A conversation with A Call to Men Co-Founder Ted Bunch:
How have perspectives on sexual harassment changed since the start of the #MeToo movement?
The biggest change is that we can no longer say we didn’t know. It’s become painfully apparent that nearly every woman has experienced some form of harassment and discrimination, and far too many have been victims of sexual assault and predatory behavior.
How do business and organizational leaders need to shift their thinking about the kinds of educational training they bring into the workplace?
Institutions, corporations, and organizations typically approach sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault solely from a policy perspective. But this approach keeps the problem contained within one area, like the human resources department. It also allows men who are not actively harassing, abusing, or assaulting to say, “This is not my problem.” Those men can separate themselves from an “incident” when in reality, they are the solution.
While we embrace policy and procedure, A CALL TO MEN goes deeper to address the root of the problem: that the underlying causes of violence, harassment and discrimination against women are rooted in the ways women and girls have been traditionally viewed and treated in our society.
It’s evident that passive, cookie-cutter trainings have not been effective. What’s missing?
Engagement. From the workplace to college campuses to the military, we have presented people with rules to follow. We have not educated them on why the problem is so prevalent. These issues are pervasive throughout our society and serve as the foundation for all forms of violence against women and girls.
Most men are not abusive, but nearly all men have laughed at a sexist joke or objectified a woman in some way. Once you connect the dots and show men how the jokes they see as harmless actually validate and fuel more harmful behavior, they are quick to change. Thousands of men are stepping forward and saying I may not have always gotten it right but I’m willing to speak up now, and commit to reflect and think critically about the messages I have received about manhood, women and girls. We want men to challenge and deconstruct how they’ve been taught to view women as property and objects, and having less value than men. And then, we want them to invite other men to do the same.
For corporations and organizations that are reluctant to take this on, are there other benefits they should consider?
This is hard work, but the corporations and organizations that are taking this moment to thoughtfully evaluate their practices and workplace culture will be more successful. Did you know that research links employee happiness to increased productivity? Not only is creating a safe workplace culture that values all its employees the right thing to do, it directly benefits the bottom line.