscience and goodwill should stop staying silent. Rather, more men
should vociferously shame sexual harassers and more employers should take stronger
actions to proactively prevent hostile environments for working women.
Those men who need to speak out most include CEOs and public figures of all industries. It’s imperative that powerful men with national name recognition lead by example.
Male leaders in corporate America, government, media and entertainment should set the tone from the top-down. That’s because only when powerful men start forcefully speaking out in defense of female victims, and against their male perpetrators, will the stubborn work culture regarding sexual harassment truly change.
In fact, it’s long overdue for more men to take responsibility by standing in allegiance with women. Everyone should know that violating the statutory rights of women in the workplace will no longer be tolerated in any industry under any circumstances.
Moreover, “Zero Tolerance” needs to be more than just empty rhetoric. It’s not enough for HR officials and mid-level management to highlight employee handbooks periodically, if at all, and then put those written policies and procedures on a shelf to gather dust. Rather, such employment policies and procedures to prevent sexual harassment need to be revised and reiterated, as well as buttressed by annual or semi-annual training.
But employers alone cannot be counted on to end this persistent problem. That’s why more men should send the following three-point message to their co-workers, colleagues, subordinates, friends and family:
1) Sexual harassment is a cowardly and reprehensible act.
2) Any man who sexually violates the rights of women will be swiftly called out, ostracized and humiliated in public by their male colleagues.
3) Not only will lewd behavior towards women no longer be condoned or ignored, but neither will retaliation and casting blame on victims.
Put simply, men of high moral character should shame men of weak moral character into being gentlemen. This means valuing and respecting women in the workplace and every other place.
As men, we must recall that victims of sexual harassment are our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters. Further, it must be understood that unwanted sexual advances toward women go well beyond the following, which are unjustifiable and cowardly excuses for bad behavior:
- It's just lurid “locker room” conduct/talk,
- It's just an immature attitude of horseplay, or
- It's just a juvenile “boys will be boys” mentality.
A real culture shift to end sexual harassment entails a real mind shift among men.
Any long-lasting cultural change means it must become embedded within the norms, values and moral fabric of society that sexual harassment is uncool, unseemly, unlawful and un-American.
Men must come forward and prove that old-fashioned chivalry is not dead and, just as importantly, that morals and values really mean something.
Women in the workplace must always be held in the highest regard, from the C-Suite to the factory floor and everywhere in between.
Men must help draw a vivid line at work and elsewhere clarifying the specific behaviors and boundaries that are socially acceptable toward women, versus those that are sordid and salacious.
And the sooner this begins the better for America because women deserve no less.
- Time cover story on the “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year 2017
- Time's full interview with male actor Terry Crews
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is
a former national spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal law against sexual harassment in the workplace. He's currently a strategic communications consultant and beBee Brand Ambassador based in the Washington, DC-area. In
addition to beBee, you can find David buzzing on LinkedIn, Twitter and Medium.