This is just about the stupidest article I have read all week: Is hugging still okay? In the wake of Weinstein sexual assault accusations, men ask: What is acceptable to women and society now?
Sigh. Not today Satan. Not today.
So apparently there are men who are now suddenly wondering how to respectfully treat another human being in the working world.
Like, is this seriously a question?
“Durrr….What is off limits now that all of these men have been accused of sexual misconduct?”
Umm… everything that should have been and was off limits before. Duh.
The article goes on to say:
University of Southern California sociologist Carolann Peterson said men do need to recognize that a sudden arm around the shoulder or a pat on the butt isn’t the innocuous gesture some might have thought it was, and it can make women uncomfortable, even if they don’t say so at the time.
People really have to be told this?!?!?!
To be clear, the vast majority of women now coming forward about sexual misconduct are not making allegations in the vein of “he hugged me, and I didn’t want to be hugged” or “his hand accidentally grazed my breast and now I’m offended.”
They are making far worse and abominable allegations like, “I wanted a hug, but instead I felt his hand cupping my ass.” “He drugged and raped me.” “On one occasion he offered to give me a massage. On another, he invited me to finish dinner upstairs in his bedroom.” “He molested me as a child.” “He gave me a sex toy with an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on me.” “The former US president is known as “David Cop-a-Feel.” The current president brags about grabbing vaginas and being able to do anything to women because he is “famous.”
There’s a difference. A big one. But we’ll get to that soon enough.
I want to say that all of the men – all of the men – who have been accused of sexual misconduct knew and know that their conduct was wrong, but they did it anyway. This is problematic.
But I will concede that perhaps there is a sizeable amount of men who have considered and still consider their actions harmless and innocent. This too is problematic.
That is the essence of toxic masculinity – doing something wrong and instead of feeling a pang of regret or the whispers of conscience, feeling entitled and justified in one’s egregious actions.
In a Facebook post I wrote recently, I made the point that:
… I also think there are a lot of men who have harassed women and never questioned their actions as unacceptable behaviour.
I think there are swaths of men who believe that what they have said and done is unproblematic, or par for the course or “that’s just how men are.”
I think there are a lot of men who would say that they would never rape a woman, and men who view sexual assault as deplorable, and yet many of these same men harass women without a second thought, completely ignorant to the notion that sexual harassment and sexual assault have a common origin and the line between the two is a fine one.
I know this, because I have met such men.
I sometimes think to myself that a lot of these (mostly middle-aged) men are of a generation where it was acceptable to treat women like objects, where much of this kind of conduct was condoned and even encouraged. But even that is not an excuse. I’m pretty sure that the women who were victimized then were just as uncomfortable. And just because it was acceptable then doesn’t mean it was still right.
While I don’t hold men in the highest of esteem nowadays (for various reasons, not just related to sexual harassment), I will reluctantly admit that the great majority of them have some modicum of intelligence. So this shouldn’t be too hard to understand.
There is a difference between a light pat on the shoulder and straight up fondling. There is a difference between a fist bump and fingering. There’s a difference between saying, “My, that’s a lovely jacket!” once in a while and suggestively saying, “Damn, girl. You look good every day…”
There is a difference between a friendly, “A-frame” hug with arms lightly and loosely draped around the shoulder, and a hug where you squeeze the living daylight out of the person, rubbing against them, trying to press the woman’s bosom against your body. Those types of hugs are not appropriate (but you would be surprised at how many men give such type of hugs – I’m looking at all of you older men during the church welcome song…).
Do we need pictures?
Okay, I’ll provide pictures:
Anyways, my point is that most men can make the distinction. At least, that is my hope.
Thus, yes — I believe that men can still hug women. I believe that women can hug men. I love hugging people. I give hugs freely and unabashedly.
In fact, I have a dream (here we go! When I’m passionate about something I start quoting MLK):
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the human dream.
I have a dream that one day this world will rise up and live out the true meaning of human rights legislation everywhere: “All people are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day the sons and daughters of this world will be able to sit down together at a table of solidarity.
I have a dream that my four (unborn, non-existent) children will one day live in a nation where they can engage in respectful contact with one another, without assault, harassment, or any other kind of sexual aggression.
I have a dream, that one day men will hug women and not be dicks about it. I have a dream today.
But just in case you really and truly need guidance on how to treat another human being with respect, here is what I have to offer by way of advice:
- Evaluate your relationship with the woman in question. Are you friends? Classmates? Colleagues? Enemies? Married? Divorced? Related? Is she in a subordinate position in relation to you? If so, perhaps don’t comment on her outfit. It’s not necessary. Commenting on her outfit, unless it affects her job performance, is irrelevant. Keep your comments about her strictly related to her job performance. Maybe make the comment more general: “Don’t you look sharp/bright…” On second thought, maybe say nothing at all. Most women can tell the difference between friendly banter and suggestive remarks. If you enjoy a MUTUALLY close and friendly relationship, chances are she will not be alarmed by you patting her arm, giving her a handshake, or establishing eye contact. She will, however, be alarmed by you sticking your tongue down her throat, propositioning her, flashing her, and cupping her rear end (aka “copping a feel”) regardless of the nature of your relationship with her.
- Treat us as you would a male colleague. Would you ask a male colleague about their weekend? Would you grab a male colleague’s scrotum? Thinking this way may help you discover when you have crossed the line.
- Respect common sense boundaries. Unless you are that person’s primary care physician and/or have received the express, explicit and enthusiastic permission of the other person, boobs, butts, vaginas, balls, lips, and pubic mound are off limits.
- ASK!!!!! If you are ever unsure, ask: “Is it okay for me to hug you?” “You look like you need a hug; can I give you one?” “Is hugging okay?” “Are you okay with me touching you?” “You have lint on your cardigan. May I?” And if she says yes, keep your hands as high up on her back as possible. Better yet, hug her from the side (aka side hug). Check-ins are okay. Women respect people (not just men — anyone) who ask. It’s not silly. It’s not overly cautious. It’s respectful.
If you are a man, there is no need for you to start carrying tape recorders into every meeting and having eyewitnesses present whenever you interact with a female.
Rest assured — if you were raised right and you try to act like a decent and respectful human being with common sense, I trust that you will not find yourself accused of having harassed another person.
In case any of the above is unclear, however, Tracy Ellis Ross has more suggestions for you: