Guys, we need to talk. And I do mean guys. Let’s face it, we work in a male-dominated industry. Most of you reading are probably men.
Let’s start with Harvey Weinstein. We as a society have come to view him as a monster, a sexual predator of extraordinary proportions.
But this is just a thing that we human beings do. Confronted by an aberrant data point that jars from our lived experience, we write it off as an anomaly. It’s a simple heuristic that serves as a coping mechanism.
Turning a blind eye to the “banality of evil” allows us to see each other’s better angels. It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective and binds communities together.
But it comes at a cost. Which brings me back to Harvey Weinstein.
It is so easy for us men to disown someone like a Harvey Weinstein as a “monster”. But let’s put what he is accused of in simple terms.
Though there are more serious criminal accusations, a large part of the case against him is banal in the extreme.
He used his position of power as a gate keeper within his industry to pressure or leverage sexual interactions with younger women who ordinarily wouldn’t be attracted to him.
Think about that sentence for a second. Read it again. Now tell me that you do not know several men like that within our industry.
Like many of you, I have just gotten back from attending an industry conference. There’s been a fair few over the past few weeks. How many times do you think this type of interaction occurred?
I can tell you with absolute certainty that it was not zero.
The sad thing is, I really do believe the vast majority of us men are appalled and ashamed when we witness incidents like this.
They may not always be as transparent as a Hollywood casting couch. But let’s face it, we all know exactly what I am talking about. We too willingly tolerate this behaviour simply because it is not physical assault. Yet it leaves women feeling just as undermined as professionals. And far more importantly, unsafe.
But how many of us men have been willing to publicly stand up to this behaviour? To confront our male peers. I am sure there are many of you out there braver than I am, but I confess I have too often failed this test of moral courage.
Though I appreciate the stakes are lower as men do not have the same fear for their physical safety, the fear for men is one similar to another issue women face. What will this mean for me and my career?
It’s easier just to stay quiet, or be a silent “ally” who tells our female colleagues we support them and will help keep them safe, but not do anything that actually diminishes our standing with our peers.
So let’s get one thing straight. Women attending a business conference, asking for business meetings to talk about business are not giving you tacit permission to sexually proposition or physically objectify them.
The fact that you as a senior business leader have a position of leverage over them does not empower you to act as you please. In fact, it puts you in the position of Harvey Weinstein. How are you going to behave?
I confess I have failed to stand up to my male peers many times in my life, to my shame. But it won’t happen again. And I will not be afraid to use this platform to make myself unpopular with those who deserve it.
And you, dear reader, will you stand up with me?