Business of Men

Double standards society men had enough


A problem with a double standards society. Were men are not given enough credit for understanding that women want genuinely inclusive workplaces, where employees are valued as individuals and according to their contribution to the organisation. Many men recognise it is no longer appropriate to behave like cocks of the workplace, but doing the right thing by their female colleagues is proving a tough egg to crack.

Men are acutely aware language is important in setting the right tone in the modern workplace, but that only means they end up tying themselves in knots as they try to chart a course through the choppy waters of gender-inclusive language. A public servant once told me his team spent hours discussing whether “man/men” and “woman/women” should be proscribed as inherently sexist language.

It’s not only the spoken or written word that can stretch the divide between the sexes. It is just a double standards society. According to some HR departments, body language, or “non-verbal communication”, can be just as divisive. So even when the language a man employs is liberally peppered with “he or she”, how he sits in his chair can betray his true sexist streak. And any man looking at his watch at an inopportune time can expect a “please explain” from the Director of People & Culture.

Meetings can be a gender minefield. Rolling your eyes, crossing your arms or sighing when a colleague expresses an opinion may well be rude – as some HR guidelines suggest – but if the colleague happens to be a woman, does that also make it sexist? Indeed, how far can one go in forcefully disagreeing with a woman before you find yourself declared a misogynist?

The latest fad to keep carpetbagger consultants, coaches and trainers in the BMWs to which they have become accustomed is “unconscious gender bias” – so that even when men think they’re doing the right thing by their female colleagues, it’s what they’re not thinking that makes them unreconstructed sexist pigs.

[tweet_quote hashtags=”#businessofmen” ]It’s not easy – or fair – being a male office schlub [/tweet_quote]in the early 21st century. He must watch his language and his demeanour when he disagrees with a female colleague; but she is at liberty to derisively thank her male colleague for his “white, middle-aged male perspective”.

Try as they might, men who want to do the right thing can’t seem to shake their porcine ways – at least as far as their female colleagues are concerned.

One might think the best guide, whether in the workplace or in society generally, is to observe how women behave and follow their lead. But doing so only reveals the double standards that make it doubly difficult for men to know what constitutes appropriate behaviour.

Men cannot win the “double standards society” argument – even though it proved such a potent weapon for women to use against men in highlighting the many injustices and inconsistencies faced by women in their everyday lives. Men who think they’re on a winner by pointing out double standards will simply be told to suck it up.

And so, an advertisement that even remotely suggests men admiring an attractive woman is considered demeaning; an advertisement that overtly depicts women admiring a man’s behind is “empowering”. Men’s business clubs are an anachronism; women’s business clubs are reversing generations of entrenched discrimination. Businesses that target male consumers are sexist; businesses that are exclusively for women, such as gyms, funeral services and financial planners, are being responsive to their markets.

[tweet_quote hashtags=”@DAngeloFisher” ]It’s time for a truce in the gender wars.[/tweet_quote] There is more to be done — I get that — but sufficient progress has been made to step back and survey the gender landscape as it really stands today, not as it once was.

Rather than make men the enemy – and rightly or wrongly, this is how many men feel – wouldn’t it be more productive for women to work alongside men to achieve those final victories of fairness and equity yet to be won?

Activists may find there are many men who, given the opportunity, would like to be on their side. And better yet, look forward to the day when there is no side.

About Leo D’Angelo Fisher

Leo D’Angelo Fisher is a Melbourne journalist, writer, speaker and commentator. He is a former associate editor, features writer and columnist with BRW magazine. He writes a weekly column on his website

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