10 January, 2016

How to behave in mixed company

Between Jamie Briggs, Chris Gayle and Hamish McLachlan, there has been a lot of talk about what is appropriate behaviour between men and women doing their jobs.

Predictably, this has led to a bunch of would-be contrarians whose emotional development ceased some time before 1985 to complain about their favourite straw-man, “political correctness.” They will complain that you can’t even give a woman a compliment, or a friendly peck on the cheek (which may or may not be a euphemism for sucking on her neck) any more.

For those who need to be told, here’s a quick and easy way for men to tell if their behaviour towards women is acceptable or not:

Just think* about what you’re tempted to say to or do with the woman, and imagine you were saying or doing it to a man. Would it get you punched? Would it at least be socially awkward? If the answer is Yes, then DON’T DO IT! Don’t even think about doing it unless it’s been made perfectly clear that such an approach would be welcome. Here’s another hint: it’s not perfectly clear that it will be welcome just because someone is female and breathing.

Some people will say that if it were a woman doing the same thing to a man, then it would not be a problem. It’s true that it’s easier and more acceptable for a woman to offer a man a kiss on the cheek or a friendly hug in a wider range of situations. Is this a double standard?

Damn right it’s a double standard!

But if you want to talk about double standards, let’s look at the other side of the coin. Men get to walk from a bistro to their car after dark without having to worry about whether they might be raped. Men don’t have to consider contraception even if they’re not sexually active, just in case the worst happens.

If you want to moan about double standards, there’s your starting point. Once we have stamped out sexual violence for a generation or two, then that friendly hug or peck (if that really is all you intend) might be taken in the spirit in which it’s offered.

Until then, back the hell off. It’s not that hard.

* Most of the time, just thinking ought to be enough.

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