#MeToo Guide for Men
Listen up Men. And anyone else who's not sure how to respond to #MeToo.
by James kornbluh
#MeToo is a wake-up call.
#MeToo is a movement.
#MeToo is saying enough is enough.
#MeToo is a cry out for change.
But - am I really capable of understanding what #MeToo is about and demanding?
Or am I just overwhelmed by anger, fear, frustration, blame, shame or uncertainty?
Am I walking on eggshells?
Am I repressing my fear and rage about all these bossy women unfairly attacking me?
Am I acting out in fear and retribution, consciously or unconsciously participating in cycles of targeting and hurt?
Many men are living in fear of loss.
Loss of power, reputation, privilege, job, trust, money, livelihood, respect, and perceived safety.
#MeToo seems to represent a real threat to many men I know.
If I as a man have something to REALLY worry about - admit it. Face the truth first. And then figure out how to proactively repair any harm done including to my reputation and trustworthiness.
If it’s you - get help, don't do it alone, take a restorative rather than a fear-of-the-punitive approach and you are more likely to grow from the experience.
If I’m not REALLY worried about being held accountable for past behavior, then it's time for me to stop fighting and defending. Chill out, do what I love and care most about. Get secure, safe, strong, happy.
Stop and ask: ‘What is my role in making the world a safer more respectful place for all?’
Stop Talking and Start Listening
When clients call with their #MeToo challenges we learn a lot - if we’re listening.
There is magic in great listening - deep listening - what we call "listening for the subjective reality" of someone else.
We commit to listen fully without judgement even if part of us disagrees with what we hear. This isn't about agree or disagree. It's about holding space for someone else’s life experiences.
This sort of listening is a trans-cultural indicator of respect which becomes a doorway to constructive change in almost any conflict. This is particularly true with the entrenched gender (and other diversity) frictions that inhabit our workplaces and societies today.
#MeToo is a mirror of women’s enhanced power and ongoing vulnerability
#MeToo is also a mirror of men's slip in power and fresh vulnerability
Look at the article we link to in this post.
The essence: Wall Street men are retreating into "avoid women at all costs." This is a generalization and the truth is more nuanced, but based on what we see professionally the trend seems legitimate.
Our female clients seem empowered and are basically saying “Enough is Enough! We too have been subjected to gender and sex based harassment, attack or inequality. Things need to change."
We are listening and hearing this in companies, large and small.
Many women are angry, hurt and struggling to deal with dominant workplace cultures lead by mostly white, heterosexual men.
Its hard not to see the waves of recent events that have unleashed, unearthed and are forcing us to deal (finally) with a history of workplace based harassment, abuse and boundary transgressions parading as "boys club" or "locker room" culture.
But #MeToo #TimesUp and other parts of this cultural revolution are not simply a reaction to misogynistic leaders and culture - this revolution reflects women's enhanced power and influence in business, the arts, government and virtually every other institution in our society. With that power comes voice and the opportunity to organize for change. And that's what's happening.
This shouldn't be about demonizing any man or masculine culture as a whole.
It should be about justice, fairness, decency, due process, safety and intentionally changing cultural norms and daily interactions that define how we relate in the workplace.
Our male clients seem to be walking on egg shells, feeling targeted in ways that feel unsafe and unfair to them. Most, particularly men in positions of high power and authority, seem on the defensive and increasingly intent on avoiding unneeded interactions with women.
Which makes sense if one is afraid. Afraid to be accused, targeted, hurt, brought down personally and professionally.
But this fear based reaction of many men, though understandable, is highly destructive when seeking to build diverse and inclusive teams and cultures. Or when seeking to live a life of integrity, strength and impact.
The problem with fear based strategies is that they promote fear based reactions and cycles of fear and mutual distrust. Which is a killer for any workplace who aspires to trust, innovation, peak performance and equality. Equality as human beings and before the law, despite obvious power differences inherent in all workplaces.
Nobody wins when fear is a primary driver of a relationship or culture.
What Can We Men Do Differently?
Stop defending and denying.
Step more fully into high integrity, high responsibility, high confidence proactivity with whatever part of #MeToo seems most relevant and important in our lives and professional role.
#MeToo Leadership is about taking 100% responsibility for the intent and impact of our actions.
Stepping out of fear and into the heat of #MeToo requires a healthy dose of courage, humility, respect.
Face the truth of what I am afraid of. In a quiet place where I can be honest with myself first. Be honest with self about what I’ve done historically to cross professional or sexual boundaries.
If we have nothing to be afraid of except fear itself, that’s one thing. If we’re afraid because of past actions and adverse consequences that’s another story.
Either way, face fear and don’t let it drive negative reactions to #MeToo.
Do not make believe that I know the truth for women or anyone else for that matter. Listen to the lived experience of others without judgment.
If nothing else, #MeToo should humble us men and make us consider - what have I said, done or thought to contribute to this situation of women feeling marginalized, attacked, mistreated and demeaned as people and professionals?
Demonstrating respect towards another person who feels harmed is a powerful path beyond fear.
A sure sign of respect across cultures and genders is listening. So get out of fear by demonstrating respect for someone else's story and perspective. Even if you disagree, you want to react, defend or attack. Don’t. Show respect by listening.
The challenge with listening is being willing to make space inside myself so I have "it" (patience, compassion, caring, strength) to listen without reactivity and negativity. If I'm filled up inside, full of fear, doubt, blame and shame, I will not have "it" to listen. I am likely to defend against another person’s truth.
Real change begins when I make space for someone else's truth even if it collides with my sense of what's true.
A Whole Spectrum of #MeToo Dynamics
We see a whole spectrum of how #MeToo dynamics play out in real life workplaces.
We see crisis situations where there are allegations of sexual harassment or abuse or there’s a mass mutiny of women against primarily male top leadership.
We see simmering frictions and divisions that inhibit deep trust and true collaboration.
And we see responsible leaders grappling to address #MeToo by building truly safe, diverse and inclusive workplaces.
We know from experience that these gender and sex based conflicts are tips of the iceberg - and are pointing to what needs to change - so that we may access the magic and power of a team inhabited by a deep and abiding trust.