#MeTooWe are in the midst of a major social struggle – a struggle between decency and misogyny.  And while many are trying to support the women who are reporting sexual harassment and assault with the #MeToo haswhtag, there are others who worry about due process and even dismiss the claims – hence, the struggle.  I’m not going to talk to women about this subject.  No, today my post is directed to men.

Let me start by telling you where I’m coming from.  In my growing up years, it was repeated stressed that I was supposed to look out for and protect my sisters – and by extension, any girl or woman.  In fact, I was told that it’s better to be a dead hero than a live skunk.  This instruction culminated shortly before I left for college when my mother drew me aside and said, “Frank, no matters what happens you can always come home.”  Then she paused before continuing with, “But if you even get a girl in trouble, I’ll blow your head off!”  Did I mention that my mother slept with a .38 Policeman Special under her pillow at night?  My parents were somewhat direct.

I’ve written earlier about my experience at the US Naval Nuclear Power School when women were introduced in the nuclear power program.  CAPT Strum assembled all the male members of the staff and gave advice of how to conduct ourselves closing with the warning, “She may not win, but you’re going to lose.!”

Furthermore, when I was selected for promotion to commander, the infamous Tailhook scandal occurred involving harassment of women at the annual naval aviation convention.  Everyone up for promotion was investigated to see if we were involved – as an Engineering Duty Officer qualified in submarines I wasn’t.  The scandal did cause a lot of discussions about what was proper behavior and how to conduct normal daily interactions without crossing the line into sexual harassment.

Then there were the times that I was working closely with women in professional settings.  When you share a small cubicle with someone for over a year, you develop a comradery that can establish trust and a tolerance.  As a result, I heard a lot about the personal lives that I wished I hadn’t but there never seemed to be a way to cut it off without seeming to be rude or uncaring.  I would come home and tell my wife that I felt I should apologize for half the human race.

Because, while I felt sorrow for their situations, there wasn’t much I could do to “fix” the situations.  The only thing I could do was listen and accept what they were telling me as true.  And I realize, sometimes having someone to talk to is helpful and I’ve developed a high tolerance for listening to people.  But still, it would feel nice to “fix” their problem – that’s my inclination.

So, what can I do?  That’s the question that haunts most everyone in this debate.  Because, I definitely have no control nor any influence over Harvey Weinstein or any of the others you read about in the news.  Not being the Emperor of the Universe, I have no control over anybody but myself – but I do have influence over others.  Therefore, here’s what I can do:

  • Control myself. I must walk the talk otherwise I’m a hypocrite.  And if I’m a hypocrite, then no one will believe me when I do or say anything.
  • Show respect for others. This goes along with controlling myself.  Besides, it makes good business sense – we achieve results with other people and people don’t want to deal with someone who doesn’t respect them.
  • Believe people. It’s important to listen and heard what’s being said and left unsaid with compassion.  Stephen Covey had the rule to “First, seek to understand, then be understood.”  That’s the rule to follow when dealing with people – especially when they are revealing something that is painful.
  • Call out those who show disrespect whoever they are. Silence implies consent.  If we don’t publicly call out those who don’t meet social norms, then we are condoning the behavior.  In a different context, the question was asked, “If being a Christian was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  The same can be said about what your standards are – is there enough evidence so that everyone knows what behavior is acceptable?
  • Report any incidents that I witness to the proper authorities. This is hard because we inherently want to be nice and no one wants to be a snitch, do they?  But we do no one any favors when socially unacceptable behavior is ignored.  The behavior will just get worst unless there’s an intervention.  This may mean going against current social norms.  I’m a member of a church that strongly believes in the sanctity of marriage – BUT, domestic abuse is the leading cause of violence and death in homes which leads to be question which is more important: Marriage or Life?  I believe that no religion requires that you suffer in order to serve.

Will these actions solve the problem highlighted by #MeToo?  I mean, it would be nice and fun if I could do some grand gesture that would change millions’ attitudes towards women overnight.  But, let’s be real here, that’s not likely.  So, I’ll do my little efforts and hope others will to.  Ultimately, it’s up to each individual what they will do.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.