An Open Letter To Men, Everywhere

What does it mean to be a good man?

Below is a post written by Louis D. LoPraeste.  It is insightful for some and a hot topic for others.   I thought I would share with our blogger community as it raised such a stir on LinkedIn.  This article is followed by a blog I posted last year around this time, addressing the other side of the equation.  It’s a post that talks about how women in technology view themselves the domain of technology.

Gentlemen:

I live in a place that is filled with men, sort of. It’s called the Silicon Valley. I say sort of because the problem is that many of these men act like adolescent boys.

In the past two years, the debate over women in tech and the “brogrammer culture” has exploded, fueled by sexual harassment lawsuits against prominent Silicon Valley VCs, accusations of sexism at tech conferences, and recent data suggesting that despite the prevalence of coding programs aimed at girls and women, only12.9% of Silicon Valley engineers are women. The number of women on boards is equally low and more often than not, women find themselves as a distinct minority in start-up and established workplaces alike.

Having been in and out of the valley for the last three years pitching my own work and others, I have seen the best and the worst of this place. On a good day, there are colorful enriching conversations with AI and Data scientists whose outlook is nothing less than visionary. On a bad day, it’s feels like an endless reel of outtakes from Spike TV. I could continue to pretend to be blind to what goes on around me. I could pretend to ignore yet another drunk twenty-five year old jackass programmer gawking at my wife and then standing a foot behind her while we look at menus the other night in Mountain View. This is not the Old West, or Skid Row, this is downtown, tree-lined Mountain View. Is this because she is tall, good-looking by this society’s standards, or is it because of the dismal level of civility in a population that is often 80% male? Let’s find out together.

What can we men do?

Bottom line: I will no longer ignore that at one time or another, 50% of the workforce feels unsafe, uncomfortable or outright harassed while they are at work or out in the world. I will speak up.

Let’s be clear about the context too. I don’t have to fear sexual threats when I walk to my car in the garage. I don’t have riot-control grade mace in my briefcase. I don’t have to fend off unwanted attention when I wear my best suit. But what I have begun to do, what all of us need to begin doing, is questioning how we can make our streets, spaces and offices safer and more comfortable for women. More importantly, we can question how we actually contribute to making those spaces less safe and poisonous for our colleagues. Men should be the ones doing this, because we are the ones who created the problem, a long time ago. Enough is enough. Sure women are complicit in many ways, by buying into the stereotypes and cliches foisted on them by the media no doubt. But that’s not the point here.

There are a few questions we need to ask ourselves in our relationships with women, generally speaking. I challenge every man who reads this to ask them.

Am I forcing a woman to react to me?

Am I creating a safe space?

Am I going along with my male colleagues because I’m a chicken-shit?

In the bigger picture, I wonder sometimes if we think so little of ourselves that we’re incapable of thinking a woman deserves respect, as opposed to unwanted sexual advances. Because that is the question we must address.

What do we really deep down think women want in the workplace?

Attention or respect?

Make no mistake about this. When men harass they undermine a very basic human right to autonomy that is fundamental in a free society. People, not just women have a right to exist lawfully in public without fear of approbation or infringement at all, at any time. Last time I checked this is called liberty and we’ve fought more than a few wars to protect that unique right.

Men need to begin to stand up and insist that other men treat women colleagues with respect. That includes having the sand to say something to one another when we witness it and that doesn’t matter where.

Boss has a snide comment for the waitress? Say something, he might just respect you for it, but don’t expect it. Power does not like to be challenged.

Colleague drops a backwards comment when a female executive walks by? Say something, ask him what he’d do if someone said that to his wife or daughter. You might surprise him.

If you think of yourself as more than gorilla, you can stand up and be respectful. If you are such a man, then act like one. Speak up. The default mode in society is civility, not harassment, gents. Otherwise, we allow bad behavior to erode the environment to a point where the unacceptable is the norm. It’s called a hostile environment for a reason, and many start-ups and businesses alike are shorty approaching that level of toxicity-especially here in the Valley. So put the game-boy down, tuck in your shirt, and wake up.

Let me preempt some of the opposition from my fellow men, because I can hear the claims of “man-bashing-men” already. No, I’m not gay. I wasn’t raised in an isolated estrogen tank by lesbians. I am the son of Marine Corps Officer and Ballet Dancer who for all their glaring faults, taught me manners.

We men are not “built” to be morons. We do not have an “idiot” setting that clicks on when a women walks in or out of the room. We can actually choose to behave appropriately around the other sex. The brute strength derived from testosterone that to some degree marks our gender, doesn’t imply a special set of rules. Gorillas are incredible creatures whose strength far outmatches our own but they did not build an complex civilization. They did not create data science and artificial intelligence, now did they? The lame appeal to “men as men” undermines our nature and reduces manhood to hormonal dominance. This is simply stupid. This is insulting to men. We insult ourselves by acting like baboons.

Men can give lip service to this, and can have the best intentions but still contribute to an environment that makes women feel unsafe by simply ignoring that harassment is a regular facet of women’s experience. To disregard that for the sake of instant gratification from women’s attention seems well, lame, is the word that comes to mind. When men inappropriately interact with a woman and create an unsafe environment that causes women to question their place in it, we make the world unsafe for our wives, daughters, friends and colleagues. Think about it.

Never lose sight of this and you will change your attitude, today. If you are like me and believe we can do something about sexual harassment then please retweet this article with #realmenspeakup. Kudos.

~

Cookie-cutter, I’m not. Predictable, nope. Creative, highly strategic, disruptive-yes.

I have been pioneering agency thought leadership, integrated branding, and building solutions architecture with investment, technology and media executives for over a decade. I am currently seeking a new position having just finished six months writing sabbatical.

I have served on non-profit boards and advised philanthropic enterprises that protect our rivers, oceans and wild lands, and on educational and career training for veterans and single moms. My bestselling e- book, “What is Social” can be purchased at Amazon Books.

You can find out more about my work on bigthinker.com and thanks for checking out my profile today.

Featured Article:  “An Open Letter To Men, Everywhere.”  By:  Louis D. LoPraeste

Featured Image:  “Go Away”  Alexandre Guillaume

“Go Away”
Alexander Guillaume

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