“Sir, you have a nice ass.” This “compliment” came from a group of Women after asking me to take a group photo of them. Over the years, I have received many of these “compliments” but never wrote or speak about them. However, since it is Women’s month in South Africa, I see it as an opportunity to speak about the supposedly double standard that some of my male counterparts are complaining of after the #Metoo movement.
The #Metoo movement highlighted the continued sexual abuse and exploitation of Women in the entertainment industry. If it weren’t for the #muterkelly and #Metoo movements, predators like Robert Kelly and Harvey Weinstein would have gotten away with the sexual abuse and exploitation of Women in the entertainment industry. I am firmly behind and support these movements.
Since the start of these movements, my male counterparts have pointed out supposedly double standards in the workplace and society. They argue that what is applicable for one gender isn’t applicable for the other in the #Metoo movement. For example, Women in the workplace could make sexual advances and even touch men inappropriately. These types of advances are seen as harmless and innocent. However, if men dare to touch or even make any of these advances, they would have been labelled sexual harassment.
This supposedly double standard is also evident from the dress code at work. It is acceptable for Women to wear shorts and short dresses that reveal their legs and cleavages. However, men are accused of being inappropriately dressed when their clothes are tight-fitting and reveal their legs. When men object to these issues, they are mostly laughed at and not taken seriously. But, what men do not ask is whether Women feel comfortable dressing like that? Organisations operating in a heterosexual male-dominated environment stand to benefit from Women dressing in short clothes. Women are pressured into dressing the way they do.
Listening to men complaining about a double standard made me question where it came from. Why are sexual advances sometimes accepted and other times not? I am guilty of making sexual advances towards Women, and my advances must have left them uncomfortable. Thinking about them, I am cringing, and I am ashamed of myself. It is even uncomfortable for me thinking about it in hindsight. How more uncomfortable would Women have felt? What was I thinking? Knowing what I know now, I apologise to all the offended Women. But I know an apology will never repair the damage and mistrust my advances caused.
For a while, I supported this argument and believed this double standard existed. However, my friends (who are Women) helped me change my mind and my worldview. Their feedback helped me see the continued hurt and pain that we, men, cause Women with our unwanted flirts and sexual advances. Hence, I stopped. Nowadays, I don’t participate in conversations that potentially can lead to flirtation. I just don’t do it.
The truth is the rules of the game have changed, and men are not in control of the game anymore. This is hard for us men to recognise and accept that we are not in control anymore. So this supposedly double standard men are complaining about was something Women had to deal with for years, and they were silenced. They couldn’t talk about it, and if they did, they were marginalised and face the risk of losing their jobs.
More importantly, even though the game’s rules have changed, Women are still not in power. They are still facing unwanted sexual advances and exploitation daily. Their labour is not credited and recognised by men. Therefore, even though the #Metoo movement made significant strides for Women, I am still a privileged male figure. My underserved privilege will take many opportunities from Women, and I do not feel good about this reality. The system is broken and tipped in favour of one gender. We need to change the system.
So here is my take on the supposedly double standard. Women are still marginalised in society. The limited power that came with the #Metoo movement showed men their undeserved privileged position in society. We, men, got away with this for years. Thus, this cannot be a double standard if men control the system in which the supposedly standard was birth. And if you disagree with me, remember Donald Trump was able to get away with telling his buddy to “grab them the p***y”. After that, he was still elected as the president of the United States of America, and as president, he continued his disrespect of Women. He made sure he attacked every single Woman who opposed him.
Therefore, this supposedly double standard men are complaining about is just a mirror Women are holding up so we (men) can see our reflection. And it is this reflection we don’t like. Sometimes an honest look in the mirror helps us recognise our flaws and do something about them. But doing something about them are the hardest things to do.
This blog post is a tribute to Jesse Hesse, Uyinene Mrwetyana, Nosicelo Mtebeni and the countless other Women whom men kill daily. This is also a tribute to all the countless Women who are overlooked, undermined in society, and exploited and marginalised at work. Nothing I wrote here will do justice to the violence Women face daily. This blog post does not make me less privileged or intend to erase any of my mistakes. I promise to do better.