Oct 2017 18

 

Open social media this week and it’s hard not to notice #metoo popping up on, well, let’s face it, unfortunately, most women’s timelines.

I’m sorry to say that I’m really not surprised at how pervasive the experience of sexual harassment, or assault, or ultimatums for career advancement is. I’m just sad that so many women I know have gone through it. And a few men I know have posted the hashtag too.

Until now, I’ve been silent on the issue. And quite honestly, I’m not quite sure where I’m heading with this piece that I’m writing kind of stream-of-consciousness from a perch at The Pilot tonight. A cardinal sin of a writer – to not know your end point of a story and be building towards it. But like the outcome of all this sharing of people’s experiences, I’m not sure where we are heading.

I guess until now I’ve been silent on this, because just like Black Lives Matter, or the Jian Ghomeshi affair, I felt that unless I was a part of these groups/victims and understand what it is like, I should frankly just shut the fuck up. Let people share and talk to each other and I can learn – in the background.

But then a couple of women on my Facebook timeline challenged men, and expressed how outraged they were that we had nothing to say – I believe one woman called out ‘CIS men’ specifically for their support and said how disappointed they were. Apparently if I wasn’t voicing my support for women, or outrage, I was part of the problem.

I can’t say I agree with this, but of course – all opinions are valid. However, my first of many issues with this is – what if I don’t use Facebook to voice my opinion to the world? And yet, here I am on another forum posting and talking about it.

I work in an industry where I have heard many, many, many stories of sexual harassment. Witnessed lots too. Lots of inappropriate comments to people’s faces and behind their backs. I’m not sure if advertising is different from other industries or not in that regard. I can’t count the number of times I heard of an inappropriate relationship between some male (and occasionally female) in a position of power and someone who was lower on the ladder. Does this make this ‘harassment’ or assault or coercion for advancement? I don’t know – I’ve always believed that what happens between two consenting adults is their business. Salacious and inappropriate or not.

In any case, I know the above isn’t quite what we’re talking about with #metoo.

What do I really have to say, as a CIS man? It’s this, first and foremost: I’d prefer to let women who have gone through this to have the floor to share how pervasive this problem is.

And also, a question. Is this really an issue about men vs. women or (also?) about the fact that there are just some terrible people in the world that use their power to manipulate, take advantage of, and bully people into doing what they want?

But don’t mistake my silence as support for the men who have done these things.

And also, just because I was born a CIS-man, don’t assume that all CIS-men even share their stories with other CIS-men just by virtue of having that basic thing in common. Some of us ‘CIS men’ have (happily) never been accepted into that world, or didn’t bother trying.

Yes, many men treat women badly.

And also, many men (usually these same men) – they treat certain other men badly, as well.

I have seen it all my life, and sometimes been the recipient of it. Certainly not in the sexual way that #metoo is spawning, of course.

As a small man, I think I’ve always identified more than other men with the plight of women – certainly in Advertising at least. I think it’s why my favourite jobs in this business have been working for women, or with women – by being their creative partners. It’s one of the reasons I quit the full-time business. I perceived a glass ceiling for me in some places in my industry since I wasn’t ‘one of them’, and I had no plans to change my behaviour and feign support just to get ahead.

Is it time to cut the head off this snake? Sure. But where is the head? Talking about it is a start, but where do we focus the energy for change?

Of course I’m listening. Of course I am horrified. And also, not surprised…

But #metoo is about the survivors.