Me Too or Not Me Too, Is That a Question?
Brian Campbell

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The Me Too movement has gone a long way towards exposing predators in our midst. In many ways, some of these predators shouldn’t come as a surprise. One example is Hollywood Producer, Harvey Weinstein. Why is that so shocking? I remember hearing stories of the Hollywood “Casting Couch” back when I was a teenager, so young that it didn’t even click in what the term implied. The dirty business of movie making in Hollywood has been whispered about almost since there was a Hollywood, but nobody really talked out loud about it or looked very hard. So why is it surprising that when a light is shone on it, the sleazy rats begin to appear out of the shadows? Hollywood producers, directors, actors, etcetera, etcetera, on and on.

Some are obvious candidates, while others manage quite well to hide their true nature, to the point where it comes as a shock when the truth is finally revealed. The ultimate example is squeaky clean comedian, everyone’s ideal father figure, Bill Cosby. Sure didn’t see that one coming. But just because it wasn’t obvious, doesn’t mean it isn’t true, and in this case the truth was pretty damning. However, sometimes, especially if you have friends in the right places, the truth is harder to reveal, such as the case with Brett Kavanaugh.

For the record, I have known a number of women (and men) who have been assaulted, emotionally, physically and sexually, and many of them find it much easier to say nothing rather than come forward. So I find it hard to believe that a woman would falsely accuse a man, especially one in power, of assault, if it were not true. I’m sure that there are exceptions to every rule, but I am not worried about it happening to me, and I don’t know of any male friend who is. If you have done nothing wrong, there is usually nothing to fear.

There’s the simple fact. Innocent men have no reason to live in fear of being accused of sexual assault. The chance of being accused is so slim as to be virtually non-existent. Now that is sexual assault; sexual inappropriateness is another matter entirely. The matter of what is considered appropriate and what isn’t is such a broad, grey area that men can fall into it, virtually unaware that they have done something wrong.

At this point I am going to be very politically incorrect and possibly upset a few people. For the record, I won’t be apologizing because I think a point needs to be made, and I plan to make it. I personally find the idea of men and women being treated exactly alike ridiculous. Equal pay for equal work I agree with; as with equal rights for anyone to apply for, and attain, any job position for which they are qualified; and, of course, everyone should receive equal and appropriate respect for your position in the workplace. But to be treated exactly alike, I do not agree with. Men and women are not exactly alike. We don’t look alike, we don’t think alike, and we do not respond in the same way in certain situations.

Ladies, before you say you want men to talk to you as if you were a man, listen to how men talk to each other. We are rude, crude and tend to insult each other. A lot. You really don’t want us to talk to you like that. In many cases, we talk to women much more politely than we would another man. But along with that is the recognition that we are in the company of a woman. This recognition is inborn and comes usually without conscious thought. We will naturally straighten up our posture, tuck in our gut and try to put on our best face. Along with that, we may hold doors and pull out chairs for our female counterparts. This is not treating you with disrespect, but additional respect, because you are a woman.

On military, fishing and other non-cruise ships, the announcement “woman on the bridge” or “woman on deck” is code for, “watch your potty mouth and put your damn shirt on.” It is a special treatment applied by men when women are around and, honestly, it is better for all if this continued.  You really don’t want to be treated like one of the guys.

This also comes with an appreciation of a woman’s appearance (and trust me, if a man is heterosexual, he will notice and appreciate). This doesn’t mean that he should stare at you as if you were a rare steak placed before him (take notice guys, this is for your benefit). Just because he is a man doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be a gentleman (subtlety goes a long way, men). Yes ladies, we can use your help cleaning up our act. We haven’t separated as much from our ape ancestors as you have.

Since a man will notice your appearance, he shouldn’t feel afraid to comment on it, such as “You are looking very nice today.” (MEN: PLEASE TAKE NOTE, You are looking nice…NOT “Whoah! Nice t#ts!”  Subtlety please). Ladies, you really don’t want to make men afraid to approach you. Compliments, handled well, can make for a friendly workplace. I don’t know about you, but I appreciate getting complimented. I don’t even mind if a woman holds a door open for me.

Men also have a quite different sense of humour than women, and things that are obviously jokes to men may not go over the same way with women. For example, Progressive Conservative MLA Cliff Graydon has made a number of headlines for apparently offering his lap as a seat to a female counterpart at a crowded dinner. From my perspective as a man, I see this as a joke, possibly an inappropriate one given the nature of the dinner, but a joke all the same. From the woman’s perspective this was an unforgivable overture and he should be crucified immediately.

Apparently Minister Graydon also asked someone to lick food off his face. E-e-w-w-e! Why wasn’t more emphasis put on this? In my opinion, that is much more inappropriate. Mind you, there have since been other people who came forward, saying that Minister Graydon has offered his lap to them as a seat. It turns out that he is a serial lap offerer. Who do you think you are? Santa Claus? One woman even felt obligated to sit on his lap.  Ladies, whether you take such an offer as a joke or not, do not ever feel obligated to sit on some man’s lap. Unless you are married to him, in which case, I leave it to your discretion. But wouldn’t you feel more comfortable somewhere more private?

Now in the case of NDP MLA, Stan Struthers, I’m afraid I have to side with the ladies. Dubbed, Minister Tickles, he has been accused of tickling, massaging, and otherwise touching a number of female staff members between 2010 and 2015. Minister Struthers, at what point did you think this was appropriate behavior? How did he get away with this as long as he did, and why wasn’t more attention drawn to it? To me, this is much closer to a Me Too situation than “Do you want to sit on my lap”. The only females I have ever felt comfortable tickling are my granddaughters, and several of them are now too old for such behaviour. I think that there is something seriously wrong with Minister Struthers, possibly too much time watching “The Carry On Gang” in his youth.

Another case of men’s humour versus women’s goes back to 2017, when Conservative Member of Parliament, James Bezan, while posing for a picture with Liberal MP, Sherry Romanado and another person, rattled off what he thought was a joke, “This isn’t my idea of a threesome.” MP Romanado took it the wrong way and, realizing that he made a faux pas, MP Bezan immediately attempted to apologize. In fact, over the next several weeks, MP Bezan attempted to rectify the problem several times, only to be rebuffed by MP Romanado, to the point where it came up in Parliament. Bezan stood first to apologize, publicly, for making an inappropriate comment and emphasizing his respect for her. This didn’t stop MP Romanado from getting up and advising parliament that Bezan had made remarks to her that were “Sexual in nature,” and “have caused me great stress and have negatively affected my work environment.” Are you kidding me? How did you get into politics with such a delicate constitution?

A much better way to handle inappropriate comments was provided, right here in Winnipeg, at roughly the same time that James Bezan was making headlines in Ottawa. Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister, was giving his State of the Province address at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and opened by thanking Chamber Chair, Johanna Hurme, for dressing up and wearing high heels, rather than recognizing her business accomplishments. This caused an uproar among Chamber members, the opposition party and the media in attendance. The main comment was along the lines of, “He wouldn’t be making comments like that if he was talking about a man.” Johanna, an architect and business owner, handled the situation perfectly, saying, “I don’t think his comments were ill intended, nor was it all that significant for me personally. The unfortunate reality is that I would not be in the position that I am today…should I not have dealt with much worse situations than this in the past…Unfortunately, similar situations continue to be all too familiar for women in leadership positions across Canada.”

What I am attempting to say is that we have two separate issues going on here, and we shouldn’t muddy the waters by lumping them together. To me, putting such a huge emphasis on bad jokes and improper comments that men make, takes away from the real problem that women have with true predators who live in our midst and may have a negative effect on the Me Too movement. Yes, men can afford to clean up their act, and certainly call them out on it, but don’t make it a Me Too issue. It is not the same thing.

I agree that it wouldn’t hurt men at all to learn to be more gentlemanly, both in the workplace and outside of it. But at the end of the day we are men, and if you are honest with yourselves, you really don’t want to stop us from being men. Certainly, teach us how to respect women, not as we do other men, but as strong, secure, powerful women, who deserve our respect for being exactly who they are.